Convincing Skeptics to Believe
John W. Loftus discussed what it would take to convince him to believe. The discussion was prompted when Jayman, a Christian, asked Loftus if he witnessed a bona fide miracle, would he then believe in God? Let’s look at the hubris displayed in the answer:
I have said that it would take a personal miracle for me to believe. I didn’t say what kind of miracle nor did I comment on the other things that would have to accompany that miracle. Let me do so now. . . .
Let’s say the miracle was an anonymous one, like the resurrection of my cousin Steve Strawser, who died at 58 alone in the woods of a massive heart attack, or the skeptic Ken Pulliam who died in October. I would believe in a supernatural reality, yes, but an anonymous one. I don’t think I could conclude anything different. But it would be an anonymous god who did it. I could not conclude much about this god other than that he could raise the dead. (emphasis added)
Once telling us that a miracle would convince him, he qualifies that by saying that a miracle is only evidence of a supernatural entity, but the identity of said entity is still open for conjecture. Then he backtracks:
So I would need more than a miracle, even though that scenario is already far fetched to begin with. (emphasis added)
After the miracle, Loftus wants God to take credit for it, by making a personal appearance (of course). Loftus further considers that proposition:
But let’s say that along with such a miracle I am told by this deity to believe exactly the way Jayman does about Christianity. That presumes even more than that a miracle occurred, since there are so many brands of Christianity around, some accusing the others of heresy. Would I believe then?
Assuming that the miracle came, the worker of the miracle has shown himself and taken credit, then he tells Loftus to believe exactly as a specific Christian believes. Meaning God’s power has been demonstrated, and then asserts his authority. Does Loftus submit?
So, if I experienced a personal miracle I would require more than just that to believe in Jayman’s god. I have so many objections to the Bible and the biblical god I would have to reconcile what I know with what this deity told me to believe. I cannot even understand why any god would require me to believe in the first place! At that point I would be forced to chose between Jayman’s god and a trickster conception of god, and the trickster god would have to be my choice given what I know. (emphasis added)
Wow. Don’t miss Loftus’s this:
- An incontrovertible miracle occurs.
- God himself appears to Loftus and takes credit.
- God tells Loftus which Christian denomination is correct in all doctrinal points.
- However, Loftus doesn’t think that any branch of Christianity is correct.
- Loftus assumes that the deity who appeared and worked the miracle is now tricking him.
If I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I’d still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised. (source, emphasis added)
This is quite educational. My conclusion: John W. Loftus is an arrogant and unrelenting narcissist who has put himself in place of God. In his own words, Loftus has said, “Even if God himself proved his existence beyond a reasonable doubt and told me that Christianity is true, I’ll believe it but I’m still not going to worship God.”
Literally, John Loftus has just told us that he knows better than God. Only on the Internet can you witness egos this big first hand. And, this proves that no one is in hell kicking, screaming, and crying to be let out (as I’ve frequently argued). Loftus would rather be there then to bow down and worship God.
I don’t think I can add anything further. This speaks for itself.
Posted on March 28, 2011, in God, Heresy and tagged atheism, Christianity, Existence of God, God, John W. Loftus, Sin, worship. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
I don’t think you understand what the man says. The various points you make sounds to me you’re confused about really one issue;
he anonymous god is a very apt observation to the fact that believers of all types of gods around the world claim miracles happens, from Christians to Hindus to bush worshipers. So, how do they know that the miracle is done by the god they believe in? This is not about proof of miracles, but proof of the identity of that god. Believing a god performed a miracle is not the same as believing a specific god did it. If something miraculous happened in front of you, how do you know who did it? What makes you sure you know which god it is? How can you tell the difference?
This is about identity, and about recognition of what a god is. It is about understanding what is happening before you, and how to fit that into a broader scope of understanding. Lofthus have a lot of understanding and knowledge that goes against the nature of what is being revealed. It’s comparable to Krishna opening up to you, saying reincarnation is the key, and that you should abandon your family. Are you going to do it, blindly? Or is this new information so at odds with your knowledge and expectations that at first you will simply question the validity of the claim?
And even after all this, it is still fair to look at the nature of God, and reject him because he’s not an ideal worthy of praise. I’m sorry, but this part Christians always have a problem with understanding, that we humans, with supposedly free-will, after all the evidence of a godly existence is on the table, will still reject him and not worship him simply because his track-record is appalling and behavior abhorrent. Basically, just saying he’s good doesn’t make him so, and that’s a much more honorable and braver position than sucking up to a dictator out of fear.
I do understand everything you just said. What I’m pointing out is that Loftus has said that even if the God of the universe, the Creator of all things who is worthy of our worship and praise, gave a bulletproof demonstration of his power and authority, Loftus would still refuse to worship because he knows Christianity is wrong.
Further, “I don’t like his track record, so I’m asserting my independence and free will instead of grovelling” really isn’t the nobler or higher position. If God reveals himself to you, and you know his attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, along with his identity as the Good, his perfect justice, and his deep love for the entire human race), then asserting that his track record is appalling is really saying that you, the finite creation, know better than the infinite Creator. That’s not independence; it’s hubris.
No, Cory, the problem is that “the God of the universe, the Creator of all things who is worthy of our worship and praise” ; the former does not imply the latter. Even if there was a god, and he created all things, it doesn’t follow automatically that he’s worthy of praise.
Next, you state “[you know] his attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, along with his identity as the Good, his perfect justice, and his deep love for the entire human race)” again is making whopping assumptions of a god you hope has those characteristics, yet Lofthus is saying that this simply isn’t so straight cut. Also, the former (omnipotence, omniscience) has no bearing on the truth of the latter (identity as the Good, his perfect justice, and his deep love for the entire human race). You seem to have no clear boundary between properties and opinions of your god; you’re saying, if he is god, then no matter what he turns out to be, you’re all good to worship him. Yet I would say that anything worthy of worship implies *your* judgement of worthyness. No one is worthy by default; like with respect, it must be earned. Maybe you’d like to use a different word for this, because worship requires the worshipped to be worthy of it.
As to “asserting that his track record is appalling is really saying that you, the finite creation, know better than the infinite Creator” is overlooking the major calamity of free-will and us humans being created in his image. Sorry, but that track record is open to scrutiny. There might be some good reason for why your god did (and do) the atrocities on record, and one would think that in the after-life this will be explained if it is real, but it is still my judgement whether or not to worship him based on those explanations. Anything else is giving up my faculties to a very unloving, intolerant tyrant.
In other words: “He created me. He imbued me with my personality, likes/dislikes, and a free will. He sustains my existence. He sacrificed his own Son to atone for my sins. But, at the end of the day, what has he done for me, really?” Wow. This is a tough room.
Okay, I could grant you that. I can gather from nature that whoever created nature must be powerful, intelligent, and creative. That’s general revelation. To conclude the rest, I need a special revelation: the Bible. The Bible contains what God has chosen to reveal about himself; it’s not exhaustive, but it includes enough to make a reasonable judgment.
Based on what explanations? God owes you an explanation?
Tonight, my daughter kicked a rubber ball inside the house. This is something that I’ve asked her repeatedly not to do. I told her again when I saw the action about to take place not to do it. She did it anyway. I told her not to do it again. As soon as she laid her hands on the ball, she punted it immediately to the other side of the room. I told her to stop that and reminded her that I’ve repeatedly told her not to do that. Then, she yelled “But I want to!” at the top of her lungs, in a stern and parent-y voice to me. So I put her in time-out.
In your mind, do I owe her an explanation for why I don’t want the ball kicked in the house, or as this is my house do I have the right to set the rules as I see fit? As for the time-out, should I just not have punished her at all, given that she was only exercising her free will?
Cory: “Wow. This is a tough room.”
Do you want me to take you seriously, and your god seriously? It seems to me that a lot of Christians don’t like to scrutinize various part of their belief, and that the best approach to their religion is to be a meek sheep now and deal with the hard issues after they die. I don’t want to do that. I want to take these things seriously now, because I doubt very much there is an afterlife.
“I can gather from nature that whoever created nature must be powerful, intelligent, and creative. That’s general revelation. To conclude the rest, I need a special revelation: the Bible. The Bible contains what God has chosen to reveal about himself; it’s not exhaustive, but it includes enough to make a reasonable judgment.”
Ok, but I certainly get the feeling that scrutinizing the bible isn’t exactly high on the Christians list of things to embrace in their religious life. And I definitely don’t see Christians actually heed that scrutiny and elevate it to what that really reveals about him. They are quick to accept the love part, and create exegesis and theology to try and explain away the hateful parts.
Case in point; If god orders the murders of thousands of babies and genocide, then what does that reveal to us about his character? Theology will mutter that the old testament is not like the new, and that god had his reasons, and we won’t know those reasons because we’re only humans (who knows? Maybe they were all going to turn into Hitlers?), and those days were different, and some prophesy were fulfilled, or somesuch. But you know what? It doesn’t bloody matter; the mass killing of babies are nothing short of mass killings of babies, and there is no circumstances that can put a dampening on the evilness of those acts. Theology and apologetics will jump up and say “how dare you judge god? How dare you imply you can understand better than god?” I dare, because I cannot think in what scenario the killing of babies – all with free-will and human potential, remember! – no matter how hard I try, no matter how many apologetics say it, and no matter what doctrine and theology tries to say about it. It is killing of babies. I, as a person _you_ claim is created in your gods image, and in lieu of being a descendant of Adam and Eve, we as humans have the knowledge of telling apart good and evil, I recognize the _evil_ of that act. Unless there’s some serious crazy good reason for it, it is an evil act. *That* is what the Bible reveals to me.
Further, a sentence such as “what god reveals through the bible” is rife with interpretation, exegesis and theology. This is not revelation! This is humans making human decisions based on human reasoning using a human-produced bible, sifting through it to see if there’s anything in there that are better, more true, more worthy. However, it is interpretation no matter how you look at it. Now, I understand that the holy spirit is supposed to guide you through that maze, however the 38.000 denominations of Christian sects throughout the world is not very good evidence that the holy spirit is very thorough or consistent.
“God owes you an explanation?”
What, you think that’s too much to ask? The world is a complex place, my life is a complex life, the thousands of descendants before me had complex lives, and there’ll be more after me. There’s currently 7 billion people in the world, of which a majority is suffering to various capacities. If your god is all powerful it would a snap of his fingers to explain to us why this evil must be present in our world (or had to be, if we’re dead), so why is this something to question? Of course he owes me an explanation, and if this is too hard for him, or he couldn’t be bothered, well then that’s just more revelation of his character, no? A loving god would tell me. Simple as that.
“In your mind, do I owe her an explanation for why I don’t want the ball kicked in the house, or as this is my house do I have the right to set the rules as I see fit?”
Ok, in fear of putting you in a bad light, and I don’t mean to do so in a bad way, but if you *didn’t* explain to her why throwing the ball inside is not allowed outside of “because I said so”, then yes, you are a not a very good parent ; you’re enforcing a rule without having a reason for it, which is as close to dictatorship you get. The best way to good behavior lies in the understanding of why bad behavior is bad. Rules without justification or explanation is what most people complain about and often rebel against, it is a factor of much unneeded negativity in society, and trust me, we adults are not that different from our kids.
“As for the time-out, should I just not have punished her at all, given that she was only exercising her free will?”
Punishment is fine for all the good reasons. But punishment without explanation is to the punished nothing more than a draconian whim, and will easily fall into the category of “evil.” True to form, if god hasn’t got a seriously good reason for killing babies and ordering genocide, then in my eyes he’s a tyrant and an evil one at that. The only thing that will turn that judgement around are some serious understanding of why that had to happen, and I’m talking reasons that are so profound to turn around the need to kill thousands of free-will, knowing-good-from-evil babies and make that seems reasonable, not that I think that is ever possible, and I guarantee that no theology will ever do that, either, no matter how hard they try (which is why they mostly ignore it).
Anyway, off for dinner.
On this issue, I don’t think that we can tell the difference between Type I, Type II and Type III deities. Assuming some sort of interaction with a deity, no conceivable circumstance would enable us to determine which type that deity can be categorised as.
What do you guys think?
Type I: The Sufficiently Advanced Alien
Type II: The Chief Programmer
Type III: The Empyrean
Once we determine which type of deity we have discovered, an even more difficult question would be the identity of the deity.
Dear Mr Loftus,
A caring deity, who both Is, and is Good, gave you the miracle of life against all human odds.
This one who is Good and has Being was revealed to you the first time another human being said to you, sincerely, “John, I love you.” How could anyone possibly love you (or me)? How could anyone possibly love you as you are, unless something that had real Being and is total Goodness truly exists and dwells in some measure in the lover?
If, Mr Loftus, no one has ever sincerely said “John I love you”, and no one has ever shown that love, by feeding you, clothing you, showing you affection and trying to anticipate your needs and, above all, if no one has ever trusted you, then, dear friend, your problem has nothing to do with theology!
Pax et bonum
Even if a god could reveal herself in any meaningful way, that revelation would not necessarily be proof that the Christian god exists. John is right to point out the many issues involved in determining that the god of the revelation is indeed the Christian god. Is it the god of the arminian or is it the god of the calvinist? Is it the god who saved by grace alone or the god who saves by grace and works? It is the Protestant god or the catholic/Mormon/Greek orthodox/baptist god? Christianity is hopelessly fractured. If Christians can’t come to an agreement on who god is how are poor, blind, dead in trespasses and sins atheists to understand who god is?
Bruce, I would suggest that the problem is more general than calvinism/arminianism, or grace/works, e.g.
Under this scenario, where there is interaction wit the deity:
Is the deity omniscient, or just very intelligent? There is no way to know.
Is the deity omnipotent, or just very powerful? There is no way to know.
Is the deity omnibenovelent, or just very benovelent? There is no way to know.
Is the deity personal, or not personal? There is no way to know.
Is the deity male or female or neither or both? There is no way to know.
Is the deity omniscient, or just very intelligent? There is no way to know.
Did the deity create the universe or not? There is no way to know.
Can the deity lie? There is no way to know.
Is the deity tricking us? There is no way to know.
Is the deity immortal or mortal? There is no way to know.
Is the deity internal to, or external to the unverse, or both? There is no way to know.
Under any imaginable scenario, there is no way to answer these questions. (unless somehow we could be confident that it is currently not lying??) Therefore, all that we could say is that some unknown sort of mysterious entity exists.