Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Infidel Delusion!

Ever since The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (TCD) came out we've been expecting deluded and irrational attacks. One such going the rounds now is the laboriously long treatment by the Christian crackpots at Triablogue, which they have amusingly titled The Infidel Delusion (I say amusingly because the "I know you are but what am I" tactic only reinforces the stereotype that many Christians are emotionally stunted children--who also have no grasp of irony).

I shall publish responses to their ill-conceived rebuttals to my own chapters in TCD eventually (since I love dispelling misinformation in my fields of expertise), but I wanted to start with a more general illustration of how irrational and deluded they are (and thus of what it means to be irrational and deluded). More replies are being developed by other contributors to TCD (see link provided on the Official TCD Website). 

Their entire collection of rebuttals is a good example of a delusional construct. It's built on delusionally failing to read statements in the very same text which contradict them, delusionally misreading statements in the text and then rebutting the whole book by rebutting things it never said, and delusionally believing that logically fallacious arguments are rationally sound. And all that in an attempt to avoid the conclusions of the book: that they are all deluded precisely because they refuse to take the Outsider Test for Faith for fear of its results, and consequently they fail to admit the demonstrated inconsistencies in their belief system, by building an even more elaborate system of inconsistencies that possess the superficial appearance of being correct. That this is the only way to maintain belief in Christianity is precisely why Christianity must be classified as a delusion.

Here I will simply pick a selection of examples (I could list dozens more; there's at least one fatal goof for every chapter). And this just from their intro summary.


Part 1: Why Faith Fails


Triablogue response to TCD Chapter 1 (David Eller, "The Cultures of Christianities"): "Eller’s belief that there is no real Christianity, but instead thousands of Christianities, actually destroys the basis for The Christian Delusion by rendering the idea that there is such a thing as Christianity (singular) to refute moot."


Here is their argument analyzed formally:

  1. There are many different Christianities.

  2. If there are many different Christianities, no two Christianities have any elements in common.

  3. If no two Christianities have any elements in common, then no collection of essays purporting to refute Christianity can refute Christianity.

  4. TCD is a collection of essays purporting to refute Christianity.

  5. Therefore, TCD cannot refute Christianity.

Premises 2 and 3 are blatantly false. Premise 2 is false because all Christianities share core elements in common, without which no relevant form of Christianity is true, e.g. that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that believing this secures us eternal life. So all one need do is refute those to refute them all. The one is shown to be improbable in Chapter 11 of TCD, and the rest is shown to be improbable by Parts 1 through 4 of TCD. Therefore, all the many forms of Christianity addressed by Eller are refuted in TCD. Since Premise 2 is false (both in fact and in principle), Conclusion 5 is unsound. Their rebuttal from Eller's first chapter is therefore irrational. 

Premise 3 is false as well, because obviously a collection of essays can collectively refute a whole array of Christianities, by attacking overlapping sets of Christianities. Indeed, Part 1 of TCD applies to any and all forms of Christianity (not just one single form of it). Since Christianity has not passed the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), i.e. when Christianity is judged by the same standards as other religions, Christianity is no better supported than any other religion (and therefore no more likely to be true than they are), and Part 1 of TCD proves beliefs that have not passed the OTF are very probably false, therefore Christianity tout court is already refuted thereby. One can only retreat from this conclusion by trying to get Christianity to pass the OTF. Which the remaining chapters in TCD show can't be done for any relevant form of Christianity.

Hence all the other chapters refute different forms of Christianity, and thus TCD collectively refutes all relevant forms of Christianity. All "The Bible is God's Word" Christianities are refuted in Part 2; all "God is Good" Christianities are refuted in Part 3; all "Jesus is the Son of God" Christianities are refuted in Part 4; and all "Christianity is Necessary for Science and Morality" Christianities are refuted in Part 5; with all those Christianities eliminated, there are no significant Christianities left to rebut. And even those are eliminated by Part 1.

Accordingly, as Premise 3 of their argument is also false, Conclusion 5 is even more unsound. So their rebuttal from Eller's first chapter is doubly irrational.

Triablogue response to TCD Chapter 3 (Jason Long, "The Malleability of the Human Mind"): Long "show[s] cultural background determines how one will believe. This sort of cultural relativism is a double-edged sword, however. If it works against Christianity, it is only at the expense of destroying atheism in the process."

Here is their argument analyzed formally:

  1. Cultural background determines how one will believe.

  2. If cultural background determines how one will believe, then this is as true for atheism as for Christianity.

  3. If this is as true for atheism as for Christianity, then Christianity is not a delusion.

  4. Therefore Christianity is not a delusion.

Here Premise 3 is not established. Nor is it even plausible. Because claiming atheism is a delusion "for the same reasons" in no way argues Christianity is not also a delusion. Thus the conclusion does not follow. This is therefore an irrational argument.

In fact, claiming atheism is a delusion merely because "Premise 1 is true" would entail Christianity is also a delusion (because Premise 1 is just as true for it as for atheism), thus refuting their conclusion. So they can't mean to argue that Premise 1 has that consequence (for atheism or any other belief). Surely what they should want to argue is that Premise 1 alone does not entail a belief is delusional. But of course Long does not argue that it does. All he argues is that because Premise 1 is true, we need to make sure our beliefs are not delusional. In other words, Long's chapter proves Christianity (like atheism and any other belief) needs to pass the OTF, and that if it does not, it's probably false (for all the scientifically established reasons he documents). They cannot avoid this conclusion with the irrational dodge they have attempted. Such avoidance behavior is typical of the delusional, however.

Moreover, John Loftus already rebuts their entire argument in Chapter 4 of TCD, demonstrating that Christianity is only a delusion because it has not passed and does not pass the Outsdider Test for Faith (OTF), whereas atheism does pass that test, and therefore Premise 1 does not entail atheism is a delusion, but does entail Christianity is a delusion. They don't want to honestly face this argument, so they come up with hundreds of pages of delusional excuses to avoid it.

In other words, the argument of TCD is:

  1. Cultural background (and common psychological biases and mistakes) determines how one will believe (collectively proved by Eller, Tarico, and Long, in Chapters 1, 2, and 3), unless one corrects for these influences when deciding what to believe.

  2. One can correct for these influences only by ensuring a belief will pass the OTF.

  3. A belief that does not pass the OTF is very probably false (proved again by Eller, Tarico, and Long, and by Loftus in Chapter 4).

  4. A belief that is maintained in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is probably false is a delusion.

  5. TCD provides overwhelming evidence that Christianity does not pass the OTF (regardless of whether atheism also does not).

  6. Therefore, TCD provides overwhelming evidence that Christianity is probably false.

  7. Therefore, Christianity is a delusion.

Nothing argued in Triablogue's rebuttal to Long (or Loftus or anyone else for that matter) actually challenges any premise in this argument. And the argument is formally valid. Rejecting a sound and valid argument is irrational. And a belief that can only be defended by irrationality is a delusion.

Part 2: Why the Bible Is Not God's Word

Response to TCD Chapter 7 (John Loftus, "What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate"): "If Loftus’s chapter is true, Babinski’s and Tobin’s [chapters] must be false!"

Here is their argument analyzed formally:

  1. The Bible is unclear about many crucial and important things a God should want us to know (proved in Loftus' chapter).

  2. If the Bible is unclear about many crucial and important things a God should want us to know, then it is unclear about anything and everything it says.

  3. If the Bible is unclear about anything and everything it says, then Babinski’s and Tobin’s chapters must be false (because those chapters argue the Bible is clear about several embarrassing things).

  4. Therefore, "if Loftus’s chapter is true, Babinski’s and Tobin’s chapters must be false!"

Here premise 2 is obviously false. Both in principle and in practice. Nothing in Loftus' chapter argues, entails, or even implies Premise 2. Yet without Premise 2, Conclusion 4 is unsound. Hence Triablogue's rebuttal of Babinski and Tobin from Loftus is completely irrational.

Ironically, here we have the shockingly irrational and patently delusional black-and-white thinking that Tarico and Long warn against in their chapters. It's a fallacy of false dichotomy: either the Bible is entirely clear on every point, or it's entirely unclear on every point. Yet neither is even probable. Loftus only argues for the middle case (which the Law of Excluded Middle requires any rational person to take into account): that the Bible is only unclear in enough places to be a self-refuting foundation for Christianity.

Which means there is no inconsistency in TCD on this point. Nor is any inconsistency produced when the rest of us in TCD use some of the clear remarks in the Bible to make arguments from. Because that in no way entails we regard all other material in the Bible to be clear. Not only is a lot else certainly unclear, but a text can be clear as regards what it says happened on a particular occasion, but at the very same time be completely unclear as to what that's supposed to mean for us in terms of moral guidance or god's message. And Loftus' chapter concerns mainly the latter. His conclusion thus has no bearing on how the rest of us analyze the text of the Bible, or else it fully supports us (as when Tobin or I demonstrate the presence of contradictory claims, which is the epitome of being unclear). Hence believing his conclusion contradicts us is irrational. Which is proof again that Triablogue's authors are irrational. And therefore delusional.

Part 3: Why the Christian God Is Not Perfectly Good

Response to TCD Chapter 8 (Hector Avalos, "Yahweh Is a Moral Monster"): "Avalos’s moral relativism defeats his own argument."


Here is their argument analyzed formally:

  1. Avalos is a moral relativist.

  2. Avalos concludes the Christian God is morally evil in respect to Christianity's own moral ideals.

  3. A moral relativist cannot consistently argue another moral system is inconsistent with itself.

  4. Therefore, Avalos' conclusion is inconsistent with his moral relativism.

Here Premise 3 is false. The conclusion is therefore unsound. Which makes this yet another irrational objection to what is actually a soundly proved conclusion: that God is evil by Christianity's own standards. Avalos is simply arguing that Christianity is delusional because it is internally incoherent. Moral relativism makes no difference to whether that conclusion is true. Even if moral relativism is true, Christianity is still internally incoherent, and continuing to believe what has been soundly and validly shown to be internally incoherent is still delusional.

Meanwhile, moral relativism itself is internally consistent: Avalos can objectively prove the God of the Bible is inhumanly cruel (and he does;
my online supplement The Will of God decisively supports him on this), which conclusion has no inherent moral status, and then from his own moral principles he can declare that cruelty immoral (and thus unworthy of worship) without requiring readers to agree with that judgment. But they still must agree with the first judgment, as inhuman cruelty is not a value judgment but an objectively defined set of behaviors. Anyone who then also shares Avalos' personal belief that inhuman cruelty is evil (which is the moral truth "relative to him") must also share his value judgment, too (that the OT God is evil), even if moral relativism is true. Otherwise they are being irrational. Which is exactly what the Triablogue crew is being.

Part 4: Why Jesus Is Not the Risen Son of God


Response to TCD Chapter 10 (Robert Price, "Jesus: Myth and Method"): "Price actually ignores the vast majority of modern scholarship in rejecting the very existence of Jesus as a historical figure."


Click to Enlarge!
Since Price in Chapter 10 of TCD nowhere argues that Jesus didn't exist as a historical figure, this would be an irrational objection to his chapter. However, I expect they will revise this paragraph soon, since it doesn't accurately state what's argued in their book, and from subsequent comments on this blog it sounds like this was not intentional (as I had wrongly assumed it was). It merely seemed to claim that Price's position on historicity was relevant to his argument in TCD (even though in fact it is not). Since I mistook them for arguing this in their summary, I retract my claim that they did, with apology.

What remains relevant is the implication that we should hew to the consensus against Price. Price's chapter actually makes the strong argument that the Gospels contain a substantial amount of mythmaking about Jesus and the Church--which ironically (or perversely) "the vast majority of modern scholarship" completely agrees with. So either we have what "the vast majority of modern scholarship" actually says being cited as grounds to reject what "the vast majority of modern scholarship" actually says. Which is nearly the most irrational thing I've ever seen. Or we have special pleading (claiming the Gospels are special and thus not like other sacred biographies, and that fundamentalist scholars are special, and thus their opinions weigh more than the vast majority of biblical experts), which is, of course, still irrational.

Part 5: Why Society Does Not Depend on Christian Faith

Response to TCD Chapter 13 (David Eller, "Christianity Does Not Provide the Basis for Morality"): Eller's "evolutionary claims are insufficient to create any type of morality."

Eller doesn't argue for any morality being true in this chapter. So this objection isn't even pertinent. Rejecting a conclusion with such a non sequitur is the epitome of irrationality. Eller only argues that Christianity is not the source of all morality but is just one source among many for one morality among many, therefore Christianity cannot be considered the foundation for morality (and he's right). Even if "evolutionary claims are insufficient to create any type of morality" that would have no bearing on whether his conclusion is true. In fact, his actual conclusion is so well established in his chapter there can be no rational basis for rejecting it. That these authors thus retreat to an irrational basis for rejecting it is exactly how delusional people behave.

Response to TCD Chapter 14 (Hector Avalos, "Atheism Was Not the Cause of the Holocaust") and Chapter 15 (Richard Carrier, "Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science"): "Avalos’s argument that atheism didn’t cause the Holocaust is irrelevant to the issue of whether Christianity is true...and Carrier’s historical claims that Christians are not responsible for modern science is...irrelevant to the issue of the truth of Christianity"


Neither Avalos nor myself argued that our chapters refuted Christianity. To the contrary, our chapters show examples of what sorts of delusions many Christians succumb to or resort to in order to bolster their delusional belief that Christianity is correct and necessary for modern society.
"God Is with Us!"
Thus, our chapters refute two common Christian delusions, not the Christian delusion as a whole. This brings us back to the very first chapter by Eller: Part 5 refutes a particular kind of Christianity, the kind based on the assumption that we need it, even if the rest of what TCD says is true (my online adjunct chapter, which didn't make the final cut for page count, adds a refutation of another common Christian delusion in this category: Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy; Eller on morality adds a fourth). It's ironic to see Triablogue claim we must rebut different kinds of Christianity, and then when we do that by divvying the kinds up into five parts, they complain we aren't rebutting the whole of Christianity in each part. That's irrational.

Another significant point of our two chapters is that there are millions of people, even trained scholars, who actually are this deluded. If the Triablogue authors wish to concede that these are delusions, and that their fellow Christians should abandon them, we welcome their help in getting those delusions dispelled. But they cannot honestly deny that millions of Christians, even trained scholars, still embrace these delusions, as our chapters document both their widespread embrace, and that they are delusional. This should cast serious doubt on the ability of many Christians and even many Christian scholars to arrive at rational beliefs about the world and its history. If so many can be so wrong, even supposed experts, we have good reason to put everything else they believe to a sound, objective test. And that brings us full circle back to Part 1 of TCD: Christianity simply must pass the OTF. Because if it does not, it's delusional to persist in believing it.

[Update 2011: for a good summary of The Christian Delusion and how it actually quite soundly establishes all forms of Christianity as a bona fide delusion, see my entertaining Skepticon talk Are Christians Delusional?]

35 comments:

Ash said...

An excellent summary and rebuttal of delusional thinking. I actually have more respect for Christians who simply put no thought into their faith and just live it as part of their cultural heritage. When people actually apply, or attempt to apply critical thinking to it, they are forced to resort to intellectual dishonesty. The former group might be delusional, but the second are both delusional and purposefully irrational.

Jason Engwer said...

Richard Carrier,

Your references to “Christian crackpots” and such are inconsistent with what people like John Loftus and Ken Pulliam said in response to The Infidel Delusion. They disapproved of how “insulting” we were. Will they apply the same reasoning to your material? You’re not responsible for their beliefs and behavior, but readers should note the contrast between your standards and theirs.

I don’t know where you get some of your summaries of what we’ve argued. You don’t provide any page numbers.

In addition to making a lot of unsupported assertions, you burn some straw men. For example, you summarize our response to chapter 3 of The Christian Delusion with the following premise (among others):

“If this is as true for atheism as for Christianity, then Christianity is not a delusion.”

Where did we make that claim? I know that I didn’t make it, nor did it even enter my mind. And I doubt that any of the other contributors intended to suggest it in the unqualified sense you’re implying.

Here’s another one of your summaries of what we’ve allegedly said:

“If the Bible is unclear about many crucial and important things a God should want us to know, then it is unclear about anything and everything it says.”

Again, where did we say that? I know I haven’t said it.

You write:

“Since Price in Chapter 10 of TCD nowhere argues that Jesus didn't exist as a historical figure, this objection to his chapter is wildly irrational.”

Actually, your response is irrational. I cited Price’s minority views in the context of addressing The Christian Delusion’s appeals to scholarly majorities. I didn’t suggest that Price had argued against Jesus’ existence in the book.

You go on:

”Ironically, it is an example of the very delusional behavior demonstrated by Tarico and Long: by rebutting a weak argument, the Triablogue authors assume the strong argument has also been refuted, when in fact it has not.”

You’re the one who just “rebutted a weak argument”, since you misrepresented the argument you were responding to. And I didn’t suggest that Price’s acceptance of minority views proves that “the strong argument has also been refuted”.

You write:

” So here we have what ‘the vast majority of modern scholarship’ actually says being cited as grounds to reject what ‘the vast majority of modern scholarship’ actually says. That's nearly the most irrational thing I've ever seen.”

First of all, if you still have the issue of Jesus’ existence in mind, then the two “vast majorities” in question are significantly different in size. Evangelicals and others who hold a similarly high view of the Bible are a minority, but not nearly as small a minority as those who deny Jesus’ existence.

Secondly, and more significantly, it’s not irrational to cite an author’s acceptance of minority positions in response to his book’s appeal to majorities. You haven’t demonstrated that it’s irrational. Rather, you’ve asserted it. As I said in The Infidel Delusion, “Scholarly majorities do have some significance. But the rejection of majority opinion on some issues by the authors of The Christian Delusion should remind us of how limited that significance is even from their perspective.” (p. 145) Would you explain how that’s irrational, let alone “nearly the most irrational thing [you've] ever seen”?

Morrison said...

It will become more clear when Hawkings books is generally available (our bookstore manager let me take a look at it) but Hawking has indulged in one massive Circular Argument.

You know, it was not that long ago that he was claiming a Theory of Everything was on the way, but he has failed in that quest.

What he has done here, is simply declare victory and take one last big cash advance.

And we are no closer to a "Theory of Everything" that before.

Go figure.

Morrison said...

By the way, Carrier gave a talk here in Kansas earlier this year, and he used the term "bullshit" over 22 times in an hour lecture about history and science.

He is big on ad hominems, while he cries about Logic.

He is truly one piece of work, and I really get a kick out of his self absorbed arrogance.

Obviously, what he is really pissed off about is that he can't get an academic post.

Morrison said...

By the way, Carrier gave a talk here in Kansas earlier this year, and he used the term "bullshit" over 22 times in an hour lecture about history and science.

He is big on ad hominems, while he cries about Logic.

He is truly one piece of work, and I really get a kick out of his self absorbed arrogance.

Obviously, what he is really pissed off about is that he can't get an academic post.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Jason: he was doing rational reconstruction of your argument, which partly means bringing to light certain assumptions in your arguments. Perhaps he didn't succeed with each, but he tried at least to reconstruct the logical structure of the argument you were implicitly using. (E.g., I think he did a damned good job of the stuff on multiple Christianities).

I am already sick of this 'Outsider Test' crap as some kind of panacea. It's been around since Hume, regurgitated by every skeptic who has studied his history, and isn't as damning as Loftus and Co. pretend. God that takes away the credibility of much of Carrier's arguments by my lights.

It's one useful tool: be suspicious of things you inherited from culture. Make sure you didn't inherit some crazy superstition, examine your beliefs critically. Yeah, we get it, isn't that what they teach in Freshman philosophy? Egads, it's like people sometimes think they have just discovered Fire. It's not. Maybe it's a mild acid, pH of 6 or so, definitely not lower than 5. But this Debunking Delusions crowd is all on this bandwagon acting as if it is the new universal acid, pH of 0.1.

Oh well.

articulett said...

Blue Devil Knight, I think the "Outsider Test" is a little more than "be suspicious of things you inherited from culture."

I would say, it's more akin to: "examine your own supernatural beliefs through the same lens you look at myths, cults, superstitions, and other things you reject and/or mock." Be an anthropologists in regard to your own culture's myths.

There should be rational reasons for believing in some invisible undetectable magical beings and not others, right? This is the implication of the "outsider test". Why is it that people believe in the various magical things they believe in given the complete lack of evidence for anything magical at all? (not to mention, the glaring obviousness that if there was any evidence at all, scientists would be testing, refining, and honing that data to learn more-- for their own benefit as well as for the benefit of humankind!)

~~~~~~~~~~
Good job as always, Richard. It hurts my brain to even try to make sense of the theists. I don't even think they make sense to each other. I doubt any of them can sum up each other's arguments as well as you have summed up theirs.

Fortunately, they are not all DM (Dennis Markuse/David Mabus), but they all are delusional-- that is obvious.

Jason Engwer said...

articulett wrote:

“Blue Devil Knight, I think the ‘Outsider Test’ is a little more than ‘be suspicious of things you inherited from culture.’ I would say, it's more akin to: ‘examine your own supernatural beliefs through the same lens you look at myths, cults, superstitions, and other things you reject and/or mock.’”

The Outsider Test has been interpreted in different ways by different people. I’ve seen John Loftus use it in a variety of ways from one context to another over the years. And different people are objecting to the test for different reasons. You have to ask what’s being argued and what people are objecting to in each context. As I said in the Infidel Delusion (p. 48), there is some merit to Loftus’ argument as he presents it in The Christian Delusion. But he includes some bad arguments and assertions along with the good. I give some examples in chapter 4 of The Infidel Delusion.

Richard Carrier claims that we “refuse to take the Outsider Test for Faith for fear of its results”. How does he supposedly know that? If The Christian Delusion is as good a refutation of Christianity as Richard claims it is (see, for example, what I quoted from him in the last appendix of The Infidel Delusion), then why have we read it and responded to it if we’re afraid of addressing such issues and avoid taking the Outsider Test because of such fear? Whatever answer he would give to that question, I’d like to see what evidence he has to support it. What he’s said so far about our alleged beliefs and motivations is highly inaccurate.

Morrison said...

The thing about the Loftus Outsider Test is that it has been around since Hume.

He did not invent it and, like so much else, Loftus is lying about that, or Willfully Ignorant.

In rereading his "deconversion" story I also note that he claims he has the "equivalent of a Ph.D." He has no such thing. He had to leave the Ph.D program he was in.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

I suppose the unspoken assumption of Carrier's post here is that, "If the vast majority of TID's superficial defensiveness actually mattered, these are the arguments that would entail."

I see that Carrier did misrepresent Engwer on Price a bit. Everything else seems pretty solid. It is ironic that this post mostly applies to Steve Hays and Paul Manata, but Jason Engwer (i.e. the only author of TID worth reading) is the one sent over here? Smooth move on their part (assuming there's anything to that), but that doesn't cover a great deal of the irrationally defensive content of TID as a meaningful negative case.

And speaking of unspoken assumptions, using the word "bullshit" 22 times may just mean that you wish to speak freely in down to earth settings as an academic and doesn't need to represent job related frustration. And obviously this isn't even ad hominem since using the term would most readily apply to beliefs and specific positions. I don't normally call a person "bullshit." Although my cousin did name her kitten "horse shit" (because of how he stunk when she found him). But that's an exception to the rule. But w/e.

Carrier is calling certain Christians delusional here, but he's at least providing very specific reasons for that claim. No doubt he'll be back to defend the line. Not the approach I would have taken, but an understandable one.

Ben

Blue Devil Knight said...

I addressed the Outsider Test in more detail here, and what I said there was correct. I also include quotes from Hume, Descartes, Huxely showing how old the basic idea is.

Putting it that people should subject their own faith to the same standards they do other faiths is cute rhetorically, but technically weak. Most people don't put other faiths under scrutiny, or their own faith. So by that criterion, they should just keep on going doing what they were doing.

Anyway, I know it's the new hot thing among internet skeptics. But it's not new, and it's not all that hot.

OTF is but one useful tool in the skeptic's arsenal, and it has been for centuries.

Morrison said...

If everyone who does not agree with Carrier is not DELUSIONAL, as he seems to think, does that mean C
Carrier is in DENIAL?

Or, perhaps, PROJECTING?

My answer is the one Carrier gave in his talk in Kansas (after the Licona debate)...Bullshit X 22!

Steven Carr said...

I believe the word 'delusional' comes from 2 Thessalonians 2, where the Biblical author made up the claim that his imaginary god deludes people.

'For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.'

Christians adore claiming people they don't like are deluded, and some even claim their imaginary god is the one who deludes people.

But if Christians can't take being called 'deluded', when they start to preach that a talking donkey existed, then they shouldn't hold up books claiming people are deluded or fools.

What they should do is show that they are not deluded by getting their god to do something - producing a talking donkey would be a start.

Jason Engwer said...

Since the book names keep coming up in this discussion, I’m going to start abbreviating The Christian Delusion with TCD and The Infidel Delusion with TID.

WAR_ON_ERROR wrote:

“It is ironic that this post mostly applies to Steve Hays and Paul Manata, but Jason Engwer (i.e. the only author of TID worth reading) is the one sent over here? Smooth move on their part (assuming there's anything to that), but that doesn't cover a great deal of the irrationally defensive content of TID as a meaningful negative case.”

We often coordinate our efforts, but we also do a lot of things independently. I’ve been posting here and elsewhere (mostly Debunking Christianity and TheologyWeb) on my own initiative. I want the discussion expanded beyond the Triablogue site, and I have time for it at this point. Other contributors to TID have different circumstances and are making their own judgments about where and when to post. But Paul Manata has posted at Debunking Christianity. Steve Hays and Patrick Chan sometimes post at other sites as well. There are similar differences among the contributors to TCD.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Jason,

Fair enough.

Jason Engwer said...

I don’t have time to address every issue that comes up that I’d like to comment on. I have to be selective. But I want to briefly address an issue that keeps coming up.

Steven Carr mentions “a talking donkey” and “getting [God] to do something”. Presumably, Steven and others who make similar comments are interested in supernatural activity in general. Making a donkey speak wouldn’t be the only conceivable evidence of the existence of God or some other supernatural being. And Christians don’t believe that all donkeys speak or that the donkey mentioned in the Bible spoke by natural means. They also don’t believe that they can “get” God to “do something” like making a donkey speak whenever they want to. God is a personal agent, and a superior one, who would make an animal speak for particular reasons, not necessarily just because somebody like Steven asks for it. Christians accept the Biblical account about the donkey on the basis of indirect evidence. Evidence for scripture in general would be applicable to that particular passage, evidence for Jesus’ reliability would apply to what Jesus said about the Biblical book in which that passage is found, etc. Whether somebody is “delusional” for believing that the donkey spoke can’t be judged simply by mentioning a talking donkey, as if the mere mentioning of it establishes that a person is delusional.

Whether miracles have occurred is one of the issues under dispute. If Steven is suggesting that we bracket disputes about the ancient past and produce evidence of more recent activity that would be considered miraculous, then that, too, is a disputed point. Steven could interact with what we said in TID about modern supernatural activity. Some of the researchers, like Michael Sudduth and Stephen Braude, have had unusual experiences with the supernatural themselves. They aren’t just documenting historical reports about the experiences of other people. You need to do a lot more than make vague references to “a talking donkey”, Steven.

Steven Carr said...

So Jason believes in a talking donkey, because he read it in an Old Book.

And he complains about being typecast as deluded.

Eric said...

Dr. Carrier,

Let me begin by saying I'm no fan of TID (or of TCD for that matter). Given that the arguments in TID are generally bad, I'm left scratching my head as to why you've gone about misrepresenting them.

Take the argument from "many Christianities" that you claim includes (when analyzed) the premise, "If there are many different Christianities, no two Christianities have any elements in common." Yet in chapter one of TID Manata says, "In what hindsight might declare to be an embarrassing gaffe, David Eller opens up a book purporting to show "The Christian Delusion" with the claim that there is no such thing as Christianity but rather Christianities"(26). Of course, the book represents itself as showing that Christianity as such is a delusion, and this in fifteen chapters. Apparently there are some essential beliefs various Christians hold to such that there can be some-thing like the Christian delusion...But surely the retort is, "The belief that there is anything like Christianity (sin-gular) is one of the delusions; for you see, there are only Christianities (plural)." In that case, perhaps I should take a seat and politely whistle until the authors get around to showing that my Christianity is deluded.
"No doubt this would be considered rude and the authors of the book would feel slighted. They might say, "Why, the Resurrection was critiqued and Jesus‘ life was shown to be best classified as myth. And you see, you just can‘t be considered a good card-carrying Christian if you don‘t hold these beliefs." It is rather like pointing out that though there are many ducks (plural) on the pond, there is something that unites them such that we can classify them all as instances of duck (singular) and distinguish them from, say, the fish swimming in the pond. So there turns out to be such a thing a Christianity after all."

I think it's clear that you didn't derive that premise from any sort of analysis, but conjured it out of thin air.


Or take the argument from chapter three that you claim contains (when analyzed) the premise, "If this is as true for atheism as for Christianity, then Christianity is not a delusion" and the conclusion,
"Therefore Christianity is not a delusion." But I challenge anyone to search chapter three and tell me where these premises are to be found, or suggested at, or even hinted at. Rather, what you'll find is what's implicit in the "double-edged sword" metaphor from the quote you're addressing, viz. the claim that Long's argument is self referentially inconsistent. Now whether Long's argument is in fact self refuting is another issue entirely; my only point is that it appears to be the case that you're just making this up as you go along.

I don't think I need to continue. Frankly, I'm surprised at the shoddiness of this response, especially given the ease with which a strong response could have been written.

Edwin said...

It would be nice to have the OTF in questionnaire form. 10 questions graded: Pass, Fail, or Epic Fail. But that would require honesty of the test taker, not self deception. Then answer the same questions about another faith and compare.

evanmay said...

"So Jason believes in a talking donkey, because he read it in an Old Book. And he complains about being typecast as deluded."

What skill you have for begging the question.

Steven Carr said...

Begging the question?

You actually think there is a question about whether there was once a talking donkey?

How are you on flying carpets, and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows?

bossmanham said...

Stephen Carr seems to be just relying on ridicule here. Do you have an argument beyond the talking donkey thing? Seems to me Jason has answered your point.

Steven Carr said...

So Jason believes in a talking donkey, because he read about one in an Old Book, and if you let people know what Jason believes, that is 'ridicule'.

Apparently, publicising Christian beliefs is 'ridicule'.

Jason can never produce a talking animal.

His imaginary god can no more make animals talk than it can write on walls or turn water into wine.

bossmanham said...

No, ridicule isn't an argument.

Steven Carr said...

So Bossmanham also believes in talking donkeys,despite the total inability of his imaginary god to give any evidence of anything.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Jason, You wrote, "Christians accept the Biblical account about the donkey on the basis of indirect evidence." What do you mean by "accept the Biblical account?" And how much of your definition of "Christian" is tied up with interpreting as many stories in the Bible as possible as literal history, rather than say, interpreting them as miraculous tales that were as easily accepted by ancient Hebrew readers as other such miraculous tales were accepted by readers of neighboring cultures?

You also mentioned, "Some of the researchers, like Michael Sudduth and Stephen Braude, have had unusual experiences with the supernatural themselves." Such experiences may provide evidence of forces not limited to those already known to lie along the electro-magnetic spectrum. But it seems a bit of a leap to go from "unusual experiences" to full blown theism let alone full blown Christian dogmas, including inerrancy. Such "unusual experiences" are also wide ranging and as diverse as the world's religions, sects, and cults.

Richard Carrier said...

Jason Engwer said... I don’t know where you get some of your summaries of what we’ve argued. You don’t provide any page numbers.

Re-read my post. I say exactly where the quotes are from.

“If this is as true for atheism as for Christianity, then Christianity is not a delusion.” Where did we make that claim? I know that I didn’t make it, nor did it even enter my mind....and I doubt that any of the other contributors intended to suggest it in the unqualified sense you’re implying.

Let's be clear first. Do you agree with me that that argument is unsound?

(i.e. if someone else argued that "cultural relativism entails atheism is delusional, therefore Christianity is not delusional" you would agree that that argument of theirs is irrational?).

And do you agree that if the premise "cultural background determines how one will believe" strictly entails "atheism is delusional," then it also entails "Christianity is delusional"?

(Because if it does not in the latter case, then it does not in the former case...and you can see where that is going...)

“If the Bible is unclear about many crucial and important things a God should want us to know, then it is unclear about anything and everything it says.” Again, where did we say that? I know I haven’t said it.

The statement "If Loftus’s chapter is true, Babinski’s and Tobin’s [chapters] must be false!" logically entails it. And that statement is from your website.

Actually, your response [re: Price] is irrational. I cited Price’s minority views in the context of addressing The Christian Delusion’s appeals to scholarly majorities. I didn’t suggest that Price had argued against Jesus’ existence in the book.

Then you need to re-write the introductory page online. You seem to have skipped my saying so, but I said I was replying to the online summary, not the book (as yet).

It now sounds like what your summary says was unintentionally inaccurate. I had assumed you were being coy about the book's contents and thus attempting a well-poisoning fallacy in the summary (having seen that tactic deployed many times before).

I have accordingly revised my blog, with apology.

[Note: there was some duplication of your posts; I deleted what seemed to be redundancies; if anything got cut that isn't still here, please re-post, and only once, and I'll check the spam folder and let it through; blogger keeps interfering in this way by assuming your posts are spam for no discernible reason; I apologize for that; it's as frustrating for me as for posters such as yourself, who aren't even being told by blogger what happened to their posts]

Richard Carrier said...

Eric said... I think it's clear that you didn't derive that premise from any sort of analysis, but conjured it out of thin air.

I don't know what premise you are referring to. You don't refer to any of the premises I actually formulated. And your argument doesn't even seem pertinent to what I actually said.

Morrison: Is trash talk all you have left? Sad.

Eric said...

"You don't refer to any of the premises I actually formulated."

Dr. Carrier, I *quoted* each premise I disputed in the post you're ostensibly responding to, viz. "If there are many different Christianities, no two Christianities have any elements in common," and "If this is as true for atheism as for Christianity, then Christianity is not a delusion."

"And your argument doesn't even seem pertinent to what I actually said."

Huh? I pointed out that your formal analyses of the arguments in TID contain the attribution of multiple premises (and at least one conclusion) nowhere to be found in the chapters of quotes you reference, and you claim this is not pertinent? Okay...I think you need to reread my post.

Jason Engwer said...

Richard Carrier wrote:

"Re-read my post. I say exactly where the quotes are from."

I knew where the quotes were from. I referred to summaries of arguments. You can't derive all of the arguments you attributed to us from those quotes, and none of the authors of The Infidel Delusion wrote the post you quoted anyway. I'll have more to say about that second point below.

You write:

"if someone else argued that 'cultural relativism entails atheism is delusional, therefore Christianity is not delusional' you would agree that that argument of theirs is irrational?"

Yes.

You write:

"And do you agree that if the premise 'cultural background determines how one will believe' strictly entails 'atheism is delusional,' then it also entails 'Christianity is delusional'?"

Yes.

You write:

"Because if it does not in the latter case, then it does not in the former case...and you can see where that is going"

I don't think Peter Pike was arguing that cultural background determines beliefs or that such cultural influence proves that atheism is a delusion. His sentence begins with "if".

You write:

"The statement 'If Loftus’s chapter is true, Babinski’s and Tobin’s [chapters] must be false!' logically entails it. And that statement is from your website."

How does it logically entail what you claim it entails? Loftus said that the Bible is unclear under particular circumstances. If Babinski and Tobin's chapters claim Biblical clarity under those circumstances, then they're contradicting Loftus. You don't have to maintain that Loftus is implying that every Biblical passage is unclear in order to maintain that he's contradicting Babinski and Tobin.

But I don't know the details of what Peter had in mind in the one portion of one sentence that you quoted from his post. As I said above, the post you quoted wasn't written by any of the authors of The Infidel Delusion. It was written by Peter, who converted the file into the PDF format and did some other technical work related to the ebook. He was an editor, not one of the authors. Basing your summaries of our arguments on what he said in that post would be similar to our summarizing The Christian Delusion's arguments based on some comments made by somebody at a similar editorial level at Prometheus Books. Would that person's comments have some significance? Yes, but not as much as the comments of the authors. I'm primarily responsible for what I wrote. I do have a secondary accountability for what the other authors wrote, to the extent that I'm associated with them in a given context. I'm even less responsible for what Peter wrote.

Again, though, I don't think Peter intended the arguments you've derived from his comments. If he did, then I disagree with him.

I don't know whether Peter has been following this thread. I'm going to send him an email about it, and he can decide what he wants to do with his post you're responding to, if he wants to revise it in any way.

You write:

"I have accordingly revised my blog, with apology."

Thanks. That's commendable.

You write:

"I apologize for that; it's as frustrating for me as for posters such as yourself, who aren't even being told by blogger what happened to their posts"

There's no need to apologize. I've been using Blogger for years, and I've had many bad experiences with it. I've seen it do even worse things.

I looked over my earlier posts in this thread. It doesn't look like anything was deleted other than a duplicate of my first post, which obviously isn't a problem.

Jason Engwer said...

Ed Babinski wrote:

"What do you mean by 'accept the Biblical account?' And how much of your definition of 'Christian' is tied up with interpreting as many stories in the Bible as possible as literal history, rather than say, interpreting them as miraculous tales that were as easily accepted by ancient Hebrew readers as other such miraculous tales were accepted by readers of neighboring cultures?"

As I said earlier, I have to be selective in what I address here. But I'll briefly address what you seem to be getting at.

I think the Balaam incident was a historical event. A donkey actually spoke by supernatural means. But a person wouldn't have to hold that belief in order to be saved. I'm a conservative Evangelical who believes in inerrancy and holds a high view of Biblical historicity, but I don't consider either of those two views essential to salvation if they're considered as generalities. They're important, but not essential. Though they aren't essential when considered as general categories, they could become essential in some contexts. For example, it wouldn't make sense to call somebody a Christian who denies the historicity of Jesus.

You write:

"But it seems a bit of a leap to go from 'unusual experiences' to full blown theism let alone full blown Christian dogmas, including inerrancy."

I wasn't arguing that the phenomena in question take us to "full blown theism" or "full blown Christian dogmas, including inerrancy". One of the sources I cited, Stephen Braude, isn't a Christian. I don't know whether he's even a theist. I was responding to comments like Steven Carr's. And this thread is partially about The Christian Delusion, a book that claims that such phenomena, even non-Christian phenomena, "always seem to turn out to be bunk upon examination" (p. 277).

Jason Engwer said...

Sorry for the duplicates of some of my posts. I read what Richard wrote about posts going into his spam box, but then forgot about it when I posted later in the day. I'll try to remember to submit each post only once from now on.

For those who want to post here, it looks to me like your posts have a better chance of going up right away if they're short. You could post something long and wait for it to be filtered through the spam box later. Or you could break it down into smaller posts and have everything go up on the blog immediately. Either way, don't post anything more than once.

Richard Carrier said...

Eric said... Dr. Carrier, I *quoted* each premise I disputed in the post you're ostensibly responding to, viz. "If there are many different Christianities, no two Christianities have any elements in common," and "If this is as true for atheism as for Christianity, then Christianity is not a delusion."

But when you say "that premise" (singular) you don't explain which one you mean. As to how I derive the first one (and the second), that's obvious from the direct quote I extracted from the book's summary (assuming it hasn't been changed since). You don't seem to grasp this. It doesn't seem that you understand what I've said or why I've said it.

To get the point across, look at it this way: it's unclear to me if you mean now to deny those premises. Because if you do, then the conclusion your crew reached from Eller's first chapter is no longer established. Which is exactly my point. In other words, your rebuttal requires that premise to be true, in order for the rebuttal to be valid. So if you now agree that premise is false, so is your rebuttal. That is what my analysis shows.

Do you understand now?

Richard Carrier said...

Jason Engwer said... Sorry for the duplicates of some of my posts.

I think I've successfully cleaned up all the duplicates now. So we're good to go.

Richard Carrier said...

Jason Engwer said... none of the authors of The Infidel Delusion wrote the post you quoted anyway.

Are you then disavowing that summary as inaccurate? Will you rewrite it to correct its errors? If so, inform me and I'll revisit.

(I see you mentioned asking for a rewrite, but really one of you should do it, or all your authors should proof it to sign off on how it represents their argument; Loftus and I try to do this with our authors)

I don't think Peter Pike was arguing that cultural background determines beliefs or that such cultural influence proves that atheism is a delusion. His sentence begins with "if".

Then what use is his chapter? If it's all just speculation that arrives at no conclusion, why even include it?

You seem to be backpedaling. Now you disavow the summary. Now you say one author was just saying "if" and not actually affirming anything in rebuttal to our book's argument. Am I reading this right?

You write: "The statement 'If Loftus’s chapter is true, Babinski’s and Tobin’s [chapters] must be false!' logically entails it. And that statement is from your website." How does it logically entail what you claim it entails? Loftus said that the Bible is unclear under particular circumstances. If Babinski and Tobin's chapters claim Biblical clarity under those circumstances, then they're contradicting Loftus.

That isn't what the rebuttal argues. There is no relevant overlap between Loftus and Babinski and Tobin. As far as I can tell, at no point does Loftus say a passage is unclear about x and then Babinski and Tobin then say it's clear about x, for any x. Or did I miss an example?

And even a few occasions of this would only negate those occasions, not the whole of Babinski and Tobin; in other words, even if you find a specific case--and I haven't seen one yet--that would only require a correction in either direction on that one case, it does not warrant a wholesale generalization as I quoted the summary declaring.