So John Loftus, of Debunking Christianity, and who wrote what is still the finest book deconstructing the Christian position (Why I Became An Atheist whose second edition is now out) has a few books due out soon. I am excited about both, but particularly The Outsider Test For Faith (OTF), based on an argument which he has made his own. The OTF can be summed up as: The only way to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject.
I will produce a short excerpt below to whet your appetite. Put it on your wishlists! Pre-order!
This excerpt is dealing with Randal Rauser’s rejection of the argument. You may recall Rauser as the chap I debated on the reliability of the Nativity. Rauser rejects the OTF because, amongst other reasons, he thinks it lacks one of the key intellectual virtues, that of being open-minded.
Open-mindedness is an interesting word. I suspect Rauser easily rejects Scientology, Mormonism, militant Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and the many other religious faiths around the globe, including all the dead religions and gods and goddesses without much thought at all. Most of them he simply dismisses out of hand even though he has never given them serious consideration. Is that being open-minded? Is he really open-minded about astrology, tarot-card readings, weeping statues of the Virgin Mary, werewolves, vampires, or alien abductions? Whether he realizes it or not, he’s arguing for an uncritical kind of open-mindedness that he himself does not share. This is emphatically not an intellectual virtue if it means being open to every claim no matter how bizarre it is, or relaxing the standards of evidence or proof needed before accepting a claim.
Being open-minded is indeed an intellectual virtue associated with humility though, since we must be humble enough to realize we all accept some things that are probably not true. We know we do it, all of us. It’s surmised that we accept most of what we think based upon authority, perhaps 95 percent of the time. So yes, we all must have the humility to admit that there are things we accept that are not true, which requires us to be open-minded to different conclusions than our own. But we cannot, nor should we be, open-minded to any and every claim. It wouldn’t be rational to do so. There must be an objective method that helps us determine what we should accept from what we can’t, and an uncritical open-mindedness is not it.
So it’s one thing to say we should embrace the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness. It’s another thing to propose how we should go about doing that. I’m arguing that the only way to be truly open-minded is to adopt the intellectual virtues of fairness and objectivity represented in the OTF. From what I’ve seen, people of faith are close-minded. Their culturally adopted faith makes most of them impervious to reason, like Rauser himself, for they are not open to fairly and objectively testing their faith. They would rather hold to double standards. When it comes to one’s religious faith anything short of objectivity is being gullible rather than truly open-minded. Rauser should therefore be open-minded enough to look at his culturally inherited faith objectively, but he’s not, despite any protestations of his to the contrary. I suspect he’s just afraid of being open-minded after all. He’s not open-minded enough to test his faith objectively anyway.