Chapter 4 present Loftus' "Outsider Test" which is simply the latest version of the "if you were born in Pakistan you’d be a Muslim" argument (as he even admits, that is its basis ). On this point it will be sufficient first to revamp a posting I made elsewhere, in which I argue that the Outsider Test is just Loftus’ version of the Mormon burning in the bosom.
How? First of all, let’s review what I wrote about that Mormon version of the Outsider Test:
The inevitable result of such an epistemic paradigm will be on these lines:
If you ask for it, God will give you confirmation that the Book of Mormon (or the Bible, or van Praagh's stories, whatever) are true.
But what if I ask God and He doesn't answer, or says they are NOT true?
You either didn't ask sincerely or are being misguided. Try again.
I am sincere/I did ask again. The same thing happens.
Then, what? The inevitable result is that the proclaimer of whatever internal witness must declare that the seeker is not sincerely seeking, or is not accessing the right source. Now it may be replied just as simply that a person who denies the relevance of evidence, i.e., pointing to a certain truth, is just the same either not sincerely seeking, or else is misguided. Practically speaking the internal witness could be of no more value than evidence, even if it is genuine. Indeed, since the internal witness is not accessible or open to investigation or argument (as would be things with an evidential basis) one might suggest that the internal witness serves an even less useful purpose than external evidences -- and indeed, offers more opportunities for people to deceive themselves.
How is Loftus’ "Outsider Test" no better? This quote of his, taken from his April 1, 2009 blog entry, speaks for itself:
Let me put it to you this way, if you read everything that I have read and experienced everything that I have experienced, then you would think on these issues exactly the same way I do.
So here’s what it boils down to: If you read all John Loftus has read, it will give you confirmation that Loftus’ view is true.
But what if I read all those sources, and decide that Loftus’ view is NOT true?
You either didn't read sincerely or are being misguided. Try again.
I am sincere/I did read again. The same thing happens.
Then, what? The inevitable result is that Loftus must declare that the seeker is not sincerely seeking, or is not accessing the right sources. Thus the Outsider Test is of no actual value – just as Loftus has been told time and time and time again on TheologyWeb.
The fact is that many of us HAVE read the same sources as Loftus – and in many topical areas, much, much more than he has – and we’re not convinced. The Outsider Test is, as I told Loftus from, Day 1 that I heard of it, a diversion from the real issues of evidence. By no means am I saying that one should not examine one’s presuppositions – but that’s old news, a subset of the evidence-sifting process, and the Outsider Test isn’t much more than Loftus’ vain attempt to repackage and sell something that has been around for ages.
This is not to say that the Outsider Test is useless. As one commenter has said, it is certainly "a good exercise for believers to evaluate their own belief system for it's vercity." And we may agree that one should have an informed faith and consider contrary points of view . However, that is the practical limit of its usefulness. This is shown in that I particularly would be someone for whom the Outsider Test would work well. I was raised in a non-Christian home, in a setting where Christianity was denigrated as intolerant. The one Christian in my family was obnoxious and aggressive. But when I point this out, it will be said that I was "raised in a Christian society." So who indeed can really do the Outsider Test as Loftus defines it?
Relatedly, Loftus himself must think that he did it (or something like it) to break out of Christianity, so once again, it becomes no better than the Mormon test in terms of how we decide whether someone took the Outsider Test successfully. For the Loftus, the mark of a successful Outsider Test is deconversion, otherwise you didn't do it right.
In light of the above, just two points concerning this chapter itself.
Return to the main menu for this response to John Loftus' book Why I Became an Atheist.