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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent exposition of a relatively obvious argument
The OTF is intuitively simple. The multitude of religions require explaining, from a theistic point of view, and until adequate answer is given, skeptical agnosticism is the most reasonable position. That is common-sense. Loftus takes this idea and thoroughly defends it in a fully convincing and very readable manner. And of course, it is far more nuanced than my pithy...
Published 9 months ago by Johnny P

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is not a test
"The Outsider Test for Faith" is a recent title by John W Loftus. The author is a former Catholic and ex-evangelical who has written or edited a number of atheist books. His main claim to fame is something he calls the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). In this book, he defends and expounds on the concept. I admit that I wasn't convinced, primarily because the OTF presupposes...
Published 8 months ago by Ashtar Command


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent exposition of a relatively obvious argument, 29 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True (Paperback)
The OTF is intuitively simple. The multitude of religions require explaining, from a theistic point of view, and until adequate answer is given, skeptical agnosticism is the most reasonable position. That is common-sense. Loftus takes this idea and thoroughly defends it in a fully convincing and very readable manner. And of course, it is far more nuanced than my pithy opener there.

I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did because I thought that the argument was simple and obvious, but the way Loftus drew in quotes and arguments from a plethora of different sources meant that this book packs a really hefty punch and left me thinking, on many, many pages, that I must remember this quote or that quote.

I am hoping to do a more in depth view on the content of the book to post on my blog. I think this books deserves to be very widely read as the argument seems not to have any significant counters.

If God is out there, he has done a pretty crappy job at revealing himself, unless he is himself terribly confused and possibly schizophrenic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping believers honest, 3 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True (Paperback)
Early on in this uncompromising examination of religious belief, John Loftus asks a simple question: How does, say, a non-Christian become a Christian? More generally, how does a non-X become an X, where X is any religion you care to name? Faith will certainly take you across the boundary separating the non-Christian from the Christian, but it will also take you across every other conceivable boundary as well. Why doesn't the Christian (who is also a non-Muslim, a non-Hindu, etc.) take a leap of faith to any one of the hundreds of other religions on offer? For the simple reason that Christians are sceptical of all belief systems, apart from their own.

Loftus sees a double standard here, and he draws an important distinction between a believer's faith-based scepticism and the reasonable or informed scepticism that begins, in all humility, with a presumption that one's own religious faith is probably false. (Tim Minchin's "Thank You God" brilliantly sums up the sheer improbability of the particular god believed in at a particular time and in a particular place being the actual ruler of the universe.)

This informed scepticism should be the default adult attitude when examining any religion: "(1) it assumes one's own religious faith has the burden of proof; (2) it adopts the methodological-naturalist viewpoint by which one assumes there is a natural explanation for the origins of a given religion, its holy books, and it's [sic] extraordinary claims of miracles; (3) it demands sufficient evidence before concluding a religion is true; (4) it disallows any faith in the religion under investigation, since the informed skeptic cannot leap over the lack of evidence by punting to faith."

Gathering "sufficient evidence" is often a difficult business, which is why "punting to faith" is so popular. Loftus insists, however, that the "only way someone can objectively place a reasonable trust in the existence of one's deity, and that he cares, is with sufficient evidence that he exists and that he cares." Faith has nothing to do with this kind of trust. (Recall that the religious meaning of faith as belief without evidence is diametrically opposed to the secular meaning of faith as trust relying on some degree of evidence.) "Probabilities are all that matter." (For a relevant exploration of why probabilities are all that matter in history, see Richard Carrier's Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.)

Loftus makes a strong case that the "only way to rationally test one's culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject." He develops the case for a sceptical approach by appealing to the "religious diversity thesis" (put simply, your parents and your birthplace determine your religion) and the "religious dependency thesis" ("religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns").

These are well-established facts, supported by a wide range of scholarship beyond the sources cited by Loftus. For example, as Stephen Greenblatt notes in The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began, the "wide diversity of opinion about the most important religious questions" was remarked upon by Cicero, and is even more obvious today as we gain more knowledge about the world's religions. Cutting across this diversity are universal factors (such as cognitive biases), which can influence the formation of specific beliefs. In Why Gods Persist: A Scientific Approach to Religion, Robert Hinde studies the maintenance of religious beliefs and notes that "selective attention, selective interpretation and discrediting contradictory information are particularly conspicuous." As Loftus himself concludes, it makes a huge difference whether one approaches the available evidence "through the eyes of faith, as an insider, or with the eyes of skepticism, as an outsider, a nonbeliever."

Those believers who bristle at the idea that "faith is always unreasonable" would do well to remember that they "reject the faiths of other religions precisely because they are faith-based." What is so astonishing and powerful about the outsider test is its simplicity in pointing up this double standard. Whether believers will take the outsider test remains to be seen, but it's the only way they can be kept "honest regarding their own faith."
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True, 28 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True (Paperback)
Great book. This book is a must read for anyone who seriously wants to question their faith. It is a book the open-minded person should embrace. John W. Loftus presents his book in a coherent way. His writing style makes it easy for the layman to understand. Pay no attention to the slanderous reviews. People can be very insecure when they have their beliefs challenged. Read it for yourself. Think for yourself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Join the debate and raise your level of consciousness, 23 Mar 2013
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A. (Broxburn, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True (Paperback)
Another great book by John W. Loftus which makes many excellent points. The OTF is the skeptic app. DOWNLOAD NOW !
It also introduces the reader to several of the main players round the debate table.

Now here is a review in the style of pseudepigraphal Bible authors who used famous names like Isaiah as File headers under which to sneak their own views. see WIBA p170

There are at least three main aspects to religion
1 Debates about whether there is a supernatural realm / what it might be like
2 Debates about morals / ethics / how to behave on Earth
3 Debates about what occurred in history / which model the information best fits theistic or naturalistic
What would the good points in religion have been if it turned out there were no Gods ?
Even 1 Thessalonians 5v21 says, " Test everything, Hold onto the good, avoid every kind of evil " So wouldn't that mean testing the Bible which is what the council of Nicene was supposed to do but maybe they didn't do a very good job ? If N.T. writers had called the doctrine of hell good when in fact it was unethical & cruel
then blindly accepting it just cause it appears in the Bible could mean you fail to act by 1 Thess 5v21.

Maybe most people just cherry the best or vital bits out of any book / film / album. The Outsider test of faith is a catalyst to help dissolve religious nonsense in the acid bath of evolution.

In the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris as seen from the 1550 BCE Papyrus of Ani there is the idea of weighing the heart on the scales against the feather of truth. Maybe we should weigh the Gods by the feather of The Golden Rule? Let's do an inside out test on the Gods

What does the Bible say are the best ideas in the Bible ?
1 Cor 13v1 & 13 The greatest of these is love
Matt 7v12: Golden Rule: Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law
Matt 22v39 The second greatest commandment is love your neighbour as yourself. All the law hangs on this
John 13v34 A new commandment I give you, you must love one another
Romans 13v10 Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law
1 John 4v8 God is love : therefore does no harm to his neighbour
Luke 6v37, Do not judge that you be not judged. Do not condemn that you be not condemned, forgive that you be forgiven,
After teaching the disciples the above verses Matt 16v19 Jesus delegates authority to the keys of heaven to Simon Peter, so surely you would expect Peter to judge according to above principles or he would condemn himself
Think of the Magna Carta which is the principle like the King should have to abide by the law of the land.
Now use the above principles to ask how you would expect Jesus / God to act if he was to act in accordance with those principles.
Matt 7v12 Jesus should ask himself if he would like to spent eternity in a hell ? Obviously no, and as Ephesians 5v29 says: After all no sensible person ever hated his own body but he feeds and cares for it. Genesis 1v29 God is in mans image so should empathize
So since Jesus would not like to go to a hell he should not let others end up in a hell.
James 4v17 Anyone ( including God ) who does not do the good he should sins
Jesus would condemn himself if he condemned most of humanity
Surely a God would act in accordance with Geneva Convention Part 1 article 3a which bans torture
Jesus would not be able to forgive himself unless he forgave everybody.
Matt 18v22 Jesus answered forgive seventy times seven
John 14v14 You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it .Matt 19v26 For God all things are possible
Maybe some of the Bible stories paint images of God / Jesus that do not conform to the Golden Rule ? Romans 12v2
So Jesus or the disciples should have asked that humanity either go to heaven or extinction, not a hell
To be consistent
Luke 23v34 Jesus should have said, " Forgive all humanity and take them to heaven for they know not what they do " and he would have received that prayer request, according to John 14v14
John 3v16 should read: " For God so loved the world that he could not bear the thought of condemning anyone and it would blight his conscience and so he saved everyone through Jesus. "
HAPPY EVER AFTER, AMEN

I especially liked the line on p 190 " The Bible is indistinguishable from God not revealing himself at all "
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is not a test, 27 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True (Paperback)
"The Outsider Test for Faith" is a recent title by John W Loftus. The author is a former Catholic and ex-evangelical who has written or edited a number of atheist books. His main claim to fame is something he calls the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). In this book, he defends and expounds on the concept. I admit that I wasn't convinced, primarily because the OTF presupposes materialism and atheism from the start. Or, as Loftus prefers to call it, "science", "reason" and "methodological-naturalism".

The OTF is rigged in advance so that Christianity can't pass it. This becomes obvious at ppg. 92-93, where Loftus rejects seven criteria for rationally evaluating experience (religious or otherwise), proposed by one Keith Yandell. The criteria are pretty trivial, and include the usual provisos about adequacy to the facts, logical consistency, the necessity of avoiding ad hoc hypotheses, etc. Loftus believes that Christianity can't pass Yandell's test, but he is worried anyway since Yandell (who was a Christian) would argue otherwise. Loftus also says that the faith of Mormons and Scientologists could pass the test. Therefore, something stronger is apparently needed! I think Loftus' objection to Yandell's test is that Yandell was neutral towards the supernatural. He only spoke of "well-established data", "phenomena within its relevance" or "counterevidence", never specifically about methodological naturalism (really atheism and materialism). This is the loophole Loftus wants to plug, right from the start. Supernaturalism simply isn't *allowed* to pass the OTF.

Another problem is the parochial (pun unintended!) and "Euro-centrist" character of the OTF, which is really directed at conservative and fundamentalist Christianity. One of Loftus' main background arguments for the OTF is the fact of religious diversity. Logically, according to the author, *one* religion, at most, can be true. Indeed, they can all be false. Given the large number of different religions, not to mention sub-groups within each of them, what are the statistical chances that evangelicalism is true? While this is indeed a problem for evangelical missionaries, it's not necessarily even an issue for most of humanity. Classical polytheism doesn't deny the gods of neighbouring tribes, peoples or kingdoms. It simply doesn't worship them (except sometimes - witness the Romans who often incorporated foreign gods into their belief system). Many Japanese are both Buddhists and Shintoists, many Africans combine "animism" with Islam or Christianity, and an increasing number of Westerners experiment with different spiritual paths. Only *one* can be true? Why? Maybe they are all true, in some sense. Or maybe a good number of them are. To Loftus, evangelicals should be sceptical of their own religion because of religious diversity and hence "take the OTF". Indeed, religious diversity seems to be one of Loftus' main arguments against all religion and in favour of atheism. However, it's difficult to see how this follows, unless you are still stuck in a kind of pseudo-evangelical thinking yourself.

The anti-Christo-centric character of the OTF can also be seen on Loftus' arguments against "faith". In his view, faith cannot pass the OTF. Faith is an irrational belief in something despite the lack of evidence, even against available evidence. ("I believe because it is absurd".) While Christian theologians would deny that this is the Biblical view of faith, it can hardly be denied that many Christians have exactly this position. Egregious examples can be found on the web. But what about religions that are more experientially-based? Do Eastern mystics have "faith" in this sense? Do Christian mystics? Did classical polytheists? Once again, the OTF turns out to be a form of anti-evangelical polemic, not necessarily applicable in other contexts. Incidentally, I wonder why Loftus rejects all forms of faith with equal vehemence? The author says that we are always dealing with probabilities, but surely that means that certain forms of faith *are* more rational than others. For instance, faith in the Chinese economy is more rational than faith in the American ditto. Why can't faith in god X be more rational than faith in god Y? To Loftus, this question can't even be posed, since the OTF is based on the idea that gods don't exist in the first place!

That the OTF is based on the presumption of atheist materialism can also be seen from Loftus' debate with David Marshall (a Christian author and Amazon reviewer). Marshall believes that Christianity has passed the OTF many times, due to the large number of Christian converts throughout history. Loftus main counter-argument against Marshall (which works equally for voluntary, semi-voluntary and involuntary converts) is that people who choose one religion over another are simply irrational. They are "superstitious people", period. Thus, only people who become atheists count as having passed the OTF!

Another problem is Loftus' typical denial that atheism is a "worldview". No, he says, it's simply the lack of belief in the supernatural, etc. Really? Since the existence or non-existence of a spiritual dimension is surely *the* most basic issue facing Man, it's nave (at best) to claim that atheism is just a benighted and bemused non-belief in the supernatural. This is really a modern "American" conception, typical of a society where each individual can choose to believe or disbelieve in whatever combination of claims he sees fit, or change opinion once a week, without any particular consequences (or so they imagine). Imagine an ancient Greek philosopher claiming that he simply doesn't believe in Pallas Athena, neither more nor less! Something tells me his fellow Athenians would have different ideas about it... While it's true that atheism in abstracto isn't a fully-fledged "worldview", neither is supranaturalism (think of all that religious diversity). However, atheism is virtually always the bedrock of a more all-encompassing worldview. This is obvious in the case of Marxism and Freudianism, but surely atheism in general will have consequences for how the individual feels, acts and reasons in different circumstances. Why *shouldn't* it have such consequences? Does Loftus *really* believe that atheism is simply belief in one entity less, considering that the OTF is based on "science" and "methodological" naturalism? At one point, Loftus says that one can't predict how an atheist will vote or take a stand on the economy, but one can't absolutely predict that for Christians, Muslims or Shintoists either, *simply* based on the fact that they believe in certain supernatural entities. (Most American Muslims who voted in 2000, choose Bush!)

Ironically, the OTF is at one point actually too "soft" on the true believers. Loftus calls on Christians to subject their faith to scientific scepticism, since that's how they evaluate the claims of all other religious faiths. This may be true for a minority of high-brow intellectual apologists, but it's hardly the case for the vast majority of Christian believers. How many American evangelicals are familiar with the higher criticism of the Koran, or the minutiae of Mormon history? They really are "superstitious people". The OTF comes across as an intramural conflict between two groups of intellectuals, one Christian and the other atheist.

Strangely, I agree with many of the concrete criticisms Loftus has of "traditional" Christianity. (An entire chapter of the book is devoted to such.) I also agree that scepticism about pretty much everything is legitimate. We are indeed dealing with probabilities. In contrast to the author, however, I believe a test should be neutral between naturalism and supranaturalism (although I admit that might be hard to do!). At the very least, it should not presume that atheism-materialism is the automatic default position, or that all issues can be decided by "science" in the naturalist sense. At one point, Loftus has problems scientifically proving that rape is immoral. Of course he has. Rape can have Darwinian survival value! Why did those nefarious Israelites of the Old Testament indulge in it, I wonder? There's nothing properly basic about atheism or materialism. Of course, Loftus (if I understand him correctly) believes that the OTF does *not* presume atheism or materialism, but I don't think his denial is very convincing. Witness his worries about the Mormons and Scientologists above.

Two final complaints. One: with the exception of the first chapter, the book is quite badly written. Two: Why on earth is Juche considered to be a religion?! Juche is the official ideology of the North Korean regime. Must be the only "religion" ever cracked literally nobody believes in! No need for OTF there.
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The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True
The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True by John W. Loftus (Paperback - 1 Mar 2013)
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