Why John Loftus and Reasonable Doubts shouldn’t be laughing
Today I was listening to the latest Reasonable Doubts podcast which featured an interview with John Loftus. (You can listen to it here.) I have listened to many RD podcasts and it has been a good discipline. And it does take discipline to listen to four ideologues repeatedly refer to Christianity and religion as “bullshit”. These guys really do hold an inexplicably crude categorization of the world. Let’s put this in some perspective. Many of the modern age’s leading philosophers (Michael Dummett, Hilary Putnam, Alvin Plantinga) and scientists (Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, Francis Collins) have been committed Jewish and Christian theists. And these great intellects all believed (and believe) in “bullshit”? Really? And we know this because of four towering geniuses from Grand Rapids, Michigan who run a podcast? And now they’ve chosen to enlighten the world? Sorry, but the sheer ignorance, the brazen audacity, the smarmy self-satisfaction, begin to wear on my nerves after awhile. So yeah, it takes discipline.
Anyway, let’s turn to the interview. I’ve included an excerpted transcript of one exchange from this fawning interview with Loftus which struck me as particularly vacuous. Here it is:
John Loftus: “A study done, that was published in Discovery Magazine shows that on unrelated topics people who believe, they all think that God agrees with them about everything. Not just religion, not just religion but politics, morals … cause they did two different interviews and one was, you know, ‘What are your beliefs?’ and the next interview, separated by some time, ‘what do you think is God’s position on these things?’ and they matched perfectly! Every single person!”
Reasonable Doubts guy: “Yeah, we discuss a lot of that on the show.”
Another Reasonable Doubts guy: “That’s why our psychology segment on the show is called ‘God thinks like you.” [a couple people giggle and titter] “Cause that seems to be, seems to be the, the consistent finding is, uh, everybody’s God is, there are as many different versions of God as there are believers in him.”
Be sure to treat yourself to the actual podcast (which occurs around 51 minutes in) as a mere transcript can’t convey the nauseating self-satisfaction. These guys think they’re on to something really clever here. But for the life of me, I can’t fathom what it is.
Let’s start with Loftus. He points out that theists believe God believes the same things they believe. “Every single person!” he says. And the Reasonable Doubts guys are so excited about this same observation that they even named a segment on their show after it. “God thinks like you!” Ho ho ho. (Let me pause to wipe away the tears of mirth from my eyes.)
But let’s take a step back for a moment and think about what all this really means. Consider Jones the theist. As a theist, Jones believes that God is omniscient. Now consider:
(1) Jones believes that the set of propositions p … z is true.
(2) Jones believes that God only has true beliefs.
(3) Therefore, Jones believes that God believes that the set of propositions p … z is true.
This seems to me bizarrely trivial. Of course a theist will believe that for any proposition they accept as true an omniscient being will likewise accept it as true. And counterfactually, if Jones believed that not-p were true then he would believe not-p, in which case, he’d also believe that God believed not-p. So why does Loftus think this is some big discovery? And why would the Reasonable Doubts hosts bother to name a segment of their show after this trivial observation? And why are they tittering and giggling over the whole matter?
If those geniuses are going to giggle and titter at theists, then they should also giggle and titter at atheists. And they might as well start with Smith the atheist:
(1) Smith believes that the set of propositions p … z which have no bearing on the existence of God, is true.
(2) Smith believes that if God exists then he only has true beliefs.
(3) Therefore, Smith believes that if God exists then God believes that the set of propositions p … z which have no bearing on the existence of God, is true.
Go ahead Loftus and Reasonable Faith geniuses. Start giggling at all the atheists who believe that they hold the same set of beliefs as would counterfactually be held by an omniscient divine being. Now why don’t you name a segment of your show after that?