Why John Loftus and Reasonable Doubts shouldn’t be laughing

Posted on 06/23/13 79 Comments

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?

  • John

    “…four towering geniuses from Grand Rapids…”

    Sarcasm, or mocking? (Don’t bother special pleading it one way or another, it would be too trite for you to do so.) You are perilously close to sounding like a hypocrite.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      I’m using irony there which is a valuable tool of social critique. Indeed, irony is the theme of this article. Think of the irony of the man in Jesus’ famous parable who points out a speck in his neighbor’s eye whilst having a plank in his own. The use of irony is world’s away from base mockery which is what I was critiquing in TAM earlier this week.

      • John

        Clearly irony can be done in a mocking manner (though now the goal posts have been moved to “base mockery”) so you’re not off the hook. And such a defense makes you appear small and bitter. Were you jealous of the simple cheerful tone and manner of the RD podcast? Because, really, this post (and it’s seemingly weak defense) doesn’t sound like you (though perhaps more so of late). Surprising and disappointing, as said above, seem about right.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “Clearly irony can be done in a mocking manner”
          So what’s your point?

          And what is the “seemingly weak defense” of which you speak? Can you explain?

          • John

            My point is clear: you seem to have a mocking tone in this post. This would make you appear to be a hypocrite (don’t worry, most of us are at one time or another, some of us humbly admit to it) based on recent other posts you’ve written. Just because you call it irony doesn’t mean it can’t have a mocking tone, and thereby justifiably be called mockery..

            The weak (meaning trite, perhaps, here) defense refers to your goalpost shifting from “mockery” to “base mockery”. That just seems like word games to me on your part.

            Thanks for asking me to clarify my point, but mine isn’t the one seeming to need clarification.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Oh, okay. By “weak defense” I thought you were criticizing the argument I presented.

              Well on the “tone” issue I can start by noting that saying I “seem to have a mocking tone” is a subjective judgment. I disagree. I am using irony via sarcasm (I talk about the use of sarcasm here: http://randalrauser.com/2011/04/lessons-from-the-sarcastic-god-a-subversive-daily-bread-bible-study/)

              I am open to the suggestion that this use of sarcastic irony was not strategically useful. That may be so. After all, it gives folks the excuse to bemoan the sarcasm rather than engage the argument.

              However, there is nothing hypocritical or immoral about the use of ironic sarcasm to clearly delineated pedagogical ends. That’s completely different from base mockery which is merely making fun of other people.

              I think the four hosts of Reasonable Doubts are quite amiable folk and I bear no animus toward them. However, when I see them taking the view that Christians believe things which are obviously false (a position which implies those Christians are either ignorant or irrational) I maintain the right to point out that some of the leading intellectuals of the modern age are Christians. And along the way I think a dose of irony is fitting.

              • David

                For some reason, the link isn’t working in your post above, but I found your article on sarcasm.


                That was interesting. I didn’t pick up on God using sarcasm in Job.

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  Thanks for the working link.

                • Daniel Stenning

                  Rauser thinks god is using sarcasm and irony whenever the O.T. passages depict god telling humans to do something really vile or when god just plain does the vile thing himself.

              • Barlow M Barlow

                Am I the only one who thinks that yes, smart people who believe in Christianity, after hearing the arguments against it, are irrational with their religious logic?
                That’s not to say they’re irrational with all decisions, but it does seem that with the one topic of religion, if they’re aware of the counter arguments, are indeed using irrational logic to justify an erroneous belief.

                And yes, many smart people also have never opened themselves up to the criticisms of their favored religion, and are thusly ignorant in their position.
                I was that way for a very long time, until I was 23.

                It doesn’t mean they’re stupid, just that they have one area they aren’t using proper critical thinking skills.

              • Troy Babbitt

                I think the definition of irony needs a review.

      • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

        I think John has a point here. You’ve come out against ridicule multiple times advocating “gentleness and respect” in response to even terrible ideas. But when you respond to the RD people with what looks exactly like sarcastic ridicule, suddenly it is just “irony” used as “a valuable tool of social critique.”

      • Daniel Stenning

        Irony ? er would that be old testament nasty yahweh irony perchance ? the “irony” some bleating liberal apologist thinks he can get away with using to try and apply apologetical polish to the moral turd of the Caananite passages by any chance ?

  • John

    Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you admitted to being a pansy latter in that paragraph (as I interpret from you stating you have weak nerves). Cheers.

  • Reasonable Doubts

    Oh give me a break Randal, make sure you find one of the few clips that appears to be petty and dismissive and insist on ignoring the several parts in the interview where we talk fondly of your willingness to engage and how we can appreciate it when atheists and theists get along and treat each other as persons while being so dramatically different in their view of the world. If you want to criticize us for being so biased in our treatment, it would help if you checked your clearly eager confirmation bias at the door.

    This really is a disappointing and surprising post especially coming from you. The one time the word ‘bullshit’ was used in this episode was in reference to the typical Christian platitudes that are so pervasive in Christian culture and not to the doctrines of Christianity

    Even then, what’s the problem?

    in past episodes we have certainly referred to Christian doctrines as ‘bullshit’ meaning ‘clearly false’. And well, if its not an aversion to swear words, I have to ask, why don’t we have your permission to be express our views?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      “make sure you find one of the few clips that appears to be petty and dismissive and insist on ignoring the several parts in the interview where we talk fondly of your willingness to engage and how we can appreciate it when atheists and theists get along and treat each other as persons”

      You’re conflating two different issues. You are correct that you speak favorably of Christians and atheists being friends. Kudos for that.

      But I’m talking not about that but rather about your assessment of the epistemic status of Christianity. So here’s a question for you: Do you think the hosts of RD convey to the listeners that Christianity is a rich intellectual heritage which is accepted by many of the world’s leading scientists and philosophers? Of course you don’t! And I would invite anybody to listen to the podcast to hear for themselves.

      “in past episodes we have certainly referred to Christian doctrines as ‘bullshit’ meaning ‘clearly false’.”

      Well thanks for clearing that up! So you think Werner Heisenberg and Kurt Gödel accepted “Bullshit” by which you mean a set of “clearly false” beliefs about the nature of reality. Don’t you see how absurd you sound? And this is your defense?

      “why don’t we have your permission to be express our views?”

      You can express your views. But please also be prepared to DEFEND them. And you might start with the central argument I present here which you conveniently ignored. I argued that an observation which you thought was important enough to title a section of your show by is, in fact, completely trivial. And I then turned the tables by pointing out that the same observation would apply to an atheist who would obviously believe that any true beliefs he holds would counterfactually be held by an omniscient being. And you have no reply?

      • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

        A footnote for RD: what would you think if a group of Christians on a podcast constantly referred to the views of atheists as “crap” (since “bullshit is too edgy) by which they meant “obviously false”. Would you take issue with their consistent characterization of the beliefs of atheists as crap?

        • Reasonable Doubts

          Of course I would, but I would be far more interested in the arguments they made in that episode and in the broader context of their show’s library for that conclusion.

          We both know words are cheap.

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            Well in this article I engaged both the attitude of the show and a sampled argument from the show.

            If you agree that you wouldn’t appreciate that behavior from a Christian show, then why do you perpetuate it on your show? Isn’t that a double standard?

            • Reasonable Doubts

              You cherry picked a comment and you misunderstood a segment.

              If you listened more frequently to the show, you would know that our use of terms like ‘Bullshit’ to describe religious doctrine is relatively rare. You may not believe this, but our inbox is full of christian listeners and atheist listeners who give the fairness with which we treat the other side and our ability to be self-critical explicitly as one of the main reasons they continue to listen to our show.

              That said, things are said in a live setting and that doesn’t excuse them but it hardly merits this post which I and others here see as surprisingly petty and unfair.


              • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                If Paula Deen uses the ‘n’ word just once in a while, how uptight should we get? Is that cherry-picking poor Paula Deen?

                Seriously Justin, why not just stop doing it? You admitted that you wouldn’t like it if Christians treated you this way.

                Listen, I just posted a new article (I’ve got waaaay too much spare time today) in which I summarize what it would mean to establish that Christian doctrines are “clearly false”. I hope you don’t find that petty. I also hope you don’t find it unduly combative. Of course if folks say the core confessions to which I assent are “clearly false” then I’ll take an active interest in getting clarity from them, especially if I value their opinion. So please take this as a serious invitation to further dialogue and congenial conversation.

      • Reasonable Doubts

        “Do you think the hosts of RD convey to the listeners that Christianity
        is a rich intellectual heritage which is accepted by many of the world’s
        leading scientists and philosophers? Of course you don’t!”

        This makes me think you haven’t really listened to much of the show or were so turned off by the moments of dismissive, you were unwilling to hear our larger point.

        But, ANYBODY who regularly listens to the show couldn’t possibly come away with a belief that Christianity was NOT a rich intellectual heritage which is accepted by many of the worlds leading scientists and philosophers.

        We are constantly discussing arguments proposed by philosophers, scientists and lay persons for the truth (and falsity) of basic Christian beliefs as well as historical Christianity. Anybody who came away from our podcast’s library thinking Christianity didn’t have a rich intellectual tradition would be somebody who had that conclusion before becoming a listener.

        Much of our show is dedicated to the nailing home the fact that a tradition being intellectually rich does not make it true.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “But, ANYBODY who regularly listens to the show couldn’t possibly come away with a belief that Christianity was NOT a rich intellectual heritage which is accepted by many of the worlds leading scientists and philosophers.”

          Sorry, I’ve listened more than ten podcasts and I certainly don’t get that impression. Perhaps, however, you might say that it was a rich intellectual position in much the same way that Ptolemaic cosmology was a rich intellectual position. But clearly on your view neither is a live intellectual option. That much is evident by your statement that Christian doctrines are “bullshit” by which you mean “clearly false”.

          When you perpetuate this position that Christianity is “clearly false” you only leave two options: either those who maintain Christian beliefs are ignorant or they are irrational. Since it is implausible to suggest the leading intellectuals I referenced earlier are ignorant, it seems you are left saying they are irrational for maintaining their belief in clearly false truth claims.

          Can’t you see why I would be taking offense at this and why I would find this impression that is conveyed by your podcast to be false and harmful?

          • John

            Randal, would you take the same offense about Mormonism being declared bullshit. Or Islam? Do you believe either of those sets of beliefs to be clearly false? (Many of the world’s scientists and philosophers and theologians believe such world views to be true.)

            • Hubert

              I’ll take offense only in so far it can be proven these are bullshits. And appeal to Ockah Razor (which I view as a methodological tool only) are quite lame in that regard.

              Conservative islam, like Calvinism is clearly false, because it presents God, the most perfect being who can possibly exists, as a tyrant predetermining most human beings to go to hell.

              The belief in a good God who loves unconditionally everyone isn’t bullshit, even if it does have many challenges.

              And the belief in Religion in general (provided there’s such a thing) isn’ bullshit, for to prove that, someone would have to prove EVERY existing and possible religion is bad.

              The folks at RD are certainly superior to most atheist websites, but in the end they wind up being as ideological as WLC at RF.

              • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                “The folks at RD are certainly superior to most atheist websites,”

                That’s something worth underscoring. I only bother to engage intellectually serious atheists. And it’s precisely for that reason that I’d like to see them take a more charitable and nuanced attitude when engaging with the views of others.

            • JohnM

              Why would he stand up and defend Mormonism? Is that not something one should leave to Mormons? And why are you comparing Mormonism to Christianity? Do you think that those two beliefs have an equally rich intellectual heritage ?

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Of course, I think it is deeply offensive to call the beliefs of Mormons and Muslims “bullshit”. And I think it is naïve to say their beliefs are “clearly false” where “clearly false” is intended to mean “Clearly false to any rational person”.

              • john

                Randal, so you believe those beliefs to be false, just not “clearly false”. If with a certain amount of knowledge, are those beliefs still only obsurcely false to you?

          • Just in, Schieber!

            I’m not sure where you’re coming from. As a long-time listener, I’ve found that the show has exposed me to many different aspects of the historicity of Christianity, introduced me to many of the arguments of prominent intellectuals who are theists, and has prompted further research in many areas on my part. In fact, I find that one of the most interesting things about RD.

            I would also like to point out that it is combative and counterproductive to assert that if one believes Christianity to be false, then one automatically believes that the followers are all irrational or ignorant. Conflating your choice of ideas and beliefs that a person may hold with their overall rationality or level of education is a crude way to evaluate either the person or the beliefs. The more we understand about the brain, the more we discover that we are ALL subject to biases and irrationality, so the best we can do is try to engage with ideas and minimise those biases. I like the way that RD generally engages with the ideas instead of demonising or writing-off the individual.

            • Reasonable Doubts

              Just so people don’t get the wrong impression, I (Justin Schieber) did NOT write this comment lol.

              • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                Isn’t it nice to be famous?!

              • Not just in, Schieber

                Sorry Justin, I didn’t think consider the possible confusion. I was just amusing myself :)

          • Nate

            How is it at all evident that all these thinkers are ignorant? To be ignorant is simply to lack awareness of certain facts, to be blind to possible alternative explanations, or even to be biased against certain points of view. Newton was ignorant of the possibility of curved spacetime — what a moron!

  • pastasauceror

    Don’t worry, I never miss it…it’s in my top 3 favorite podcasts.

    You really sound bitter, by the way, and your philosopher-speak does nothing to contradict the fact that when a gay-averse Christian Senator (just for example) finds out that their son/daughter is gay that suddenly they epiphanetically (yes, I made this word up for the purpose) also believe that God is actually probably OK with the whole gay thing.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Why don’t you engage the argument I presented?

      • pastasauceror

        The belief (3) is not justified from 1,2 as neither Smith nor Jones can be certain that the set of propositions p….z are true and therefore cannot know that those beliefs are the true beliefs that God holds (if he exists). Just a stab, as I’m sure you can tell I’m no philosopher. :D

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          One doesn’t have to be certain that x is true to believe that x is true.

          Here is an interesting fact. Self-reflective fallibilists (and most of us are that to at least some degree) recognize that at least some of the beliefs in the set of beliefs we hold are false. But of course we don’t know which of our beliefs are false, for if we did then we wouldn’t hold them. So consequently, one of the beliefs in our total set of beliefs p … z is “Some of my beliefs in p … z are false.” And that leads to a contradiction. Suffice it to say, I appeal to a set of beliefs as a form of shorthand while recognizing this problem exists. In order to avoid this problem one would have to formulate the argument by limiting it to specific beliefs rather than expanding it to encompass the full set of beliefs one holds. But through all this the main point holds: both theists and atheists believe that the beliefs they hold to be true will likewise be held as true by an omniscient being.

          • pastasauceror

            So what.
            It’s possible that I hold the same beliefs as those thought to be held by the Great Farnakle that is worshiped by the Grakelnid people of Slartydinglefank III. It doesn’t keep me up at night.

  • Daydreamer1

    I must be missing something. We’ve put a lot of humans on pedestals where Christianity is concerned, but research showing that there is a correlation between what people think God thinks and what they think is now not relevant to the fact that people wrote the scriptures and people interpreted them?
    Correct me if I am wrong, but the only texts we have have been written by humans haven’t they? And now research indicating that we need to consider that we are possibly getting what they thought and not what God thought is not relevant – or Randal cannot see how it is relevant? It bares directly on the problem of the extent of human thoughts compared to divine inspiration in scripture.
    Sorry Randal. I am missing you again here. It seems relevant to me.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Sorry, I set out the argument as clearly as I could.

      • Daydreamer1

        That’s alight. I think you have missed the point of the research though.

        Granted it is obvious, as you say, but what is less obvious is that as the persons views change Gods views change. Many people might not think on the special importance of that, but the same body of research studies whether that happens with our friends, relatives or celebrities and it doesn’t.

        Hence ‘God thinks like you’. George Bush doesn’t. Obama doesn’t. Your friends don’t. The brain is handling them and God differently.

        This is interesting for anyone pondering the question of the extent the brain naturally anthropomorphises nature, or how mirror neurons lead to empathy and understanding of agents in the world etc.

        If you are not seeing it from that perspective I suggest spending a few minutes thinking about all the questions it would answer.

  • JohnM

    Randal said : 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.

    Haha. That’s exactly how I feel when listening to them. And many times I find them to be rather ignorant about the things they discuss, especially when discussing the deeper issues of Christianity. Now I realize that some of them are former “followers of Christ”. But clearly they never really got below the surface.

    At some level I cant help thinking, that I’m wasting my time when listening to a “Reasonable Doubts” podcast. On the other hand, it’s a good way of discovering what’s currently stirring the waters of irrational atheism.

    Randal said : If those geniuses are going to giggle and titter at theists, then they should also giggle and titter at atheists.

    Yeah. One of the great qualities of say “Unbelievable?” is that Justin takes on the role of “the devils advocate” and ask hard questions to both sides. In my view, that is one big minus when it comes to the quality of “Reasonable Doubts”.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      There definitely is a lot of good stuff in their show. For example, they kicked off this episode with an interesting discussion of the practice of Hollywood studios exploiting churches in a crass marketing grab (the example being “Man of Steel”). And I don’t discount the place for being “irreverent”. In this episode one of the doubtcasters noted his admiration for “The Door” (a wonderful Christian publication which was like a Christian combination of “Adbusters” and “Mad Magazine” founded in the early 70s).

      But you’re right. Justin Brierley strives to cultivate a respectful, serious space for thoughtful discussion. Can you imagine Brierley saying atheists believe “bullshit”?

      • JohnM

        Oki maybe I should listen to that episode. I’m not a regular listener. I was just voicing my general impression from the ones that I have listened to.

        And no I can’t imagine Brierley saying anything like that, hehe. But he did do a show about Stephen Law’s book “Believing Bullshit”. So not only is he a step above such immature rhetoric. He also puts it to shame.

        The same cannot be said of me though. I’m only too happy to return add a few immature comments to provoke discussion.

  • Pingback: Is Christianity a big ship of fools? Another response to Reasonable Doubts()

  • David_Evans

    I don’t wish to defend the tone of the podcast, which I haven’t heard. But I do wish to challenge your view that a religion cannot be “bullshit” (i.e. pretty obviously false) because some leading philosophers and scientists believe it. Aren’t the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons pretty obviously non-existent, and didn’t some leading intellectuals at the time believe in them?

    Also , I have had trouble seeing Plantinga as a “great intellect” ever since I met his argument that evolution cannot be expected to produce cognitive faculties we can trust. He argues that a true belief (tigers eat people) is no more conducive to survival than…well, I’ll let him tell it:

    “Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief.” (from Warrant And Proper Function)

    Now, does anyone think evolution will select for someone who “very much likes being eaten”? Surely he would eventually settle for a second-best tiger and be removed from the gene pool. In general, apart from contrived special cases, reliable cognitive faculties are good for survival and so will be selected for.

    And another thing:

    I think for atheists the moral force of “theists believe God believes the same things they believe” is in the suspicion that theists choose to believe about God what will fit with their own beliefs or even their interests. The classical example being the prophet of Islam, who desired to marry his adopted son’s wife and quickly produced a verse showing that Allah approved of such marriages.

  • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

    If you’ve been listening to the show for a while you should know that argument doesn’t carry any bite against the “God thinks like you” segment.
    The reason it doesn’t really work is because the doubtcasters (Luke specifically) primarily focus that on areas where people claim that they derive their opinions on various controversial topics (typically political/religious stances) from their religious views.
    The problem that the referenced study and the segment on the show focus on is based on the “direction of the arrow” so to speak on how the beliefs are generated and then attributed. It does not go as you put it:

    “I think X is true, therefore god who knows all true propositions also believes X is true”.
    The people at least claim:
    “I think god tells me X is true, therefore I believe X is true.”
    Now this is compounded when you have people of the same religion who purport to believe in the exact same god, all taking contradictory stances on what their god supposedly wants on any given controversial topic (from LBGT rights to social justice issues).
    Given this data, it leads to the conclusion drawn in the segment that people arrive at these decisions on their own for various reasons and then anthropomorphize their beliefs onto their concept of god, which then helps reinforce their beliefs if they’re ever challenged on them.

    • R0c1

      This. Randal attacked a straw man.

      • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

        That’s baloney. My entire critique was on the Loftus/RD exchange, not on the “God thinks like you” segment. That’s why I included a transcript of that exchange. However, I will be writing an article specifically on this segment and its place in the show in a day or two.

        • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

          I was more going for your critique of the “God thinks like you” segment and the results of studies that show people’s concept of god agrees with their stances on various issues perfectly.

          I am specifically targeting the argument that you use here where you say this kind of information is trivial, I don’t think it is.

          • JohnM

            What’s the purpose of the “God thinks like you” segment?

            To critique personal man-made religion?

            Or to critique a straw-man of Christianity?

            • John Grove

              “Is there anything that is forbidden to anybody who says they have God on their side? Who says they have God with them? Is there any evil that they forbid themselves to do?”

              “Religion now comes to us in this smiley-faced ingratiating way, because it’s had to give so much ground, because we know so much more. But you’ve no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong and when it really did believe that it had God on its side.”

              Christopher Hitchens

  • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    I don’t think the “God thinks like you” points made in the podcast are trivial at all. What it sheds light on is the high likelihood that a person’s beliefs about God are informed more by their own subjective opinions than on some objective reading of natural law or the true interpretation of the BIble.

    This is important as a response to people who say things like “why are we putting our trust in fallible humans while ignoring what God tells us?” It casts much, much needed doubt on the claim that “what God tells us” is what people claims it is. It should lower the overly high confidence of those who think that what God teaches is clear.

    So yes, that “God thinks like you” is pretty easy to discover upon some reflection, but the implications are profound, and are not given enough thought by the vast majority of believers.

    • JohnM

      Nolan said : What it sheds light on is the high likelihood that a person’s beliefs about God are informed more by their own subjective opinions than on some objective reading of natural law or the true interpretation of the Bible.

      Man-made theology is the root of Calvinism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah witnesses and all that. If you base your beliefs about God on anything other then the bible, then you’re not preaching the gospel. And you’re not representing Christ.

      A true follower of Christ, accepts correction and rebuking by scripture.

      2 Timothy 3 : 14-17
      But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

      If a person will not be yoked by scripture, but is an untamed ox refusing to carry its burden…. Then that person has the anti-Christ spirit.

  • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    I think this post unfairly presents the RD hosts as showing “smarmy self-satisfaction” when there is counter-evidence in the very same episode.

    In this same episode, they state “if we start pulling out Freud on people and saying oh you just cling to your beliefs because you’re afraid, well truth is, we kind of do too” (about 29:15), and they go on to elaborate on some of their own personal experiences with this. When atheists suffer from similar shortcomings, I think the RD hosts do make an effort to point those out.

    In regards to the specific idea of “God thinks like you,” the reason (among others) that RD hosts have no need to “giggle and titter” similarly at atheists because atheists don’t ever use God’s beliefs to justify their morality, their behavior, or their political beliefs. Atheists don’t claim to have the most powerful being in the universe at their side. Sure, one can make some counterfactual argument that *if God exists, then God believes the what the atheist thinks are true, but so what? Atheists don’t believe in God, so it doesn’t matter.

    • JohnM

      God does not conform to people. It’s God who draws a lined in the sand. And then people pick their side. Either they choose to conform to God, or choose to live in darkness.

      • John

        JohnM, people do more than pick their side – they decide where in the sand the line is drawn (and then rationalize why it is there that God drew it). In my opinion this is part of the thrust of the RD “God thinks like you do” segments.

        It seems that it is clearly a minority of people who are like, well, homosexuality is okay, but God states it’s a sin, so engaging in it would upset him.

        • JohnM

          Yes, a lot of people theses days, are attempting to move the line when it comes to many types of sin. But all they are really doing, is to move themselves on the other side of that line. Because man-made theology does not change who God.

          • R0c1

            The “God thinks like you do” research is more about human bias and how that colors what people think God thinks. Looking forward to Randal’s post about it.

            • JohnM

              Christian means follower of Christ.

              Do you think, that Christianity is, what random people, claiming to be following in the footsteps of Christ, say it is?

              Or do you think, that Christianity is, what the bible says about what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ?

              If the later, why would it matter what personal ideas people have about Christianity? And if you attacked those personal ideas, would you be attacking personal ideas or Christianity?

              • john


                You seem to suggest that the Bible says one universal thing that is universally understood by Christians as a whole. This is a silly idea as it is clearly not the case.

                Different Christians say the Bible says different things about, say, homosexuality. The divine word does not have the imagined-great characteristic of being universally correctly understood. (A greater divine-word can be imagined, and the Bible does not have such a characteristic.)

    • Daniel Stenning

      actually they giggle and titter because they are – as we say in the UK having a laugh. Its allowed you know.

  • Emily Russell

    You can’t devolve into sarcasm and eye-rolling every time you disagree with people.

    Weak argument: “And these great intellects all believed (and believe) in “bullshit”? Really?” Smart people don’t believe stupid things?

    • Daniel Stenning

      Yep. Its called compartmentalisation.

  • Luke

    I think you are missing the point of the study mentioned in the GTLY segment (by Epley, regarding the egocentric nature of belief). It doesn’t merely show that the beliefs of the individual correlate with what they think god thinks. There was an experimental portion that manipulated the beliefs pertaining to a social issue, then measured what they thought god thought about the issue. The individual shifted their belief about what god believes. The other studies often mentioned in the GTLY segment (e.g., cognitive dissonance studies) also show a similar outcome, to wit: The individual projects his or her preferences onto “god” but then refers to them as being derived from “god”. Yes, it would not be remarkable to think that one’s opinions coincide with what one believes to be an omniscient being. But such results go deeper in proving that the individual mis-reads the origin of these beliefs as coming from an external source (god, bible, etc) when the origin is demonstrably psychological.

  • Lausten North

    Here’s how atheism works

    1) Smith accepts that there is sufficient evidence for the consensus on evolution, cosmology and archaeology to proceed with life as if those things are true.

    2) If evidence to the contrary is found, Smith will consider changing his worldview.

    3) Smith is really not terribly concerned with the existence of God at all.

  • Will

    Randal, I’m sorry to say you TOTALLY misfired on this post. RD has done over 100 podcasts covering religion with a focus on Christian apolgetics. They clearly take these arguments as seriously as you could wish from someone that isn’t convinced by them. To categorize them as smug, or dismissive is just wrong. They have explicitly stated they don’t judge people’s intellect by their faith or lack of thereof. RD has done several episodes where they explain reasons why people believe that have nothing to do with intelligence. So when you name a bunch of people that are Christians and Jews then try to make it seem like the RD cast is smugly “giggling or tittering” at them, you’re trying to illicit some cheap false outrage and that’s just lame.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      That’s interesting. As you can see, when I asked the Reasonable Doubts rep whether he would appreciate four Christians on a radio show referring to atheist beliefs as “bullshit” by which they would mean “clearly false” he admitted that he wouldn’t. I’m simply asking for them to extend the same courtesy to Christians that they would want extended to themselves.

      By the way, the statement that Christian beliefs are “clearly false” is really silly, not least because it shows no awareness of the distinction between a doctrine and its interpretation. The same parallel exists within the atheist equivalent of Christianity, that is, naturalism. I’ll be explaining this in a subsequent post.

      • Daniel Stenning

        Randal – please do go right on ahead and use the word bullshit as much as you like, whether in podcast or blog.

        No one will notice.

      • Jeremy Beahan

        Um, Randal…I can chime in here. I’m the guy who said “bullshit” on this podcast. It was in the context of why I often like Christian humor. I complemented the Door magazine and “shoot Christians say” youtube video because I said Christian humorists are really good at satirizing their own bullshit. Since your such a context guy, I’m sure you could tell its not their entire worldview I was dismissing as “bullshit” but some of the common “church people” stuff that annoys even most Christians. So you are getting upset over something that is actually a compliment to Christians in an episode that highly praises you specifically (despite your recent track record of insulting us personally instead of our arguments. Also though these comments hurt we have yet to responded in kind) and includes much talk about why atheists should recognize thier own hang ups.

        Randall, you really did overreact on this one and made some pretty rude character attacks based on nothing.
        Its ok. People do this all the time…get angry in moment…complain publicly and get entrenched defending themselves. I’ve done this myself many times. Let’s show our mutual fans what people of integrity do in these situations. You can apologize. We will not rub it in, in fact we’ll even compliment you for it. In this way we can both try to be a model of what friendly debate can be.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Hey Jeremy,

          Thanks for commenting. Sure, I can apologize, but let me undermine it with a prefatory apologia. I wasn’t simply criticizing your specific use of the word “bullshit” but the underlying assumption, summarized by Justin, that you somehow know Christian beliefs to be “clearly false”. The overall tenor of the RD podcast is generally quite dismissive of Christianity and I don’t find that helpful.

          More on that in a moment, but now for my apology. I wasn’t attacking you guys personally, but rather was aiming to use sarcastic irony to illumine your marginalization of thinking Christians. But obviously my main point was not well taken and ultimately detracted from my main point. I suppose I don’t know you guys well enough (i.e. not at all!) to use sarcastic irony. Is that so much apologia that the culpability-apology has been completely neutralized? Hopefully not.

          So let’s mend fences. As I said in my latest post, I have no ill will toward you guys. Hopefully the feeling is mutual. And if it isn’t then channel that ill-will appropriately. I’d love to hear you guys defend the claim that Christian doctrines are “clearly false”, insofar as you are interested in defending that position.


      • Will

        For someone that stylizes himself as “The Tentative Apologist” you don’t seem very open to criticism. I don’t blame you for possibly misreading the Reasonable Doubts podcast but your opinion of them as it reads in this post is just wrong. I don’t think you could ask for a more self critical or well reasoned opponent than Reasonable Doubts.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “I don’t think you could ask for a more self critical or well reasoned opponent than Reasonable Doubts.”

          Sorry, but no podcast that is devoted to showing how the other guys is wrong is going to be the most self-critical podcast.

  • Nate

    You do realize that both of these arguments are completely invalid, right? Anyone who payed the slightest bit of attention in an introductory logic course should remember that non truth-functional operators — anything except “and” “or” “not” “if” and “iff” can easily wreak havoc on an argument. And “believes that” is literally a textbook example of an opaque/intensional context. I usually illustrate the point to my students with the following:

    1) Lois Lane believes Superman can fly.
    2) Superman is Clark Kent.
    So, Lois believes Clark Kent can fly.

    You can render the argument forms valid if you add the premise “if [Jones, Smith] believes that p, then he believes that God believes that p.” BUT, now the point is very much non-trivial, for the needed premise is a rather substantive assumption. You are assuming that the relevant epistemic agent believes that God will in fact agree with everything she/he believes (although of course God knows much else besides). My point is that we have second-order beliefs about the likelihood of our own reliability/fallibility, and we need not think that we are most likely right about EVERYTHING we believe true, even in restricted domains like religion, ethics, or politics where the stakes are high.

    Now, you could motivate the premise by appealing to special revelation (holy books, etc.), dogma, etc. On this point of fact I think the religious believer is prone to make this kind of assumption, whereas an atheist who lacks a “dog in the fight” so to speak – if rational, they hold religious claims up to critical scrutiny and are therefore more likely to be epistemically humble and therefore recognize the mistake. John and the RD cast were making a perfectly good, and certainly non-trivial point.

    Much more fundamentally, I think something like the point I made above is what explains the psychological data, and as a matter of course, the intuitive validity of the argument — there is a suppressed premise that “of course God agrees with me (at least on important points of dogma and fundamental values)!” if you think, as you must, that YOUR particluar sect/cult/religion (out of the tens of thousands that have ever or will ever exist) as a special conduit to the ultimate Truth.

  • gatogreensleeves

    “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?”- RR

    The thing about appeals to authority, even informally (e.g. “I’m in good company”), is that it belies the strong psychological evidence for in-group/out-group commitments based upon emotion. Again and again, we confabulate ad hoc for our in-group, for emotional and/or physiological reasons too complicated to parse out. Our ability to hold cognitive dissonance is well evidenced.

    When Gödel said, “If the world is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife],” he needs propositions that obtain for that just as much as anyone else does, and not merely that it is “possible today to perceive, by pure reasoning” that it “is entirely consistent with known facts” (quotes from Wiki). Atheists can just as easily appeal to the [epistemically] “possible” and [ontologically] “consistent with,” and we don’t belie that the APPEARANCE of a “rationally constructed” world is at least “consistent with” evolution (arguably better evidenced, because it is more parsimonious, but even if one disagrees with this, it is at least on par and cannot evoke “must be” without special pleading).

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Hi Randal, Ever read the book,
    America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God–and What That Says about Us by Paul Froese & Christopher Bader

    Using conclusions drawn from the Baylor Religion Survey first published in 2006, two Baylor University professors theorize that Americans’ view of God can be characterized as one of four basic types:

    Authoritative (different from Authoritarian?)
    28% of Americans believe in an authoritative god that is very judgmental and engaged in the world. These types of believers tend to be evangelical and male.

    22% of Americans believe in a benevolent god that is very involved in the world, but is loving and not stern. These tend to be evangelical women.

    21% of Americans believe in a critical god who is removed from daily events but will render judgment in the afterlife. There is a tendency for African Americans and people who have lower levels of income and education to believe in the critical god.

    24% of Americans believe in a distant god who set the universe in motion but then disengaged. People who say that they are spiritual but not religious tend to believe in the distant god.

    By knowing which of the four types of God an American believes in, these scholars can predict that person’s views on many of the pressing issues facing the country.

    As an antidote to the prevailing but simplistic dichotomy between religious and nonreligious Americans, this thesis is more nuanced. But it, too, has its limitations. It’s not clear that people stick to one view their whole lives, and it doesn’t fully account for the views of those who occupy middle ground, somewhere between a judgmental and forgiving God. Still, the fourfold God typology is a step toward better understanding how Americans regard morality, how they understand the presence of evil, and what narrative they tell about their lives.

    According to sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor study and the book, America’s Four Gods:

    Twenty percent of Americans believe God is actively engaged in manipulating the American economy.

    Eight in ten political conservatives believe there is only a single ultimate truth, and new economic information about cost-benefit analysis isn’t going to change their mind about the economy.

    Only twenty percent of Americans hold a purely secular view of the economy (that the economy is driven purely by market forces).

    In other words, says one blogger, here, “there is a huge fraction of the population who won’t listen to facts. And Froese’s work is backed up by a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that found that the most religious are on average least willing to accept well-established facts that conflict with their religious beliefs.”

    In an interview with State of Belief, Froese elaborated on his findings:
    [We’re finding that] people who link strong religious beliefs to economic conservatism think that the state of nature is a free market; and that if you mess with the free market in terms of government regulation or some type of taxation, you are disrupting a state of nature that God wanted us to have. And so, really, we’re finding that many of these believers see government as really a profane object, and I think that’s the reason why they are against many of the liberal kind of suggestions on how to fix our economy – because they see conservative theory as, really, an article of faith.

    … [For] this population – again, I’m talking about people who have very strong religious beliefs that they connect to an economic conservatism – they tend to be poor and less educated … these people tend to vote against policies that seem to be in their favor – increasing spending on education, increasing spending on social welfare.

    Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in response to such research that God encompasses all of the four types. Though I hope Mohler also admits that human beings do not appear to encompass all four types of God equally in their minds. Perhaps Mohler himself does not. I wonder what his results would be if he took the online test to determine which type of God he envisioned? My own result after taking the test was, “Distant God.”

    Mohler also said that the theory of the Baylor profs was “unhelpful,” though they seem to have demonstrated its effectiveness at predicting people’s political and social opinions. So it depends on what you mean by “unhelpful.”

    Mohler also typed that the first type of God was “Authoritarian.” A lot of reviewers have been doing that, including the one at Publisher’s Weekly. But the book itself only features the word “Authoritative.”

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Also Randal, You seem to concentrate so much on the philosopher’s descriptions of “God” as “omniscient,” “omnipotent,” etc., that you seem to take little notice of the enormous diversity of “other” beliefs about “God” throughout Christian history, let alone among non-Christian religions, and how divisive even the littlest things in Christianity have turned out to be since both sides viewed “eternal salvation” as well as their own views of biblical authority and tradition as being at risk during such disputes, and viewed the other as on the “slippery slope” toward error and possibly “eternal damnation”: I already shared with you the results of the study that revealed America’s “Four Gods,” and how they correlate with political and other views. But here’s some other divisions and differences…, just within Christianity alone:


    From silent Trappist monks and quiet Quakers — to hell raisers and serpent-handlers;

    From those who believe nearly everyone (excepting themselves and their church) will be damned — to those who believe everyone may eventually be saved (“Universalist” Christians);

    From those who argue that they are predestined to argue in favor of predestination — to those who argue for free will of their own free will;

    From those who argue God is a “Trinity” — to “Unitarian” Christians (which include not only the “Arian” churches of early Christianity, but also modern day Unitarian-Universalist churches, Oneness Pentecostal churches, some modern day Messianic Jewish groups, some primitive Baptist groups, other Jesus-loving sects/cults, and, all of Judaism (which isn’t “Christian,” but it’s worth mentioning here that God’s chosen people in the earliest “Testament” where taught, “The Lord Your God is One God”);

    From those who “hear the Lord” telling them to run for president, seek diamonds and gold (via liaisons with bloody African dictators), or sell “Lake of Galilee” beauty products (see Rev. Pat Robertson) — to those who have visions of Mary, the saints, or experience bleeding stigmata (Catholics);

    From those who believe the communion bread and wine remain just that — to those who believe the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into “invisible” flesh and blood (and can vouch for it with miraculous tales of communion wafers turning into human flesh and wine curdling into blood cells during Mass);

    From those who believed that priests who delivered communion should never have ever denied their faith in the past even under threat of persecution — to those who believed it did not matter whether or not priests forsook their faith when threatened with presecution (I am speaking of a major controversy in early Christianity between “Donatist” and “Catholic” Christiians, both of whom presumed they were the true church on the basis of the division cited above, a division that was never healed, and which ceased only after the North African region where most Donatist churches were located was overrun first by Vandals then later by Muslims.);

    From the many Christians that once taught (or teach today as Reconstructionist Christians do) that heretics and apostates ought to be executed — to Albigensian and Cathar Christians who outlawed violence and taught that the shedding of blood and the killing of any living thing, even the slaughtering of a chicken or ensnaring a squirrel, was a mortal sin (a belief they based on the spirituality and metaphors of Christ’s meekness and forgiveness in the Gospel of John). [See The YellowCross: The Story of the Last Cathars’ Rebellion Against the Inquisition 1290-1329 by René Weis];

    From Christians who believe in damning their enemies by calling down God’s wrath on them (as in certain imprecatory psalms) and who cite the verse, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” — to Amish Christians (among others) who believe in helping the families of those who have offended them. (Case in point, in 2006 a man entered an Amish schoolhouse, gunned down several young female students then shot himself. The Amish later asked what they could do to help the family of the shooter. They planned a horse-and-buggy caravan to visit Charles Carl Roberts’s family with offers of food and condolences.);

    From Christians who view Eastern religious ideas and practices as “Satanic” — to Christian monks and priests who have gained insights into their own faith after dialoging with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests;

    From those who find demons or Satan at work in their fellow Christians and who stress the importance of “deliverance” services — to those who believe demons and Satan were defeated by Jesus when he was enthroned at God’s right hand(Preterist inerrantist Christians) and don’t believe either demons or Satan have power over Christians today — to liberals who don’t believe in a literal “Satan;”

    From those who stress New Testament commands to not judge anyone outside (or inside) the church (depending on the passage of Scripture one reads), who also believe in the blessings of “peacemaking,” who “love enemies” and “control their tongues” that are the “rudders” of their souls, who also believe in following the command to act “meekly” and “humbly” even in the face of curses from others and certain death, and hence who have little difficulty getting along even with those whose beliefs differ radically from their own (1 Peter 2:21-23;1 Cor. 4:5, 1 Cor. 5:12-13; 2 Cor. 10:1; Matthew 5:5-9, Matthew 5:44; Col. 3:8, Col. 3:17, Col. 4:5-6; James 4:11-12) — to those who believe it’s best to ridicule and curse “enemies of God,” just as Jesus, Paul, and the prophets once did;

    From those who cultivated the castrati (boys in Catholic choirs who underwent castration to retain their high voices) — to the development of Protestant hymns and Gospel quartets — to “Christian rap” and “Christian death metal;”

    From those who reject any behavior that even mimics “what homosexuals do” (including a rejection of fellatio and cunnilingus between a husband and wife) — to Christians who accept committed, loving, homosexual relationships (including gay evangelical Church groups like the nationwide Metropolitan Baptist Church);

    From Catholic nuns and Amish women who dress to cover their bodies — to Christian nudists (viz., there was a sect known as the “Adamites,” not to mention modern day Christians in Florida with their own nude Christian churches, campgrounds and even an amusement park), and let’s not forget born-again strippers [click here for more info];

    From those who believe that a husband and wife can have sex for pleasure — to those who believe that sex should be primarily for procreation — to those who believe celibacy is superior to marriage (i.e., Catholic priests, monks, nuns, and some Protestant groups like the Shakers who denied themselves sexual pleasure and only maintained their membership by adopting abandoned children until the last Shaker finally died out in the late 1900s) — all the way to those who cut off their genitals for the kingdom of God (the Skoptze, a Russian Christian sect) [click here for more info];

    From those who believe sending out missionaries to persuade others to become Christians is essential — to the Anti-Mission Baptists who believe that sending out missionaries and trying to persuade others constitutes a lack of faith and the sin of pride, and that the founding of “extra-congregational missionary organizations” is not Biblical;

    From those who believe that the King James Bible is the only inspired translation — to those who believe that no translation is totally inspired, only the original “autographs” were perfect — to those who believe that “perfection” only lay in the “spirit” that inspired the writing of the Bible’s books, not in the “letter” of the books themselves;

    From those who believe Easter should be celebrated on one date (Roman Catholics) — to those who believe Easter should be celebrated on another date (Eastern Orthodox). And, from those who believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Roman Catholics) — to those who believe it proceeds from the Father alone (Eastern Orthodox view as taught by the early Church Fathers). Those disagreements, as well as others, sparked the greatest schism of church history (the Schism of 1054) when the uncompromising patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the envoys of the uncompromising Pope Leo IX, excommunicated each other, thus dividing the Christians of the eastern and western Roman Empire;

    From those who worship God on Sunday — to those who worship God on Saturday (Saturday being the Hebrew “sabbath” that God said to “keep holy” according to one of the Ten Commandments) — all the way to those who believe their daily walk with God and love of their fellow man is more important than church attendance;

    From those who stress “God’s commands” — to those who stress “God’s love;”

    From those who believe that you need only accept Jesus as your “personal savior” to be saved — to those who believe you must accept Jesus as both savior and “Lord” of your life in order to be saved. (Two major Evangelical Christian seminaries debated this question in the 1970s, and still disagree);

    From those who teach that being “baptized with water as an adult believer” is an essential sign of salvation — to those who deny it is;

    From those who believe that unbaptized infants who die go straight to hell — to those who deny the (once popular) church doctrine known as “infant damnation.”

    From those who teach that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” along with “speaking in tongues” are important signs of salvation — to those who deny they are (some of whom see mental and Satanic delusions in modern day “Spirit baptism” and “tongue-speaking”);

    From those who believe that avoiding alcohol, smoking, gambling, dancing, contemporary Christian music, movies, television, long hair (on men), etc., are all important signs of being saved — to those who believe you need only trust in Jesus as your personal savior to be saved;

    From those who disagree whether the age of the cosmos should be measured in billions or only thousands of year — whether God pops new creatures into existence or subtly alters old ones — even some who disagree whether the earth goes round the sun or vice versa;

    From pro-slavery Christians (there are some today who still remind us that the Bible never said slavery was a “sin”) — to anti-slavery Christians;

    From Christians who defend the Biblical idea of having a king (and who oppose democracy as “the meanest and worst of all forms of government” to quote John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with whom some Popes agreed, as well as some of today’s Protestant Reconstructionist Christians)–to Christians who oppose kingships and support democracies;

    From “social Gospel” Christians — to “uncompromised Gospel” Christians;

    From Christians who do not believe in sticking their noses in politics — to coup d’etat Christians;

    From “stop the bomb” Christians — to “drop the bomb” Christians;

    From Christians who expect in a highly enthusiastic fashion that they could rocket through the air at any moment to be with their Lord — to those with other interpretations concerning such Bible passages.

    All in all, Christianity gives Hinduism with its infinite variety of sects and practices a run for its money.

  • B_Faraday

    I think you are right; it is trivially true that one who holds certain things as true holds them to be true universally. For the theist, this means that they are true from God’s perspective; for an atheist, this means they are true of nature. The only thing we should be concerned about is that, in either case, the belief that something is true does not lead us to reject out of hand any evidence to the contrary.