Boghossian’s book helps explain John Loftus’ recent meltdown

Posted on 02/22/14 138 Comments

Yesterday I posted an article, “Loftus admits Boghossian doesn’t care about truth. I call that bogusian!” in which I pointed out that John Loftus’ pragmatic defense of Peter Boghossian suggested that neither Loftus nor Boghossian care about truth, despite their asseverations to the contrary. Instead, each subverts truth (e.g. in manner of definitions) to the primary goal of making converts to atheism.

Loftus responded in the comments with a rhetorical ferocity seldom matched:

“Randal you lie! You lie! You lie. I am completely disgusted with you. I now side with some atheists you say you and other apologists lie. Of course Boghossian is concerned with the truth you liar. Come clean here, liar. You know you’re lying too.”

Note that he offered not one point by way of critical response. Instead he repeated three times that I lie. Then he proclaimed his disgust. Then he concluded that apologists generally lie. Then he called me a liar. Then he told me to “Come clean here, liar.” Then he concluded that I know I’m lying. (The last sentence is surely otiose. By definition a liar knows they’re lying since lying just is the intentional misrepresentation of the truth.)

What explains the sheer, unmitigated rage combined with no attempt whatsoever to engage the substance of the critique? At this point I turned to my handy copy of A Manual for Creating Atheists and discovered Boghossian had the answer. He writes:

“When people are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs, or are shown that they don’t have sufficient evidence to warrant beliefs, or learn that there’s a contradiction in their beliefs … or come to understand that their reasoning is in error, they seem to cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.” (52-53)

Clearly John was doing this with his “liar, liar, pants on fire!” response. But does this mean I failed? As I continued to read, I found Boghossian offering encouragement:

“Does this mean your intervention has backfired? Have you unintentionally made their epistemic situation worse? Have you cemented doxastic closure? No.” (53)

Boy was I relieved to read that! I continued to read:

“psychiatrists have posited that therapeutic interventions work by creating an environment where the therapist continually frustrates a pathogenic belief; this causes the patient to redouble their efforts to prove the pathogenic hypothesis.” (54)

Ahh, yes, like repeating “lie”, “liar” and “lying” multiple times.

“The patient’s verbal behavior makes it appear that she’s getting worse, but actually she’s getting better.” (54)

That makes sense. The more John is confronted with his own hypocrisy as he considers his own subversion of truth for the sake of facilitating conversions to atheism, the more he is forced to realize he functions just like that Christian fundamentalist he so reviles. The ideology is different but the song remains the same. And so his anger, his invective, his refusal to engage the arguments presented, are all part of that therapeutic process that Boghossian helpfully outlines.

Thanks Peter Boghossian, for encouraging me on the journey to helping John through his therapeutic deconversion from ideological atheism.

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  • John

    Randal, I am curious to know if you have shared your particular views (perhaps in an article or book) re. whether or not someone who has had a genuine salvific experience can subsequently lose their salvation. I understand some Baptists believe that one a person is saved, they will not be pried away.

    • John

      Correction:

      I understand some Baptists believe that once a person is saved, they will not be pried away.

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

      I can address this in a post next week.

      • John

        Thanks, Randal. I look forward to reading it.

      • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

        At this point there is nothing I want to say to you except this:

        http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2014/02/dr-randal-rauser-is-liar-liar-for-jesus.html

        I’m done trying to talk to you about Boghossian’s book. It is a fruitless maddening exercise.

        • Luke Breuer

          In this DC blog entry supporting Richard Carrier:

          By and large the minds of the ridiculous can’t be changed. It’s their flock we’re talking to. But even the ridiculous change under ridicule some respond by getting more ridiculous (and those are the ones who could never be swayed even by the politest methods), but others accumulate shame until they see the error of their ways (I’ve met many ex-evangelicals who have told me exactly that). Thus, ridicule converts the convertible and marginalizes the untouchable. There is no more effective strategy in a culture war.

          It certainly seems like you’re becoming “more ridiculous”. Mission achieved?

          • Derek

            Hey kiddo, let me explain how you’re spitting in the wind that blows in your face.

            The quote is missing the context. As Richard explains, the point was that ” I said ridiculing the ridiculous. The non-ridiculous believer should not be ridiculed because they aren’t ridiculous, they’re just wrong”

            Well, you look ridiculous so you should be ridiculed. But then again, you’ll become more ridiculous, as if you needed that.

        • Joe Dan Shelton

          Are you threatening to leave?

          Not that I would take such a threat seriously, given your past behavior. I’m just curious.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            John regularly picks up and runs away when he is doing poorly in a conversation.

            It should not surprise you to know that this happens very, very often.

            • Luke Breuer

              I think we should all badger Loftus to list the true statements that Boghossian makes, since we’ve established that much of Boghossian’s book is truth-agnostic bullshit. It’s really funny that various atheists think that the burden of proof is on Randal to list those true statements.

            • Derek

              I guess it’s better to “run away” than continue to beat a dead horse. But nobody is stopping you to conclude with an unsubstantiated claim.

              It is Randal blog and if one feels it is not worth to continue a discussion, you call it “running away”?
              Randal replied many times in John Loftus “Debunking Christianity” blog, but I have never read anybody cackling :”Randal runeth away as he does so many times”. I did read with a great interest Randal replies in John Loftus blog.

              If Randal feels satisfied with teenagers elbowing each others with ” da loser was pwnd !11!!” I feel he has lost his serious audience.

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                I guess it’s better to “run away” than continue to beat a dead horse. But nobody is stopping you to conclude with an unsubstantiated claim.

                Who’s asking me to substantiate it? I’m reporting my experience with Loftus. The man is unimpressive, and has, shall we say… an honesty problem. That’s not only on display in the OP, but also with his past feats. Fake blog moment, anyone?

                If Randal feels satisfied with teenagers elbowing each others with ” da loser was pwnd !11!!” I feel he has lost his serious audience.

                We’re talking about Loftus, Derek. “Serious” is never the audience that man draws – nor deserves. ;)

            • Joe Dan Shelton

              Oh it doesn’t surprise me at all. Back in the day he used to threaten to leave TWeb FOREVER 2 or 3 times a week.

          • Derek

            Why do you read more than is written? John Loftus statement is that he won’t continue to talk with Randal about Boghossian.

            I feel some devilish laughing emanating from you when you maliciously interpret what is not there.

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

          So your quip about the Apostle Paul was empty rhetoric? Got it.

      • David

        I would also love to hear your view on eternal security. Hope you are well!

  • RonH

    Don’t take Peter’s encouragement too much to heart. In that same chapter, if you follow the logic, it is impossible to conclude that one’s intervention has failed. (Except for the whopping big caveat that interventions don’t work on someone who’s got a physically damaged brain… hrm…)

    In other words, the success of one’s intervention is unfalsifiable. Does that make the inevitable success of one’s atheistic proselytization a properly basic belief?

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

      Reading Boghossian’s book I was reminded of those hyper-Calvinists who absolve themselves of any failures in their evangelism by attributing any them to the intransigence of the non-elect. Certainly Boghossian’s presentation works similarly. But that said, I do agree that those who are confronted with problems in their belief regularly respond with unrestrained hostility as we see Loftus doing here.

      • Luke Breuer

        It’s ironic that Loftus allegedly knows about forgiveness, and knows that he could admit he’s wrong without acquiring/admitting a huge ‘debt’ which he would have to pay down. This makes me think that sin (being irrational, bullshitting, etc.) is actually a worse offense among atheists than Christians! A Christian could repent for this behavior and change, and all fellow Christians would be called to (a) not harp on the previous person that Christian was; (b) help reinforce the new person that Christian is becoming. I’m not so sure that atheists and skeptics have that same culture. I can only really say this via my impressions, since I doubt this aspect of the culture would ever be overtly admitted to.

  • Just Sayin’

    Lofty’s lost it. Again.

    • Derek

      Nope, he converted me to atheism.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        Really? Wow, you got suckered by the worst advocate for atheism since Madelyn Murray O’Hair. Good job. ;)

        • Derek

          Oh, but Madelyn Murray O’Hair was an Atheist. I don’t believe in Atheism. I already mentioned that somewhere.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Nope, he converted me to atheism.

            I don’t believe in Atheism.

            Whatever you have, I hope it’s not contagious. ;)

      • Joe Dan Shelton

        Given the quality of your posts here I’m not in the least surprised that you found Loftus to be persuasive. Kudos, though, for the proper use of “converted” instead of that “deconverted” nonsense.

        • Derek

          And your poor grasp of someone mocking Christians is astonishing.

          • Joe Dan Shelton

            It’s not my fault that you’re no better at writing than you are at spotting logical fallacies!

            Maybe you had a poor teacher…

  • Luke Breuer

    @Randal_Rauser:disqus you might find relevant pRinzler’s comment over on Loftus’ copy&paste of your previous blog entry:

    I think I see how Randal screwed up. Randal doesn’t understand that concern for the truth is a given and that B’s concern is something else (rhetoric) that doesn’t deny concern for the truth, but takes it for granted in order to address something else.

    At the very least, that is an uncharitable reading of ones opponents ideas, and at the worst, is lying for Jeebus.

    What these people seem to be saying is:

    1. There is no better, competing definition for ‘faith’ than what Boghossian states. That is, Aquinas’ and Augustine’s views collapse into nothingness, like sand castles when the ocean waves of rationality roll in. This I think is a valid criticism; very few atheists have an adequate understanding of e.g. Abrahm’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac (Tiffany Clark recently wrote No Holds Barred, which touches on this). They probably hold a Kierkegaardian (Fear and Trembling) view of Abraham, which denies his previous relationship with God, whereby he would think that he heard imperative communication from God, would follow it, and would then empirically verify the imperative, increasing his confidence that an intelligent agent with Abraham’s well-being in mind was communicating to him.

    2. If you ‘fuzz over’ the allegedly rigorous definitions that Boghossian gives, you can extract non-bullshit truth from his book. What this information may be, I don’t know. Reynoldsp likes to turn the tables on the accuser:

    1. Don’t you believe that you have the Truth? Yes or No, please.

    2. And what is this truth that Loftus and Boghossian don’t care about?

    Perhaps it is time to ask the following question: What truth is Boghossian attempting to communicate? How can we answer this question and be as charitable as possible? This may mean basically ignoring his definitions of ‘faith’ and ‘atheist’, or at least ‘snapping’ them to something sensible. If we squint really, really hard at Manual, can we find anything true it claims that has anything to do with atheism or theism?

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

      This is why I don’t bother to visit Loftus’ blog.

      • Luke Breuer

        All I can say is that I see the #1 issue stated a lot by atheists, and I as a Christian know of no good resource to point them to on the matter. Getting Abraham’s story might help, but it’s a long way from a proper response. The burden of proof for #2 clearly lies in the atheist’s side of the court.

      • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

        I don’t know where to ask this, but here seems as good a place as any, since Luke brought up the topic. Randal, have you written about or do you have developed views about the Abraham/Isaac sacrifice story? Please excuse me if I am revealing my ignorance about your work.

        • TheAtheistMissionary

          I read Taylor’s Bible Story Book to my son a few years ago. The binding of Isaac was his favorite story by far. He still talks about it.

          • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

            It is unforgettable. Very emotional and very hard to understand what is going on. Why is God asking Abraham to do this? What is Abraham thinking? Why is this awful story in this document which is supposed to contain that history of a people? What did it mean to them?

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

          Evangelicals tend to assume that this narrative must be read in a wooden historical sense analogous to the biographies of Jesus. But from a textual point of view there really is no comparison. The Gospels are ancient Roman biography and aim to serve as historical accounts of the life of Jesus. But the Akedah (and indeed the whole life of Abraham) is part of a collection of etiological narratives that form the collective literature of the Jewish people. They were likely collected around the time of the Josianic reforms (c. 620 BCE) a millennium after the event allegedly narrated in Genesis 22.

          Consequently, I am very sympathetic with the view of Yoram Hazony (who I recently interviewed in the podcast) that we should read the OT writings — including the Deuteronomic history — as founding narratives of a people reflecting philosophically on who God is, who they are, and what they are called to be in the world. As a Christian I believe this body of literature is divinely appropriated literature which forms part of the Christian canon, but that doesn’t suddenly transmute the Deuteronomic history from being etiological narratives to some kind of straight history.

          In terms of Genesis 22 itself, I think Hazony provides a very plausible reading that the text repudiates human sacrifice and Abraham never believed for a moment that he was being called to sacrifice his son. If you’re serious about this, I’d really recommend looking up his book “The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture” to read his nuanced exegesis of the text.

          In terms of the text and ethical reasoning, now we’re moving onto my home turf. I’ve written about that a few places including:

          http://randalrauser.com/2011/01/abraham-isaac-and-a-big-knife-like-wassup-with-that/

          I also offer a broader defense of the role of conscience in hermeneutics here:

          http://randalrauser.com/2013/11/reading-the-bible-informed-by-conscience/

          See also here:

          http://randalrauser.com/2012/08/rape-moral-perception-and-biblicism/

          http://randalrauser.com/2012/08/what-god-could-and-couldnt-do-a-conversation-with-jerry-shepherd/

          • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

            Thank you very much. I will take a look at the links and try to track down Hazony’s book.

            In his Joseph and His Brothers, Thomas Mann has Jacob and Joseph in a very interesting conversation in which Jacob despairs because, when he imagines himself in Abraham’s place (i.e. being asked to sacrifice Joseph), he finds that he would be unable to do what Abraham did. Joseph, rather brilliantly, reminds his father that the point of the story is that human sacrifice is unacceptable. Therefore, Jacob is despairing, rather senselessly according to Jacob, because he knows that he cannot do what God has forbidden ever be done.

            The conversation is much more involved than this. Suffice it to say it is one of the most remarkable things that I have ever encountered in a novel. Mann was quite philosophically sophisticated. If you have not read the novel, I highly recommend it.

            This story and the story of Adam and Eve and the command to not eat the fruit are stories that I never tire of talking about since, for me, they are highly enigmatic and resist interpretation.

          • John

            As you know, etiological narratives can be characterized as being etiological myths or etiological folktales. It certainly seems reasonable that God could accomplish the purpose of instruction with both. That being said, it would be nice if the ancient manuscripts came with footnotes declaring which was which. ;->

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    Geez, Randal. You made Loftus snap like a rubber band. He can’t mount a defense of Bog or himself to save his life.

    Fun viewing!

    • Luke Breuer

      Did he ever make any positive claims about the book, about it saying anything true? I can’t recall, but I haven’t read his stuff comprehensively. He said “I’m done trying to talk to you about Boghossian’s book”, but did he ever say anything? Besides charitably interpreting Bog’s rhetoric, of course.

    • Derek

      When I say something and make Christians “snap like a rubber band”, I am accused that I don’t respect their faith.

      Why don’t you respect John Loftus faith? After all, it was faith that made John call Randal a liar. It was a cognitive stance that John adopted when he was convinced that Randal is a liar.

      That’s faith, baby: “Faith is not a way to know anything” ~ Kerk

      It’s fun reading some guys quips :)

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        When I say something and make Christians “snap like a rubber band”, I am accused that I don’t respect their faith.

        If you manage to do it the way Randal has – by merely, even politely asking questions, and pointing out the obvious – then you’re dealing with a poor audience. Though I’m skeptical you actually manage to pull this off.

        Why don’t you respect John Loftus faith? After all, it was faith that made John call Randal a liar. It was a cognitive stance that John adopted when he was convinced that Randal is a liar.

        There’s something grimly amusing about atheists who, at once, try to establish themselves as mentally superior to theists, but who – whenever they’re shown to have flaws in their arguments, their thinking, or otherwise – try desperately to say ‘But I think you do the same thing!’

        Really man, all you’re displaying here are the mental traits and intellectual capabilities that go a long way towards explaining why you would be a fan of Loftus. Please note: that is not a compliment.

        • Luke Breuer

          I like that I can really disagree with you on some things (e.g. what’s really going on with the creation ↔ evolution shtick and climate change), and really agree with you on others, like this one.

          If you’re up for it, please let me know if I am being hypocritical; you’ll probably have to show me a few examples, but you seem like a rare person exemplified by the following, and therefore more able to help do the “one man sharpens another” thing more than many:

          Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
              reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
          (Prov 9:8)

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you’re asking, Luke, though I disagree with plenty of people, and agree with plenty of people, and there’s a lot of overlap. I do it with Randal himself regularly.

            • Luke Breuer

              I was just appreciating your ability to strongly criticize ideas without falling prey to binary, non-nuanced thinking. Most people seem to either be fuzzy in their criticism, or treat ideas as 100% right or 0% right. When these binary thinkers criticize, it can be hard to tease out the valid part, especially when it is one’s own ideas which are being criticized. So there’s lots of accusation of hypocrisy, but little of it can actually be turned to good. Does this make sense?

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                I think it does. Thanks Luke – I try to avoid clannishness, I like to pay attention to nuance, and I make an effort to zero in on what my actual problem is with any given argument. I screw up, I’m sure, but I make an effort. The kind words are much appreciated.

        • Derek

          I was pointing out the obvious, that here is no respect for faith from the part of those who have the “copyright” of faith definition, namely theists. Here is a war faith between Randal and Boghossian.

          I don’t know from where did you pull “mentally superior” to theists, all I know is that you didn’t pull it from a place I’d compliment.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you’re mentally superior to theists at all!

            • FallanFrank

              Brilliant riposte

  • Reynoldsp

    of Peter Boghossian suggested that neither Loftus nor Boghossian care about truth

    I keep asking what truth is being subverted but no one seems to be able to tell
    me. What is it that Boghossian is saying that is not true?

    • Kerk

      That faith is pretending to know something. Geez. Is that so hard to tease out?

      • Reynoldsp

        How would you show then that faith is a reliable way to know things?

        • Kerk

          Where did you get that weird idea?

          Faith is not a way to know anything. It is a cognitive stance that we adopt when we are convinced by evidence that a proposition X is true.

          Per Randal, faith is an assent to a proposition that is conceivably false. Given that he is a professional epistemologist, I believe that this is a dictionary definition too.

          Thus, I have faith that the Earth rotates around the Sun because I’ve been convinced by all the books I’ve read. Yet it still remains conceivably false.

          • Reynoldsp

            It is a cognitive stance that we adopt when we are convinced by evidence that a proposition X is true.

            So when Muslims or Hindus say that they have faith in their gods then they are convinced by evidence that their religion is true. There must be evidence then showing that their gods exist just as yours does. Would that be a correct statement?

            • Kerk

              Sure. The question is how reliable that evidence is, and what is its volume.

              • Reynoldsp

                …and Christianity has the bible. So, are all of these 3 religions equally true since they all have these holy books?

                • Kerk

                  Now where did you get that? I said they believe because they consider their own books good evidence.

          • Derek

            “Faith is not a way to know anything. It is a cognitive stance”

            Talk about people who distort definitions.

            The word cognition comes from the Latin verb cognosco (con ‘with’ + gn?sc? ‘know’), itself a cognate of the Ancient Greek verb gn?sko”??????” meaning ‘I know’ (noun: gn?sis “??????” = knowledge), so broadly, ‘to conceptualize’ or ‘to recognize’.

            Languages with roots in Latin origin, use “congosce”. Languages with roots in Anglo-Germanic origins, use “knawan”.

            What you actually said is: “Faith in not a way to know, it is a knowing stance”. You distorted “knowing” definition and ended with a deepity.

            But you just admitted that faith is pretending or convinced to know something is true, not actually knowing it is true. Explain that to Randal, he still doesn’t get it.

          • being itself

            The Earth revolves around the Sun; it rotates on its axis.

            • Kerk

              Thanks for the correction.

              • Derek

                Your faith has been restored :)

    • Luke Breuer

      What is it that Boghossian says which is true? And for anything in this list, does Boghossian justify its truth in his book? The burden of proof is definitely on you.

  • http://soi.blogspot.ca/ josephpalazzo

    Tempest in a teapot. I don’t know of anyone who was converted to atheism by someone else. Perhaps there are such individuals, but most atheists I know of came to realize that what was fed to them for years under the umbrella of religion was fantasy. I believe this is what scares the theists the most.

  • Reynoldsp

    To those Christians who are commenting on John’s “meltdown”, I’ve known many Christians in my lifetime and while some had thicker skin than others none had very thick skin. I’m sure that if I were to go around here saying untrue things about many here it wouldn’t take long for someone to have a meltdown, even with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Try going to Ray Comfort’s facebook page, say something negative about him and see how long it takes for you to get banned from here. I’m sure if I were to twist Rauser’s words it would not take long for him to get upset and eventually ban me.

    What does it say about throwing the first stone?

    • Kerk

      True, Randal has shown himself to be quite sensitive at times, especially when it comes to his books. But I have yet to see him ban or yell at anyone for any kind of offence.

      By comparison, I remember John Loftus about a year ago yell “Oh I can’t take it anymore! I’m done! No more blogging! Those damn apologists! I’m leaving forever! Let Johnathan Pearce take care of my blog!” — And returned after 3 days.

      • Reynoldsp

        I’m sure that people with a passionate viewpoint, whether Rauser or Loftus will get frustrated and want to get away from whatever is frustrating them at the time. I’ve been frustrated once in a while trying to get someone to see something from a different point of view. Not easy, I’m sure.

    • Luke Breuer

      Loftus banned me from his blog; Derek the troll claimed that Randal banned Loftus from here, but he was either lying or severely misinformed. The only person I know of Randal banning is cygnus, and some here suspect that Derek == cygnus. He appears to be attempting to emulate Socrates’ gadfly nature, but so poorly as to be merely obnoxious. If you want to complain about Derek-like people being banned, then have at it.

      You’re welcome to try twisting Rauser’s words, but that’d reveal more about you than about him. But go ahead and try it if you want; we’ll see if he bans you. But you could always claim that he’ll refuse to ban you on account of your comment here, so it’s probably a win-win situation for you. You can make accusations of Randal all day long!

      So, how about no predictions unless you’re actually able to verify/falsify them? If you have no intention of doing those things, you’re just blowing smoke.

      • Reynoldsp

        You’re welcome to try twisting Rauser’s words, but that’d reveal more about you than about him. But go ahead and try it if you want; we’ll see if he bans you. But you could always claim that he’ll refuse to ban you on account of your comment here, so it’s probably a win-win situation for you. You can make accusations of Randal all day long!

        Where did I say I wanted to twist Rauser’s words?

        So, how about no predictions unless you’re actually able to verify/falsify them? If you have no intention of doing those things, you’re just blowing smoke.

        You seem upset. Did I get through your skin easily by criticizing Dr. Rauser? As far as verification goes I have posted here before and it didn’t seem that it took much to get him upset, not that it was my intent to upset him. Just a couple of weeks ago or so he thought at one point I was calling him an atheist (I wasn’t) and was seemingly upset by it.

        It is nice of you to verify, by the way, that Christians have higher burdens of proof for atheists than they do for fellow Christians.

        • Luke Breuer

          Where did I say I wanted to twist Rauser’s words?

          You made a truth-claim:

          I’m sure if I were to twist Rauser’s words it would not take long for him to get upset and eventually ban me.

          Are you going to support it with evidence, or were you making crap up like you [probably?] like to accuse theists of doing?

          You seem upset.

          Nope. I thought it was theists who made crap up out of nothing?

          It is nice of you to verify, by the way, that Christians have higher burdens of proof for atheists than they do for fellow Christians.

          I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s fun to see you lump all Christians into one bucket, though!

        • FallanFrank

          Sheeesh “You seem upset. Did I get through your skin easily by criticizing Dr. Rauser?”

          Blimey!..The Ego Has Landed..You really think highly of yourself Reynolds

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      What does it say about throwing the first stone?

      The *first* stone? This is John Loftus. Throwing stones is most of what he does. Is it our fault that he keeps missing?

      Try going to Ray Comfort’s facebook page, say something negative about him and see how long it takes for you to get banned from here.

      ‘John Loftus – like a Ray Comfort of atheism, except far less successful or noteworthy.’

      Sure, that works.

  • Adam Omelianchuk

    When I read John Loftus’s comment I thought of this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ov4FKKlkqjM

    • Rob

      There’s nothing wrong with saying “You Lie” if the person did in fact lie.
      You know, “If you like it you can keep it”, that sort of thing, although that comment didn’t concern that particular OCare lie.

      Loftus’ problem is that he’s just emoting.

  • Jeff

    This is ugly intellectual warfare. Randal has abandoned his ideal, stated in Romans as “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Instead he now seeks to misrepresent, frustrate, and marginalize those who have attracted his ire, whether Boghossian, Loftus, or more broadly “the new atheists [who are] ideologues who subvert truth, clarity and nuance for the sake of their dogmatic beliefs.” [Is this a fitting description of all of the “new atheists”? Who are these “new atheists” exactly? What’s the precise definition of “new atheism”?]

    In this particular case, Randal is interpreting Boghossian and Loftus in the most uncharitable way possible so that he can then heap as much scorn on them as he possibly can, thus provoking frustrated and abortive responses from Loftus which Randal can then further ridicule. And so long as Randal dresses it all up with the lipstick, in this case, of critical analysis, he can present and fancy himself as the heroic white knight. This is ugly intellectual violence. Randal is exhibiting the sort of hermeneutical anti-charity toward Boghossian and Loftus which he rightfully decries as crude and subversive when others approach various biblical texts in the same manner. And this sort of tribal tit for tat warfare only breeds deep resentment and further division.

    I’m not trying to defend Boghossian (who I’d never heard of before Randal’s series of posts) or Loftus (who I have only a passing familiarity with). And I agree with Randal that many of the so-called new atheists are oftentimes shrill and some of their rhetoric is even dangerous. But the way to counter these tendencies is not by getting into pissing contests. It’s by addressing the primary social concerns which seem to motivate “new atheism.” Randal should work to articulate the truth that, for example, terrorism is fueled primarily by geopolitical grievances (not religious ideology), grievances which we all can and should work together to address. He should continue to advocate for a progressive vision amongst his fellow evangelicals, which welcomes the full participation of women and non-heterosexuals in civic and religious life. And so forth. These kinds of efforts should help to foster peace and cooperation between theists and atheists as opposed to driving the two further apart, as intellectual warfare does.

    And the reason I scold Randal is because I know he’s capable of so much better. He’s a sharp thinker who is very capable of being a bridge builder rather than a bridge burner.

    • Billy Squibs

      After reading a post that borders on pant-wetting hysterics I couln’t help but think of this clip.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh2sWSVRrmo

      Randal should work to articulate the truth that, for example, terrorism
      is fueled primarily by geopolitical grievances (not religious
      ideology), grievances which we all can and should work together to
      address. He should continue to advocate for a progressive vision amongst
      his fellow evangelicals, which welcomes the full participation of women
      and the LGBT community in civic and religious life

      Great! I do hope that you pay well. Because you’ve supplied Randal with a long list of the things he should be advocating.

      • Jeff

        I know Randal well enough to know that we see roughly eye to eye (contra Harris, Hitchens, etc) on the issue of Islam and terrorism, and I know that he has a fairly progressive social vision, at least relative to most of his fellow evangelicals. And I’m simply suggesting that he spend a little more time on those topics.

        • Billy Squibs

          But then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you “This is ugly intellectual violence”.

    • Luke Breuer

      Jeff, have you done Mt 7:1-5? If so, how about Gal 6:1-5? What does it look like to “bear one another’s burdens”, in this case? I propose it means to give an example of interpreting Loftus/Boghossian more charitably. Don’t just do what the Pharisees do in Mt 23:1-4; they tell other people what to do without helping.

      I’ve been closely following this whole thing and have a pretty hard time seeing how Randal could interpret Loftus or Boghossian more charitably, except perhaps the 1. in this comment. Even that’s iffy, because it’s not clear that Boghossian himself makes any effort to examine the various kinds of ‘faith’ that Christians have held to over the millennia. Interpreting someone charitably doesn’t mean constructing an entire argument for him/her. Especially for someone who teaches philosophy! (Boghossian)

      Finally, you impute motives and premeditated plans to Randal that just seem crazy. You’re spinning a story to see Randal in the worst possible light! How can you both do that, and criticize him for uncharitably interpreting others??

      • Jeff

        Randal said this on another thread:

        “[Boghossian is] an ideologue who regularly subverts truth (e.g. in the definition of terms).”

        And Randal claimed further that neither Loftus or Boghossian care about the truth. So because (perhaps amongst other things) Boghossian has offered allegedly poor definitions of atheism, he is therefore an ideologue who regularly subverts truth?

        Boghossian’s first definition of atheism (ie, about one who sees insufficient evidence for belief in God) is not that bad. Sure, it could be polished up, and it should be polished up if he’s trying to submit a rigorous lexical definition. But obviously he’s not trying to do such a thing. It’s fair to point out why his definition doesn’t work as a rigorous lexical definition, but to then jump to the conclusion that he is therefore an ideologue who regularly subverts truth? That’s just nastiness on Randal’s part. Boghossian’s second definition needs even more polishing, but it’s really not that hard to see what he’s getting at, even if one disagrees that “atheism is a default position.”

        About Loftus’ claim that “the only criticism…etc.” Yes, that’s an incautious statement. But it’s not that hard to see the spirit of Loftus’ complaint. Roughly: “Come on Randal, Boghossian isn’t trying to write a rigorously precise piece of academic literature, so stop nitpicking and focus on the primary thrust of his book.” I don’t know whether Loftus would agree completely with my interpretation, but Randal certainly took the least charitable interpretation possible by claiming that Loftus doesn’t care about the truth and then doggedly ridiculing him about it.

        And it’s not that hard to do what Randal has been doing. Here’s a statement Randal made on another thread, which if taken completely literally, is seen to be a very incautious, sweepingly dismissive piece of empty rhetoric.

        “A refutation of [Boghossian’s] book provides the occasion for a general critique of the new atheists as ideologues who subvert truth, clarity and nuance for the sake of their dogmatic beliefs.”

        Notice that Randal did not (nor has he ever, to my knowledge) provided a definition of “new atheism,” and he certainly hasn’t tried to provide the sort of rigorously precise definition of new atheism that he’s demanding of Boghossian re: atheism. And there’s a good reason for that. It’s very difficult to even imagine a definition of “new atheism” which would hold up to the sort of rigorous scrutiny Randal is demanding of Boghossian’s definitions. But anyway, Randal proceeds, without even trying to define his terms, to offer a sweeping condemnation of “the new atheists” (again, who, precisely, are these people?) as subversive, apathetic-about-truth ideologues. And this is hardly the first time Randal has issued such a statement.

        So if I wanted to do to Randal what he’s doing to Boghossian, it wouldn’t be hard at all. But, I understand what Randal is getting at with his frustration with the “new atheists,” and it’s not hard for me to interpret him charitably and even sympathize to a large extent with his frustrations. I’ve been quite vocal, on this very blog, in condemning some of the more disturbing rhetoric from Harris, Hitchens, etc, about Islam, terrorism, and related issues. And I’m disturbed too that many of these writers seem to have declared war on theism. So I share many of Randal’s frustrations, but I think he’s acting directly contrary to his stated ideals of fostering peace and cooperation.

        • Luke Breuer

          So because (perhaps amongst other things) Boghossian has offered allegedly poor definitions of atheism, he is therefore an ideologue who regularly subverts truth?

          You’re not distinguishing between ‘poor’ definitions and ‘mischievous’ definitions. Over here, I argue that Boghossian is trying to change ‘atheism’ from meaning

               (1) lacking belief in any deity
                ?
               (2) freethinking ? atheism

          This is very, very sneaky. Boghossian is trying to encode an epistemology into his definition of ‘atheism’. I’m quite confident that Boghossian was not being sloppy in the slightest. You can actually see a severe ideological slant by only looking at Boghossian’s definitions of ‘faith’ and ‘atheist':

          faith:

          1. Belief without evidence. (23)

          2. Pretending to know things you don’t know. (24)

          atheist:

          “‘Atheist,’ as I use the term, means, ‘There’s insufficient evidence to warrant belief in a divine, supernatural creator of the universe. However, if I were shown sufficient evidence to warrant belief in such an entity, then I would believe.’” (27)

          “An alternative definition of ‘atheist’ is: a person who doesn’t pretend to know things he doesn’t know with regard to the creation of the universe.” (37)

          Remember that Boghossian is a philosopher. He knows better than to give sloppy definitions, or approximations that have unintended results. No, he knew exactly what he was doing. He is defining atheists this way:

               (3) atheists are evidentialists

          and theists:

               (4) theists are anti-evidentialists

          and his masterstroke:

               (5) evidentialism ? atheism

          If Boghossian were just some layman, one could possibly see him as just mistakenly defining his terms. Even then though, the pieces would just fit together too nicely. Boghossian is subversively claiming that anyone who is not an evidentialist is an idiot, and that if you are an evidentialist, you will be an atheist. It’s not even this, though, Boghossian wants to say that whatever a theist is, he/she is ignoring the evidence when it comes to his/her theism. As far as Randal has indicated, he doesn’t even argue this, he assumes it! And yet, the assumption is hidden, which results in many people adopting it without thinking—for one must adopt that assumption, in order for the book to make sense! People who interpret things ‘charitably’ in this way will just freely adopt the assumptions which have been buried. This is part and parcel of rhetoric, of the bullshit variety.

          Boghossian’s definitions of ‘faith’ and ‘atheist’ are the foundation for his entire book. Whatever you build on a bad foundation is in danger of crumbling. If the foundation is bad, you often don’t even have to look at anything else. Instead, you ask the person to start with a good foundation, and then try building again. If he/she can do that, then we can pay more attention.

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

            Consider again Jeff’s passage that Luke quotes:

            “So because (perhaps amongst other things) Boghossian has offered allegedly poor definitions of atheism, he is therefore an ideologue who regularly subverts truth?”

            In this quote Jeff completely disregards the article in question in which I subvert John Loftus’ refusal to engage any of the substantive critique of Boghossian’s book that I’ve provided, retorting instead that Boghossian’s book ought to be judged solely by its ability to make converts. As I argued quite clearly, that disregard of truth is bullshit according to the main philosophical treatment of the concept offered by philosopher Harry Frankfurt.

            Shame on you Jeff, for caricaturing my argument and doing so while riding on your moral high horse. Your behavior is grossly hypocritical.

            • Luke Breuer

              You replied to me, so here I ping @JeffKesterson:disqus. :-)

            • Jeff

              Randal, you seem to think that any time you offer critical analysis, the person you’re interacting with is obliged to offer a careful extended response, on your terms. If they don’t, it reflects poorly upon them (at best) or uncovers them as a bulshitter with a disregard for truth (at worst).

              You’ll recall that you accused Jonathan Pearce of being an enemy of free thought because he approvingly quoted a statement from Daniel Dennett that you found objectionable, and you took this to be indicative of Jonathan marching in mindless lockstep behind his dear leader. But that’s just an outrageous and bizarre accusation, especially if you know anything of Jonathan’s extensive engagement with these issues and various criticisms of Dennett’s views.

              Or, earlier, you issued another bizarre and outrageous accusation at Counter Apologist as “a company man, a mere bureaucrat in the state party, a ‘just tell me how to vote’ functionary,” because he sees Nagel as a “leading atheistic philosopher” (ie, an important philosopher who happens to be an atheist) rather than as an “intellectual leader of atheism” (ie, a leader of the atheist “movement”).

              I contend that these kinds of flimsy, inflammatory accusations are simply not worth responding to on your terms, whether or not you dress them up with academic language. Good for Jonathan and Counter Apologist if they have the patience to offer careful replies, but it certainly wouldn’t reflect poorly on them or reveal them as bulshitters unconcerned with the truth if they had simply moved on.

              In this current case, I do think Loftus would do well to engage more with your criticisms of Boghossian’s book. And yet for better or for worse, right or wrong, his frustration seems to be that you’re quibbling over minor details rather than engaging with the primary focus of the book, and he doesn’t want to get pulled down what he sees as an endless rabbit trail. Again, right or wrong, it strikes me as quite uncharitable to accuse him of therefore being a bulshitter unconcerned with the truth, and I can’t say I’m surprised by his reaction to your accusation.

              You’ll also recall that Mike D. offered a substantive response to your book on heaven, to which you offered no substantive reply, instead choosing to fixate on the tone of his response, and in particular, one specific phrase which you took offense to. That’s fine if you want to offer such objections, but to fixate on that while ignoring the substance of his criticisms makes me wonder whether you’re holding yourself to a far different standard than that to which you hold others when you criticize them.

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

                I’ll note that you refuse to address your own hypocritical caricature of my argument. Your first problem is that you have no ability to listen carefully to what I’m saying in each of these cases. No wonder you’re so morally indignant. You’ve made yourself blind and deaf to the arguments I provide.

                I’ll also note that you have no problem when I subject Christians to the same level of analytic critique. Did you stand in the gap when I critiqued Paul Copan or David Lamb? No, of course not. Because you disagree with their views.

                Finally, I’ll note that you declared a month ago your intent to stop reading and commenting at my blog. And you broke your promise.

                • Jeff

                  I don’t mind analytic critique at all, so long as it’s relevant, appropriate, and courteous. You’re able to engage Copan, etc, in such a manner, but you haven’t been able to do this, it seems to me, with many of those with whom you disagree more fundamentally, especially lately.

                  About leaving your blog, yes I did say that. Perhaps I’m like Loftus in that regard (getting really frustrated and storming off, but then inevitably jumping back in at some point). I don’t know why this all is getting under my skin so much. I came to have a great deal of respect for you as a writer and you had built up a lot of good will in my eyes. You had a winsome, amiable public voice. And it feels like you’re betraying that now, with the direction you’ve taken your blog. If I had never become personally invested in your blog (as I have never become with Loftus’ blog, for example) I’m sure I wouldn’t even be piping up about any of this.

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

                    You’re indignant that I accuse John of bullshit. If he is potentially guilty of bullshit, however, that is very relevant and appropriate. And I really couldn’t care less if you don’t think that’s courteous. What matters is if it’s true. The fact is that you show no interest in engaging the arguments I present. It is generally disappointing and frustrating when readers do that. But when they do that atop a moral high horse, it is infuriating.

                    • Jeff

                      Sure, but I don’t think he’s guilty of bullshit here, as should be clear, if you were to see the heart of his complaint rather than fixating so literally on his statement.

                      I wonder if you’ve noticed that the only atheists you seem to be able to amiably engage these days, on a consistent basis, are those who are exceptionally patient and cool headed, such as Nate.

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

                      “I don’t think he’s guilty of bullshit here, as should be clear, if you were to see the heart of his complaint rather than fixating so literally on his statement.”

                      Why do you ignore what I wrote and restate your vague complaint with more hand waving? I have no interest in repeating myself.

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

                Regarding caricature of argument, consider your statement:

                “the person you’re interacting with is obliged to offer a careful extended response, on your terms. If they don’t, it reflects poorly upon them (at best) or uncovers them as a bulshitter with a disregard for truth (at worst).”

                Of course the first part is true. If a person (like Loftus) invites himself to a debate (like one regarding the merit of Boghossian’s book) and then refuses to defend it, of course that reflects poorly on him.

                However, refusal to engage an argument doesn’t reveal someone as a bullshitter. The charge of bullshit is contingent upon Loftus’ claim that the only thing that matters is whether Boghossian’s book makes converts.

                So once again you completely distort and caricature my argument and have the nerve to sit on a moral high horse whilst doing it. I really can’t believe your bald hypocrisy.

                • Jeff

                  The charge of bullshit is contingent upon Loftus’ claim that the only thing that matters is whether Boghossian’s book makes converts.

                  But don’t you see that you’re misunderstanding the heart of Loftus’ complaint? Yes, his statement was quite incautious, but it’s not hard at all to see what he’s getting at, why he’s frustrated.

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

                    If I’ve misunderstood John he is free to retract his “incautious” statement and then offer a rebuttal to my critique to show why Boghossian’s book is still worthy of the accolades John has bestowed upon it. He chose, instead, to call me and other apologists liars and to compare us to serial killers. And you’re indignant at me?! You deserve a face-in-palme d’or for this.

                    • Jeff

                      Yes, Loftus should be called to task for quite a few things, but I’m not sure bullshit in this case is one of them. If it’s any consolation, I’m indignant at you because I know you’re capable of being so much better, whereas with Loftus I’m not so sure.

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

                      Please stop reiterating your complaints about tone and try to restrict yourself to the substantive content of argument.

                    • Jeff

                      So is that how you interacted with Mike D’s engagement with you heaven book, by restricting yourself to the substantive content of argument?

                    • Jeff

                      And I’m not complaining about tone re: the charge of bullshit. I’m disputing the charge itself.

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

                      Yes, it is.

                      Given that you continue to refuse engaging my critique of Loftus and Boghossian on substantive analytic grounds, I won’t be responding to your comments any more.

                    • Jeff

                      Oh good grief.

                    • Jeff

                      One further note. Lest you think that I came here to bullshit (because that’s what it sounds like you’re inferring), I most certainly did not. This has been a case of rather epically talking past each other, and I wish I could see exactly why that’s been the case.

                    • Kerk

                      I’m starting to suspect that Jeff secretly idolizes you. And he feels let down by his idol for not being robot-like precise, analytic and impartial academician.

          • Jeff

            Luke, I do mean to respond to you as soon as I can. I’ve been spending far too much time the last day or so drafting comments, and I need to attend to life now for a bit. Till later…

          • Jeff

            Ok sorry for the delay. Let me preface this by saying that I haven’t read the book, as Kerk suggests I perhaps should. But I’m honestly not interested enough to put it on my reading list, and all I can respond to is the content right in front of me here. And I guess I just don’t see what you’re getting at here Luke.

            If Boghossian were trying to do with his definitions what you’re saying he is, I would think that his first definition would be something more like, “an atheist is someone who cares about evidence.” But I’m not seeing that. I read it as, “an atheist is someone who thinks that the evidence points against the existence of God, but who could still be persuaded otherwise in light of new evidence.” Similarly with faith–I’m not seeing anything such as, “a theist is someone who believes against the evidence, on faith alone.” I think you might have more of a case when I look at his second definition of atheism, but it’s hard to tell without any context. But like I said, I don’t really care to defend Boghossian (I don’t care enough to read his book), so I’m going to move on and focus on what I think one could and should be doing if one wishes to effectively foster peace and cooperation between theists and atheists.

            • Luke Breuer

              And I guess I just don’t see what you’re getting at here Luke.

              Do you understand what skillful bullshitting looks like? Do you know what powerful, truth-agnostic rhetoric looks like? I don’t have very good answers to these questions myself, but I’ve analyzed the definitions that Boghossian provided, and they seem to be a pretty good example of bullshitting in the technical sense. He’s hoodwinked a lot of people it seems, because a lot of people are praising it.

              What I’m not sure you realize is that successfully hoodwinking people takes subtlety and finesse. Folks like John Loftus just cannot see what it is that Boghossian is doing. He’s successfully convinced people to swallow that:

                   (a) all religious belief is pretending
                   (b) proper respect for the evidence leads one to be an atheist

              He doesn’t rationally argue these things, and he doesn’t even overtly assert these; instead, he causes one to assume (a) and (b) in order to make his arguments make sense. This happens in the very act of charitably interpreting what he says.

              If Boghossian were trying to do with his definitions what you’re saying he is, I would think that his first definition would be something more like, “an atheist is someone who cares about evidence.”

              Too obvious.

              Similarly with faith–I’m not seeing anything such as, “a theist is someone who believes against the evidence, on faith alone.”

              Also too obvious.

              • Jeff

                Well, you’ve certainly given me something to think about. I guess I’d have to read his book if I really wanted to dig deeper here to see whether he’s offering really subtle and skilled bullshit, or whether you’re perhaps mistakenly seeing it. For now I’ll say that you’ve offered an angle here which is more interesting and important, I think, than Randal’s original critique which merely pointed out that his definitions are inadequate as rigorous lexical definitions.

                • Luke Breuer

                  Randal got at what I’m describing, although perhaps not as poignantly. He linked to Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, after all. There is a purpose for Randal’s approach: he took Boghossian seriously. Imagine if he had argued that Boghossian’s book is bullshit up-front: the criticism would be that he wasn’t taking the book seriously! One thing you’ve gotta see on issues like this is that there’s always an excuse. I think taking Bog seriously was the right choice for Randal.

                  At the end of the day, each person is going to choose the most compelling story to explain the evidence. Each of us has our own plausibility framework, which will strongly influence which story we choose. This isn’t to say some plausibility frameworks aren’t better than others; it’s just important to note them, note their connection to various cultures out there, and then figure out a compelling metric for ‘better’.

        • Luke Breuer

          Roughly: “Come on Randal, Boghossian isn’t trying to write a rigorously precise piece of academic literature, so stop nitpicking and focus on the primary thrust of his book.”

          Boghossian presents himself as a rational evidentialist and then is irrational and doesn’t respect the evidence. How does one interpret such a book ‘charitably’? Boghossian is violating the very principles he allegedly stands for. It’s not a matter of lack of rigor, Jeff. One doesn’t need to be writing in scholarly journals to get your definitions decent. And it’s not like Boghossian didn’t have the training to offer good definitions. He chose his definitions intentionally.

          Randal certainly took the least charitable interpretation possible by claiming that Loftus doesn’t care about the truth and then doggedly ridiculing him about it.

          No, Randal was working from ‘the probabilities’. Have you looked at all of Loftus’ interaction in this entire series on Boghossian’s book, reactions to it, etc.? Have you really looked at all the evidence? From what I see, Randal very gently eased into what became scathing criticism of Loftus. It wasn’t instantaneous in the slightest.

          Notice that Randal did not (nor has he ever, to my knowledge) provided a definition of “new atheism,” and he certainly hasn’t tried to provide the sort of rigorously precise definition of new atheism that he’s demanding of Boghossian re: atheism.

          Randal wasn’t writing a book. If you want him to define ‘new atheism’ rigorously, ask him. Alternatively, you could look to see precisely whom Randal is critiquing in his statement. And you will note that he is not targeting all atheists, unlike Boghossian, who appears to think he is targeting all religious people—at least those who employ ‘faith’, which seems to be most of them. The symmetry you think exists here is almost nonexistent.

          I’ve been quite vocal, on this very blog, in condemning some of the more disturbing rhetoric from Harris, Hitchens, etc, about Islam, terrorism, and related issues.

          Then you actually seem to know roughly whom Randal is talking about when he says ‘new atheist’? Again, Randal is targeting a very specific subset of atheists, while Boghossian was wide-ranging in his targeting.

          So I share many of Randal’s frustrations, but I think he’s acting directly contrary to his stated ideals of fostering peace and cooperation.

          I honestly have a hard time seeing how Randal can cooperate with Loftus, if indeed Loftus is advocating principles condemned by Harry Frankfurt in On Bullshit, and the evidence indicates to me that Loftus really does think that deception and twisting is ok “as long as the truth is on your side”. He really does! Haven’t you been watching his comments?

    • Kerk

      At first I was going to say, “Hey Jeff, how is it going?” But now I wanna say, “What is wrong with you?”

      For crying out loud, he is just reviewing a book! How can you even tell that his is not being charitable if you never read it?

      Stop trying to tell the master of the house what to do.

      • Jeff

        How’s it going Kerk?

        But don’t you see that Randal isn’t just reviewing a book? He seems to have declared war on Boghossian, Loftus, and “the new atheists” rather than trying to do his part, at least, to foster peace and cooperation.

        The reason I scold Randal here is because I know him well enough to know that he’s capable of SO much better, and he could be a very capable bridge builder (as he has for a long time) rather than being a bridge burner (as he is becoming).

        • Kerk

          To be frank, I myself would rather discuss good arguments, than who’s stupid. So I kinda share your sentiment.

          Well, the war has been declared by Loftus and Co. Randal is just responding in kind. Which you may say is not very Christian at all. And not even very academic. In his shoes, I’d just read the whole book and then post a one long comprehensive critique and be done with it.

          Still, you are taking it too far by accusing him of misrepresenting something without having read the book for yourself.

        • Luke Breuer

          I think, if you were to understand John Loftus some more, you would see that Randal might not have burned his bridge with Loftus. They did write a book together, after all. John plays very rough-and-tumble on his blog; are you aware of this?

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          But don’t you see that Randal isn’t just reviewing a book? He seems to have declared war on Boghossian, Loftus, and “the new atheists” rather than trying to do his part, at least, to foster peace and cooperation.

          How are Loftus, Bog and the New Atheists doing with regards to ‘fostering peace and cooperation’? We’re talking about John ‘All Christians are stupid!’ Loftus and Pete ‘Religious belief is a mental illness, put it on the DSM-V!’ Boghossian… oh, but Randal’s not impressed with either of their arguments, therefore, bad Randal?

          The reason I scold Randal here is because I know him well enough to know that he’s capable of SO much better, and he could be a very capable bridge builder

          Why in the world should a bridge be built with Loftus and Boghossian? What evidence is there that either of them desire a bridge for anything more than burning themselves, or as a vantage point to attack from?

          We have, with the New Atheists, statements from their leaders committing them to treating religious belief as a mental illness (Bog), making religious believers the butt of contempt and trying to hurt them with insults (Dawkins). Maybe no bridge-building is possible – or desirable – with people who have that mentality.

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

            A couple days ago Loftus compared Christian apologists to serial killers:

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.ca/2014/02/trying-to-understand-mind-of-christian.html

            • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

              You clearly just have to build more bridges, Randal. It’s all your fault.

              • Jeff

                Ok, here’s where you and Randal are being critically short-sighted:

                Can bridges be built with Osama bin Laden? Doubtful. Possibly, but very doubtful. (I suppose it doesn’t help in this case that he’s no longer with us, but you get the gist, hopefully.)

                But can bridges be built with those who sympathize with many of his geopolitical concerns, but who haven’t yet been mobilized into (or entrenched within) his army? You bet. Stop bombing and droning and occupying the shit out of the middle east. You’ll rob him of his recruits, not to mention just doing the right moral thing. Conversely, if you choose instead to engage in tit for tat retaliatory violence, trying to violently wipe him out, you’re only going to continue to see the violence spiral ever upward and the bitter divisions grow ever deeper.

                And now I’ve repaid Loftus’ comparison of apologists to serial killers by comparing him to Osama bin Laden. Hopefully he’ll forgive me!

                • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                  Jeff,

                  I don’t think your comparison is valid, but let’s run with it.

                  First off, let’s not talk about building bridges with Bin Laden, since… you know, he’s dead. Building a bridge to him now would require some flame-retardant materials. (This is a joke, by the way. I don’t know the fates of the dead vis a vis God’s judgment.)

                  Second, let’s imagine someone took up your attitude. Tomorrow, Al Qaeda beheads 20 13 year old girls who dared to attend a school in Pakistan. I condemn this as a barbaric act, and that anyone who condones this is a moral monster.

                  But suddenly you show up tsking me and shaking your head. No no no, such language and rhetoric. It just won’t do! I should be building bridges here, if not with AQ, then at least with the people who may well be sympathetic to their notions. Perhaps they can be persuaded, with a respectful tone and calmer language. Instead, I should humbly suggest that AQ may have overstepped its judicial bounds and may not be living up to the word of Mohammed as fully as they could – and that maybe what’s in order is a mutually respectful dialogue about… Etc, etc.

                  Well, no. No thank you. I don’t think that’s necessary to reach out to those particular people – a radical minority, if ever there was one – and I think the sort of people who are so in the corner of AQ that they would react poorly to a harshly worded criticism of such an act are a lost cause anyway. I will not mute my condemnations of a barbaric act out of a misguided hope that maybe I can pick up some changed hearts if I just act like someone who behaves in such a way is anything but not just wrong, but reprehensible.

                  So no, I don’t feel much is particularly lost when the guy advocating for treating religious belief as a mental illness, a tremendously sloppy thinker who’s full of himself, merely gets some brusque treatment by Randal or others. In fact, it feels more like a plea for unilateral respect with the knowledge that it will remain unilateral – and that the hope is to legitimize the worst of the worst Atheist thinkers while de-legitimizing every Christian and religious thinker around.

                  • Jeff

                    And I think the sort of people who are so in the corner of AQ that they would react poorly to a harshly worded criticism of such an act are a lost cause anyway.

                    Yep, I said as much. It’s very unlikely that one is going to be able to build bridges with a bin Laden type or with those who have become deeply committed to his way of thinking/acting. I’m looking much more widely here when I’m talking about building bridges.

                    And as I said, there are quite a few things that Loftus and others should be criticized for, even harshly. At a certain point I think continually focusing on such things becomes very counter-productive (and it’s not like we’re talking about beheadings of teenage girls here, or anything remotely analogous), but I don’t have any problem with such criticisms in general.

                    What I do have a problem with are the kinds of tactics Randal has been employing with increasing frequency lately. He’ll come in with guns blazing, asking questions later. I’ve given examples of his bizarre and outlandish accusations against Jonathan Pearce and Counter Apologist, and I think his accusation that Loftus is a bullshitter who cares not at all about the truth is a similar case. Randal is breeding bitter division here (I can offer plenty of off-this-site quotes to that effect from other observers, if you’d like), and when he makes statements such as “the new atheists [are] ideologues who subvert truth, clarity and nuance for the sake of their dogmatic beliefs,” a statement that I can interpret charitably and even sympathize with to some extent (though it’s the type of statement he would pounce on if coming from an atheist), I really start to wonder whether he’s declared a scorched earth war on “new atheism,” which will only make matters worse for all involved.

                    Conversely, he could take a step back and try to genuinely understand what motivates many of the so-called new atheists and their growing number of “recruits” and try to really address those concerns.

                    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                      Randal is breeding bitter division here (I can offer plenty of off-this-site quotes to that effect from other observers, if you’d like, and I’m not talking about Loftus’ site, by the way).

                      Why should I be concerned with ‘bitter division’? Randal riles up plenty of people at times, including myself, with some of what he says. Is my poor reaction to (say) his views on ID indicative that he’s doing something wrong?

                      Maybe the bitterly divided should stop being so bitter and divided.

                      I really start to wonder whether he’s declared a scorched earth war on “new atheism,” which will only make matters worse for all involved.

                      Why, especially if what he’s saying is true? Randal co-wrote a book with John Loftus – a move I thought was far too charitable, by the by, given Loftus’ track record. I think he tried, indeed bent over backwards, to give the benefit of the doubt, to be cheerful, to be positive, etc, where New Atheists were concerned. Loftus, meanwhile, behaved like Loftus, and the Cultists of Gnu behaved like the Cultists of Gnu.

                      Now, hot on the heels of books – again, enthusiastically endorsed by the Cult of Gnu – which radically misrepresents ‘faith’, treats belief in God as a mental illness that should be ‘cured’ by science and ‘interventions’ – he’s taking a stern tone. But he should stop because… I don’t know. Some people get upset when he doesn’t treat currently popular atheists all nicely?

                      Conversely, he could take a step back and try to genuinely understand what motivates many of the so-called new atheists and their growing number of “recruits” and try to really address those concerns.

                      Two problems. First, what’s the evidence that the new atheists in particular are growing in any meaningful way? Atheists are dissimilar from new atheists. If anything, it looks like the Cult of Gnu is on the downswing, even if mere irreligion is not.

                      Second, what makes you think their motivations are rational? That’s necessary for those concerns to be addressed – but if anything, thew New Atheists have shown the opposite. They’ve even endorsed using bullying tactics (Dawkins on the butt of contempt, Bog on the DSM-V) to force people to be silent.

                      Here’s something to consider: maybe you’re far too tolerant of what really comes across as, in essence, a hate group. To go back to your own example – maybe the problem with Al Qaeda beheading a bunch of schoolgirls isn’t ‘Gosh, now people are worked up and are saying Al Qaeda is a monstrous group. That’s hurtful and won’t promote thoughtful dialogue.’ Maybe the problem is not only Al Qaeda, but the person who is displaying limitless patience with Al Qaeda. (Especially if, by the by, that patience is far less limited in the other direction.)

                    • Jeff

                      Randal is certainly free to share his opinions and offer criticisms where he sees fit. But there’s a world of difference between the way in which he very carefully and courteously offers criticisms of, say, Paul Copan, and the way in which he has offered bizarre and outlandish, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later criticisms of, say, such thoughtful and amiable atheists as Jonathan Pearce and Counter Apologist. Randal doesn’t apparently see any difference, which is why he seems to think that I’m being hypocritical and selectively indignant for having never strongly objected to his criticisms of Copan, etc. But why should I object to those criticisms, if I generally agree with them and find them to be careful and courteous? If and when he decides to refer to Copan as “a company man, a mere bureaucrat in the state party, a ‘just tell me how to vote’ functionary,” then I’ll be truly shocked and I’ll ask him what the hell he’s thinking.

                      I think [Randal] tried, indeed bent over backwards, to give the benefit of the doubt, to be cheerful, to be positive, etc, where New Atheists were concerned. Loftus, meanwhile, behaved like Loftus, and the Cultists of Gnu behaved like the Cultists of Gnu.

                      I agree. Which is why his fairly recent change in ongoing tone and approach is so surprising to me.

                      He’s taking a stern tone.

                      I don’t mind a stern tone, every now and then, but he’s doing far more than that.

                      Second, what makes you think their motivations are rational?

                      Their motivations are perfectly rational, just as bin Laden’s seem to have been. Their tactics are sometimes reprehensible, but their motivations are certainly rational, even if mistaken in certain important respects (eg, the religion/violence relationship). But again, I think you’re looking too narrowly at this issue. It’s really not that much about Loftus, Boghossian, etc. It’s about others who share many of their concerns but haven’t been militarized into anti-theism. Look, I have a definite distaste for the tactics of many of the new atheists, but I’m very close to writing Randal off as contributing to the problem rather than to the solution.

                      You keep bringing up the beheadings of schoolgirls as some sort of appropriate analogy. Of course I drew the bin Laden analogy in the first place, but I just don’t see the relevance of the analogy to something so absurdly grotesque. The closest thing I can think of is perhaps the Westboro Baptist church or something along those absurdly reprehensible lines. By all means criticize and condemn that kind of stuff. But what would you think if, say, Jeff Lowder (or some similarly scholarly and courteous atheist) suddenly decided to start harping incessantly on the sins of the Ken Hams and Jerry Falwells of the world, almost completely ignoring any substantive engagement with scholarly theism? Mike D. put it pretty well on a recent thread:

                      We’ve got an (apparently) lousy populist polemic from a hack nonbeliever, and now a theologian who regularly gripes that atheists aren’t “charitable” enough goes and mocks the book right there in the title of his “review” by calling it a “manual for wasting paper” and uses its apparent popularity as a wedge to caricature and deride the intellectual rigor of the “atheist community”.

                      Glad to see that everyone’s drawn lines in the sand and is feeling a nice sense of smug superiority.

                      I’ve said what I can. Hopefully Randal will come to his senses at some point. Feel free to have the last word here…

            • Derek

              That’s sloppy and “martyr” thinking from your part, Randal.

              There is a way of serial killers *thinking* that is compared with Christian and apologists thinking. Maybe Christians in the Dark Ages could be compared to serial killers, but this is not the point.

              The point is the way of thinking. Read what a seral killer thinks: “”t was an urge. … A strong urge, and the longer I let it go the stronger it got, to where I was taking risks to go out and kill people — risks that normally, according to my little rules of operation, I wouldn’t take because they could lead to arrest.”

              Replace “to go out and kill”, with “to go out and proselytize”. I was Christian at least thinking that I have “an urge” to “spread the ‘Good News'” I know I was.

              There are other serial killer thinking ways similar to Christian way of thinking:
              – “Win” at least 3-4 people for Jesus
              – “Catch” strangers, at random.
              – Dominate sadistically the future converts, go after them, stalk them, knock at their doors.
              – The motive is not material but psychological
              – Every soul “won” is a symbol of value to you
              – Your victims are mostly the “sinners”

              Think Randal, think.

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

                Thanks for illuminating the way that apologists are like serial killers. I especially like the part where apologists “dominate sadistically” the future converts” just like serial killers “dominate sadistically” their victims.

                With sufficient imagination you can draw more flimsy and inflammatory comparisons between Christian apologists and an endless cast of undesirables including pedophiles, Beliebers, and mimes, etc.

                • RonH

                  I can’t believe it. You replied to Derek. You wasted perfectly good electrons. You.. you… serial electron killer!

                  • Kerk

                    Oha-ha-ha-haaaaa!

                  • Derek

                    You cannot deny that there are some similar traits in *thinking*, in regard to Christian apologists and serial killers.

                    I’ve read many people who are fascinated by how serial killers think, and it happened that I’ve read some conclusions of them, that reflected my life as as a Christian… or even Jesus: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

                    If you don’t open the door, you’ll be killed. You’ll be killed anyway because you’ll die one day. It’s not like the killer will spare your life because you opened the door. Oh? Is about the “other” life? Dream on!

                    • FallanFrank

                      Are you serious? Ive visited many forums discussing Christianity with atheists but your post is the dumbest Ive come across

                    • Derek

                      It looks dumb to you because you never did research on how serial killers *think*. The similarity is scaring you.

                      There are a lot of similarities between Christian thinking and serial killers thinking. (In parenthesis are the real words I experienced while being Christian)

                      – Kill at least 3-4 people for an idea. (“Win at least 3-4 souls for Jesus” said my pastor)
                      – Kill strangers, at random. (Go and nag people you don’t know, on the streets and the buses)
                      – Sadistically scare the victims, go after them, stalk them, knock at their doors.(Threaten them with eternal hell. Sure, the nowadays Christians changed the tune in regard to hell)
                      – The motive is not material but psychological (“Feel Jesus working through you”)
                      – Every victim is a symbol of value to you (“Every soul you win for God gets you into the heaven”)
                      – Your victims are mostly whores, homeless, vagabonds, etc. (“Save the sinners, they need Jesus”,said my pastor)
                      – Almost all serial killers start quoting one verse after another from the Christian Bible.

                      Oh, yea, none of the serial killers were “true” Christians. So the comparison fails, Amen and praised be the Lord.

                    • FallanFrank

                      Question: when you were a ” christian” what did Jesus mean to you….and what does He mean to you now your an atheist?

                    • FallanFrank

                      Looking at this post to be honest with you it feels full of menace… and whoever the pastor was in the church you attended sounds like the charlatons you see on tv banging out the prosperity message.Jesus warned us about such
                      false teachers.
                      He came not only for those youve mentioned prostitutes,vagabonds etc but all those who need to be saved which includes judges.. Kings..Queens..rich and poor.Your analogy of serial killing to Jesus message of salvation shows how far you have rejected Christ.

              • Billy Squibs

                Derek, you are on to something big here and I’ve accordingly “up voted” you.

                I’m afraid can’t stay and chat. But before I go I want to thank you for revealing to me the following parallels between the thought processes of serial killers, Christians and another discrete group.

                To illustrate this I’m going to replace “go out and proselytize” with “go out and buy a sandwich and Mars bar”. Because the horrible truth is I would “murder” some food right now (a common expression in my country). I have a strong urge to “feast” on bread, flesh (both common themes in Christianity. Is this a coincidence? I think not!) and lettuce (which isn’t so common). The longer I let it go the stronger the urge becomes.

                Again, note how this is similar to a Christian and a serial killer’s way of thinking. Therefore there is no God.

                Moreover,

                1) I’m going to walk to the shops and once there I’ll carefully “select my prey” and then “stalk” it as I wait in the queue.
                2) I’ll then “catch my prey”.
                3) In methodical and ritualistic fashion I’ll “sacrifice” and “devour” the “food offering” at my own personal “alter” – i.e., I’ll sit at my desk and eat my sandwich and Mars Bar.
                3) Tomorrow I’ll methodically repeat the process.
                4) My “victims” are mostly Mars Bars and my material and psychological need for them will never be sated.
                5) Oh! I nearly forgot. Therefore there is no God

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL2DScAhRVI

                (P.S. Sorry for any offence the satire may have caused, Derek. But your defence of an already terrible post form Loftus was especially calamitous. With allies like you…)

            • Just Sayin’

              Probably what converted Derek.

          • Jeff

            I agree that some of the rhetoric from Loftus, Boghossian, etc, is very inflammatory and even dangerous, and ought to be challenged.

            What I’m trying to argue is that the most effective way to counter this is not by getting into pissing contests. Rather, it’s by taking a step back, trying to understand what motivates this kind of stuff, and addressing those motivating concerns to whatever extent may be possible.

            It seems to me that the primary concern of many of the so-called new atheists is related to their misunderstanding of the role of religious ideology with violence. Specifically, they seem to think that most of the terrorism around the globe is motivated primarily by religious ideology. But that’s a critical misunderstanding. Geopolitical concerns are the primary motivation. Refer to the careful and exhaustive research of Robert Pape and his team. If this truth were to gain significant traction in the public consciousness, new atheism would lose the most of the sharpness of its teeth. Along other lines, when the evangelical world at large finally comes to fully welcome the participation of women and the LGBT community (and it will, soon enough), another primary grievance of the new atheists will have been addressed. Same thing with environmental concerns. Etc.

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

              “the most effective way to counter this is not by getting into pissing contests.”

              Once again you show you don’t have a clue. This is an insulting and degrading statement. I provide a careful analytic critique and rather than engage it with a modicum of charity you berate me as engaging in a “pissing contest”. Pull that sequoia out of your eye.

              • Jeff

                If I were the only one offering these kinds of complaints to you, then yes, chances are that the problem would lie solely on my end. But many of your commenters, even your fellow Christians, seem to have been taken aback by the direction in which your blog has been heading recently. That’s all I can say, I guess.

    • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

      Hear, hear. Back in October Randal said he wants the blog to be “a positive forum for critical reflection and mutually enriching discussion.” I think it’s safe to say that posts like this do not align with that goal.

      The post just below this one on “testimonial underdetermination” is evidence that Randal can still do it right – substantive, charitable, thought-provoking.

      • Guest

        I usually don’t agree with you Mike,but you’re absolutely right on this one

    • FallanFrank

      Perhaps Jesus should come under your condemnation Jeff calling the Pharisees a nest of vipers and whited sepulchres also driving the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip…I find to often Christians are timid in their responses to attacks by atheists especially the likes of Loftus and Boghossian. So Randal please be intimidated by those Christians who are asking you to cool down your response I for one enjoy it.

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

        “So Randal please be intimidated by those Christians who are asking you to cool down your response”

        Just for the record, Jeff isn’t a Christian. And, interestingly enough, he never protests when I subject Christians to the same scalpel (e.g. with respect to biblical violence). His moral indignation only turns on when it comes to criticizing atheists.

        • FallanFrank

          Then he must be one of the “old breed” of quite affable atheists as he fooled me with his laid back approach to you.. Lesson1: find out first who the poster is

          • Jeff

            That’s pretty funny, I’ll happily admit!

      • Reynoldsp

        .I find to often Christians are timid in their responses to attacks by atheists especially the likes of Loftus and Boghossian.

        And then there are cowards like yourself who run in screaming something filled with hate and then run away when challenged in the slightest.

        • Billy Squibs

          Huh?

        • FallanFrank

          I was trying to figure out where I had come across someone very similar to you who kept using the same word….you Reynolds cant stop yourself using coward and this other atheist on a previous forum kept using…oh thats right coward….im wondering if you are the same just started shaving teenager I used to debate with but using a different name… maybe not.I think there are some atheists who through frustration resort to personal attacks which shows a lack of intelligent debating skills…but like Ive said Im content in my faith it seems you have a problem with yours..have a nice day!