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.