My original intention was to write a single, long review of John Loftus’ magnum opus. Given the substantial length of the book (536 pages) this was a goal that would have to wait until August of this year. However, I’ve had a change of heart. After finding some time to read the first three chapters I’ve decided to do a multi-part review and to kick it off with a few articles engaging with the first three chapters.
Before I get to the book, let me address some comments John Loftus made in my blog when he learned I was going to be reviewing his book. (See the discussion in “Two new books for review.”) He lists off six points. I’ll quote and respond to three of them.
First, he writes:
“I share my personal story from beginning to end (last chapter). The story itself has nothing to do with the actual arguments I present in the book as a whole. My challenge for you and other Christian apologists is to do the same thing. But they refuse, writing apologetic books as if the reasons they believe are purely intellectual. Not so. Be honest. Tell us YOUR story if you wish to critique mine.”
I appreciate John’s desire to share his story. But his claim that all other contributors to the discussion are obliged to “share their story” if they are to be “honest” and have the right to critique John is sheer hokum. Are literary critics obliged to write their own autobiography before they provide a critical review of Hilary Clinton’s Hard Choices? Are film critics obliged to direct their own summer blockbuster before they pan the latest Transformers flick? Uh no.
Regardless, I am not going to be critiquing John’s story. Though I do find that it provides some insight into his inability to adopt a nuanced approach to his subject matter, a point I will be returning to later. But for now let me know that the critical aspects of the review will be focused on the arguments in the book, not John’s autobiographical elements.
Second, John makes the following request:
“So I request you read through the whole book before you review any part of it. The whole of it depends on the sum of its parts.”
Request denied. If chapter two provides a spurious analysis of epistemology (it does, as I will explain later), another four hundred pages is not going to change anything. So I will proceed to review the various chapters of the book in the order I prefer. If John believes there are specific instances where an analysis I provide is in error because of a discussion elsewhere in the book, he is invited to offer a particular correction. But vague statements about how one must read the whole to critique the sum of the parts can safely be dismissed. (Unless John think atheists need to have read the entire Bible to critique any of it?)
Third, John observes:
“I know you have gone nuclear ever since Boghossian’s book. Remember I’m a person, a human being, and an intellectual. Model for the rest of us how to dispassionately and fairly review a book and we shall all thank you.”
Oh the richness of the irony. I wrote multiple articles carefully documenting and refuting the bigoted statements, fallacious definitions and errant analyses of Boghossian’s book. So how did Loftus respond to my sustained critique? He made a single statement that my critiques and those of other critics don’t matter because Boghossian wrote his book for other atheists (as if writing for atheists provides an excuse for bigoted statements, fallacious definitions and errant analyses).
I responded by pointing out that Loftus was admitting here that Boghossian doesn’t care about the truth of his claims. (See here.) Loftus then responded to my article by writing a response seething with outrage in which he called me a liar multiple times. Interestingly, he later deleted that entire post, an act which I take to be a tacit admission that my initial analysis was, in fact, accurate.
Not surprisingly, he has still refused to provide any defense of Boghossian against the multiple critiques I’ve raised.
So if the Boghossian fiasco is any guide, it would seem that Loftus considers any sustained critique which an author is unable to answer as “going nuclear”. In that case, as we speak I am readying my missile silos for launch against Why I Became an Atheist. I recommend any devoted fans of the book seek cover immediately. (Hey, I just wanted to write a review. But Loftus has left me no other option but to go nuclear.)