bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 9: Analysis of Reason #9

A KEY PASSAGE FROM PART 2 OF THIS SERIES:
It appears to me that just as Chapter 5 is the heart of the book, and that the 10 Reasons are the heart of Chapter 5, so also I believe that Reason #9 (which concerns opposition to “faith-based claims”) for ending philosophy of religion is at the heart of the 10 Reasons.
If I can shove a sharp dagger into Reason #9, then I believe that will kill the beast, and stop the beating of the heart of Loftus’ case against the philosophy of religion.
Here is a diagram illustrating my high-level view of Unapologetic  (for a clearer view of the diagram, click on the image below):
Unapologetic - Venn Diagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Conversely, if I cannot manage to demolish or seriously damage Reason #9, then that will be a good indication that Loftus has made a strong case for his conclusion, even if some of the other points (e.g. the theme about PoR being “parochial” in nature) are weak and inadequate reasons.
Christian apologists are fond of saying that “Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus”, and I think a similar kind of point applies here:
Loftus’ case against the philosophy of religion stands or falls with Reason #9.
Thus, a very good place to start an evaluation of this book, is on page 135, where Loftus spells out Reason #9.
 
ANALYSIS OF THE ARGUMENT GIVEN AS REASON #9
The core argument at the heart of the book Unapologetic can be reconstructed from a single sentence:
If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.  (Unapologetic, p.135)
The basic logical structure of this argument is a modus ponens:

IF P, THEN Q.

P

THEREFORE 

Q

Main Argument – Initial version:

IF philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion and religion is based on faith, THEN philosophy of religion must end.

Philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion and religion is based on faith.

THEREFORE 

Philosophy of religion must end.

For clarity of analysis, let’s separate the conjunction in the second premise into two separate claims.
Main Argument – Revision 1:

1..IF philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion and religion is based on faith, THEN philosophy of religion must end.

2. Philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion.

3. Religion is based on faith.

THEREFORE 

4. Philosophy of religion must end.

The subject of premise (3) is a bit vague, but based on the content of premise (2) as well as other statements Loftus makes in presenting this argument, it is clear that it is “the claims of religion” that Loftus believes are “based on faith”:
Main Argument – Revision 2:

1a..IF philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion and the claims of religion are based on faith, THEN philosophy of religion must end.

2. Philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion.

3a. The claims of religion are based on faith.

THEREFORE 

4. Philosophy of religion must end.

Premise (3a) is an improvement over the initial premise (3), but it still has a problem of unclarity, specifically in terms of QUANTIFICATION.  I am going to interpret (3a) as asserting a universal generalization to ensure that the logic of this argument is deductively valid.  If the universal generalization turns out to be false, then (at that point) we can consider weaker versions of this generalization.
Main Argument – Revision 3:

1b..IF philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion and ALL of the claims of ALL religions are based on faith, THEN philosophy of religion must end.

2. Philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the claims of religion.

3b. ALL of the claims of ALL religions are based on faith.

THEREFORE 

4. Philosophy of religion must end.

A key point in Loftus’ reasoning is the idea that ALL of the claims examined in the philosophy of religion are based on faith.  If this universal generalization is false, then that would open the door to separating the non-faith-based issues in philosophy of religion from the faith-based issues, and thus potentially leave philosophy of religion standing, just with a smaller scope of relevant issues.  In order to ensure the universal generalization that ALL of the claims examined in the philosophy of religion are based on faith, the scope of philosophy of religion must be restricted to examination of ONLY “the claims of religion”.
Main Argument – Revision 4:

1c..IF philosophy of religion is using reason to examine ONLY the claims of religion and ALL of the claims of ALL religions are based on faith, THEN philosophy of religion must end.

2a. Philosophy of religion is using reason to examine ONLY the claims of religion.

3b. ALL of the claims of ALL religions are based on faith.

THEREFORE 

4. Philosophy of religion must end.

Some key bits of reasoning given in support of premise (1c) are these:
A reasonable faith does not exist, nor can faith be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.  The claims of religious faith via PoR cannot be reasonably defended. (Unapologetic, p.135)
There are some things philosophers should not take seriously to remain as serious intellectuals.  A faith-based claim is one of them. (Unapologetic, p.135)
From these comments by Loftus, I infer that one of his assumptions is this:
5. ANY claim that is based on faith cannot be reasonably defended.
I also infer that one of his conclusions that is based on (5) is this:
6. Philosophers ought NOT recognize and participate in an alleged sub-discipline of philosophy that uses reason to examine ONLY claims that are based on faith.
If I am correct about (5) and (6) being important assumptions in Loftus’ reasoning here, then this indicates a way to further clarify premise (1c) as well as the conclusion of the argument.
Main Argument – Revision 5:

1d..IF philosophy of religion is using reason to examine ONLY the claims of religion and ALL of the claims of ALL religions are based on faith, THEN philosophers ought NOT recognize and participate in the philosophy of religion (as an alleged sub-discipline of philosophy).

2a. Philosophy of religion is using reason to examine ONLY the claims of religion.

3b. ALL of the claims of ALL religions are based on faith.

THEREFORE 

4a. Philosophers ought NOT recognize and participate in the philosophy of religion (as an alleged sub-discipline of philosophy).

Premise (5) is a reason in support of premise (6), and premise (6) is a reason in support of premise (1d).  Premises (1d), (2a), and (3b) work together to form a valid deductive argument for the conclusion (4a).  Here is an argument diagram showing the logic of the main argument in Unapologetic with the conclusion of the argument at the top, and the supporting premises beneath the conclusion (for a clearer view of the diagram, click on the image below):
Reason #9 - Later Analysis
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the next post in this series I will evaluate this argument.

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 7: Two Definitions of “Faith”

The Two Main Definitions of “Faith” in Unapologetic
There are seven short statements in Unapologetic that appear to be definitions of the word “faith”.  The definition given in Chapter 1 (p.37) is an incomplete version of the definition given in Chapter 2.  The definition given in Chapter 2 is clear and worthy of serious consideration:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (Unapologetic, Chapter 2, p. 55)
There is no definition of “faith” given in Chapter 3.  The definition in Chapter 4 is unclear because of metaphorical language (“gives believers permission to…”) and it is problematic because of a difficult-to-discern condition (“to pretend what they believe is true”).  The defintion in Chapter 5 is unclear because of use of a metaphorical expression (“an irrational leap over the probabilities”).  The definition given in Chapter 6 is clear (and it is repeated verbatum in Chapter 8, on page 194):
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, Chapter 6, p.152)
The definition in Chapter 7 is similar to the definition in Chapter 2, but is less detailed, and the key element of this definition can be added to the definition given in Chapter 2 to enhance that definition.
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claim in question.
The two clearest definitions of “faith” given in Unapologetic are the definitions in Chapter 2 and in Chapter 6.
These two definitions can each be summed up in just two words.  The definition in Chapter 2 (and the modified version of it) are clearly definitions of CONFIRMATION BIAS.  So, the Chapter 2 definition can be summarized like this:
FAITH = CONFIRMATION BIAS
Three different categories of trust are referenced by the definition in Chapter 6:

  • unevidenced trust
  • misplaced trust
  • irrational trust

I have argued that “unividenced trust” is insignificant because it is rare, and I have argued that “misplaced trust” is sometimes unavoidable, because the evidence available to a specific person is sometimes misleading, and because some people are skilled at deceiving others, so that even a serious effort to trust others based on objective evaluation of evidence will sometimes fail to uncover an untrustworthy person.
What matters in terms of “misplaced trust” is when such bad trusting is the result of “irrational trust”, when one ignores or downplays significant evidence indicating that a person (or thing) is unworthy of trust.  So, in the end, the key element of the definition in Chapter 6 is just ONE of the three kinds of bad trusting:
FAITH = IRRATIONAL TRUST
 
At Least One of These Two Definitions is WRONG
Clearly  CONFIRMATION BIAS is something different from IRRATIONAL TRUST.  So, at least one of these two definitions of “faith” must be wrong.  CONFIRMATION BIAS is a type of cognitive bias, but IRRATIONAL TRUST is not a type of cognitive bias.  IRRATIONAL TRUST is an attitude of a person towards another person or thing, but CONFIRMATION BIAS is not an attitude of a person towards another person or thing.  Therefore CONFIRMATION BIAS is something different than IRRATIONAL TRUST.  These two definitions disagree about the genus of faith; they disagree about what kind of thing “faith” is:

  • If  FAITH = CONFIRMATION BIAS, then it is NOT the case that FAITH = IRRATIONAL TRUST.
  • If FAITH = IRRATIONAL TRUST, then it is NOT the case that FAITH = CONFIRMATION BIAS.

Since the two clearest definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic disagree about the genus of faith, and because they equate “faith” with two differnt and distinct phenomena,  at least one of these two definitions must be wrong, mistaken, incorrect.  So, the meaning of the most important concept in Unapologetic is unclear, because the two clearest definitions of “faith” provided in Unapologetic disagree with each other.
 
Both of These Two Definitions are WRONG
 
Faith is Not CONFIRMATION BIAS
I have previously indicated two reasons why FAITH does not mean CONFIRMATION BIAS.
First, the term CONFIRMATION BIAS was invented in the second half of the 20th century, and it is a term of scientific psychology. But the word FAITH has been a part of the English language for over six centuries, so it is unlikely that the word FAITH would just happen to have the same meaning as a recently invented scientific term.
Second, the word FAITH is closely associated with religion and religious belief.  Paradigm cases of FAITH are “faith in God”, “faith in Jesus”, and “faith in the Bible”.  The scientific term CONFIRMATION BIAS has no such association with religion or religious belief. CONFIRMATION BIAS infects the thinking of humans about nearly every subject imaginable:  history, politics, ethics, biology, medicine, finances, economics, government, law, personal relationships, child rearing, problem solving, planning, policy making, elections, decision making, etc.  Furthermore, CONFIRMATION BIAS has widspread and frequent influence on the thinking of non-religious people, just as it also has widespread and frequent influence on the thinking of religious people.
Third, the word FAITH is a word in the English language, and the English language has been significantly influenced by the Christian religion, and the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels are a central and important aspect of the Christian religion, and Jesus uses the word “faith” (in English translations of the Gospels) in a way that does NOT correspond to the term CONFIRMATION BIAS:
Matthew 16:5-12 New Revised Standard Version
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.
6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.”
8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread?
9 Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”
12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus is scolding his disciples for not having a proper amount of FAITH, for not trusting that God would provide them with enough food to carry out their divine mission.  Jesus points out that they have personally witnessed at least two different miracles on different occassions where God provided them and thousands of other people with plenty of food.  In other words, Jesus is saying that they ought to have greater trust in God being willing and able to provide them with food, based on the powerful evidence of directly observing at least two different miracles where God had provided food for thousands of people.
Clearly,  Jesus is NOT advocating that his disciples believe that God is willing and able to provide them with food in the face of powerful evidence against this assumption; rather Jesus is advocating that he disciples ought to have a firm belief that God is willing and able to provide them with food, given that they have personally experienced at least two miracles where God provided food for them and thousands of other people. Jesus was clearly NOT advocating CONFIRMATION BIAS to his disciples, but was, rather, advocating that they have firm belief or trust in God on the basis of strong evidence for this belief.
Of course,  I don’t believe that any such miracles of feeding actually took place, and I’m not entirely convinced that Jesus is more than just a fictional character in a mostly fictional story told by the authors of the Gospels.  However, such skeptical views about the historicity of the Gospels and about Jesus, are irrelevant to understanding the meaning of the word FAITH as it is used in this particular Gospel story.  Clearly,  the Jesus who is speaking (whether fictional or historical) believes that his disciples have witnessed at least two miracles where God provided food for thousands of people.  Clearly, this Jesus believes that this powerful empirical evidence can be the basis or ground for FAITH or firm trust in God, particularly trust that God is willing and able to provide Jesus and his disciples with enough food to eat.
When Jesus speaks of FAITH in the above passage it is clear that Jesus does NOT mean CONFIRMATION BIAS.
 
Faith is Not IRRATIONAL TRUST
First, the word FAITH is closely associated with religion and religious belief.  Paradigm cases of FAITH are “faith in God”, “faith in Jesus”, and “faith in the Bible”.  The phrase IRRATIONAL TRUST has no such association with religion or religious belief. IRRATIONAL TRUST infects the thinking of humans about people, animals, machines, foods, medicines, etc.  It is not limited to trust in God or trust in Jesus, or trust in spirits or angels.  Furthermore, IRRATIONAL TRUST has widspread and frequent influence on the thinking and behavior of non-religious people, just as it also has widespread and frequent influence on the thinking and behavior of religious people.
Second, the expression “blind faith” would be redundant, if FAITH meant IRRATIONAL TRUST.  “Blind” faith implies belief or trust that ignores relevant evidence, especially evidence that the object of trust is unworthy of trust.  So, the word “blind” implies IRRATIONAL, when it is used as a modifier of the word FAITH. Thus “blind faith” means IRRATIONAL FAITH.  So, if FAITH means IRRATIONAL TRUST, then “blind faith” means IRRATIONAL TRUST that is IRRATIONAL.  But in that case the word “blind” is completely redundant and adds nothing to what was already contained in the concept of FAITH.  This is a good reason to doubt the view that FAITH = IRRATIONAL TRUST.
Third, although FAITH is closely associated with religion, we can also speak of “faith in science”, and “faith in reason”, and “faith in democracy”.   Although such FAITH could in some cases be IRRATIONAL TRUST, it is generally reasonable and rational to have “faith in science”, “faith in reason”, and “faith in democracy”,  so in these non-religious uses of the word “faith”  it is wrong to assume that FAITH = IRRATIONAL TRUST.
Fourth, the word FAITH is a word in the English language, and the English language has been significantly influenced by the Christian religion, and the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels are a central and important aspect of the Christian religion, and Jesus uses the word “faith” (in English translations of the Gospels) in a way that does NOT correspond to the phrase  IRRATIONAL TRUST. (see the discussion of the Gospel passage above).  When Jesus speaks of FAITH in Matthew 16:5-12,  it is clear that Jesus does NOT mean IRRATIONAL TRUST.
 
Could Each of These Definitions be Partially True?
We could make use of the distinction between product and process to combine the two definitions:
FAITH =
IRRATIONAL TRUST that was produced by CONFIRMATION BIAS
Although this is an interesting concept, it is highly problematic as a definition of “faith”, because most, if not all, of the above objections to the two clear definitions of “faith” provided by Loftus apply to this definition.  Furthermore, this definition increases the problem of the significance of “faith” by reducing the scope of phenomena included under the concept of “faith”.
I agree that CONFIRMATION BIAS is a bad thing.   I agree that IRRATIONAL TRUST is a bad thing.  But in each case, it seems to me that to make a crusade that is worth joining, these targets seem a bit too small.  Why not fight against ALL forms of cognitive bias?  Why only focus on CONFIRMATION BIAS?  Why not fight against ALL forms of irrationality?  Why only focus on IRRATIONAL TRUST?  The target of Mr. Loftus’ crusade seems a bit skimpy already, but if we combine the two definitions, then the dragon to be slayed shrinks down to the size of a small dog or large rodent (perhaps a ROUS – Rodent Of Unusual Size). Not only are we to focus narrowly on IRRATIONAL TRUST, but we are to ignore all instances of IRRATIONAL TRUST that are not produced by the specific mechanisms of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
If the scope of the crusade is pared down to a fight against only a modest slice of instances of IRRATIONAL TRUST, then I’m not willing to join this crusade.  It might be realistic to tackle this fairly narrow slice of human IRRATIONALITY, but I think more than this is needed to justify a crusade.  Furthermore, the combined definition, like the two original definitions, has no close relationship to religion or religious belief.  This slice of IRRATIONAL TRUST is one that infects and impacts the thinking and actions of non-religious people and thinking about non-religious issues about as much as it infects and impacts the thinking and actions of religious people and thinking about religious issues.

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 6: Faith as Irrational Trust

Some Key Points from Part 5
Mr. Loftus is on a crusade against FAITH, and his book Unapologetic, is a part of this crusade.  But before any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. someone who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join this crusade, Loftus needs to clearly specify the purpose of the crusade, and that means that Loftus needs to provide a clear definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith”.  In particular, he needs to clearly specify what it is that he means by the word “faith”, so that others can make a rational decision as to whether or not to join Loftus’ crusade against faith.
In Part 5 of this series we examined a definition of “faith” that Loftus gives in Chapter 2 of Unapologetic:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (Unapologetic, p. 55)
I also proposed a modified version of this definition, which borrows a key element from a definition of “faith” that Loftus gave in Chapter 7:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence [for claims that they believe], which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claim in question.
On either of these definitions, the meaning of the word “faith” is the same as the meaning of the psychological term “confirmation bias”.
If “faith” just means “confirmation bias”, then I and many other atheists and skeptics would be glad to join Loftus’ crusade; however, there are some problems that result if Loftus is  asserting that the word “faith” means the same thing as “confirmation bias”:  (1) this raises doubt about the correctness of this definition because it seems very unlikely that a word that has been part of the English language for more than six centuries would happen to have the very same meaning as a modern term of scientific psychology which was invented in the second half of the 20th century (i.e. “confirmation bias”),  (2) it seems foolish to drag the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray, if the enemy to be vanquished is “confirmation bias”, because an attack on “faith” will provoke serious political, social, and psychological resistance (much more than an attack on “confirmation bias”),   (3) “confirmation bias” is a universal human problem that is NOT confined to religious believers; it is a widespread cause of serious intellectual deficiencies for both religious and non-religious people.
Faith As Irrational Trust
Loftus also provides a different definition of “faith” in Chapter 6:
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152)
This definition appears to be an important one to Loftus, because he repeats it verbatum in Chapter 8 (Unapologetic, p.194).
Is this a better or less problematic definition of “faith” than the definition from Chapter 2?
This can be viewed as a genus/species definition, where the genus of “faith” is trust, and the species of “faith” is irrational (or unevidenced or misplaced).   Faith is a particular kind of trust, namely trust that is irrational.  Faith, according to this definition, is a sub-category of trust.  All instances of faith are instances of trusting something or someone, but not all instances of trusting something or someone are instances of faith.
Loftus does not provide clarification of the adjectives used in this definition: “irrational” and “unevidenced” and “misplaced”.  He does not indicate whether these three terms represent three different categories of trust, or if two of the words are being used to point to one kind of trust (“irrational” and “unevidenced” being closely-related ideas) and the third word relates to a different kind of trust (thus pointing to two different categories of trust), or if all three words are being used to describe one single category of trust.
Because Loftus provides no details about this definition, we are left to guess at his meaning (this is NOT the way those who sit at the adult table usually present definitions of very important words).  I take it that “irrational trust” and “unevidenced trust” and “misplaced trust” represent three distictly different categories of trust, and I will now attempt to explain how these concepts differ from each other.

  1. IRRATIONAL TRUST does not imply UNEVIDENCED TRUST (because one can have some evidence that a person P is worthy of trust and yet also have much stronger evidence indicating that the person P is unworthy of trust).
  2. UNEVIDENCED TRUST does not imply IRRATIONAL TRUST (because a newborn infant is about the only person who would have zero evidence to trust a person P, and thus be capable of having unevidenced trust in person P, but such trust in P by a newborn infant would not count as irrational trust).
  3. IRRATIONAL TRUST does not imply MISPLACED TRUST (because the person S who trusts person P might have evidence that strongly indicates that P is unworthy of trust, even though person P is in fact worthy of trust–evidence can sometimes point in the wrong direction).
  4. MISPLACED TRUST does not imply IRRATIONAL TRUST (because person P might in fact be unworthy of trust, so that person S’s trust in person P is misplaced trust, and yet the evidence that person S has could strongly support the view that P is worthy of trust–since evidence can sometimes be misleading).
  5. UNEVIDENCED TRUST does not imply MISPLACED TRUST (because even if a person  S has no evidence indicating that person P is worthy of trust,  S’s placing trust in P might not be misplaced trust, because P might in fact be worthy of trust).
  6. MISPLACED TRUST does not imply UNEVIDENCED TRUST (because person P in fact be unworthy of trust, so that person S’s trust in P is misplaced trust,  and yet S might have some evidence indicating that P is worthy of trust).

I take it that “misplaced trust” is an external or objective phenomenon that is NOT relative to the evidence possessed by some specific individual.  I also take it that “irrational trust” and “unevidenced trust” are internal or subjective phenomena that ARE relative to the evidence possessed by some specific individual.  Different people can be in possession of different bits of evidence, so the rationality or irrationality of person S’s trust for person P depends on the specific bits of evidence that happen to be possessed by S during the time when S trusts P.  The same goes for “unevidenced trust”.
I understand “misplaced trust” to be an external or objective phenomenon that is primarily concerned with whether the object of trust is in fact worthy of trust.  Thus:

Person S has MISPLACED TRUST in person P  if and only if:  

(a) person S trusts person P, and

(b) person P is unworthy of trust. 

In the above comparisons of “unevidenced trust” with “irrational trust” and with “misplaced trust” I interpreted “unevidenced trust” to mean that one person trusts person P while having zero evidence in support of the view that P is worthy of trust.  But perhaps that sense of this phrase is too strong, since only a newborn infant would be in a position to have zero evidence about whether to trust a person.  The rest of us almost always have some relevant evidence based on past experiences with trusting other people, and in most cases we have some relevant evidence about the appearance and demeanor of the person in question, which is relevant to making such judgements (even if not very significant), or we have some relevant evidence based on past experiences with some category of people to which this particular person belongs.  So “unevidenced trust” might not mean trust that is based on ZERO evidence relevant to whether the person in question is worthy of trust, but might instead mean something like having ZERO evidence based directly on the past actions and behavior of that specific person.
If “unevidenced trust” just means trusting a person without having any evidence based directly on the past actions and behavior of that specific person, then one could have rational trust in a person P, even if that trust was “unevidenced trust”, since one might have other information that supports the view that person P is worthy of trust.  Thus, “unevidenced trust” on this weaker interpretation still does not imply “irrational trust”.
Shoud We Join this Crusade against “faith”?
Should we be willing to join a crusade against trust in something or someone when that trust is either “irrational trust” or “unevidenced trust” or “misplaced trust”?
Misplaced trust is clearly a bad thing, but it is unavoidable to an extent, because even when one makes a serious effort to trust people only when the available evidence indicates that a person is worthy of trust, we are still going to make some mistakes and end up trusting some people who are in fact unworthy of trust.  This is because evidence can sometimes be misleading, and because it can often be difficult to determine that a person is unworthy of trust, especially if that person is good at deceiving others.  It would be good to try to reduce the amount of “misplaced trust” in the world, but we are going to have to live with a significant amount of “misplaced trust” even if we get nearly everyone to be more rational about what and whom they trust.
Should we be willing to join a crusade against “unevidenced trust”?  In the strong sense of “unevidenced trust” where this means trusting a person P when one has ZERO evidence in support of the view that person P is worthy of trust, then I would not join such a crusade, because “unevidenced trust” is extremely rare, and probably only occurs in newborn infants.  We have no way to persaude newborn infants to alter their behavior, since they have not yet mastered basic language skills, so there would be no point to such a crusade.
Furthermore, if we understand “unevidenced trust” in a weaker sense where this means trusting a person P when one has ZERO evidence based directly on the past actions and behavior of that specific person, then I would not be inteterested in joining a crusade against “unevidenced trust”, because we can have other sorts of evidence for making rational decisions about whether to trust a person.  So, in this weaker sense of “unevidenced trust” such trust is often not such a bad thing.
If there is anything called out by the definition of “faith” in Chapter 6  that is worthy of fighting against, it is “irrational trust”.  Irrationality is something that critical thinkers oppose, and something that we who sit at the adult table are very concerned about.  Human beings are the “rational animal” in the sense that we are THINKING animals, but our thinking is very often biased, illogical, unclear, confused, ignorant, and unreasonable.  We humans are perhaps better named the “irrational animal”, as evidenced by the recent election of an ignorant, racist, bigoted, idiotic demagogue as president of the United States of America.  Perhaps “irrational trust” in something or someone, is an evil that is worthy of a crusade.
But “irrationality” is more than a problem concerning who we decide to trust.  Irrationality affects and infects all of our thinking, all of our believing, and all of our decisions.  So, why not make the crusade against irrationality in general?  Why focus on only irrational trusting?  Furthermore, if we are going to focus in on just one area of irrationality for a crusade, why not irrationality in elections? or irrationality in decision making?  I’m not yet convinced that irrational trusting should be at the top of our list of priorities.
Suppose, however, that I am mistaken, and that irrational trust ought to be at or near the top of our list of evils to fight and overcome.  Some of the same objections that I had about a crusade against confirmation bias apply here.  If irrational trust is the dragon that we wish to slay, then why bring the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray?  This will provoke a serious amount of political, social, and psycological resistance, so it seems foolish to make “faith” the target of a crusade, when it is actually “irrational trust” that we want to reduce or eliminate.
Irrational trust of things and persons is a universal human problem.  This is not something that is isolated just to Christian believers, nor to religious persons.  If every religious person in the world were to vanish into thin air tonight at midnight, in the morning the world would still be populated by people who frequently engage in irrational trust of things and persons.  Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, marxists, secular humanists, communists, and every sort of “none-of-the-above” non-religious person engages in irrational trust in things and persons.  Irrational trust is a universal human problem, not just a problem for religious people.
Finally,  I myself view Christian trust in Jesus, and Christian trust in God, as irrational trust, as trust that is not reasonable and rationally justifiable (Loftus and I agree on this point).  But I think that one important way of helping people to see that their trust in someone is irrational, is to challenge them to defend the reasonableness of this trust with reasons and arguments, and then to point out problems in, and objections to, the reasons and arguments that they provide in response to this challenge (including problems with lack of factual evidence, or with questionable factual claims and assumptions).
When we challenge Christian believers to rationally justify their trust in Jesus or trust in God, and when we criticize reasons and arguments they provide in support of trusting in Jesus or trusting in God, we are DOING philosophy of religion.  So, if we are going to join a crusade against “irrational trusting”, then an important part of that crusade would require that we engage in some philosophy of religion.
 

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 5: The Meaning of “Faith”

The Beating Heart of Unapologetic
The heart of the book Unapologetic is Chapter 5:  “Why Philosophy of Religion Must End”, and the heart of Chapter 5 is the Ten Reasons that Loftus gives for this conclusion (in the subsection of Chapter 5  titled “Why Philosophy of Relgion Must End,” on pages 131-135), and the heart of the Ten Reasons is in Reason #9 (on page 135).  And at the heart of the argument given as Reason #9 is this premise:
…faith-based reasoning must end.  (Unapologetic, p.135)
It is not an overstatement to say that Mr. Loftus is a crusader against faith, and that this book is a part of his crusade against faith.  This is made clear from the start of the book, beginning with the Introduction:
Philosophy of religion must end because there is no truth to religion.  Religion must end because it isn’t based on evidence, but rather on faith.  Faith must end because it is the antithesis of an intellectual virtue.  Faith has no objective method and solves no problems.  Faith-based belief processes are unreliable.  Faith cannot tell us anything about matters of fact like the nature of nature, its workings, or even its origins.  If faith is trust then there is no reason to trust faith.  (Unapologetic, p.13, emphasis added)
The dividing line is between atheist philosophers who think faith has some epistemic warrant and those who don’t.  I don’t.  Faith has no method, solves no problems, and is an utterly unreliable guide for knowing anything objective about the nature of nature.  (Unapologetic, p.14-15, emphasis added)
There is further confirmation in Chapter 1 (“My Intellectual Journey”) that the dragon Mr. Loftus wants to slay is “faith”.  In Chapter 1 we learn that Loftus did not invent this crusade himself, but joined in an already existing crusade against faith led by Peter Boghossian:
Boghossian first got my attention a year before I read his provocatively titled book, A Manual for Creating Atheists.  I first heard of him when a talk he gave titled “Faith Based Belief Processes are Unreliable” hit the web in April 2012.  He began by critically examining several paranormal beliefs where faith was shown to be unreliable for gaining knowledge. …he said, “We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional.  There is no other conclusion that one can draw.”  …[and] he said, “The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it’s likely to be false.”  He had a way of putting things that resonated with me.  Faith itself is the problem.  (Unapologetic, p.32, emphasis added)
Before I, or any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join Loftus in his crusade against “faith”, we need to have a very clear understanding of what Loftus means by the word “faith”.
Rush Limbaugh’s Crusade Against “Liberalism” 
Rush Limbaugh is undeniably on a crusade against “liberalism”.  But before I, or any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join Limbaugh in this crusade, we need to understand what Limbaugh means by “liberalism”.
I think that Limbaugh has no clue what the word “liberalism” means.  This word is just an unclear insult that Limbaugh casts upon any person or any law or any policy or any program that Rush Limbaugh happens to dislike.
If Limbaugh dislikes X this week, then X becomes a “liberal” policy or program or person.  If Limbaugh changes his mind, and decides that he likes X next week, then X will cease to be a “liberal” policy or program or person, and it will magically and instananeously become a “conservative” policy or program or person.  So, one ought NOT to join Limbaugh in his crusade against “liberalism” because that would simply mean joining a crusade against whatever it is that Limbaugh happens to dislike this week.
One ought NOT to join a crusade against “liberalism” unless and until one has a reasonable and clear idea of what the word “liberalism” actually means.  Similarly, one ought NOT to join a crusade against “faith” unless and until one has a reasonable and clear idea of what the word “faith” means.  Otherwise, we might well end up on a crusade against whatever it is that Loftus or Boghossian happen to dislike this week.
There is nothing wrong or unreasonable about joining a crusade against something, but there is something highly unreasonable about joining a crusade against “X” when we have no clear idea of what “X” means.  Those of us who “sit at the adult table” do NOT join crusades without first being very clear about the purpose of the crusade.
I Was Wrong
In Part 4 of this series I admitted that I was wrong in making the following criticism (in Part 3 of this series) of Loftus’ book Unapologetic:
His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
This statement is incorrect and unfair to Loftus, especially in relation to the meaning of the key word “faith”.  On closer examination, Loftus makes several statements in Unapologetic which appear to be brief definitions of the word “faith”, and some, though not all, of those definitions are fairly clear.
I have now read the Introduction, and Chapters 1 though 8 of Unapologetic.  I don’t plan on reading Chapter 9, because the title of that Chapter (“On Justifying Ridicule, Mockery, and Satire”) indicates that it is not relevant to the main question at issue (and that it assumes one has accepted Loftus’ point of view about faith and is willing to join his anti-faith crusade).
I have found statements that appear to be brief definitions of “faith” in each of the eight chapters that I read, except for Chapter 3.  There is some redundance and overlap between these statements, so the seven definition-like statements do not represent seven different definitions.  My view is that there are two main definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic that are worthy of serious consideration, and these two defintions are both stated more than once in the book.
Loftus NEVER says “Here is my definition of ‘faith’…” or “Here is how I define ‘faith’…” or “This is a good definition of ‘faith’…” or anything that clearly identifies a statement about faith as being a definition of faith.  The closest he ever comes to being clear about the nature of these statements is in Chapter 4, where he begins a statement about faith with these words:
 I consider faith to be…  (Unapologetic, p.92).
So, Loftus has given himself a degree of “plausible deniability” by failing to label any of his statements about faith as recommended definitions of “faith”.
But because it is so obviously idiotic to lead a crusade against “faith” without providing a clear definition of what the word “faith” means (that would be something that an idiot like Rush Limbaugh would do), I think it is fair to assume that the definition-like statements that Loftus makes about “faith” in his book Unapologetic are in fact recommended defintions of the word.  I am going to assume (for now at least) that Loftus belongs “at the adult table” with the rest of us critical thinkers, and thus that he did in fact provide at least one or two recommended defintions of “faith” in his book Unapologetic.
Definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic
Below are the seven passages that appear to contain brief definitions of the word “faith”.  The statements in red font are what I take to be the primary defintions, the definitions worthy of serious consideration.  The phrase “cognitive bias” appears in blue font to show how often it appears in (or near) these apparent definitions:
Chapter 1:  
Faith adds nothing to the probabilities.  It has no method and solves no problems.  If faith is trust we should not trust faith.  It’s a cognitive bias keeping believers away from objectively understanding the truth.  (Unapologetic, p.37, emphasis added)
Chapter 2:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (Unapologetic, p. 55, emphasis added)
Chapter 4:
…faith is always about that which lacks sufficient evidence or even no evidence at all.  I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all… (Unapologetic, p. 92, emphasis added)
Chapter 5:
Just consider what’s wrong with Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses….  Faith.  The adherents of these religions do not believe based on sufficient evidence, because faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.  If they thought exclusively in terms of the probabilities by proportioning their belief to the evidence (per David Hume), they would not believe at all.  (Unapologetic, p.125, emphasis added)
Chapter 6:
Faith should one day be labeled a cognitive bias.  It keeps one’s cognitive faculties from functioning properly.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152, emphasis added)
Chapter 7:
 Because faith requires special pleading and so many other informal fallacies, I can say faith itself is a fallacy.  It’s certainly a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate the probabilities on behalf of faith. (Unapologetic, p.169, emphasis added)
Chapter 8:
 I take David Hume’s principle as axiomatic, that the wise person should proportion his or her conclusions to the available evidence.  Going beyond the probabilities of the evidence is unreasonable.  That’s what faith does when we embrace it.  Faith takes believers beyond the probabilities.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.194, emphasis added)
The definition of “faith” from Chapter 1 is defective because it is a genus/species defintion, that is incomplete, because it fails to spell out the species part of the definition.  The genus of “faith” is “a cognitive bias”, according to this definition, while the species portion of this defintion states that this particular cognitive bias keeps people “away from objectively understanding the truth”.  Both parts of the definition are fairly clear, but the species part is redundant and adds nothing to the definition.
ALL cognitive biases keep people “away from objectively understanding the truth”–that is simply an implication of what it means to be a “cognitive bias”.  The second part of the definition is true or correct, but uninformative; it fails to specify a particular TYPE of cognitive bias, because it states something that is true of any and every cognitive bias.  So, this definition is not worthy of any further serious consideration.
The defintion of “faith” given in Chapter 2 is also a genus/species defintion, and both genus and species parts of the definition appear to be fairly clear.  Furthermore, the species part of the definition properly distinguishes one TYPE of cognitive bias from other cognitive biases.  So, this definition, unlike the one in Chapter 1, is worthy of further serious consideration.  Furthermore, although Loftus does not repeat this definition verbatum, he does provide a definition in Chapter 7 that is very similar:
It’s certainly a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate the probabilities on behalf of faith. (Unapologetic, p.169)
This partial repitition of the definition in Chapter 2 indicates that this is an important definition to Loftus.  The definition in Chapter 7, however, is not as good as the one in Chapter 2, because the defintion in Chapter two  (a) is more specific about HOW “the probabilities” get overestimated, and (b) does not use the word “faith” as part of the definition of the word “faith” (which is a violation of a basic principle of Critical Thinking, and is thus unworthy of consideration by those who are sitting at the adult table).  So, I will focus my attention on the definition in Chapter 2, and ignore the similar definition given in Chapter 7.
The definition in Chapter 4 reinforces the idea that the genus of faith is, for Loftus, a “cognitive bias”, but the rest of this defintion is problematic:
…that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true…
The phrase “giving permission” is metaphorical, and is thus a problematic expression to use in a definition statement, and the whole idea of “pretending what they believe is true” is unclear and problematic.  It might well be the case that people sometimes  “pretend what they believe is true”  but this is, in most cases, a difficult sort of thing to identify and verify, so this seems like a bad criterion to use in a definition of a key concept.  Other definitions provided by Loftus do not involve such tricky and difficult to identify and verify characteristics.  So, I’m going to ignore this definition in Chapter 4.
The definition in Chapter 5 is also problematic because it makes use of metaphorical language: “leap over the probabilities”.  Also, the definition in Chapter 7 already links “faith” to “probabilities” in a clearer way.
Since the definition in Chapter 7 is very similar to the definition in Chapter 2, I can borrow the concept of “overestimates the probabilities” from the definition in Chapter 7, and use it to modify the definition in Chapter 2, so that one definition that I seriously examine will explicitly relate “faith” to estimation of “probabilities”:
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claim in question.
This modified version of the Chapter 2  definition of “faith” combines key elements of that definition with a key element of the definition in Chapter 7, and it also gets at the intention behind the definition of “faith” in Chapter 5, while avoiding the unclear and problematic language used in the Chapter 5 definition.
The definition in Chapter 6 seems to be a significant departure from the definition in Chapter 2, and it seems to be a fairly clear defintion which does not make use of metaphorical or problematic language.  Furthermore,  Loftus repeats this definition verbatim in Chapter 8, so it is clearly an important defintion to Loftus.  For these reasons, I plan to give some serious consideration to the definition of “faith” from Chapter 6:
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152)
I have already indicated some problems with the defintion of “faith” given in Chapter 7, and I have already incorporated a key idea from the definition in Chapter 7 into the definition given in Chapter 2, so I will not be giving separate consideration to the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 7.
The brief one-sentence definition of “faith” given in Chapter 8 is identical to the definition given in Chapter 6, so I will only use the passage containing this definition in Chapter 8 for background or context, in order to further clarify the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 6, if there is a need to clarify that definition further.
The Modified Definition of “faith” from Chapter 2
The definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 is fairly clear, as is my modified verion of this definition, which borrows a key element from the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 7.  There are no metaphorical expressions in the Chapter 2 definition, nor in the modified version of that definition:
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claims in question.
Metaphorical language is NOT appropriate for definitions of key words and phrases that are used in philosophical arguments.  Metaphorical language is fine if one is writing a poem, or a song, or a novel, or a speech, but metaphorical language tends to be “rich” and thus vague and/or ambiguous, so one should avoid using metaphorical expressions in definitions of key words and phrases whenever possible. Those of us who sit at the adult table try to avoid using metaphorical expressions when we define key words and phrases that are used in philosophical arguments.
I understand that Loftus did not write Unapologetic only for professional philosophers, so the use of metaphorical expressions here and there can be justified as useful for purposes of persuasion and style, but the use of metaphorical expressions in definitions of key words also provides a good reason for rejecting those defintions, or at least a good reason for preferring other defintions that avoid the use of metaphorical expressions.
The definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 and the modified version of that definition are, in a way, too clear.  I say that because, they are clear enough to make it easy to identify these as being definitions of ANOTHER concept, a very important concept in the theory of critical thinking and in the field of informal logic, namely:  CONFIRMATION BIAS.
CONFIRMATION BIAS is a cognitive bias that causes PEOPLE to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence [for claims that they believe], which in turn results in PEOPLE overestimating the probability of the claims in question.
If we take Loftus definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 seriously (and assume that he belongs at the adult table), or if we take the modified version of that definition (which incorporates a key element from the defintion in Chapter 7) seriously, then a very imporant implication follows:
FAITH simply IS the same thing as CONFIRMATION BIAS
This implication has both positive and negative aspects, from Loftus’ point of view.  Here are some of the positive aspects of this implication:

  • The definition of “faith” proposed in Chapter 2 is not only clear, but it can be made even clearer in view of the scientific study of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • I and many other atheists and skeptics would gladly join a crusade to fight against the evil of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • There is a good deal of existing scientific data, research, and theory that already exists about CONFIRMATION BIAS, so our understanding of this evil can be significantly enhanced by lots of empirical data, scientific studies, and scientific theories.

But from Loftus’ point of view, this implication also has some negative aspects:

  • How is it that a word that has been used for many centuries (i.e. “faith”)* happens to have the very same meaning as a term that was invented by a modern scientific psychologist in the second half of the 20th century  (in about 1960)? This casts doubt on the correctness of Loftus’ definition of “faith” in Chapter 2):  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cathcart_Wason#Early_studies
  • Given that the dragon that Loftus wants to slay is CONFIRMATION BIAS, isn’t it foolish to drag the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray?  The use of the word “faith” as the target of attack creates all kinds of political and social and psychological resistance and backlash, which is completely unnecessary if what we are fighting against is simply CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • CONFIRMATION BIAS is a universal human problem;  it is not a problem isolated to Christians, nor to religious believers.  Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, secular humanists, marxists, communists, and your run-of-the-mill “nones” (non-religious people who may not identify themselves as atheists or agnostics or skeptics) ALL suffer from this cognitive bias.  If all of the religious people in the world vanished into thin air tonight at midnight, then tomorrow morning the world would still be populated by people who have serious intellectual deficiencies due to CONFIRMATION BIAS.  Religion is (at most) a symptom of the evil of CONFIRMATION BIAS,  not the primary cause of it.  The problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS is a universal human problem.

To be continued…
===========================================
* The word “faith” (spelled as “feith”) appears in the first English translation of the New Testament, which was a hand-written manuscript created by John Wycliffe in about 1378, more than six centuries ago…
1378 Wycliffe New Testament: First Printed Edition (1731) Facsimile Reproduction
“The very first translation of the scriptures into the English Language was done in the 1380’s by John Wycliffe, who is called “The Morning Star of the Reformation”. Because he lived nearly a century before the 1455 invention of the printing press, his New Testaments and Bibles were of course, hand-written manuscripts. Wycliffe is also credited with being the inventor of bifocal eyeglasses (necessity being the mother of invention), though history tends to more frequently credit Ben Franklin with improving upon Wycliffe’s invention of bifocals.”
“Wycliffe’s hand-written manuscripts of the English scriptures are very challenging to read, but being the very first English scripture translation (albeit a translation from the Latin, and not the original Biblical languages), the Wycliffe translation is extremely historically important. For this reason, in the 1731, a reprint of Wycliffe’s circa 1378 manuscript was produced in modern easier-to-read type. It preserves the original Middle-English spellings and wordings 100% faithfully, but it simply makes the text easier to read by rendering the text as typeface, rather than being hand-written.”
http://greatsite.com/facsimile-reproductions/wycliffe-1731.html
Here is the Wycliffe’s translation of  the opening verses of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, which includes the word “feith” in verse 9 (click on image below for a clearer view of the text):
The word FAITH in 1 Cor 12
 
 
 
 
 

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 4: More Effort Required

“Communication is Hard”
My wife is a very intelligent woman.  I enjoy discussing religion, politics, and philosophy with her.  When I lay out an argument, either for my own viewpoint or (as the devil’s advocate) for some alternative viewpoint, she almost always raises one or two sharp objections to the argument.  She is also a person of good common sense and practical wisdom.   One of her bits of wisdom that comes up often is this:
“Communication is hard.” 
This little mantra has a couple of important implications.  First, even between people who know each other very well, miscommunications and misunderstandings are to be expected from time to time; they are inevitable.  Second, good communication requires work, effort, attention, and care.
So, when she is talking to me in the morning, in order to have a better chance of good communication,  I need to set the newspaper down for a moment, look her in the eyes, and actually focus my attention on the words coming out of her mouth.  Like most people, I’m not so good at multi-tasking.  Looking her in the eyes gives her some assurance that I’m listening, and setting the paper down helps me to focus my mind on what she is saying.  Good communication requires work, effort, attention, and care.
“What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate”
In Part 3 of this series, I harshly criticized Mr. Loftus for problems of UNCLARITY in his presentation of what I take to be the central argument of his book Unapologetic, namely Reason #9 in Chapter 5, an argument for the conclusion “Philosophy of religion must end.”  I stand by this criticism, at least the basic idea that Mr. Loftus’ presentation of this argument is seriously flawed because it is UNCLEAR.
However, in his responses to my criticisms,  Loftus has raised a point that stings a bit; he raises an objection to my critique which has some merit.  Although I don’t think he realized this, one of his comments basically turned my own critique around, and pointed it in my direction, with some justice:
“As to some working definitions of these words goes, with a little research you could find what I say of them.”
Mr. Loftus wants a big “mea culpa” apology from me, and he is not going to get that. However, I will admit to a degree of inaccuracy and unfairness in my criticism of Unapologetic in Part 3 of this series, and I will also admit to a bit of hypocrisy, but I will attempt to do better in this post.
In short, there is a failure of communication between Loftus and me concerning Reason #9 in support of his view that “Philosophy of Religion must end.”  That failure of communication is partly because Loftus FAILED to properly clarify the meanings of some key words and phrases in this central argument of his book.  However, the failure of communication is also partly because I FAILED to put in sufficient work, effort, attention, and care as a reader and interpreter of Unapologetic.
Work, Effort, Attention, Care, and Hypocrisy
Good communication requires work, effort, atention, and care.  Because Reason #9 consists of an argument involving the words “faith” and “reason” and “philosophy” and “religion”, as well as the phrases “philosophy of religion” and “faith in X”, and because these words and phrases are vague, ambiguous, and unclear,  Loftus ought to provide in this book: (a) clear definitions of each of these unclear words, and (b) some reasons and evidence in support of the proposed defintions.
Ideally, he ought to provide an entire chapter focused on defining and clarifying the meaning of the word “faith” and an entire chapter focused on defining and clarifying the meaning of the word “religion”, and an entire chapter focused on defining and clarifying the meaning of the phrase “philosophy of religion”.  He did not do this.
A less than ideal, but perhaps adequate, approach would be to provide one chapter clarifying all three of these terms, writing a subsection of about ten pages defining and clarifying each term.   Loftus did not do this.  So,  Loftus FAILED to provide adequate clarification of the key terms of his central argument,  terms that are OBVIOUSLY and NOTORIOUSLY unclear.   I justifiably pointed out in Part 3 of this series that there was a serious problem of UNCLARITY in Loftus’ presentation of Reason #9.
However,  my irritation with Loftus, as with Norman Geisler, and as with William Craig, is based on an expectation of a certain level of “work, effort, attention, and care” on the part of a philosopher or intellectual in presenting an argument or a case for a point of view.  I tend to use words like “lazy” and “sloppy” and “careless” and “not a serious effort”.  Clearly, I don’t like intellectual sloth in philosophers and intellectuals.
But in that case,  I need to apply this same value and standard to my own thinking and writing, and I’m afraid that my critique of Loftus in Part 3 falls a bit short on this important standard.   Good communication also requires “work, effort, attention, and care” on the part of readers and interpreters, not just on authors and writers, and I fell short on this requirement.  I threw in the towel too quickly, and I did not work hard enough to find clues that would clarify what Loftus was trying to say.
To be a good example of the intellectual values and standards that I use to criticize other thinkers, I need to make a greater effort to understand what Loftus is saying in Reason #9.   Loftus had a responsiblity to be provide more clarification of the key words and phrases in his central argument, but I also have a responsibility to make a greater effort to figure out what he means, especially to understand Reason #9, the key argument found on page 135 of Unapologetic.   I intend to get back into the ring, and make a more serious effort to arrive at a clear understanding of this argument.
Reason #9 is an interesting and significant argument about an important question.  So,  I should be willing to put in a significant degree of work, effort, attention, and care to try to understand that argument.
One critical comment that I made in Part 3 , I now regret:
His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
This criticism is not accurate and is unfair to Loftus.   I had no intention of deceiving anyone, or of making a false statement about Unapologetic, but this criticism is exaggerated and inaccurate, and I would not have made this criticism if I had made a greater effort to figure out what Loftus’ means, and to find clues in Unapologetic that would help to clarify Reason #9.
Although I am clearly unhappy with the amount and degree of clarification that Loftus provides about the key terms in his central argument,  he does provide some statements in Unapologetic that appear to be definitions of “faith” and he does provide at least one statement that appears to be a defintion of “philosophy of religion”, and there are other clues in the book that should be considered in trying to understand what Loftus means when he talks about “faith” and “religion” and “philosophy of religion”.  I will now pay more attention to those statements and clues, to try to figure out the meaning of the argument constituting Reason #9.
“Philosophy of Religion” means…?
There is a discussion of “philosophy of religion” on page 114 of Unapologetic that sheds some light on what Loftus means by this phrase.  Here are are a couple of key statements from that discussion:
PoR is a discipline that has traditionally concerned itself with the claims and arguments of religion. 
…PoR seeks to understand the claims of religion (if possible) and examine the arguments put forth both pro and con by the canons of reason and evidence.  This is how PoR has historically been understood among Western philosophers.
I don’t think this is a great definition, nor do I think this is an appropriate level of clarification for the most important concept in the whole book, but it is something, and it might be enough to help me to figure out and understand Reason #9.
Loftus contrasts this understanding of “philosophy of religion” with how the discipline is actually carried out:
In practice, however, this is not the case.  Philosophers of religion are dealing with religion in religious, creedal, and confessional ways.  (Unapologetic, p.114)
This contrast between the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion” and how the discipline is actually carried out in practice makes a legitimate point of criticism about the discipline.  It also introduces ambiguity into the meaning of the phrase “philosophy of relgion”.
However, it seems fairly clear to me that in Reason #9, Loftus makes use of the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion”, at least in the premises of the argument:
2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end. 
This explicit premise suggests another unstated premise:
A. Philosophy of religion uses reason to examine the claims of religion.
This is close to the statement about the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion”.  So, I think we can expand and clarify this unstated premise by substituting the apparent defintion of “philosophy of religion” from page 114 in place of this unstated premise.  Loftus appears to be invoking the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion” in Reason #9.
“Faith” means…?
Although I’m not happy with the degree of effort by Loftus to clarify the meaning of the word “faith”,  a more careful reading of Unapolgetic reveals some statements that appear to be brief definitions of this word, as well as a couple of other passages which shed some light on what Loftus means when he uses this word:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (p. 55)
…faith is always about that which lacks sufficient evidence or even no evidence at all.  I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all… (p. 92)
Just consider what’s wrong with Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses….  Faith.  The adherents of these religions do not believe based on sufficient evidence, because faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.  If they thought exclusively in terms of the probabilities by proportioning their belief to the evidence (per David Hume), they would not believe at all.  (p.125)
Faith should one day be labeled a cognitive bias.  It keeps one’s cognitive faculties from functioning properly.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (p.152)
In addition to these brief definition-like statements about the meaning of “faith” Loftus has a couple of other passages that shed some light on how he understands this idea (on pages 57 and 160).
Although these definitions seem inadequate and problematic to me, they do provide some good clues as to what Loftus means by the word “faith”, and with a bit of effort on my part, this might well be enough information for me to figure out and understand the meaning of the argument constituting Reason #9.  So, I’m going to go back to work on that task, and when I have a clearer understanding and interpretation of Reason #9,  I will share that here in Part 5 of this series of posts.
 

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 3: The Main Argument

I cannot recommend the book Unapologetic by John Loftus, because I have not carefully read the whole book yet.  But I have read Chapter 5, which I take to be the heart of the book, and I can recommend reading Chapter 5 of Unapologetic.  It is an interesting, informative, and thought-provoking chapter about the philosophy of religion.  I disagree with the main conclusion for which Loftus argues, but there are plenty of interesting ideas to ponder in Chapter 5, including the summary of ten reasons for his view that the discipline of philosophy of religion should be discontinued.
Chapter 5 is flawed and imperfect, but it is well worth reading, if one is interested in the philosophy of religion.  Loftus presents the views of various contemporary philosophers of religion about the present state of the philosophy of religion, and then Loftus comments on the points made by these philosophers.  This is a good approach to clarifying his own views, plus it provides the reader with ideas and alternative ways of looking at this subject, which is interesting and informative.
Loftus tries to cover points and ideas from too many different philosophers in just one chapter, so his comments are generally too skimpy and superficial.  He should have either written multiple chapters covering the material in Chapter 5, or else focused in on just two or three philosophers and put more effort into explaining and clarifying his own views in contrast to those two or three philosophers.
However, he does cover three philosophers in moderate depth: Graham Oppy (p.117-118), Paul Draper (p.121-125), and Kevin Schilbrak (p.126-129). There is also about a full page devoted to Timothy Knepper’s views of philosophy of religion (p.129-130). Gregory Dawes gets nearly about 2/3 of a page for a long quotation (p.120-121).   Linda Zagzebski gets about 1/2 of a page, as does Nick Trakakis (p.115-116).  There are a couple of quotations from our own Keith Parsons (p.117, 118-119), and one quote from Jeff Lowder, who is referred to as “One other Secular Outpost author”, and who gets identified by name only in the end note (quoted on p.117, end note on p.136).
[/RANT ON]  
I often criticize Christian philosophers and apologists for their UNCLARITY and lack of sufficient argumentation, which is usually due to the fact that they are too skimpy in their writing.  For example, William Craig tries to prove that Jesus really died on the cross in just three and one-half pages in The Son Rises (p.36-40).  Craig fails to offer even one bit of actual legitimate historical evidence, and so his case is complete crap.  I am currently critically examining Norman Geisler’s case for God in When Skeptics Ask.   His entire case for God is given in just 18 pages, and 2.5 pages of that are taken up with historical side notes and a diagram.  So, his actual writing is only about 15 pages.
I have covered most of the arguments in those 15 pages and concluded that they were a “hot steaming pile of dog shit.”  I’m not sure that Geisler could do any better if he used 150 pages to present his case for God, but if he presented a more lengthy case, he would certainly need to provide more details and would have more opportunity to clarify his key concepts and claims and inferences.  Geisler’s arguments are filled with vagueness and ambiguities.  He fails to define the word “God” and repeatedly misuses this word, even though the conclusion for which he is arguing is that “God exists.”
The main problem with Chapter 5 is primarily that it is UNCLEAR because it is TOO SKIMPY; it has the same problem that I see in the writing of most Christian apologists.  It is a problem that one expects in the writing of undergraduate students of philosophy, but which should not be nearly so common in the writing of philosophers and intellectuals.  It is to be expected that an undergraduate student of philosophy would try to make a case for the existence of God in a short five or ten page essay.  But no professional philosopher should be so stupid as to think that it is possible to make a clear and persuasive case for God in just five or ten pages.
Richard Swinburne’s case for God is presented in three books: (1) The Coherence of Theism (308 pages), (2) The Existence of God (342 pages), and (3) The Resurrection of God Incarnate (203 pages).  Swinburne’s case for the existence of God is thus 853 pages long.   There are lots of philosophical details and arguments in these books that are not essential to his case, so 853 pages is a bit of overkill.
But even Swinburne’s popular case for God for general audiences (Is There a God?) is 137 pages, and this does not include his capstone argument for God, which concerns the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  So, even a popular presentation of Swinburne’s case for God would run over 200 pages, if it included his argument based on the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  Geisler’s feeble attempt to make a case for God in just 15 pages is nothing more than a pathetic joke.
[/RANT OFF]
OK.  Back to Reason #9, which I take to be the central argument for the view that we ought to put an end to the discipline of philosophy of religion.  Chapter 5 opens with some clarifications of the conclusion for which Loftus is arguing, so before I get into any further analysis of his main argument, let’s review some points of clarification and qualification from the opening of Chapter 5:
…I’m not saying philosophy proper is stupid or dead or unnecessary… (p. 111)
…I’m not saying that atheist philosophers…should dismiss religions out of hand or ridicule them.  (p.111)
…I’m not even saying that atheist philosophers should cease writing books on philosophy of religion (PoR) or that they should cease all lectures or classes on such topics in secular universities.   (p.112)
He adds this point at the end of his comments about “what I’m not proposing”:
Keep in mind, however, that if they [“atheist philosophers and intellectuals”] do PoR correctly it will no longer be considered the philosophy of religion as defined today, but something else. (p.112)
In the section called “What I am Proposing” (on pages 112 through 115), Loftus provides clarification about what he IS proposing:
It [Loftus’ proposal] follows the same pattern as Hector Avalos’ call to end biblical studies as we know it… (p.112)
It’s also something Peter Boghossian proposed in his provocative book, A Manual for Creating Atheists (p.112)
[Boghossian’s advice to educators]: “…Do not take faith claims seriously.  Let the utterer know that faith is not an acceptable basis from which to draw a conclusion that can be relied upon.”  (p.112)
The fourth paragraph is probably the most important one in this section, so I will quote the entire paragraph here:
I am primarily calling for the end of PoR as a separate subdiscipline under philosophy in secular universities.  Further, whenever there is a PoR class, it should be taught correctly, if it’s to be done at all.  Like all other subjects in secular universities, PoR classes must be taught in a secular way by treating all faith-based claims equally and privileging none, if they are taught at all.  If PoR is successfully taught in this bold and honest manner, the instructors themselves will help end the PoR and religion along with it.  Philosophers of religion should go about the task of putting themselves out of a job by telling their students the truth–that faith is an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about matters of fact such as the nature of nature, its workings, and its origins.  It is also an unreliable way to decide which religion is true, if there is one. (Unapologetic, p.112-113)
Loftus provides another two pages or so of comments explaining what he is proposing, but this paragraph is sufficient clarification of his conclusion for now.
I want to return now to Reason #9, and to a careful analysis of the reasoning present in the two paragraphs in which Loftus presents Reason #9 (on page 135).  I am going to re-number the main claims made in those two paragraphs as follows:
Key Claims from 1st Paragraph
1.  …faith-based reasoning must end.
2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.
3.  …faith has no justification, nor merit, nor warrant. 
4.  A reasonable faith does not exist, nor can faith be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.
5.  The claims of religious faith via PoR cannot be reasonably defended.
 
Key Claims from 2nd Paragraph
6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.
7. Faith is indeed an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about the world.
8. …faith-based reasoning cannot justify any claim concerning matters of fact…
9. …philosophy of religion is reasoning about that which is unreasonable.
10.  It [philosophy of religion] takes the utterly unwarranted conclusions of faith seriously.
11. …the very first principle of religion is faith.
 
The logic of the core argument is clearer than I previously thought.  Premise (2) indicates the basic logical structure of the argument:

IF X and Y, THEN Z.

X

 Y

THEREFORE:

Z

Premise (2) is the conditional statement, and premise (6) asserts one of the conjuncts in the antecedent of (2), so to complete the argument, we only need the other conjunct in the antecedent of (2), and the conclusion is the consequent of (2):
Core Argument in Reason #9

2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.

6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.

A.  PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion.

THEREFORE:

PoRME: Philosophy of Religion must end.

Given this basic logical structure, the other statements are presumably either support for one of the three premises, or clarification of one of the three premises, or clarification of the conclusion.
Before I make an attempt to reconstruct further details of Loftus’ argument constituting Reason #9, I must confess that I don’t think I will be able to “demolish” this argument, or to stab a sharp dagger into the heart of the beast (i.e. Reason #9).   But my failure to “demolish” this argument is NOT because the argument is a good and solid argument.  The reason I don’t think I will be able to “demolish” this argument is because it is very UNCLEAR, and there is little hope that Loftus will be willing and able to make it CLEAR.
Consider premise (6), for example.
6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.
The subject of this statement is “religion”.  This word is notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of “religion” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The word “faith” is also notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of “faith” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The phrase “X is based on faith in Y” is perhaps a bit less unclear than the word “faith” considered by itself.  But this phrase does inherit some unclarity from the problematic word “faith” and it has the additional issue of the unclarity of the phrase “X is based on…”  This phrase is vague and unclear.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of the phrase “X is based on faith in Y”, any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The word “supernatural” is notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” and “philosophy” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of the word “supernatural” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The key argument at the heart of Unapologetic is very UNCLEAR.  This key argument makes use of words and phrases that are notoriously unclear, so this argument should be rejected by any person who is a critical thinker unless and until Loftus provides clear definitions of the key terms and phrases in this argument.
Here are some of the key words and phrases that are in need of clarification or definition:
“religion”
“faith” 
“X is based on faith”
“faith in Y”
“X is based on faith in Y”
“using reason”
“philosophy” 
“philosophy of religion”
“supernatural”
“supernatural forces and entities”
Loftus fails to define ANY of these UNCLEAR and problematic words and phrases in Chapter 5.  I have also scanned through Chapters 1 through 4 looking for clear definitions of these words and phrases and have come up empty handed.  I have no idea whether this central argument of Loftus’ book Unapologetic is a GOOD argument or a BAD argument, and I suspect that I never will know, because I don’t believe that Loftus has a clear idea of what “religion” means, nor of what “faith” means, nor of what “reason” means.  If he had a clear idea of what these words mean, then he would have no problem defining what they mean or providing significant clarification about what these words mean, but he never does this.
Loftus does make a very brief attempt at defining “faith”, but the definition is unclear, and he makes no effort to explain or defend his definition, and he never uses or refers to the definition when presenting his central arguments in Chapter 5.  The definition is found in Chapter 4:
I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all … (Unapologetic, p.92)
Because Loftus provides no additional explanation or defense of this definition, and does not refer to or make use of this definition in presenting his key arguments in Chapter 5, I am not going to waste my time analyzing and evaluating this definition.  It appears to be tossed off the top of his head with little thought behind it.
As it stands, the central argument of Unapologetic reminds me of Geisler’s arguments for God in When Skeptics Ask.  Geisler never bothers to define the key word “God”, and he clearly misuses the word “God”, and commits the fallacy of equivocation more than once because of his sloppy and ambiguous use of the word “God”.  In general, Geisler’s case for God is a steaming pile of dog shit, and it is so mainly because it is filled with UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS words and phrases that Geisler never bothers to clarify or define.  The central argument in Unapologetic is also a steaming pile of dog shit, just like Geisler’s case for God, because it uses several UNCLEAR words and phrases and because Loftus makes no serious intellectual effort to define or clarify the meanings of those words and phrases.
Because there is no serious effort to provide definitions of key words and phrases in the central argument of Unapologetic, I doubt that Loftus has a clear idea of what those key words and phrases mean.
Furthermore, there are indications in a couple of passages in the book, that Loftus has an intellectual or ideological resistance to defining key words and phrases.  In my view, that means that Loftus has an intellectual or ideological resistance to thinking critically, because the first and most fundamental principle of critical thinking is this:

  • Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

Another very basic principle of critical thinking is this:

  • CLARITY is a gateway standard of thinking.

If a statement or argument is UNCLEAR, then we cannot rationally and objectively evaluate that statement or argument.
The first passage that indicates Loftus has a problem with definitions is in Chapter 1:
Which brings me to the value of philosophy.  Over the last decade I have found that one bastion for Christian apologists has been philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion.  The scholars have honed their definitional apologetics in such a fine-tuned manner that when engaging them in this discipline, it’s like trying to catch a greased pig.  Or, to switch metaphors, trying to chase them down the rabbit’s hole in an endless and ultimately fruitless quest for definitions.  What’s an extraordinary claim?  What constitutes evidence?  What’s the definition of supernatural?  What’s the scientific method?  What’s a miracle?  What’s a basic belief?  What’s a veridical religious experience?  What’s evil? …  (Unapologetic, p.28, emphasis added)
This strikes me as a fundamentally anti-intellectual statement by Loftus.  Definitions are an important tool of philosophy, critical thinking, of science, and of scholarship in general.  But Loftus appears to be taking an anti-definition stance here.  That, in my view, is a position against critical thinking and rationality.
But perhaps that was just a bit of overblown whining by Loftus about Christian apologists, and it does not represent a general antipathy towards definitions and conceptual analysis.  However, when we read the exchange between Peter Boghossian and Keith Parsons in Chapter 4, it becomes clear that Bogghosian, who is a leading light for Loftus’ view of religion and philosophy of religion, has a very negative view of definitions and conceptual analysis.
Parsons’ initial critique of Boghossian indicates a concern about the clarity of a key claim made by Boghossian:

  1. Evolution occurred.
  2. Faith is a malaise.

(1) is an established scientific fact.  (2) is Professor Boghossian’s  opinion.  It may be an informed opinion, but it is an opinion.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that (2) is true in whatever sense Prof. Boghossian intends.(Unapologetic, p.89)
Parsons’ is being a bit too subtle here, but he is hinting at the fact that the key statement (2) is UNCLEAR, and it’s meaning is in need of clarification by Boghossian.  Boghossian appears to have missed the subtle hint, because his response does not provide any clarification or definition of “faith” (at least in what Loftus quotes of his response).
In Keith Parsons’ reply to Boghossian’s response, he points out the problem of the need for clarity and definition more firmly and straightforwardly:
Of course, if one interprets “faith” to mean only “wishful thinking” then certainly it is an unreliable belief-forming process.  However, I think we need to be clear that in attacking “faith” we are attacking it only in this rather trivialized sense, and not in a more sophisticated and nuanced sense.  (Unapologetic, p.90)
The only reasonable response to this objection by Parsons would be for Boghossian to clarify and define what he means by the word “faith”.  If Boghossian has a clear understanding of the meaning of the word “faith” (or even just of his own use of the word “faith” in this context), then he ought to have no trouble providing a definition or analysis of the meaning of this word, but that is NOT what Boghossian does.  Instead, he seems to attack the idea of trying to define or clarify the meaning of this word:
Second, the histories of philosophy and theology are replete with people trying to define faith.  Anselm’s definition is floral mumbo-jumbo.
[…]
One can talk about “a more sophisticated or nuanced sense” of the word “faith”, but this does not change the fact that faith claims are knowledge claims.  It also does not change the fact that certain processes of reasoning are unreliable.  Faith is not a reliable process of reasoning. … (Unapologetic, p.91)
So, Boghossian appears to think that the efforts of philosophers and theologians to clarify the meaning of the word “faith” is a hopeless task, and he offers no definition or clarification of the word “faith” and then he just plows ahead and continues making UNCLEAR claims about faith: “Faith is not a reliable process of reasoning.”
He does this after Parsons has directly and plainly challenged him to clarify what he means by the word “faith”.  Given Boghossian’s FAILURE to provide a definition or clarification of the meaning of “faith”, and given his derogatory comments about the efforts of philosophers and theologians to CLARIFY the meaning of this word, it appears fairly certain that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to providing definitions or analyses of the meanings of key words or phrases.
Parsons makes one final effort to drive the point about CLARITY home to Boghossian:
(2) Faith is not a reliable belief-forming process.
[…]
…I would assert (2) to a class but would be very careful to say just what I meant by “faith.”  I would make it abundantly clear that what I was attacking was something like “faith” in the sense defined by Ambrose Bierce: “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.”  “Faith” is a vague term, and to attack it without proper and careful qualification would be perceived  as an attack on religious belief per se…  (Unapologetic, p.92)
It is not clear whether Boghossian finally got the OBVIOUS point that Keith Parsons repeatedly attempted to communicate to him. Loftus does not provide us with further comments by Boghossian in response to this point by Parsons.
But I seriously doubt that Boghossian responded to Parsons with a definition or analysis of what he meant by the word “faith”.  First, there is good reason to believe that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological opposition to providing definitions of key concepts, which I take to be an intellectual or ideological opposition to some basic principles of critical thinking.  Second,  if Boghossian had provided a definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith” I would expect Loftus to pass that on to readers here, because Loftus looks up to Boghossian as a leading light on this subject.  Loftus’ failure to provide us with a definition of “faith” from Boghossian in this passage is evidence that no such definition was offered by Boghossian (in this exchange between Boghossian and Parsons).
So, for three reasons I doubt that Loftus will ever provide us with a clear argument against the philosophy of religion:

  1. His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
  2. The passage on page 28 indicates that Loftus has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to defining or analyzing the meanings of key words and phrases (at least relating to philosophy, religion, and theology).
  3. The exchange between Boghossian and Parsons (on pages 88 to 92) indicates that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to defining or analyzing the meanings of key words and phrases (at least relating to philosophy, religion, and theology), and Loftus looks up to Boghossian as a leading light on this subject.

Thus, the central argument of Unapologetic is very UNCLEAR, and I have little hope that Loftus will ever provide definitions or analyses of the meanings of the key words and phrases in that argument, so I have little hope that I will ever be able to rationally and objectively evaluate that argument.
I could, of course, provide my own definitions of the key words and phrases, but then Loftus would very likely reply to any objections that I raise to the clarified argument, that I had misunderstood or misinterpreted his meaning, and was committing a Straw Man fallacy against the argument that constitutes Reason #9, the most central and important reason that he has given in support of the conclusion that “Philosophy of religion must end.”  This is the same sort of BS that Christian apologists like to pull.  They put forward CRAPPY and UNCLEAR arguments (such as those of Norman Geisler) and then complain about being misinterpreted when skeptics attempt to clarify their argument enough to make the arguments subject to rational and objective evaluation.
In 2014, Boghossian took a swipe at philosophy of religion that impressed Loftus:
“Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.” (Unapologetic, p. 33)
Here is my own swipe back at Boghossian and Loftus:
Being published in a book or article that attacks “faith” or “religion” without providing a clear definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith” or “religion” should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.
Any person who does this sort of anti-intellectual and anti-critical-thinking bullshit does NOT deserve to be treated seriously as a philosopher or intellectual.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – The Grand Inquisitor Jones – Part 3

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

Carl Sandburg, in The People, Yes (1936)

One response to my sixty objections against Clay Jones’s attempt to defend Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), is that my my objections “argue the law” thus betraying a reluctance to “argue the facts”.  There is some truth to this point.  I have indeed focused primarily on “arguing the law”.  That is because the laws of Jehovah are clearly sexist, arbitrary, unclear, and harsh (indicating that Jehovah was either stupid or unjust or both).
However, the FACTS are not especially on Jones’s side either.  Jones actually makes very little effort to “argue the facts”.  So I’m more than happy to shift gears for a bit and to show that Jones’s attempt to justify Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) fails even when the focus is placed on “arguing the facts”.
I will imagine that it is my own daughters (at ages 8 and 18) who are being charged with a sin or crime that Jones believes to be worthy of the death penalty.  I will imagine Clay Jones to present the case for convition and for the punishment of death (based on his comments in his article “Killing the Canaanites“), and I will imagine that it is my job to vigorously defend my daughters against the charges and the case made by Jones, to ensure that they are given a fair trial.
In Part 1, I presented a mini-trial of Lisa and Kathy conerning the charge of IDOLATRY.  In Part 2, I presented a mini-trial of Lisa and Kathy conerning the charge of INCEST.  Today, Grand Inquisitor Jones will take another swing at these two girls, arguing that they have committed the sin or crime of ADULTERY.

Judge:  The Grand Inquisitor Jones will now present his case against the accused, and then Bradley For the Defense will present objections and arguments defending the accused.

GI Jones:  Thank you, your honor.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: today I will present to you my case for the charge that Lisa (age 8) is guilty of the horrible crime or sin of ADULTERY, and for the charge that her older sister Kathy (age 18) is also guilty of this terrible crime or sin, and that because of this horrible sin or crime, they both deserve the penalty of DEATH; they both deserve to have their heads chopped off by a sword-wielding, Jehovah-worshiping soldier of the army of Israel.*

Lisa and Kathy have committed the crime or sin of ADULTERY.  I assure you that both of these wicked girls are Canaanites who were raised to worship the gods of the Canaanites. Canaanite religion, like that of all of the ANE [Ancient Near East], was a fertility religion that involved temple sex. Inanna/Ishtar, also known as the Queen of Heaven, “became the woman among the gods, patron of eroticism and sensuality, of conjugal love as well as adultery, of brides and prostitutes, transvestites and pederasts.”  As University of Helsinki professor Martti Nissinen writes, “Sexual contact with a person whose whole life was devoted to the goddess was tantamount to union with the goddess herself.”  [The preceding italicized sentences are a quote from Clay Jones’s article.]

Since these two Canaanite girls have participated in worship of a female goddess who was a patron of conjugal love as well as adultery, and since the worship of Canaanite gods involved temple sex, where a married man could have sex with a woman who was not his wife but who was devoted to the goddess Inanna/Ishtar, as a part of the worship of the goddess,  these two girls must have been inspired by the practice of temple sex and by the goddess of sex and adultery to engage in adultery themselves.

So, you must, on the basis of these facts, deliver a verdict of “Guilty” and condemn these evil and perverse girls to death by beheading.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury for your attention to my case for the guilt of Lisa and Kathy.

BFD:  What the hell!  Is this a joke?  I was expecting hours of testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, or at least a lengthy presentation of dozens of facts to make a circumstantial case for the guilt of the accused girls.  But instead we are offered a fifteen-second, purely speculative “argument”.  Grand Inquisitor Jones, have you no shame, sir?

The Grand Inquisitor has failed to cite the law that the defendants have violated, and the Grand Inquisitor has not even hinted at what he means by “the crime or sin of ADULTERY”, so we have no clear idea of what the defendants are being accused of doing, or whether the law even applies to these beautiful, charming, and intelligent girls.  Since the laws of Jehovah were directed to the men of Israel, the presumption is that any such laws do NOT apply to young girls who are Canaanites, not Israelites.

Though GI Jones has utterly failed to make a rational case against the defendants in terms of the alleged law against ADULTERY, let’s ignore that for the moment, and simply assume the common sense notion that the word “adultery” means: 

Either (a) being a married person and  (while still married) having sexual intercourse with a person to whom one is not married, 

OR (b) being an unmarried person and (while still unmarried) having sexual intercourse with a married person.

Since GI Jones has presented ZERO facts to show that either Lisa or Kathy have ever had sexual intercourse with ANYONE, there is no case here to consider.

All we have is GI Jones’ personal assertion that Lisa and Kathy “were raised to worship the gods of the Canaanites” and that one of the gods of the Canaanites was the patron of both conjugal love and adultery.  So what?  The fact that they worshiped a god who was patron of “conjugal love as well as adultery,” does not mean that these girls had any interest or desire to engage in adultery, nor does this show that they ever in fact engaged in adultery.

Jehovah was “a mighty warrior” (Jer. 20:11, see also Zeph. 3:17) and thus a patron of warfare in the religion of the Israelites.  Does that mean that every girl and young woman in Israel was a warrior?  Does that mean that every girl and young woman of Israel has killed an enemy in battle?  Of course not.  The fact that Jehovah was viewed as “a mighty warrior” and as a patron of warfare in the religion of the Israelites does NOT by itself prove anything about the behavior of individual Israelites.

The fact that the Canaanites worshipped a goddess who was a patron of “conjugal love as well as adultery” does not even show that adultery was a generally accepted behavior among Canaanites.  Notice that the Grand Inquisitor does not mention the legal status of adultery among Canaanites.  This suggests that adultery was prohibited by Canaanite laws, and that GI Jones chose to keep this relevant information to himself.

The Oxford Bible Commentary offers some evidence on this point:

Sexual mores were fairly uniform throughout the ancient Near East.  For example, adultery was universally condemned (cf. Codex Hammurabi 129-132). (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p.103 – comment on Leviticus 18:24-30)

We previously saw that INCEST was prohibited among Canaanites, even though some of their gods were portrayed as engaging in incest, so it should be no surprise that ADULTERY was also prohibited among Canaanites, even if they worshiped a goddess who was the patron of “conjugal love as well as adultery”.

But what about “temple sex”?  If a married man had sex with a priestess or devotee of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar as a part of the worship of the goddess, then he would be committing adultery as a part of a religious ritual.  Wouldn’t this send a message to Canaanite children and young people that adulterous sex was acceptable behavior?  There are several problems here that cast doubt on this assumption.

First of all, were children and teenagers allowed to observe such religious rituals?  We don’t know, and GI Jones has presented no facts showing this to be the case.  Second, even assuming that children and teenagers were allowed to observe this ritual, would they know that the man who was having sex with the woman was a married man having sex with a woman who was not his wife?  I doubt that Canaanite children went to Sunday school to be taught such details about Canaanite religious rituals, and GI Jones offers no facts indicating that Canaanite children received detailed lessons about Canaanite religious rituals.

Third, was this a weekly ritual?  a monthly ritual? a yearly ritual?  GI Jones offers no information about the frequency of such rituals.  Some Christians go to church services and prayer meetings and bible studies on a daily basis.  Other Christians go just to church services on Sundays, and many Christians only show up to church once or twice a year, on Easter or Christmas.   It seems likely that Canaanites did not always show up to every Canaanite religous ceremony, so even if “temple sex” was a regular (weekly or monthly) ritual, many Canaanites might only observe this ritual once or twice a year.

Finally, a BIG problem with the assumption that observing temple sex would encourage people to believe that adultery was OK, is that temple sex was NOT actually adultery!  More accurately,  the laws of Jehovah do NOT prohibit adultery in general (as we have defined the word), but only prohibit ONE form of adultery, and this prohibited form of adultery does NOT occur when a married man has sex with an unmarried woman:

The commandment’s prohibition [related to adultery] is thus a narrow one. Because it is addressed to men, it does not explicitly prohibit women from having sex with married men, or, for that matter, prohibit married men from having sex with unmarried women, including prostitutes. (God and Sex by Michael Coogan, p.103)

In the ancient Near East and the OT (Lev. 18:20; 20:10; Deut. 22:22) adultery meant consensual sexual intercourse by a married woman with a man other than her husband.  However, intercourse between a married man and another woman was not considered adultery unless she was married. (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.23)

Therefore, when a married man had “temple sex” with a woman other than his wife, this might well have NOT been a violation of Jehovah’s law concerning adultery, since a woman who was a priestess or devotee of  a Canaanite goddess might well be an unmarried woman.

Finally, even if it could be proven that Canaanites in general viewed adultery as an acceptable behavior, and even if Canaanites in general desired to engage in adultery, and even if Canaanites in general attempted to engage in adultery, this is NOT sufficient reason for convicting these two particular Canaanite girls and condemning them to have their heads chopped off!

At the most, the sort of evidence that GI Jones offers shows that there is some modest probabiltiy that one or both of these two girls has committed the sin or crime of adultery, but such a weak conclusion falls obviously and hopelessly short of the requirement that guilt be established beyond any reasonable doubt, especially in a capital case.

Let’s briefly consider each category of adultery, in accordance with the above common-sense understanding of what “adultery” means.

1.  Was either of these girls a married person who (while still married) had sexual intercourse with a person to whom she was not married?

Obviously Lisa, who is only eight years old, is NOT a married person, so she clearly did NOT commit this form of adultery.

Kathy is eighteen years old, so it is legally possible for her to be a married person.  However, I have submitted into evidence sworn statements from Kathy’s parents and three of her friends that she has never been married, and GI Jones has provided no evidence that Kathy has ever been married.  So, there has been no case presented for the claim that Kathy has committed this form of adultery.

2. Was either of these girls an unmarried person who (while still being unmarried) had sexual intercourse with a married person?

Lisa is an eight year old child.  So, if Lisa did have sex with a married man that would presumably be an instance of CHILD RAPE by the married man, and not the sin or crime of adultery by Lisa.  If the laws of Jehovah demanded the death penalty for a victim of CHILD RAPE, then that would only prove that the laws of Jehovah were obviously and greviously UNJUST.  But there is no reason to believe that the laws of Jehovah demanded the execution of victims of CHILD RAPE.  So, Lisa cannot be convicted of this form of adultery.

Kathy is eighteen years old, so it is reasonable to hold her accountable for consensual sexual activity in which she has (recently) been involved. However, as we have previously shown, there is NO prohibition in the laws of Jehovah against a married man having sex with an unmarried woman.  Even if it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Kathy has had sex with a married man, neither the man nor Kathy would be guilty of violating a law of Jehovah, because Kathy is an unmarried woman.  Therefore, because this court is only concerned with violations of the laws of Jehovah, Kathy cannot be convicted or punished by this court for engaging in this form of adultery.

In conclusion, we have examined the two basic kinds of adultery, in accordance with this common-sense understanding of the meaning of the word “adultery”:  Either (a) being a married person and  (while still married) having sexual intercourse with a person to whom one is not married, OR (b) being an unmarried person and (while still unmarried) having sexual intercourse with a married person.

In NO CASE did we find a specific kind of adultery in which both of the following requirements were met:

(1) the specific form of adultery in question was prohibited by a law of Jehovah, AND

(2) the factual evidence presented here by GI Jones proves beyond a reasonable doubt that one or both of these two girls had engaged in that specific form of adultery.

Because the Grand Inquisitor Jones has failed to meet both requirements for EITHER of the two different forms of adultery, you must return a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

Please return a verdict of NOT GUILTY for the two beautiful, charming, intelligent, and loving girls who are standing at my side today.  There have been no specific facts or evidence presented by the Grand Inquisitor Jones showing that they have engaged in any form of adultery prohibited by the laws of Jehovah.  Let there be no chopping off heads today; declare Lisa and Kathy NOT GUILTY.

================

* I do have children, but the names and ages given here are not the actual names and ages of my children.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – The Grand Inquisitor Jones – Part 2

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

Carl Sandburg, in The People, Yes (1936)

One response to my sixty objections against Clay Jones’s attempt to defend Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), is that my my objections “argue the law” thus betraying a reluctance to “argue the facts”.  There is some truth to this point.  I have indeed focused primarily on “arguing the law”.  That is because the laws of Jehovah are clearly sexist, arbitrary, unclear, and harsh (indicating that Jehovah was either stupid or unjust or both).
However, the FACTS are not especially on Jones’s side either.  Jones actually makes very little effort to “argue the facts”.  So I’m more than happy to shift gears for a bit and to show that Jones’s attempt to justify Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) fails even when the focus is placed on “arguing the facts”.
I will imagine that it is my own daughters (at ages 8 and 18) who are being charged with a sin or crime that Jones believes to be worthy of the death penalty.  I will imagine Clay Jones to present the case for convition and for the punishment of death (based on his comments in his article “Killing the Canaanites“), and I will imagine that it is my job to vigorously defend my daughters against the charges and the case made by Jones, to ensure that they are given a fair trial.
To emphasize the human fallibility of Christian religious leaders and authorities, I will refer to the character representing Clay Jones’s views as: GRAND INQUISITOR JONES (or GI Jones).  The title “Grand Inquisitor Jones” is to remind us that in the past Christians have practiced systematic terror and torture and murder of innocent men, women, and children for MANY centuries (i.e. the Inquisition), and that such  horrible crimes against humanity were authorized and justified by Christian leaders and Christian theologians for MANY centuries, thus firmly establishing beyond all reasonable doubt that Christian leaders and Christian theologians are fully capable of being morally blind leaders of morally blind Christian followers.
Grand Inquisitor Jones will be a “kinder and gentler” sort of Grand Inquisitor who does not torture the accused to obtain a “confession”.  GI Jones will, in a fair public trial, attempt to present a strong case based on objective empirical/historical evidence and good reasoning that is sufficient to convict my two daughters of the alleged sin or crime in question, like a prosecuting attorney in a criminal trial.
In Part 1, I presented a mini-trial of Lisa and Kathy conerning the charge of IDOLATRY.  Today, Grand Inquisitor Jones will take another swing at these two girls, arguing that they have committed the sin or crime of INCEST.

Judge:  The Grand Inquisitor Jones will now present his case against the accused, and then Bradley For the Defense will present objections and arguments defending the accused.

GI Jones:  Thank you, your honor.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: today I will present to you my case for the charge that Lisa (age 8) is guilty of the horrible crime or sin of INCEST, and for the charge that her older sister Kathy (age 18) is also guilty of this terrible crime or sin, and that because of this horrible sin or crime, they both deserve the penalty of DEATH; they both deserve to have their heads chopped off by a sword-wielding, Jehovah-worshiping soldier of the army of Israel.*

Lisa and Kathy have committed the crime or sin of INCEST.  I assure you that both of these wicked girls are Canaanites who were raised to worship the gods of the Canaanites. Like all Ancient Near East (ANE) pantheons, the Canaanite pantheon was incestuous. Baal has sex with his mother Asherah, his sister Anat, and his daughter Pidray, and none of this is presented pejoratively. Although early Canaanite laws proscribed either death or banishment for most forms of incest, after the fourteenth century BC, the penalties were reduced to no more than the payment of a fine. [The preceding italicized sentences are a quote from Clay Jones’s article.]

Since these two Canaanite girls have participated in worship of gods who engaged in incestuous sex, these two girls must have followed the example of their gods and also engaged in incestuous sex.  So, you must, on the basis of this fact, deliver a verdict of “Guilty” and condemn these evil and perverse girls to death by beheading.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury for your attention to my case for the guilt of Lisa and Kathy.

BFD:  What the hell!  Is this a joke?  I was expecting hours of testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, or at least a lengthy presentation of dozens of facts to make a circumstantial case for the guilt of the accused girls.  But instead we are offered a fifteen-second, guilt-by-association “argument”.  Grand Inquisitor Jones, have you no shame, sir?

The Grand Inquisitor has failed to cite the law that the defendants have violated, and the Grand Inquisitor has not even hinted at what he means by “the crime or sin of INCEST”, so we have no clear idea of what the defendants are being accused of doing, or whether the law even applies to these beautiful, charming, and intelligent girls.  Since the laws of Jehovah were directed to the men of Israel, the presumption is that any such laws do NOT apply to young girls who are Canaanites, not Israelites.

Though GI Jones has utterly failed to make a rational case against the defendants in terms of the alleged law against INCEST, let’s ignore that for the moment, and simply assume the common sense notion that the word “incest” means: having sexual intercourse with one’s parent, child, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent.

Since GI Jones has presented ZERO facts to show that either Lisa or Kathy have ever had sexual intercourse with ANYONE, there is no case here to consider.

All we have is GI Jones’ personal assertion that Lisa and Kathy “were raised to worship the gods of the Canaanites” and that some of the gods of the Canaanites engaged in incestuous sex.  So what?  The fact that they worshiped gods who were believed to have engaged in incestuous sex, does not mean that these girls had any interest or desire to engage in incestuous sex, nor does this show that they ever in fact engaged in incestuous sex.   One simply does not always do everything that one believes that a god has done.

The Israelites believed that Jehovah created the universe.  Does that mean that each and every Israelite has desired to create a universe?  Does that mean that each and every Israelite has tried to create a universe?  Of course not.  The Israelites believe that Jehovah caused a great flood that nearly destroyed all life on earth, except for a handful of people and a few hundred selected pairs of animals.  Does that mean that each and every Israelite has desired to cause a worldwide flood?  or desired to destroy virtually all life on this planet?  Does that mean that each and every Israelite has actually tried to cause a worldwide flood? or tried to destroy virtually all life on this planet?  Of course not.  The actions and behaviors of a god are NOT automatically taken to be an appropriate example for humans to try to imitate.

Grand Inquisitor Jones has already admitted this obvious point, and has admitted it specifically in relation to the issue of incest.  He himself points out that “early Canaanite laws proscribed either death or banishment for most forms of incest”.  So, it appears that early Canaanites, at least, did not take the incestuous sexual activity of some of their gods to be a model of behavior for them to follow. Furthermore, although the severe punishments of death and banishment were later replaced by fines, that still constitutes a PUNISHMENT, and still indicates that the Canaanites don’t view all activities by all of their gods as being an appropriate model for human behavior, just like Israelites don’t view all activities by Jehovah as being an appropriate model for human behavior.

Finally, even if it was true that Canaanites in general admired the engagement of their gods in incestuous sex, and even if Canaanites in general desired to engage in incestuous sex, and even if Canaanites in general have tried to engage in incestuous sex, this is NOT sufficient reason for convicting these two particular Canaanite girls and condemning them to have their heads chopped off!  At the most, GI Jones has shown that there is some modest probabiltiy that one or both of these two girls has committed the sin or crime of incest, but such a weak conclusion falls obviously and hopelessly short of the requirement that guilt be established beyond any reasonable doubt, especially in a capital case.

Let’s briefly consider each category of incest, in accordance with the above common-sense understanding of what “incest” means.

1.  Did either of these girls have sex with one of their parents?

First of all, there is nothing in the laws of Jehovah that prohibits a girl from having sex with her mother.  So, we can eliminate that issue right away.  Second of all, shockingly there is also no law of Jehovah that prohibits a father from having sex with his daughter.  That might well be the case because the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, and daughters were considered to be the property of their fathers.  In any case, there is no such prohibition in the laws of Jehovah.  So, we can strike this first question as being irrelevant, because this court is only concerned with alleged violoations of the laws of Jehovah.

2. Did either of these girls have sex with one of their grandparents?

First of all, there is no law of Jehovah that prohibits a grandmother from having sex with her granddaughter, so we can immediately set aside that possibility as irrelevant.

Leviticus 18:10 does, however, prohibit a man from having sex with his granddaughter.

There are two obvious problems with applying this law to the accused Canaanite girls.  First of all, the death penalty was NOT assigned to this form of incest by the laws of Jehovah, so it would be UNJUST to implement the death penalty on these two girls for a violation of Leviticus 18:10.

Second of all, it seems fairly obvious that any punishment for violation of this law would be given to the grandfather who had sex with his granddaughter and NOT to the granddaughter, who in many cases would only be a child or a very young woman.  If the laws of Jehovah did require that BOTH grandfather and granddaughter be severely punished, that would be an obvious and grevious injustice, and would provide powerful evidence that Jehovah and his laws are UNJUST.  There is no good reason, however, to think that a granddaughter was supposed to be punished at all in such cases of incest.

Therefore, although it is possible that one or both of these two girls has engaged in incestuous sex with a grandparent, this would not be grounds for punishing these girls in any way.  Finally, Grand Inquisitor Jones has presented no specific facts showing that either of these girls has had sex with her grandfather.

3.  Did either of these girls have sex with one of her children?

At eight years of age, it is obvious that Lisa has not ever given birth to a child, so Lisa cannot have committed this form of incest.

Kathy is 18 years old, so it is biologically possible that she had a child at a very early age (say when she was 14 years old) and then recently had sex with her four year old child.  But I have placed into evidence sworn statements from Kathy’s parents and from Kathy’s physician stating that Kathy has never been pregnant and never given birth to a child.  Since Kathy has been living at home with her parents for her entire life (so far) , they would have known if she had become pregnant and given birth to a child, so we can rule out the possibility that Kathy has engaged in this form of incest.

There is no law of Jehovah that prohibits a mother from having sex with her daughter, so we can eliminate that possibility as irrelevant to this trial.

Because the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, there is only a prohibition against a man having sex with his mother (Leviticus 18:7), and this law was directed to the MEN of Israel, not to the BOYS of Israel.  So, it is doubtful that this law prohibits sex between a young boy and his mother.

Furthermore, the death penalty was NOT assigned to this form of incest (it is only when a man has sex with “his father’s wife” that the death penalty is assigned–see Leviticus 20:11–in which case the woman might not be his biological mother and the act would be punishable as a form of adultery), so it would be UNJUST to condemn either of these girls to death for violation of this law of Jehovah.

4. Did either of these girls have sex with one of her siblings?

I have placed into evidence sworn statements from the father and mother of these girls that they have no other children besides these two girls, and that they never have had any other children, even with other partners.  Therefore, there are no other siblings, and thus these girls do not have a brother.

The only way that it would be possible for these girls to have sex with a sibling would be to have had sex with each other.  No evidence has been presented to this court indicating that they have had sex with each other, so there is no evidence that they have committed this form of incest.

Furthermore, the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, and so they only prohibit a man from having sex with his sister (Leviticus 20:17).  There is no law of Jehovah that prohibits a girl or a woman from having sex with her sister.  Thus, even if it could be proven that these girls had sex with each other, that would NOT be a violation of a law of Jehovah.  This court is only concerned with violations of the laws of Jehovah.

Finally, although it is clear that it is not possible for either Lisa or Kathy to have had sex with a brother, since they don’t have a brother, even if it were shown that they had a brother and had sex with him, that particular form of incest was NOT assigned the death penalty in the laws of Jehovah.

5. Did either of these girls have sex with one of her grandchildren?

Since neither girl has ever given birth to a child, it is clear that the answer to this question is: NO.

There is no law of Jehovah prohibiting a grandmother from having sex with her granddaughter, so that form of incest is irrelevant to this court.

Furthermore, since the laws of Jehovah were directed to the MEN of Israel, it is unclear whether the laws of Jehovah prohibit a BOY from having sex with his grandmother.

It is also UNCLEAR who would be punished in such a case, since in the case of a grandfather having sex with his granddaughter it would presumably be the grandfather who was punshed and not the granddaughter.  However, the SEXIST nature of the laws of Jehovah suggest that it might be the BOY who was to be punished in the case of sex between a grandmother and her grandson.  The laws of Jehovah are simply too UNCLEAR on this point to justify a severe punishment, even if guilt could be established, which it cannot be in the case of these two girls.

Finally, even in the case of a grandfather having sex with his granddaughter, the death penalty was NOT assigned to that sin or crime, so it would be UNJUST to impose the death penalty on these two girls on the basis of an anaologous charge, even if their guilt could be proven, which it cannot be, since they have never had any children.

In conclusion, we have examined the five basic kinds of incest, in accordance with this common-sense understanding of the meaning of the word “incest”: having sexual intercourse with one’s parent, child, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent.

In NO CASE did we find a specific kind of incest in which all three of the following requirements were met:

(1) the specific kind of incest in question was prohibited by a law of Jehovah, AND

(2) the death penalty was assigned for that specific kind of incest by the laws of Jehovah, AND

(3) the factual evidence presented here by GI Jones proves beyond a reasonable doubt that one or both of these two girls had engaged in that specific kind of incest.

Because these three conditions have not been met for ANY of the five different kinds of incest, you must return a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

Please return a verdict of NOT GUILTY for the two beautiful, charming, intelligent, and loving girls who are standing at my side today.  There have been no specific facts or evidence presented by the Grand Inquisitor Jones showing that they have engaged in any kind of incest prohibited by the laws of Jehovah and punishable by the death penalty.  Let there be no chopping off heads today; declare Lisa and Kathy NOT GUILTY.

================

* I do have children, but the names and ages given here are not the actual names and ages of my children.

bookmark_borderAn Example of Why Atheists Need to do Effective Counter-Apologetics and an Example of How Not to Do That

1. An Example of Why Atheists Need to do Effective Counter-Apologetics
You could call this post a sequel to my earlier post, “On Caring about Whether Other People Become Naturalists.”
Christian apologist Greg Koukl has released a video arguing that, yes, atheists suppress the truth in unrighteousness. For those of us who are familiar with the Christian apologetics literature, it will come as no surprise that Koukl states that Romans 1 teaches this position, a position which Randal Rauser has called the “Rebellion Thesis.” I am no Biblical scholar, but if I were to attempt to translate that meme from ‘Christianese’ into ordinary English, it is roughly the position that atheists intentionally suppress the truth of God’s existence because they are in rebellion against God and want to live a sinful lifestyle.
While I don’t care that much about whether other people become naturalists, I care much more about people who harbor the prejudice that the Rebellion Thesis are true, since that prejudice is harmful to naturalists and atheists. We are fortunate, therefore, that Randal Rauser has directly challenged Koukl online. (See also the combox on Koukl’s website for an exchange between Rauser and someone who appears to agree with Koukl.)
Of course, atheists cannot and should not rely upon a lone Christian scholar to combat this prejudice, as helpful and welcome as his efforts are. Atheists also need to provide examples of why the Rebellion Thesis is false through their own examples. Part of this is by striving to be as moral as possible and part of this is by doing (or supporting) effective counter-apologetics. This leads to my second example (and point).
2. An Example of How Not to Do Counter-Apologetics
Some atheists seem to be opposed to the very idea of counter-apologetics for the same reason they are opposed to the very idea of even using the label “atheist”: they think it gives theism credibility it does not deserve. They dismiss things such as counter-apologetics as ‘god-bothering’ and, as the pejorative term suggests, they argue that atheists (of all people) should stop ‘god-bothering.’ With all due respect to such atheists, I find such notions to be out of touch with reality. The scientific evidence suggests that humans have a widespread tendency to form beliefs about invisible agents, including gods. (And notice this is true even if–especially if–God does not exist.) I can think of no reason to think such tendencies will go away with a contemptuous sneer.
Not all atheists refuse to do counter-apologetics, however. In fact, one might argue that some of the atheists in the first group, when they let their guard down, will occasionally do counter-apologetics. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, that often the same atheists who are so dismissive of theism tend to use such awful arguments and objections against it. In a sense, this is understandable. If you’ve concluded that belief X is not only false but stupid or even irrational, then you’re unlikely to spend much if any time trying to understand the best arguments for X. Furthermore, you just might come across as rude or patronizing when talking or writing about X.
Jerry Coyne’s recent diatribe against Catholic philosopher Edward Feser is an example of this. Feser has replied to Coyne. If I were to sum up Feser’s reply in one word, it would be, “Ouch!” I think Feser’s reply is simply devastating to Coyne and I found myself in agreement with most of his points.
But rather than pursue that line of thought, instead I want to offer some positive advice. To provide an atheist twist on another Bible verse often quoted in the Christian apologetics literature (1 Peter 3:15), atheists need to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks to give the reason for why you are a naturalist or an atheist, but do this with gentleness and respect.” To this I would add (but not nearly as eloquently), “And if addressing the arguments or objections of someone who disagrees with you, be informed about their actual position, arguments, and objections.” (Cf. a related comment by Erik Wielenberg on the ‘Courtier’s Reply’ here.)

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – The Grand Inquisitor Jones

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

Carl Sandburg, in The People, Yes (1936)

One response to my sixty objections against Clay Jones’s attempt to defend Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), is that my my objections “argue the law” thus betraying a reluctance to “argue the facts”, perhaps because the facts tend to support Jones’s view of the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) rather than my view of this matter.
There is some truth to this point.  I have indeed focused primarily on “arguing the law”.  That is because the laws of Jehovah are Male-Cattle CRAP (indicating that Jehovah was either stupid or unjust or both).
Jehovah’s laws are, in general, VAGUE and would be tossed out in modern courts on the basis of the legal principle of “Void for Vagueness”.  Jehovah’s laws, in general, fail to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited and to clearly specify the punishment that is appropriate for specific violations.  Furthermore, although Jehovah’s laws are somewhat clear in specifying the scope of people to whom those laws apply, the scope is, in general, implied to be: the men of Israel, and thus applying these laws to Canaanites (men, women, and children) would be an injustice, and since the punishment in question is SEVERE (i.e. the death penalty), applying these laws to Canaanites (men, women, and children) would be a GREAT injustice.
Clay Jones does not “argue the law” because the law is against him.  It is against him, because the laws of Jehovah are sexist, cruel, harsh, and vague.  That is why Jones does not bother to “argue the law” and why I have chosen to focus in on the injustice inherent in the laws of Jehovah.
However, the FACTS are not especially on Jones’s side either.  Jones actually makes very little effort to “argue the facts”.  Jones fails to heed the sound advice of William Lane Craig on this matter:
 Far from being easy, historical apologetics, if done right, is every bit as difficult as philosophical apologetics.  The only reason most people think historical apologetics to be easier is because they do it superficially.  …if we are to do a credible job in our apologetics, we need to do the hard thinking and the hard work required… (Apologetics: An Introduction, p.166, Moody Press, 1984)
In failing to make a serious effort to argue the facts, Jones follows the wide path of INTELLECTUAL SLOTH layed out by numerous Christian apologists for the past several centuries. He and most of his fellow Christian apologists fail to take seriously the need for careful, objective, scholarship when it comes to historical claims.  Perhaps this is the consequence of too much “preaching to the choir” by Christian apologists.
Although “arguing the law” was easy for me on the issue of the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children), Clay Jones has done such a poor and pathetic job of “arguing the facts” that I’m more than happy to shift gears for a bit and to show that Jones’s attempt to justify Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) fails even when the focus is placed on “arguing the facts”.
In response  to the potential complaint that I have previously placed too much focus on “arguing the law”, in this post I plan to focus more on factual issues, and put less emphasis on “arguing the law”.
In order to help readers to resist the temptation to think in an overly abstract and cold-hearted manner, I’m going to personalize the discussion here.  I will imagine that it is my own daughters (at ages 8 and 18) who are being charged with a sin or crime that Jones believes to be worthy of the death penalty.  I will imagine Clay Jones to present the case for convition and for the punishment of death (based on his comments in his article “Killing the Canaanites”), and I will imagine that it is my job to vigorously defend my daughters against the charges and the case made by Jones, to ensure that they are given a fair trial.
To emphasize the human fallibility of Christian religious leaders and authorities, I will refer to the character representing Clay Jones’s views as: GRAND INQUISITOR JONES (or GI Jones).  I will refer to myself as:  BRADLEY FOR THE DEFENSE (or BFD).  The original, historical Grand Inquisitors tortured innocent men, women, and children to get them to confess to various sins or heretical beliefs.  In giving the Jones character the title “Grand Inquisitor” I am NOT implying that Clay Jones is so morally corrupt and depraved as to willingly engage in the torture of men, women, or children to extract confessions of sin or heresy from them.  I assume that Jones would view such an idea as morally repugnant.
Thus Grand Inquisitor Jones will be a “kinder and gentler” sort of Grand Inquisitor.  GI Jones will, in a fair public trial, attempt to present a strong case based on objective empirical/historical evidence and good reasoning that is sufficient to convict my two daughters of the alleged sin or crime in question, like a prosecuting attorney in a criminal trial.
My primary point in giving the prosecutor the title “Grand Inquisitor Jones” is to remind Jones and readers of this post that in the past Christians have practiced systematic terror and torture and murder of innocent men, women, and children for MANY centuries, and that such  horrible crimes against humanity were authorized and justified by Christian leaders and Christian theologians for MANY centuries, thus firmly establishing beyond all reasonable doubt that Christian leaders and Christian theologians are fully capable of being morally blind leaders of morally blind Christian followers.
Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of an important phase in the history of the Christian religion…
==============================
Let us imagine a traveler in the city of Rome when the Renaissance was in full flower, a pilgrim or a merchant or a diplomat.  He seeks out the chapel near St. Peter’s Basilica where the Pieta of Michelangelo is now on display, and he spends a few moments admiring the sublime depiction of the body of the slain Jesus in the lap of his grieving mother.  Pieta means “pity,” and the scene is rendered with exquisite tenderness and profound compassion. …
At the very same moment, however, and not far away, hooded men in dungeons lit only by torches–henchmen of what would come to be called the Roman and Universal Inquisition–are applying instruments of torture to the naked bodies of men and women whose only crime is to have entertained some thought that the Church regarded as heretical.  The victims’ cries, faint and distant, reach the ears of the traveler who gazes in prayerful silence at the Pieta… . Yet the torturers are wholly without pity, and they work in the sure conviction  that the odor of the charred flesh of heretics is “delectable to the Holy Trinity and the Virgin.”   (The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God, by Jonathan Kirsch, p.1-2, HarperCollins, 2008)
The long history of the Inquisition can be conveniently divided into three phases.  The medieval Inquisition, which functioned across western Europe for a couple of hundred years starting in the early thirteenth century, finished off the Cathars and then expanded its scope of operations to include a miscellaneous assortment of accused heretics, ranging from radical Franciscan priests to women accused of witchcraft.  The Spanish Inquisition was franchised by the pope in 1478 to detect and punish Jewish and Muslim converts to Christianity (known as conversos) who were suspected of secretly clinging to their former faiths, and remained in formal existence through 1834.  And the Roman Inquisition, which aspired to universal jurisdiction but operated mostly in Italy, was created in 1542 as the papal weapon of choice in the crusade against the Protestant Reformation as well as the freshening winds of secularism and scientific inquiry that accompanied the Renaissance.    (The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual, p.5)
The reach and sweep of the Inquisition have discouraged historians from treating it as a single institution. …The fact remains, however, that the inquisitors of every nationality and in every age were deputized under the same body of canon law, inflicted the same tortures and punishments on their victims, and devoted themselves to the same terrible mission–the arrest, torture, and execution of any man, woman, or child whom they regarded as a heretic, a term sufficiently elastic to reach any victim who happened to excite their anxieties or greed.  Thus, for example, the manuals and handbooks composed in the Middle Ages to instruct the first inquisitors in their day-to-day work were still being consulted by the last inquisitors six centuries later.  (The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual, p.6)
==============================
Whenever anyone listens to a Christian scholar or theologian defend what appears on the surface to be horrible crimes against humanity, it is quite reasonable, based on historical experience, to approach such arguments with great caution and skepticism.
We MUST NOT BE FOOLED AGAIN by wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Mr. Jones might indeed be a sheep, but given the darker pages in the  history of the Christian religion, it is reasonable and appropriate, for the purposes at hand, to put  wolves’ clothing (i.e. the title “Grand Inquisitor”) on the character representing Jones, to remind one and all that he might actually be a wolf.
Judge:  The Grand Inquisitor Jones will now present his case against the accused, and then Bradley For the Defense will present objections and arguments defending the accused.
GI Jones:  Thank you, your honor.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: today I will present to you my case for the charge that Lisa (age 8) is guilty of the horrible crime or sin of IDOLATRY, and for the charge that her older sister Kathy (age 18) is also guilty of this terrible crime or sin, and that because of this horrible sin or crime, they both deserve the penalty of DEATH; they both deserve to have their heads chopped off by a sword-wielding, Jehovah-worshiping soldier of the army of Israel.*
Lisa and Kathy have committed the crime or sin of IDOLATRY.  I assure you that both of these wicked girls have in fact worshiped other gods besides Jehovah, the God of Israel.  So, you must, on the basis of this fact, deliver a verdict of “Guilty” and condemn these evil and perverse girls to death by beheading.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury for your attention to my case for the guilt of Lisa and Kathy.
BFD:  What the hell!  Is this a joke?  I was expecting hours of testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, or at least a lengthy presentation of dozens of facts to make a circumstantial case for the guilt of the accused girls.  But instead we are offered a ten-second, completely fact-free argument.  Grand Inquisitor Jones, have you no shame, sir?
The Grand Inquisitor has failed to cite the law that the defendants have violated, and the Grand Inquisitor has not even hinted at what he means by “the crime or sin of IDOLATRY”, so we have no clear idea of what the defendants are being accused of doing, or whether the law even applies to these beautiful, charming, and intelligent girls.  Since the laws of Jehovah were directed to the men of Israel, the presumption is that any such laws do NOT apply to young girls who are Canaanites, not Israelites.
Though GI Jones has utterly failed to make a rational case against the defendants in terms of the alleged law against IDOLATRY, let’s ignore that for the moment, and simply assume the common sense notion that one commits IDOLATRY when one “worships a god by means of an idol representing that god”.  Since GI Jones has presented ZERO facts to show that either Lisa or Kathy have ever worshiped a god by means of an idol representing that god, there is no case here to consider.  All we have is GI Jones’ personal assertion that Lisa and Kathy have “worshiped other gods besides Jehovah”.  But GI Jones does not know Lisa, nor does he know Kathy.  He has never met either girl until this very hour when he saw them here in this courtroom.  GI Jones has no experiences of these girls to base his claim upon.  So, no actual evidence has been presented for the guilt of either Lisa or Kathy.
Suppose, however, we grant the baseless claim made by the Grand Inquisitor.  Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that both girls have indeed “worshiped other gods besides Jehovah”.  Even if this were true, this tells us NOTHING about whether they have ever used an idol to worship a god, and so it tells us NOTHING about whether they are guilty of the sin or crime of IDOLATRY, given the common sense understanding of the meaning of that word.
Have not many Israelites worshiped Jehovah without the use of an idol?  If so, then it follows necessarily that it is POSSIBLE to worship a god WITHOUT use of an idol, without use of a statue or image representing a god.  If the Israelites can worship their god without using idols, then certainly Canaanites, such as these two lovely girls at my side, can worship their god or gods without using idols.  Therefore, even if we grant the baseless claim of the Grand Inquisitor that these two girls have “worshiped other gods besides Jehovah” this tells us NOTHING about whether they are guilty of the sin or crime of IDOLATRY.
Finally, you may think poorly of these two young Canaanites if you believe that they have engaged in worship of other gods besides Jehovah, the god of Israel.  You may think that they ought to instead worship Jehovah, “the one true God.”  But even if they are guilty of worshiping some other god or gods, can you seriously consider the imposition of the death penalty on these two beautiful, charming, intelligent girls, girls that love their father and mother, girls that are loved and cherished by their father and mother?
Lisa is only eight years old.  She can barely understand the concepts of “religion” and “worship” and “god”.  She has never been to a Jewish temple or synagogue. Lisa has never set foot in a Christian church.  The only religion she has any real experience of is the religion of her Canaanite parents, which involves the worship of gods other than Jehovah.
When Lisa grows up, she might well get to meet some Israelites who worship Jehovah, or some Christian believers who worship Jehovah.  She might go to a Jewish religious service or a Christian religious service, and she might even decide to leave the religion of her parents in favor of a religion in which Jehovah is worshiped.  But if you chop off her pretty young head now, there is no chance that she will ever worship Jehovah.   She will die without ever having the opportunity to learn about other religions besides the religion she learned from her own Canaanite parents.
Kathy, of course, is older than Lisa.  Kathy is a young adult, and she has had a bit more experience of religion than Lisa.  She has a better understanding of the concepts of “religion” and “worship” and “god”.  But Kathy is still a teenager.  She is just now finishing high school.  Her mind has been focused on learning math, history, chemistry, French, and other subjects, as well as on friendships and her boyfriend, and cheerleading practice, and applications for college.  She has not had much time to study world religions and to contemplate all of her options concerning religion, philosophy, and spirituality.
So, like her younger sister Lisa, Kathy does not have a good grasp of the alternatives to the religion of her Canaanite parents.  Kathy may know that there are religions that encourage the worship of Jehovah.  Kathy may have been to a Jewish synagogue once, or to a Jewish religious ceremony once, and she has attended Christian church services on a couple of occasions, but she is hardly in a position to have a solid grasp of Jewish faith and practice or of Christian theology and Christian religious practices.  Kathy might over the course of the next decade go to college and learn about other religions and philosophies, and it is possible that Kathy might take a serious interest in either Judaism or Christianity and decide that she wants to become a worshiper of Jehovah.
But if you have a big strong soldier of Israel chop off Kathy’s head today, then she will NEVER have the opportunity to gain significant exposure to any religion or philosophy besides what she learned from her Canaanite father and mother.  Although Kathy is an adult, it would be EXTREMELY UNFAIR to judge her choice of religion/philosophy at this point in her young life, when she has had very little exposure to and experience of alternative religions and philosophies.
Finally, if we are to impose the death penalty on any person who worships a god besides Jehovah, then we must kill every man, woman, and child in the Greek Civilization, and we must kill every man, woman, and child in the Roman Civilization, and every man, woman, and child in the Phonecian Civilization, and every man, woman, and child in the Egyptian Civilization, and…
In the end, you will have to kill nearly every human being outside of the nation of Israel, because Jehovah was the god of Israel, not the god of the Egyptians, not the god of  the Greeks, not the god of the Romans, not the god of the Phonecians, not the god of the… .  Surely, such massive worldwide slaughter is unjust and unwarranted.  Stop the madness of the Grand Inquisitor now!
Please return a verdict of NOT GUILTY for the two beautiful, charming, intelligent, and loving girls whom you see standing at my side today.  There have been no facts or evidence presented showing that they have worshiped a god besides Jehovah, and even assuming that they have worshiped a god besides Jehovah, we cannot draw any logical conclusion as to whether they are guilty of IDOLATRY.  Let there be no chopping off heads today; declare Lisa and Kathy NOT GUILTY.
================
* I do have children, but the names and ages given here are not the actual names and ages of my children.