Jump to content


Photo

Kevin Brown reviews The Outsider Test for Faith


  • Please log in to reply
2 replies to this topic

#1 Ken Gilmore

Ken Gilmore

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,808 posts
  • LocationBrisbane, Australia

Posted 20 April 2013 - 07:15 AM

I've never seen why many non-theists regard the Outsider Test of Faith as being the knock-down destroyer of Christianity they think it is. While I'd accept that it may prove lethal for some of the more fundamentalist instantiations of Christianity, for anyone who has seriously looked at their faith and moved from fundamentalism to a more robust faith, at most the OTF is merely an atheistic polemical reworking of the sort of test theists such as myself apply to their faith constantly in order to ensure that what they believe is grounded in reality.

Kevin Brown at Diglotting has looked at the OTF and is somewhat underwhelmed:

The OTF can be broken down into a four part argument which I shall summarize as follows: (1) there is lots of religious diversity in the world; (2) because of this religious diversity one can surmise that “one’s religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns” (15-16). These two points lead to (3) “at best there can be only one religious faith that is true. At worse, they could all be false” (16). Thus, the author proposes (4) “The only way to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outside, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject” (16-17).

I do not understand logic of these four steps. While I agree that the religious faith of some people is causally dependent upon their cultural upbringing, considering that fact that many people change their religious faith as they get older, this leaves a segment of society where (2) does not necessarily follow from (1), at least not when it comes to the issue of why one has chosen a specific religion. The second chapter discusses the fact of religious diversity in more detail. In it the author says:

Many evangelicals are exclusivist to a large degree. But this view simply cannot be maintained in the light of the amount of religious diversity in the world along with the subsequent rational disagreement about religious faiths among peers. If there is a God who wants us to believe in him, there would not be so much religious diversity around the globe. The probability that the Christian God exists is inversely proportional to the amount of religious diversity that exists (that is, the more religious diversity there is, the less probable it is that he exists), and there is way too much religious diversity to suppose that he does. (45)


“If there is a God who wants us to believe in him, there would not be so much religious diversity around the globe”. This is representative of some of the logic in this book. If God exists, then X must be true (why? because I say so). X is not true, therefore God does not exist.

So, what's the verdict? Brown concludes:

In a nutshell, this book argues that people should approach their own religious faith with the same level of skepticism that they approach other religious faiths. Amazing that an entire book could be written on this! Unfortunately, the book lacks any philosophical depth (but makes up for it in non sequiturs), is poorly argued, and is primarily aimed towards the exclusivist and conservative faiths (esp. evangelicalism). So it isn’t really useful except for maybe someone who has never given critical thought to their religious beliefs before.

For me, I am puzzled that an approach I use to fault-find my theological position can be cited as a theism-buster. Unless one is looking for reasons not to believe.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#2 Fortigurn

Fortigurn

    Moderator

  • Admin
  • 34,729 posts

Posted 20 April 2013 - 09:11 AM

For me, I am puzzled that an approach I use to fault-find my theological position can be cited as a theism-buster. Unless one is looking for reasons not to believe.


I completely agree. I've always considered the OTF an absolutely damp squib. Great takedown by Kevin.

#3 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 20 April 2013 - 01:04 PM

Yeah I've never understood all the fuss about it.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users