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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

John's Psychoanalysis

Here's one trend that's becoming common over at John's circle, and it involves a great deal of attempts at trying to encompass the mentality and mindset of Christians and reduce it to psychological terminology. While seemingly parroting this trend from the likes of folk such as Richard Dawkins, John Loftus seems fond of pointing out that a great deal of the Christian opposition is "deluded" and does so with the same flippant regard as Dawkins:

Many Christians treat skeptics like me as if I am the enemy to be debated and not a fellow human being interested in the truth. That is surely one of the marks of a brainwashed or deluded person too.

This is deliciously ironic. Seeing as John spends his time venting about how primtive and superstitious it is to subscribe to the tenets of Christianity, is it any mystery that he would, to some degree, be perceived as an "enemy to be debated"? In fact, the existence of DJ's blog doesn't really indicate he's interested in anything else but debating with Christians. He aims at trying to conjur up arguments and push the envelope of controversies in many cases. Now the question is, what is his aim when he writes posts such as these?

Perhaps it requires going back a little further in time to the original post John alludes too:

Below in no particular order are what I consider the ten marks (or characteristics) of a deluded person. I think even educated Christians will agree with most of them.

The fascinating thing about this line of reasoning is that we see it stemming from individuals totally without credentials in a psychological field, and yet nonetheless, these individuals (some of them highly respected and credible scientists like Dawkins) proceed to make psychological assessments. At first this seems harmless, but the effects of such statements and their influence on the impressionable (which in modern times seems to be the majority of the worldwide web) have dangerous and detrimental implications. The definition of delusion used here by John is defined on his own personal parameters, which in turn translates to his own opinionated viewpoint, not based on anything that mental health professionals deem to be "deluded." In essence, such a wreckless use of words means that anyone may call someone "not in tune with reality" delusional because they derived the defintion from or other such similar means.

You might want to consider from this checklist how many of them apply to you. To the degree that more of them apply then the more likely you are deluded by your faith. Now it's quite possible that Christians can be deluded and yet their faith is true, in the same sense that a person might be brainwashed or indoctrinated into believing the truth. But the point is that if you're deluded then you have no reason to believe.

Overall, John is correct. And as a matter of fact, many Christians believe in their faith for no other good reason than they were brought up in those traditions, or it just so happens to be the religion of choice because they are most familiar with it. Not because they have examined and analyzed different perspectives or compared their own faith to other religions. Not because they have considered the possibility that they might be dead wrong. In other words, no critical thinking is included in the puzzle.

But now that we've already established the opinionated bias for this defintion of what it means to be delusional, what follows is going to be rather suspect. In the same light of John's opening statement here, it is also true that John may arrive to the right conclusions all for the wrong reasons (is John delusional perhaps?).

A deluded person is more likely than not one who...

2) As an adult never adopts nor cultivates the adult attitude of doubt. All adults must revisit the religious faith taught to them by their parents since #1 above is undeniably true. That means they must doubt. Doubt is the adult attitude.

This is of course dependent on the presence of a "religious faith" by which one has to be brought up in, unless of course John is meaning to imply that atheism, agnosticism and deism can be included in the list.

Furthermore John needs to establish the extent by which doubt is necessary to cultivate "the adult attitude of doubt." Is it more wise to be a skeptic or a cynic? Is doubt needed with regard to everything or only in the cases of religious faith? How can John except people to follow along with this reasoning if the words being used are not defined in specific terms?

3) Never reads widely or is exposed to other points of view in the media. I'm talking about non-fiction works about the sciences, different cultures, different faiths, and those written by skeptics or non-believers. To escape from being deluded, believers should read books that are written by people within different cultures and faith communities, and watch programs on the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, 60 Minutes, Dateline, and yes, YouTube.

Very nice John, well done. This means we can pretty much classify those living in third world countries without access to the internet, television, print, and the media as "deluded" for having the beliefs that they do. Let's also not forget scientific illiteracy. After all, it is the fault of the people in these given nations for not boning up on their organic chemistry and quantum physics, even if it might mean certain death for them at the hands of their own government or socioeconomic class. Bravo, bravo.

4) Does not travel widely including travel into different cultures. A deluded person only experiences a small slice of the pie. One must experience the world to see how others live. The more the better. Such a person basically stays within the social confines of like-minded religious people. The Amish are the extreme examples of this. Many believers only have believing friends. Even if believers cannot travel the world they can still step outside their social grouping to meet other people who think differently. Most believers do not trust people of different faiths or non-believers. Seek them out. Attend a freethinker's group meeting. Get to know them. Become friends with them.

More of a reiterated version of the previous point, and one that still doesn't do much justice for itself, let alone serve as sound advice on the behalf of others. Again, third world countries? What about India and the Caste System? If you are an untouchable, what then John? They are restrained to their own delusional prison imposed on them by government sanction and thousands of years of tradition?

5) Never studies deeply into the nature of his or her adopted faith. The more you know the less you believe, the less confident you become, and the more you doubt.

A reiteration of the first point (which we have already addressed) in that one is deluded by subscribing only to the faith they were brought up in. I tend to agree completely with John on points like these, but the only problem with this is that John must demonstrate that it is universal that the more one knows about their faith, the less they believe in it. This is not always true, and it may be that one chooses to study the "nature" of their faith and becomes even more convinced of it, even if it is contrary to common sense and logic. Allot of it just depends on the person more than what the person has studied and how much they know about their particular religion.

6) Lies in order to defend one's faith. There are plenty of examples of this, from faking stories about finding Noah's Ark, to fudging the truth when there is no reasonable response, to making up personal healing stories, to claiming a conversion from a position of intellectual atheism (versus a practical atheism) to Evangelical Christianity like Lee Strobel and David Wood, to personal and unjustified attacks on anyone who questions one's faith in order to poison the well against them, to debate tactics like the ones used by Bill Craig and Dinesh D'Souza who as debaters, just like boxers in a ring, are out to win the debate no matter what must be said in order to win it. These are liars for Jesus to various degrees. If you have to lie to defend your faith then you need help.

Trashing the name of your "former mentor" again are we John? It is funny that John has continued to push for a debate with Dr. Craig, but yet behind his back he chooses to make as many fatal jabs as he can.

Maybe there is something here which might indicate John suffers from a projection complex, now that we are referencing the subject of psychology. Because it is certainly the case, as we have often discussed in the infancy period of this blog, that John will also lie to save face, even when his position is without defensive merit. Need we dig up the past once more?!

And John's truthful and intellectually honest response:

Technically, I didn't lie.

Prove to me I did.

Besides, it doesn't matter that you know I started the Blog. I don't care. People will still visit there regardless, and I will continue sending people there.

You are the dishonest one.

Hmmm..very interesting. John certainly seems like he's qualified to point out the delusion of lying for a position that clearly can't be defended, even through lying. That's because of course, despite the age of the incident itself, John is guilty on all counts of this himself.

Moving on...

7) Preaches to people who think differently rather than rationally engaging them. I am constantly amazed, bewildered, frustrated, and bored with the kind of responses I see from believers who comment here at DC. They come here preaching. They pontificate. They quote mine from the Bible. They even say we're going to hell with glee. Many of them merely mouth the words of the creeds and affirm what they believe, rather than actually engaging us with a rational discussion about the basis for believing in the first place. They come here preaching to us from an ancient superstitious set of texts rather than showing us why we should believe them in the first place.

Well John, again, that is really reflective of the type of atmosphere you create. You play mostly on the emotional aspects of Christianity rather than rationally engaging believers. Your blog is a treasure chest of arguments on how the existence of suffering negates an omnipotent and caring deity. You point to recent disasters (like the earthquake in Japan) as reasons for why God can't and doesn't exist. You hardly ever address things besides. You do not explain why calamities in the present support your arguments and yet those of the past do not matter so much (and this is not to say that your point isn't realized, I understand you do this to communicate to believers) and most importantly, you never address the fact that the people of ancient times were well aware of natural disasters simply based on the fact that suffering is a common theme throughout the Bible, and natural disasters have persisted forever.

8) Claims he or she does not need evidence to believe. Take notice Alvin Plantinga and Bill Craig! This is utterly delusional thinking especially when we consider all of the things they must take as properly basic beliefs coming from the witness of the Holy Spirit. As someone said, "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." Anyone who claims his or her faith does not need evidence, even if true, ought to take a reality check.

Fair enough, but this means that the skeptic "community" can no longer define fatih as "belief in something without evidence." Right?

9) Must be convinced that his or her faith is impossible before seeing it as improbable. Time after time believers will claim I have not proved that their faith is impossible, and so lacking this kind of proof they still claim to have a reason to believe. However, we're always talking about probabilities. So even if it's still possible to believe in light of a number of problems for faith, it's still an improbable faith and that should be good enough.

Shaky grounds here. There are plenty of skeptics who would pick at aspects of religion (like the resurrection of Jesus) as impossible, and they play on this to suggest that without some sort of possibility factored into the equation, we can automatically reject the faith.

So this is a matter of whom you are addressing. And of course, it's one-sided and directed only at believers of faith.

10) Must denigrate the sciences in order to have faith. This is what I see time after time. Believers denigrate the sciences in a number of ways in order to believe. That's because faith demands it. Some believers don't even know what I'm talking about. Since science tells us prayer doesn't work then it doesn't work. It tells us the universe is 13.7 billion years old. It tells us we evolved. It tells us there was no Israelite Exodus from Egypt. It tells us the Nativity stories in the Gospels could not be true. It tells us virgins do not have babies. It tells us that dead people do not bodily rise from the grave. Christians must denigrate science in order to believe. Science or Faith? Science has a track record. Faith flies planes into buildings. Science all the way, hands down. End of story.

And now ladies and gentlemen, the jaw-dropping unanticipated climax to John's rant on psychoanalyzing religious believers.

Science tells us prayer doesn't work? Science says virgins don't have babies? All of this is of course in light of the fact that John moans about how believers don't engage him with rational discourse. Well, if one were to put faith into a box comprised of denial and refusal to consider evidence, and defines faith as a reliance on these aspects yet expects believers to back their faith with evidence, then it stands that John would have believers do the logically impossible. Contradict their own stances while somehow maintaining them in a non-contradictory fashion.

Clearly someone doesn't take the time to work out the kinks to their own arguments and assessments of mind.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Sister Site: Introducing the WBC Watchdog

This may not interest anyone who reads this, but I've finally made the committment to create a website on the Westboro Baptist Church and stick with it. You'll find the link on the sidebar.

The catch to this blog is that, while it does not show any sympathy for the Phelps' extremist views, it also dispells the popular myths surrounding the church, and will attempt to document facts about them and their philosophies in order to better "know thy enemy".

If you happen to be interested, go and check it out. It's of course still a work in progress, but with the passing of time I'll be adding more material and beefing it with more resources.

Thanks anyway.



Nick (ApologiaPhoenix) a somewhat contributor here and frequent moderator over at TheologyWeb, brought this to my attention as I was skimming the March 2011 Screwballs thread:

If you've kept up on any recent news lately, you'd know perfectly well that John is talking about the tsunami mass earthquake which hit Japan sometime mid to late evening yesterday.

Now it's not so much that I disagree with John's viewpoint on the nature and extent of these disaster and their implications for theological beliefs. It's just, well...

Check out the title: Devastating Tsunami Hits Japan. You Want Evidence There Isn't a Good Omnipotent God? Here it is.

*Sigh*....does this sound like anything new from Debunking Christianity? If you answered no, then you would most certainly be correct. Anything bad that happens in the world on a major scale is likely to get pinned down by John and like-minded folk as evidence that there is no good omnipotent God.

Except when these arguments turn into a formulated pattern, and become a franchise just like the majority of John's other arguments and propositions, then where does there effectiveness lie? Where is the substantial content? Where is this "evidence" that John speaks of. At some point it becomes an "argument" which relies on your emotional suggestiveness. Does it actually address anything on a cerebral level? Does it provide anything of coherent structure? NO. It's really quite similar to the tactics used by one of my favorite and often mentioned domestic terrorist groups, PETA. I have compared John to people who endorse PETA (even though I cannot state as a matter of fact that John would be amongst those who do) because he relies mostly on the power of suggestion rather than the power of reason. What does PETA do to convince people that eating meat is wrong and abhorrent? They compare eating chicken McNuggets to the Concentration Camps, they prey on children with videos of the horrific and illegal torture of endangered species. Do they at all attempt to explain such statements as why eating meat is "wrong" for humans to do? Never.

In the same sense, does John provide anything of content beside videos and soundbites, news clips, and rehashed arguments? We await the day that John could commit to actual substance. That is a hope and anticipation of ours here on this blog. And if somehow John could explain in this particular instance, how its implied significance is different or moreso than in other previously mentioned cases, then we will afford John that merit.

John writes just above the embedded video:

"Here it is. Try explaining this rather than explaining it away."

And in conjunction with a comment made this very morning:

"Mike, I written about tragedies before and every time I do some people say I'm insensitive. But if I wrote about a distant event in the past it would not be fresh on people's minds."

Well John, maybe you could look at this way: You do make a fuss about just any type of calamity that comes to your attention. You have a tendency like that of the media to skew these events to fit your perspective, just like the media's allegations that Jared Loughner was a right-wing conspirator, not a registered Independent with severe psychological problems not related to religious affiliations or even politics.

And something else you fail to touch upon is what I've already brought up in this post: You fail to explain how the recency of an event makes it much more signficant than those of the past. What does this earthquake prove about anything? What could it possibly indicate? You leave these questions hanging in the air for the individual to decide. That's employing the same reasoning used by Creationists, John. What does this prove that couldn't somehow be proven from the distant past?

Keep in mind that because calamities have always been a fact of life, such instances were happening even during the time the Bible was being written. Does this make the Bible true? No, not by necessity. But it does show that it is a very small probability that ancient people were ignorant and oblivious to natural disasters. The key is to pinpoint what the ancients were conveying about their world at the time that they wrote this material which is now affecting our contemporary society. John makes no effort really to address any of these topics. This is why his arguments fall flat on their face.