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Featured Theists: what *would* work for an outsider test for faith?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by 9-10ths_Penguin, Oct 25, 2021.

  1. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    John Loftus coined a term for something that existed in different forms long before him: the outsider test for faith.

    It's the idea that we should approach faith claims that are very familiar to us - or that we're heavily invested in - with the sort of mindset that a disinterested outsider would have, or that we use when considering religions we don't believe in.

    A few quotes from Loftus (source) that expand on the idea:

    I often see pushback when theists are encouraged to apply the outsider test for faith to their own belief.

    In fairness, this often involves comparing their beliefs to parody religions (e.g. the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn) or religions now generally dismissed as unreasonable (e.g. the ancient Greek or Norse pantheons of gods), so I get the sense that the theists often assume that their beliefs are being made fun of, and their offense gets in the way of having a real discussion.

    ... so theists: what would work? How should non-theists approach this issue that would actually get you to apply the outsider test for faith to your own beliefs?
     
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  2. Seeker of White Light

    Seeker of White Light Be who ever you want

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    A very good OP:) and very good questions.
    Can not speak for other believers:) but being critical toward the self and the deep belief can hurt the ego (been there done that)

    Being asked questions by non believer is not the problem:) it is when one lack the ability to answer that a theist may wish to withdraw from the discussion.

    The "outside test" may be a very good tool to shave off the ego...
     
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  3. Windwalker

    Windwalker Veteran Member
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    I see a gaping hole in this argument from the outset. It presupposes that religious faith is synonymous with rational propositions. Religious faith is approached as a matter of the heart, not rationality, or the head. If it were based upon reason and logic, then what part does faith play?

    Now, faith does not mean "blind belief". That is not what religious faith means or is about. a religious faith is about trusting in the Unknowable, something that cannot be reasoned or penetrated with the mind, yet is embraced at the heart level, or with one's being. That both precedes and surpasses the tool of rationality. It is non-rational in nature, like love.

    So this person's test, as an ex-Christian now atheist, shows that he approached religious faith through the eyes of modernity, making it a rational affair, like science, and not a heart affair, like religious faith has always been prior to the age of modernity. His test only shows that he approached religion without faith.
     
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  4. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    If, at various times, we are concerned with what is true, however, and are attempting to discern what that truth is with some degree of certainty in order to act appropriately, then we are very likely not going to turn to "the heart" as a method of verification. To the point that religion then has this in its scope of utility. And one thing one should not do with it is to propose that religious characters/actors have greater presence in the whole of reality. They have presence within the individuals (forming groups, granted, but the beliefs are still individual) willing to care about them, and that is all that can be demonstrated. As long as lines aren't crossed in that space, I don't see that there is much of a problem. But with all the attempts to convince and "share the good news" that often go on, not everyone has the same understanding of the utility of religion - which is why there are some who continue to try to explain.
     
  5. Lain

    Lain Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps I have misunderstood it but in my opinion I do not even know if such a thing would work in the religion I have. As far as I know we teach there are two sorts of outsiders: those who God will enliven the understanding of so that they will see the faith as true and those who He leaves dead in the understanding and it is outright impossible for them to see it. It also seems to assume that (and this is sort of the same thing I already said in different words) that we can share standards for judging things when this also is contrary to our claims, or that we are even the same sort of human person anymore, which also is contrary to our claims. So I do not know if it is possible either for us to look at things from their perspective or vice versa.
     
  6. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    Seems to me that you just argued that faith does mean "blind belief."

    The decision to devote onesself to a god, sure... but the question of whether the object of one's devotion actually exists is still subject to rational inquiry.

    You may not be able to read my mind sufficiently to confirm that I love my wife, but demonstrating that my wife exists is pretty trivial.

    Yes, he's approaching the claims with a rational lens.

    ... which most theists tell me they do, too. Generally, it seems like theists think they have rational justification for their beliefs; this is why we have umpteen threads about the Ontological Argument. It's rare for me to meet a theist who says "my belief is irrational, but I'm going to hold it anyway."
     
  7. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    Really?

    There are many mystery religions that claim that some sort of special divine knowledge has been granted to an "elect" and that everyone else is ignorant of this knowledge.

    Comparing your particular mystery religion to these others doesn't strike me as that difficult.
     
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  8. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Just do the same with culture, norms and all those other soft human behavior words and get back to us with your results.
    So replace faith with some of the other words.
     
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  9. Seeker of White Light

    Seeker of White Light Be who ever you want

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    Could it be that "living the teaching" is the only way to have evidence that spiritual teaching"works"? Only by examples is it shown as truth?
     
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  10. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    I would think what @Lain is saying is that a deeply ingrained enough belief will have the believer discounting the other point of view they're being asked to take from the get-go.

    For example, in @Lain's religion, he's saying that he believes that anyone who doesn't "have the sight" is made that way by God, and so if you "have the sight" then you have it, and trying to "turn it off" just isn't really possible, because God chose you for it. And it then becomes really, really easy, I would imagine, to dismiss any of this talk of "taking other perspectives" as simply coming from those who "don't have the sight" and who weren't chosen by God. And since those people are inferior, it isn't like they'd be looking to join them, and it would likely be to the chagrin of their God to do so in their minds!

    This was something I figured would be nearly impossible for some types when reading the OP. The ability to even begin to step outside of the "shoes" of ones chosen religion. When it is ingrained to the point that it literally represents reality for the person, then how are they to just "shut off" reality? It could be somewhat like asking someone to pretend gravity didn't exist for the next several minutes in order to conduct an experiment. "But gravity is currently acting on me." one might be found to say.

    As an atheist... I completely get the idea of the "outsider's perspective", and I, myself, feel that I have loads of experience trying to put myself into the mind of utilizing various perspectives. It is my honest opinion that people willing to believe various religious claims are simply not as capable of doing this as someone who evaluates such things critically and skeptically, and are always trying to wrap their minds around the various perspectives that make things what they are or what they appear to be.
     
  11. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    And it is very likely that the person you are asking to do this already has. For example... I, myself, when evaluating the "culture" and "norms" of those around me, and then seeing that other people elsewhere have entirely different culture and norms... well, that, to my "style" of mind, was a key indicator that none of it is actually all that pressing. A bit like deciding which pair of socks to wear for the day. You may look into the drawer sometimes and throw out some of the socks with holes in them, but in the end, any and all of the good ones have about the same utility. No one pair of socks is "true" in other words, and so there is no reason to get in a huff when someone doesn't like the pair of socks you chose for that day. Nor does the person complaining about your socks really have any solid ground to stand on. The appropriateness of socks is entirely opinion-based.

    It is the mind that has already made itself up as to which socks are "the right socks," to the exclusion of all others... that's the mind that presents a problem. That kind of thinking is foolish, and has been demonstrated time and time again to get us into all sorts of trouble. Just wear your socks, let others do the same, and shut the hell up about it.
     
  12. AlexanderG

    AlexanderG Active Member

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    This is a very good point. When I have longer conversations with theists, in my experience the arguments and apologetics and appeals to religious scholarship are more of smoke screen to hide the core rationale for their belief. Namely, they have been taught to rely on their beliefs for their personal hope, meaning, and purpose in life. They have an emotional dependency, whether they've converted to Christianity as a way of escaping a difficult emotional period in their life, or have been indoctrinated from a young age to lack any other tools to build up their own self-worth and meaning.

    To say to this person, "Look over there at that other person who gets their personal hope, meaning, and purpose from another source, and see how you disagree with that source just like we atheists do?" may not be an effective approach, because of how personal and emotional the structure of their belief is. It's like saying, "Look at that person who likes avocado ice cream the most, which neither of us like, so don't you think you should change your favorite flavor strawberry like me, instead of chocolate?"

    Still, there seems to be a subset of people who can be knocked out of their religion if they are forced to confront their cognitive dissonance head-on. In particular, it seems most effective for stricter denominations, where for example someone has been taught that every doctrinal point must be true or else none of it is true. These belief constructs are much more brittle, and apparently much easier to unravel with the right gentle tug.
     
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  13. Windwalker

    Windwalker Veteran Member
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    That depends of course upon what type of truth we are talking about. If it is a rational proposition, then we should have a rational basis upon which to act upon it. If a map says it's 200 miles to the next town, we need to be able to trust that rationally in order to plan how much gas we are going to need.

    If however the truth is a statement of the heart, then it's not the rational mind you turn to to affirm its veracity, but experience. "She says she loves me," should be affirmed by one's own 'sense' or intuition, not by logical deductions. If you go by logic in that context, you empty the voice of the heart, and love becomes a rational proposition, like Mr. Spock concluding logic dictates that she must love me based upon the data. Is that really love, or an idea about love?

    As far as the religious characters, they do have a greater presence. They are archetypal forms. That is they inform culture and all who are within it. They are transcultural in nature. Even if the form they take may vary, they are the same, such as the archetypal mother or father, the warrior, the healer, etc. Everyone is informed by these, regardless of how they individually interpret them. The Christ, the Buddha, etc, all represent something innate within all of us, and that is why they endure as "symbols of our transformation", as Carl Jung termed them.

    The problem with modern apologists is they are not thinking in terms of faith, but in terms of modernity. It's like the Penal Substitution Atonement Theory. It tries to provide a rational explanation for a literal reading of the story of Christ's death. It is modernistic in thought, taking root in John Calvin's theology and informing modern Protectant Christianity. It doesn't just let it be symbolical and speak for itself, but rather tries to explain an archetypal form, the symbol of death and resurrection or spiritual rebirth, in terms of logic and reason. Hence my whole point about it not being about actual faith, but about modernity and rationality. It's misguided faith.
     
  14. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    I was with you up to this point. The "change your favorite flavor" isn't an atheist tactic I feel, but a theistic one. As an atheist... all I end up saying in this vein is "See that guy over there who likes avocado ice cream the most? It is entirely possible that no ice cream can be considered 'the best' - therefore, would you mind letting off describing 'chocolate' as 'the best' please?" It is the theist who will claim the other theist has got the wrong flavor - at least, they will end up doing so once there aren't people like atheists present to join forces against. Haha...

    In other words, I don't offer an alternative they "ought" adopt as their favorite. In the end I just point out that not everybody's favorite matches theirs, which points to no favorite being "the correct one." Which is also a way of saying that all favorites are nothing more than the whims of various minds... and then hope the person I am talking to understand the analogy, and honestly compares it to their model of things.
     
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  15. Lain

    Lain Well-Known Member

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    (All the below is my opinion.)

    For testing faith itself this seems to be true. I think of the strict divisions in the world St. Paul himself drew in 1 Corinthians (which is an object of study for me now): "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent I will confound.' Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. For indeed, Jews ask for sign miracles and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a cause for stumbling, but to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength... Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but wisdom not of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing, but we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery, which God predestined before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew. For to us God has revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man that is in him? Thus also no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order that we may know the things freely given to us by God, things which we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. Now the spiritual person discerns all things, but he himself is judged by no one. 'For who has known the mind of the Lord; who has advised him?' But we have the mind [nous] of Christ."

    That last word, mind/nous (also called understanding or intellect, the highest part of the soul in Christian theology), is related to this account of Jesus making the Apostles "able to see" Him in the Scriptures properly (the fruit of which is the whole NT), "'Everything that is written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds [nous] to understand the scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day,'" He first makes a claim, then opens their mind to comprehend it, and then essentially says "see, it is clear what I said is true." St. Paul above and Jesus in this passage relates the core claims of Christianity to this happening. So it may be possible for an outsider to test it (such a fundamental change in being, compared in the Scriptures directly to someone born blind now being able to see) somehow, but I currently do not know how.

    I suppose they could test historical claims but that doesn't really do much other than "many people consistently claimed wild stuff happened and attributed it to this, perhaps there is not a good account as to why, but that's that" (and that would apply to many religions not just Christianity).

    (All the above is my opinion.)
     
  16. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Fair and well. The problem I had to solve as not being normal as for normally sane in a cultural sense might have been different than you.
    So it was really never about religion for me, since I live in Denmark.
    And I could tell you a sob story about that, but that is not about religion, so that is not relevant, right?

    I have for how I was treated never noticed religion as a key factor.
    So I am not that kind of non-religious person.
     
  17. Windwalker

    Windwalker Veteran Member
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    I did not. You may hear it that way because you equate faith and belief. I separate them. Beliefs may be part of faith in order to support it, but they are not the basis of faith. The heart is. Faith can change what it believes in, and views beliefs as secondary to faith.

    The "true believer" on the other hand, cannot. Their beliefs are the core of their religious engagement. Without the beliefs being factually true, they are threatened religiously. They betray they are not engaging their religious belief though a heart of faith at all. Faith and doubt work together. To the "true believer" doubt is the enemy.

    Blind belief refers to those who do not have faith as the foundation of their religious involvement.

    No it is not subject to rational inquiry, because the Divine, by very definition is transcendent to mind. To reduce the transcendent of a matter of rational inquiry, puts God on the level of a Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. It's no longer God at that point, but an an object that has mass and form outside of ourselves and the universe itself. That's not God, or the "All".

    But if God is Love, then God is not a person outside yourself, but exists in everything, including your own subjective being. Think of the rational inquiry into finding God, like searching everywhere to find your own eyes you're looking through the whole time you're seeking to find them. That act itself is irrational.

    And he is symptomatic of the very problem I speak of. Faith gets distorted from a matter of the heart to a matter of rational inquiry. It's a symptom of modernity, where religious folks, particularly Protestant Christianity, tries to compete with modernity on its terms, rather than understanding that faith and reason are complementary, not competitors. They make them competitors, and your author you cited, is very clearly a victim of that himself.

    To clarify, faith is "non-rational" not irrational. Irrational means it violates reason, such as denying evolution in favor of the Genesis myth as science. Love and values, are non-rational also, but we should not term them irrational. They complement the rational mind. Rationality is a tool, not the sum of who we are. We are more than just the reasoning mind. That is only a small part of who we are. And faith, aims to address more of the whole person, not just the thinking brain.
     
    #17 Windwalker, Oct 25, 2021
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2021
  18. AlexanderG

    AlexanderG Active Member

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    Thanks for the reply, and I think maybe my analogy was too vague. I was trying to make the point that for many theists, it really comes down to personal preference. Their beliefs feel right to them, according to their intuition and what they want to be true. For this reason, I think theists in this category often mistakenly assume that atheists "reject god" for similar personal, emotional, preference-based reasons like wanting to sin, being angry at god, etc.

    And so for them, it's also not effective to point out that some other person's personal emotional preference is silly, because the theist knows that their own beliefs work best for themselves, to give them enough hope in life to get out of bed in the morning. They're not about to give that up and dive into existential uncertainty, just because some other random pagans are wrong.

    But yeah, I think success of the outsider test is a function of their operational burden of cognitive dissonance, plus the brittleness of their particular doctrinal beliefs. If their mind is pushed enough that they simply can't remain convinced of their beliefs, then they can't choose to remain convinced and they stop believing, even if it's a terrifying transition. It's not a transition I necessarily would like everyone to make.
     
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  19. George-ananda

    George-ananda Advaita Vedanta, Theosophy, Spiritualism
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    As a theist I used this approach to come to my beliefs that I wasn't born into.

    I have considered all things paranormal/spiritual and believe what makes the most logical sense to believe. I don't at all consider my beliefs a 'faith' but rather 'my best understanding all things considered'.
     
  20. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Yeah, but that also applies to other beliefs than religious ones.
     
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