Fostering mutual understanding by viewing religion from an outsider perspective
Depending on how one defines religion, there are at least thousands of religions in the world. Given such religious diversity, how can any one religion claim to know the truth? Nothing proposed so far has helped us settle which of these religions, if any, are true--until now.
Author John W. Loftus, a former minister turned atheist, argues we would all be better off if we viewed any religion--including our own--from the informed skepticism of an outsider, a nonbeliever. For this reason he has devised "the outsider test for faith." He describes it as a variation on the Golden Rule: "Do unto your own faith what you do to other faiths." Essentially, this means applying the same skepticism to our own beliefs as we do to the beliefs of other faiths. Loftus notes that research from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and neuroscience goes a long way toward explaining why the human race has produced so many belief systems, why religion is culturally dependent, and how religion evolved in the first place. It's important that people understand these findings to escape the dangerous delusion that any one religion represents the only truth.
At a time when the vast diversity of human belief systems is accessible to all, the outsider test for faith offers a rational means for fostering mutual understanding.
About John W. Loftus
John W. Loftus earned M.A. and M.Div. degrees in theology and philosophy from Lincoln Christian Seminary under the guidance of Dr. James D. Strauss. He then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he studied under Dr. William Lane Craig and received a Th.M. degree in philosophy of religion. Before leaving the church, he had ministries in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, and taught at several Christian and secular colleges. Loftus is the author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity; The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True; and the coauthor with Randal Rauser of God or Godless?One Theist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. In addition, he is the editor of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, The End of Christianity, and Christianity Is Not Great.
"Loftus makes a convincing case that believers who are willing to honestly apply the outsider test cannot but fail to see the irrationality of their faith."
-Victor Stenger, author of God and the Atom
"When an evangelical minister can ask tough questions about religion and leave the faith, then so can you. John Loftus is the religious believer's genuine friend, respecting your intelligence enough to show you how religions really work. His new book questions every religion with the same challenge: what reasons could it really have for claiming to possess the unique truth? When the façades of familiarity and unquestionability are ripped away, exposing faith's weaknesses to both insiders and outsiders, can any religion pass this test?"
-Dr. John Shook, Center for Inquiry and American Humanist Association
"This is the greatest book Loftus has ever produced. It's without question a must-read for any believer and any atheist who wants to debate them. Superbly argued, air tight, and endlessly useful, this should be everyone's first stop in the god debate. Loftus meets every objection and proves that the Outsider Test for Faith is the core of every case against religious belief and the one argument you can't honestly get around. It takes religion on at its most basic presuppositions, forcing the believer into a dilemma from which there is no escape: either abandon your faith or admit you don't believe in being logically consistent. After reading it and sincerely applying its principles, anyone who really wants to be rational will be on the road to atheism in no time."
-Dr. Richard Carrier, author of Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus
"Perhaps the most intractable argument against Loftus's outsider test for faith is some version of 'I can't do it. I can't get far enough outside of my emotions and beliefs to examine my own religion like I would any other.' As a psychologist I find that credible. We all have a very imperfect and fragmentary ability to see ourselves as others see us. But this in no way undermines Loftus's foundational argument that the outsider test should be the gold standard."
-Dr. Valerie Tarico, psychologist and author of Trusting Doubt