Friday, February 04, 2011

John W. Loftus: "Blood Out of a Turnip": Getting Nowhere Trying to Persuade an Active Atheist Polemicist to Defend His Own Positions Against Critique


This came about in my combox after I posted a critique of a paper by John W. Loftus: Census & Jesus' Birth in Bethlehem: Atheist John W. Loftus' Irrational & Uninformed Criticisms of the Biblical Accounts. Loftus' words will be in blue.

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Dave, have you read any of my books yet? You should.

[Here they are:

Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains (2006)

Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity (2008)

Why I Became an Atheist: Personal Reflections and Additional Arguments (2008)

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (with Dan Barker, 2010)

The End of Christianity (scheduled for 26 July 2011) ]

No. I'd rather see you defend what you say in your innumerable posts. You're gonna outwrite me! Very few do that! :-)

I gave you plenty to think about in this piece. You can choose to ignore it and join in on the mocking that they are now doing on your blog, or you can actually interact with a meaty, substantive critique. Maybe Christians have a valid point of objection once in a blue moon, huh? Maybe you got a few things wrong in your critique of the Bible? Is it possible?

Dave, do you agree with me that how we see any one particular issue depends on a whole lot of background knowledge?

Absolutely. I made note of that in the paper, in discussing the high importance of presuppositions.

If so, then in order for you see these things the way I do you need to understand more of the background knowledge I have that makes me see things the way I do. That can only be understood by reading my books. If you don't want to I understand.

I don't need to read a book in order to make it possible to engage in a dialogue with you on one particular topic (the Bethlehem thing). The thing that would most likely make me curious enough to read one of your books, would be to see you actually defend your opinions under scrutiny. But atheists, in my experience, have been mostly unwilling to do that.

And do you agree with me that Catholic biblical scholars are almost all liberals with regard to the infancy narratives? Debate them.

Wouldn't surprise me. Liberalism has made huge inroads into Catholic biblical scholarship, for various reasons.

You made the claims. I disputed them. You can choose to not defend your positions if you like. It'll be a matter of record here. We all have limited time. I understand that. I don't have the time or desire right now to read your book(s). You don't have the time or desire to respond to this critique.

There can be reasons other than inability or fear; I grant that. I would just like to see more dialogue take place. If not, then it is still worthwhile for me to "defeat the defeater" and show how atheist arguments fall remarkably short of their goals.

Now, if we had some understanding that if I read your book(s), then you would be willing to actually defend your views point-by-point, in a public written dialogue (to be posted unedited on my site) then I might very well be willing to do so.

I would be happy to respond point-by-point to portions of your books if you sent me the electronic text (i.e., in part). I ain't gonna type all that out! If I recall correctly, I asked you this before and you refused. I might be thinking of someone else, though.

I continue to seek amiable, constructive dialogue with atheists. It may, indeed, turn out to be an unattainable goal, but I haven't given up yet. I'm most interested in defending the Bible against all the onslaughts (in fact, I will be putting together a book soon that will be devoted to that topic).

Dave, from past exchanges with you it's not productive of my time to respond.

Your choice. I may still choose to do critiques, so if you want to leave your work undefended against them, that is up to you. You want me to read your books, but you ain't interested in a dialogue.

I'll send you my e-book, Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? for free if you like. Any atheist who asks for it can have it for free.

Dave, defend away. I know that's what you feel you must do. As for an exchange on the issues I raise in my books, I cannot promise that. I wish I could, but I can't.

All I'm saying is that you'll find in my books why I see things differently. They probably won't change your mind but people on both sides of this great divide of ours are saying they are the best out there.

Click on "John's Three Books" on my blog and read the reviews. I would think if you wish to defend your faith you would want to tackle the best out there. That's all.

Nothing personal, but if your arguments (what I've seen of them) are the "best" that atheism has to offer, that makes my day. :-)

Not that I ever thought atheism had anything to offer in the first place, mind you . . . If you're the best at defending a falsehood, that ain't much of a distinction in my book. E for effort, maybe . . .

I do appreciate your confidence. I would just like to see it expressed more concretely (rather than verbally only): with some substantive defenses against critique. Moreover, it's easy to appear to be the World's Greatest Expert when you are not interacting with criticism of your opinions. You can create your own little world and bask in the adulation of the choir . . .

Don't just take my word for it. Here's what Dr. Dale C. Allison author of Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters said:

Forget Dawkins. If you are looking for a truly substantial, well-informed criticism of the Christian religion, this is your book. Defenders of the faith will do believer and unbeliever alike a disservice if they do not rise to the challenge and wrestle with the thought-provoking arguments of Loftus and company.

Notice the highlighted words?

If you consider yourself one of the defenders of the faith then according to Allison you're doing us all a disservice if you don't rise to the challenge.

Presumably you write on your blog for the same overall purpose of presenting atheism as the truth. So what is the huge difference between reading a post of yours there and critiquing it vs. reading your books and critiquing those?

If you're not willing to defend what you write on your blog, to what purpose are the posts? Just preaching to the choir? Atheist backslapping and yucking it up about how "ridiculous" Christians are? You see yourself as the Pied Piper of Impiety or sumpin'?

If you won't defend a blog post, then why would I think you would be willing to defend any portions of your books? I already said that if you sent me a chapter or two electronically, I would critique them line-by-line and you could show where my reasoning went astray. But you haven't agreed to any of that yet. You just want me to read your books. No dialogue; no rational interaction . . .

I'm doin' you one better: I'll send you any of my books for free (e-books) and I'm willing to defend what is in them, too. Only two are really written with atheists directly in mind, though: the science volume and Christian Worldview vs. Postmodernism.

Dave, I'm not the World's Greatest Expert. Sheesh. If you really want a respectful dialogue stop the misrepresentation.

That was a rhetorical exaggeration. You misunderstand the language of intellectual thrust and parry just as you do the nuances of biblical language. It's all of a piece. Do you seriously think I literally meant that you think you are the World's Greatest Expert on atheism? But you do have a rather high opinion of your own work, by your own humble admission: "people on both sides of this great divide of ours are saying they are the best out there."

And if you paid attention I'm not preaching to the choir. Christian scholars also recommend my books.

How is that a counter-point at all? So what? I'm talking about whether you will defend your positions or not. So far you have consistently refused to do so with me. Perhaps it is personal in my case, as you alluded to.

Furthermore, in my books and on my blog I most emphatically do interact with the opposition.

Then why the reluctance to do so presently?

Stop your whining. I can only do what I can do and you are not on my "to do" list.

Didn't take long for the fangs to come out, did it, John?

If you want to debate someone then debate your own Catholic biblical scholars on this particular issue.

Clever but fundamentally silly deflection . . .

Your views are out of step with biblical scholarship.

Liberal scholarship, not all biblical scholarship . . . and the latter is not confined to Catholics.

It's not an atheist issue here. Liberals all say the same things.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for confirming what I have said about liberals for many years. But why would the fact that you parrot liberals somehow make it no longer an atheist issue? I disagree with both of you. I have explained why. You want no part of an intelligent interaction along those lines. You might have to (horrors!) admit you actually made a mistake in your anti-biblical reasoning, and your choir and fan club over on your blog would be very disappointed and disenchanted to see that, since you guys ridicule and mock Christians as imbeciles and ignoramuses on a daily basis.

It's called being a scholar and you are not one.

Never said I was, but nice touch. It you think it scores a rhetorical victory to note the obvious and the thing that I always take great pains to state myself, then be my guest. I fail to see why any serious thinker would be impressed with that.

The fact that I am not a scholar, nor as educated as you, seems to me, would be a good reason for you to blow my arguments out of the water, as the inept ramblings of an alleged "pretender," but instead it is a pretext for your condescending refusals to interact, because I'm not worth your time. But you expect me to have plenty of time to read your book(s), since they are supposedly the "best" out there on atheism. We went through this schtick in our last runaround.

I have Dawkins and Dennett and Hitchens in my library. If I want to read the "best" of a bad lot, I'll read those, not yours. At least not till you're willing to defend your opinions in an honest dialogue . . .

Loftus made another reply on his blog, on 7 February 2001:

For everyone's information there are a few reasons why I don't bother with Dave Armstrong. We have a history. Do a search for his name here and you'll see it back in 2007 I think. He comes across as someone who wants a civil discussion but when you disagree his fangs come out. Discussing something with him is like getting in a pigs trough and wallowing in the mire with him.

Like a few other wannabe apologists he will always have the last word. Because of that he will proclaim victory, hey, the person who has the last word is right, right?

He's ignorant and unworthy of my time:

[makes a link to the post: "On Being Ignorant of One's Ignorance and Unaware of Being Unskilled" (6-4-10), which includes the following comments:


So I'll continually be bothered daily at DC by ignorant people who are unaware of their ignorance, especially Christians. That's the nature of this beast. Worse off, they don't trust me to tell them what they should understand. . . . For now I'm challenging people to consider whether they are ignorant/unskilled and unaware of it. Most Christians who comment here are. I would say this about them as a former professor of philosophy, apologetics, ethics, and the Bible. . . . But I do know this: I know a hell of a lot more than most people about Christianity. I am not ignorant when it comes to Christianity. I might be wrong, but I'm not ignorant, at least not as ignorant as most of the Christians who comment here. ]

Besides from this [sic] I got nothing bad to say about him.

More of the usual elitist condescension, in other words . . . And there is more of the same in a post entitled, Such Idiocy: I Do Defend My Views Against the Opposition (2-5-11):


There are several blog posts in criticism of what I've written that I have not attempted to answer. Because I choose not to do so the accusation is leveled at me that I don't interact with the opposition. This is such idiocy that no wonder these people believe. Let me explain.


First off, in my books and in my substantive posts here I am most emphatically interacting with the opposition in every paragraph. Does this fact escape their attention or what? When someone makes this accusation then I know I chose correctly not to respond to them. For it confirms what I thought in the first place, that they are ignorant of their own ignorance. Their beef with me is that I ignore them. Well then, what they should do is write something that deserves my response. I have limited time. I can only respond to criticisms I consider important or substantive. I told one such person recently that "I can only do what I can do, and you are not on my 'to do' list." [gives several examples of his defending his own views] . . . These are my choices. Have done then with such idiocy that I don't interact with the opposition. I do so almost every day in everything I write.

Apparently the "ignorance card" is a droning theme for Loftus. Hence, these remarks from 12-23-10:


I just want to offer a shout out to the skeptics here who help in answering the personal attacks on me and the arguments of some utterly ignorant Christians. It means a lot to me, really. What buffoons some of them are. I have no clue what they hope to accomplish but they certainly view me as a threat, and of that they are right. It's just that I'm reading what they write and it's completely ignorant for the most part. I would've said that as a Christian professor when I was teaching apologetics. It's a shame that with a Bible in hand they think they can answer us, isn't it? They are
unaware how ignorant they are. Is there anyone else out there who can reason with us? Oops, sorry, they're all ignorant.

And in the combox (12-23-10):


. . . this is my conclusion and I'm putting it out there. Some people don't like me saying it, but I think it's true. I have spent almost my entire life wrapped up in Christianity, and spent nearly seven years online debating these topics, first on a Christian forum and then on this blog. I have heard nothing from any Christian that shows they understand what atheism is or why their faith is reasonable, nothing. I know what I'm talking about. I might be wrong but I'm clearly not ignorant.


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6 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Sometimes I do respond:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/01/david-marshall.html

You may get what you ask for, who knows? But you won't like it.

Dave Armstrong said...

Delighted to hear that you do defend your opinions on rare occasion! Good for you. It's good for ya. Keeps ya on yer toes.

MaurĂ­cio said...

Dave, its really cool your patience with this kind of guys,

I din't heard about this Loftus before, so I don't know if he is more or less famous or not, or how grave is his attack. But it seens to me he is a really example of a "small fish" on the "lake" of atheists.
I mean, this guy is really dumb for someone who poses as a writer, it's amazing. I had to "face palm" when I watched him failing to understand some of the things you was saying on the conversation. That or he was trying to act deceptively, since he was clearly with fear.

Ah, and some of your ironic answers are funny to read as usual, haha (is "ironic" the right word here?).

I Presume (just guessing) that sometimes you want to give other kind of answers, but you don't because it could mine your efforts of conversations with atheists (even if they tend to offend/ridicularize a lot)

Obs.: one thing that was a little funny to me here was that this guy, having the normal pose of superiority that the atheists in geral have (or all have?), was such a bad example... of course it would still be just a pose on a "look smart" atheist, but it becomes more ridiculous on a guy like this.
Obs 2.: No ofense to you Loftus, just stating the thruth as it seens, given what can be deduced of you based on what you write/talk, you can decide to improve any time you want.

Warren said...

Loftus has always cracked me up. As his exchange with you makes crystal clear, the guy's only purpose in life is to sell his silly books. I don't think that he ultimately cares about anything else, really - well, except for a childish desire to hit back at Christians, a few of whom apparently really hurt his feelings once upon a time.

Loftus is a great example of how somebody can have all the academic credentials in the world and still not know a damned thing worth knowing. As an atheist apologist, he's an empty suit (or maybe I should say, in his case, an empty hat).

Dave Armstrong said...

Let's not insult these guys back. We need to try to be different, by God's grace, and not return insult with insult. I know it's very difficult, believe me!

Dave Armstrong said...

I added a comment made by Loftus on his blog, at 11:15 AM EST Monday: to the effect that I am far too ignorant for him to waste any of his time on.