It’s rather interesting that publisher Prometheus Books has released a lot of books questioning religion and faith in the past year. Logistically, I can hardly pick one out of several and forgo the rest. We at SFCrowsnest believe in equality after all and there are far too few places that question religion. In many respects, we side with questioning than merely solely believe something is, so hopefully our stance should at least indicate we prefer science to religion which is the nature of Science Fiction. It should be pointed out that religious books get plenty of support and books supporting non-religion don’t, so this sort of balances the books (sic).
John Loftus’ book ‘The Outsider Test For Faith’ actually adheres to something that I’ve said in the past. That is, either all religions are correct or they are all wrong. To say only one is right would also logistically be derisory for the rest. The only thing that they have in common is bestowing a sense of ethics on their followers, although as seen in previous months reviews, this doesn’t mean the ethics don’t go beyond Sunday or whatever day they attend their temples. Loftus also points out that the majority of children will take on the faith of their parents or the culture they are brought up in. I’m not altogether convinced by this or why are there born-again Christians or people coming to your door trying to entice you to join their recently discovered religious belief and wanting to share or entice you also to join. They must have some sort of success rate occasionally or have eternal optimism.
I should point out that the sub-title of this book is ‘How To Know Which Religion Is True’. Loftus cites 21 religions and compares them to the non-religious which, in terms of numbers, is third in numbers of people which does put things into perspective. He also agrees with previous authors that countries where they aren’t pro-religious tend to be happier places. Read into that what you may as I’m still pondering on the criteria used. The list places the UK at fifteenth of diverse atheists and the USA not even in the top 30, although as Loftus points out that this was composed from a variety of questions and not to read too much into it. I’d be inclined to think where my country is concerned, people asked such a question will say Christian even if they don’t go to church rather than give no answer at all. Saying that, I do think it’s about time that a formal survey with a more standardised set of questions should be run on somewhere like the Net to get a clearer picture of belief against non-belief.
I loved the suggestion given on page 79, to look around the world as if God doesn’t exist and see what differences you can spot. Then again, something else that I had a ponder on that, with the exception of Catholics who rule by guilt, for many religions there is the belief that there is a happy God out there. For those who see their deity that way, can I suggest that you measure up the deeds in your own bibles as to his good deeds against things he let go on. I mean, using a single example from this book, if you were in Bethlehem when Herrod ordered all new-born babies killed, wouldn’t you be wondering where God was in letting this take place just so his son could escape? You would have thought he would have warned the new parents to escape or at least smite a few of the Roman troops. Then, as on page 188, why would an all-powerful being need people to do his tasks for him, well, unless he thinks we’re a lazy lot. Then again, why should any deity pick out any particular people to be special enough to talk to and not others? Does God only favour a few?
Loftus does get something wrong regarding ‘The Matrix’ film. The red pill that is given to Neo is more a choice option and in realistic terms, probably a decision code, assuming he believed he was living in a digital world. I think if I saw, like Neo, people doing things that work against the reality I was living in like moving astronomically fast or vanishing, I’d probably take the red tablet just to find out what was going on.
There’s a lot about this book that I agreed with and certainly enough to arm many of you to ask the right pertinent questions to the religious who knock at your door. Loftus points out some interesting discrepancies in ‘Numbers’ about the Old Testament Bible’s deity advocating rape.
Probably the biggest disappointment is not to actually see the Outsider Test itself in the book to see how I would score on it. Looking at Goggle and it appears that you don’t have to do a written test, just read this book.
I should point out that this applies to all religions not just Christianity. As with all books of this sort, I suspect it won’t reach the people who should read it. If you waver over any possible faith, then definitely read this book if for no other reason than to balance out the pros and cons. If you have a faith and want to test how strong it is, then nothing ventured, nothing gained.
(pub: Prometheus Books. 266 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $18.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-737-2)
check out websites: www.prometheusbooks.com