I have no intention of trying reinvent every argument for or against theism. In the last five years of my life, unbelief happened because I allowed myself to become an outsider to my faith and applied the same critical examination that I had always applied to all other faith claims. I fell into this because I was open and curious. I have always been curious. After I had already found myself with more disbelief than belief, I came across a blogger who had laid this out in what he calls the Outsider Test for Faith.
I became an outsider because of the questions I was willing to ask, and the examination I was willing to do. But perhaps the below from another author can challenge the faithful insider to at least consider if their faith is truly examined, or simply a belief dependent realism. Surely you have noticed that the religion most everyone accepts and defends is the one they were raised to believe by their parents in their respective cultures. In this sense we were all raised as believers. Whatever we were taught as children we didn’t know to question. We couldn’t believe otherwise.
John Loftus on his Outsider Test for Faith: Anyone who was raised as a Sikh, a Scientologist, a Shintoist, or a Satanist would most probably believe and defend what they were raised to believe. Most probably then, we could be Mormons, Muslims, or Moonies had we been brought up to believe one of them. We could believe in Judaism, Jainism, or be Jehovah’s Witnesses too. The same thing holds true for Christianity and one of the many sects within it, like Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or one of the many denominations within Protestantism, including Fundamentalism.
Confused? You should be. When we look at all of the religions in the world and the many other religiously oriented ones based on various paranormal claims, it is confusing!
Perhaps you think your religion is the true one. Most all religious believers think this too. How can you know that your religion is true? You think you know, but do you really? As we grow older we must learn to question what we were taught. But the strange thing is that even as adults we do not usually question our religious beliefs since our parents didn’t. They just seem too obvious to us. We usually see no need to question them.
The good news is that there is one objective way to know which religion is true, yes really! It’s a very simple test for faith, one that you already use when testing the other religious faiths you reject.
To be a good test for faith it must allow for any result, otherwise it’s unfair from the very start. That means it should allow for the possibility that one religion out of all of them is true, but it must also allow for the possibility that none of them is true.
What kind of test is this? It’s called the Outsider Test for Faith, but first we need to understand three things.
1) We all know what it’s like to doubt. A doubter is a non-believer, someone who is not convinced by any given claim because it lacks sufficient evidence for it. In this sense we are all non-believers. When it comes to religion we all doubt the religious faiths of others, except perhaps our own.
2) We all know what it’s like to trust the results of science. We cannot possibly live in the modern world without doing so, since we trust the results of physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, geology, and meteorology just to name a few. We turn to doctors to heal us, and we rely of rocket science for the satellites that gave us the internet, along with computers and smart phones.
3) We all reject double standards. Unfairness, when it comes to partisan politics, or judges in courtrooms, or double standards when it comes to investigating something, we all reject unfairness as reasonable people.
Now, let’s put this together and apply it to testing religious faiths.
Since most believers received their religion on their mama’s knees so to speak, based on the accidents of birth, we know that this is an unreliable method for deciding which religious faith to accept. We know this because they cannot all be true. So we must grow up and become adults by examining our own inherited religion.
Since we all know what it’s like to doubt when there isn’t sufficient evidence, and since we all know what it’s like to trust the results of science, and since we all reject double standards, then the only way to test all religions is to approach them with doubt by testing them with the results of science based on a non-double standard. Sound good?
The Outsider Test for Faith is the answer, which is expressed like this: The only way to reasonably test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, a non-believer, with the same level of doubt believers already use to examine the other religious faiths they reject.
What does it demand of us? It demands a non-double standard type of doubt about one’s own religious faith, the one you already apply to other religious faiths. This doubt is an attitude expressed as follows: 1) It assumes one’s own religious faith has the burden of proof; 2) It assumes there is a natural explanation for the origins of that religion, its holy books, and it’s extraordinary claims of miracles; 3) It demands sufficient evidence, scientific evidence, before concluding a religion is true; and most importantly, 4) It disallows any faith in the religion under investigation since we cannot leap over the lack of evidence by punting to faith.
If there is a god who wants us to believe in him then surely he provided sufficient evidence to convert people who were born as outsiders to that religion, especially if he will send people to hell if they don’t conclude correctly.
If you think your religion passes the test then you can have it. If it doesn’t you should reject it just as you do other religious faiths. If you think your faith passes the test, then you need to test your conclusion with others based on the test itself.