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Raf

The Outsider Test for Faith

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I want you to stop and think for a moment about why you are not a Muslim. Or a Hindu. Or a Jehovah's Witness. Or a Buddhist. Or a Mormon. Or a Scientologist.

What is it about those religions that you reject? What standard are you holding those religions to, and how/why do they fail to meet your standards of acceptance?

If you're like most Christians, your standard is The Bible, but there's a problem there. You may reject Islam because it is in conflict with the Bible, but what of the Muslim, for whom the Bible is not sacred? Isn't a Muslim who rejects Christianity because Christianity is in conflict with the Q'uran on preceisely the same logical ground as a Christian who rejects Islam because Islam is in conflict with the Bible?

***

Karl Kahler, in his book on The Way International titled "The Cult That Snapped," made an interesting observation about PFAL. He noted, accurately, that Wierwille declared "the Bible is the revealed Word and will of God" without doing a single thing to prove it. PFAL takes for granted that the Bible is true. Nothing wrong with that, but there it is. PFAL offers the critical thinker no reason to accept the Bible as true. It is not an apologetic work. It doesn't really claim to be.

***

The former evangelical turned atheist John Loftus developed what he calls "the outsider test for faith" as a way to get people to understand why he is no longer a Christian. The idea is simple:

Approach your faith/religion the same way an outsider to your faith/religion would approach it (and please, let's not get into a semantic war over faith/religion/whatever word you want there. You know full well what I mean). Why should the outsider accept your faith?

Remember, NO aspect of your faith can be taken for granted. Otherwise, you're not an outsider. "I would accept my faith because it is consistent with the Bible" assumes that being consistent with the Bible is a value. An outsider would not think that. An outsider would think there are no holy books, or that some other book is holy.

If you approached Christianity the same way you approach every other religion, would it win you over?

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A fair question.

In my case, it's not hard to answer fairly.

I didn't even give Christianity the same chance as other religions, once upon a time.

I dismissed it from consideration without even a chance to prove it was worth discussing.

It took a lot to get me to reconsider whether or not to even CONSIDER it.

So, providing I had the same information and experience that I did decades ago,

whether or not I add what I've learned over the decades since,

the overall result remains the same.

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Speaking only for myself, no other religion EVER had a chance with me. The Bible was true, period. The only issue was, who was right about what it says? What is the correct Biblical doctrine? That there WAS a correct Biblical doctrine, that the Bible WAS the ultimate source of truth, was something I never denied or even seriously questioned.

If you were to ask me, "on what grounds do you accept the Bible as truth?" I would not be able to give you an answer that was any different from the way a Muslim would answer about the Q'uran, a Mormon about the Book of Mormon, a Scientologist about Dianetics, etc.

As an outsider, it was easy for me to reject the ridiculous claims of those other books. But I never subjected the Bible to the same critical thinking that I subjected those books to.

And now, as an outsider to Christianity, when I subject the Bible to the same critical thinking, it fails. Spectacularly. Its history is not history. Its morality is not moral. Its laws are not just. If the Bible were the claim of ANY other faith, I would reject it wholesale.

That's my feeling, anyway.

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I've wondered about that, too, Raf. When younger, I used to read books on philosophy, other religions, lots of stuff. I'd been brought up in a Christian household and was taken to church and it was boooooorrrrriiiiiiing, with boring old people (teenage perspective). That's why I explored other ways of thinking. Nothing I read of other religions appeared consistent. I accept an outsider could say that about Christianity in all its various colors.

I decided to read the Bible and started in a different place from usual. In Acts. I was riveted. It was so exciting! I wanted that as a lifestyle for myself. I wanted to find people who wanted to live like that. Soon after, I met a WoW and he showed me even more about that lifestyle, and I did meet people who lived like that.

I loathed PFAL but decided to take up the challenge of reading the epistles for three months. I demanded of God that he show me if it was real, if the epistles were right or wrong, and what was true. I started to pray according to what I'd read. Guess what? When I prayed, amazing "coincidences" happened. Consistently. Life became very exciting. Some totally amazing things happened; I'm still thrilled by them.

It's true I haven't explored other religions that way. But when presented a banquet of everything you want and need, why would there be any need to explore another "restaurant"?

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I reject the book of Mormon because it makes demonstrably false claims about history, demonstrating that it is not based on a deity who has knowledge of the truth.

I reject the Q'uran for the same reasons.

I reject Jehovah's Witnesses because they made specific prophecies that failed to come to pass.

I reject Scientology because it presents false information about human origins and ethereal nonsense about why people suffer physical and psychological ailments.

Followers of those religions would be perfectly willing to testify on their behalf with stories nearly identical to those told by WW and Twinky in this thread.

"It's true I haven't explored other religions that way. But when presented a banquet of everything you want and need, why would there be any need to explore another 'restaurant'?"

Any follower of any religion could say exactly the same thing.

As an outsider, why should I give your testimony any more weight than the testimony of a sincere Muslim, a sincere Scientologist, a sincere Mormon, a sincere Jehovah's Witness, a sincere anythingist? Do you see how your responses do not reflect an outsider's approach? Are you treating your religion the way you treat other religions?

WW, do you mean to tell me you subject the Bible to the same critical scrutiny that you would subject other "holy" books? Do you mean to tell me that you would accept another religion's tortured explanations for why a blatant contradiction really isn't a contradiction if you understand this and that and the other thing, so really, the cock crowed six times and not three? [if I read earlier threads correctly, I haven't seen you seriously consider the notion that the Bible can contain actual errors or contradictions until recently, and I have yet to see you accept that notion].

The book of Mormon contains numerous claims about North and South American history that are historically false. How do you dismiss the Mormon's faith in the historicity of those debunked claims while maintaining that the Exodus, which never happened, is historically true? Seriously, it didn't. Look it up. Moses has as much historical documentation as the prophet Moroni.

Name the Pharoah in Exodus. If you answered "I can't," you win a prize for honesty. People have tried to figure it out for centuries. Would have saved a lot of time if the Bible had just named him, but the (very human and very late) writer of Exodus didn't bother to tell you who he was. Why not? [Coming soon, Actual Errors in Exodus].

If I can reject the Book of Mormon on the basis that it presents a fictional account that is passed off as history, why shouls anyone protest if I reject the Book of Exodus on precisely the same grounds?

THAT is the outsider test for faith. Subject YOUR religion to the same scrutiny, the same healthy skepticism, the same intolerance for weak, apologetic nonsense to which you would subject ANY OTHER religious claim.

Is that what you've done? If so, congratulations! Your faith passes the outsider test!

Really!

Really?

Edited by Raf

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Another aspect of the outsider test: Listen to your own argument. Would you accept that argument coming from someone defending a different religion? If not, on what basis would you reject it? Now, apply that basis to your own faith.

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I reject the Book of Mormon based only on the ridiculous notion that it was written on gold tablets that no one else has ever seen, which basically negates everything about it.

I reject JW on the ridiculous notion that Jesus preexisted as an angel. The prophesies were just icing.

I reject Islam because it's simply ghastly from cover to cover.

L Ron Hubbard made no secret that he basically made up Scientology.

I have seriously struggled with Christianity all my life. I see no reason why Jesus is waiting in heaven for a future comeback. I see no reason why he couldn't be actively moving around in his new body. Why was his resurrection only seen by the faithful? Wouldn't it have made sense for him to greet the people who wanted him dead? Why was his ascension "witnessed" by so few? If he lives, why must I pray? Can't we just have a two way conversation where I know he's heard me as opposed to being told he hears me?

I went to the works of Josephus for some answers. Jesus gets a mention. The single most important thing that ever happened in the world gets a mention in outside history books? So the only backup for this historic event is a single sentence that simply confirms he existed? So news of these miracles from a "global standpoint", is a well kept secret. That makes no sense.

Then I went back further in my research all the way to the giving of the law. On stone tablets. That are nowhere to be found. And apparently no one is looking for them that hard. But then I look at the laws and with some exceptions about food (which is a cross between neurotic and obsessive/compulsive), it isn't all that different from the pagans of the day. The treatment of women, children, animals, and outsiders is essentially the same. The only difference was the one god concept and the notion they were chosen (which royally ....ed off the pagans because it interfered with all the god festivals). <-- I got that from taking a humanities class, which then answered the question as to why so many college freshmen leave religion. At 53, it was the first time I truly analyzed monotheistic religions and the effect on pagan society. It turns out that pagans were far more willing to coexist than the monotheists.

Then there's Paul. He's chief persecutor who's gone blind with revelation and suddenly he's the end all know-it-all of the Christian religion. (Which if you do a close comparative study, he teaches a different Jesus, which is understandable since he never knew the guy). The only thing Paul (and Jesus) bring to the table is the notion of not killing people over differences. That IS a new concept, which is promptly forgotten.

Finally, you HAVE to love this quote from CS Lewis:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

So there you have it: God or a lunatic. No middle ground there.

The overriding theme is that only the incredible makes something credible. It couldn't be Moses sitting down with a few smart people and devising a set of laws. It HAD to come miraculously from a higher power. Jesus couldn't be a great teacher or highly charismatic man. He had to have a miraculous birth, a horrific death, and a miraculous resurrection and bodily ascension to give him credibility. Mohammad justified every act by way of "revelation". Same thing with Joseph Smith. Both charismatic men. You see the same thing with Victor Barnard. No one looking from the outside thinks the guy was anything but a sociopath, yet few on the inside see him that way at all.

The more I look at religion from purely an outsider's perspective, the less credible I find it as a tool for right living.

Edited by Tzaia
  • Upvote 1

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Ah, yes, the old "lunatic, liar or lord" gambit.

Except when I first heard it, there was a fourth option, and it's the one that makes the most sense. "Legend."

When you realize that the gospels are not the firsthand accounts of people who witnessed these events, and that there's no supporting evidence for ANYTHING written in them, it becomes easy to see how an itinerant preacher's fate can become exaggerated to the point that the historical figure behind it can become all but lost.

Imagins if all we knew about Joseph Smith, ALL OF IT, came from Mormons. We'd have a distorted history of the man.

Such is the case with Jesus. ALL we know about him came from his followers.

Same with Moses (who probably never existed in history). There's no independent verification for him whatsoever. No verification of a massive exodus of a million plus slaves from Egypt. None. All we know about him comes from the Bible, in which he humbly declares himself the most humble man who ever lived. Huh? (As noted elsewhere, it's highly unlikely Moses wrote Exodus, seeing as the first five books contain anachronisms that reveal a MUCH later authorship date.

Anyway, kudos. Good post.

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Can we keep this topic going?

Raf- where is that Errors in Exodus post of yours? This is an older thread, so just wondering.

You make excellent points about being an outsider looking into any claimed religion. If my basis is believing the bible is God's book, then, that is my measuring stick.

The problem for me came in the last 9 years since leaving the Way. I actually sat down and read through the bible without any religious filters (except that I was Christian reading a holy book) But, in the end, I was horrified!

Some things just make.no.sense! God can /cannot be reasoned with. God is cruel/ good/just/phsycho. The list goes on.

How we could piece together bits of text to suit our own agenda/religion/belief/abuse/ego/style/wants/ is completly mind blowing once you see the inconsistancy.

I still ascribe to' Christian' although I am at odds with everyone in my circle.

It's exhausting.confused.gif

Edited by bliss

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I started the Exodus thread but haven't fed it. It's on my to-do list.

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Bliss, your post has been weighing on me. I don't know where you're headed spiritually and while I would be happy for you if your journey took you the same place my journey took me, I really want to see you get there on your own. And if you're happy being a Christian, I think that's wonderful, and I would encourage you to be the best Christian you can be. We might disagree on a lot of things, but so what, right? Folks like Mark S. and Steve Lortz work so hard to make sense of all this stuff, and I encourage you to hear them out when they post about the things they're learning and discovering. I no longer buy what they're selling, but that doesn't mean I want to see their "goods" taken off the market. Investigate. Ask questions. Don't settle for pat answers. Whenever you get an answer, ask another question.

Wierwille taught us that Eve's first mistake was questioning the integrity of the Word. Humbug. Question EVERYTHING. If it's God's Word, it can withstand the questioning.

(In my opinion, it can't, and therefore it's not. But that's MY opinion).

Peace.

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"Joining" faith is about survival. I was a Wayfer at one time, because I had little choice in the matter. Wayfers fed and clothed me.

Christianity currently dominates the landscape. There is at very least a social cost to not subscribing to it, which one must be aware of to compensate for loss.

A faith being true or not, is not important. Being able to navigate among the faithful is higher priority than acceptance, or being won over. Why spend any more time testing faiths? I know I used to. But if they're all false, but on some level all pulling a thread a truth, what are we really testing?

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I don't understand your objection to this thread question. "Why spend any more time testing faiths?" To whom is that question addressed?

Why would anyone who subscribes to a religion not want to be honest about why he believes what he does? On what basis does he reject other religions in favor of the one he has adopted? Would his own religion survive the scrutiny he applies to other religions? Only a dishonest person would avoid that question.

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I don't understand your objection to this thread question. "Why spend any more time testing faiths?" To whom is that question addressed?

Why would anyone who subscribes to a religion not want to be honest about why he believes what he does? On what basis does he reject other religions in favor of the one he has adopted? Would his own religion survive the scrutiny he applies to other religions? Only a dishonest person would avoid that question.

Not trying to outright object.

I'm thinking practically. Faith and religion only exist inside and between people. It's the people we have to deal with. So we generally accept faiths/religions based on the people/place/situations we have to live among.

In the honest sense, if we're going to be honest . . . all faith and religion is false. But that does not mean they are not practical for navigating life. Isn't comparing religions comparing apples and oranges? We pick faiths and religions for a time that they are useful.

For example:

I am an American. I am not Australian. Am I then rejecting Australianism? Germanism? Finlandism? I don't know. Does the question need to be asked? (Nationalism being another religion)

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I get what you're saying, Bolshevik, but there is a distinction to be made between a religion, which you can choose, and a cultural/heritage background, which you cannot. I am not Irish because I was not born in Ireland, nor was I born to parents who are from Ireland, etc. It's not that I'm rejecting Irishness.

Choosing Christianity DOES mean rejecting other religions, at least in principle. If you are a Christian by religion, then you have concluded (whether by default or by explicit analysis) that other religions are false. That alone is a defining different.

It does not mean that people of differing faiths cannot get along with each other. That's a separate issue.

True, this does not address people who are only Christians in a cultural sense, or people who've never looked at it the way I'm presenting it. But they CAN look at it that way, and I'm encouraging them to. And if they choose not to, ok by me. Big world. Lots of people. Just because one asks a question does not make him entitled to an answer from everyone. Anyone not interested in the conversation is free to move along. (That's not directed at you. Just a statement of fact).

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I get what you're saying, Bolshevik, but there is a distinction to be made between a religion, which you can choose, and a cultural/heritage background, which you cannot. I am not Irish because I was not born in Ireland, nor was I born to parents who are from Ireland, etc. It's not that I'm rejecting Irishness.

. . .

I was referring to nationalism. Which is a choice, and is at times equated with religion.

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. . .

Choosing Christianity DOES mean rejecting other religions, at least in principle. If you are a Christian by religion, then you have concluded (whether by default or by explicit analysis) that other religions are false. That alone is a defining different.

. . .

I believe I see what you're saying, I believe the Abrahamic Faiths are generally all-or-nothing, for-or-against, as they're self-described. But I believe there's a broader way of viewing these. It's too slippery a statement to say "choosing Christianity", which Christianity? Which Christ? Every time you define someone as an outsider, you'll eventually discover a new way to consider those who remain as outsiders.

I think I'm thrown off by the "standard" in the opening post. How can you hold a religion to a standard?

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We're actually having different conversations, which is why I tried to cry uncle.

And that's ok. No need to argue every point. I've made mine. I get yours. Moving on.

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It was when I applied the "outsider test" to what I believed that I moved on from Christianity.

I started by questioning what Martindale was peddling in WayAP; comparing what he was saying to existing Way doctrine

That led me to questioning what Wierwille taught; comparing what he taught to his own "keys to the Word's interpretation

That led me to look at the various offshoots, all teaching different things, all based supposedly on the same "keys"

That led me to question whether there even could be a right dividing of the bible

Which led me to ask myself why I thought there was a good reason to believe that the bible was any truer than anything else

For a long time I maintained an agnostic position about the bible, reasoning that it might be true, but did not see any evidence to support that position

Eventually I came to believe that it definitely wasn't handed down by any deity and that it contained a lot of factual errors

More recently I have formed the opinion that the bible is not only not God-inspired, but on the whole is a pretty immoral book (especially the OT)

This all took years...

  • Upvote 2

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Well pretty much anyone who takes it (OT) at face value is a full blown lunatic. Same with Islam. Same with the TV preachers of Christianity.

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I am simple person and probably labeled as just plain stupid not to deny my faith. Shall I provide extensive prolog in order to defend my faith, can I be as extensive as the poster of this sub-forum to explain his reasons for non-belief - why would anyone care what I had to say. It's called belief because that's what it is - does anyone deny the right to believe? It's just a simple little verb but to exercise it, you are scrutinized. Why not just exclude the verb from our vocabulary or as a term used by the uninformed. I have enjoyed reading, over and over, this sub-forum, it strengthened my beliefs or at the least, trust in the book that supports my beliefs. I understand the belief in the Koran by numerous sects in the middle east, they don't have Hollywood TV and movies to dilute that belief and utilize it as their justification for their Jihad - no opposing opinion accepted.

Now, the seeing of miracles, it does enforce my belief but as Jesus said in the 14th chapter of John: what does what, miracles support belief or belief supports miracles, either way, do you see the Father cause He is in me and I am in Him. You can believe on him for either his words alone or that the miracles support his words (during the last supper, think he's getting real down and dirty at that point in time and his life, not much more he can say to his guys given the time left).

So allow us who chose to have a belief some breathing room. One can not bring you, an unbeliever, to a belief that you find discord, your choice, go with God's grace: no harm - no foul.

This is an excellent sub-forum topic, to evaluate why we believe what we do and why we don't believe at all. Thanks again.

Tzaia: I am a full blown lunatic - love that OT and that moon.

Edited by MRAP
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MRAP,

while everyone's entitled to disagree with each other, and disagree strongly,

it's not usually considered polite discourse, nor worthy of the GSC,

for insults and cheap-shots.

They may make the person slinging them feel better, and others may even

agree with them, but they don't advance discussion.

Despite having been on the receiving end of one, don't take that as an

indication that it's typical, de rigeur, or expected here.

(There may come a time where it is, but that time is not now.)

So, please don't consider that typical, please don't respond in kind,

please don't think that's a license to do the same to others even if

you consider them complete chowderheads.

(Even if they turn out to BE complete chowderheads,

it's impolite to say so.)

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A couple of things, and I'll just speak for myself. I don't think anyone is stupid for believing. I believed most of my life. I don't think anyone is a lunatic, either, BUT I would make a similar comment with the understanding that it's essentially a challenge. That is, I would REALLY be saying that you don't know the OT as well as you think you do.

That is not very different from my tactic on the longer morality thread. More later.

Edited by Raf

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