In a recent post by my good friend Gretchen, she utilizes John Loftus’ book, An Outsiders Test for Faith as an example of how we should apply skepticism, to faith, which is one of several definitions proposed in an earlier post. I’ve read the book, the video she embedded I’ve also viewed before. What I want to ask here is what constitutes an outsider? Is it that a person was once a believer, and is now an non-believer that they are an outsider and are therefore qualified to make a determination as to what is true or not true to any religious belief? Is it possible to have any objectivity having been a believer in the past and now questions the beliefs of others?
I would argue the answer to both of those questions no. I base my assertion on what I have already described in a [previous post] concerning bias and skepticism. We are all biased in one way or another concerning a myriad of topics, why would religion be any different? Just because someone leaves one faith, does not make them an outsider and allows the same person to pretend any level of objectivity about any other belief system. I argue this: there’s always going to be some unconscious bias in anyone, believer or non-believer, as to the efficacy of any belief. Yes, that includes those that may have been raised in households with no religious affiliation, no belief in any god(s).
Yes, even those raised as atheist are biased. Whether or not intentional, there is an indoctrination that occurs that is no different from those raised in any faith. Therefore, there are no actual outsiders, because there is no one raised within a particular faith or those raised to have no belief whatsoever, that are not biased. That bias may or may not be conscious, but it exists. We may deny it, but we cannot assert with any certainty that it doesn’t exist. That’s the problem with bias. We may not be aware that we are in fact biased. We tend to associate with those that think similarly. What does that say? That doesn’t mean that everyone we associate with thinks exactly the same way, but I think we are drawn to those that believe, at least at some level, what we do.
It’s not possible to be completely objective about anything, including, and for this essay, religion. When I criticize religion on these pages, I attempt a level of objectivity, but I realize as I write that somewhere, there is a bias I have not completely recognized. I don’t have a conscious bias; I was never abused in any way in my former belief. My leaving belief was entirely conscious, and not overnight but over years of questioning that belief. I do recognize, however, that there is a bias there, in my thinking, my writing, that I may never be able to cleanse my mind.
Complete objectivity is a lie, no matter of it is about religion or any other subject. There aren’t, and never have been, any outsiders simply because they have already formed an opinion, a conclusion, based on the bias that they have whether conscious or unconscious.