Intro: This series is an atheist's review of an important anthology critical of Christian beliefs called, "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails" (TCD), that is likely to be popularly discussed across the web. I'll be reviewing the book in light of just about every other response to TCD on the web (pros and cons) and responding to new Christian objections as I find them.
I think this will be the best that I personally can contribute to advancing our collective conversation about these important roadblocks to solidarity in our culture.
Chapter 1, "The Cultures of Christianities," by David Eller:
[note: Eller and Loftus' responses have been rolled into the post so you don't have to fish through all the comments]
Unfortunately I have to agree with one reviewer, Greg Peterson, on Amazon
about chapter 1:
It doesn't help that perhaps the book's weakest chapter is its first chapter. David Eller's sociological discussion didn't exactly start off the book with sparks a-flying. Just trading places with the second chapter, a very engaging and well-written piece by Valerie Tarico, would have helped matters in terms of pulling the reader in and getting her excited by the material that was to come.
That's actually good news, since I was a little disgruntled. I knew there were great chapters ahead, but I didn't know how many weak chapters there would be. Apparently it's all up and up from here (see chapter 2
, for instance)! Contents of My Review (the "CliffNote" version):
Eller's Overstates Argument: Is religion all culture?
I guide the readers over the journey to figure out what exactly Eller's argument even is. Then we realize his argument is outright fallacious.
Turns out, Eller declares premature victory over all Christian arguments and evidence with sentence two of chapter one of TCD. Christians are not impressed.
I respond to Eller's response to my review: Should "openly atheistic" books pass their own outsider test for faith?
Loftus emailed the original version of my review to Eller who clearly didn't get the point.
I agree with Christian reviewer, Looney: Can there be a true religion after all?
Despite the hype for TCD, there is in fact a very obvious and typical "somewhere to run" for Christians.
Outro: 3 out of 5 stars
I chastise the atheist movement: Should secular humanists be developing a well-rounded culture to satisfy human needs?
I use the arguments from Eller's chapter on the influence of enculturalization to show that atheists should be working on their own cultural paradigm. Eller might actually agree.
Eller abuses a common atheist metaphor: Would religious people be feeble without their "crutch"?
Eller says we shouldn't use the "religion is a crutch" metaphor, and I point out it doesn't have to be an insult. A wide range of "strong" and "weak" people are bound to be equally encultured by religion, so many people are simply unnecessarily letting religion rob them of things they could just as easily be doing themselves.
Eller is "one of those" philosophers: If years aren't real, does time even exist?
Obviously the idea that the delineation of time is arbitrary makes perfect sense, but after a painful chapter, one does not wish to see things stated so badly in "philosopherese."
Important content for a book like this, but poorly presented. Bad start for the book.
So what's the problem with the main argument of this chapter? From one positive review
, from Jim Walker, there hardly even seems to be an argument:
Professor of Anthropology, David Eller, contributed two chapters and starts out by showing that there is no such thing as "Christian Culture" but rather many different Christian cultures, each one "permeated with Christian assumptions and premises," and each one differing from the next.
So what? I think most Christians wouldn't have that big a problem with that statement (other than perhaps with some semantics). For instance, Christian reviewer, Jason Engwer says
Contributors like David Eller and Valerie Tarico are correct in noting the cultural and shallow nature of many people's alleged commitment to Christianity.
And Christian reviewer, Paul Manata agrees
The best part of The Christian Delusion was that it pointed out that Christians have compromised and confused their unique religion with passing fads of culture. (Of course, Christians have made these criticisms too, and they have been making them longer and in a stronger form.)
You almost have to go to a negative Christian review
, written by Looney, to figure out what the heck you are supposed to think:
The unspoken conclusion is that at most, only one of these can be true Christianities, and it is just simpler to assume none.
That might be close to accurate. In his overview of the book, one of the contributors, Richard Carrier explains
what this chapter is actually supposed to demonstrate:
...Dr. David Eller (an expert in the anthropology of religion) exposes how Christian missionaries use the science of anthropology to market the gospel in other cultures, and how they acknowledge how culturally relative religion is, even their own religion, yet irrationally fail to see how this actually makes their religion no more credible than the ones they seek to displace.
Um...right. I don't think the subjective things they have to do to sell Christianity constitute what they think is the "credible" part. Carrier's fallacy is therefore equivocation
I'm not exactly the only person to notice this. Christian apologist, J. P. Holding points out the obvious
Something smells bad here. Eller may be confusing "relativity" with "relevance". I of all people know how important it is to contextualize the Gospel message, but that's not making the message "relative," it is trying to order the absolutes. Beyond that, it is a non sequitur to say that this makes any religion more or less credible.
It's great being on the same page with Holding... *sigh*
Anyway, here's more specifically how Eller pulled it off (or rather failed to pull it off):
...the writers urge missionaries to "recontextualize" Christianity in such a way as to fit it into the local cultures without rejecting every aspect of those local cultures but without losing the core of the religion. [emphasis mine]
Yup, so there's still no argument yet. How do we contrive one? Eller continues:
Other cultures are cultures, you see, but Christian culture is "reality"--which betrays their actual intention and in so doing betrays the message of anthropology.
Obviously the Christian missionaries think the core mentioned above is the reality and Eller just seems to be imposing his anthropologist sensibilities uncharitably on what he says missionaries have been telling him. The equation "culture = religion" is Eller's construct. Not theirs.
Anyway, there is no argument in Eller's chapter that a mainstream Christianity is actually false. And I'm not the only one
But alas, the argument in David Eller's essay "The Cultures of Christianity" seems to have gone missing.
A reader would have to take for granted sentence two of the chapter:
After all, every argument in support of religion has been shown to be inconclusive or demonstrably false...
Let's just end the entire book there (on sentence two of chapter 1) if that's enough. Christian reviewer, jayman777 points out
:Jayman777 pointed to the religious philosophers who should at least give Eller cause to explain more than his one sentence assertion contrary to everything they are currently working on. That's fair enough.
[However, I'll see his link and raise him a link from over on Common Sense Atheism: "What Do Most Philosophers Believe?
In addition, Paul Manata points out
...it's not as though Eller has proven that every convert to Christianity who claims to have been influenced by a vision, a supernatural dream, a Divine orchestration of circumstances, or some other supernatural process is mistaken. Eller set the goal for his chapter too high, and that's his fault.
As Christian reviewer, Randal Rauser complained
It gets a bit tiring hearing people say how powerful their case is without laying out their case. It's like some dude at the Dairy Queen who tells everyone how his Mustang II could smoke all the other cars in the lot, but who then insists on slurping his Blizzard in perpetuity rather than firing up the engine and laying some rubber. To borrow a phrase from Wendy's mid-80s advertising, where's the beef?
It is no crime to believe in your conclusions and tell us. However, when we review the chapter and realize your argument is actually hinged explicitly on this assertion just being true...that's a whole new ballgame of WTF.
Jayman777, points out
Given the fact that these Christians recognize the diversity, plasticity, and relativity of their own religion and yet still fervently proselytize, it is strange that Eller expects this recognition to result in such Christians leaving Christianity behind. Eller notes that some Christian missionaries believe that other cultures are false but Christian culture is reality (p. 29). This should have made him aware that Christians are interested in the truth.
Bu-but Eller disagrees with those arguments! Therefore Christians are not interested in truth. And therefore Christianity is all culture. And therefore missiologists are inconsistent with themselves! Gosh...Christian thinking is so twisted, isn't it? [/sarcasm] I'll bet Loftus doesn't like it when Christians claim that he is only an atheist for subjective emotional reasons
, because they disagree with his arguments. Perhaps we shouldn't return the favor? It's a thought.
Loftus is worried by my critical review
that Christians will get the wrong impression. Apparently he is oblivious that Christians will get the wrong impression from actually reading the chapter. I don't think it helps at all if every atheist online is equally oblivious. For instance, Christians like element771 have noticed
Eller's persuasive failure (in reference to the above Eller quote) already:
I really cannot comprehend this type of statement. This, IMHO, shows that there seems to be a commitment to atheism that is beyond argument, critical thinking, etc. I am a Christian that understands that all of the arguments for atheism are not complete crap and some are definitely worth thinking about.
And I just can't blame him that much for coming to that conclusion. Likely, he won't be the only one. Most will probably just be silently offended and give the book back to their concerned atheist friend who lent it to them.
Eller tells us:
This will also explain, finally, why the efforts to debunk and displace Christianity through evidence and logic--the atheist's stock in trade--have been and will continue to be largely futile.
Is this book called why skeptics fail? Christian reviewer, Steve Hays agrees
...wasn't The Christian Delusion supposed to disprove the Christian faith?
Because it seems like Eller (given the main shortcoming of the chapter that I've pointed out above) is more concerned with apologizing for why skepticism fails to refute Christianity than making sure he really sticks it to the faith community.
Eller defends himself in response
to this post of mine:
I mean, if he thinks it is a valid point of criticism that the book is openly atheistic, then he is missing the whole point of the book: it IS openly atheistic.
Apparently Eller thinks it's cool to not be openly persuasive
In response Loftus insists
Christianity is emphatically not a unified sets of beliefs or actions or organizations, as Eller convincingly shows. [emphasis mine]
Perhaps he should have read Valerie Tarico's chapter where she says (page 48):
Certainty is a feeling, not proof of knowing.
Apparently Loftus genuinely thinks
that after one takes a college level course in critical thinking (as though I haven't already) equivocation and assuming your conclusion will be logical. Loftus also thinks that one would get a different impression if they'd just go read Eller's books. Will that
make equivocation and assuming your conclusion logical? Incidentally I do know someone that has read Eller's book, Atheism Advanced
, and apparently Eller assumes atheism there, too, in order to take us on the cultural tour. So no, equivocation and assuming your conclusion will still
not be logical or persuasive after I go read Eller's books.
Valerie Tarico knows how to handle her case (pages 62-63):
Understanding the psychology of religion doesn't tell us whether any specific set of beliefs is true. I might believe in a pantheon of supernatural beings for all the wrong reasons [...] and they still might exist...
Jason Long pretty much knows how to handle his case, too (page 66):
Explaining the various thought processes that place people in a certain religion is not intend to serve as proof that the belief system is wrong...
Why doesn't Eller know how to handle his? It seems he finally gets around to a similar honest construction of his perspective when he defends himself
If the "periphery" of Christianity--all the little flourishes and details--is cultural, and it indisputably is, then what is to convince us that the "core" of Christianity is not just cultural too? In other words, I hold that Christianity (and every other religion) is cultural through and through--that it holds no "truth" but merely cultural thinking. Like the anecdote about the religion that believes the world stands on a turtle, and that turtle on another turtle, with "turtles all the way down," so I assert, and see no argument to disprove, that Christianity is "cultural all the way down." [emphasis mine]
There you have it. An assertion! *facepalm* But maybe there's hope
I am talking here about the familiar arguments like the ontological argument or the cosmological argument or the teological (argument from design) and so on. See the first chapter of my "Natural Atheism
" book on "The 12 Steps to Atheism" on all of these arguments.
Arguments! That's great. Maybe you should put those in all
your persuasive writings. [note: Rauser has some of his own fun
with Eller's "response"]
Nevertheless, Loftus seems completely unwilling to accept this obvious criticism. Perhaps Jason Long's chapter explains why this might be (page 73):
Impression management theory suggests that people increasingly stick by their decisions because consistency leads to social reward and inconsistency leads to social punishment.
*shrug* Loftus has to sell books I guess. Hope that works out for him. Loftus was at least kind enough to send Eller my review and Eller apparently completely agrees
with Loftus' assessment. Perhaps Jason Long shouldn't have armed me with this (page 73):
...people are often incapable of rational thinking due to the effects of cognitive dissonance, they will often fall back to utilizing the arguments from experts who agree with them.
Loftus, in response to this review, even goes to crazy lengths
to cover for Eller's polemical failure:
[Your review is] ...inconsistent with what you must believe as an atheist [...] Dr. Eller is explaining what you as an atheist must accept about religion. Religion is a human invention within different geographical locations on the globe, and as such, each one represents and reflects a particular culture. They merge into one another when they make contact with each other. Christianity is therefore a culture which changes and morphs into different things as it makes contact with different cultures. All religions share something though, and that is they are made by human beings. So they all have a core based in human need and values, and that's the core of religion. Bart Ehrman in his book "Lost Christianities" argues there were more different early Christianities than we see today and that the Christianities of today would think those other Christianities were bizarre. If there is a core to Christianity then why did the Office of the Inquisition kill other professing Christians, and why did eight million of them die in the Christian wars of the late 16th to early 17th centuries? There is no equivocation here at all.
Loftus needs to point out where I denied Eller's conclusion or evidence (or Bart Ehrman's for that matter) if he doesn't want to be called delusional. One can embrace all the anthropology Eller presents, and agree that religion is only a product of culture, but disagree with the specific
logic applied to get there. Anyone who took that college level critical thinking course
would know that.
I was pretty sure Loftus was a die-hard first-impressions-are-forever kind of person, but it seems the evidence can eventually get to him
You seem to be a bright young person, I’ll finally admit that.
Thanks. Let me know when you you're done denying that the sky is blue on the other more relevant issues here.
After Randal Rauser points out virtually all the same things I did here in this review, Loftus responds to him
Anthropologists describe what they see. Theirs is a purely descriptive versus prescriptive discipline of learning. I'm surprised you didn't know this. When they seek to understand the religions of cultures this is what we find. They all look the same! They all evolve the same! We need anthropologists to tell us what they see. This is what David Eller does in his books and in this chapter. For you to understand him you should become informed. Sorry to say this but when you can dismiss the power of what he tells us like you do, it can only mean you are not informed, or, well, deluded. May I suggest you get and read his excellent book, Introducing Anthropology of Religion
To which Rauser aptly responds
Many sociologists have been relativists about science, but I dare say their arguments for at least some forms of relativism were surprisingly weak. You could be a brilliant person and still draw erroneous conclusions from your knowledge. And if you're suggesting a force majeure that because most cultural anthropologists have concluded x then I ought to conclude x, I'll still politely ask for their reasoning to x. I haven't seen it yet.
Then, as you can see, Loftus spends time doing damage control and trying to salvage the content of Eller's chapter
. Yeah, maybe someone should rewrite it (like Pascal Boyer
Anyway, as I expected, it's not very hard
for a Christian like Looney to sidestep the entire chapter's thesis:
Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It was multicultural from the start as the Grecian and Jewish Christians worked things out, followed immediately afterward by Greek and Latin Christians, yet the commonality of the relationship is with Jesus Christ. As we look at the large number of Christian "sects", it is quite clear that the cultural differences are a key factor in the multiplication of organizations, yet at the same time the underlying church still remains unified on the basis of Jesus.
Paul Manata said it like this
We are aware of heretical cults that claim to be in the same line of descent. We are aware that some Christians try to baptize video games. We are aware of the snake dancers and poison drinkers. They exist. But their existence does nothing to determine the truth value of the propositions Christians confess. That Christians have made bad music and movies has no bearing on whether Jesus was a real, historical individual who is fully God and fully man, who came to earth, fulfilled the law, died, and was resurrected from the dead for the justification of His people. It has no bearing on whether the universe shows signs of intelligent design. It has no bearing on whether the universe was caused to exist by the intention of a personal first cause. It has no bearing on whether reasoning presupposes theism. It has no bearing on whether God is required to ground moral truths. It has no bearing on whether the conjunction of naturalism and evolution is self-defeating. That some Christians have grown up in Christian households and in a Christian culture has no bearing on the truth of the claims Christians make.
Randal Rauser puts it this way
This simply left me puzzled, rather like somebody who tells a story with no discernable punchline and then begins to laugh uproariously while others look on confused. Never did Eller provide any argument in the chapter that because Christianity is a culturally embedded system of belief and practice which has changed through time it is therefore not true in its central claims (e.g. that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself).
I predict Looney, Manata, and Rauser's responses will be typical (and I just keep adding to this list). I'd be happy to be wrong, but I'm fairly confident that I'm not.
The most charitable thing I can say about Eller's chapter is that it makes for an incredibly mediocre warm up for readers who simply have no clue that there's a such thing as another religion. But, are we really
aiming that low? Do we have to only
aim that low? Surely we can hit multiple levels of audience as we go along. One can address the beginners as well as making sure the moderate and advanced folks are not going, "WTF?" If you are a parent, just think of the huge difference that there is between kids' movies you have to sit through that only aim at your kids, and kids' movies that are sophisticated enough to have something for everyone.
So anyway, that's the main criticism of the opening chapter. It's a rough start. Eller winds down with the point he actually does
have to offer:
Religions may think they are universal and eternal, but they are not. Religions may think they are special, but they are not.
With the information presented in this chapter, and in this book, it is impossible for Christians to remain unaware of their own religion or of the differences between religions. The hope, and the obligation, is that once people recognize the diversity, plasticity, and the relativity of religion, they will see little merit in it: that which is no longer taken for granted is often not taken at all.
That's fair. There are plenty of Christians who need a little guided tour of the crazy circus that is the religious world. I would agree with that. It can burst some bubbles. But they don't need a bad argument underpinning it all. There are tons of atheist/theist arguments that haven't been addressed and many Christians who will feel shorted if chapters like this jump the gun. It would be very easy to say something like, "Hey, btw, religion is really plastic. I know you might have lots of arguments and evidence that you think justifies your particular religion, but we'll get to that in later chapters. For now, we need to appreciate that the vast majority of religion transmits itself arbitrarily through subjective cultural means. At the very least, it's a great reason to reassess your tradition."
At best [Eller] can hope that this chapter will lead Christians to ask: is my religion true? But then it will become a matter of intellectual arguments.
It seems we really do need Loftus' first book, "Why I Became an Atheist
" after all to justify the logic of this first chapter. If Christians are going to ad hoc the Holy Spirit into the single strain of denomination they can trace all the way back to Jesus, then we don't need to be competing with them with our own fallacies.
One point that Paul Manata did bring up that actually perhaps contributes to the discussion (rather than just eating up all the red meat Eller, Loftus, and Carrier threw his way) is this
Eller fails to mention what atheistic sociologists have said about science and scientists:
Scientists are people who work in an unusual kind of local community. This community is characterized by high prestige, lengthy training and initiation, notoriously bad fashion choices, and expensive toys. But according to sociologists, it is still a community in which beliefs are established and defended via local norms that are human creations, maintained by social interaction (Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, The University of Chicago, 126).
For Eller to pretend his cultural claims about Christianity affect the positive epistemic status a Christian may have for her beliefs, while not bothering to let his readers know about the double-edged nature of this criticism, is simply an exercise in confirmation bias.
I'm assuming those atheistic sociologists would still maintain that the scientific community is doing a much better job of policing their biases (at least as far as their specific scientific conclusions go). I would never accuse the majority of the scientific community of being keen philosophers even on the philosophy of science. But there's still the question of just how much impact does their humanity have on things? Is there any science on this that tells us science in what ways this plays out and how much it actually matters? Manata doesn't tell us.
A sub-theme to the main shortcoming of Eller's case is the unnecessary conspiratorial nature of a lot of the chapter:
If the presentation above has not awakened them to the multiple mundane ways in which religion pervades their lives...
Whether or not they know it--and it is more insidious if they do not know it--non-Christians living in Christian-dominated societies live a life permeated with Christian assumptions and premises.
Most atheists use most of these phrases without any thought for their source--and how the use serves the source.
Religion may even show up when you sneeze ("God bless you").
One of the most overlooked ways that religion replicates itself in the everyday is in personal names.
*looks around for waiter* Check please.
Randal Rauser points out the same thing
Note to Mr. Eller: Let's try to restrain ourselves from impugning motives and smearing characters, at least until we've put some gas in our tank first. (An aside: what would justify a cunning charge? How about this: an intercepted letter from a leading Christian sociologist to a Christian evangelist saying:
"Heh heh heh! Our plan is working perfectly. The subjects are imbibing their culturally embedded Christianity and are being infected by our meticulously planned mind-virus. Soon everyone will be buying WWJD bracelets and we shall become rich!"
[...] Eller frets that Christian idioms infect our culture. He is apparently distressed that atheists will say "cast the first stone" or "lost sheep" "without any thought for their source-and how the use serves the source." (34) What, is he joking? I don't get my knickers in a knot when a Christian says "Gee, you're lucky!" or "We go together like yin and yang." Imagine being wound so tight that you have to pick at everyone's idioms. Mr. Eller must be a real downer at cocktail parties.
This is only good if we want to reinforce the stereotype that atheists think religion literally poisons everything. And Rauser confirms this suspicion
All of this suggests to me an individual who has a deep-seated antagonism toward Christianity, and religion more generally, which has blurred his vision and obscured his argument. With such frenetic charges and warnings, the essay reads more like a piece of conspiracy literature than reasoned atheistic apologetics.
And Eller's overstatement allows Paul Manata to say things like this
It might be upsetting for those atheists who want to show that they can be moral and can provide a basis for morality without religion to learn that they're simply, and quite ignorantly, regurgitating the Christian ethos they swim in. [...] According to Eller, these "cultural waters include everything. It grounds and informs a particular view of reality" (29). So much for those atheists, like Richard Carrier, who, in the same volume, writes a chapter that Christianity is not responsible for modern science. If he were listening to Eller he would not have made this mistake. Eller gives us Cornelius Van Til on steroids. This is an admission to "borrowed capital" in excelsis!
And like this:
[Eller has] been hornswoggled by some evangelicals into viewing Christianity in hyper-worldview terms, intimating that there are specifically Christian ways to turn wrenches and pound nails...
*sigh* It's not a good sign when someone like Manata is giving
the sensible overview:
I think it's significant that while Eller rightly notes such a high degree of Christian influence on Western society and the United States in particular (33), John Loftus highlights the religious pluralism of modern America (90), and Hector Avalos highlights the West's secularism (219). Such notions can be compatible with each other, but comments like those of Loftus and Avalos should be taken with Eller's qualification in mind. There has been some pluralizing and secularizing of Western cultures in modern times, but there's still been, and is, a large Christian influence.
Even a favorable reviewer didn't have to overstate the claims
to the conspiratorial extreme:
[Eller's] point that culture is so wrapped up in religion, and vice-versa, is well taken. With a global culture so diverse, it’s no wonder there are something like 38,000 different varieties of Christianity integrated into that culture.
I’d never thought of it this way before, but it’s so clear how religion intrudes into and takes over all aspects of life, from our habits of speech (“God Bless You” when you sneeze), to critical life events such as birth, death and marriage (even creating artificial events like christenings), to our bodily habits and dress (“circumcision” and “burkha”), institutions, art, even our concepts of time and dates (this is the year 2010 A.D. “Anno Domini”, after the birth of Christ). Religion so permeates our culture, that it’s well nigh impossible to divorce our attitudes about it to look at it objectively.
I still wouldn't call it "well nigh impossible" but perhaps, "subjectively difficult."Random:
Those who want to "win" the contest and to influence society must heed--namely, culture.
This, we believe, is why recasting mundane, routine practices has been so vital to all manner of social reformers...
I'm going to do a little plug here for Ethical Societies
. They are basically atheist churches. You take out god and replace it with humanist values with community support. I happen to go to the main one in St. Louis. They get a lot of ideological flack for being "too churchie" or rip off reactions to Christianity, but if we are to be expected to think that enculturing people is the way to win, why in the heck are atheists so often all against it? Here we have an authoritative source sticking it to religion supposedly telling us how religion insidiously co-opts culture and yet we take that same science and dismiss it for the sake of remaining lone wolfs. I know too many atheists who do that. So, I'd like to take whatever momentum is supposed to be in this chapter and redirect it against the egotism of the atheist community that says it doesn't need to be a community and stand together with common values and provide a hollistic way of living to help win the culture war. Just sayin.
I was pleased to discover that in one of Eller's books, Atheism Advanced
, Eller does actually push a vision for the atheism of the future
. Perhaps we could be on the same page there.
Eller abuses a metaphor, imo:
Some atheists and other critics of religion like to use the analogy of a crutch for religion [...] But you cannot pull a crutch from underneath a cripple and expect him or her to walk.
This will be a nitpicking point. It's an analogy and analogies have their limitations. I've always interpreted it as though religious people are using a crutch they don't actually need. They can walk upright, but they are just encultured to think they can't. "But what would I do without God telling me not to murder people?"
Ten seconds later, after losing touch with their god feelings, "Oh, there are obvious mental and social consequences I'd really like to avoid."
So I don't think we have to discard the metaphor since I arrive at the same conclusion Eller does using it.
No wait, I have an even worse nitpicking point:
...it is the year 2010 according to the Christian calendar, but it is not "really" 2010 or any other year.
Dude...we're not really here at all. Eller! Geez. That's it! I'm becoming a Christian!
Loftus, in the comment section below, hastily chooses to attack
my last statement as though it is the most important thing I've said here. He doesn't see the irony in light of what Jason Long
says in another chapter (page 68):
Petty and Cacioppo have found that providing a person with a few strong arguments provokes more attitude change than providing these arguments along with a number of moderate ones.
So Loftus can't address the fact that Eller assumes his conclusion
(and then Loftus says crazy stuff
about me not being an atheist when he finally gets around to it, as I pointed out above), and so attacks literally
the weakest zebra in the herd of criticism. *sigh*
I give this chapter 3 stars. It uses a logical fallacy at the heart its argument, overstates some of its claims in distasteful ways, and fails to take into consideration the most likely reactions of its intended audience. However, if you strip out those aspects, leave the modest intentions that surface at the end of the chapter, and look at it through the lens of the rest of book, it still deserves 3 stars for the array of information it presents the reader.
Next up, Valerie Tarico's "Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science