John Loftus is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it any more

May 20, 2012 • 11:02 am

Over at Debunking Christianity, John Loftus has bailed.  He is an ex-militant. Bereft of drive, he posts no more.  As he explains in his last post, “Okay, the time has come, I’m done“:

I have no more desire to engage Christians. They are deluded, all of them. I have never been more convinced of this than I am now. I have better things to do. I spent 39+ years of my adult life on a delusion. If I add the years of my childhood that’s almost my entire life. Yet this is the only life I will ever have. It’s time to move on, or at a minimum take a very long hiatus. I just finished what may be my last book, on The Outsider Test for Faith, to be published by Prometheus Books early next year. How many times do I need to kick the dead horse of Christianity? I don’t think I need to say anything more. If what I have written isn’t good enough then nothing is good enough for some Christians. What I intend to do is turn this blog over to a few qualified people. I’ll still be a part of it and I suppose I’ll post something from time to time. But I see no reason to waste large chunks of my time on this delusion anymore.
Loftus had three masters degrees, preached in three states, and studied under the infamous William Lane Craig. He later turned atheist and wrote Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.  I enjoyed his website, and found his “Outsider test for faith” a real contribution to the critical assessment of religon.
What disillusionment there is in that statement! There’s not only the despair at having wasted a big chunk of life on a fairy tale, but also the frustration of trying to dispel that fairy tale in the face of obdurate opposition. I empathize with the former and identify with the latter.  I wish him well, and hope his efforts aren’t totally lost to our community.

82 thoughts on “John Loftus is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it any more

  1. John Loftus is one of the voices bold enough to assert that there’s nothing new someone can tell him about Christianity. No new theology, no new arguements—he’s heard it all and has had enough. I admire this willingness to move on with a more fulfilling life. Perhaps dead horses need a kick, but he’s done his part and knows that his printed words will continue to kick the horse even when he doesn’t post online. I wish him well.

    1. I, like many other subscribers to this site, have family or friends embedded in this delusional mental state. From experience I know that when trying to engage them in discussion on the subject of say, evolution, the shutters come down. Waste of energy and just brings on frustration and resentment. One of the reasons I believe is that they cannot come to terms with the idea that death is finality! Religion gives them something to live for and meaning in their lives.

      1. True. Further they risk the loss of their entire social network. I am thankful that I live half the world away from my relatives.

      2. You may engage me in shutter-free conversation about evolution, if you wish. I used to accept the possibility of theistic evolution, but now completely reject it. I have searched for the mechanisms needed to drive evolution.

  2. His disillusionment isn’t justified. His effort, like all of ours, is scattering seeds into the wind. Some will take root, most will not. Why should he expect anything different? He probably has no accurate data about his effectiveness; the loudest opposition are the ones most committed to their points of view, so their persistence isn’t really a measure of what he has accomplished. The people he seeks to influence are the quiet ones.

    1. Well said Greg.

      I don’t think anyone really expects to convert the totally deluded. Just the young and the lurkers, showing that these idiotic views can and will be challenged. You can also have a bit of fun with the feeble brained emotional cripples:-)

      1. Some are hopeless cases. However,don’t give up on any of them, but just don’t take it too seriously about any particular one. You never know when you’re going to get though somewhere, so just keep trying.

        If each of us can convert just 2 of them, our numbers will triple. Four and we’re a majority in the US.

  3. John Loftus is a well-intentioned man. But he tried to re-invent the wheel. All the major arguments debunking Christianity have been established and laid out for a long time.
    As Thomas Paine explained in “The Age of Reason”, with honest simple-minded people, fence-sitters, lukewarm believers,
    “It is necessary to be bold. Some people can be reasoned into sense, and others must be shocked into it. Say a bold thing that will stagger them, and they will begin to think.”

    But when it comes to well-trained Christian believers who love the jousting and sparring, the debating and the controversies as a modern mental game, who stock up on the latest apologetics, no amount of arguing and debating will “reason them into good sense.” It is a guaranteed waste of time.
    The only valid strategy is the tongue-in-cheek irreverence, the gentle mocking or sarcastic irony about the absurdities of the religion. No use making long dissertations with Part I, Part II, Part III, etc… Richard Dawkins thinks the same. No use wasting one’s time with fighting believers. Only short pithy comments or one-liners ridiculing the absurdities of their beliefs can have any effect.

    1. No use making long dissertations with Part I, Part II, Part III…Only short pithy comments or one-liners ridiculing the absurdities of their beliefs can have any effect.

      Agreed, and I think that’s a point that the Debunking Handbook makes. People just need a couple of points to walk away with that they can think about. Rather than making a thousand arguments against Christianity, we only need a handful of short ones that we make over and over again. Boldly.

      1. For me, Loftus’s books were important right along with those of Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and, yes, Dr. Coyne. (Evolution was the catalyst for my questioning.) I appreciate John’s efforts immensely, and consider his “Outsider Test” a breakthrough in simple clarity of thought, one that is very difficult for the committed believer to undertake.

        Some of us are a little more deeply entrenched, a little slower to accept evidence, than others. The repetition of similar points and arguments from fresh voices served its purpose for me, just as repetition of the same tired old lines in sermons Sunday after Sunday serves to reinforce the faith of the pious over a lifetime of church attendance.

        1. The repetition of similar points and arguments from fresh voices served its purpose for me,

          Well, I agree with that, too. I’m all over the map, aren’t I? 😉

          No one approach will work with everyone, and I do think it’s useful that deep, thorough analyses exist for those who wish to explore in depth. I’m just skeptical that these are useful as the first hook to reel in the budding rationalist.

    2. “The Freethinker” is the oldest freethought magazine in the world. It was founded in 1881 by the famous secular journalist George William Foote. He paid the usual price, being condemned to one year’s prison term. The magazine is still going strong, based in Brighton (UK).
      Its manifesto was:

      “The Freethinker is an anti‑Christian organ, and must therefore be chiefly aggressive. It will wage relentless war against superstition in general, and against Christian superstition in particular. It will do its best to employ the resources of Science, Scholarship, Philosophy and Ethics against the claims of the Bible as a Divine Revelation; and it will not scruple to employ for the same purpose any weapons of ridicule or sarcasm that may be borrowed from the armoury of Common Sense”.

      This program is straight out of the “Age of Reason”, including the lethal “weapons of ridicule or sarcasm”. Paine’s influence is still alive.

      1. That manifesto is a fine bit of prose. Brings a lump to my throat much as Jerry described the last paragraph of Joyce’s The Dead does for him.

        That is going to have to go into my “interesting quotes” file.

    3. I used to sing St Matthew’s Passion (the music is still wonderful) and never noticed the absurdity of the resurrected corpses.

      27:51-3 “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
      And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

      So did they just stand in their open graves from Friday afternoon till Sunday morning? And this remarkable event isn’t recorded anywhere but Matthew? Or this was just folklore, but the closely corresponding resurrection of JC really happened? Or didn’t literally happen but whatever did happen was much more important than this?

    4. These are all strange reasonings, if the anti-christian ideas are already there for long time, so what? they are still true, and still needed.

      And saying that those ideas proposed by people like Loftus are just repetition in face of religions is even stranger, what about the religion itself?

      I find Loftus’ ideas are important and refreshing, he is very thorough, and more importantly honest, plus the insider’s view of christianity, something that’s important for ex-christians atheists.

      Some people do it one way, some others do it differently, and Loftus’ books are definitely a fresh view on merits of atheism.

    5. Various techniques work with various believers. I’ve had good luck with lengthy posts that carefully cover some point, leaving little room to rationally evade. I admit that approach usually doesn’t work, but once in a while it does. And, it has worked for me better than any other.

  4. I loved “Why I became an Atheist…” and parts of “Outsider Test of Faith”. If he pulls back completely, it will be a loss. We will see if he continues to participate in other ways beside authorship.

  5. I can relate to his frustration. For years I would publicly denounce religion whenever the opportunity to do so was present. But then I started to realise that my efforts were futile. I now take a more political approach by not supporting organisations that have or accommodate religious beliefs and immediately walk away or ignore those that want to talk about how important/beneficial religion is.

  6. Some Gnu Atheists have come up with the idea of campaigning for Christians to read the Bible all the way through. I think that this is a brilliant idea. Not only can we produce more atheists, true believers have no defence.Their revered holy book is actually a weapon for their opponents.

      1. Esp. the horrible bits in the New Testicle. For those who think God changed the rules between Godfather Pt I and Godfather Pt II. …with particular emphasis on the “jot and tittle” stuff right after Jeebus Crispix’s temple tantrum.

  7. I feel for Mr. Loftus. I too wasted the bulk of my life on fundamentalist religion. I too realize the futility of rational argument with fundamentally irrational people (even I do it some, as I agree with Greg Esres’ comment above). Though I haven’t yet read Mr. Loftus’ books, they are moving up on my list. I wish him the best.

  8. He had substituted prosletyzing for the faith for prosletyzing against it, and now he’s shed the need to prosletyze. I think all of us take steps in deconversion that we don’t anticipate. Our belief systems became so powerful in society precisely because they wend their way into our social lives and aspects of our psyches without our awareness.

    He can still do good work by educating us non-theists and former theists about how the fundamentalist movement works. The people who are threatening the First Amendment aren’t the casual Christians who watch Fox TV, but the well-educated ones who pull the strings. The more we know about the enemy, the better. Someone like Loftus can go toe to toe with them or teach us how to.

    1. You’re confusing us. It’s hard enough to remember that the word is PROSELYTIZING (with PROSELYTISM) without you clouding our mental image and planting doubts in our own minds.
      I had to shut my eyes firmly not to let your new version imprint on my awareness.

    2. In opposing religious encroachment on secular civil liberties it is not to be expected to win the argument outright in so short a time. It is a long term battle for people’s minds. In the West the agnostic/atheist is only recently out of the closet (in the States not even) and is only just getting used to the fact that the religious do not merit the polite uncritical tolerance that they previous counted on as a right. I would like to see sooner or later the disembodiment of Church and State in both my homelands (Britain and Ireland) and I am sure the battle will be one of of attrition, though I am convinced that the writing is on the wall.
      I am sorry to see an ally depart the field, though I am sure he will continue to play his part in what he has written and in continued reasoned argument. Viva!

  9. It’s a long slow process to get from faith to reason and I think simply having the networks and a variety of resources (including his book) available to those who are struggling with faith and still searching for truth, that goes a long way.

  10. Interesting that his standard of value seems to be deconversion of believers. I would imagine his greatest impact may have been in helping unbelievers to clarify their thoughts.

  11. I’m an ex-Christian fundamentalist, having spent about 30 years in that delusion and it was when I spent about 10 years studying to preach biblical inerrancy that I learned too much. One of the most difficult things came after I realized I could not believe Christian mythology was to admit I had wasted about three decades of my life on it.

    For the past 30 years I have been an outspoken critic of Christianity and all organized religion. I have never had any delusions about getting anyone to give up their religion nor any desire to. My criticism is directed against the irrational beliefs and why I no longer believe them and is directed toward the fence sitters and especially those who may be in the situation I was in periodically: Having great doubts about what I was taught but not knowing there was anyone else who had the same doubts.

    Perhaps Loftus took it too seriously. One can easily get burned out if one criticizes religion and its practitioners ignore your evidence and go on as if nothing has happened. I have taken the advice of a friend who told me many years ago that if I’m going to criticize religion to have fun doing it, to not take it or myself too seriously and to never believe I’m going to change the world. That is not to say that I approach the subject frivolously. I am serious about informing the public what Christians believe; how many of them would love to set up a theocracy; that I was a True Believer “born again” biblical inerrantists for much of my early life; but that I no longer believe it and here’s why. Having fun come when I point out how silly and unfounded many of the Christian beliefs really are. If you’re going to joust against windmills, you might as well enjoy it

      1. Unfortunately, theists can like it too, at least the more liberal ones. Still, you’re right.

  12. It reminded me of Keith Parsons’ decision to leave philosophy of religion (you had an article on this website about Parsons in early January, 2011).

    Interestingly, Loftus has been asking William Lane Craig to debate him but Craig has so far refused.

  13. John Loftus has made a significant contribution towards opening up the front in challenging many if not most of the central tenets of the christian mythos. Religion in general, and christian theism in particular, is the last remaining vestigial link to a time when ignorance, superstition and illiteracy [both scientific and communicative] ran supreme, to a time when they were the principal drivers in humanity’s explanatory process for understanding our relationship to the environment, the world, the universe.

    Anyone who posits that a three-in-one godhead is fact, that revivification of a dead and putrescent cadaver is a statement of fact, and that physical bodily levitation to some hitherto valhalla, is simply delusional. Psychology and psychiatry now describe the manifesting of such beliefs as psychotypal behaviour.

    To indulge in the superstitious, supernatural nonsense of christian theism is to self-obsessively abandon reason and logic, and as Loftus has innumerably pointed out, is simply an exercise in self-delusion.


    1. errata

      ” …. and that physical bodily levitation to some hitherto valhalla actually occurred, …”

  14. I’m a little sorry to see him leave. He can get very personally invested in these debates which brings hims a clear sense of passion but perhaps it also magnifies other emotions and makes burnout more likely.

    If anyone wants some excellent writing but hasn’t got his book, go to the very start of this blog and work forwards. He lays out a good chunk of his books and creates a strong argument against Christianity. Well worth reading.

  15. I see this as mostly good.

    It has been my impression that John Loftus was too intense in the way he was opposing Christianity. I am glad to see him getting more balance back into his life.

    My guess is that he will continue to oppose religion, but will avoid making it as much of an obsession as it has been for him.

    My best wishes to John. I hope things work out for him.

  16. Another one bites the dust. A pity, but even the most dedicated soldier expects to retire eventually. I hope he enjoys it.

  17. Reminds me of the Larson joke: “In 1974 I sold more aluminum siding than any man in the Southeast. Ladies and gentlemen, my work is done here.” (pan to man dying in bed surrounded by loving relatives).

    Exposing the inanity of religion can be a lot like selling aluminum siding (a lesson in futility).

    1. It is certainly futile to expect reason to change many believers. Christianity is absurd prima facie. A 12 year old would see that, providing the 12 year old hadn’t already been programmed. People believe even though they must know it is absurd. They need to be deprogrammed. Or better yet, not programmed to begin with.

  18. At least in the digital age, his efforts will still remain. It’s interesting to see believers who disagree vehemently pop up on old threads to comment. It’s a small consolation, but at least it’s something.

    1. Print on paper seems to last longer — and he’s published a good deal in the old way. Yeah!

  19. That is too bad that he’s decided to dismiss his efforts as nothing more than a failed attack on Christianity. I think he’s made a contribution to the atheist movement. But I certainly understand burnout and frustration in this context.

  20. The trouble is that the more people are going quiet, then the Religious think they have won and are gaining ground. The outsider test for Faith must be one of the best weapons against bronze age moralising Religious…

  21. Xianity is slowing dying in the USA.

    The key word is slow here. It just takes a long time for cultural changes to occur. There is a lot of inertia in 310 million people. In a lot of cases, the hardcore just have to grow old and die.

    Around 1-2 million people leave the religion every year. Xianity is projected to go under 50% of the US population by 2050.

    2050 is a long time to wait. I won’t even be alive then.

    One of the most compelling resources of the New Atheist movement are…Xians!!! Running into the fundie creationists started me on the road out of the religion. Those people are simply evil, not all of them maybe but the most visible and the ones who are their leaders.

    1. If anyone expects to see quick progress in changing people’s minds or liberating them, well, it would be nice but probably won’t happen.

      Soon that is. As P. Zuckerman points out, the big religion story of the 20th century was the rise of atheism. It went from about zero in 1900 to around a billion worldwide by 2000. That is a notable achievement but we humans aren’t good at sitting up and watching changes on century timescales.

      1. I hate to throw cold water on an otherwise optimistic story, but “zero in 1900” is really not accurate. The turn of the century (19th-20th) is sometimes called the Golden Age of Freethought. Mark Twain. Robert Ingersol. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Prior to World War I there was great public interest in things secular. Freethinking has a deep history and, while it was eclipsed during much of the 20th Century, did not just appear as we rolled into the 21st.

        1. I said about zero. Which isn’t equal to zero. The useage of “about” is meant to indicate an approximation of near zero.

          You mentioned 3 people. That isn’t many out of a population of 1.6 billion.

          Atheism was almost nonexistent, something like one out of every 7,000 people on the planet, in 1900.

          One source gives this number .0014%, 1900.

          Today the number is around 1.1 billion or 16%. The useage of “around” is meant to indicate another approximation.

          The change was from about ,0014% in 1900 to 16% in 2012. I’m using percentages here but in absolute numbers, the change was even greater. The world population grew from 1.6 billion to 7 billion.

          The rise of atheism was the big religious story of the 20th century.

    2. Thank you Raven for a nice writeup. Even Cristianity’s adherents admit it is slowly declining in the United States. Below is a hyperlink to the Fargo Forum (North Dakota) newspaper titled “Church membership on the Decline in North Dakota and Minnesota.”

      I copied and pasted three paragraphs from the Fargo Forum article.

      The main denominations in North Dakota – two Catholic dioceses and two corresponding synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – each have around 165,000 adherents, representing together half the state population but 73 percent of the religious adherents.

      And each body lost nearly 7 percent of its people in the decade ended in 2010.

      In Minnesota, adherents made up 56 percent of the population compared to 62 percent a decade earlier.

      The same two denominations dominate in Minnesota, but the Catholic Church had 1.2 million adherents and the ELCA 738,000, together making up about a third of the population and 60 percent of adherents. Catholic membership fell nearly 9 percent and ELCA membership fell nearly 14 percent.

      Oh, and be sure to vote “Never”, to how often do you attend church services poll. It sure would be nice to get P.Z. Myers to help make our atheist votes heard!

  22. I can well imagine the intense frustration of John Loftus. Arguing with religious people is like arguing with conspiracy theorists, except that in the case of religion the ‘cover up’ inherent in every conspiracy theory is far more difficult to disprove to the believers. That is because they suppose that the evidence was not hidden or tampered with by a group of fallible people, but by an infinitely powerful supernatural being, whose capability to cover things up is literally unlimited. True believers (or dishonest ones) can deflect almost every argument against their beliefs in one way or another to their own satisfaction, and the truth will consequently stick like water on a duck’s back.

  23. I can fully understand the feeling that most of the religious are doomed to remain in that weird world of futile adoration. Their poor minds have been contorted by parents, relative’s friends and teachers who convince and cajole using the ‘trust me I wouldn’t lie to you’ routine.
    The price to pay for the brave discovery of reality is not for the meek. To be out there in Veracity Street is fraught with the strength needed to be truly responsible for all ones actions. In Veracity Street you can’t hide behind a book of nonsense and demand respect for its obvious ambiguities. In the world of absolute truth there is no room for inequality. Real strength is in standing together in the pursuit of progress and genuine knowledge. The power of gender cooperation is immense providing methods and insights that are lost in the mire of social inequality. And guess what? The poor old meek are most unlikely inherit the earth.
    Being bought by the promise of jam tomorrow is extremely sad. I have myself been angered by the futility of belief and the stonewalling of rationale thought religion brings.
    Finally, I say thanks to the courageous intellectuals who take care in presenting the very best of logic and reason yet all the while knowing that converting the deluded is a hard row to hoe.

  24. Though Hitchens’s observation, “Time spent arguing with the faithful is, oddly enough, almost never wasted,” applies, you can’t spend all your time arguing with the faithful. Pick your battles.

  25. Smart move by a smart man, but how come his three Masters degrees do not attract ridicule? I was under the impression that triple degrees were no-nos here.

  26. I think the biggest difference between John and the rest of the Gnu-Atheists is that they talk about Christians, John talks to them. That’s why he left FTB. We are not his target audience.

    I would, however, like to get him invited to the next skeptical conference. It makes me question the motives of those that exclude him. Although, it’s not widely known that one of the Four Horsemen. Christopher Hitchens, recommended his book.

    If that isn’t noteworthy, what is?

    1. I would, however, like to get him invited to the next skeptical conference. It makes me question the motives of those that exclude him.

      ???? I wasn’t aware that he was excluded from conferences. Is that so and why?

      I did read his book and liked it. It was 400 pages of careful scholarship, a lot of information.

      Talking to most xians is like talking to brainwashed zombies. They are brainwashed zombies and the brainwashing is reinforced by stark terror of demons, satan, and hell.

      Some people who have left xianity are still haunted by the ghosts of fear in imaginary enforcers of belief.

      1. Raven,

        Sadly, it’s true. I am unfamiliar with the details as to “why” he is not invited, but a quick search will confirm this. He should be at all of them. He also wasn’t included in Dawkins’ Clergy Project. Is it a snub or an oversight? Either way, it’s not good. Considering his contribution to the “Gnu-Movement” he should have a seat at the table, and not locked outside.

        1. Strange.

          He is not that an obscure a figure, being a published author of a widely read book.

          Oversight is unlikely.

          I can’t imagine why though anyway. I’m sure someone knows. Stuff happens for reasons.

  27. Hopefully Mr. Loftus is taking a hiatus from his activities.

    Has he been snubbed or does he prefer to remain removed from conferences?

  28. Why does the skeptical community feel the need to convince believers of anything? With all due respect, it seems a truly atheistic worldview would hold it to be irrelevant, no?

  29. Loftus has Leftus!ran out of steam? Ran out of ideas? Ran out of joy actually! Where there is no joy there is no strength! I am sure John might have preached on that in the past. He undertook an imposible task! Only a deluded sparrow would believe he could make the Sahara desert disappear one grain of sand at a time. John, did you really think you make God disappear? Should have learned a lesson from Nietche, he sought to kill God, but wound up dying in an insane asylium. John take some time out, then humbly read as if for the first time the first book of both the Old and New Testaments. As long as you have life, a gift of God by the way, there is hope for you. Wish you well!

    1. Nietsche may have died in an insane asylum, but the religious spend their whole life living in one.
      I think that John’s problem may have been just the sheer boredom of trying to respond to the same meaningless, tedious arguments already heard a hundred times before. Reading either the New or the Old Testament is probably the last thing he needs.

  30. I don’t think he should ever feel he’s wasted his time, though perhaps he has said all he feels that he needs to. I only recently began reading his material and his book “The Christian Delusion” because I disagree with so many things Christianity teaches (not to say there aren’t wonderful values mixed in as well), evolution among them. I’m thankful for his insights and hope that he’ll continue to pop onto his site now and again.

    1. I am surprised this thread is still active. Anyway, John has a new blog since the old one is going away. It’s and it’s growing rather quickly.

  31. Well I don’t blame John Loftus, you can only deal with retards for so long. It gets tiresome to hear the same old song and dance of Christians with unfalsifiable faiths.

  32. The only religious body worse than the C of C for indoctrination and life long damage to adherents is the Roman Catholic miasma that has spawned its harlot children through the centuries. I get why Loftus wants a break. The whole thing is wearying. Maybe this is what is meant by the abomination that makes desolate. There are a lot of desolate refugees out here trying to find the truth.

Leave a Reply