Open letter to John W. Loftus

Update: For those of you who are reading this long after the fact, John has since apologized for some of his comments.

Hi John,

You’ve done some great stuff for the atheist movement. When I first reviewed your book (years and years ago, when I was still on blogspot and you were still self-publishing), I said I thought the Outsider Test for Faith deserved a permanent place in the history of critiques of religion. I still think that. In fact, I’m so enthusiastic about the Outsider Test that I’m planning to write a chapter on it in my next book (which will I will finish… ack!, I don’t know when, but that’s not important right now).

However, I’ve been noticing for awhile now that you seem to have a lot of enemies within the atheist movement. I’ve wondered why, but didn’t really know. But after reading your recent post titled “Why Must People Always Personally Attack Apostates?” I feel like I’ve got a pretty good idea.

Do you realize how ridiculous that post sounds? First of all, Freethought Blogs isn’t a religion, isn’t a belief system, you can’t apostatize from it. But even if you could, you’re not being attacked simply for leaving FTB. Rather, Natalie criticized you for some of the things you said upon leaving, in particular on a thread at Dan’s blog. Furthermore, Natalie’s criticisms were fairly mild, and to call them “mean spirited” strikes me as a massive overreaction. If you felt she misunderstood your position, you could have simply said so.

In the past, when I’ve seen you complain about being attacked, I didn’t have enough context to know if you were overreacting or not. Now, in retrospect, I suspect that you were also overreacting on those occasions, and that this explains a lot of the tensions between you and others in the atheist movement.

Frankly, this puts me in an awkward position. I now realize that if I cite you in the future, some of my readers will associate your name not with the great work you’ve done, but with these outbursts of yours. I find this profoundly embarrassing, to a degree I’ve never experienced with any of current roster of my fellow FTBers, in spite of my occasional disagreements with them. For this reason especially, I hope you manage to reign in the anger and defensiveness in the future.



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