Naturally, there are several problems with Loftus's argument. Firstly, men are not dogs (even including atheists in the mix). The intellectual capacity of a man is vastly different from the intellectual capacity of a dog. Dogs are not human, no matter how much Loftus would anthropomorphize.
Secondly, Loftus's treatment of dogs can be summarized here:
We didn't hit him, spank him, or pluck out his eyes. We didn't burn him, bust his jaw, or break his leg. We taught him gently (for the most part), and we punished him within reason just to let him know we were not pleased. That was enough.Now apparently, Loftus is claiming that God hits, spanks, plucks out eyes, burns, breaks jaws, breaks legs, and otherwise behaves "brutally" toward people. I would imagine he thinks of these things in the context of hell--but hell is not something that occurs on Earth. It's not like God is behaving that way toward anyone in this moment; in point of fact, Christians would argue God's behaving quite mercifully to everyone.
There is a child rearing method known as Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) that has been around for a few decades. Children are not to be spanked, but loved. Discipline is done by taking away priviledges alone. Again, no spanking (which stands in stark contrast to the Biblical injunction "spare the rod, spoil the child")! If this method is done consistently and in love these children are well adjusted youths and adults. [Just read the reviews of the revised editon of this book if you don't believe me].
Ironically, Loftus writes this about God:
While I reject the Garden of Eden story as myth, even if it happened, just compare how God teaches humans and compare that to how my wife taught Franky, or how parents could raise heathy children. The punishments do not have to be so draconian in scope, especially if the goal is to teach us to do better. Just God's displeasure alone could be enough. Just taking away priviledges could be enough.But what was God's punishment of Adam and Eve if not "taking away priviledges"? Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden. They were removed from the presence of God. Indeed, God apparently did exactly what Loftus demanded God do. In short, God's temporal punishments for disobedience seem to be exactly what Loftus would demand of God. It is only God's threat of hell that gets Loftus's ire here.
Let us, for the sake of argument, pretend that Loftus's concept of hell is Biblical. (John, note I said "for the sake of argument"; I did not say you were right.)
This brings me to the third point. Loftus engages in what I call The God Wouldn't Do X Fallacy. Here's how that fallacy works.
I cannot fathom having to send my kids to hell for anything, and I cannot fathom having to pluck out Franky's eyes for anything he would do wrong to teach him to obey. But that's what we see in the Bible. So the Bible provides me a reason to reject it along with the God described in its pages.Thus, we see Loftus arguing:
GIVEN: X is "people get sent to hell."
(1) God does X.
(2) John Loftus cannot fathom doing X.
(3) Therefore, God does not exist.
But (3) is an obvious non sequitur. In reality, all this proves is that God doesn't do what Loftus would do (or more specifically, God does what Loftus would not do). It says nothing as to the existence of God.
This is, in reality, nothing more than what Paul pointed out in the blog post Loftus admitted to not reading: "At any rate, I don't know why a *subjective* reason would allow for the atheist not to bother with the *objective* existence of something. My son doesn't like vegetables, but I don't think that should be 'another reason not to bother with belief in [vegetables] at all.'"
Loftus's dog argument is nothing more than the same God Doesn't Do X Fallacy. God doesn't do what Loftus wants God to do, therefore God doesn't exist. Loftus doesn't like God, therefore Loftus will decide not to believe in God.
This is not an intellectual argument; this is a post facto rationalization.