Why Do Christians Believe?

I don’t believe Jesus arose from the dead. I don’t believe the historical evidence is enough for a fair minded person to believe this either. I don’t think Christians believe in Jesus’ resurrection because of the evidence anyway. They believe it because someone they trusted told them Jesus arose.

Several thinkers have offered reasons why people are believers. Marx argued religion is a numbing drug that the rich and powerful use to manipulate the common person. Freud argued that people believe because of a longing desire for a heavenly father figure. Nietzsche argued that religion is for weak people who feel the need for it. These are psychologically based reasons for why someone may believe. What I want to do here is different. I want to trace why a person became a believer--a Christian--in the first place. I think the mind is so impressionable that we have a very strong tendency to believe what we are first taught to believe, and with that belief as our presumption, we have a very strong tendency to argue that it's correct. In doing this, smart people can find reasons to continue believing even if the evidence is against what they believe.

From my own experience and that of nearly every Christian I know, this is the case. Think about this for a moment, Christian. Think back to when you first became a Christian. Someone you liked, or cared for, or trusted, told you about Jesus and his resurrection. With me I never heard anything different from people. Everyone who ever talked to me about it believed. The people who told you about Jesus were believable. And if necessary they pointed you to some books which you read which confirmed what they were telling you, including the Bible. The Bible confirmed some things for you too, that you felt the need for forgiveness. It also tells a wonderful story about a God who loved you in that he became a man and died so you could be forgiven. The gospel offers hope, forgiveness and peace. It also offers a relationship with God. You also seemed to notice that when you prayed, things happened, which confirmed for you God answered your prayers (although people who regularly read their daily Horoscopes claim they are accurate too). Then you got involved in a community of believers who encouraged you and suggested other books to read, which further confirmed your faith.

At this point you had adopted a set of control beliefs which subsequently filtered all of the evidence you were presented with. You wanted it to be true. You wanted to meet this God of yours in heaven. And you were comforted in believing you would be spared from hell when you died.

Now there are people like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton who started out being skeptical and became believers, but I’m not talking about these people. On the other side of the fence there are plenty of others who started out as believers like me, and then became non-believers. This shows people come to their own conclusions, that’s all. It says nothing to you about whether those of us who changed our minds had good reasons for doing so, apart from looking at our reasons. As such, the fact that people change their minds can’t be used as evidence for you to believe or not, apart from looking at our reasons. But I’m speaking to the overwhelming number of Christians in this world, not the exceptions.

You believed prior to examining the evidence. You believed because someone you trusted told you a wonderful sounding story. Never mind for a moment that the person who told you this story neglected to tell you of the ugliness to be found in the Bible. Nevertheless, you believed based upon what someone told you whom you trusted. And that best explains why you are in the denomination you are presently in too, although you might be in one because of someone else you trusted, or something you read too. But this is merely switching rooms in the same house.

And that person whom you trusted believed for the same reasons. Someone he or she trusted told him or her the gospel story which was also believed prior to examining the evidence. I argue this chain of one person passing on that story to the next generation stretches back to the first century, too. But as we get back into the ancient superstitious past, people believed in lots of divinities and miracles based upon no evidence at all—none.

Okay so far?

Here’s the deal. You believe based upon a person you trusted and in the story itself. In doing so it brings you a comforting (but delusional) relationship with God, which includes forgiveness, friends, and saves you from hell. And from that day forward you filter all of the evidence through your faith.

With such a wonderful story you want it to be true. You’re afraid to doubt for fear that you might end up in hell. So you look for ways to confirm that it’s true and that it can be historically verified, even though history cannot verify such things. So you read books that mainly confirms your belief, and surprise, you find that your belief can be justified. How many times when you doubt will you read what a skeptic writes? Not many Christians I know will do this. Instead, if they are having doubts they’ll turn to the trusted writings of a Christian apologist.

Only a few Christians will bother to read blogs like this one because they know in advance what we’re arguing for is false, of the devil, and that we are willfully in denial of the gospel truth. Christians don’t trust us to learn the truth about such things. We’re just wrong. When Christians read what we say here at DC they only do so to prove us wrong. They already know in advance we’re wrong. Christians simply don’t trust us to be correct.

So when it comes to the evidence of the resurrection, Christians think the evidence shows Jesus arose because they are already predisposed to believe it, and they likewise overlook the evidence against the Christian faith.

-----------------------------
An article Former_Fundy stumbled across by Lewis Rambo gives four major components of religious conversion:

1. Religious conversion is deeply personal and takes place almost always through interaction with another human.

"people who convert or change religions usually do so through personal contact, and not through impersonal methods of communication, although that happens sometimes."

2. Religious conversion involves being identified with a whole new sociological group.

"Secondly, what is very clear is that virtually all religious groups emphasize the importance of relationships with the leader of the group, and with members of the group. One of the things that is very striking when you go into a religious group is that there is enormous affection. People in some groups will even address one another as brother and sister, or other terms that communicate that relationships are very important."

3. Religious conversion involves a completely new way of viewing the world.

"they now have an interpretative system that applies to anything and everything."

4. Religious conversion involves a totally new way of viewing one's self and one's role in the world.

"Role is very powerful in shaping peoples’ perceptions and behaviors. When people become a member of a new religious movement, or when they become a passionate Roman Catholic, they have a new perception of themselves that often empowers them to do things, to believe things, and to feel things that they have not have been able to prior to that time."

37 comments:

maybeitsnonsense said...

very well stated. of course, as you mentioned, you were speaking in a general sense, and there are exceptions. now in science, we are interested in the exceptions, because these exceptions challenge our hypotheses and findings.

an interesting exception is people who convert from the religion of their culture to christianity. for example conversions that take place in muslim states such as afghanistan.

most likely a foreigner (missionary) would have introduced the afghani to christianity- this challenges the idea of conversion based on trust. this also obviously challenges the argument you have laid out of why someone believes-

so what do you or others think of the exceptions?

Josh said...

I have to say, this is not my reason. I was older and I had a "violent" conversion.

I actually know more people that became a Christian in adulthood than I do that were "farmed".

Former_Fundy said...

I think this explains why SOME people believe but certainly not all. It does mirror my experience, however. It also helps me to understand why very intelligent people can believe such absurd notions. For example, when I lived in Arizona, I knew several incredibly intellectual Mormons. But when it came to their faith, they turned off their reason.

I have just discovered Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson. I am looking forward to reading it. I understand he differs from Dawkin's meme theory.

Jim Jordan said...

How about "10 Steps to Becoming a Nominal Christian" for this post? Like Lewis and Chesterton, I was a skeptic who came to believe as an adult. But this post declares that only nominal Christians are being considered, which is generously honest. I hate being lumped in with nominal Christians.

The conundrum the atheist can't wipe out is that it is not wholly illogical to believe that the offer made by Christ is the specific offer from our Creator. Jesus not only represented the Author of our spirituality but also the Author of our rationality.

It would be the greatest mistake for atheists to assume that all Christians were shallow thinkers programmed from birth to be "predisposed" to Christianity. There is danger in the idea of combatting shallow Christian thinking with shallow atheist thinking [unfortunately, I think Dawkins, Harris, and their ilk have already begun that tradition).

No thinking atheist should desire to be the carbon copy of a nominal Christian. God forbid!

Jennifer said...

John,
I would be interested to read what you think about this:

http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Faraday.htm

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
I see this article as a facet of a broader topic of persuasion.

Maybeitsnonsense,
you have properly pointed out a facet of the scientific method considering exceptions. However you must remember that exceptions don't make or break the rule. Very few things are true in all conditions however that doesn't mean you can't make a general principle out of it. You just have to understand its limitations but it can be used to acquire more knowledge or make sound decisions. Don't forget that religious conversions can be seen as a matrix between all religions.

I caution you all in getting involved in defending or attacking "absolute" postions or presenting exceptions like they refute the general principle.

Josh,
I actually know more people that became a Christian in adulthood than I do that were "farmed".
that may be true for you, but remember you are one in a huge world of billions of people. They have their perspectives as well.

In my view this is a variation on the "religion by Geography" argument (here is a sample from DC). You can see for yourself by looking at demographics that it is in principle true that most Muslims are in the East, most hindus are in India, most Buddhists are in asia, most christians are in europe and north america.

Jim Jordan,
I know all christians are not shallow thinkers programmed at birth, as Josh states above, but as a general principle it works as a theory. I have run across several deep thinking christians that have gotten me against the ropes here, but when that happens I always have the old standyby arguments that cause the Christian to have to "punt to god". I haven't read any Denning, Dawkins or Hutchins mainly because I have listened to interviews and read some internet stuff they have done and think that deconversion should be a more nurturing process. I don't like their attitude basically.

christianity, as I see it, is the result of persuasive arguments that work against naturally flawed human reasoing processes. Advertisers and Marketers depend on this. I urge you all to read information on persuasion to see what I mean and make your "religious" idea of 'reasons to believe" match your "everyday" idea of reasons to believe. Here are some books that I have in my library, and the website changingminds.org is a good place to get started.

Cialdini, Robert. 2001. Influence: Science and Practice. Boston. Allyn and Bacon.

Gilovich, Thomas. 1991. How We Know What Isn't So. New York. The Free Press: A division of Macmillan, Inc.

Okeefe, Daniel J. 1990. Persuasion Theory and Research. Newbury Park, California. Sage Publications.

- Cialdini's Six weapons of influence

- look into the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion. it his encouraged to be used by Debate organizations because it is effective.

here a list of generally true principles relating to persuasion.
- People are naturally terrible at estimating probability.
- People are naturally terrible at perceiving and interpreting probabilistic data.
- People "remember the hits and forget the misses"
- People like stories and are willing to give the teller of the story the benefit of the doubt about the truth of it.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from someone they like.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it is believed by the larger group.
- People will change their evidence based viewpoint if it contradicts the viewpoint of the group.
- People overestimate the degree of belief in others.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe.
- People are likely to use the precautionary principle as illustrated by Pascals Wager in minimizing risk.

I assert that none of us have as much free-will and independent thought as we think we have. Advertisers know this and Marketing is a thriving industry. Religions use the same techniques.

John W. Loftus said...

Lee that was terrific. Make those principles of persuasion into a blog entry someday. Wonderful stuff. And so without a mutually agreed upon empirical test to decide between religions then it's undeniably true that political and social factors have an overwhelming effect on a person's religious beliefs.

Super Happy Jen said...

When I was a child, my grandmother told me stories about Jesus. And I learned about the Christmas story in school. This never lead me to become a Christian.

My grandmother also told me a story about a pot that kept overflowing with porridge until you said a magic word. As a child, I knew this was just a story. The Jesus stories were just bedtime stories to me as well. I didn't realize until I was older that people actually believed them.

I knew people believed in God, but I didn't know they believed Adam and Eve were the first humans, that Noah really stuffed all the animals in the world into an ark, that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth, etc. I started asking questions that I didn't ask when I thought they were just stories. What about dinosaurs? What about cavemen? How can all the animals in the world fit in one ark? How could everyone in the world be wicked enough to drown? When noone could answer these questions to my satisfaction, I realized I was right all along. They were just stories.

But I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around why intelligent people believe these things.

This posts helps. Perhaps misunderstanding my grandma saved me from becoming a devote Christian.

SteveJ said...

Some believe and continue to believe on the strength of experiences they've had. Experiences -- whether they're explicable or not -- carry more faith-inducing power than logical propositions.

Valerie Tarico said...

Adding to what Lee Randolph said, Pascal Boyer's book, Religion Explained, offers interesting insights into the way that our brains predispose us to supernaturalism and theism specifically.

But when I push back at believers what I run into is the phenomenon that SteveJ mentions: subjective experience carries more weight than logic. In the end, when backed into a corner, smart friends or public figures like Andrew Sullivan say simply that they "know" that God is real because of their powerful Jesus experience.

What's interesting is that they accept the handed-down explanations for that experience. I wonder sometimes--would it make any difference if people understood hypnosis, social influence, "snapping", the neurological bases for our experience of the numinous? Would it help if they understood the naturalistic basis for the powerful born-again transformation or the sense of another presence during prayer? Could accurate information at least innoculate those who aren't already under the control of self-replicating, self-defending beliefs?

Jennifer said...

Valerie,

Could it be that the handed down explanations are based on fact that cannot be completely rationalized?

Could it be that the reasoning that depends on the easily influenced human brain is faulty in itself?

Of course there is a natuarlistic explanation for every phenomena. We live in a world of matter and energy, therefore as we understand more about these aspects of life, we can explain the way our make-up works. We cannot, however, explain all that is involved in a personality transformation or a spiritual experience. There is no way to measure the difference between a drug induced high and a spiritual awakening.

Who is the source of accurate information. who judges what is accurate and why should I trust them?

Lee,
I don't see anything wrong with "punting to God". If God is real..and you know that I 100% believe that He is...that would mean that there is something special about Him that makes Him able to do things we cannot.

I'm just curious, I am not going to ambush you ;)...do you (and others) think that logic and reasoning can explain everything satisfactorily?

Lee Randolph said...

Thanks John,
Will do. Its in progress in Google Docs. I was putting it off because I knew we had two psychologists on board and being an ameteur-enthusiast, I wanted to avoid looking like an amateur!

SteveJ,
some of the research that I got into for my next article on the 'holy spirit' dips into neurological basis's for experience, and the conflict between competing reasoning processes between the right and left hemisphers and the logic and emotional centers and effects of tumors on behavior.

It will show reasonable doubt about
christian experience, morality, ethics and the works of 'the holy spirit'.

Please stay tuned.

The truth be told, I have been eagerly awaiting Valerie's and Marlene's articles.

Valerie,
in my view, you never know if its going to help or not. In my view, I am trying to give people new information, from the world of science and to show data that causes reasonable doubt about their beliefs. It seems as though some of them use it to have an honest dialogue, and some of them just deride it outright.
I'd love to see articles on all the things you listed in your comment above. I think people deserve to have new information and additionally, if we make the commitment to writing about it, then it is incumbent on us to show them where we got it so they can check it out for themselves.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
I'm just curious, I am not going to ambush you ;)...do you (and others) think that logic and reasoning can explain everything satisfactorily?
I don't speak for anyone but myself.
The short answer is that it is the best method yet.

With that said, I am just an ameteur-enthusiast in the sciences and philosophy. As I understand Logic it is system of rules, that create a relationship between data, create principles from the data based on similarities, and help to derive conclusions or 'truths' from this system. Reasoning is a process that uses the rules of logic to derive a conclusion. Logic and reasoning are not a religion but, in my view, can be properly called a philosophy as can religion.

The difference between the philosophies of Religion and Science/logic/reasoning is that one seeks out new information and performs self-checks for validity and one does not.

In the cases where science/logic/reasoning has gotten (or will get) it wrong, or only partially correct, it has been discovered and corrected. This self correction helps us get closer to the truth suggested by an set of data, principles, circumstances, experiences etc.

The short answer to your question is that it is a better method of explaining the world than religion.

For example, two items in your world that you claim to have experiences about daily are prayer and the holy spirit. I have been there, done that, looked at it objectively and determined that it looked a lot like luck to me. And the holy spirit is one lazy so and so when, as a christian, I was shocked that so many christians could so badly misinterpret the scripture. They must not have been real christians, or maybe it was just me. In any case if it was just me, then people speaking in tongues today is a real spiritual phenomena (among other things) and any one that doubts it is in danger of denying the works of the holy spirit and we all know what that means.

Therefore, this lack of checks and balances in religion perpetuates the uncertainty about its teachings and there is obviously no holy spirit teaching the truth, guiding, influencing etc. And do I need to say it? This casts reasonable doubt about the validity of any scripture that says this is a characteristic of the holy spirit.

In my opinion, rejection of this conclusion is irrational. The data do not support the principal of proper interpretation of scripture by the holy spirit.

See how that works?

Now I've given a sneak peek at my next article.

richdurrant said...

Lee,
When you were speaking in tongues, did you know what you were saying? I'm just curious here because my understanding of that gift and your experience seem to be, from my perspective, a little different.

I also wondered why it is that if you get a believer to "punt to God" that you feel like you maybe won that battle? Just because something can be explained by natural causes doesn't rule out God, in my mind, as God would be able to work through nature as well as supernatural means to accomplish his needs.
I am trying to save the Holy Ghost issues for your soon to come post.

richdurrant said...

"The short answer to your question is that it is a better method of explaining the world than religion."

And I think that this limits your options to best explain our world. If I can take what I know about and from science and what I know from religion, coupled with my personal experiences I think that I have a real good idea about the workings of our world.

This post is about why we believe and part of your conclusion is that we learned religion from a trusted source. Well, isn't your science the same thing? You trust someones findings because because they have a principle they discovered and was tested to be correct. Because of that you will be more likely to trust this person again in the future because he was proven to be right. Now when this same person has an opinion about God that fits your presupposition, are you more likely to believe what he says about God or less likely? Now the question I have is how is that different from my experience of being taught religion by a trusted person and experiences confirm a principle they taught. The more this happens, the more that person is trusted, true?
While science may be able to tell me how the earth was formed, my religion tells me why. There is a point here where both clash because science doesn't want to punt to God so the punt to random chance and work out math to show that this slim chance has a possibility. But I see that in the light I see a scene in dumb and dumber. Jim Carey is asking the girl what the chances are of a guy like him going out with a guy like her. She says one in a million, which to her meant never, he says "so there's a chance." So you trust the science answer of chance because you believe in science and I trust the religious answer of God did it as for why the world was made.

Our great scientists of the past were crackpots when they started to contradict the current science of their time. In our day you would have called them psuedoscientists. Maybe some of these psuedos of today will be the great scientists of tomorrow.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurant,
I didn't speak in tongues. My churches and affiliations of the baptist fundamentalist persuasion caused me to be skeptical about them. As a christian I believed they were bunk.

Punting to god is not a forfeiture of the 'debate' it is the only place the christian can go when they don't have enough information to answer critique or question. I don't feel like I have won anything when that happens, just annoyed. Realistically, I can't win any 'debate', so I just give my opinion and let the audience decide.

In my mind, since god is non-falsifiable, nothing can rule it out. I try to show that accepted principles that christians hold are false by introducing new information and data and discussing the implications. Thereby showing that the god described by the bible is not likely to exist.

However, the fact that other religions existed prior to and after christianity should demonstrate that anyway.

richdurrant said...

I realize you can't really win a debate, and really the only ones who keep track of that are those who want the nail in the coffin of the opposition. I always view a debate as an exchange of opinion, which it really is, and not a contest. I try not to punt to God mostly because I think alot can be answered. But there are a great many things that are personal opinion or interpretations and that doesn't make them the truth or right.
I thought you might be interested in this site.
http://www.jefflindsay.com/BMEvidences.shtml
It should be an interesting read.

richdurrant said...

Thanks for your answer by the way. I always had trouble with the tongues thing too. I have witnessed this a few times and it is just creepy. Another thing for your upcoming post.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurrant,
If I can take what I know about and from science and what I know from religion, coupled with my personal experiences I think that I have a real good idea about the workings of our world.
The problem with this is that you have to presume there is the supernatural and I challenge you to show me any reliable evidence of anything supernatural. When you do then I urge you to go with me to the James Randi million dollar challenge and split it 50-50.
;-)
In all seriousness, madness used to be attributed to spirits. It was scientific types of inquiry that busted that myth. Typically we don't see much scientific research funded by religious organizations. I think the reason is that they are satisfied with the 'god did it' conclusion. This question of the nature of homosexuality is something that I think the church would pour tons of money into, because this has the chance of overturning increasing belief that it is more biological than preference.

This post is about why we believe and part of your conclusion is that we learned religion from a trusted source. Well, isn't your science the same thing? You trust someones findings because because they have a principle they discovered and was tested to be correct.
Not quite. Independent verification plays a big part in that, and data don't become principles until they can shown to be predictable. There's not much RAW BELIEF to have to worry about because if I have a doubt, usually the proof can be shown. Things such as relativity are an example, things such as string theory are not. Science spans cultures and geography. All sorts of religious persuasions accept the fact that time is different at different speeds, in fact satellite communication has to account for this to work properly, but you can't say that about your god.

So you trust the science answer of chance because you believe in science and I trust the religious answer of God did it as for why the world was made.
Not quite. I trust science because the method is self-correcting, and independently verifiable and spans cultures and geography. It is just as true in Britain as it is in China.

Our great scientists of the past were crackpots when they started to contradict the current science of their time. In our day you would have called them psuedoscientists. Maybe some of these psuedos of today will be the great scientists of tomorrow.
This is a greatly oversimplified version of the history of science. I would like you to show some examples of this, because once a scientist publishes a paper, he or she are usually pretty confident it will be independently verified, most of the times they are and then they get more peer interest, more people test them and they are validated, adopted and become principles or laws and develop into technology.

Comparing religion to science is like comparing water dowsing to geological surveying.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurrant,
thanks for the link. I checked it out and am familiar with mormonism from my christian bible study mormon bashing days.

I didn't spend long looking at it because I don't know as much about mormonism as I do the bible.

I consider this as part of the evidence of lack of holy spirit guidance. If Mormons are christians, then how come "real christians" don't recognize it and if they are wrong in doing this they run the risk of denying the good works of the holy spirit.

If mormons are christians, then how come their theology is different than previous biblical teachings? Here's a quick and lazy link to CARM discussing it.

Chris said...

As the son of a Southern Baptist minister I spent a good deal of time in church listening to people give their testimonials (stories about how they came to believe in Jesus as their personal savior). Not once did any of them say it was because they ran across a really good argument for God's existence. It was always because they had reached an impasse in their lives and needed something in which to believe and Jesus provided that thing.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Chris,
I see your point. You mean like what happens to people that accept islam, buddhism, mormonsism, jehovah's witness, scientology, or those that choose some other personal type of 'higher power' to get over addictions?

richdurrant said...

Yes Lee it was oversimplified, as are most comments about such topics. Galileo comes to mind, and I saw a program on either discovery or history channel that talked about some scientists that fell into this catagory. My point to make here was that there are trusted sources you have that you look to in the fields of science and you are more likely to believe what they say before peer review because of their past performance. I am not trying to compare religion to science. There are scientific experiments that can provide proof of a great deal of religious beliefs, but that alone doesn't make them false. This is a huge generalization. You seem to grant that there are plenty of intelligent believers (I could be one of those:) except when we hit the part about God this same intelligent person is delusional. What I seek to change about that is that I feel as though I am an intelligent thinking person who believes in God. You all here are intelligent thinking people who don't completely dismiss the exsistance of a God, just not the Christian God. So why can't we drop the delusional part about someone like me, of which there are many who are much more intelligent then I am, and realize that I love science and thrive off the findings of scientists, I read Scientific american, read badastronomy, but I keep the two separate as they should be?

Thanks for the link there too. I did read but I don't have time until tomorrow to comment more here.

richdurrant said...

"If mormons are christians, then how come their theology is different than previous biblical teachings?"

Trinity, three seperate or one single person? 3 Seperate people.
Many times Christ makes reference to the Father, His Father, God the Father. He was not speaking of himself but of a different person, God the father. If this is true then it isn't different then bible teachings, current or previous.

Attonement, If the garden of Gethsemene wasn't part of the attonement, then what was it? The attonement is both the suffering in the garden and the cross. the garden to make way for repentance the cross to make way for ressurection to immortality.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurrant,
Something to consider, is that the stated mission of this site is to debunk evangelical christianity.
I presume evangelical christians are who I am engaging. That is my background. If you are not an evangelical christian, then my apologies for presuming you were. In any case I enjoy having a dialogue with you.

You show you are an intelligent christian by the way you write, there is no question. I hope you don't get offended if I SEEM to think you are delusional. I don't really. I think that people compartmentalize their reasoning. There are different legitimate modes of reasoning, having to do with law, medicine, art, religion and one other that I can remember. Reasoning in any case depends on what you accept as evidence and what you think is important. The problem as I see it with religion is when the believer wants to evangelize and do the 'great commission' thing.

For example, I don't care if someone likes Jazz or Punk music, but when they start expecting me to like it too and paying respect to it like it means something, and get into influential positions with the intent to gain an advantage, or kill abortion clinic doctors, then I mind.

As a christian I never cared much for theology, and getting into debates with other christians over it and realizing they had valid points based on what they had been exposed to started to make me wonder about the 'indwelling'.

Personally I don't care what version of christian you are because it doesn't matter, but I wish christians in general would stop compartmentalizing and start applying the reasoning methods they use for the rest of their lives to thier religion.

richdurrant said...

I do understand what you are saying Lee and I realize that you debunk Evangelists here, even though I am not, I enjoy the discussions. No worries about offending me, I am pretty easy going. I try not to push my ideas on anyone because I don't like it either, but I do like sharing ideas because that is how we learn. To be honest I don't like discussions with some Christians either and mostly for the same reasons as you.

Darren said...

"Several thinkers have offered reasons why people are believers."

Simple answer: they examined the evidence and found it convincing.

Darren said...

On a more general note, I see "Doubting" John Loftus is still beating his head against the notion that if he can figure out why people believe what they believe then he doesn't have to bother with figuring out whether or not what they believe is true. It's this kind of shallow thinking that has gotten him laughed off the forums at TheologyWeb.com.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Darren, John,
sorry, I can't resist.

Darren,
When you can't come up with anything better, the old standby personal attack will do, right?

Michael Ejercito said...



On a more general note, I see "Doubting" John Loftus is still beating his head against the notion that if he can figure out why people believe what they believe then he doesn't have to bother with figuring out whether or not what they believe is true. It's this kind of shallow thinking that has gotten him laughed off the forums at TheologyWeb.com.

So how would you prove to a non-believer which particular flavor of theism (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Odin-worship) is true?

Steven Carr said...

DARREN
On a more general note, I see "Doubting" John Loftus is still beating his head against the notion that if he can figure out why people believe what they believe then he doesn't have to bother with figuring out whether or not what they believe is true.

CARR
So why did Loftus go off to study apologetics for years?

lowendaction said...

Since I can not describe myself as a "nominal" Christian, and I will do everything in my power to avoid the wrath of the "straw man", allow me to answer the post question as follows:

Consider the birth of Christianity (this is not an attempt at nullifying the OT, just trying to focus the discussion). Why did the 'founders' bother (I use the word founders carefully, because IMO they were really more discoverers and journeyman of this new belief system)?

It has been accuratly illuminated, that religion, in its various animorphic states, has been used to abuse and control others for as long as the term has existed. However, that does not necessarily mean that Christianity’s origin had similar motivations. When we look at the early church (both biblically and historically) I see little to no evidence that there was a group of rich upper class fear mongers cooking up a new fangled religion to bend the wills and pocketbooks of the ignorant to their bidding. In fact, we see quite the opposite: middle to lower class individuals and groups who endure great hardship, torture, and in many cases death, in defense of their faith.

So there's one reason for me personally to condider Christianity to be the truth.

And then there are the life and death implications. If one were to whole-heartedly carry out all of the teachings of Jesus, what negative consequences are there (both personal and to ones peer group), beyond the possibility of being mocked, rebuked or persecuted? I would argue, none. The very base of His teachings are on the principals and applications of love. The personal as well as interpersonal benifits of said practice should be obvious (and I am talking about a little more than just "doing good things"). Again, I remind you that I am refering to the original teachings according to the 'manual', not what generations of religious variants have mangeled it into (oops, there I go traipsing into straw man territory....sorry!).

So at the end of the day (and by that I mean death) the atheist believes it's all over. Whereas the Christian believes in Heaven (I'll spare you my version of it, but I would argue that pretty much all variants are ultimatly good, or at least better than nothingness!). Not that this should be the crux of ones belief, and would I say that any Christian that claims it is, is...well nominal. But you must admit, that the price of being logically right about a dead-ended life filled with "God is nonexistent" arguements, versus a life spent living love, with the longterm reward of heaven, does seem a bit high, no?

Ah well, I guess in the end, we'll all find out...litterally! The funny thing is, I hear so many Christians referring to "this world" as a temporary place, or an inconvient waiting-line to get into heaven. But as I read the scriptures, there is far more to do here, and our presence is not only vitally important and relevant, but also has eternal implications.

Darren said...

Lee:

When you can't come up with anything better, the old standby personal attack will do, right?


You say this like John said anything of substance worth responding to. Frankly, I'm not particularly interested in the psychology of belief. What I want to know is whether or not those beliefs are true. I see the "But why do they believe in the first place?" pseudo-argument as a bit of nonsense not worth engaging any further than I already have.

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Michael:

So how would you prove to a non-believer which particular flavor of theism (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Odin-worship) is true?


Depends on the non-believer and how willing he is to objectively consider the evidence. However, if by "non-believer" you actually mean "stiff-necked skeptic" then, frankly, there's not much I could say that would convince him to alter his beliefs.

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CARR:

So why did Loftus go off to study apologetics for years?


As a hunch, I'd say he did it to try and answer doubts he was already harboring. Usually people in that position are looking to validate their doubts rather than to strengthen their beliefs.

John W. Loftus said...

Frankly, I'm not particularly interested in the psychology of belief. What I want to know is whether or not those beliefs are true.

But the mind is easily led to believe what it wants to believe as truth. And that isn't interesting? Hmmm. Okay.

Usually people in that position are looking to validate their doubts rather than to strengthen their beliefs.

What you said doesn't describe me since I was a believer when I went to school. But I think we all do this to some degree. The question I want you to consider is to what degree you do it? Denying that you do is naive and a sign to me that you do. Because, only someone who recognizes this and subsequently doubts or questions what he or she believes is in a better position to say what he believes is the truth. But that's just me, coming as it does from someone you doubt has anything of substance worth responding to.

The question is whether you'll respond. ;-)

Alexander said...

You said:
Only a few Christians will bother to read blogs like this one because they know in advance what we’re arguing for is false, of the devil, and that we are willfully in denial of the gospel truth. Christians don’t trust us to learn the truth about such things. We’re just wrong. When Christians read what we say here at DC they only do so to prove us wrong. They already know in advance we’re wrong. Christians simply don’t trust us to be correct.

I say:
Well, of course! Your statements are correct by the definition of the words you're using. If a Christian thought that you were correct, would you really call them a Christian? It's impossible to believe that you are correct and to call yourself a Christian. These are mutually exclusive, because if you believe that Christianity has been debunked then you no longer are Christian, because you no longer believe.

In response to a lot of the other things you've posted (no, I haven't read them all), yes, of course those things in the Bible are horrible. And I don't think they should be justified. I really wonder what God was thinking in the Old Testament. And someday I hope to find out. I think the Old Testament is the biggest stumbling block for most people because, as you said, it describes a pretty violent, judgmental God sometimes. I really wonder whether the God in the Old Testament is the same as the one in the New Testament, who seems so loving and kind.

On the other hand, if you believe God created us, I guess in some way He has a right to do whatever He wants. Not that a kind God would always exercise that right, but still, He's got a point.

Michael said...

Darren:

Depends on the non-believer and how willing he is to objectively consider the evidence.


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It seems strange to me that your greater concern as a Christian is to second-guess your audience rather than to simply state the merits of your argument.

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Depends on the non-believer and how willing he is to objectively consider the evidence.

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Well, you're talking to a bunch of non-believers who apparently are concerned, so get on with it already!

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...frankly, there's not much I could say that would convince [the skeptic] to alter his beliefs.

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Why? Are the only proofs available to the supposed Creator of Worlds so flimsy that they can be taken both ways or doubted upon hearing them? What kind of power is this? You don't see scientists parading about demanding that schoolchildren humble themselves and be in the "proper mind" before they explain to them how gravity works! There is no profession of humility that must be maintained to partake in the wisdom of quantum mechanics. So why shouldn't your own defenses be at least this strong?

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Alexander:

...yes, of course those things in the Bible are horrible. And I don't think they should be justified. I really wonder what God was thinking in the Old Testament. And someday I hope to find out.


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Why, so you can justify his actions? That goes against what you just said you wouldn't do.

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On the other hand, if you believe God created us, I guess in some way He has a right to do whatever He wants.

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No, he doesn't. And knowing that, at least according to the Old Testament, God does/has acted in such a way, the idea of worshiping him because his "might makes right" is patently offensive. If such a God exists, he surely does not deserve any worship.

Jamey Foster said...

your argument suggests that you are assuming. How have you come to your conclusions, and furthermore, why do you believe that you are right? There are many historical truths and proofs outside of the bible of Jesus' existence. I was a non believer who became a believer myself with a constant search for truth. Until I opened my heart and mind to the "idea" of God I was not satisfied at the public and the church's opinion of God's existence. Only through research and faith have I found answers I was looking for. One thing you lack in your quest to "Debunk Christianity," is faith, and the power that faith has in the human spirit. Although there is no empirical evidence that Jesus exists, there is none to prove he did not. You sir, need to do some research before you make such claims. Perhaps, you should search yourself and your own faith before dismissing Christianity altogether.