Monday, January 3, 2011

Don't Just Believe...

Yesterday I went to church with my parents, as I do most Sundays. It’s not something I enjoy, but I don’t yet feel comfortable admitting that I’m no longer a Christian. I feel bad about keeping them in the dark, but I don’t know how to tell them, and I’m not sure how they’ll react when I do. On the upside, I use that churchgoing time to think about my beliefs, and it gives me an opportunity to review the mentality of the religion that I’ve left.

The pastor started yesterday by saying that too many people today just say you need to “believe” and leave it at that – and I couldn’t have agreed more. Religious people need to have real evidence for what they believe, not a strong emotional feeling or apologetics that take God's existence and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible for granted. But it was silly of me to think that he was going to make something like that the topic of his sermon. No, instead we got a generic “faith without works is dead” sermon from James 2.

Of course, good deeds should be important whether you’re a Christian, Hindu, or atheist. But thinking back on the countless hours I spent in Sunday School, church, and “chapels” at the Christian high school I went to, I can’t think of a single time that the topic of the sermon was evidence-based belief. It’s quite simply not even on the radar for the vast majority of Christians.

Sometimes Christians will point to their sheer numbers as though it represented some sort of evidence that what they believe must be true. Let’s ignore for the moment that this is a textbook example of the bandwagon fallacy, and that if another religion was dominant, Christians certainly wouldn’t take it as evidence of that religion’s veracity. All we need to know to understand why Christianity is so prevalent in the world today is that it constantly emphasizes belief, yet cares little for evidence. Sure, there are a few individuals that actually study the stuff – but even then, their goal is usually to confirm what they already “know.”

Finding and interpreting the evidence without letting your personal feelings get in the way is very difficult. In a way I don’t blame Christians for not doing it – but as with so many other aspects of life, sometimes you have to do things you just don’t want to do.

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