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For Evangelical Christians, It’s Not About the Evidence

birth of jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Here’s one thing that atheists and agnostics need to understand. For a person becoming an Evangelical Christian – the choice to do so has never been JUST about the evidence. We mistakenly think that if we just show Evangelicals evidence that their God is a myth, the Bible is a manmade book, and the central claims of Christianity are false, they will abandon their religion and embrace atheism or agnosticism. How’s that working for us?

The truth is, Christianity, as a belief system, is all about faith. Hebrews 11:1-3 says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

How does a person become an Evangelical Christian? Ephesians 2:8,9 says:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Evangelicals, by faith, decide to believe certain things. By faith, they believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. By faith, they believe the Bible is truth, and whatever it says comes straight from the mouth of God. By faith, they believe that the central teachings of Christianity are true regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin — that he was birthed by a teen girl named Mary who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. It is common knowledge that virgins can’t have babies. Unless a woman is impregnated by a man’s sperm, there can be no baby. Evangelicals know this, but they disregard this fact, choosing instead to believe, by faith, the story in the Bible about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

It is also common knowledge that when people die, they stay dead. I know of no evidence that suggests that a person lying dead in the grave for three days has any hope or possibility of coming back to life. When you’re dead, you stay dead. Evangelicals know this, but choose, instead, to disregard this fact, putting their faith in the claims the Bible makes for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Much like it was for Jesus, Evangelicals believes that God will someday resurrect their bodies from the grave and make them new. What evidence do they have for this claim? None.

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead are two essential doctrines of Evangelical Christianity. There is absolutely no evidence for these two events outside of the Bible. Blind, irrational faith is required to believe these two essential Evangelical doctrines. The same could be said for the Bible stories about Jesus walking on water, walking through walls, turning water into wine, and walking through a crowd of people without being detected. Reason demands we reject such stories, but by faith, Evangelicals believe them to be true.

Evangelicals do a great disservice to their religion by attempting to argue for Christianity on an evidentiary basis. This is an argument that Evangelicals cannot win, and they only hurt their own cause when they attempt to argue faith claims in an evidence arena. Outside of the Bible, there is no evidence for the claims that virgins can have babies or dead people can get out of the grave and live again. These are stubborn facts that cannot be refuted.

Does this mean that Evangelicals are stupid or ignorant? Of course not. I recognize that Christianity has never been just about the evidence. Christianity purports to answer what we call the big questions of life. Where did we come from? What is the purpose of life? Is there life after death? The Christian Bible answers these questions and more. For atheists and agnostics, the answers to these questions seem empty and of little value, but we need to remember not everyone is like us.

Who are we to stand in the way of what helps someone get through the night? It matters not whether we think their beliefs are a flight of fancy — and many of us do. All that matters is whether their Christian beliefs meet the needs they have in their lives. We often forget that many people come to the Christian faith in a time of crisis. Let’s face it: atheism doesn’t do a very good job of comforting people when they are hurting, sick, or dying. Often, all we have to offer is love and compassion wrapped in the reality that life is shitty and hard and everyone dies in the end. Brutal, I know, but it is the truth.

As long of Evangelicals keep their beliefs to themselves and make no attempts to evangelize others or turn the United States into a theocracy, I suspect most atheists and agnostics are content to let Evangelicals believe what they will. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals refuse to keep their religion private, and, as will be on full display November 3, do everything in their power to ensconce Jesus as the King of the United States (and world). As long as Evangelicals have ill-will towards non-Evangelicals and demand preferential treatment, atheists, agnostics, secularists, and others who value the separation of church and state, must resolutely oppose and condemn Evangelicalism. That said, we should ask ourselves whether our time is well spent trying to evangelize Evangelicals and turn them into atheists.

Ask yourself, when is the last time you have won over an Evangelical by argumentation and evidence? Doesn’t happen very much, does it? Christianity is much more complex than that. It’s not the end of the world if Christians die thinking they will go to Heaven. At the end of the day, who cares? For whatever reason, Evangelicals need faith to make it through life, and they need to think that there is something better awaiting them after they die. I don’t fault them for believing these things, even if I think their beliefs are untrue.

As atheists, we cannot believe the things that Christians believe. Why? We don’t have faith. All we have is a Bible that Evangelicals tell us is truth, but we find no persuasive evidence for its truth claims. We know that faith would fix the lack of evidence problem for us, but we are not willing to relegate matters of life and death to such a subjective idea as faith. We wish we could, but we can’t.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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  1. Avatar

    Now faith is the evidence of thing not seen, so Bruce if it has not been seen well it just ain`t so, it that your contention?
    And yes thats a leading question.

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    I will always love the story about Jesus turning the water into wine just because so many fundies like to say it was grape juice 😀

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      Right, Stephanie! That is one of the things that actually led to my deconversion. When I heard the pastor make that claim in church, I thought, “Do you really expect me to believe that? That just is not accurate. You’re trying to rewrite history to make it fit your belief system.” Right then I realized that pastors do lie to us…just as a form of manipulation! Then I found myself looking hard at all the other unbelievable claims, and it all started to fall apart.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yeah, anyone with a slight bit of understanding about history knows that the wine of the Bible was alcohol not Welch’s. Even as a fundamentalist , I didn’t believe this. I took the testimony approach….We shouldn’t drink alcohol because it might cause others to stumble.

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    Evangelicalism is also an identity and a community, both of which humans find important. Granted, it seems like a mean, cruel identity to those of us outside the fold.

    I know a lot of intelligent people who value their faith and believe in the ridiculous, implausible claims of evangelicalism. These are people who use their critical thinking skills in all other aspects of their lives, but they shut it off and clung to faith where religion is concerned. It’s fascinating how we humans are able to do that when it’s important to us.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      The human mechanism we generally refer to as Denial is perhaps connected to the phenomenon people experience when involved in an overwhelming event, horrific accident or gigantic emotional blow. The denial is complete in amnesia so that there is even a wide loss of memory of the event itself. One does not deny that it happened, only that their memory does not hold it in any fashion; it’s gone. They are somewhat agnostic perhaps but for them it did not happen as far as they can remember.
      I have no ordered evidence to support my feeling regarding this matter but I do wonder if adverse childhood experience does set the stage for the later quixotic choices you speak of Obstaclechick, the seemingly fine use of critical thinking in certain areas of life but the wide denial of such in evangelical belief.
      My thought is that perhaps the implausible claims of fundagelicalism, when introduced from birth, are normalized in the child’s life; not a choice but a given reality within the nuclear family, the bubble-world of children. Later, when the outside world is experienced, these wild and whacky beliefs are just normal, everyday experience for that child/adult.
      That is how it was for me: Roman Catholics were going to hell because they prayed to Mary and worshipped idols; a simple fact of life. Jesus died and then woke up in a cave; a obvious truth. Lazarus was dead too and then poof, alive. As has recently been mentioned, the saying, ‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man…”
      So I want to affirm the fascination you feel, Obstaclechick. I have felt this too and it is the very mechanism, I think, that turns Almighty Bruce’s crank finally, in conversation with proselytizers. He quickly recognizes the denial at work and says,
      gently, so gently, ‘Fair thee well…” 😉

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    Steve Ruis

    It is sad that Christianity started out as a religion steeped in revelation. Good old Paul learned everything he knew from Jesus through revelation and through studying the Hebrew Bible. But those who wanted to control the religion (and through it the religious … it was in the end all about power) decided to historicize the religion. What had been all about spiritual beings (Paul never says that Jesus was on Earth, nor does he talk about his mission, his travels, his teachings, what he looked like, etc.) allowed anyone (and I mean anyone) to say they had had a revelation from on high and become a source of power. This just couldn’t be brooked, so they decided to historicize Jesus, turn him into an earthly manifestation. Enter the gospel stories. Nowhere in the epistles or really anywhere in the NT, other than the gospels, is Jesus referred to as an earthly being. (People are often unaware that there were dozens of other gospels and hundreds of other epistles (i.e. letters) all considered to be forgeries and/or heretical. There is a long history of Chrsitians being completely comfortable making shit up.)

    By making Jesus an earthly being, it confers power upon those who worked with him (the disciples, his family, et. al.). The church happily motored along creating fake letters from these “experts.” Hmm, what church claims to have a non-scriptural basis for its faith, has a “tradition” going back tot he apostles and disciples? Could that be the orthodox churches (Catholic and Eastern)? By doing this, they stifled those who were getting “revelations” and swamped them with authorities and authorized written scriptures.

    That “church fathers” were railing against heresies that denied that Jesus was a real historical person, continued into the fifth century CE and longer and that the originals of the the heretical writings were destroyed by the churches shows that many Christians agreed with the heretics. In the third century, they probably outnumbered the orthodox.

    So, the squelching of people who were not “real Christians” has a long and sordid history. It has been used to repress any thought at all going into this religion for at least 1800 years.

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      That’s interesting, Steve. Imagine a Christian church based on one of the banned heresies? Of course there are still groups that have wildly divergent theology, but then aren’t usually considered “true” Christians, as if that is a thing. One hope I have of Dominionists taking over our government is that at some point, Christians with diverging beliefs will end up fighting each other. Fundamentalists of all stripes might be united now, but I can’t imagine how fundamentalist Protestants and fundamentalists Catholics could continue without massive conflict…unless they renounce beliefs they hold dear now. Oh wait, fundamentalists have already shown they are willing to jettison belief for power…NEVER MIND.

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    dale M

    You have to go a little deeper here. Many sects argue that they and they alone R the true Christians. But to find out, you only have to ask one question.

    R U willing to B nailed to a cross for your beliefs? If not, answer solved. The head of each sect should B given this question. His/ her answer or excuse should B taped.

    Understand here that nobody dies getting nailed to a cross. Have the crosses set up B4 hand. It should B televised. The crosses should be vacant for years. If only one answers the challenge, the others will feel enormous peer pressure 2 do the same.

    Just keep in mind …. no spearing or breaking the legs. That’s prohibited. Even then, they still won’t comply.

  6. Avatar
    dale M

    One added bonus. The persecution complex. If the crosses are left vacant, the whiny sounds coming from these sects will be laughable.

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