Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.
One of the arguments Evangelical Christians use to “prove” the exclusivity of Christianity is this:
“Bruce, billions of people are Christians. Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”
This seems to make sense, doesn’t it? The sheer number of Christians makes it highly unlikely that Christianity is untrue, right? However, history is replete with examples of people sincerely believing things that were later found to be untrue. Millions of people have been slaughtered by zealots sincerely committed to beliefs that were untrue.
In the political realm, we see this all the time. President Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that drew us into the Vietnam War. President George Bush and his lackeys lied about weapons of mass destruction, and used this lie to start a war with Iraq. Adolph Hitler, a Christian man, along with his fellow Nazis, spun a lie about the Jews and the superiority of the Aryan race. Germans embraced this lie, resulting in the death of millions of people. In each of these illustrations, the lie was believed by the masses.
What does Christianity offer to people? It purports to answer the “big” questions of life, especially the question of life after death. There is no question that Christianity gives hope, meaning, and purpose to billions of people. However, just because millions of people find hope, meaning, and purpose in Christianity doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.
Christianity is an exclusive religion. Some sects within the Christian tent (i.e. Catholicism) claim exclusivity for their particular sect. Some churches take this exclusivity a step further and claim that they are one of the few true churches (i.e. Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God). A Christian is a follower of Jesus and his teachings. At some level, the Bible must be embraced as truth. Otherwise, how can a person know they should follow Jesus or what the requirements are to be a follower?
Since Christianity is an exclusive religion, all other religions are considered false. All other gods are no gods at all. According to Christians, their God, the God of the Bible, the God who reveals himself through creation and conscience, is the one true and ever-existing God.
It is this certainty about God, the Bible, sin, salvation, and life after death that draws millions of people to Christianity. Every Easter, millions of people will gather together to proclaim their belief in a God-man named Jesus. In him, they find the forgiveness of sin and life eternal. Surely the sheer magnitude of worldwide Easter gatherings stands as proof that Christianity is true!
There’s just one BIG problem with this seemingly insurmountable “fact.” There are other sects that have millions/billions of worshippers too. There are millions of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists who believe their God is the true God or one of the many gods in the universe. Take a look at the numbers for the major religions of the world:
Let’s play fill in the blank:
Millions/Billions of people are __________ (fill in with one of the above religions). “Surely they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”
I hope you see that the number of believers/followers doesn’t necessarily mean a religion is true. It is quite possible for a religion to be totally manmade and yet have millions/billions of adherents. This is easily proved.
When I think of a manmade religion, I can think of no better example than Mormonism. Joseph Smith invented the Mormon religion, yet 15+ million people are practicing Mormons. There are over 29,000 Mormon congregations in the world and over 88,000 Mormon missionaries go from place to place making disciples for their God. Surely, this is proof that the Mormon religion is the one true faith and the Mormon God is the one true God, right?
Wikipedia gives a concise summary of how the Mormon religion started:
Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. Founded by Joseph Smith, the faith drew its first converts while Smith was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon from golden plates he said he found buried after being directed to their location by an angel. The book described itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, who had a belief in Christ many hundred years before his birth. Smith dictated the book of 584 pages over a period of about three months saying that he translated it from an ancient language “by the gift and power of God”. During production of this work in mid-1829, Smith, his close associate Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers began baptizing new converts into a Christian primitivist church, formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ. Smith was seen by his followers as a modern-day prophet.
Smith later wrote that he had seen a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ in spring 1820 in answer to his question of which denomination he should join. Sometimes called the “First Vision”, Smith’s vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings was reportedly the basis for the difference in doctrine between Mormonism’s view of the nature of God and that of orthodox Christianity. Smith further said that in answer to his prayer the Lord instructed him to join none of the existing churches because they were all wrong. During the 1820s Smith reported having several angelic visitations, and by 1830 Smith said that he had been instructed that God would use him to re-establish the true Christian church and that the Book of Mormon would be the means of establishing correct doctrine for the restored church.
Mormonism is a wonderful example of American entrepreneurship. Founded on the lies/delusions of Joseph Smith, it is now one of the largest religions in the United States. There is no truth to the founding story, yet millions of people believe it. This is clear evidence that it is possible for millions of people to believe something and it be totally false.
How do you know that Christianity is any different from Mormonism or any of the other religions of the world? As I have clearly shown, the number of people who believe is not proof that any particular religion is true.
Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.
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