Atheism tends to exalt reason, but it is actually irrational. Atheists tend to put a lot of stock in the emperical [sic] method and in logic. One cannot disprove God exists using the emperical [sic] method. You might reply: But I can’t disprove a giant purple frog on Mars controls the universe, either. Granted, one can never disprove any given thing exists. The atheistic position denying God’s existence, if based on the emperical [sic] method, is absurd. Why do I say that? In order to prove the assertion No God exists experimentally, one would need to comprehensively know all of reality. Comprehensive knowledge of reality is called omniscience. One would need to be omniscient in order to prove there is no God, but if one were omniscient one would, by definition, already be God! So, based on emperical [sic] methodology, the only one capable of disproving the existence of God would be God himself! But some would say you can indeed assert something does not exist if its existence is logically self contradictory, such as a square triangle. By definition it cannot exist. It is illogical for something to be a square and to also be a triangle. Again, granted, but this line of reasoning assumes logic and real meaning exist and are our basis for knowledge –something an atheist has no right to assert! The existence of God is not only logically possible, it is philosophically essential. (We’ll get to that more later below.) One cannot prove logic exists unless one first presupposes a God in whom reason and meaning are transcendentally rooted, otherwise these categories are mere philosphical [sic] prejuduces [sic]. Atheism is inherently self-contradictory. The evidence for the existence of God is there for all to see, only we refuse to see it. King David wrote: The fool says in his heart there is no God. (Psalm 14:1) In other words, Atheism is irrational. Apart from God there is no basis for truth or ethics.
Unless you reason outside the box of human reason, you can forget about understanding the Jesus of the Bible. Only those willing and able to break the constraints of common experience and human rationalism can hope to make any sense of Jesus’ life and ministry. [In other words, the Biblical narrative of the life of Jesus is irrational.]
The birth narrative of Jesus demands that we think outside the box. We have no conceptual or experiential category for a woman conceiving a child without sperm from a man. But the biblical authors announce that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin named Mary by a direct act of God. We are to understand that although fully human, Jesus had no earthly, biological father—a reality Mary found no easier to grasp than we do.
— Pastor Dan Miller, Sharper Iron, Reasoning Outside the Box of Human Reason, July 27, 2018
About Dan Miller
Dan Miller is the pastor of Eden Baptist Church in Burnsville, Minnesota.
Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, open mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.
— Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great
The anabaptists pretend that children, not as yet having reason, ought not yet to receive baptism. I answer: That reason in no way contributes to faith. Nay, in that children are destitute of reason, they are all the more fit and proper recipients of baptism. For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things but — more frequently than not — struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
— Martin Luther, Tabletalk (Page 120)
One of the hardest things for me to admit is that I, at one time, believed things that I now know to be untrue. These fallacious beliefs had a deleterious effect on not only my life, but the lives of my wife and children. While everyone concerned would agree that we have escaped the consequences of my beliefs relatively unharmed, I can’t help but think how life might have been different had I not fallen for the greatest con game of all time – Evangelical Christianity.
On one hand, if I had not been raised in the Evangelical church nor attended a Fundamentalist Baptist college, I never would have met my wife. Perhaps, in an alternate timeline I might have met a woman with the same beauty, charm, and kindness as Polly. Perhaps, I say. I remember another woman I dated before Polly. I was madly in love with her, yet, as I look back on our tumultuous relationship, I know that had we married, we likely would have killed each other. Choosing a different path doesn’t necessarily bring a better outcome. The old adage isn’t always true: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
This I know for sure: I spent most of my life believing things that are not true. And not just believing these things, but putting them into practice. It’s one thing to believe the Christian God exists, but it a far different thing, based on that belief, to devotes one’s life to serving this God. And not just serving him on Sunday, the day when he demands fealty from his followers, but like a devoted slave, I served this God day and night; day after day, year after year, for almost 50 years. This God, found only within the pages of an ancient religious text, promised that he would care for me in this life, and after death he would grant me eternal life in a pain-free, glorious Heaven.
Daniel Dennett is right: There’s no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to folly. Indeed, a life of folly. While I can, if given sufficient libations, cry over the spilt milk of my life, I choose to use my past life as a soldier for Jesus as a cautionary warning to all who dare to follow in my steps. I stand on the road of life waving my arms, hoping to turn sincere followers of this God away from the bridge-less chasm that awaits on the road ahead. Take another path, I passionately warn. Sadly, most of this God’s slaves will ignore my warnings, thinking that I am the one who is deceived and in need of saving.
There are others similar to myself, who, due to their blind devotion to religious belief, have squandered the best years of their lives. How can we not regret giving the years when we were strong, healthy, and full of life, to a mythical deity? And worse yet, how can we not regret giving our time, talent, and money to the human-built religious machine that drives over all who dare to get in its way?
Like other survivors of the Evangelical con, I have made an uneasy peace with my past. I have many regrets over how I spent most of my adult life. I know there’s nothing I can do about the past. I choose to learn from it, use it to fuel my writing, in the hope that I can, in some small way, play a part in bringing Evangelicalism to an ignominious end. While I will not live long enough to see its demise, I hope that one day one of my descendants will be the person who holds a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face and finally smothers him to death.
What follows is Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs. Most former Evangelicals will certainly find this list to be quite similar to theirs. I’ve ranked these beliefs based on how they materially affected me and my family.
- The Bible is a God-inspired text, inerrant and infallible
- The universe was created in six days and is 6,020 years
- God talks to me
- The story of the supernatural Jesus – all of it
- There is an unseen spiritual dimension inhabited by angels and demons
- There is a shadow government, a cabal that runs the world
- Demons possess people and inanimate objects such as toys
- Satan uses certain styles of music to control the masses
- Mental illness is caused by sin
- Government schools destroy the minds of students
My Evangelical journey began and ended with the Bible. My devotion to God was fueled by the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired text. This text was inerrant and infallible, and the God who wrote it meant for me to obey its commands and teachings. Not only did this God expect me to obey, he also commanded me to teach others to do the same. And so I did. Thousands of people sat under the sound of my voice, hearing me declare that loving, serving, and worshiping the Evangelical God was the way to peace, blessing, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.
Everything in my life flowed from my commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. As Baptists are fond of saying: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me! My journey out of Evangelicalism was complete when I came to realize that what I once believed about the Bible was not true; that my worldview was built on a delusional foundation. Once the Bible lost its magical power over me, other beliefs, like the ones mentioned above, quickly unraveled. When my mind was unfettered from the Evangelical delusion, I was then free to seek truth wherever it may be found. No longer was I boxed in by a set of beliefs that forced me to embrace irrationality. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box) And like most ex-Evangelicals, I am grateful that reason, knowledge, and understanding have set me free.
Dan Phillips, a frequent contributor to the fundamentalist Christian blog Pyromaniacs and pastor of Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, Texas, thinks Evangelical Christianity is the only rational worldview. Phillips had this to say about this supposed rationality:
A Mormon friend, in passing, remarked that religion is not rational, so he didn’t expect it to make sense. It’s a matter of faith, not reason.
You might think, “Right: Mormon. I don’t expect rationality, either.” Hang on.
He went on to give an example—but the example was not how a human could become a god, or how there could be only one god and many at the same time, or how God can keep changing His mind about things, or how two equally-inspired books could contradict each other. His example was the virgin birth. I said there was nothing irrational about the virgin birth, and the conversation simply moved on elsewhere…
…But was he right? Is religion irrational? “Religion,” maybe. Christianity, no…
….Perhaps definitions are part of the problem. There is a world of difference between rational and rationalism. The latter is a philosophy, a worldview that asserts that man can know truth by the use of his unaided reason. The former merely means that something is in accord with reason, it doesn’t violate fundamental canons of thinking such as the law of non-contradiction.
Is Christianity rational?…
…But are some of our faith-tenets irrational? Two that I hear cited specifically are the Trinity, and the Virgin Birth.
The second example is just plain silly. I have never understood how this can be an issue to anyone who believes Genesis 1:1, and thus grants the premise of a God who created everything out of nothing. It’s like saying, “Everything out of nothing? Sure! But make an existing egg alive without a sperm? No way!” Canons of rational thought are not even stretched, let alone violated, by the fact of the Creator and Ruler thus operating within His creation.
How about the Trinity? Surely the doctrine that God is three and one is not rational?…
…The Trinity is the Biblical teaching that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), and that this one God is Father (2 Peter 1:17), Son (John 1:1), and Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). The simplest way I have been able to understand and express the truth is that God is one in one way, and three in another. Or, we could say that God is one “what” (i.e. one as to His essence), and three “who’s” (i.e. three as to His persons).
Now, do we understand the Trinity exhaustively? Of course not! How exactly does God manage being what He is? We don’t really need to know, since we’ll never need to be God. Nor should the finite expect to understand the infinite exhaustively. It is as C. S. Lewis says:
If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about. (Mere Christianity [Macmillan: 1960], p. 145.)
But we know enough to love Him, to worship Him, and to discern truth from error. And we know enough to know that there is nothing irrational about the doctrine.
Is Christianity rational? I daresay it’s the only worldview, ultimately, that is.
It’s not hard to spot Phillips’ presupposition: the Bible is true and all discussions about what is rational must begin with the Bible. However, for those of us who do not accept the Bible as truth, the authority of the Bible has no relevance. The evidence that demands a verdict is that which can be observed, tested, and verified.
Are there things in the Bible that are not reasonable to believe? Are there things that a rational person would have a hard time accepting as factual? Phillips gives two examples of beliefs that some people, even Christians, consider irrational (lacking a rational explanation). His two examples are cardinal Christian doctrines: the virgin birth and the Trinity.
What evidence do we have, outside of the Christian Bible, that the virgin birth is a rational, reasonable belief? Is there any medical proof for a virgin becoming pregnant without having her egg fertilized by the sperm of a man? Is there any record anywhere, outside of the Bible, that a virgin has ever given birth to a child? Of course not. Belief in the virgin birth is not a rational belief. Believing that a virgin can have a child requires Evangelicals to have faith. They must be willing to blindly accept that the Evangelical God is capable of impregnating a young virgin so she can give birth to a God/Man.
Many Christians wisely reject the notion that Jesus was born of a virgin. It’s Evangelicals who stubbornly dig their heels in on this issue. For them, the text of the Bible is deified, and when this happens reason goes out the window. This is the kind of thinking that gives us young earth creationism and a host of other rational mind defying beliefs. Believing the Evangelical God miraculously impregnated an unwed Jewish teenager runs contrary to everything the Evangelical and the atheist know to be true. To suggest, as Phillips does, that the virgin birth is rational because the Bible says it is, is not an reasoned argument; it’s blind, irrational faith.
Phillips also uses the Trinity as an example of a Christian doctrine that is reasonable. Once again, Phillips’ Evangelical interpretation of the Bible becomes the arbiter of what is rational. For the atheist, the argument for the reasonableness of Trinitarianism is not important. Three in one, one in three, one in one, it matters not. The only question that matters for the skeptic and the atheist is whether there is sufficient evidence for the existence of the Evangelical God, or any other God for that matter.
The atheist, based on the available evidence, concludes that the Christian God does not exist. The Christian has the same evidence as the atheist, but rejects it, and by faith believes that the Evangelical God of the Bible really exists. Contrary to what Phillips says, Christianity is all about faith, and that faith, many times, is quite irrational. (1)
I know Phillips doesn’t mean for his post to be a complete and full defense of the rationality of Christianity, but there are many other illustrations of rational irrationality he could have used. How about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? All of the evidence, apart from the Bible, points to a reality we all know to be true; people die and they don’t come back from the dead. There’s nothing in the natural, observable world that suggests that the dead come back to life. Again, believing otherwise requires faith in what the Bible says about the resurrection of Jesus.
Here’s another “rational” Evangelical Christian belief: Jesus walking through walls. According to the Bible, after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus walked through walls. This is a claim that any of us can test in about 10 seconds. Stand up, go to the nearest wall, and try to walk through it. How did it work out for you? Were you able to walk through the wall, without doing damage to yourself or the wall? Silly, I know, but this is another example of a Bible truth that requires faith to believe. No one, Jesus included, can walk through a solid wall.
I found the C.S. Lewis quote about the difficulty of believing the Christian narrative to be quite interesting. I heard this line of thinking many times when I was a pastor. The essence of the argument is this:
If Christianity is a man-made religion, do you think its makers would have included the irrational, bat-shit crazy stuff found in the Bible? The crazy stuff is proof that what the Bible says is true.
Here’s the problem with this argument. Phillips mocks the Mormons several times in his post, but if I judge Mormonism by the standard set by C.S. Lewis, I would have to conclude that Mormonism is factual. Who has more crazy beliefs than Mormonism, right? OK, maybe Scientology is worse and Mormonism comes in a close second
Phillips enters this discussion with his mind made up. Christianity is the truth and Mormonism is just another man-made, heretical religion. After all, everyone knows Christianity is a not religion. At least Phillips didn’t trot out the “Christianity is a relationship” line.
What do you think of Phillips’ closing line:
Is Christianity rational? I daresay it’s the only worldview, ultimately, that is.
Share your thoughts in the comments.
(1) I am not suggesting that a person can’t look at the natural world and reasonably conclude that there is a deity or a higher power. However, it is a huge jump from the deistic view that a God of some sort created the world to that creator being the Evangelical God of the Bible. There is a gigantic chasm between these two and the bridge that spans that chasm is called faith. I am amazed at how readily Christians chuck faith in hopes of trying to “prove” that Christianity is reasonable. They diminish their religion when they do so.
Mike Ratliff, writing for the Christian Research Network, had this to say about faith:
…Human faith is not the same thing as Genuine (saving) faith, which is a gift from God. The former is based in Human reason and intellect. The latter is supernatural. What passes for faith in many professing believer’s “Christianity” is a belief based in who preaches to or teaches them. This is not Genuine faith because it is not a belief in the Word or in God through the Word. These are “believers” who will eventually fall away. Some may last a lifetime, but as soon as the fires of tribulation come upon them they slide into apostasy because their faith is not of the substance that endures…
In one short paragraph, Ratliff reveals WHY so many Evangelicals have empty heads, why they lack any sort of intellectual acumen. Why, you ask? Because God has replaced their human faith with genuine faith. According to Ratliff, genuine faith is a gift from God. Human faith is not from God and is based on reason and intellect.
There ya have it…God gives Evangelicals faith and BOOM out goes reason and intellect. In comes a faith God gives, a faith that leads people to believe things like the Bible is inerrant, the earth was created in six days six thousand years ago, Adam and Eve were real people, and Jesus really, really did walk on water and resurrect from the dead.
Ratliff’s post is a reminder of how preachers like him keep people enslaved by telling them that their human intellect and reason should never be trusted. Instead trust the pronouncements of Ratliff, the man of God, God, the Holy Spirit, and His inerrant, inspired Bible.
Ratliff and others like him know that if people really begin to use their intellect and reason they are likely to exit stage left. Thinking Evangelicals often don’t stay in the Evangelical church. Once they see that they been snookered by their church and pastor they move on to places where reason and intellect are appreciated.