knowledge

If Christianity is True

If Christianity is True

Note: Given the propensity of Christians to continually deceive themselves with this argument, I have decided to bring this back to the front of my site. In case you are wondering, I often prefer to use the informal indicative rather than the more formal subjunctive. – May 2005

IF CHRISTIANITY IS TRUE

Wayne Everett Orgar

March 2000

Over the past few years, one of the most frequent comments I have heard from Christians is paraphrased as follows:

If Christianity is true and I believe, than I have eternal life.

If it is true and I don’t believe, I have eternal punishment.

If it is false and I believe, than I will have only lived a lie.

This is nothing more than Pascal’s wager watered down. Bet on Christianity and you lose nothing.

WRONG! You lose plenty.

First, though, let’s recognize this is only a statement of fear and presents evidence of nothing except the fear of hellfire and brimstone. Supposedly, believing in Christ on faith is the key to salvation. Believing in Christ because it is a safe bet is not faith and disqualifies you from salvation. This is fear, not the courage of one’s conviction.

Consider:

  • This argument provides no evidence for a god or for gods.
  • It presents no evidence of an afterlife.
  • It presents no evidence for the truth of Christianity or the belief that these practices will bring you that eternal life. You still have no guarantee that being a Christian brings eternal life if there was an afterlife.
  • It represents a false dichotomy. The choice is not between Christianity and atheism. It is a choice among atheism, Christianity, and the thousands of other religions that respective believers think will get them eternal life. If eternal life existed, it could belong to only the Hindu.
  • If Christianity was false and you believed, you could lose more than a life of lies. If Shintoism were true instead, you would lose eternal life. You better get out there and believe in Shintoism to hedge your bet.

Consider the underlying reasoning behind the argument and it falls apart.

If religion A is true and I believe, than I have eternal life.

If religion A is true and I don’t believe, than I have eternal punishment.

If religion A is not true and I believe, than I will only have lived a lie.

You could use this to justify believing in any religion. Just substitute Islam for religion A. If you use this reasoning to justify believing in Christianity, the moral principle of fairness requires you to allow other religions to use it with equal justification and hope of salvation. Otherwise, you are being hypocritical and you are deceiving yourself.

You could use it to hold conflicting beliefs and be in total self-contradiction. Why would anyone respect this argument?

Now back to my original point. You have plenty to lose with Christianity

  • You lose a lot of time and money on religious organizations and icons, time and money that could be better spent on real problems.
  • You have to worry about guilt and shame from the imaginary concept of sin. Big brother is watching.
  • You have to stand on your head and do verbal gymnastics to “apologize” for ridiculous Bible stories and verses.
  • You have to worry about the increasing knowledge of the facts of the universe and try to rectify them with the Bible, written by people who knew nothing about their universe.
  • You have to worry about the increasing civil rights of women and other minorities such as homosexuals, atheists, ethnic groups, and other religious groups that are increasing in this country.
  • You have to constantly worry about non-believers watching your behavior as Christians and pointing out that you do not behave any better than non-believers.
  • You have to worry about your friends and family going to hell for an eternity. If you don’t worry about this, you either don’t truly believe or are a very callous individual.
  • You have to worry about breaking arbitrary “rules of men” that were attributed to a supposed deity thousands of years ago.
  • You have to worry about those secular humanists (all 20 of them) that have taken over every school, government body, university, media outlet, and ice cream stand in the country.

I could list more. I found no comfort from Christianity. It is not a sure thing and I certainly would not want to bet my life or well being on it.

February 2006 – The stupidist thing a Christian has ever said to me in regard to this is that non-belief in Christianity has consequences and the above is therefore not true. Other religions have no consequences? Tell that to an Islamic believer who insists that Christians will go to hell!

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says

If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.

Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term “blind faith.”

A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church’s central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.

Atheists and agnostics — those who believe there is no God or who aren’t sure — were more likely to answer the survey’s questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey’s measurement of religious knowledge — so close as to be statistically tied.

So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t,” served as an advisor on the survey. “I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people,” he said.

He said he found it significant that Mormons, who are not considered Christians by many fundamentalists, showed greater knowledge of the Bible than evangelical Christians.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister from Leawood, Kan., and the author of “When Christians Get it Wrong,” said the survey’s results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others.

“I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it’s already accepted to be true, they don’t examine other people’s faiths. … That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith,” he said.

The Pew survey was not without its bright spots for the devout. Eight in 10 people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The question that elicited the most correct responses concerned whether public school teachers are allowed to lead their classes in prayer. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents correctly said no. However, 67% also said that such teachers are not permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, something the law clearly allows.

For comparison purposes, the survey also asked some questions about general knowledge, which yielded the scariest finding: 4% of Americans believe that Stephen King, not Herman Melville, wrote “Moby Dick.”