What if You Are Wrong?

Pascals Wager

Christian to Atheist:

“If I’m wrong, it’s no big deal, but if you’re wrong? Uh oh…”

At first, this argument seems strong. Christians seem to have all the bases covered: If a Christian dies and god indeed exists, the Christian is home free and will spend eternity in Heaven.

  • If a Christian dies and it turns out that god does not exist, so what? That means there is no hell, and death is simply the end. No harm, no foul. Nothing lost.

This is one of the most common arguments made by Christians. Why not just believe? It gives you immediate fire insurance against Hell’s never ending flames, and there’s no down side if you happen to be wrong.

However, this argument is actually one of the weakest arguments a Christian can make.

When presented with this argument, I ask the counter question:

“Well, what if you are wrong about Islam, Hinduism, Baha’i, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrinianism or any of the hundreds of other religions and cults and their dire warnings about the various hells and other negative consequences they say await you as a “non-believer”?

Out of the many times I’ve countered with this question, no Christian has ever been the slightest bit concerned about the consequences of their non-belief in other religions or cults.

Just like none of those other religions or cults are the slightest bit concerned about the Christian version of Hell.

And what if Christians are wrong? Is it really no big deal? If there is no god, what has a Christian really lost?

If you spend decades wrapping your life around a fable, and basing your life on that fable, choosing your mate and your friends and your job and your possessions and where you live and where you go to church and who you socialize with, or not, and who you do business with, or not, and what you do with your time and your money and what you teach your children, all based on that fable… well, the fallout from that is a life wasted on an entire reality that doesn’t exist, and the possibility that you may have influenced others to also waste their lives.

That’s a wager I’m no longer willing to make.

Are You in a Cult?

Cult

What’s the difference between a cult and a religion? Is it merely the number of followers as some have joked? Some believe that a cult is any organized belief that isn’t their own. Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa used to refer to Catholicism as a cult.

Early in their histories, religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism were all considered cults. All three of them are clearly recognized as religions today.

One writer suggests that the only difference between a religion and a cult is the amount of time it has survived (link below).

What do you think? Are you in a cult, a religion, or neither?

https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/bs-xpm-2011-10-13-bs-ed-mormons-20111013-story.html

The Perfectly Inaudible Voice of God

I can't Hear You

An old friend I used to know when I was a Christian sent me a few questions. Here’s one of them:

“I’m just curious what you think about the personal experiences you once thought were God/the voice of God. Do you now think you were just a little crazy yourself?”

When I was a Christian, I never physically heard the voice of god, nor witnessed any supernatural events that I could actually connect to a god. Neither did my old pastor Chuck Smith, according to the many times he said as much from the pulpit. To demonstrate this, Chuck used to tell the story of a drive he once took up the coast. Because it was such a lovely day, he decided last-minute to drive up PCH. I don’t remember the details – something to do with a hitchhiker – but something really cool and spiritual happened to him because he took PCH, and he attributed that to a supernatural god redirecting his path in a very natural way. That story was Chuck’s way of demonstrating how god directs us without actually saying anything or showing himself. However, we don’t really know if god told Chuck to take PCH that day, or if he just wanted a prettier drive, and we’ll never know what even cooler, even more spiritual things may have happened to Chuck had he taken the 101.

I don’t think Christians are crazy, and I don’t think I was crazy when I was a Christian. I think I was guilty of poor thinking, incomplete and inconsistent logic, and a whole lot of cognitive dissonance.

Our minds are flawed. We humans have the capacity to believe things that aren’t true. We make errors in our critical thinking. We have lapses in judgement. We commit logical fallacies with our thinking. We hold conflicting values, beliefs and ideas. We draw illogical conclusions. We go with our gut, even when our gut is flawed.

In another post I mentioned the very weak argument that convinced me to “accept the Lord.” For some reason, that argument made sense to me at the time. I don’t think I was crazy. I just wasn’t examining the argument closely enough, and then my human emotions took over from there.

Liar, Lunatic, Lord… or Legend?

Who is Jesus

An old friend I used to know when I was a Christian sent me a few questions. Here’s one of them:

“What is your current view on the historical person of Jesus now? Was he just a crazy person?”

I do not believe we have enough historical evidence to conclusively determine whether or not the Jesus character of the New Testament existed. Of course, if we can’t determine his existence we certainly can’t determine the truth behind the supernatural claim that he was divine.

The Liar, Lunatic, or Lord argument is incomplete because it leaves out the very real fourth possibility, that of “Legend.”

Is it possible Jesus is merely a legend, a collection of stories passed down and exaggerated through the centuries? An extended game of telephone on a grand scale?

We don’t know who wrote the four gospels. Their authorship is anonymous, and the books were written several decades after the purported timeframe of the death of the Jesus character – we certainly do not have any eyewitness accounts of Jesus.

Historians of the time, and there were many, don’t mention Jesus at all, which is astounding to me, given all the amazing things that supposedly happened around him. There is only the single, brief mention by Josephus, but that is an obvious after-the-fact forgery.

This is a real problem for me. If our eternal salvation actually rests in our being convinced that Jesus existed and is the Son of God, why would god allow the record of his existence and divinity to be so thin and questionable?

The Terrible Reasons I First Believed

Broken-Chair

I spent over three decades of my life as a devout Christian.

I am no longer a Christian. Not even close.

When I ponder the reasons why I first became a Christian back in High School, I come up with three:

1. I really, really wanted to please people (a terrible reason),

2. Both of the major religious groups in my High School (the Christians and the Mormons) were full of really great people who seemed to be part of big, loving, religious groups – like big families – and I wanted that for myself (another terrible reason), and

3. Someone made an argument that I bought, hook, line and sinker.

Here was that argument:

“See that chair you are sitting in right now? I noticed that you sat down in that chair without even thinking. How did you know that chair wasn’t going to collapse under your weight? When you sat down in that chair, it took faith that the chair would hold you up. That’s all I’m asking you to do with God. Just have faith he’s there.”

And with that, I prayed and “accepted Jesus.”

Now, I realize how ridiculous the chair argument was.

It didn’t take any faith whatsoever to sit in that chair. No, it took years of observable, hard evidence that created in me a reasonable expectation that the chair would hold me up.

With god, there is zero hard evidence – none. If he’s there, he’s completely silent, 100% invisible, and he never actually does anything. There is no difference between a universe with a silent, invisible, do-nothing god, and a universe that has no god at all. Believing in a god or gods takes faith – specifically because there is no good evidence. Sitting in a chair does not take any faith at all.

Not to mention that even if that chair had collapsed, so what? I would fall on my ass and my friends would laugh at me. That’s the worst that would happen.

However, if you spend decades wrapping your life around a fable, and basing your life on that fable, choosing your mate and your friends and your job and your possessions and where you live and where you go to church and who you socialize with and who you do business with and what you do with your time and your money and what you tell your children, all based on that fable… well, the fallout from that is way worse than sitting in a collapsing chair.

I can tell you from experience, that when you finally realize the weak reasons why you initially believed, and when you finally wake up to realize you were completely duped, that experience is heart-wrenching.

Which would you choose? A collapsing chair, or wasting what precious time you have left in this amazing, only life you might ever have?

Give me a collapsing chair any day.

I’m curious… why did you first believe?