Bad Reasons for Rejecting Christianity

I make it a habit to read any book that a Christian is willing to purchase and send to me, or at least to give it a shot. A few months ago a local Christian youth pastor gave me a copy of the book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller, I began reading it a couple weeks ago.

I’m only about six chapters into it so far but the first few chapters have left me with a certain notion that perhaps many Christians don’t quite understand why it is that people find themselves capable of rejecting their particular brand of god. These first few chapters contain rebuttals by Mr. Keller to common objections to the faith that he hears at his church in NYC and so far all of these objections have been superficial at best.

Chapter 1 begins the book with a claim by a young New Yorker that “it’s arrogant to say your religion is superior and to try to convert everyone else to it. “

Yes, it is arrogant to claim that you’ve got a corner on Truth. I can’t disagree with that.

Chapter 2 begins with the claim from one  young man that , “I won’t believe in a God who allows suffering, even if he, she, or it exists. Maybe God exists. Maybe not. But if he does he can’t be trusted.”

Yes, suffering seems to point to a malevolent or uncaring god. I can’t disagree with that either.

Chapter 3 really blows the barn doors off of any semblance of intellectual argument with the following:  “I believe each individual must determine truth for him- or herself.”

I disagree with this one, something is either True or it isn’t. A persons’ determination of truth doesn’t change whether or not something actually is true.

Chapter 4 attempts to answer claims of injustice committed by the various iterations of the Christian church in the last 1700 years, to this injustice one woman exclaims, “If Christianity is the true religion, how could this be?”

Again, there is obviously space for criticism here – the Church has been responsible for many great and terrible atrocities. Those atrocities in no way make the claims of the Bible any more or less true. I don’t reject the Christian faith because of the people or institutions of the Christian faith.

Finally Chapter 5 asks how a loving god could send people to hell.

I agree here as well – I can no longer imagine a god who’s largest tool of getting you to follow him is by instilling fear of hell into you beginning at childhood.

I’m not going to claim that some of these objections aren’t reasonable on some level, but they fail to greet the problem of Christianity (or any other religion) in the realm that should be most important: The realm of Evidence.

I’m perfectly content for people to reject any faith at any time for any reason but if the only arguments you have against the faith are how you “feel” about the claims of Christianity you are arguing far below your potential.  I think it’s rather telling from the first five chapters of this book that Mr. Keller isn’t quite used to being brought into the realm of evidence, he isn’t used to being asked for proof of the claims of the Bible or the existence of Christ and perhaps that is why so many books are being published to answer these superficial arguments.

I don’t reject the claims of Christianity because I don’t understand them. I don’t reject the claims of Christianity because I can’t wrap my mind around them, I lived the Christian life for the better part of my short life. I don’t reject the Christian god because I’m angry at him for not answering some petty prayer or because I don’t like the idea of eternal hellfire. I don’t reject the Christian god because I’m possessed by the devil, or because I simply don’t want to believe in him. I’m not an atheist because I’m rebelling , because I just want to “sin”, or for any other reason that someone might come up with to make themselves feel better.

I reject the Christian god simply because there is no evidence for the Christian god, or any other.

If evidence does exist, I’m still waiting for it to be presented and to examine it.

People often assume that I’m not a Christian because I don’t understand the message and faith of Christianity, that assumption is incorrect. I’m not a Christian precisely because I DO understand the Christian faith and message and I see no evidence to it’s benefit. I’m rejecting Christianity because it’s the only option I have.

  • Jonathan Starnes

    I def. Agree they are not up to par with the reasons to reject a faith. Although I don’t know if proof is fully good enough either. Just b/c you might not see or feel something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    Personally I think that there are spiritual, or religious people (however you want to say it.), and there are some that God made for something else. So it us in the discipline and the aceptance of living for others and following that lifestyle that will change, not living it b/c you wont go to hell. Through living the religion you see the teachings are not just meant to go to the pie in the sky, but b/c it helps on earth. Jesus shows no actual violence b/c to truly end the cycle of violence we show love.

    How can someone hate one who truly loves in action? If they do it shows off the stupidity of it and breaks down the walls of those who see it. In this is see the proof. It is in the living and seeing how that we can tell God is working, not b/c of fear.

    I feel like there was more to this but it will prob. come out with more discussion.

  • Mike aka MonolithTMA

    The few books I've read like that are are usually preaching to a choir that I no longer sing in.

    The one reason that keeps coming back is that I wasn't a True Christian™. I actually had a friend tell me I left the faith because I wasn't Catholic, which would be appalling to my conservative Christian friends who believe that Catholicism is one step away from being a cult, or maybe already there.

    Nearly all of these reasons that people come up with are identical to the reasons cults give, that should give some pause.

  • Jeff

    "I think it’s rather telling from the first five chapters of this book that Mr. Keller isn’t quite used to being brought into the realm of evidence, he isn’t used to be asked for proof of the claims of the Bible or the existence of Christ and perhaps that is why so many books are being published to answer these superficial arguments."

    I've read the entire book. The first half of the book (the first seven chapters) are devoted to responding to answering the superficial arguments that you mentioned. The second half of the book (the last seven chapters) discusses various forms of evidence for the existence of the Christian God. I suspect that you won't find the evidence convincing (neither did I), but I don't think it's true that "Mr. Keller isn’t quite used to being brought into the realm of evidence."

  • Caprise

    People often accuse me of choosing not to believe in him, or choosing to say I don't believe in him. Like he did something bad to me and I am now pretending he doesn't exist to hurt his feelings. I think the only choice I have actively exercised in this is to choose to trust logic, math, and reasoning. I have learned during my experiences in life that things which are true can add up and make sense. Sometimes the variables are not known, but there's still a pretty clear path to follow to discover truth. In school, we learn that math is solvable. It's not "2+2=4 because we have faith that 4 will show up when we say 2+2=…." We know we can add 2 and 2, or 1 and 1 and 2, etc. and get 4 a number of different ways. We can get apples, and set 2 next to 2 and count 4.

    This is also a lesson I've learned dealing with humans. If someone's story doesn't add up or make sense, it's probably a lie. Following speed limits, not littering, using a seat belt, recycling, etc, it all follows the same thing. It's logical. Maybe it also has something to do with understanding consequence.

    So my brain has been trained to look for inconsistencies and weigh them based on logic. Is it logical that this inconsistency was a miscalculation, a misunderstanding, or a miscommunication? Or is it more likely that it was intentional? Can I believe what a person said if I think there was an intentional inconsistency? No. Can I choose to make myself believe what that person said? No. My brain knows there's an inconsistency. I can act like I believe it, but I don't really believe it because I've already come to the conclusion.

    I have seen evidence regarding God and religion and followers. The evidence I have seen is a lack of understanding of rationality, a lack of respect for sense and adding things up, a lack of desire to have any ends meet, no need for things to make sense, and worse, in a broader sense of religions, a conscious malicious attempt to cover or hide evidence or make shit up. My logical mind deduces that these people (religious people) are subscribing to feelings of emotion, adrenaline, and "heart." That is how their minds make sense of things. That's how their minds decide what to believe in.

    The point is, I don't choose to not believe in God. My mind has put experiences and evidence and possibilities and interactions and facts together and has come to the conclusion that being alive has trained it to do. I could choose to trust emotion more than logic, and that would probably lead me back to God, but looking at human history (crusades, inquisition, holocaust, etc) acting based on emotion alone doesn't appeal to me. It scares me.

    Sorry it's such a long post, RevOx.

  • Rob

    I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like a tool, because I just mean this as a bit of light-hearted ribbing, but it made me giggle a bit to read "acting based on emotion alone doesn't appeal to me. It [makes me act emotionally]."

    • It's OK to sound like a tool…I do it all the time.

      and yea, I guess you make a good point.

  • It is rare to find books which represent the strong arguments of their opponents faithfully. I am not surprised that it is done poorly.

  • There was an excellent column on OpinionJournal last Friday about the new Atheism. Sam Schulman makes the case that today's atheists "have no new arguments, and they lack their forebears' charm."

    One common trait I've seen is "piling on." Vocal atheists start with well-tested arguments such as how a benevolent God can allow evil. Then 20 arguments later they are reduced to "some Christians have bad breath." The exercise seems more fueled by anger than by a geniune attempt to influence others.

    The newest approach is to argue from pragmatism. The world would be better off without belief. Where is the evidence for this? The notable atheistic experiments, the French, Russian and Cultural Revolutions, were shockingly violent.