Sunday, April 23, 2017
BK puts forth this question in his latest posting at Christian Cadre: If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? He supposes that this is the all-time gotcha question that would force atheists to come clean and confess the truth of the faith, or expose themselves as being dishonest. BK presents three possible responses that an atheist might offer to this question. One is to deny Christianity without any explanation. Another is to deny it with an explanation. And finally the atheist might accept the truth and say yes. But I think the question requires more depth of discussion before a simple yes or no answer can be given.
First, let us look at BK's discussion of the responses. Those who deny Christianity without explanation are labeled as "dodgers", and accused of not "thinking sequentially". The argument here is muddled, because he never explains what is meant by thinking sequentially. What is the thought process that these people should follow? Perhaps (and this is most likely the case) they do have good reason for denying Christianity, but don't feel that it's worth arguing about. But instead of discussing the logic of their choice, BK talks about a biblical passage that says if Jesus was not resurrected, then the Christian faith is futile. So the idea he's trying to present is that Christians, when presented with the truth (contrary to their faith), would readily drop their faith. But these dodger atheists, when presented with the truth, would stick with atheism, despite the truth that stares them in the face. More about this in a moment.
The second type of denier is the one who has an explanation. But BK doesn't care what the explanation is. It matters not that the explanation might be perfectly logical and reasonable, but just happens to lead to the wrong conclusion. BK simply asserts that this person simply doesn't care about the truth. But at least he gives the denier credit for being honest enough to reveal his disregard for the truth. Maybe there's a little room for a proselytizer to work with him. (I actually think BK is on to something here. There is indeed room for a religious proselytizer to work with someone who is willing to deny the truth.)
But this talk of truth raises a major issue that BK never discusses: how do we know what the truth is? Do we have incontrovertible evidence of it? There's a good reason that most atheists don't believe in God - they lack sufficient evidence to believe. And Christianity goes beyond mere belief in God. It requires additional beliefs, such as the divinity of Jesus, and the resurrection. And these beliefs would entail the need for still more evidence to justify them. What would be different under the scenario that BK raises? Would we have some new evidence that we don't already have? Would there be some new undeniable reason for an atheist to accept the truth of Christianity? It's one thing to postulate that Christianity is true, but it's another thing to make it believable to a skeptic.
Take the case of Christians admitting the futility of their faith if the resurrection turned out to be a fiction. Is BK correct to say that Christians would actually abandon their faith? I don't think so. Just look at the evidence. You have the biblical accounts, not one of which was written by an eye-witness, and an utter lack of any outside corroboration. No Roman records, no contemporary historical accounts of the event, etc. You have the scientific fact that people don't rise from the dead, except in religious stories. How many Christians are honest enough to admit that this is slim evidence? I'll tell you how many: practically none. What if it really was the case that the resurrection didn't happen, and the available evidence was exactly what we see now? Would Christians deny the truth? Of course they would. It's what they're doing already. So don't give me this crap about how honest the Christians would be in the face of truth. We already see it.
But maybe BK means that by asserting the truth of Christianity, unlike the situation we have now, we would be presented with some undeniable evidence that definitively removes any doubt. If the evidence was undeniable, then I would have to believe that it's true. But does that imply that I should become a faithful Christian? I'm afraid the answer to that is not an unequivocal yes. Because there are still many aspects of Christianity that are difficult to swallow - despite a certain knowledge that Jesus is the son of God and was resurrected. These reasons fall into two general categories: logical incongruities, and moral failings of the Christian faith.
Logically, the problems with Christianity are difficult to overcome, without even considering the empirical realities of our world. There has been much discussion among atheist philosophers that God cannot have all the properties that Christians ascribe to him. I don't feel the need to re-hash all that in this article. I have discussed various theistic incongruities here, here, here, and here. How can I just accept the truth of something that, as far as I can tell, is logically incoherent? Not without disregarding my own intellect. Not without placing faith above reason.
Then there is the issue of morality. I think that the god of Christianity is morally atrocious. This is a God that would subject us to eternal punishment for not believing, rather than just supplying us with sufficient evidence to believe. This is a God who created trillions of creatures whose only purpose on earth was to suffer and die, all supposedly for the benefit of those who are fortunate enough learn their earthly lessons, and to reside at God's side after their life on earth. If I was one of those fortunate ones, it would be in complicity with God's plan, and I would have to accept that my fortune comes at the cost of all those lives, and all that suffering. Frankly, I'm not sure I could do that.
And there's another issue I would have to deal with, which underscores my reluctance to give a simple yes or no answer to the question at hand. If I knew for certain that Christianity (as understood by Christians) was true, I would be faced with a choice of whether or not to be a faithful Christian. The consequences of my choice are stark: spend eternity in heaven, or spend it in hell if I should choose not to be a follower of the faith. But is that really a choice? I think that many reasonable people would conclude that it's coercion. It's not really a free choice at all. No matter how hard Christians try to make it sound as if they freely choose to bask in the glory of God's infinite love, I just can't get around the notion that in a very real sense, God is holding a gun to their heads. He is telling them Either you believe in me, or you'll be sorry.