Last week, we talked about how hardline evangelical and Tradcath Christians engage with atheists who don’t accept or believe their claims. As it turns out, one of their favorite tactics is plugging their ears with their fingers and chanting LA LA LA LA ATHEISTS DON’T EVEN REALLY EXIST until their existential panic attack subsides. Yep, it’s antiprocess elephants all the way down for dysfunctional authoritarian Christians.
But then, that whole discussion made me wonder what Christians offer up lately as their very best #1 reasons to believe in Christianity at all. These days, what do they pull out of their rumps when they sense that their A game is required? And I found a motherlode of irrational and obviously willfully-ignorant Christians trying to rationalize their reasons for belief. In their burbling and bumbling-about, these Christians reveal far more about themselves and their religion than they should sensibly want anybody to know. Today, we’re gonna swan-dive right into the deep end of the Christianity pool.
(This post first went live on Patreon on 9/12/2023. Its audio ‘cast lives there too!)
The Faith Pool: A quick refresher
I conceptualize belief in any particular idea as a pool of water. This pool is fed by faucets bringing in water. It is drained below just like any other tub or pool. The faucets represent reasons to believe in that thing, while the drains represent contradictions to belief in that thing. The more important the belief and the more that belief affects the believer, the bigger its pool will be—and the more faucets feed into it.
If someone believes that the grocery store closes at 10pm, that’s not a major belief. Its pool will be accordingly small, with only a couple of faucets feeding into it. It’s relatively easy to persuade that person that the store closes at 11pm instead—by sharing the store’s website with them, for example.
By contrast, religious belief tends to be important to believers, and it also often informs their behavior, personality, plans, and outlay of resources. Very often, the believer’s pool is fed by a great many faucets. The water coming in from those faucets maintains the pool’s level of water. However, no theistic religion makes objectively true claims about reality. Accordingly, reality itself constantly contradicts the belief—meaning that drains are constantly bleeding water from the pool. If the pool goes dry, then the faith it represents has evaporated; it drained water away faster than the faucets could replenish it.
For most believers, particularly in Christianity, their beliefs are very important to them. They might even construct their entire worldview around what they believe. Their faith pools are huge and boast oodles of faucets. Often, even if they realize that one of their pool’s faucets isn’t actually valid—for example, realizing that Hell isn’t real and can’t possibly be real, the other faucets more than compensate for the closing-up of that one.
It often takes a lot of blows to one’s beliefs in Christianity for such a large pool to go dry.
Rationalizing their faith sometimes makes Christians sound like idiots
I drew from a number of sources for today’s discussion. In many of them, their headlines promised to deliver A-game-level good reasons to believe in Christianity—only for the ensuing post to contain not a single one.
That was definitely what we see from someone called Marcella who wrote about the topic last November for Dvaita.com. She might have titled her post “Why You Should Believe In Jesus Christ: Five Reasons,” but she offers nary a one. It’s like her brain completely disengaged after writing the title and she started babbling helplessly about why she totally loves being a Christian.
The best she seems to be able to manage to fulfill her title’s assurance is something toward the end about belief giving Christians various benefits, such as a feeling of meaning and purpose in life. That’s just a bog-standard appeal to consequences, a fallacy caused by someone making disbelief sound like it’ll result in some awful end. As for her assertion that faith in Jesus makes Christians’ relationships better, I’ll chalk that one up to her being extremely young or sheltered; nobody but nobody seriously thinks that outside her tribalistic bubble.
After that, she briefly notes a couple of reasons why someone might consider her beliefs irrational:
Belief in God is considered irrational for two reasons: lack of evidence and evidence to the contrary (usually the problem of evil, which will not be addressed in this essay). The rationality of belief in God, based on an inference, is rejected by both of these positions.
However, she never offers any reason to find her beliefs rational in the first place.
Terrible Reason to Believe #5: Pseudohistory and pseudoscience
No theistic religion in the world makes true claims of their cosmology and divinities. All of them make claims that they cannot support with real-world observations and measurements. Christianity sits on the same shelf as the rest of them. And so I wouldn’t hold that against Christianity per se. I was a Hellenic pagan for years and didn’t expect my source materials to be literally true and real.
What I do hold against Christianity is how its most fervent adherents respond to their complete lack of evidence. They’re trying—and failing—to square their lack of evidence with their extreme need for their beliefs to be literally true and real. And it’s not possible.
Their holy book is a mess, historically speaking. There’s no reason whatsoever to imagine that a single one of its claimed miracles or major events ever occurred the way the Bible describes them. If Jesus existed at all, he was a meaningless blip on the radar of everyone living and writing in Jerusalem and the Roman Empire between 30-35 CE, and it’s obvious that the Gospels are mythic in nature and do not describe much of anything about Jesus’ actual life. Nobody even bothered marking the location of the guy’s tomb until the religion really took off in the Empire.
But Christians gonna Christian. They love arguing that their holy book is a reliable history book, which means that Christianity is totes for realsies and we all need to convert right now.
Pseudohistory and its offshoot, pseudoarcheology, form the major thrust of James Choi’s attempt to make Christianity sound more believable. He’s a finance professor at Yale, which explains how he could be so effectively fooled by these classic fundagelical cottage industries. Similarly, an essay from Bible Keeper in 2023 leans heavily on the so-called historicity of the Bible. And in 2020, pastor Chuck DeVane seems to completely accept that the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’ miracles are all for real.
All of this reminds me of a quote from Augustine of Hippo from around the 4th-5th century CE. Even that early, Christians were making Christianity look ridiculous with their false science and history claims. He especially got peevish when they misquoted the Bible to support these false claims.
Nothing has changed, for a reason. Somehow, Jesus clearly doesn’t mind any of this.
Terrible Reason to Believe #4: False miracle claims
It’s interesting that only one source, Focus on the Family, reached for false miracle claims to sell their religious beliefs to others. Their podcast guest, J. Johns, said:
I’m a Christian because it works! (Audience Response and Applause) It works! It actually works.
Gosh, Cas, I can hear you saying now: What does he mean by that?
And he means that Jesus works miracles for him. The story he tells to support this claim concerns a neighbor couple who weren’t Christians. One of them had a stroke, and so Johns and his wife visited her in the hospital. While there, they prayed the pre-canned Lord’s Prayer. AND OMG YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS, but that lady woke up! She totally woke up! And she got well enough to go back home again!
Of course, this lady never converted to Christianity, Johns admits. But he’s absolutely counting this incident as a miracle, a GEN-you-WINE MEERKUL.
What I think is so hilarious about false miracle claims is how little their bearers have thought anything through.
- First and foremost, we have to trust that Johns is a reliable narrator. Our memories are not that good. Unless he committed the incident to writing somewhere, he could be very wrong about her responses during his prayer.
- Next, we must accept the idea of a god who magically awakens stroke patients, but also allows people get strokes in the first place. What Johns is suggesting here sounds a lot like an abusive boyfriend who starts fights just to get the makeup nookie afterward. If Jesus wants to push my thrill buttons, he can eliminate strokes as a cause of death in humans.
- Jesus withheld consciousness from this lady until one of his followers showboated around her. Was it not his will to awaken her at all unless she got prayed for? Was he always going to awaken her anyway, regardless of what Johns did? Does he tell those wishing for similar miracles, “Sorry, lady, you only got 5 Facebook prayer-likes—your stroke’s gonna kill you.”
- And the real dealbreaker problem with miracle claims: I bet Johns doesn’t ever keep track of prayers that go completely ignored by his imaginary friend. (Oh. I mean, that his imaginary friend says “later” or “wait” to.) Christianity “works” to make miracles about as well as wishing on a star, and for the same exact reasons.
Terrible Reason to Believe #3: Since feeling is first
It might be just a little basic of me to say this, but I love the e.e. cummings poem “since feeling is first.” It’s a beautiful exploration of the giddy emotions of romantic love and what it’s like to give oneself to those emotions fully and without shame:
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
Alas, our feelings can easily lead us astray. Even the most toxic of Christians would be the first to agree with me there on some topics. But somehow, they can totes trust their feelings when they’re gripped with religious euphoria.
- Barbara Austin, June 2021: “I’ve experienced His mercy, His goodness, His provision, and I’ve caught glimpses of His plan for my life.”
- Marcella for Dvaita, November 2022: “We can experience a love unlike any other when we believe in Jesus. Nothing is more powerful and profound than God’s love.” Also lists “personal faith or experiences” as reasons for some people to believe in Christianity.
But don’t you dare suggest that not feeling Jesus-zapped implies that Christianity is false. That’s when you can’t trust your feelings at all!
Terrible Reason to Believe #2: Circular reasoning
Non-believers often accuse Christians of using circular reasoning. And it’s true. They do, all the time.
It’s hilarious to see how many of these Christians try to use the Bible to demonstrate that the Bible’s claims are trustworthy. The sheer circularity of that thinking sends my ribs into upper orbit. Why not use the Harry Potter books to demonstrate that Hogwarts is real? Or Spider-Man comics to demonstrate that the Marvel universe is totes for realsies?
The moment Christians start quoting Bible verses in a post about good reasons to believe their religious claims, the discussion is over. They’ve already lost. Yes, of course their ancient book of compiled myths and legends is going to be fairly cohesive within its own bubble (though even that’s not a given). Once we leave that bubble, however, we realize just how unreliable it really is.
Unfortunately, most Christians think the Bible provides plenty of reasons to believe in Christianity:
- Bible Keeper, March 2023: “From Exodus until the arrival of the Messiah, the God of the Bible bases His arguments on real-world events. Anybody who rejects the claims may verify the facts by visiting real places and speaking with real individuals.”
- Christ Win, Unknown Date: Except for the last one, the entire 10 reasons derive from Bible verses. In the last reason, the writer simply asserts that Yahweh/Jesus always keeps his promises. Sure he does. [JLaw_thumbs_up.gif]
- James Choi, Unknown Date: Dude’s a finance professor, but he still seriously leans on Bible verses to PROVE YES PROVE that Jesus rose from the dead. Sorry, my dude. The Bible provides the claim. It cannot also provide the evidence supporting the claim. That comes from contemporary extrabiblical sources, of which there are absolutely none.
- Focus on the Family, May 2020: This podcast guest is a Gish Galloper. Eventually, he starts to get to the point. And his point is that the Bible contains the literal words of a literal god. Therefore, Jesus is totes for realsies and so is Christianity. Dude also mistakenly thinks the Old Testament foretold Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
- Pastor Chuck DeVane, July 2020: His #1 reason to believe appears to be the same misappropriated Old Testament pseudo-prophecies about Jesus being the Messiah. Weird how actual Jews don’t think that, isn’t it?
Old-timers in the Skept-o-Sphere might be reminded here of the infamous 2007 Rational Response Squad’s debate with Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. Beforehand, Cameron and Comfort had sworn up and down that they could totally PROVE YES PROVE that Christianity was true without using the Bible or referring back to their own faith. That’s the entire reason that their opponents agreed to a debate in the first place. But it turned out that they actually couldn’t.
Terrible Reason to Believe #1: Hell
Almost every source consulted on the topic of “best reasons to believe in Jesus” mentions Hell. This “reason” might be couched as a direct threat, as it is in that July 2020 op-ed by pastor Chuck DeVane:
Believe in Jesus because He is the only way to Heaven. [. . .] Pharisees and Sadducees do not go to Heaven. Unbelievers do not go to Heaven. Adherents of alternative or false religions other than true Christianity do not go to Heaven. Rejecters of religion altogether do not go to Heaven. Good people who ignore the good news, or gospel, of Jesus Christ do not go to Heaven. The only people who can follow Jesus into Heaven are those who follow Him on earth in true repentance and genuine faith. This is why you should believe in Him!
Mommy-blogger Barbara Austin even makes this threat her front-and-center first reason to believe in the same nonsense she does:
I first WANTED to believe in Jesus, because I was afraid of going to hell.
Selfish, I know, but it was a great motivation! I had grown up in the church, and I knew that if Christianity were true, I definitely wanted to do whatever necessary to end up in heaven and not hell.
It’s nice when Hell-believing Christians reveal that fear and terror are their main motivations for buying into a false belief system like Christianity. Of course, we already knew that. Its sheer power to coerce is why Hell exists as a doctrine.
Luckily for Barbara, the very religion she grew up in turned out to be the one religion out of tens of thousands in humanity’s history to accurately describe the divine! Dang! What are the chances, right? Reminds me of that ancient story from The Onion about two small-town teenagers realizing that their fated, predestined soulmates are right in front of them!
Of note, some Christians try to reframe Hell as a promise of Heaven instead. It fools nobody. This is simply cowardly, dishonest sleight of hand.
A place where there’s no there, there
Remember, this odyssey began when I asked Google for the very best reasons to believe in Jesus. This is the place where Christians need to bring their strongest game, their best answers, their wisest replies. And what we get is bullshit: false claims about science and miracles, threats, subjective feelings, and logical fallacies.
When it comes to Christianity, there’s no there, there.
That saying first came from Gertrude Stein, by the way. She was a celebrated writer (and fine dining enjoyer, and lesbian!) who died in 1946. She meant that the home she’d been born in no longer existed. That house was no more. It was gone. If she ever tried to visit it, she’d only find that everything was different. So yes, like in Grosse Pointe Blank when Marty tries to visit his mom, only to discover that his family home is now a convenience store:
I’ve been with someone who discovered the hard way that their childhood home no longer existed. Me, I moved a lot as a child, so it doesn’t hit me quite so hard. But I’ve felt tinges of it, like when I look at the high-rise condos that dominate the skyline where my parents’ humble rented shack in Honolulu once stood. There’s this incredible feeling of disorientation. You’re a balloon with the string cut, and now you’re just free-wheeling into the sky with no landing in sight.
That sight tells you:
Your story is gone. A new story is being written there. One day, that story will be gone. The day after, a newer one still will be getting written. (Ohh, the verb tenses there make me all giddy. Hope I got them right!)
That’s how I look at the Christians we discussed today. They’re trying to explain why they believe in something that isn’t really there. Of course they’re going to sound anywhere from ridiculous to wheedling to threatening. Of course they’re not going to make any real sense.
In a very real way, they’re trying to persuade themselves that there is a there, there. And since there isn’t a there, there, they must resort to all of these terrible reasons. If they add enough of them up together, the result still won’t be believable to anyone who is not already tilted toward conversion and belief.
But next time, I’m gonna show you the hands-down worst listicle of reasons to believe that I’ve seen lately. It was so awesomely horrible that it deserves its own guest star appearance.
How you can support Roll to Disbelieve
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being part of our community!
And now, here are some ways you can support my work:
- Patreon, of course, for as little as $2 a month! I now write Patreon posts twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with patrons getting early access 3 days ahead of time.
- Paypal, for direct one-time gifts. To do this, go to paypal.com, then go to the personal tab and say you want to send money, then enter firstname.lastname@example.org (that’s an underscore between the words) as the recipient. It won’t show me your personal information, only whatever email you input.
- My Amazon affiliate link, for folks who shop at Amazon. Just follow the link, then do your shopping as normal within that same browser window. This link adds nothing to your Amazon bill, but it does send me a little commission for whatever you spend there.
- And as always, sharing the links to my work and talking about it!
Thank you so much for being a part of Roll to Disbelieve!