The process of what causes someone to believe or disbelieve in God and other supernatural claims is a fascinating subject to me. Every one of us would like to think that what we believe is objective, logical, and supported by the best evidence, right? My contention is that very rarely is anyone led into belief in a supernatural creator by reason and logic alone.
For the overwhelming majority of individuals faith is passed on by one’s parents as well as by individuals that appear to have some authority and credentials on the subject. My challenge to those who espouse faith in a supernatural God is this: Let us imagine that someone is born into an environment that does not have access to a Bible, or any holy book for that matter. Not only that, but this person’s family and geographical society has also never learned about any supernatural God within their lifetimes. It is a society without any concept of God.
What are the chances that this individual or group of individuals is going to come to the same conclusions that are advocated in the Bible or even the Koran apart from human intervention? Some folks will assert that surely a supernatural God would or could reveal Himself to these geographically godless individuals. The best evidence that I can present to counter this is the vast diversity of religious belief that spans our planet.
Is it more likely that all of these religions have received a true revelation from God, or that primitive superstition is the main driving force? Not all of these individual claims of either one or many gods can be correct, right? If only one view is correct, how would one even begin to validate one faith based claim over thousands and thousands of others? The problem of unsubstantiated belief is not a small one and it is important to realize that faith based claims are altogether eroding in light of scientific fact and discovery.
In a later post I plan to discuss the evidences for evolution and how it is driven by natural selection and gene mutation. Though there are many people who embrace evolution in conjunction to their faith I will attempt to demonstrate why life arising by natural means is without a need for a supernatural creator. It seems that a Naturalistic view of the world is the most consistent with reality.
So why did I personally invest ten years of my life into believing in the God of Evangelical Christianity? Ultimately, it is because it was the most exciting and seemingly life transforming worldview to hold at the time. It wasn’t based on hard evidence or a desire to look deeply into the best criticisms of religion and the Bible. There was another factor that also deeply affected my belief and gave me false confidence for many years. It was the influence of teachers that encouraged me to believe in supernatural revelation and gifts that I could receive directly from God.
To any new believer this can be a very exciting journey to begin! A God that wants to speak to me directly? A God whose presence I cannot deny? The creator of the universe wants to live in my heart and empower me to make a difference in the world? After a few months of joining this small church on the outside of town I thought I was on the verge changing the world through championing the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever I went.
There seemed to be clear signs that God was working in my life. I remember a time shortly after my conversion at an evening prayer meeting where about fifteen people surrounded me after I requested prayer for God to empower me to be a witness to the kids at my local high school. I was inspired by this passage in Acts 1:8 where Jesus said, “And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” It presented a vision of God empowering every believer to spread the good news with His powerful hand being behind it all. Who wouldn’t want to be part of such a mission?
What affected me most about this moment was the powerful emotional experience that ensued as this group of loving people surrounded me in prayerful intercession. I felt a pleasant almost electrical energy wash over me from the top of my head and going down to my toes. It was like a wave of power and love and comfort. It brought me to tears. I thought this was the very presence of God himself uniting with my spirit to change the world. My life was seemingly forever changed by a very real God intersecting into my life and calling me to be one who would herald this message of hope to everyone I could!
Over the years I had many similar experiences that all seemed to confirm the reality of Jesus living in my heart and guiding me to go into the ministry of preaching and teaching. Eventually I would realize what a monumental mistake it was to count these subjective experiences as somehow being evidence of God’s presence in my life. These experiences were never accompanied by a voice, a vision, or any objective evidence of any kind that God was actually there. I simply felt for a very long time that it was so. I even called it undeniable proof.
It was a combination of my own life experiences and the stories of many others that would finally bring me to question my confidence. For instance, I came to realize that many religious and nonreligious people have had the same kind of experiences through practicing meditation. It is the very fact that such phenomena is common to human experience that has diminished my belief in special revelation. People have times of spiritual ecstasy at rock concerts, sporting events, religious ceremonies, and even during a romantic scene in a movie. It’s just part of being human!
All of this paired with the reality that miracles do not actually happen served to bring me out of the delusion of the Charismatic movement that is sweeping across America. I’ll be honest, I held on for a year or so longer to Christianity after I moved away from subjective explanations. I thought that Christian Apologetics upheld the divine inspiration of the Bible and the miracles of Jesus being legitimate in light of the evidence. It turns out that all of the best evidence that can be given demands us to just have faith.
I am here to express that to just have faith is not good enough! It shouldn’t be for any reasonable person. If there is a God then He has done a terrible job at making the truth easily discernable and a phenomenal job at keeping Himself hidden and vague. Without thousands of years of tradition doing the interpreting of the Bible, this book in and of itself is extremely vague about the nature of God, His will, and His purpose for humanity. Even in light of tradition there exists many irreconcilable divisions within Christianity as to what constitutes as orthodox teaching.
It is these kinds of inconsistencies that bear the hallmarks of it being a religion wholly contrived by people. Just like all other religions in the world. These are primitive beliefs about how to explain the universe and our existence. I personally think that we no longer have to be so naïve. May we remain open minded about wherever the truth may lead. It is religious dogma that impedes thoughtful discovery and moral progress. Many things are immoral Biblically simply because God said so, not because there is any objective evidence to justify these claims.
Bertrand Russell had it right when he said, “Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes….A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.”