As the release of my book soon approaches, I’ve meant to discuss the issue of belief and what it takes before that belief is considered a rational one. Though this post will extend only as far as the God debate, reason could be applied to other kinds of beliefs which often regard the supernatural, paranormal, or conspiratorial. When one is in doubt of any claim, approaching the said claim from a non-subjective, skeptical standpoint can decrease ones gullibility, keeping the person from suffering anxiety, financial burden, and often times their health and livelihood. I press anyone to present a good reason why it isn’t in someone’s best interest to think a bit more critically about unsubstantiated claims. Thinking is good, but thinking clearly is better.
So what about the God claim must we think more rationally about? Almost everything, I am sorry to say. Let me use Christianity as the example for the post. Let’s say: If one dissects the Bible, sifting through the songs, poems, and parables, certain substantially viable claims are made. I will list a few below:
1. An eternal God is the architect and creator of all animate and inanimate matter, and he did so in six consecutive days.
2. A massive flood devastated land and life, covering the world completely.
3. A man (Jesus Christ) was born of a virgin, performed miracles, died and rose to life.
These included are, without a doubt, reasonable to believe. But does good reason exist for one to believe them? Do scientific and historical data reinforce these claims? This is an important key to cracking the puzzle that these Biblical claims present.
I could say, “I have seen a pink unicorn that feeds on four-leaf clovers.” This claim is reasonable or unreasonable. You ask, “Can I see it?” and I reply, “Not until you devote your life to praising it. After that, of course.” This pink unicorn could exist, and it might be factual to believe you can only see it after a devoted life of wooing it.
But how should one go about determining whether it is unreasonable? Can the existence of this unicorn be actively demonstrated and repeated without a positive confirmatory consideration? No. Does anything in the fossil record suggest that a single-horned horse ever lived? No. Though these answers do not blatantly suggest its absolute non-existence, these two questions bring some of the errors to light. They show that what I told you about the unicorn doesn’t seem to have the support to back the first claim. So, it is reasonable to not believe that what I’ve suggested is true. These deductions are used when testing the veracity of the previous Biblical claims I presented.
1. An eternal God is the architect and creator of all animate and inanimate matter, and he did so in six consecutive days. This is absolutely demonstrated to a point that could suggest truthfulness. But, it doesn’t. The evidence for evolution is staggering, and to believe in the singular-creation hypothesis one has to credibly discount the theory of evolution; this has yet be accomplished, though many have tried and failed. Again, if the one stating the claim cannot accurately prove that their positive claim is true, it is reasonable to discount it. Evidence against the Biblical claim about the creation of the universe is also in abundance. Scientists understand the most basic elements that make up the universe, they understand how these interact with one another, and how long they last. It is a fact that the evidence points toward the age of the universe being almost 14 billion years, Earths being 3.7 billion. In no way was this a fast process.
2. A massive flood devastated land and life, covering the world completely. Paleontologists and geologists have an incredible understanding of the sedimentary layering of Earth’s crust, thus they are well-equipped at identifying ancient water levels. It has never been the case that all the world’s geologists universally said, “Yes, there was a massive flood, and it encompassed the globe sometime between 10,000 to 6,000 years ago.” Importantly, it should be acknowledged that many cultures hold dear ancient stories about a massive flood, sometimes not encompassing the globe entirely. To be a Christian, one would have to definitively show how all other culture’s claims are wrong and how theirs is correct. The odds are incredibly against any monotheist that says, “No. All those other cultures were wrong. Yes, the global-flood idea has existed for thousands of years but throughout that time, my religion, and its doctrine, has gotten the story 100% right without an ounce of error, even holding strong throughout time as the manuscripts had been translated from one language to another language.” What an arrogant thing to believe.
3. A man (Jesus Christ) was born of a virgin, performed miracles, died and rose to life. This one focuses more on spiritual intervention and not physical interaction. According to the Christian faith, you must blindly believe in God to assume these as true. These could have happened, and a god could have assisted in the completion, but can one reasonably believe this as the case? We know how female humans become pregnant, we know the physical properties of liquid water, and we know what happens to the brain after someone dies; all of which would show these are immensely improbable happenings. If a ration person were to approach this story without knowledge of God, they would cast such claims aside and carry on with their lives. Understand that a healthy amount of confirmation bias (a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs) is required to believe this foolishness. If you begin with the preconceived notion that Jesus was a living God, nothing that’s explained of Jesus’ nature will ever seem impossible. That is certainly an unreasonable stance to take.
Before considering religious claims as fact, think about whether they align with what is known about the natural universe or not. Think about God, and if he were to exist, and if he was an all-good god, would he have allowed his story-tellers do so in such blatantly and unknowingly untruthfulness? If it’s written in any holy book that God asks one to believe in him without hesitation, I say do not do so. That hesitation is what will keep one free from the Bronze Age, silly beliefs of our ancient ancestors; and by doing so one can live a much more fruitful, enjoyable life.