I have written on the nature of the Christian Faith in an earlier post as well as responded to a misrepresentation of it by Aron Ra. The question is, why does this myth persist that religious people, most often Christians, are accused of having a blind faith? Given the fact that atheists love to use the definition of “faith” as “believing without evidence”, attaching the adjective “blind” would seem to be engaging in a tautology.
Earlier, I interacted with the de-conversion story of Suze Ambs, and I mentioned that her blog had some interesting posts on it that needed to be looked at, and this one seems to fit the bill. Titled, “Why is Blind Faith Encouraged”, I thought it might be worth parousing.
People sometimes ask, ‘Why doesn’t God/Jesus just shout down from the sky, or make himself clear directly?’
Well, there’s the problem: she assumes that God has not made himself clear. The problem is that is simply not the case:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20, ESV)
The apostle’s point is pretty clear: God has revealed himself sufficiently in the things that he has made for man, in his natural and unredeemed state, to be held accountable for any actions taken contrary to such revelation. Even the most hardened atheist expects to be treated with kindness and respect, immediately recoiling and complaining if he or she isn’t. The question is, why? It cannot be attributed to any material feature because honor and dignity are not material constructs but are immaterial, non-physical qualities. To argue that you are owed something that is metaphysical because of a physical quality is simply absurd. The question that Suze is asking, only makes sense if God has previously and unquestionably made himself known, something that she eludes to in the rest of her opening paragraph, where she writes,
I mean, he certainly didn’t have a problem doing that for the Israelites, right? According to the Bible, he was quite happy to prove himself by appearing as a great pillar of smoke by day that turned into a pillar of fire by night, leading the people. I guess in those days, this god didn’t require people to just ‘have faith’ that Moses’s claims were true.
I’m going to guess that she missed the fact that in spite of seeing those things, people still broke faith and suffered because of it, such as with the golden calf and Korah’s rebellion. I mean…with some people, I guess seeing isn’t believing.
But having missed key elements in the biblical text that refute her, Suze persists,
Since that time, God hasn’t shown up like like that. (When the above is understood as divine mythology, there is nothing to reconcile.) But the question for believers is, why doesn’t he do that now? Has he has a personality change and gone shy?
Hasn’t “shown up like that”? What does that even mean? It’s like she hasn’t even opened the Bible and seen that there are lots of theophanies (such as here and here) that follows those events and proceed up until the greatest when the Son of God made his presence known. It’s as if these people want to impose on God. God isn’t obligated to these people; they are obligated to him.
Suze employs bold type,
‘Because we have to have faith!’ is the shut-up-and-leave-me-alone answer. In religion, faith is always the answer. It has to be. God must want the credulous, the gullible and the irrational.
Yes. We must have believing loyalty. It’s not about being “credulous” or “gullible” or “irrational”, it’s about loyalty.
Suze rolls out the canned argument,
Seriously, please pause with me for a minute. Ask yourself if it’s sensible to believe a story told to you, without asking for objective evidence.
What exactly does she mean by “objective evidence”? I’ve been down this road with Neil Carter and it’s got nothing to do with the evidence as much as the rejection and suppression of evidence. She continues,
If I told you there was a unicorn in my garden, would you just believe me, or would you want to see it?
That would, of course, depend entirely on what she means by “unicorn”. Suze’s error is much like the error of Aron Ra: there are underlying assumptions that she is not expressing in making her objection. I don’t know if Suze lives in a place where she could have a garden. I also don’t know what she means when she says that there’s a “unicorn” in her garden. Maybe she’s into those kitschy concrete sculptures and has bought one of something she describes as a unicorn and has placed it in her garden, or maybe she’s got a Rhinoceros unicornis out there. There’s a great deal of evidence that has to be considered before I can even begin to answer the question. This is why such arguments are, in fact, bad arguments.
Then she throws out this jewel,
It [the unicorn argument] would be pretty ridiculous for you to accept, and also particularly dangerous if I also said you’ll go to eternal torment if you don’t believe me.
Well, maybe if that was the actual argument, but straw man arguments are like that. What is the biblical argument? Simply put: you are under the wrath of God right now, therefore you should repent and believe in Christ.
Now, what does it mean to “believe in Christ”? It means that he gets your loyalty and you obey him. He is your king and his will becomes your will as you endeavor to reflect his goodness and love onto your fellow human beings. That command comes through the means that God has ordained to speak now, in this age, that being the Bible, which is for, “…for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.(2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)”
After giving a fairly accurate recounting of the story of Lazarus and the rich man from Luke 16 in which Abraham informs the rich man that a man rising from the dead is not enough to convince men to amend their ways and believe, Suze writes,
Can we stop an marvel at this statement? The author of Luke is saying that mysterious, ancient writings should be more convincing to people than seeing a dead man resurrected. This is designed to make people who don’t question their religion say: ‘Oh yes, our scriptures are very important’. It is not a statement that holds any logical truth whatsoever.
Alright, Jesus rose from the dead, why does she not believe? Is it because she didn’t see it or because she doesn’t want to believe it? Let’s just back up a step and look at the argument made by Abraham to the rich man.
Why is Abraham and Lazarus in paradise? We know why Abraham is there, Genesis 15:6 states it clearly, “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.(ESV)” Abraham’s believed what God said and lived in that belief, wavering a time or two, but culminating in what we see as a symbolic act, the offering of Isaac. Now, Abraham’s point is razor sharp, because it begs a question: why is the rich man where he is, in torment, and why is Lazarus where he is, at peace? It is because Lazarus believed based upon the Scriptures, the evidence that he had, while the rich man did not? Lazarus didn’t need a dead man come back to life to cause him to believe, God used the testimony of Scripture to move him to belief. These men had the same evidence and drew two different conclusions: one to eternal life and the other to an eternal death. If the rich man’s brothers don’t believe what—no, excuse me—who Lazarus believed, what on earth would cause them to believe Lazarus it he did rise from the dead?
Important takeaway for atheists: don’t use texts that refute your own argument.
Suze decides to challenge the sovereignty of God in salvation, writing,
The Bible also says that God is in control of who believes and who doesn’t, in which case, Jesus’ answer should have been: ‘No, I want them to go to this place of torment with you.’
Well, first, the text that she links to is about judgment, the hardening of pharoah’s heart to bring about judgment on Egypt, not salvation. Even being reformed in my soteriology, I would argue that God doesn’t desire to put anyone into hell, demonstrated by the facts of revelation both in the production and wide availability of the Scripture. The fact that there are men who reject the revelation of God outright testifies to their depravity, rebellion, and love of sin, as well as the need for regeneration. God’s constant and consistent call is to believe and obey because disbelief and disobedience bring about his wrath, which brings bout evil that God must punish. Suze simply isn’t helping her case, after all the pharaoh she mentions had works and wonders worked in his presence and hardened his heart first, and God simply obliged his impetuous attitude.
See also Why Do Some Believe?
She continues, employing the bold type once more,
Christianity completely cancels out its trustworthiness by claiming it’s the only way to get to heaven, but its particular God fails to confirm himself directly.
Um, hate to break this to her, but Christianity doesn’t claim that it is “the only way to heaven”, rather Christians claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation from the wrath of God and that he, being God in the Flesh, is the confirmation.
When it comes to the divine, people are mostly confused not rebellious.
Nope. If they were simply “confused” then they would self-correct when presented with the facts. No, they are self-deceived, suppressing the truth that is clearly evident to them because God has made himself clearly known.
The Christian claims turn life into a confused hustle that could end in something horrible, all orchestrated by a higher authority. Not vastly unlike the Hunger Games, really.
Um, what does God require of man?
What] does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, ESV)
I mean, seriously, God doesn’t make it hard to understand. He doesn’t go out and select a bunch of kids, place them in an arena and make them slug it out until there’s only one left standing. This is the level of nonsense that atheists have to stoop to. It’s an insult to anyone with half a brain. I mean, exactly what is “confusing” about doing justice, or loving kindness, or even walking humbly with God, especially when he has inspired men to tell us what those things look like? Hmmm.
Now, I will admit that there are a lot of people out there who will add a bunch of stuff to their Christianity that…well…I consider unnecessary, but as the Apostle Paul said,
[Let] us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13, ESV)
What I hear is Suze complaining that God’s simple demands, demands that Suze herself imposes on others, are simply too great for her to bear.
Suze, sort of, shifts writing,
Believing something amazing without amazing evidence is just asking for trouble.
Well, there’s the problem. “Amazement” is a subjective; it’s a personal, emotional state. What amazes one person, or group of people, might not amaze another. It’s not a something that you can objectively point to and say, “Because object ABC contains chemical XYZ it induces a state of “amazement” in experimental group 1 over and against our control group.” There is no moral requirement that you “be amazed” by something, but if you aren’t amazed by the absurdity of her statement, there might be something wrong with you.
Suze’ next statement is equally troubling,
Religions stress the importance of blind faith because it’s their oxygen. It’s what keeps religion alive.
To which she emphasizes the next sentence by using bold type,
Believing they must have blind faith is the genius (yet insidious) ingredient that ensures religion keeps its followers.
Let’s just ignore the broad brushing for a moment, and ask, why do Christians believe what we believe…oh…about the resurrection of Christ?
We believe in the resurrection of Christ based upon the testimony of the eyewitnesses who saw him raised from the dead. Now that—as a historical fact—has certain implications that are theological, philosophical, and moral in scope.
Now, and I’ve just been thinking as I write this, what an atheist means by “blind faith”. What they seem to mean is that we believe something that we haven’t seen with our own eyes. Never mind all of the other things that we believe that we haven’t seen, like our own birth, which we believe occurred, or that the Battle of New Orleans occurred in 1814, or that George Washington was the first president of the United States. None of those things have been seen by anyone born after they occurred. Obviously, you have to have been born, but you should see the point: that just because you haven’t personally seen some event that doesn’t mean that you are wrong for believing that it occurred or that there is meaning and purpose that can be derived from the event. Keep that in mind, simply as an act of an atheist making an arbitrary claim, and a place of inconsistency that destroys their argument. Also, keep in mind the fact that she has already issued a number of self-refutations so far in making her argument.
Just as a further observation, something that came to mind as I reflect on the argument that she’s attempting to make, especially by the use of the term “insidious” that she’s making a moral claim. Moral claims require a justification. To what is she appealing to say that there’s anything wrong with that?
I would like to ask some simple questions:
Is it wrong to encourage married people to be faithful to their partners?
Is it wrong to encourage friends to be loyal to one another?
These are all matters of faith.
Much of religion is indisputably illogical, unproven and has caused harm.
By what standard is it “illogical”? How is it “unproven”? And how has it “caused harm” and what standard are you going to appeal to in order to say that there’s anything wrong with that? This is simply a common blanket assertion used by atheists in an attempt to gaslight their opponents, not to mention the fact that it is a religious belief held in spite of evidence to the contrary. Talk about “blind faith”.
Her closing paragraph deserves to be read as a whole.
Thankfully, as the percentage of religious zealots declines, we are seeing a general increase in understanding, research, liberation, democracy, education, tolerance and peace. We have a long way to go yet. But the fact that my homeland now listens to its own intrinsic sense of rightness in priority over the Bible (and therefore no longer burns people of other denominations at the stake nor hangs homosexuals), is most encouraging. May reason prevail over faith.
Let’s be clear, religious “zealotry” is still there, it’s just that the religion has changed. Also, the fact that there is a greater state of peace has a variety of causes, one common point that is emphasized in the very source that she links to is the rise of nationalism. As societies go from disorganized, competing localities in competition to being organized, cooperating districts, then peace can ensue. Often what brings that about though—sociologically speaking—is a common religious thread. Now, she makes a number of claims right there at the end, one of which I’ve addressed here, but this is just not an argument, it’s a claim that she simply doesn’t prove, based upon blind faith in reason, in which people can reason themselves into committing the most heinous acts.