Dear Mr Johnson,
The evidence you proposed, as far as I understood it, was that it is more conceivable that Jesus rose from the dead than that certain people chose to follow the teachings of Jesus through persecution and to their eventual deaths. I must admit that although this seemed an absurd argument to me at first, I have thought about it quite considerably and I dismissed it less lightly than I did originally. Haven’t many people been willing to die for other faiths and beliefs, this doesn’t prove that their beliefs were correct. What other evidence proves that Christianity is the true faith or indeed that there is a creator at all?
If it is true that Jesus performed all these miracles and if I witnessed them then maybe I would believe too. However the only reason for believing this is based on scripture, which is part of Christianity and christian writings. There is no impartiality there, nothing to prove that stories weren’t embellished or even made up. I am sometimes confronted by stubborn and ignorant people who claim that there is no evidence for evolution because I haven’t seen evolution occur, in a sense I’m not there as it Happened and yet these same people expect me to believe something on the basis of a testament from witnesses far removed from myself.
Is Christianity more rational than Judaism, or Islam?
I am also surprised by your views about science and religion, I wouldn’t argue that there can be an intelligent conversation about faith and god within the context of religion, but it is a self contained system (like having a debate within the lord of the rings universe). That doesn’t mean that nothing can be gained from religious debate, especially when it comes to understanding between different beliefs and exploring one’s own beliefs.
You seem to think that we shouldn’t separate faith and science, but we have to because there are many faiths but only one science. As much as religion can be rationalized it must still have certain elements of faith, the only faith that science requires is a faith in the scientific method to yield results and you wouldn’t argue with that would you?
Finally I notice you class atheism as a religion and I can agree that it is a faith in a sense because you have made a decision on what to believe (although it isn’t a religion in that it isn’t an organized set of laws by which to lead your life). What is your view on agnostics? In my opinion science is more akin to being agnostic, taking the view that we cannot form definite opinions on a subject where evidence is too thin.
Here is my response:
for your email. I’m afraid I don’t have time to give you as full an
answer as I would like, but I would like to address a few of your
>>Haven’t many people been willing to die for
other faiths and beliefs, this doesn’t prove that their beliefs were
it is true that many people have died for their faith, you will be hard
pressed to find any that have died knowing that their faith is false.
People will die for something they believe to be true (although it may
not in fact be true); they will not die for something they have made up
and therefore know to be false. This is the charge laid against the
apostles, that they made up the story and then went to their deaths
defending it. This idea is especially spurious considering they had so
little to gain from perpetrating this myth. It is one thing for a cult
leader to make up a story to gain money and fame and sex or whatever
and then get persecuted and possibly killed for it, as he or she had
plenty to gain from the deception. It is quite another to make up
something that caused you to lose everything – jobs, family, prestige –
and then hold on to it, even in the face of death.
For more on this, please see this post (there
is also an audio file at the end of it) of a presentation I did at a
local university, and as far as general evidences for the truth of
Christianity, let me summarize by saying it offers more rational and
evidentially supported answers to every big question of life (How did
we get here?, Why is there evil in the world? How does one explain
consciousness?, How does one explain conscience? What happens when we
die?, etc) than any other worldview. There are a few links for further
exploration on the right hand side of [this blog].
>>If it is true that Jesus performed all these miracles and if I witnessed them
then maybe I would believe too. However the only reason for believing
this is based on scripture, which is part of Christianity and Christian
writings. There is no impartiality there, nothing to prove that stories weren’t embellished or even made up.<<
doesn’t make sense to say that the historical written accounts of Jesus
are partial or embellished or made up just because they make
up what we now refer to as scripture and are part of the Christian
tradition. That is like saying the Declaration of Independence is not a
valid, impartial historical document because it is so revered among
Americans and is such a large part of the American tradition. The fact
is that these documents became revered because of their validity and
strength as documents – they were not and are not considered strong
historical documents because they were revered.
is a good opportunity to point out an important distinction between
Christianity and other religions like Mormonism and Islam. Mormons and
Muslims are told to believe their "holy" books because they are holy.
The Koran and Book of Mormon are revered first as the very words of God
handed down to his supposed prophets and only after that are they
accepted as true historical documents. There is no outside test for
their validity –
it simply must be accepted on blind faith that these books are from
God and that any claims made within them are true. Any questioning of
their authority is seen as a lack of faith.
on the other hand, says believe the words of scripture not on blind
faith but because we have tested them and found them to be accurate
historical documents. Because they are accurate historical documents
that tell of a man claiming to be God and backing up that claim by
doing miracles and rising from the dead, you can revere them (to a
certain extent – I say revere, not worship) and place them in the canon
of scripture. Many documents were purported to be scripture in the
early days of Christianity but were excluded because their historical
claims were spurious. The same testing system never applied to Islam or
>>Is Christianity more rational than Judaism, or Islam?<<
rational than Islam, certainly, and not just for the reasons I just
mentioned. Islam is a fideistic religion – it does not accept the
premise that reason or evidence should be used to support its truth
claims. Those claims simply must be taken on blind trust. Christianity
abhors that idea. As for Judaism, it is the foundation of Christianity
and I would say it is a rational religion. I just wish they would look
more closely at the evidence for Jesus being the messiah they are
seem to think that we shouldn’t separate faith and science, but we have
to because there are many faiths but only one science. As much as
religion can be rationalized it must still have certain elements of
faith, the only faith that science requires is a faith in the
scientific method to yield
results and you wouldn’t argue with that would you?>>
have a lot of presuppositions packed in that paragraph and I may have
to write more extensively about the various implicit and explicit
points you make when I have more time. For now let me state that when I
say we shouldn’t separate faith and science, (and I’m not sure I would
use those exact words, although I certainly may have) I mean that
reason, the scientific method (that of testing certain facets of the
natural world) and ‘religious" worldviews should not be in conflict. There is only on objective truth regarding the nature of reality so claims regarding that truth should stand up to scrutiny
in any discipline of knowledge. Truth that we discover using the
scientific method should match up with truth discovered through reasoning as
well as truth revealed from prophets, etc. If claims made by any of
them are in conflict, at least one of them must be wrong.
who would separate these categories and make them mutually exclusive
tend to put exactly too much blind ‘faith" in empiricism and, more
often than not, philosophical naturalism. They assume (based on no
evidence or rational argument) that knowledge gained through the
scientific method is superior than knowledge gained through other means
and (more often than not) that any truth claims regarding the
supernatural must be dismissed because matter is all there is, anyway. This
is a blatantly untestable, unscientific, unempirical, religious claim,
by the way, which leads me to your point about atheism not being a
may be right if you use a sociological definition which talks about
rites and rituals and such (although some would dispute that, given the
way the stringent orthodoxy of atheism is enforced and celebrated in,
say, many university systems.) However, if you define religion as
simply certain beliefs held about eh nature of reality (a worldview),
then of course atheism is a religion.
for agnosticism, I would say that everyone has made a choice to believe
something and have used certain criteria to justify that choice.
Everyone lives according to certain definite opinions, even if that
definite opinion is "I’ll live like I want for now and decide about the
various religions later in life" All you are saying is, ‘I definitely
don’t live by them right now", which is not agnostic at all. In that
sense, there are no true agnostics.
Thanks again for writing,