Objection #8: I Still Have Doubts, So I Can't Be A Christian (2001)

(Interview w/ Lynn Anderson, D.MIN)

Kyle J. Gerkin

 

This is perhaps the weakest objection of all. Since Christians often seem so damn sure of themselves, I can see where an outsider might think that doubters need not apply. However, any rational person realizes that there is no such thing as absolute certainty, and simple, doubt-free faith is not to be admired: it is unsophisticated and blind. The real measure of whether something can be considered true or not relies on the preponderance of evidence. Is the evidence sufficient to justify the conclusion?

The previous seven chapters of The Case For Faith have attempted to argue that the positions of Conservative Christianity are justified. But are they justified by the evidence? We can't tell from this book, because it's approach lies not in the presentation of evidence, but in the refutation of objections. Apologetics does not equal evidence. Yet have the objections at least been adequately dealt with? As this critique makes clear, the answer is a resounding "No." And here is the crux of the issue: Can I have doubts and still be a Christian? Yes. Can I have doubts of the severity and grandness of scope actually warranted by Christianity and still be a Christian? No.

The Roots of Doubt
Anderson discusses doubts he had early in life (228-30).

Problems:
Anderson says he suppressed a lot of doubts because, "...I had an enormous need to be loved and accepted and have status in that believing community. I was scared that they'd think I was bad, they'd be angry, they'd think my parents were spiritual failures. I was afraid my parents would be disappointed or ashamed" (229). I think it telling that Anderson concedes fear was a prime factor in keeping the faith. As the late, great Bertrand Russell once 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. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand. [19]

What Faith Isn't
Anderson alleges that faith is not to be equated with religious fervor or the absence of doubt (232-4).

Problems:
It's nice that Anderson wants to tell us what faith is not, yet, I can't help but think that it would be better for all concerned if he had started out by telling us what faith is. After all, has anyone ever heard a solid definition of faith? Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," or as Mark Twain more accurately translates it, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

Delving Beneath The Surface
Anderson points to several cases where supposed "intellectual" doubts were masking other reasons for unbelief (234-6).

Problems:
I'm sure there are cases where people harbor unbelief in order to avoid moral strictures that might put a cramp in their lifestyle (or for various other invalid psychological reasons). But Anderson says, "I personally think all unbelief ultimately has some other [than intellectual] underlying reason" (234). This is going too far. The whole idea is predicated upon the idea that unbelievers are leading some sort of immoral lifestyle. But there is no reason to suppose that unbelievers, even according to a Christian system of ethics (discounting the mere sin of unbelief) are less moral than Christians. The evidence proves the point: see the Secular Web library on Morality and Atheism.

Indeed, a conversion to belief would not require a radical lifestyle change for many unbelievers. I will use myself as an example. Measured against a system of fairly strict Christian morality: I do not drink, smoke, or use drugs, I do not steal, I do not lie, I do not cheat on my wife, I am passive and I try to be reasonably kind to friends and strangers alike. In fact, if I were to become Christian, the only real changes I would need to make are to attend church, and eliminate blasphemy from my speech. I don't think I'm holding out for those reasons. The truth is that Christianity is rife with intellectual pitfalls. There are innumerable cerebral reasons for unbelief. Besides, I could easily counter Anderson by claiming that all belief ultimately has some other, illegitimate underlying reason. Given that unbelief is far more frowned upon and socially punished than belief, and given that unbelief requires far more effort at investigation and thought, we should actually expect belief to exist for the wrong reasons far more often than unbelief.

The Decision To Believe
Anderson uses Abraham and Jesus to exemplify the idea of "deciding to believe," and talks about the difference between faith and knowledge (236-8).

Problems:
Anderson notes that "...one definition of faith is that it's the will to believe" (236). The unspoken but implied appendage to this sentence is "in spite of an absence of evidence." After all, if there were a wealth of evidence at hand, how much will would one need to believe? Regarding John 12:37, Anderson remarks that the Jews, "made a decision of the will to deny the message of the miracles...because they wouldn't pay the price, which would be their whole religious system being blown out of the water" (237). Admittedly then, it is a common human trait to stubbornly cling to an outmoded religious system despite evidence to the contrary. Could this not explain some religious people's insistence upon knowledge of the truth (especially creationists) despite overwhelming opposing evidence? Anderson defines knowledge as empirically verifiable, while faith is not. Speaking of empirical evidence, he says, "God, for his own reasons, has not subjected himself to that kind of proof" (238). Why? For his own reasons. In other words, Anderson can't think of a single good reason why an all powerful God would choose to play hide and seek with his subjects. So he employs a classic cop out, which actually erodes the rationality of Christian faith, as is shown in the Secular Web library on Arguments from Divine Hiddenness and Nonbelief.

Dealing With Doubt
Anderson talks about dealing with (aka white-washing) doubt (238-40).

Problems:
We have another telling admission when it is stated that in order for people to ease doubts, "...initially they need to decide whether or not they really want to believe" (238). Notice the emphasis is not placed on what is true or false, but rather on what people want to believe. This is pure solipsism.

The Faith Experiment
Anderson contends that the best way to determine Christianity's truth is to dive in and experience it (240-1).

Problems:
Aside from personal experience being a poor measure of truth, we must consider the flipside to Anderson's suggestion. If one should make an attempt to experience Christianity in order to validate (or invalidate) it, shouldn't one extend the same courtesy to other world views? Does Anderson encourage people to try out the faith experiment as a Hindu or a Buddhist? How about experiencing life without the God crutch - as an atheist? Or better yet, as a sincere Secular Humanist?

Faith As A Verb
Anderson says to hell with intellectualism, personal experience is where it's at (241-3).

Problems:
The true nature of Anderson's case is revealed as he admits, "I don't care how many intellectual questions you have about why this can't be true" (241). For Anderson, personal faith is paramount. But it's also completely subjective and serves as absolutely no basis for anyone else to draw conclusions from, including the readers of this book. See the Secular Web's library on Faith and Reason.

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