hen I was a Christian it seemed like everything I saw pointed to the truth of god’s existence. I had the Bible, my parents’ word, my Sunday School teachers and preachers, any number of books and pamphlets, and nature itself bolstering my faith. I felt like I had good reason to believe what I did and I didn’t even have to look for evidence: everything was evidence!
That is, until I actually started examining my beliefs and my reasons for holding them. What I found was not that the evidence for god was strong, but that I was willing to accept pretty much anything as evidence so long as it adhered to my preconceptions. Those things that didn’t conform to my beliefs were simply ignored without any thought at all.
This is how belief in the supernatural is perpetuated. Not with strong, tangible evidence but with anecdotes and appeals to authority that agree with a predetermined system. If your parents, teachers, preachers or old, dusty book says it’s true then it’s got to be true, right? Right! However, here’s where things get a little bit weird. Christians may not be big on evidence for their own beliefs but they are very big on evidence when it comes to scientific theories that even remotely seem to be in conflict with their beliefs.
I’m not saying scientific theories shouldn’t be held to a high standard. Even scientists try on a daily basis to destroy assumptions and hypotheses but they also recognize that theories, as they exist in a scientific context, are as good as established fact. So the problem isn’t that Christians demand evidence for scientific theories, it’s that they demand more in the way of evidence than could ever be provided to them while proudly proclaiming that their belief is evidence enough that their belief is true. It’s massively hypocritical.
Most Christians don’t doubt the theory of gravity, cell theory, germ theory, or the theory of relativity. These are fairly innocuous and don’t really call into question the things they hold dear. What happens, though, when you start talking about the Big Bang Theory, Abiogenesis, or the Theory of Evolution? All of the sudden the observable, factual basis for these theories is no longer enough. It’s not because these theories don’t have enough basis, don’t make enough sense, or don’t explain well enough the natural processes they describe. It’s because these theories fly in the face of religious beliefs based on fantastical accounts in holy books. Suddenly you’re confronted with rabid believers shouting, “IT’S JUST A THEORY” in your face. The fact is, these people don’t understand what a theory is past the colloquial usage, like when Farmer Bob says, “I have a theory why my cows are facing West. It’s because the wind keeps their farts from blowing in their faces.” That’s not a theory, folks.
Scientific theories are based on evidence, and lots of it. Before any hypothesis can earn the right to be called a theory it undergoes a brutal, relentless attack by scientists around the world who try to rip it to shreds. It’s not like Dr. Smith can say, “I think the sun is, like, 400 degrees” and every other scientist will just nod their heads and say, “You know, I think he’s right. Let’s publish that!” It doesn’t matter if the theory in question agrees or disagrees with religious belief, the process is the same. That makes science the most reliable, descriptive tool we have to determine the nature of reality.
Compare this with religious belief and you see that the difference is even more striking than night and day. Religious belief is all about faith. The Bible’s definition of faith is, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 – emphasis mine)” This means that faith (or trust) can be used as “evidence” for anything you want to believe. It can form the basis for the things you’ve already made up your mind are true without ever having subjected them to any kind of scrutiny. This means you can keep the bar set really, really low for evidence when it comes to things you want to believe and you can keep the bar really, really (unrealistically) high for things you don’t. That’s why it’s so much easier to go with the flow and be a Christian than to stand against blind faith and demand that all of your beliefs (not just some) are based on evidence, reason, and sound logic.
I choose the latter, regardless of how difficult it may be going against the grain at times. I choose to live my life enlightened by reason and logic. It’s encouraging to see that more and more people are choosing to do the same.