6/20/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Paul So ~
This may sound surprising to most of you but from my experience I came to the conclusion that Christianity, including many Christians, really do not care about the truth: what they do care about is that their beliefs are true. There is a difference between caring about the truth and caring that your personal beliefs are true. Caring about the truth involves practices and qualities that helps people uphold intellectual integrity and honesty to the standard or procedure of finding out the truth. When I say “finding out the truth” I am not saying we should reach absolute certainty or absolute knowledge, what I am trying to say is that we come to the produce reliable beliefs about the world as best as we can. We use logic, evidence, argumentation, mathematics, and other methods because they have played an indispensable role in helping us to produce reliable beliefs about the world. We know that “reliable” does not mean “absolutely true”, we just know that reliable means “most likely to be true” or “approximately true” based on the best considered evidences, arguments, reasons, and information. These beliefs are provisional and defeasible, meaning they can change so that we improve proximity of true beliefs as much as we can. We do this not because it has any practical benefits but rather there is something noble and intrinsic worth in doing so.
|Truth (Photo credit: d4vidbruce)|
By “treating truth politically” I simply mean that people justify a statement as true simply by appealing to the authority and tradition which the statement resonates with. In other words, they seek solid approval from tradition and authority in order to decide whether the statement is true rather than finding the evidences and reasons to support those statements. Approval is not evidence, but approval can be substantive because of evidence and arguments but many times people approve something for reasons other than good arguments and evidence; doesn’t that sound like politics? For example, hard-core Communists won’t accept that some degree of free-marketing is good since it produces more resources because it goes against what they approve to be good rather than evidences that supports what is beneficial for human beings. It’s like Catholics disapproving condoms because for them condoms goes against what they approve of which is procreation. In other words, it goes against the authority rather than against the evidence and cogent arguments that supports those things. Because people see authority and tradition as the legitimate figures that sustains their way of life they tend to rely on the approval of authority and tradition on what to believe in.
Additionally, by “treating truth politically” I also mean that people identify accepting the truth as pledging allegiance or loyalty to the community and authority. You guys know that accepting the truth is not the same as pledging allegiance or loyalty, they are very different from each other but from your experience you guys know that if you accept Christianity as the true religion then you are pledging loyalty to the community and authority; Christians do not separate these things, they unconsciously see them as the same thing but this is simply wrong: you can accept that the earth rotates around the sun without pledging any loyalty to anyone even to scientists. However, if you reject Christinity then now you are not loyal to the community but in a sense you are against the community. Instead of “Oh, I just disagree with your belies because I don’t think they are true” it is interpreted as “I am against you”. It is not taken lightly because they think that you ought to be loyal to their community, you ought to accept their beliefs.
By treating truth “socially”, first I mean to say that accepting the truth is the same thing as participating in the community as a member; In order to be a social member of a religion you have to accept what they believe; Christianity does not see the difference between accepting their truth and participating in the community as a member, they see it as the same. But if you reject their beliefs even with good intentions you are no longer part of their community, simple as that. Second, instead of appealing to evidence and facts to support statements Christianity focuses more on personal identity, values, and personal experiences that they think needs to be protected from anything that is contrary to those identities and values. It is not enough that you accept that there is a God and that Jesus resurrected but rather you have to become a Christian by taking those beliefs to be part of who you are in terms of what you do and what your attitude is. Because of this they do not think logically, they think mythically. Myths are important to many cultures and religions because it is so much part of their identity and values; when parents tell stories to their children they do more than just tell the stories they also mold their children’s values and identity; these myths aren’t just stories but rather they are potent stories with the power to mold people’s sense of self in terms of how they see themselves in relation to society and the world. But myths do not focus on how to determine whether the beliefs are true but rather assuming that the beliefs are true in order to initiate the formation of values which in turn helps develop the person’s identity to make them fit into a given society. So Christians do not think of the beliefs in terms of “true” or “false” but rather they assume that the beliefs are true and focus on the values and identity as well as appealing to them to support their beliefs.
Let me give you examples: Haven’t you guys noticed how Christians would call you arrogant for disagreeing with them? Why is that? It is not because you are disagreeing with them but rather because you are disagreeing with God, the king of all kings. You are disagreeing with an authority figure which to many Christian is wrong because the authority figure is perfect, to disagree with the authority figure is to suggest that you are better than the authority figure. This is also another reason why they call you blasphemous. But think about it: What does authority have to do with truth? Unless the authority has intellectual merits it has nothing to do with truth, but so far it isn’t even established if there is a God: it is presumed by the believers that there is a God but far from being established. But remember, Christians assume that God exists but they focus more on God’s authority rather than whether or not God exists. They ignore whether their fundamental assumptions are correct, but rather they focus on what values those assumptions give to them.
The main reason why I continue to reject Christianity is not because I’m an atheist but rather because I see that Christianity does not care about the truth: it only cares about values and identity transmitted through myths. Speaking of values, I’m sure you are familiar with creationism vs. evolution debate right? Well, in Jerry Coyne’s book “Why Evolution Is True” in the last chapter Coyne told a story on how he gave a presentation on the evidences supporting evolution. After the presentation one of the members of the audience said “You presented very strong evidence Professor Coyne but I do not believe in it” Coyne was puzzled and asked why, and the man suggested that evolution as emotional consequences that he cannot accept, namely that evolution does not explain where our values come from and how it justifies the Christian way of life (all this is paraphrased). Coyne then found out that most Christians aren’t concerned about evidence they are mostly concerned about the culture war that involves abortion, homosexuality, sex education, and other political issues that conflicts with their values. Think about it: For Christians creationism is more than just a true belief, it is a true belief intrinsically linked to their values that is the building block of their way of life; They accept creationism because it represents their values, but they cannot bring themselves to accept evolution because evolution does not represent values but rather it is very impersonal facts that is contrary to their values. What Christians get confused over is this: that being contrary to what they believe in is the same thing as being of an opposite value. For example, many Christians think that Evolution endorses homosexuality, abortion, pre-marital sex, eugenics, and other things. What do these things have in common? They go against Christian values but that’s the problem: Evolution says nothing about whether abortion, homosexuality, and pre-marital sex is right, it just simply states facts on how nature works, nothing more.
You also recognize how if you say anything about the big bang theory, evolution, pro-choice, or anything of that sort the person immediately says “sorry, I don’t believe in those stuff because I am a Christian”. If you carefully analyze that statement you realize that he was not making an argument or appealing to any evidence, he (or she) was appealing to his identity and values. But this appeal has nothing to do with what whether the belief is well-supported and reliable, but the Christian does not care: what the Christian mostly cares about is that he or she has the identity and values that he or she wants to protect. You can start asking the person “What does being a Christian have anything to do with those positions or facts I presented being false?”, and the person will reply “They are wrong because they go against what I believe and what I value” but again, the person is appealing to his or her personal beliefs and values which again has nothing to do with arguments and evidence.
When you start demanding that person to give arguments or evidence he or she feels offended? Want to know why? That person does not feel comfortable with the idea that you are trying to attack or question their identity and values; but once again, that has nothing to do with what whether the beliefs are reliable and well-supported. They can appeal to the bible and pretend that it supports the beliefs, but then again they appeal to it because it is seen as the source of their values. If you demand more, they think you are being unreasonable when in fact you are being reasonable since you are sticking to the intellectual standards, methods, and integrity that are required to come to sound conclusions. You will often see that they will attack you and ask “how do you know my beliefs are false? How do you know that you are right? Hmm? Aren’t you being arrogant?” which shifts the subject altogether: the reason why they are being questioned is that their beliefs are untenable so they have the burden of proof to support it. That has nothing to do with being arrogant and it has nothing to do with knowing that you are right. Sometimes they like to show that you are just as ignorant as them just to make themselves feel like their identity and values are safe from attack. But you see here, they care about the status quo: they care that their tradition and values are protected and secured from changes that comes from changes in the political landscape to the arguments against them. They see it as protecting their territory. Doesn’t that sound political?
I am very much convinced that most Christians do not care about the truth; they say that they are but I won’t believe it given what I observed about them. They claim that they care about the truth but they refuse to honestly confront the theological problems of their beliefs: they refuse to admit that there is scant of evidence supporting their beliefs (or they admit it but they don’t care because all they care is their values and identity), they refuse to believe that suffering in this world is ultimately problematic to their faith (they say that they’ll find out in heaven), and they refuse to see that the bible is full of contradictions.
The main reason why I continue to reject Christianity is not because I’m an atheist but rather because I see that Christianity does not care about the truth: it only cares about values and identity transmitted through myths. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with identity and values, they are very important but they have nothing to do with what is true or what is false, likely or unlikely. We need to learn how to separate our identity and values from facts, otherwise when we mix them together we become biased. I hope you guys find this to be an insightful essay because for quite a while after observing how Christians respond to criticisms I came to an insight that convinced me that they do not care about the truth; I do know some who do care about the truth, but from my impression many of them became non-Christians in the long run.