In what situation is it a good thing to NOT see reality clearly? Because that's the promise of Christianity.
Say you have a problem, and you need it resolved. You pray to God because you’ve been promised that God will take care of it in a way that’s tailor-made for your particular needs. If you can count on anything, you can count on God, right?
But you rarely get what anyone would call a remarkable resolution to the issue, and that’s where hope comes in. Hope maintains your confidence that sometime, somehow, God will deliver the best possible resolution (and maybe resolve the other issues as well).
But that rarely happens, and you’re left with hope, the runner-up prize. You’d like prayer to work like a vending machine—you put in a dollar, and it gives you what you asked for. The vending machine works every time, without surprises. But when God looks like a no-show, hope must fill the gap. Despite the evidence, you keep alive the spark that God ensures it’ll work out for the best.
Let’s continue our list of reasons why Christian hope is not a good thing (part 1 here).
2. Not seeing reality clearly
Suppose you’re crossing the street, learning to hit a baseball, setting a broken bone, or learning to swim. You’d need to see reality clearly to perform these tasks. Why then would you want to avoid seeing reality clearly in some other area of life?
If I go to the oncologist, I may want hope, but what I need is the truth—whether I’m healthy, or I have a cancer with a good chance of recovery after treatment, or I have two months to get my affairs in order and say goodbye. A pat on the head from the doctor would make me feel better (at that moment, anyway), but the truth would help me live my life better.
In the same way, belief in heaven might make me feel better, but I want the truth. I want a life in harmony with reality.
Hope often blurs into faith. One of the Christian crusades to Jerusalem was the Children’s Crusade of 1212. This was a popular crusade—that is, one not sponsored and encouraged by the church—and it is a good example of faith crashing into reality.
Historians debate what happened, but it appears to be some combination of:
- charismatic child preachers raising a military force of perhaps 30,000 children,
- the promise that once they got to Italy, the Mediterranean would part to allow them to walk to Palestine,
- the promise that battle would be unnecessary because God would simply convert the Muslims occupiers of the Holy Land to Christianity, and
- most participants either dying on the way from exhaustion or starvation or being sold into slavery and the remnant struggling their way home.
Ignoring reality has consequences.
The downside of hope is also the downside of Pascal’s Wager. This argument says that there’s no downside to being a believer—hedge your bets by acting like a Christian and you can’t lose.
There are many problems with Pascal’s Wager, but let’s highlight just one, the downside to being deceived. Participating in a religion that is nonsense means spending time, money, and energy on that religion instead of focusing on what’s real. An insightful essay on Why Evolution Is True observed, “If we believe that truth (meaning, broadly, the accurate understanding of reality) is good, then religion, almost by definition, cannot be good for us.”
We see desperate hope in the alternative medicine field, which is worth $30 billion per year in the U.S. There’s not sufficient evidence for government watchdog agencies to upgrade these alternative medicines and label them actual medicines, but they do give hope where science offers none. Similarly, religion gives hope when reality offers none, but that hope is also expensive. Religion gobbles up about $130 billion every year in the U.S.
Some people are content to go through life drunk or stoned. I’d rather see reality clearly.
One popular apologetic argument (and I still can’t get my head around the idea of an adult making this argument) is that atheism is discouraging or unpleasant, as if that were an argument against atheism. I made this first on the list of my 25 stupid arguments Christians should avoid.
For more, see: An Inept Attempt to Dismiss the Problem of Evil
Do these professional Christian apologists think they’re talking to children? I wonder if they’ve read C. S. Lewis, who said, “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.”
Here is the tragedy of theology in its distilled essence:
The employment of high-powered human intellect,
of genius, of profoundly rigorous logical deduction—
— Andrew Bernstein