Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Christian answers to big questions such as these often involve God, but God is always the worst guess. Let’s conclude our list of reasons why (part 1: 8 reasons why “God” is always the worst answer).
5. It ignores the trend
Supernatural explanations are superseded by natural ones, never the other way around. Lightning used to be of heavenly origin, but now we have a natural explanation. Plague, famine, drought, accidents, death, and so on used to have supernatural explanations, but these have been replaced. Might we suddenly discover strong evidence that argues that some religious claims are true? Maybe, but that’s not the way to bet.
Just how poorly does the “God did it” explanation do against natural explanations? Might a natural explanation be so ridiculous that “God did it” becomes plausible? Perhaps, but since we have no prior examples of supernatural explanations being universally accepted (unlike a natural explanation like the germ theory of disease), this hypothetical explanation would have to be pretty ridiculous to be worse than anything from the supernatural category, which has never produced a single universally accepted explanation.
One Christian proposed this deliberately ridiculous explanation of Jesus: time-traveling insurance salesmen led by a clone of Elvis go back in time to manufacture the idea of Jesus to get the concept of “act of God” into insurance law. Have we finally found an explanation so ridiculous that the supernatural Jesus story is finally plausible by comparison? Nope.
6. It ignores the default position
Hundreds or thousands of religions are practiced today, and many more were practiced in humanity’s long history. People invent things like ghosts, fairies, and superstitions. We understand how urban legends, conspiracy theories, and even traditions develop and take hold. And people make up religions by the thousands.
Ghosts don’t exist, urban legends are false, and so are made-up religions. Given any particular supernatural belief, the default position is that it is yet one more false belief by a mind that is susceptible to lots of false beliefs.
The Christian claims are a bold rejection of this default position. That doesn’t mean that Christianity is false, but it does mean that it has the burden of proof. (I’ve also explored Christian attempts to shirk their burden of proof.)
See also: Why Christianity Looks Invented
7. God catching uses evidence inconsistently
We can imagine the Christian metaphorically throwing out a net to catch fish, where the fish are truths about supernatural claims, and the net is the evidence criteria. The trick is being consistent when evaluating the evidence.
When the Christian seeks evidence for God, the holes in the net are small. The evidence criteria become flexible, and any little clue is evidence—personal feelings, good luck and happy coincidences, the dismissal of inconvenient science by a Christian nonscientist, apologists’ assurances that the Bible (but not other ancient religious texts) is real history, and so on.
But when evaluating other religions’ supernatural claims, the holes are big and only the most compelling evidence could count. The Christian becomes skeptical and stringently applies the evidence criteria. Suddenly they sound like an atheist and reject all but the most compelling evidence: this looks like just another manmade religion, those religious books are too old and unreliable, the supernatural claims are laughable, and so on.
This is a biased approach to the evidence. Sure, all of us are at least a little biased in how we sort through the evidence, tending to keep what confirms our beliefs and reject what challenges them, but we must do our best to evaluate evidence objectively. (More: what Christians’ loose criteria for evidence capture and how Christian arguments ought to convince them of the truth of Mormonism instead.)
8. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Claiming that a god exists who created the entire universe is about as extraordinary a claim as possible. Such a claim needs extraordinary evidence. Not only must Christians make do with handwaving similar to other religions’ believers, Christians often are reduced to protesting against this demand for extraordinary evidence.
Many apologetic discussions devolve into, “Well, you can’t prove God doesn’t exist.” That’s correct, but that never was the goal. All we can try to do is follow the evidence. And it doesn’t lead to God.
One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.
— Robert Heinlein
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 2017-7-10.)
Image credit: Bob Seidensticker