falling into error
Reading Time: 8 minutes (Jake Ingle.) Watch out. That first step's quite a doozy.
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Not long ago, I saw a Christian on a commbox somewhere protesting that his religion contains tons and tons of PROOF YES PROOF. Though pressed, he offered none. Instead, he insisted that if he provided his slam-dunk evidence, we’d all just ignore it. I wondered if Christians had come up with anything actually persuasive since last I checked. Maybe I shouldn’t have, though. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun! Recently, I showed you Billy Graham’s big reason to believe. And today, I’ll show you some of the other reasons I found–and why they each fail, too.

falling into error
(Jake Ingle.) Watch out. That first step’s quite a doozy.

(Perhaps an important note: I tried to choose places and sources that Christians consider popular or authoritative. These aren’t just randos online; some of them are sources that millions of Christians consider unimpeachable. They also represent the best cross-section available of “big #1 reasons to believe” offered up by various Christian leaders. It all looks this bad. If I were Christian, I’d be mortified. But I’m not, so it’s sad-yet-hilarious. We’ll be looking at all the feelings-related reasons in the next post. I ran out of time here.)

Oh, Well, If It’s Unavoidable.

Peter May, a big-name Church of England guy, offered a speech in 2007 containing two reasons for belief that he felt were literally unavoidable.”

First, he agrees with fellow huckster-for-Jesus and moral failure William Lane Craig that the Cosmological Argument totally compels belief 100%. To recap this tired old argument, it runs thusly:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. Don’t question this assumption. His whole argument relies upon it!
  2. The universe began to exist. You can’t question this one, either. A bunch of bullshit artists with absolutely no skills or training whatsoever in the scientific method can’t possibly be wrong about something like hardcore astronomy.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. Peter May even mentions the Big Bang here, so there. He doesn’t mention exactly what that cause is, of course. Not yet.
  4. However, he tells us, “that cause showed personal agency.” So someone, not something, caused the universe. Peter May must have seen lots of universes created, right? So he can totally tell the difference between one formed naturally and one zapped into existence by a person.
  5. “Now who could that be?” I’m not exaggerating at all. That is a quote. That is his question: a disingenuous, wide-eyed, lashes-fluttering, kitten-innocent Just Asking Questions question.
  6. Conclusion: the person who caused the universe absolutely had to be the Christian god who is presented in the Bible. Nope, absolutely no other way around it. No other gods could possibly have done it. Only his god could have. (Also, his god is eternal, so nobody caused him, neener neener! Thought you’d get him that easily? He’s totally not special pleading, so stop saying that!)

Christians really need to stop trying to use science to PROVE YES PROVE their religion’s veracity.

And the Moral Argument.

Peter May also serves up a reheated Moral Argument. He asserts that atheism doesn’t offer an official moral code (true), so therefore morality doesn’t exist in atheism or among atheists (false). It bothers him enormously that atheism lacks such a code. To him, that means that any rule is “open for review at any point, depending on local demand.”

But, he tells us, Christianity offers such a moral code, along with “ultimate justice” and a list of stuff that is “objectively wrong.” So therefore, Christianity’s claims compel belief.

Objectively wrong. You know, like offering one’s daughters to be raped by a crowd of lusty men. Like human sacrifice, murdering innocent people to let the guilty off as long as they telepathically ask for forgiveness, or torturing humans forever and ever for stuff they do during their finite lifetimes.

Or we could go more recent. I could bring up objectively wrong stuff like slavery, which Christians supported pretty much everywhere till the last couple of centuries. Or beating children to punish them, which Christians still do pretty much everywhere. Or oppressing women, which most of Christianity still fully supports. Christians were arguing just last year about the morality of caging children if they belong to people Christians hate.

That stuff’s all part of Christianity’s record of “objective morality” that never, ever changes and remains true for all time. Except when Christians realize it’s wrong and drop it.

…. Y’all, I just don’t think this argument does much to advance Peter May’s case.

The (Lack of) Thinking Involved in the Moral Argument.

But wait, there’s more! Peter May offers up a second argument!

  1. “If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.” He does not actually define why we’re talking about his god and not, say, Zeus. Nor does he tell us what he means by “objective moral values,” because as I’ve shown, Christians don’t have them. Also, isn’t it weird that he phrases this premise in the negative? It’s hard to support a negative statement.
  2. “But evil does exist. Rape, murder, child abuse are objectively wrong.” Weirdly, Christians everywhere commit all hypocrisy all the time.
  3. “If that is true, then God exists.” And he shoots himself in the foot again. He never showed how we know that the first premise is true, and then he piggybacks off of it to set up an if-then that doesn’t follow at all, then concludes with a sweeping new if-then statement that doesn’t follow either.

Of course, we could substitute “Thor” or “unicorns” or “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” into his equation just as neatly as “God” and come out with just as (in)valid a statement.

Oh, Christian apologists, what would you do without special pleading and fractured logic?

If that’s the best Peter May can do, then maybe he ought to just sit down.

Every Student Offers Its Own List.

A site aimed at high school and college students, Every Student.com, offers its own list. We’ll whisk through it. Here is why they think Christianity’s claims are true (and why those claims absolutely aren’t):

  • Intelligent Design. (Except that nothing about this renamed Creationism, this penny-ante pseudoscience, actually holds up to reality. Even if it did, any god could stand in as the creative force.)
  • The Cosmological Argument. (See above; this is just another instance of Christians trying to point to real science to support their claims, and it fails as hard as Creationism.)
  • Uniform Laws of Nature. (Magnets, how do they work? Not an argument for Christianity, either; suffers the same problems as the other arguments so far.)
  • DNA IS OUR GOD’S CODED LANGUAGE Y’ALL. (Are they just going to restate Creationism six times? These nutjobs think that DNA is “instruction, precise information,” and can’t possibly imagine how it could have evolved without divine intervention. Maybe they should ask some real scientists about that.)
  • They think their god literally stalks them. (For a god who desperately seeks to talk to humans, this one seems singularly incompetent.)
  • Christianity offers Jesus Christ, who is “the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us.” (LOL WHAT?)

That last point made me laugh so hard. Really? The clearest? The most specific? I know a lot of Christians believe this, even some nicer progressive ones. I’ve heard them say it often enough. It’s like they’ve never even heard of any other religion.

And Here’s Focus on the Fallacies.

An OG culture-warrior group, bigots-for-Jesus Focus on the Family, provides their own list of reasons to believe. They very rudely don’t listicle their reasons, but I’ve helpfully summed it up:

The Bible’s account of Jesus’ life is accurate because it’s in the Bible. Haha, suuuuuure.

Everyone should consider the Bible “a historical book.” A legion of real archaeologists would like a word with them about that.

Many people have totally believed in Christianity’s claims for a long time. Yeah, a lot of folks also once believed in alchemy. And in religions way older than Christianity. And (not to belabor a point) in slavery being a great idea.

I’m pretty sure that Focus on the Failtrain speaks here only to currently-fervent Christians. Nobody else would ever take this nonsense seriously.

A Truly Cringeworthy Demand.

Focus on the Fiction then launches into their main reason, which they assert is the total historical accuracy of the Bible.

First, they tell us that supporting Christianity requires another kind of knowing.

In this case, instead of “empirical” proof, they rely on Lee Strobel-style “forensic” proof. (Words, what do they mean?) See, they tell us, you can’t “empirically” prove Jesus existed. But you also can’t prove empirically that George Washington was the first President of the United States either.” It’s a restatement of the tired old “10/42” tactic.

Except that yes, actually, you totally can know for sure that George Washington was our first President.

Y’all. If any wackadoos try to start a sales pitch by pooping all over legitimate methods of finding out what’s true, that’s an extremely good sign that they’re trying to sell you something that isn’t real. Focus on the Fabrication creates some absolutely hysterical redefinitions, but it comes down to them trying to legitimize the apologetics that they (erroneously) think supports their ideas.

Specifically, they want to be able to use apologetics arguments in lieu of real evidence for their claims, and then they demand their targets accept these arguments as perfectly valid. We’re under no obligation to humor them.

Real History, How Does It Work?

In this case, Focus on the Fibbing super-wants us to think that the real methods we have of finding out if a historical figure is real or not aren’t valid at all when it comes to their magical god-man. They need us to be just mystified about how historians decided that someone like George Washington existed, as if that was decided nearly arbitrarily, and then they need us to assume that the same support exists for Jesus as exists for George Washington.

They’re either blitheringly incompetent or lying, of course. Neither would surprise me. Christian apologists lie. They lie profusely, and they lie repeatedly. In fact, they’re happy to lie about stuff that doesn’t even matter. And they’re so close-minded that they tend to leap onto inadequate explanations way too quickly, then defend that turf to the bitter end.

Christians with so much to sell will not accept the truth if it conflicts with their beliefs. They care about protecting those beliefs so much that they won’t accept corrections about their claims–and will gladly lie about anything to push through a sale. Somewhere along the way, they decided that their faith hinged completely on 100% literal veracity.

What’s absolutely hilarious about this position is that Jesus’ 100% historicity doesn’t even matter.

The Ultimate Red Herring.

It doesn’t matter if Jesus really existed, any more than it matters if the Bible is a 100%-historically-accurate book.

Sure, Jesus’ physical existence (or non-existence, as the case appears to be) remains a fascinating discussion topic to me and others because of what it reveals about exactly how historians work out what really happened in the distant past. But ultimately, Christianity’s claims do not rise or fall on Jesus’ physical existence. I know, I know, that existence matters a great deal to Focus on the Homophobia and these other Christians. I get that. But it doesn’t matter at all in the big scheme of things.

If we ever did find real evidence to support the existence of Jesus Christ as a real person, it would not actually validate any of the major claims of Christianity. All it would do is move Christians’ burden of proof one square over the starting line.

But the finish line remains distressingly far away for them. That’s what more and more people are realizing every single year. The more bad logic and false claims Christians put forward, the faster that process will accelerate. So… this is good news, everybody!

NEXT UP: The feelings-based reasons to believe, and why that fails too. Then, I’m taking Christians on a sightseeing tour of the finish line to wrap up this party. See you next time!

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I had a lot of fun creating “Focus on the F-word” plays on words, but please, no homophobic slurs in comments if you want to join in 🙂 I know that one of them is going to be tempting, and yes, it’s exactly where their attention focuses. Please don’t though.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...