Hi and welcome back! For the past few days, we’ve been talking about a theme: the way toxic people cultivate a complete divorce between their beliefs and their behavior, between fantasy and reality. Indeed, a vast number of Christians consider themselves to be very logical people who only adopted their various (contradictory) opinions as a result of examining the evidence. So today, let’s look at how Logical Christians fit into this theme.
(The original ‘Logical Christians‘ post. Also, here’s a sampling of previous posts about poor critical thinking: Biff Did the Research; Examining the Evidence; What Evidence Looks Like; Arguments Aren’t Evidence.)
“Not Enough Evidence, God!”
In an interview from 2007 (archive), William Lane Craig (WLC) declared that Christianity had lots and lots of evidence to recommend itself as a belief system, just meaniepie atheist professors refuse to engage with it and then to use it to indoctrinate their students:
WLC: As I travel around North America and Europe speaking on university campuses, I think that most of the non-Christian university professors that I meet would probably say the same thing. And this attitude is in turn communicated to their students: “There’s not enough evidence.”
Interviewer: What do we mean when we say ‘There’s not enough evidence?’
WLC: Not enough for what? [groannnnnnn, that is so disingenuous — CC]
Interviewer: Not enough to be coercive?
And WLC sniffed at that idea. He told the interviewer that most people “just can’t be bothered to look into the evidence for Christianity.” In other words, obviously there’s TONS of evidence that completely supports this religion’s claims! But people deliberately ignore it for Reasons.
Then we check out what WLC considers “evidence,” like what he offers up for the Resurrection myth, and discover it’s just logical fallacies heaped atop unsupported assertions and baseless threats of eternal torture and loss.
In other words, WLC represents a near-perfect specimen of what I have come to call a Logical Christian.
The Divide in the Logical Christian Mind.
To put this situation another way, we’ve got this grandmaster of Christian apologetics who definitely considers himself a very, very logical creature — and yet his beliefs are based entirely on irrational, illogical arguments and poorly-investigated subjective opinions accepted as fact rather than on any actual objective, credible evidence. Most of his canon of work, notably including that exact interview itself, exists to try to reconcile the divide between his self-perception and the reality of what he actually offers his fans and customers.
I’ve seen so many similar Christians over the years, and their names and faces may change slightly but their false self-perceptions never do. They all think of themselves as completely logical and rational. In turn, their ideological enemies become irrational and illogical.
They use increasingly irrational, illogical argument tactics, in fact, as they grow annoyed with pushback or rejection.
(They often resort like bullies to threats of Hell or worse at such times.)
It’s not even halfway a surprise to me anymore to realize that almost all of the logical Christians I’ve ever encountered have been straight, cis, White male evangelicals or hardline Catholics. These are the Christians who most consider themselves the owners of and dominant force within Christianity. They arm themselves with Bible verses and books about prophecy. They brandish debunked miracle claims, diagrams galore, and fallacy-riddled arguments. And oh, so many threats.
The one thing that Logical Christians don’t bring to the party is objective support for their claims…
… Because nothing like that exists in Christianity.
In a lot of ways, Logical Christians struggle with more cognitive dissonance than any other Christians. Cognitive dissonance is the deep discomfort most people feel when two competing beliefs bump against each other in their minds. For example, someone may believe they’re a decent person at heart, but they do awful things all the time. In such a situation, that person will try to rationalize their behavior, usually, rather than amend a flattering self-perception to be way less flattering.
Not all Christians suffer equally from cognitive dissonance, though.
See, a lot of Christians are okay with reality being a complete contradiction to their spiritual beliefs. They don’t care. When someone like me comes along waving my arms and talking about there not being any evidence for anything Christians believe because it matters to me that my beliefs be entirely based in reality, they just smile apologetically and shrug and treat me like I’m the doofus for thinking that stuff matters to them too. It doesn’t. They form opinions about real-world stuff from reality, and then they also believe in Jesus and Heaven and whatnot.
But then you’ve got Christians who absolutely need their beliefs to be completely true and real and correct. Like most people, they want to think that they believe whatever they believe based on the evidence. As a result, they need a world totally popped into existence by a real live god. They need Jesus to be a historical person who died and really came back to life again — and now helps them find good parking spots and meet their one true love. Their beliefs must flow from the facts. Otherwise it’d be based on not-facts!
Unfortunately, reality is — as mentioned — a constant contradiction to every single claim made by almost all Christians (except for Christian atheists, I guess).
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.
So this second group of Christians suffers mightily from cognitive dissonance. In response, they must conduct a constant juggling act in their heads, a constant flow of antiprocess that keeps their false self-perceptions more-or-less intact. In effect, their thought processes turn to figuring out a way to work with both contradictory ideas:
Belief: My beliefs derive entirely from reality-based facts.
Reality: *does not seem to be playing along here*
Rationalization: I will come up with and/or find alternative facts that completely confirm my self-perception as a logical person, and I’ll also find ways to negate anything that contradicts that self-perception.
We see exactly the same rationalization out of fundagelical bigots. And forced-birther activists. And anti-vaxxers and really, conspiracy theorists of all kinds.When reality doesn’t play along with any ideology lacking real-world support, its more wingnutty adherents can always find ways to reconcile their self-perceptions with that reality.
Rationalizations like this one keep a lot of people stuck. And I think such mental mistakes eventually impact the way they engage with everything in their lives.
Attack of the Logical Christians.
Years ago, evangelicals decided to merge with fundamentalism. They became literalists/inerrantists. Almost all of their big-name leaders are, indeed, like that today.
Who’s surprised? Authoritarian groups love literalism. It doesn’t matter what religion or ideology these groups officially practice. They all start looking the same once we get past their window dressing and labels.
But literalism remains the easiest flavor of Christianity to debunk. Again, no actual objective evidence exists to support a single claim within Christianity. So a form of Christianity that rides-or-dies on falsifiable claims also collapses upon that same hill. The very Christians who most chase after big-T Truth based in little-f facts find themselves riding that train right out of the religion.
Ironically, it’s the people who care least about whatever reality says about their faith who seem most able to comfortably maintain belief.
That must be a really scary truth for Logical Christians. Remember, their self-perception insists that they are absolutely logical people who base their beliefs entirely in facts. They only became Christian because of the evidence. Belief as a response to the evidence figures in countless conversion narratives.
But belief without evidence? That feels really iffy to Logical Christians.
That feels like delusional behavior.
What Logical Christians Fear.
Then here we are, the flies in the Vaseline: oodles of ex-Christians and ex-vangelicals who say that there is no evidence and there are no facts supporting Christian claims!
Logical Christians maintain their fragile contradictory beliefs in the face of constant contradictions from reality through a number of means. They create whole libraries’ worth of antiprocess — like apologetics, as an industry. They also demonize and denigrate those who leave their ranks, because obviously we must have done so against those little-f facts they think make up their belief system. After all, if Christianity represents a whole series of little-f facts, then denying those facts makes us the illogical ones here. Just add some threats of Hell to this hand-waving, and you’ve got a potent bunch of reasons for Logical Christians to maintain belief in Christianity and in their own self-perceptions.
I’m not sure what the answer is here, for dealing with Logical Christians. They really are frightened of reality itself. Their flavor of Christianity represents, more than anything else, their way of retreating from scary truths — about mortality, about their own significance in the grand scheme of things, about their equality with those they hate and fear most, and even about their own hypocrisy.
Just remember: the ones who really do care about reality will be riding a train right out of their religion — sooner or later.
NEXT UP: At least Logical Christians represent the way we don’t want to construct our belief systems. I’ll tell you tomorrow about a false belief I held after deconversion that I had to struggle my way through — and how that all went down.
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