A Question For You

“Why do you believe the truth claims of your religion or equivalent?”

Welcome to Ask The Atheist. If you’ve come back after a while, obviously the site has changed and most of the old material has not come across. It’s available at the archive. Please don’t comment there, as no new material will be approved. Speak up here instead.

Now then, there’s a question “The Atheist” would like to ask believers everywhere.

Why do you believe the truth claims of your religion or equivalent?

In other words, why do you believe for example that there’s a God? Or that reincarnation happens? Or that it’s wrong to eat pork, or beef? Is it because you have grown up believing it, or were you consciously convinced of it at some point?

I’ll go first, as a former believer. I was a lifelong Christian who accepted what I read and was told. After I was asked some hard questions, I looked at it all again, and it didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Other former believers are welcome to speak up, but I’m most interested in current believers. I plan to write articles based around responses that come in, individually or using groups of similar ones, depending. My aim is to discuss rather than attack. I may or may not succeed in this.

To participate, either comment on this post or write to the email address on the right with the subject “Why I Believe”. If you’re a former believer, use “Why I Believed” and focus on that, not “Why I Don’t Believe”. Thank you.

What I believe, right now, is that this will be educational for us all.


26 thoughts on “A Question For You”

  1. Hello LX

    I will try to answer this as fast as I can? Our computer is in our TV room and the girls are yelling at me to hurry up because they are watching a video.

    I am not gonna give you a bible based typical fundy answer, although that would probably be a lot easier. Sometimes I think we complicate things to much with thinking we need to give the “right” answer?

    Most people don’t get into Christianity based upon “apologetics”.
    Most know very little about the history of the Church. Or the history of Jesus. Or care about archeological or scientific studies. I didn’t know anything about all that crap.

    I did however always sense God in my life. Leading me, drawing me, protecting me, and lastly convicting me. I was like most kids I grew up with and around, we all “believed” in God, but beyond that we could care less about the ten commandments, the beatitudes, sin, heaven or hell. Life was about having a good time and doing whatever we felt like as long as we didn’t get caught. I was actually very good at that, one of the best.

    I got “saved” when I was about 9 or 10, I think for about a week or so after that I wanted to become a Preacher. After that week or so passed God was something I just tried not to think about. Then I just simply lived my life. It was a life I enjoyed but it was a life filled with complete selfishness and based solely upon feeding my flesh. Yeah, I was a hell of a guy, I had great friends, chicks always digged me and if I was to be honest most guys feared me. I truly was a bad ass?

    My life was an Old Milwaukee commercial “It don’t get any better than this”. But, I always had that nagging feeling inside of me when I was doing things I felt I shouldn’t be doing. (sin) But it was something I just would have to trade for all the fun I was

    When the topic of God came up I became a fence sitter, I’d usually say I believed in God and just hope the topic of Jesus never came up. Although I can remember times I would share the salvation message with people, even tho I was involved in a lifestyle that was anything but a Christians. I guess I was really saved way back when I was 9 or 10? I say that because God was always a distant thought, tho I did try to drown out his presence.

    If you read my testimony on my blog this next part is nothing new. But when I was about 20 I met my wife, and we began talking about God. She grew up totally out of the Church. But always felt a “tug” at her heart as well. So we started looking into church/God/Jesus etc. When she accepted the Lord as Savior I rededicated my life to him and we’ve grown together in the Lord since that time.

    Now, why do I still believe? I think whatever it was that lead me to the Lord and made me realize I was a sinner was something real. I think God has planted his knowledge inside of us. We were created in his image with the ability to communicate with him. His Word verifies these things. Nature shows me his awesomeness and goodness. And although my life hasn’t been perfect and not always easy, I believe it’s God who has helped me to this point. I like Gods people, I like the Church. I like the Hope I have in Jesus Christ. I have had the opportunity to lead people to the Lord. I stay in contact with most all of them. They love the fact that they are God’s children, there life has been enriched by it, and they have no complaints. That makes me feel good.

    Some people who seem to have it all, or some people that seem to have nothing both accept this Lord and now have him in common. I love God’s words, and feel they can change any life. I don’t care what the Church can do politically, it doesn’t matter. I do care about how the Church can help show God’s love. I like Jesus, I want to be like him. I want to get to Heaven one day and as Jesus is throwing me a can of Copenhagen he says, “well done thou good and faithful servant.

    I might be crazy, I really don’t know, I don’t know how anyone can reject Christ and his offer of forgiveness and eternal life? Yes I know I must admit I’m a sinner and that God is sovereign and I am nothing without him. But when we all die aren’t we all nothing?

    When I say I have hope in Christ, I’m not saying that like I hope it doesn’t rain or I hope I get a parking place close to the store. I say it like an absolute assurance that there is a day when Christ comes back for me those waiting for that day.

    Thanks for the question. I hope that didn’t sound like I feel I’m better than other people? I know that’s not the case and do apologize if any feels that way.

    Dueces, feeno

    P.S. They’re watching Harry Potter so there’s still like 5 hours of the movie left to watch.

  2. Thanks a lot for that, Feeno. I’ll tell you where I agree with you most: I suspect that apologetics are of very little use in witnessing and proselytising. The field apparently exists mostly to reassure the already-faithful. I’ve tried to hash out the relevant statistics with JD Curtis.

    Anyway I suspect that, as in your case, undefinable emotions often play a large part in the process. That feeling of emptiness and vague guilt is very common, especially among those who are less religious than they were. In this context I call it “faithdrawal”.

  3. No need to rush into this LX, but ONE of the reasons I think that Christianity is a reasonable faith is found in the writings of Simon Greenleaf. He argued before the Supreme Court of the United States and beat Noah Webster. He wrote THE book on how to define “evidence”. As a law professor, he studied Christianity to see if it is valid or not. He wound up converting and leaving Judaism to accept Christ. It’s a bit long but check it out when you have some time. From the U of Missouri (Kansas City) website… Link

  4. I’m not all the way through it yet, but I think that link may be the wrong place for a non-believer to start, JD. One of the reasons Greenleaf was so good is apparently that he knew where best to begin an argument.

    From the fourth paragraph onwards, Greenleaf starts laying out the assumptions with which he’ll be working: principally that God exists and has been proven and demonstrated, and that Christianity is the revelation of that fact. Having made these assumptions, I’m sure it’s a hell of a lot easier to argue for the Resurrection. In fact it’s dangerously close to begging the question, because why even argue about Jesus when Christianity is assumed to be true a priori? This does not appear to be a presuppositional argument, so that’s not it.

    It’s an only slightly less audacious approach than that later used by Gary Habermas and Josh McDowell (both big fans of Greenleaf), which is to assume in the same fashion that all of the major non-supernatural events of the Gospels themselves are true, and argue the short distance from there to the main supernatural event.

    Thanks for sharing your source material, seriously, but it looks like it’ll take some earlier material – for instance that to which Greenleaf refers with such confidence (without citing any of it, surprisingly) – to bring non-believers to the level of Greenleaf’s tremendous assumptions so that the argument can even begin.

    I’ll comment on more of it later.

  5. @JD-

    Have you ever read Arthur J. Balfour’s book ‘Theism and Humanism’? It’s the book that inspired C.S. Lewis’ Christian apologetic works. If not, you may be interested in it, especially if you like Greenleaf.

  6. Meanwhile, I’m at the end. I’ve found where Greenleaf has addressed my biggest objection to his arguments based on the apparent character of the witnesses. My objection is that they claimed miracles, and he treats them exactly as if they were claiming far more mundane events. His response: the credibility of miracles “has been fully established, and the objections of skeptics most satisfactorily met and overthrown, by the ablest writers of our own day, whose works are easily accessible.” Again, he throws it over to people he doesn’t bother to name.

    I think the piece is intended as a closing argument, following the testimony of a long list of “expert witnesses”. Greenleaf doesn’t actually make the case for Christianity, but rather argues based on existing material that the case has already been made. He then hones in on the Jesus aspect, confident that there will be no new substantial objections.

    Deprived of its bibliography (if ever there was one), the piece is not terribly convincing to a newcomer.

  7. Now, why do I still believe? I think whatever it was that lead me to the Lord and made me realize I was a sinner was something real. I think God has planted his knowledge inside of us. We were created in his image with the ability to communicate with him. His Word verifies these things. Nature shows me his awesomeness and goodness. And although my life hasn’t been perfect and not always easy, I believe it’s God who has helped me to this point. I like Gods people, I like the Church. I like the Hope I have in Jesus Christ. I have had the opportunity to lead people to the Lord. I stay in contact with most all of them. They love the fact that they are God’s children, there life has been enriched by it, and they have no complaints. That makes me feel good.

  8. I have grown up in the church but like “feeno” I fed the desires of my flesh rather than doing what the Lord was wanting me to do with myself. I became depressed and turned to alcohol and pot to try to fill the void I felt within myself, and when that didn’t work I decided to write an email to the pastor at my childhood church that I would only attend for the “important” sermons and then only to please others. He asked me to meet up with him for lunch and after that initial meeting I asked Jesus to come back into my heart. Almost instantaneously I felt that void being filled, the depression has lifted, and life in general has gotten better tenfold. I know I don’t describe it better but the emotional experience I had was so strong for me that I do not believe that it was anything less than the Holy Spirit taking his rightful place back in my heart filling the void that was left when I essentially stopped believing previously.

  9. Hey SmartLX, I just happened to stumble across your site while searching for some info.

    Anyway, I had a look at some of your articles and it strikes me that you firmly believe in atheism and in this article you are inviting Believers to share their opinions for the purpose of further discussion.

    At this point, I would like to invite you to truly explore your motives and reevaluate whether you are really keen to discuss or just looking for a debate.

    You see, Believers will obviously hold fast to their belief just as you obviously hold firmly to yours. If the decision has already been made to believe in something, then it is VERY hard to shake that belief no matter how solid the arguments or evidences that stand against it.

    Likewise, if you are firmly embracing atheism and are convinced that you are right, then it follows that it’s very hard to argue with that just as it’s very hard to argue with someone who’s firmly convinced of the biblical truth.

    So If you want to know why I believe, I can tell you it’s because I have :
    1) Witnessed my granddad miraculously healed of knee pains upon conversion after struggling with it for more then 10 years and having several operations.
    2) Witnessed my fiance being touched by the Holy Spirit and convicted of His sin and His need for a Saviour and seeing firsthand the joy that came after conversion.
    3) Witnessed the power of God working in my family in changing the lives of first my mother, then my father and my brother followed by my future sister -in-law
    4) Witnessed miracles of healing on people who have been prayed for.

    And this are just events happening in my family, if I were to tell you of all the other miraculous events that have happened to my church or cell group members, it would probably take hours. I don’t intend to argue with you on facts, cos we both know it wouldn’t lead anywhere. It would only open up further avenues for debate.

    Instead, I’d like you to imagine yourself as part of a jury in a court session. As a member of the jury, you would not be expected to have preconceived ideas about the guilt or innocence of the defendant. You are there to listen to the evidence because you desire to know the truth. Likewise, I believe the only way you can find the truth is to approach it with a seeking heart and not with a desire to disprove it.

  10. As I’ve written, Vicky, I started writing here to crash-test my atheism. While discussions can be fascinating and informative and reveal common ground between believers and non-believers, you’re right that they don’t normally “go anywhere” in terms of changing people’s minds. For that you need evidence, or acknowledgement of a conspicuous lack of evidence, depending on which way your position shifts.

    Out of what you’ve mentioned, 2 and 3 are pretty much matters of opinion as far as anyone else is concerned. Look at it this way, how can you demonstrate to others

  11. …that you haven’t simply convinced yourselves? As for 1, 4 and the other miracles, you already know you can’t convince an outsider that they happened or you’d have tried. If just one of them were verifiable, you’d have a lot less trouble Saving(tm) people.

    What I’d like you to consider with that seeking heart of yours is the true reason why your multitude of
    miracles hasn’t won over the world. It isn’t just because nobody wants to hear the truth. The fact that an anecdote of a miracle is not a miracle has something to do with it. We out here need something real.

  12. It’s true that there’s no way I can prove the miracles to be true and only those who were involved or who witnessed would be convinced. However, maybe you’d also like to consider why I would lie to you? Cos if they were not true, there can only be 2 conclusions –
    (1) That I was lying ( in other words, living a lie as well) or
    (2) That I was deluding myself

    This is just to look at it from an academic point of view. If you were to put together all the people who claim to believe in Jesus because of how their lives were changed or some miracle they experienced etc etc….it would seem highly unlikely that all these people had somehow managed to delude themselves, don’t you think? Because it does go against the normal human logic to accept something like that. And the Bible IS packed with miracles.

    I know this is not evidence, but was just trying to prove a point. And if you were to experience something like that, I daresay you would think it’s more real then all this reasoning.

    And you’re right, I concede that people aren’t won by hearing of miracles. But usually they aren’t won just by finding solid evidences from research or reasoning either. In your own words, they need something real. Most people are won when the power of God enters their life and they find peace, joy, answers …. whatever it is they were seeking.

    So before we discuss further, I’d just like to inquire
    1) What made you turn from your belief?
    2) Did you ever experience God in your life?
    3) You said you wanted to crash-test your atheism. Well, is it because you solely wanted to strengthen your faith in it or you ‘re just not really convinced of it?
    4) Did you ever try seeking God to give you the answers you need?

  13. I don’t think you’re lying, Vicki, or that you’re delusional, merely that you’re wrong. It would seem more likely that you and your two billion co-Christians are right if there weren’t also millions of Muslims, Hindus, etc. claiming miracles with similar sincerity. Even if one group is right, billions must be as sincere as you and wrong.

  14. It’s ok. I concede that I am not the expert here on biblical history or various other world religions. But even if I did, its difficult to share with a total stranger for the simple reason that you can only look at solid evidences….rather then other things such as the power of a changed life or sacrificial love etc which are equally powerful.

    Let’s leave Hindusim and Islam or any other world religions out of the picture, shall we? Because from little I know, I can say that if you need to debate, then you should choose to debate Christianity because of the claims Jesus makes. There is no other religion in which a prophet claims to be God and even more astounding, claims that he came to die for us and prophesied that He would rise again.

    I’d like to recommend a few books by a writer named Lee Strobel who was an ex-atheist. You can check them out here. (http://www.amazon.com/Case-Christ-Journalists-Personal-Investigation/dp/0310209307/ref=pd_sim_b_1)

    I pray that you will find the answers you need. God bless.

  15. 1. As I wrote above, I questioned specific Catholic doctrine early on and became more of a vague theist. Years later, after not having thought about it much, I realized that I was living with a mere assumption that there was a god, and that I could not honestly back it up. So I dropped it.

    2. If I had ever experienced God, I would know there WAS a God and I wouldn’t be an atheist. So no.

    3. If I’m wrong, I want to find out that I’m wrong so I can change my position. So I went to where the fights were raging to find the best arguments and evidence in favor of gods, expecting to find that I had missed something obvious and unambiguous. No argument or claim fit the bill after research and consideration. This frankly increased my confidence in the atheist position, and continues to do so now that I solicit new material directly by playing Dear Abby on this site. At any time, however, I might be surprised.

    4. On the advice of an evangelical, I assumed with as much sincerity as I could muster that the Christian God exists and asked Him to reveal Himself. Silence, I’m afraid. 

    Of course, the evangelical thought I didn’t mean it, but there is a limit. If I have to fully convince myself that there’s a god before I try to talk to it, there’s no way to know whether any “response” is really divine or just a (willing) misinterpretation of something from my own brain or body. Of course that wouldn’t matter to you, because I’d be a Christian again, but I really could be deluding myself in that case.

  16. Ah, Strobel. I’ve dealt with him rather a lot, and McDowell, and Habermas. I’m short on time and technology here, but if you search the site you’ll find plenty on the Jesus-centric apologetic. You might like to contribute, once you’ve read what’s here.

  17. I used to believe because that was generally accepted by my family and friends. One night I couldn’t sleep, and just starting thinking. By 3 a.m. I was agnostic. By 5, atheist.

  18. One more thing for Vicky. If all she feels she needs to do is refer wholesale to The Case for Christ, I feel that all I’m required to do is link to this excellent rebuttal.

  19. Reincarnation since no one seems to have tackled it.

    To me, we are made of Matter and Energy of which Energy cannot be destroyed only changed. We are Interconnected on the deepest levels, all made of star stuff so to speak.

    Now look at the seasons and cycles of life (Yes, Im Pagan). Life is Born, Grows, Decays, Dies and next season comes back for more!

    I believe that life is a reflection of spirit so I believe that when I die, *I* will be gone, my body and brain which makes up my personality will be gone forever but my energy will be reabsorbed back into The Goddess (Nature) and will move on, so maybe that is reincarnation in some kind of Indirect way but Yeah 😀

    GREAT Website! Im going to read all of the old questions and stay in touch :o)

  20. This is just a request as I’m short on time, but in response to Vicky’s mention of no other gods dying for the sins of their followers, might I suggest Horus or Mithra? I’m not entirely certain, but I believe the stories are similar and I KNOW they both predate Christianity…

  21. Yes, they are both similar to Jesus in some ways.

    The film Zeitgeist went further and said that the story of Jesus was largely based on that of Horus, causing a massed choir of Christian apologists to highlight all the differences between their stories. Like you, I think it’s sufficient merely to highlight mythical figures with aspects Christians normally see as unique to Jesus.

    Regardless, even if some aspects are entirely unique to Jesus in the whole history of religion, that supports their truth far less than it helps to explain why Christianity has been so successful as a religion.

  22. “The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, ‘Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?'” Isaiah 44:20

    I believe the things that I believe by faith, because the things which I believe by faith impressed their truth on me. This is what the bible says: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    I just deleted a whole long barrage of comments about the nature and limitations of reason. I’m a computer scientist, so I guess it’s something I think about a lot. Ultimately, it was just a grocery list of really wrong reasons to believe in God or not, concluding that reason is an inappropriate tool for the question. Scripture says that faith is a result of God interacting with our spirit on a super-rational level.

    That’s what happened to me. Undeniable, independent, absolute truth just asserted itself in me at a word from my God in a moment of reflection. While that sounds an awful lot like madness, it would similarly be madness to ignore what I perceive. It’s all pretty simple, but defies rational discussion. I can’t reason about this truth because it sprang from no combination of premises. Truth cannot come from nowhere without divine intervention, and thus attempts at reasoning the truths of the spirit are fundamentally flawed. I believe in an unreasonable God.

    I thought about what your evangelical said, how if you could convince yourself that God existed then He would prove himself to you. This doesn’t sound biblical. Besides, how could you convince yourself of the truth of God before He revealed himself? That’s actually counter-biblical. Forget what your evangelical said; an all-powerful God does not need your help to make himself known to you. Just keep your mind and heart open, and keep searching for truth. If God is a truth unsubtle, then you will find him. If he’s not, then he is not God, and we need not worry.

    The real question comes to how a man can react to a truth made known to him that is not of his own perception and reason, and in fact may challenge his authority. And that one is harder, in different ways for different people. For me, I resisted a conclusion that wasn’t based on my own perception and reason, things which I had assigned nearly divine importance. Some people don’t fret so philosophically or broadly: they rail against one aspect or another. But I was married to reason; we made love every night. Eventually I found out she was kind of a whore, so she didn’t even cry when I left her one evening. Since then we’ve spoken often. She makes a much better friend than she ever was a lover.

    But you should know that I’m still rationally minded. I get distracted thinking about things like the reason behind suffering, the inerrancy of scripture, and ideas like predestination. The context of these questions for me, though, are in light of a few axioms that I know independently of my reason. I dislike this because it makes me seem unreasonable, but the fact is that, on certain points, I am unreasonable. There is nothing beneficial or productive in arguing axioms, because they are necessarily unreasonable (which I’m using here to mean, “arrived at by reason”).

    I used the phrase “a truth unsubtle”, but I suppose it is conceivable that God may wish to reveal himself subtly (which is not to say that the truth is an esoteric, hardly knowable thing, but rather that its exposition may not take the form of a flash of light, a loud voice, and a spontaneous, inexplicable blindness). In the end though, I believe that God’s will is inescapable. That is certainly what I found in my heart: inescapable presence, something profound that did not come from me.

    I’m sorry for being so long saying something so simple (and old), but I like what you’re doing here. You seem so hearteningly sincere and un-hateful. All these things were kind of disorganized, but I hope there was something useful in what I offered. In short, it wasn’t a feeling, or a reason, or an instinct, but something apart from all of those things that moved in me powerfully and asserted its own reality.

  23. Tell you what, Adwin, things would be a lot simpler for all of us if our minds were all changed instantly from within like yours felt like it was. One has to wonder why, if there’s a God, He doesn’t take the unsubtle route to converting tough cases more often.

    I’m sorry that you resent reason so much for apparently keeping you in the dark.

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