40 Questions to Ask Christians: World Religions
Has it really been a year since I’ve written anything on this blog?
Wow. I always kept putting it on the back burner. “I’ll get back to it.” “Really. Soon. I will get back to it.” And I never did.
For better or for worse, I decided to return with a series inspired by this hub written by atheist writer Thomas Swan. Dr. Swan appears to have a Ph.D in physics and a master’s degree in the cognitive science of religion. In the hub, Dr. Swan asks Christians 40 questions based on “a decade of pondering religions and their followers.”
So, he’s spent ten years on this, and he has a master’s degree in cognitive science of religion. So the questions are good, right?
Nope. But he hopes they’re original, so there are at least some original ones, right? Again, no. Nothing Christians haven’t written about before. Therefore, I have decided to add my two cents to the mix.
I will tackle them in several separate posts, grouped the same way he did on his hub page. So let’s begin with the broad strokes: Christianity and world religions.
If a hundred different religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, does this show that people from all over the world like to invent gods that don’t exist?
Oh, wait a minute — I see what’s going on here. Hey, there’s hundreds of false religions. That means mine is false too!
Well, I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that. There are hundreds of incorrect ways to change a light bulb or walk on ice without slipping. That has no bearing on any new method of doing either one of those things. Each must be evaluated on its own merit, not by the failures of its competitors.
So if Christianity is right, that necessarily means every other competing religion is false, leaving hundreds of false religions. That has no bearing on the truth or falsity of Christianity.
If I rephrased this question so that the unbeliever can hear it how I did, I would probably say something like, “If 30 NFL teams had to lose so one Superbowl winner can be declared, doesn’t that mean that people like to build crappy professional football teams?” And, by implications, the Patriots are awful, too.
If your parents had belonged to a different religion, do you think you would belong to that religion too?
I don’t know. Maybe.
My gut reaction is no, I don’t think I would. While my parents are Catholic, I went to Catholic school, and my mom works at that same Catholic school, I was largely non-religious until I met my wife. At that time, I was seeking God but unsure of how to proceed. I only knew the Catholic faith, so I was attending Mass at a local Catholic church. I was considering joining the Knights of Columbus Council. But I wasn’t pursuing it.
Enter Jody. She is Protestant Christian, and is largely responsible for helping me recapture my faith.
Spin it a different way: if my parents were Buddhists I probably would have still ended up a Christian because it was largely through Jody that I came into the faith I have now. My parents, for all their Catholic upbringing, never insisted on me following that path. They seem largely indifferent to my move from Catholicism to Protestantism now, in fact.
If people from the five major religions are each told conflicting information by their respective gods, should any of them be believed?
Loaded question. It’s phrased in a way to suggest the answer is no. The underlying assumption is a distinctly postmodern one: All religions are on equal footing, so all have equal authority. Since all religions are pathways to God, and God is One, then none of the conflicting messages should be believed because they can’t all be true.
That is utter hogwash.
If one is faced with messages that conflict in such a way that only one could possibly be true, the default assumption is that one might be true, not that all are false. It is possible that all might be false, but shouldn’t we figure that out before dismissing all out of hand?
For example, let’s say I get three texts before getting out of bed. One is from my wife, and it says “It’s raining outside!” One is from my boss, and it says, “It’s snowing outside!” One is from my mom and it says, “It’s sunny and warm outside!” Obviously, only one of these can be true.
Since it’s currently February in Ohio, I can rule out my mom’s text a priori. I already know that that can’t be true.
That leaves the texts from Jody or Tom. It is simple and easy to determine which is the case — get out of bed and open the window! I can then see which is true, and know for sure which one I can believe.
Interestingly, there is a religion that commands us to do just what I outlined above. Can you guess which one it is? That’s right! It’s Christianity (1 The 5:20-21).
So there’s Dr. Swan’s first three questions. Color me unimpressed. I hope they get better somewhere down the line.