Is Believing In God A Ridiculous Thing?
We live in an interesting age . . . the very element who, not too long ago at all, championed free-thinking, considering 'outside the box' ideas, and not merely going along with the flow of cultural reasoning you happen to have been born into, have themselves come to practice the narrow-minded, 'get with the program', and conform to the norm disposition they formerly charged others with as contemptible. Today skeptics and materialists don't simply offer an alternative view, they don't merely disagree - they mock and ridicule those who see things differently than they do. We live in a postmodern era; a couple of generations ago nothing was regarded as above consideration, all former 'certainties' were fair game for critical examination, truth was not merely accepted but was worked over and arrived at through reason and evidence and investigation - today, truth is a concept that is itself suspect, today is not about discovering truth but is about promoting useful jargon.
Today's skeptics and materialists mock and ridicule those who believe in an objective truth, they count knowing truth itself to be an outdated notion . . . they count it sound and reasonable to dismiss with jeering contempt those who own any confidence in an idea as true, blind all the while that they themselves are settled firmly on their own notion of truth and have so lost all sense of critical thinking that they imagine their scorn is justified because they are simply so undoubtedly right and others are so observably wrong - again, the very narrow and unimaginative mindset they pretend to stand opposed to.
We see this postmodernist narrow-mindedness manifest in two different ways; first, you find many who hold the 'Christianity' of their culture, or even of their own childhood, in special contempt . . . with these folks any, any notion at all, is worth some respect or even consideration - except orthodox, Bible-based Christianity. If someone promotes the Gnostic lost 'Christian' books, if they advance some non-Biblical corruption of 'Christianity', if they want to talk about Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, Druidism, Voodooism, etc, etc, whatever, anything and everything is ok - except orthodox, Bible-based Christianity, that can't possibly be right and is worthy of nothing but contempt and derision.
The other manifestation of today's postmodernist sway is seen in those who are not so specifically narrow-minded against Christianity, but are narrow-minded toward the consideration of any concept of a reality beyond our own material experience. While many in the first group are slaves to their own rejection of the status-quo of their culture and their resistance of their own personal experiences (hypocritical parents & legalistic church, etc . . . it's actually quite remarkable how many you come across in this group who were raised in Roman Catholic households), many in the second group simply delight to count themselves realists, too smart to cling to some imagined hope they can't see, confronting reality as it is without the need for false dreams of some invisible superintendent. They believe we are living in a modern world and that it's foolish, and dangerous, to refuse to give-up biased and fictionalizing religious notions of past eras.
To both groups, Christians are simply people who are not smart enough, not bold enough, not emotionally stable enough, not intellectually honest enough, and/or not imaginative enough, etc, to escape the authoritative training and cultural mandate they happen to have been born into. Both groups see Bible-believing Christians as an enemy - whether the battle engaged looks like foreign military action, personal morality, Republicans, cultural influence, racism, taxes, etc, etc, these folks see Christianity as the real culprit behind our ability to move forward into an age of enlightened reason and practice.
So, is believing in God a ridiculous thing? Is Christianity restraining man from achieving some manner of peace and good will, if man could finally leave Bible-believing Christianity in his archaic past, if man could face this world and it's difficulties without the unrealistic notion of an invisible god overseeing everything and face it instead with material realism, would we all be better off, would man produce his own paradise rather than expecting and waiting for an invisible sky-dad to do it for him? To consider this honestly and usefully we need to look at both the examinable historic record and critical reasoning. So, is believing in God a ridiculous thing? Briefly;
The Anti-Christian ~
These folks see Christians as little more than arrogant buffoons who think the provincial ideas that they just happened to be born in the midst of are better than other's provincial ideas . . . they see Christians as just ignorantly assuming they are always right and others are wrong, that their religion is better than an Arab's or a Chinaman's religion. They count Christians as brutes who fear what they don't know or understand and promote their own way without any critical thinking at all. Hence, they need not treat you with any due respect, they are permitted to mock and ridicule you because you are, simply, one of the mean ones who just refuses to grow-up and 'get it' . . . and, here's how they come to such a view ~
First, many easily and happily advance that Christianity, which is based on the Bible, is a ludicrous belief system because the Bible has been so corrupted from whatever it originally said. They assert that it's been handed down through so many generations, been translated so many times, that the Bible we have today undoubtedly has been mistakenly altered again and again. Many also assert that evil religionists in the past intentionally altered it to say what they wanted it to say so as to advance their own authority over the masses, etc. This notion is demonstrably shown to be erroneous and comes from a very poor understanding of history and textual criticism.
There wasn't one Bible in Jesus' day that was then copied and copied again and again, etc, until we now have a copy of a copy, etc, etc, etc . . . there were many Bibles (OT) throughout Palestine and into the western world, and after the New Testament was completed copies of the Bible were made 'here' and copies were made 'there' and later compared, and letters were written and sermons were written and commentaries, etc, that all quoted the Bible of their time. We have documents, letters & sermons, etc, from a mere 40 years after Jesus that reference so much Scripture that we can reconstruct the entire NT and nearly all of the OT without relying at all on copies of copies of the Bible itself. And when we do that, the Bible we have from reaching back to those ancient texts is the same Bible we have from the copies of copies of copies of the Bible translated from generation to generation.
The skeptics will count Hamlet to have been written by Shakespeare while they mock anyone who accepts the Bible as a legitimate text, yet the actual, examinable evidence supports the latter that they discount far more than the former which they assume. The earliest copies we have of any writings attributed to Aristotle are from over 1,400 years after Aristotle died - and we have 5 copies of copies of copies of texts. The earliest copies we have of any writings attributed to Pliny (a Roman historian) are from over 750 years after he died - and we have 7 copies of copies of copies of texts. The earliest copies we have of any writings attributed to Caesar are from over 1,000 years after he died - and we have 10 copies of copies of copies of texts. Meanwhile we have extant over 5,300 ancient Greek manuscripts and over 10,000 Latin Vulgates of the Bible, many within a mere 40 years after the originals were authored.
Anyone, of course, may believe whatever they prefer to believe, and none of the above suggests that the Bible is revealed authoritative truth . . . you can believe the Bible is a man-made document and not at all the word of God if you're determined to do so - but you cannot assert, honestly and factually, that the Bible we have today has been altered again and again and is not as it was originally written, the textual evidence simply demonstrates the opposite.
Then there is the oft heard charge that Christianity has caused more wars and violence than any nation or dictator or ideology, etc. An honest examination of the historic record tells a far different story than the popular notion that Christianity, believing and following the Biblical account of truth, causes more harm than good. One of the earliest recorded accounts of the consequence of Christianity comes from a 1st century Roman official who counsels a governor in a Mideast Roman province on how to recognize the Christians (for arrest) from the 'regular' Jews, telling him that you can know the Christians because they are the ones who care for the widows and orphans of even those who persecute them.
An American newspaperman recording the settling of the old west wrote that you could tell which frontier towns had a Christian influence or not, not by church buildings or a rigid moral code, but by which towns treated prisoners with respect, had women officials, up to date hospitals, orphanages, etc. The notion that Christianity operates as an oppressive killjoy simply isn't evidenced by an honest and thorough examination of the historic record. One of the great lies commonly assumed and adopted as true today is the idea that the puritans sought about eliminating everyone's fun, that they were a bleak, dour people - Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England when the puritans briefly turned England from a monarchy to a republic, the leader of puritan England, is recorded to have hired musicians for his daughter's wedding and enjoyed a party of dancing and drinking that lasted well into the early morning. The perception many own of the puritans and puritanism is simply an ill-informed retelling of popular assumptions.
Another popular theme introduced to brand Christianity as a detriment rather than a benefit to society is, The Crusades; and the argument asserts that not merely The Crusades proper of 1100 to 1300, but the inference is that just about all armed conflict has religion as it's prompting. However, there is a reason why this era is known as 'The Dark Ages' . . . an honest and thorough reading of the historic record demonstrates that these were not really Christian wars at all - they were political maneuvers and personal strivings for eminence. Cast as Christian against Muslim, portrayed as Christianity seeking to reclaim access to holy places in Palestine, The Crusades were in truth popes seeking to advance their influence and authority. Many of the battles were in fact 'Christian' against 'Christian' . . . one 'Christian' region and castle would not acquiesce to the authority of Rome so the pope would send armies (Spain, France, Germany, etc) to go set them straight - nothing Christian, theological, Biblical, etc, about any of it, it was not religious at all but simply empire building.
Those who were in truth Christian are the ones who rose-up against such intolerance and brutality and at great risk to their own lives not only taught the truth of Scripture but established free schools for all (not just the privileged landowners and royalty), promoted science over superstition, initiated community job training and concepts of labor unions and insurance, the respect and advancement of women, as well as representative self-governing.
The historic record, if examined honestly and thoroughly, offers just the opposite of what so many today commonly assume - Christianity has populated the world with hospitals and orphanages, it has raised the stature of women, ended slavery, advanced real science (gravity, buoyancy, centrifugal force, etc), provided food for the hungry and freedom for the oppressed.
The notion so common today, that if you look across the world there is a dignity and spiritual core to Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, and just about any exotic foreign religion while American Christianity is a militant, foolish, arrogant, bastion of hypocrisy, is not an objective or critically considered notion at all but is simply a popular idea promoted by propped-up jargon for those fearful of appearing old fashioned or not as adventurous and open-minded as their celebrity heroes.
The Materialist ~
As I stated above, the other manifestation of today's postmodernist sway is seen in those who are not so specifically narrow-minded against Christianity, but are narrow-minded toward the consideration of any concept of a reality beyond our own material experience. Many of these folks see the world as simply, smart people who know religion is a foolishness from a less informed era, and dumb people who still believe all that hooey that we all know now was nothing more than primitive man trying to explain storms and lights in the sky and famine, etc. Hence, they need not treat you with any due respect, they are permitted to mock and ridicule you because you are, simply, one of the dumb ones who just refuses to grow-up and 'get it'. and, here's how they come to such a view ~
Many hear a bit here, and hear a bit there, and imagined they researched the profound ideas of purpose and first things and eternity, etc. Many hear a presentation or argument from someone who sounds as though he certainly knows what he's talking about, and so they adopt it as their own view . . . they engage others referencing points and making assertions that they think they've arrived at through serious study and honest investigation, when in fact, it's just something they've heard somewhere. I don't know that this is exclusively or primarily an American circumstance, but it seems to me that, here anyway, it does have to do with a false apprehension of a certain particular of Americanism.
We've now had a number of generations grow-up in an environment of individual rights, a culture that protects each person's right to believe what they want and think how they want. Unfortunately, in recent generations we've come to be a people who urgently promote our individual rights but have lost track of the sense of personal responsibility that informed such guaranteed freedom . . . we see news accounts of teens demanding that they be 'respected' as they kill their neighbor for his cherished sneakers, etc. Many today have confused their right to think what they prefer to think with the false notion that whatever anyone thinks is just as valid as whatever anyone else thinks - and that is simply observably wrong. you can think that a 1964 VW Beetle is a prettier car than a 1972 Ford Mustang if you want, but you can't think that 1964 VW Beetle is a faster car than a 1972 Ford Mustang and be accurate . . . you can think it, you have the right to think whatever you want, but what you think (in this case) is demonstrably wrong. Having the right to think whatever you prefer to think doesn't suggest that whatever you think is just as valid (regarding the truth) as whatever anyone else thinks.
So, what too often happens is that people imagine that whatever notion they've picked-up from wherever (a History Channel show, some popular book, a stand-up comic, etc) must be counted as a legitimate idea - because they have the right to think what they prefer to think. But, when someone says that the Bible we have today has been altered again and again and is not the same Bible it used to be, they are simply wrong, they are in error, their viewpoint is contrary to the reality of the situation. Again, they have the right to believe an untruth if they choose, but they can't reasonably assert that their right to believe a certain idea suggests at all that the idea has any validity. The consequence is that we are now in a generation that believes certain notions about religion and ideas of God, and believes certain notions about believing and those who do believe in certain notions about religion and ideas of God, and they imagine that their beliefs are right and valid and true simply on the basis that it is what they believe and everyone has the right to believe what they want . . . and again, what they believe is merely something they heard somewhere, and now, to them, it is truth.
Now, in all of my comments in this article, I'm speaking very broadly, in unashamed generalities. And, there are certainly many today who identify themselves as 'Christian' who contribute greatly to the world's perception that Christians are foolish, just as there are certainly many individuals who believe in some other god or faith than Christianity or who believe in no god at all and are thoughtful, honest, people who simply see things differently than what the Bible presents as the truth - I have no quarrel with them. The charges I offer here are aimed at those folks who don't merely disagree with Christianity but who mock and ridicule Christians for believing it, those who assume for themselves some foundation of higher intellect and strength of character that enables them to rise above the foolishness they assert Christians too stupid and emotionally frail to escape. What I am favoring here is not that others adopt my personal belief (orthodox Bible-believing Christianity) as their own personal belief- what I am advancing is critical thinking, an honest examination of the facts and the historic record.
The answer to the question "Is Believing In God A Ridiculous Thing?" is simply 'no, it is not'. You need not believe in God or in the Biblical concept of God if you prefer not to, but it is not outdated, dangerous, or foolish for someone who has studied, examined evidence, researched history, etc, to believe that the Bible is the authoritative word of God and that Jesus of Nazareth is the only mediator between God and man, etc. We can consider the great questions of first causes and an eternal reality beyond our own material reality, etc, and we can do so with respect and an opened-mind - but only if both sides start without assumptions of how foolish the other guy must be because he doesn't already agree with me.
- Regular, Normal Christianity
I believe many folks are turned off, not by authentic Christianity, but by the too often ugly, discordant, and silly religion some have concocted and falsely labeled "Christianity"
- The Christian & Private Study - A 'How To' Guide
You don't have to be a scholar to study Scripture effectively and you don't have to be intimidated because of unfamiliar terms and references - there are essential things you can know and aids to use that will make your own private study fruitful.