I’m conducting a non-scientific experiment. Let’s take a look at some of America’s most popular Christian apologists/evangelists and see what it was that caused them to become a Christian. What was it that caused them to believe that a Jewish peasant who lived and died 2,000 years ago is the Creator God and that his bloody execution on a cross bought them eternal life in an unidentifiable location called heaven…if only they believe. Did these paragons of Christian apologetics and evangelism intensely study the evidence for the claims of Christianity, reading both Christian and non-Christian perspectives, both the pro and the con arguments, before choosing to believe? Or, did they believe based on other factors, such as their emotions?
As we saw in a previous post, people who have already decided to believe something and have a strong emotional attachment to that belief, are very reluctant to change that belief. They will often seek out evidence which confirms their decision. Evidence contradicting their belief, even if supported by a majority of experts, is either ignored or rejected. It rarely changes their mind. These believers simply dig in deeper when they feel their belief is under assault. This process known as confirmation bias, and I suggest that most Christians believe what they believe not because of evidence, but because of their emotions! They only use evidence to support their original emotion-based decision. They do not look at the evidence from an impartial standpoint as they would for any other fantastical, extra-ordinary claim.
In short: The idea that the Creator of the universe loves them; wants a personal relationship with them; and will be with them and comfort them through all of life’s ups and downs is just too good a promise to pass up. They make a decision to believe with the heart. Their brain simply tags along, accepting whatever the heart says is true.
From the website of apologist Michael Licona:
Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1961, Mike became a Christian at the age of 10 and grew up in a Christian home. He attended Liberty University where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance (Saxophone). During his undergraduate studies, he had a strong desire to know God, devoting himself to studying the Bible daily. He decided to learn Koine Greek in order to read the New Testament in its original language and later completed a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies.
Toward the end of his graduate work in 1985, Mike began to question the veracity of his faith and wondered if there was any evidence to support it. He decided not to go into Christian ministry at that time. Finding answers to his questions consumed him and he almost jettisoned his faith. He investigated the evidence for Christianity and a number of other major world religions. He also considered the arguments for atheism. His investigation solidified his belief that God exists and that he has actually revealed himself to mankind in Jesus Christ and that the Christian view provides the most plausible and unified theory of reality.
In July of 1997, Mike formed TruthQuest Ministries in order to give an official name to his growing ministry and to allow future donors to make tax-deductible gifts. In October 2001, the ministry was renamed “RisenJesus” in order to avoid confusion with other ministries named “TruthQuest” and more closely reflect its vision of equipping 100,000 Christians to share their faith using the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
Gary: I compliment Mr. Licona for investigating “the arguments for atheism”. Before making major life decisions, we all should investigate all sides of the issue in question. But notice that Licona had already made up his mind to believe Christianity’s fantastical supernatural tales at the age of ten! How can a ten year old make an informed decision regarding the alleged historicity of the reanimation of a first century corpse; a reanimated (“resurrected”) corpse who at this very moment allegedly rules the universe from a golden throne at the edge of the cosmos; a reanimated corpse with whom he can allegedly have a “personal relationship”? And note: Licona says he went looking for evidence to confirm his belief. That is classic case of…confirmation bias.
confirmation bias: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.