Why is BELIEF what gets us into heaven?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16

The details may vary among denominations, but the general consensus is that belief in Jesus Christ as the son of god is absolutely necessary and is step one on the road to heaven.  If you do not believe in Jesus, you cannot get into heaven (and you perish in hell, or are annihilated...details are fuzzy on that too). 

This is also made very clear in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

But why though?

If you stop to think about it, "belief" is a very odd thing to require as a ticket to heaven.  

Presumably, God wants to separate all people into two groups: those "worthy" of heaven, and those "deserving" hell.  He has designed a cosmic test to sort people into groups, in which there's only one question: 

Do you believe (in Jesus?)

Apparently, the answer to this one question inherently answers all other questions about you: whether you are good, moral, and deserving of "eternal paradise."  But should this one question carry so much weight?  And why is it at all relevant to what kind of person you are?

How do we achieve belief in something?

Per the Oxford Dictionary, belief is "an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists." In other words, to be convinced of something.  That does not mean that a given statement needs to be 100% proven or falsified, but enough reasonable evidence or justification must be given in order to accept that statement as true.

If I tell you that "All olives are green", I should be able to provide enough evidence or justification so that you can reasonably believe my statement.  Maybe I google image search "olives" and show you that the hundreds of results are green and there are no other colors.  But if the image results show even one olive of another color, then my statement has been falsified and acceptance (belief) of my statement is unjustified.

We must be convinced of something in order to have true belief.  Try to believe in one-eyed flying tigers.  Without any reason to believe that there are one-eyed flying tigers, it's difficult to force yourself to believe this.  You could SAY you believe it, but would you bet your retirement savings on it? Anyone can say they believe something, but when the belief is put to the test, it's clear that they really don't.

The other definition of "belief" in the Oxford Dictionary is "trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something."  Again, it is difficult to have trust or faith in something without evidence.  Many Christians claim they have evidence or a basis for their faith, but none of it ever holds up to scrutiny. In other words, it's not verifiable.  Personal experiences are unreliable, the bible is riddled with errors and tampering, and the Christian god is completely hidden, answering prayers in a yes/no/maybe fashion that is no different than random chance. 

So if there's no evidence for belief, how are we supposed to believe?

What does it say about you if you don't believe?

I used to think there was something wrong with me because I doubted.  I had latched onto what I had been taught: belief in god or Jesus means you are good and holy, you're doing what's right, and you're destined for heaven.  If you don't believe, then you're foolish, unstable, evil, and you're going to burn in hell.

Obviously, I wanted to believe.  Who wouldn't, when faced with such a false dichotomy?  

So why couldn't I?

I've come to realize that I just have one of those brains.  I require justified belief and my brain does not tolerate any unjustified belief.  I am not good at deluding myself into believing something that I'm not convinced of, even if I wanted to.  

If there were enough convincing evidence to support Christianity, I would probably believe it.  If there were enough convincing evidence to demonstrate that there's a god, I would not be an atheist.

Does that make me a bad person?

Justified Belief vs. Unjustified Belief

This article from the blog Sufficient Reasons to Consider Leaving Christianity is a great summary of what justified belief is.  Basically, belief isn't necessarily binary (like an on/off switch).  It's a sliding scale based on the degree of evidence.  For example, you might have a weak belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life (there's no direct evidence, but the immensity of the cosmos gives a degree of likelihood), but a strong belief that your cat is a jerk (based on directly-observed behavior). 

Belief and evidence gradient
Graphic from Sufficient Reasons, AKA THE BEST BLOG ON THE PLANET (used with permission)

Rational (or justified) strong beliefs correlate with strong evidence, and rational weak beliefs with weak evidence.  

There is weak (or no) evidence for Christianity*, therefore, a strong belief in Christianity is unjustified.  Rather, a weak belief or no belief is justified.  As always, I am open to evidence, so if you know of any, send it!

*Apologists have all sorts of "evidence" locked and loaded, but it all somehow falls apart under deeper scrutiny.  

Lowering the bar

Some people have a lower evidential threshold for a given claim than others.  They adjust their threshold based on how badly they want the claim to be true.

Christian apologist William Lane Craig recently said in an interview, "When I first heard the message of the Gospel as a non-Christian high school student, that my sins could be forgiven by God, that God loved me...and that I could come to know him and experience eternal life with God, I thought to myself...if there is just one chance in a million that this is true, it's worth believing...Far from raising the bar or the epistemic standard that Christianity must meet to be believed, I lower it."

Ah, that explains it!  While I strive to base my truths on solid epistemology, Mr. Craig does not.  I do not base my beliefs on a wish or a hope.  I only want to believe in demonstrably true things.  Does that make me worthy of being burned for all eternity? Not at all, that would be ludicrous. 

I also WANT to believe in ghosts (for a multitude of reasons).  But because I have never seen reliable, reproducible evidence of the ghost-realm, I do not believe in ghosts.  Do I deserve to go to hell for THAT? If not, what's the difference between a ghost claim and the Jesus claim? Both are supernatural claims with no reliable, reproducible, demonstrable evidence.  One is perfectly permissible for me to disbelieve and the other sends me to a never-ending pit of misery.

Does this make sense to you?

So why DOES salvation require belief?

Because that's what propagates the religion.  Not being a good person, not dancing naked on a Wednesday.   BELIEF is the outcome, the data point, the end goal that grows the religion and validates its members. 

The Christian god doesn't really seem to care if you're a good person or what you do with your life.  As long as you check that box before you die (the box that says "I believe") then you get the eternal reward.  That's what the criminal on the cross next to Jesus did, after all. 

The Bottom Line

This is a completely unfair, unjustified, and absurd belief system.  The fact that an allegedly perfect, just, merciful god supposedly set it up is just icing on the insanity cake.

Here's a summary:
  1. God purposely made flawed people that he knew would later make him really mad
  2. Has no choice but to burn all the people for eternity because of the rules he himself made
  3. Can only forgive when blood is spilled and something dies, again because of his arbitrary rules, which apparently he can't even break? (WHO MADE THAT RULE??)
  4. Spawned a part of himself off to sacrifice to fulfill his need for blood
  5. "Inspired" a confusing, flawed, ancient book
  6. Immediately hides and pretends he doesn't exist
  8. WTF


Popular posts from this blog

Six times God killed people in the Bible

The Zombie Uprising in Matthew's Gospel

How did Judas Iscariot Die?