People would rather live with a comfortable lie than embrace an inconvenient truth.
It is generally understood that it is impossible to argue with a Christian. The Christian faith includes a very complex system of beliefs. Among those beliefs are very clever defense mechanisms designed to protect the validity of those beliefs. The primary defense mechanism used to defend Christianity is faith itself. It is argued that if you first have faith in the tenets of Christianity, then the truth is revealed to you. People are capable of believing all sorts of things. If we defended our beliefs by simply having faith in their validity, then we could never examine those beliefs and determine if they are the best beliefs.
Certainly there are many forms of Christianity. Christianity has its critics, and many of those have been within its many organizations. Each denomination of Christianity, some 1100, contain variations in its beliefs. The creation and design of those many denominations can be traced to an individual – or interested parties working together – who held beliefs that were significantly different than those embraced by all other denominations. The core belief however, one that is shared by all Christian denominations asserts the divinity of Jesus and his resurrection from death.
Let us suppose, just for a moment, that Jesus was just a man; not a divine being, not the Son of God, and that he did not resurrect from his death. Assuming that is true, how would Christianity be changed?
It would not change the nature of faith. If Christianity was false, people would just believe in something else. If all religions were rendered false, people would invent new religions to believe in.
If the resurrection did not occur, and if Jesus was just a man, that would mean that Christianity was invented by people who were more willing to live with a comfortable lie than embrace an inconvenient truth. A life without religion poses some very serious consequences.
Civilization itself depends on a shared religious understanding. Before Christianity was invented, there were other religions that were embraced by people. Today we regard those as myths – lies that are no longer necessary.
People embrace Christianity because it works. Christianity provides a connection between God and humankind that is more attractive to a greater number of people in America than other religious ideas. If someone designs a better religion, Christianity might one day lose its popularity. It might be replaced by a new and improved religion. Future generations might come to regard Christianity the same way we now view the stories of Greek and Roman gods.
A life without an understanding of God, without an understanding of what God implies, is a very inconvenient truth. It is simply a truth people do not want to embrace. The drive to understand the universe in terms of some sentient force that was capable of creating it, is simply too compelling for us to ignore or dismiss.
A growing number of people want to put Christianity to the test. They want you to know that Christianity is false. Fine. Since we are assuming it is false, where does that leave us? Where will people then place their faith? How will they reconcile the difficult questions about life? If they are driven to be faithful, to trust others, to bind with others to form unions, how will a non-religious truth help them do that?
The problem is not Christianity. It matters not if it is true or false. The problem is faith itself. People want to belief in something. We cannot easily embrace the truth that there are some things we simply will never know. We cannot live agnostic lives when the chores of living require certainty. Who can hold the hand of an elder upon his deathbed and simply shrug their shoulders when a fearful, dieing man asks if there is any hope for him after death? It seems cruel to me to say, “We can’t know.”
And it must seem cruel to others as well, for I know of no one who will not comfort the dieing with words of hope. It may be a comfortable lie, but it is far better than an inconvenient truth.
As human beings have evolved, there has never been a successful civilization that existed which did not provide a general theological view which offered hope for people. If the non-religious truth is superior in design and function, then certainly by now someone would have invented a non-theistic set of beliefs that a majority of the population would embrace and accept as true.
In that light, Christianity is the latest and greatest religion that most people can embrace. If not for Christianity, it would be something else – but it would never be agnostic, atheistic or non-theistic, even though we can find more truth in each of those than we can in Christianity.
There is another answer to this riddle. In order to develop that answer, I will leave you with a few questions. The first is to ask about the nature of religion itself. What is it, and what is its purpose? Why did we invent it? Why is it a necessary component that permits civilizations to exist and thrive?
If Christianity is just the best religious understanding that we can design in this time, what exactly is its purpose? What social problems existed that made life so very inconvenient that it became necessary to invent any religion at all?
Something is amiss. Both the adherents of Christianity and its critics are missing a very fundamental and essential component in the quest to discover why some people take offense at religious expressions. It isn’t Christianity. It is something else – something deeper, something hidden from view.
I wonder what it is? I wonder if it is a lie or if it is a truth.