For a while now I’ve been having a rather hit-or miss conversation with a Christian commenter who goes by “murk” and who wants me to put my trust in “the only one who can uphold these things.” Unfortunately, no such person shows up in the real world, so murk’s invitation is actually urging me, in practice, to put my trust in murk. And that highlights an unfortunate flaw in the Christian faith, if not in all theistic religions. When it comes right down to it, you can either put your trust in material reality, and be a skeptic, or you can put your trust in the words and superstitions of men, and be a believer. Faith in any actual god is simply not an option.
Murk, no doubt, would deny that he was asking me to put faith in himself rather than in God. He’d like to say he wants me to put my faith in God. I can’t do that, however, unless and until some actual god shows up in real life and begins interacting with me. In God’s absence, the most I could do is what murk does: put my faith in the things that people say about God. But if I do that, who am I really trusting, God, or just people?
Let’s use the Qur’an as an example. The Qur’an says God wants believers to wage holy war (jihad) against unbelievers. What if that’s not true? Would that mean that God told a lie, or would that mean that the people who wrote the Qur’an told a lie? Obviously, if the Qur’an is a lie, it’s not God who has deceived you, it’s people. That’s how you can know that you’re not putting your faith in God, but in the people who wrote the Qur’an. Your faith is in whoever is offering you something to believe.
It’s the same with the Christian Bible. If you want to know who you’re really putting your trust in, ask yourself who would be deceiving you if the things you believe turned out to be false. The Bible says there’s a hell in which the wicked suffer for all eternity. If you believe that, and it turns out there is no such place, you haven’t been deceived by God, you’ve been deceived by the people who wrote the Bible. And that means that when you believe the Bible, you’re not believing God, you’re believing the people who wrote the Bible.
Same with personal superstition. Suppose you believe that God is telling you to do something and promising that things will work out in a certain way, and then they don’t. Was that God lying to you, or were you merely fooling yourself? (I had such experiences fairly often when I was a believer.) Obviously, you were only fooling yourself, which means that when you believed God was speaking to you, you weren’t putting your faith in God, you were putting your faith in your own superstitions and subjective feelings.
This is really bad news for believers, because it means actual faith in God—the kind that is supposed to save us—is literally not an option. In order for us to have faith in God rather than in mere people, it has to be God who is telling us the things we’re putting our faith in. And it can’t be just subjective feelings and intuitions and woo, because that’s putting faith in ourselves and our own spiritual insight. God has to be here, in person, in real life, visibly and audibly and tangibly interacting with us in order for us to have the opportunity to put any faith at all in Him rather than in the stories and superstitions and feelings of men.
And He ain’t here.