The Gospel Hypothesis

I’m doing a series on The Gospel Hypothesis, documenting the fact that it takes many more rationalizations to reconcile reality and theism than it does to reconcile reality and atheism. This series started with the observation that the true explanation will always be simpler than any false one, because when you give a false explanation, you tell a story that’s not consistent with the truth, and these inconsistencies will require additional explanations. Superstitions might be shorter, because they only attribute things to magical sources instead of actually explaining them, but the true explanation will be the simplest one that genuinely explains everything.

From there I go to the question of how we explain the existence of theistic religions like Christianity. The true explanation for the origin of theistic religions will be the explanation that explains all the facts with the fewest additional rationalizations. For purposes of comparison, therefore, I like to compare two alternative hypotheses: the Gospel Hypothesis and the Myth Hypothesis.

The Gospel Hypothesis begins with the assumption that there is a perfect God: perfectly loving, perfectly good, perfectly wise, perfectly knowing, perfectly mighty, and so on. This God loves each and every one of us, and wants us all to be united to Him in a loving, interactive, personal relationship with Him for all eternity. Thus, according to the Gospel Hypothesis, theistic religion exists because God is revealing Himself to us in order to achieve His goal of uniting us to Himself forever.

The Myth Hypothesis, by contrast, begins with the assumption that no such god(s) exist, and that theistic religions arise out of people’s natural inclination to indulge in superstitions, anthropomorphisms, peer pressure, and good old-fashioned storytelling and politics. This means that as religions emerge and evolve over time, we should be able to see evidence of ordinary, human, psychosocial influences shaping the popularity and characteristics of religion, in the absence of any common, objective, supernatural guidance.

Each post in the Gospel Hypothesis series looks at specific ways each hypothesis has certain implications regarding what we ought to be seeing in the real world if each hypothesis were true. In every case, we find that the Myth Hypothesis fits the facts just as they are, while the Gospel Hypothesis has to be propped up by innumerable additional rationalizations. People continue to believe because they have plenty of extra rationalizations to resort to, and indeed have an entire field called “apologetics” designed to provide a steady source of them.

Comparatively speaking, though, the Myth Hypothesis is the stronger explanation, because it does not need any of these extra rationalizations. The facts that are inconsistencies for the Gospel Hypothesis are just what the Myth Hypothesis implies ought to be there. Any way you slice it, then, the Myth Hypothesis is a better fit. And that’s what I’m documenting in the series.