It’s all about who you trust

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.


  1. Drager says

    I think you may be making a false equivalence between faith (belief without evidence) and faith (trust). These are different things. Theists often conflate the two when trying to twist debates, but its not a good idea as they are not equivalent.

    I agree with you on type 2, but its type 1 faith that believers have in a god.

  2. =8)-DX says

    Reminds of my Catholic marriage preparation, where it was explained to me “why we believe”. It started with the Pope, the bishops, early Christians, Paul, the gospel authors, Jesus.

    Right I’m supposed to trust hundreds of people I’ve never met and who’ve left unverifyable written and oral traditions.

    Just the apostolic succession is enough:

    Right. I’m supposed to trust a whole line of rich pompous and holier-than-thou old white men, many of whome were proven hypocritcs, money-grabbers, war-mongerers, philanderers and who have a vested interest in their interpretation of an old book to be the only true and moral one. Right.

    Just imagin all those people in one room – popes, bishops, apostles, evangelists. Imagine them all sitting on their thrones and shouting at you “Believe!” I can’t think of any group of people I’d rather give the finter to.

    Great post, loved it, nice to see you posting on here again =).

  3. mikespeir says

    As I always point out, it inevitably comes down to, “You say the Bible says Paul (or Moses or whoever) says God says….” No matter how you slice it, that precariously balanced, upside down pyramid is teetering on YOU.

  4. smrnda says

    “Believe because I/we believe” is a pretty common tactic, at least among Christians I’ve met. Something underlying that case (if applied to your current conversation with murk) is implying that by rejecting murk’s belief, you think murk is a shitty person, or a deluded idiot, and some people will use this as a type of ‘conversion through good manners’ where the idea is to make you feel like you’re being rude to reject the beliefs of so many decent people. This is why so many newer Christian denominations place such huge emphasis on personal testimony.

  5. says

    Yeah, murk. Sorry, but I’m not buying it.

    You see, there’s this little problem you theists have. It’s one of a plethora of choices. You claim that your choice is the correct one. OK, fine. But every single person who believes in the supernatural makes the same claim.

    Which is more likely? That YOUR choice out of the thousands upon thousands of choices is the correct choice — or that every choice is no better than any other? In other words, that they’re all wrong. All the products of human imagination. You don’t believe Islam is just as good a choice as Christianity, or Jainism, or Hinduism. You think they’re wrong. And they think the same of you. I’m here to tell you that you’re correct about that. They are wrong. But so are you. Nobody’s choice is correct.

    The only way to win is not to play.

    Gods were invented by primitives who didn’t understand the weather or human disease. Later, the idea of gods were co-opted as a convenient way of enforcing a society’s behavioral code. Dress this way, eat this not that because the god we believe in wants us to.

    And, as a side benefit, it provided an indoor job for the smart people who didn’t want to work in the fields. Then a priest eats a bad oyster and suddenly all shellfish are traif. Or a kid with measles recovers (naturally) but the priest covered his testicles with pigeon blood — suddenly that’s the cure.

    It’s all nonsense. Made up stuff that marries natural phenomenon with coincidental human behavior.

    Nothing has changed since the first witch doctor first shook the first bones. It’s all human invention.

    • mikespeir says

      Isn’t it embarrassing that here, in the 21st century, we’re still following the orders of some frizzled, begrimed primitive in a half-dressed bearskin frock who lived thousands of years ago?

      • Brian M says

        Let’s be careful here. In some ways that half dressed primiitve was smarter and more observant than the typical modern man. Surviving in a natural “hunting and gathering” culture requires more smarts than, to use a perjorative strawman, a ditzy mall-bound teenager.

        Peruse the (terribly classist and sexist) photos at People of before you so so smugly asusme the superiority of modern subruban man.

      • mikespeir says

        LOL! Point taken, but I stand by my grumble. Too much of our basic attitudes toward, I don’t know, things in general come from primitive misconceptions about how the world and we ourselves work.

  6. MURK says

    “You see, there’s this little problem you theists have. It’s one of a plethora of choices”

    Let me see if i get this straight – many choice = non-existence?

    by analogy then since there are many counterfeit moneys there is no real one?

    the counterfeit is dependent on the real my friend.

    “They are wrong. But so are you. Nobody’s choice is correct.”

    Nobody is correct but your position must be taken as correct to have meaning therefore this is self contradicting

    mutually exclusive claims necessitate that at least one cannot be true
    (ie. if Hinduism is true Christianity is false)
    If they can be then contradiction can be broken
    and if contradiction can be broken then it cant be

    thus only one possible avenue exists to make sense of the universe
    (provide preconditions of intelligibility for anything)

    wanna go down this road?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Let me see if i get this straight – many choice = non-existence?

      Not quite. The problem is not just that there are many choices, it’s that all the choices are based on subjective preference, in the absence of any objective means of demonstrating that any of them is actually true. After all, if you had objective proof that any of them were correct, you’d be walking by proof, not walking by faith.

      the counterfeit is dependent on the real my friend.

      There is also a plethora of vampires, dragons, elves, fairies, and other mythical, fantastic creatures. If myths could not exist in the absence of reality, then we’d have to also believe in fairies.

      In the case of God, though, it’s a bit easier. The counterfeit is dependent on the real. It’s just that the real in this case is man himself. God is an exaggerated counterfeit of your earthly father.

      Nobody is correct but your position must be taken as correct to have meaning therefore this is self contradicting

      Careful, you’re taking his quote out of context. He’s pointing out that the evidence is the same for all the conflicting theistic opinions. Since they are all equally supported by the evidence, none is more correct than any other, and since they are mutually contradictory, they can’t all be true. Therefore they must all be false. It’s not self-contradiction to point out the mutual contradictions of theism.

      thus only one possible avenue exists to make sense of the universe
      (provide preconditions of intelligibility for anything)

      wanna go down this road?

      Did that already. It ends up with an insane God, because God’s ability to be a reasonable being is contingent upon the existence of reasonable order as an inherent characteristic of reality itself. If you agree that logical order is inherent in reality itself, and that God’s existence is contingent on this order, then reality itself is the necessary and sufficient precondition that makes sense of the universe.

      Of course, the law of identity is also required in order for the law of contradiction not to be broken, and God fails to pass the test. To be real, a thing must be the same as itself, but God is not the same as Himself. The Father is God, and the Son is God, but the Father is not the same as the Son, which means God is not the same as God. Therefore God is not the same as Himself, and thus is not real. Also (obviously) since He is a self-contradiction, He cannot be the source for the preconditions of intelligibility, because that would be contrary to His nature.

  7. MURK says

    ” it’s that all the choices are based on subjective preference,” is this an objective claim? if so by what standard?

    “you’d be walking by proof, not walking by faith.” not true- boils down to ultimate authority – we all have one – what is yours again?

    proof furthermore requires commitments to absolute laws of logic / validity of senses / uniformity of nature / existence of meaning – entails purpose and direction ….yada yada yada – which no one can know (since we do not know everything) therefore it requires belief in the existence and continuance of these things – we all must believe – we cannot not – the only issue is do we believe in what is true or what is made by the Truth.

    fairies and such are characters admittedly devised by man . to make stories – they do not claim exclusivity re: ultimate starting point claims – so the argument is not appropriate (relevant)

    “Since they are all equally supported by the evidence” – Hinduism claims all is illusion yet this claim must be taken as non-illusion to back that claim – hence it is self refuting – could go on but point is made – your statement is false

    furthermore evidence presupposes logic – see below for more on this

    why are contradictions not allowed in your worldview again?

    Laws of logic are an attribute of God – ie He contains them they do not contain Him
    this is the only avenue to the continuance of the laws of logic – they are rooted in the One who has the power to uphold them. You use them all the time – you cannot not use them – yet you cannot account for them . – and then you say He has never revealed anything to you. i’m getting tired just thinking about it

    What is your explanation for existence for universal / invariant / immaterial laws of logic in a universe that has no purpose / direction / plan ?

    Play fair – laws of logic cannot change or be set aside – thus it is impossible that they do not exist – and this is what is used to underpin the notion that possibility does not have limits (which is a necessary requirement of trying to explain the universe without the Maker) – see the tension?

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