If you are a Christian, and any of these are true, this article is for you:
1) One or both of your parents are Christians
2) Your friends are Christians
3) You live in a Christian society
4) You went to a Christian school (where prayers were routinely prayed in your classroom, assembly or prior to sports events, to a Christian God)
5) You live in a neighbourhood with proportionately more Christian churches (denomination irrelevant), or there is at least one place of worship in your community (and only) one, and it is the church you attend, which is a Christian church.
If any of these are true, and I'm guessing most are, you, as a Christian, cannot obviously claim to have chosen to be a Christian, in the same way you were born a South African, male or female, and you did not make a choice, there was no 'decision', you did not 'sign the contract' but were contracted into society when you were born. That's an enormous difference, and I'll explain why in a moment.
First allow me to point out that if the dominant belief system in your culture or a community is a particular belief system, the odds are, you will also be indoctrinated in that belief system, or to use a more PC term - you will also 'choose' this same belief which those around you directly or indirectly abide by, for yourself.
Many Christians argue that it is ‘very hard’ to be a Christian, and then try to make the case that they make enormous sacrifices as part of their unique umbilicus to ‘the Lord’ which is that “I have a relationship with my Lord and saviour, no other religion does.” On the first point, there are 2 billion Christians in the world, and if you live in a Christian country (as you do) it is easier to be a Christian than to not be one. That’s what a Christian society is, and why you are a Christian after all. On the second point, what do you know about any other religion, have you had a relationship with any other God to know, to test whether this one ‘feels right’? (No, I didn’t think so).
One of the reasons this thought experiment is important, is because all Christians contend that their faith is the authentic one, but they know little to nothing of any other belief system. Their saying their belief system is an exclusive monopoly on the truth is based not on insight, or experience, or even research, but on the tenets of the belief system itself (which is obviously self-reinforcing, but as is so often, not necessarily true, and once again untested ‘knowledge’).
Stephen F Roberts said, “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Thus the question becomes, why do you believe the way you do? The answer is more easily found by looking at the geographic distribution of other important faiths. Why are there so many Muslims in Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and Iran, and Indonesia? Why are there so many Jews (and followers of Judaism) in Israel, or in the suburb of Houghton, Johannesburg? Why are there so many Mormons in Utah? The Amish in Pennsylvania, Hollywood film stars that follow the kaballah or Scientology? Did all those people evaluate all the options (including your faith) and decide, “Hmmm, I think this one is better, I’ll choose this one.” And you in your society, did you do that? If you did, kudos to you, but you following the same religion of the society you belong to shows that this was never a real choice.
In effect, it's quite obvious that in all these instances, people naturally end up with the beliefs their cultures and society foist upon them (or the individual is foisted upon the society and becomes the next proponent of that society, including its beliefs, norms etc)
Thus, how can anyone from any of these beliefs, speak intelligently for other beliefs if he has not experienced them, tested them, and evaluated them against his so-called 'own' beliefs. There are also enormous problems with this religio geographica when we look at the idea of evangelism, which is to proselytise – and so how does one explain certain parts of the world never hearing about certain religions – over millennia – because someone had the bad (or good) luck to be born in an obscure rainforest, or somewhere near the North Pole, or in a dorpie where the so-called good news hasn’t gotten to yet because…perhaps no one knew anyone was there (other than God).
If you end up believing as your society does in the absence of the Christian message, what does that say about the Christian message? What does that say about that religion? What does it say when Christianity passes through some society, and as a result of culture, and beliefs, has absolutely no effect (as is the case in, wait for it, Israel, which has a population of Christians numbering no more than 2% of the total population of Israel. Christians need to try very hard not to think about that one for too long. After all, isn’t this the Holy Land itself, the site where their religion was born, and nobody there believes it? I will do Christians a favour and move on to another paragraph, in order to make another point, although this one does suffice, and I could stop right here.
As for evidence for your own faith, which this forum seems to believe it has in abundance, try asking this question: “would I think this ‘evidence’ was good evidence if it were presented in favor of the truth of some other religion?”*
I like Chris Hallquist's approach to the 'Outsider test', and so I hope you don't me quoting it at length:
"So the way you refute your own religion in three easy steps is this: first, think of your religious beliefs, and think of what you would think of them if you hadn’t been brought up with them. Second, some argument or other about how your religion is special is going to come to mind, and what you do then is ask yourself if you would find a similar argument convincing if it were presented in defense of some other religion. Third, move on to the next argument you think up, and repeat the process, and just keep repeating the process until you run out of arguments.
This may not quite be all you need to do to see why your own religion is false, but I find that nine times out of ten, the arguments religious believers give to defend their religion can be refuted just by pointing out that they wouldn’t find that argument convincing if a member of any other religion gave it.
Also, I can’t force anyone to adopt this perspective of trying to objectively evaluate their own religion. If you look at the Outsider Test for Faith, and think to yourself, “nah, and I am going to stick with the religion I’ve got, whether or not I’ve got a good reason for sticking with it,” there isn’t much I can say to you. But I think there’s still one thing I can ask of you: please be understanding of atheists who don’t think very highly of your religion, because all they’re doing is looking at your religion the way you look at everybody else’s religion."
Indeed. And time and time again, we've seen on this forum, incredibly weak arguments. Why can't you leave me in peace and let me follow my own beliefs, they don't do any harm? They do, to you and to the world. You should know better than being that ignorant, and that dishonesty comes at a price, often it may be literally your survival (iow premature death, possibly also of your loved ones) and it impinges on the integrity and health of both societies and our species. It is a huge freaking deal.
Are you going to stick to the religion you’ve got, whether or not you’ve got a good reason for sticking with it? Best be clear about that then. But then give atheists the credit where credit is due, and grant them a little extra credit for having the courage to face a godless world, a multitude of deluded believers, and worst of all - the terror of death. Whilst all of us share in the problem of death, atheists at least have an enormous advantage over believers - they understand something about how life and the world works, aren't afraid to say it, and aren't afraid to live it. Those who are, are too weak and embarrassed - and deluded - to admit it. I suggest that if you are a Christian, start paying some serious attention. Or to be blunt: put up or shut up.