Why do religious believers believe? This question is asked by Plumbline Pictures in their video – Dear Believer: Why Do You Believe? (ORIGINAL) – YouTube.
In this blog series, I’ve been assessing their arguments against religion. I’ve responded to the following ideas:
- You’re only a religious devotee / believer because you were born into it.
- All devotees of their religion think their beliefs are the only correct ones. What are the odd that you, dear believer, are correct and everyone else is wrong?
- Religious believers are atheists too when it comes to other religions. They just believe in one more god than the atheist does.
Here’s another objection from them:
Objection 4 – Religion is a crutch to make people feel better
“I wonder if religions aren’t just ancient constructs … attempt[ing] to explain unexplained phenomenon. Though irrational in content, they are not irrational in their emergence. But we no longer live in the dark; science is ablaze in our world, we no longer live in the cave. We no longer require comforting stories that make us feel safe, comforted or valued. Isn’t it time our faith matches our discoveries? Our ideas, our new perspective? Greater awe in reality rather than fantasy?”
1 – But’s Isn’t Atheism Also a Crutch?
I’ve always wondered why people claim that belief in God, and Christianity in particular, is some sort of emotional “crutch”? After all, crutches come in all shapes and sizes. If we define atheism as disbelief in a God (or lack of belief in a God), then can’t this also act as a crutch? If there’s no God, then I don’t have anyone who I am ultimately accountable to. I can live life as I please, and I won’t be answerable to anyone in an ultimate sense. This props up my own self reliance and belief that – my life is ultimately down to me and my choices alone.
Greg Reeves puts his finger on the main crutch of atheism when he says that if there is no God then when I die, no one is going to hold me accountable for my immoral actions. I can live as I please and indulge whatever desires I happen to have. Yes – there are consequences in the here and now – but no God exists to answer to. So – who cares!
Yet perhaps, as C S Lewis said in Mere Christianity, we have a cause to feel uneasy in atheism. If objective standards of morality exist in the world, then that means there is a moral law. And there are very good reasons to understand this moral law as objective. So – there must be a moral law Giver. Don’t you think the one who sets objective moral laws that apply across every human society – might have something to say about those who break those laws? The atheist has reason to feel uneasy as he leans on the crutch atheism to justify his lifestyle.
2 – Christianity is Rarely Easy
People who decide to authentically live out their Christian beliefs rarely escape some sort of painful collision with their society. The evidence for this is overwhelming, and here’s a taste of it.
In the 3rd century AD, Perpetua became one of the first female Christian martyrs in Carthage, North Africa. Christianity was viewed with suspicion at the time as it denied the emperor’s divine character. Consequently, Christians were thrown into the arena to be torn apart by animals, or killed by the sword. Imagine a young mother who was unwilling to deny her Jesus, and so faced execution as her family begged her to recant. That’s the Perpetua story. Christianity was not easy for her.
In 2019, the then British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a report on religious persecution around the world. This report found that Christian persecution in various areas around the world are at near genocide levels.
Christianity in Iraq is close to extinction. In the previous few years, Christians have been brutally killed in Iraq by Islamic State militants. The oldest Christian church in the world is in Iraq, and it is almost gone. Christianity is not easy for Iraqis.
I have friends in Malawi and Mozambique in Africa today whose lives are under threat from Nigerian Islamic militants. They are not sure from day to day whether they will be safe. Its becoming less and less easy to be a Christian in some African countries.
Mao Zedong’s Chinese government are working to eradicate religious belief in China. The officially atheist nation only permits religious believers to attend nationally instituted churches which do not maintain Christian beliefs. Ironically, their attempts at stamping out Christianity has led to its growth. Estimates are that over 100 million Chinese Christians are active in the underground Chinese Christian church, and it is growing. Yet the Christians are also being persecuted. Church leaders are being taken from their families, interrogated, and jailed. Christianity is not easy for the Chinese.
Clearly, Christianity is not easy for a lot of people.
3 – Christianity Removes A Person’s Autonomy
Perhaps the atheist misses this important point, but the life of the Christian is about following Christ and his will for your life. It is not about following your own autonomy. After around fifty years as a Christian, I have rarely found this to be an easy process.
I had a plan in my early twenties for what I wanted to do with my life. I was never going to give up my Christian beliefs, but I was going to invest and focus in my career. I remember where I was when I suddenly realised that I could not follow that plan, because Jesus had another plan for my life that I had to follow. And – I realised that following his plan was my only option.
I have not fully understood his plan, and so I have stumbled my way through things during my life. But I’ve always sought to follow what Jesus has been leading me to do. This has rarely been easy.
I have had to balance my working life with service in the church. This has involved many challenging roles, like taking groups of people to visit Malawi and Mozambique in Africa for periods of time and teaching there. These are not comfortable trips.
I have funded multiple theological degrees myself to better prepare myself for Christian ministry. This has cost in excess of 100 thousand pounds – and its not finished yet.
I have built and maintained relationships with people in the church over the years inspite of the difficulties that I have experienced with them. I have known various church leaders who have been quite controlling in their dealings with me. Inevitably, not everything I have followed them into has been a roaring success. The reality, is that I have only done this because I am following Jesus and want to build Jesus’ church. And I know that difficult people and challenging relationships are used by God to build my character. And people who are difficult to work with are sometimes those who are able to achieve great things. Has this been easy for me? Not at all!
4 – Whatever Christianity Is, the Reasons for Theism Must Be Considered
Finally, its actually irrelevant whether or not Christianity is viewed as a crutch or not!
If there are good reasons for becoming a Christian, as the countless persecuted Christians in the world today would attest to, then we must respond to those reasons. Maybe Christianity is a crutch to some, maybe it leads to painful hammer blows to others. It doesn’t change the fact that – the reasons for Christian belief are what must be considered.
Christian belief is rooted in historical events, not fictional claims. As I said in the previous blog in this series, the arguments for theism are incredibly robust. Christianity makes sense of the world, but it does so much more.
5 – Conclusion
C S Lewis once said –
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
I don’t think Christianity is a crutch. It is a challenging life, but it has incredibly helpful and positive aspects to it. Being a Christian is like having a light that illuminates our path forward in a dark and dangerous world.
 Ibid., 07:58.
 Greg Reeves, A response to “Dear Believer, Why Do You Believe?” part 2 of 2, accessed 3rd January, 2022, https://twobooksapproach.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-response-to-dear-believer-why-do-you.html.
 Saint Perpetua, Encyclopedia.com, accessed 3rd January, 2022, https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/perpetua-saint.
 Iraq’s Christians close to Extinction, BBC News, published 23rd May, 2019, accessed 3rd January, 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-48333923.
 In China, they’re Closing Churches, Jailing Pastors – and Even Rewriting Scripture, The Guardian, published 13th January, 2019, accessed 3rd January, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/13/china-christians-religious-persecution-translation-bible.