Questions for non-Christians #4

Facts don’t care about your feelings. – Ben Shapiro

Yes, I’m quoting another conservative commentator. And why not? Wisdom is found most prominently in conservatism. It’s just a fact…that doesn’t care about your feelings.

Facts are objective truths about reality, and how they make you feel has no impact on their veracity. A fact is still a fact…undeniable, irrefutable, and inescapable. Yet our feelings, our felt needs, our psychological makeup, and our desires often take precedence over facts when we formulate our beliefs.

So here’s another dispassionate fact: People believe what they do for a myriad of reasons other than pure reason. In other words, for reasons other than being persuaded by the evidence…by the facts.

We see this in politics: Democrats are embracing socialism despite the FACT that true socialism has always resulted in oppression and extreme hardship for citizens who were promised that it would benefit them.

In society: Abortion rights supporters champion the procedure as necessary for women’s “reproductive health” despite the FACT that the large majority of women who seek abortions do so for reasons other than their physical health, and that it’s never necessary to kill the child when the mother’s health is actually in jeopardy.

And we see it in matters of religious belief: Folks ascribe to all kinds of existential notions that appeal to their pride, sense of fairness, desire for autonomy, apathy, or a host of other personal predispositions but have little basis in fact. So my fourth question for the non-Christian is:

Are you willing to honestly examine your reasons for believing what you do?

Every one of us, if we’re going to be intellectually honest, has to be willing to submit to a self-examination of one’s motivations for holding to the faith that we profess. Including faith in a godless universe. I acknowledge that an atheist can be truly motivated solely by facts in rejecting the God hypothesis. But it can hardly be denied that many, and in my opinion most, have ulterior motives that have nothing to do with evidence.

Thomas Nagel

Atheist philosopher and NYU professor Thomas Nagel has been oft-quoted in this regard for his bold honesty in admitting that his feelings and desires figure heavily into his rejection of God.

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (Thomas Nagel, The Last Word, Oxford University Press: 1997)

And Christianity Today reports that:

The 20th-century ethics philosopher Mortimer Adler (who was baptized quietly at age 81) confessed to rejecting religious commitment for most of his life because it “would require a radical change in my way of life, a basic alteration in the direction of my day-to-day choices as well as in the ultimate objectives to be sought or hoped for …. The simple truth of the matter is that I did not wish to live up to being a genuinely religious person.”

We intuitively recognize that if the Christian God exists, he has the right to make demands on our lives. But we have a rebellious nature prone to resisting authority and making our own demands for autonomy and independence. This surely is why many people ignore or reject the God revealed in the Bible, choosing instead to align with a religion or belief system void of a transcendent authority who holds us accountable.

But if this transcendent authority does exist, ignoring or rejecting him hardly renders him unimportant or impotent, because his existence is a fact unaffected by feelings. And though he allows you the freedom to refuse to submit to him, you are nevertheless still under his authority and subject to whatever consequences for stubborn rebellion that he deems appropriate.

It seems to me the only good reason for holding to any particular belief is that it appears to be actual and factual. Because if feelings propel you into fiction when they bump up against the facts, you’ve got essentially nothing to hold on to…nothing to stand on. Nothing under your feet that is real.

Facts are a solid foundation. Fiction…for all its felt benefits…leaves you falling.