Let me begin by explaining the title of my post.
I chose the phrase, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” to explain why I – as a 29-year old man on my own free will and choice – have not – as of now – chosen to embrace Christianity, describe myself as a “Christian,” accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, attend church, etc.
This is a factual description of my reality. I am not a Christian, in the same way I am not, say, a woman, or Chinese.
Could I be a Christian?
Of course. I am partly of Christian heritage (through my family), I was raised in a predominantly Christian culture (America), and I am sympathetic to some of the tenets of Christianity (faith in God, the equality and integrity of every human soul, the beauty and happiness of a moral existence, etc).
So why am I not a Christian?
First, and quite simply, despite my family background, my family did not go to church when I was a child, and despite my cultural background, I was raised in a largely secular ghetto of that culture. So a direct acceptance of Christianity on my part would have required a sustained initiative on my part. For the most part, I have not exercised that initiative; I have not chosen to immerse myself in the Christian faith.
Well…even though I did not go to catechism or attend Bible study, etc., I am confident enough in my knowledge of Christianity (absorbed through a variety of means, including popular culture, news articles, discussion with friends, observations of other people, a college class about the New Testament, etc.) to say that I would not find Christianity believable or satisfying even if I chose to immerse myself in the faith in the way that many people have (becoming “Born Again, etc.).
So again we come to the question: “Why?”
Before I answer that, let me say that many, many people throughout history have taken potshots at Christianity and organized religion, in general. The so-called “New Atheists” (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, among others) have been prolific in that regard. I have not read any of their books (except for Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene and Dennett’s book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, although neither book is about the merits of Christianity, per se). However, I know enough about their books to say that their indictment of Christianity (if not theism) is devastating. Of course, it’s not fair for me to say it’s “devastating,” and leave it at that. I owe you an explanation. OK. Fair enough. I will give a short, but simple explanation. However, I think it’s a powerful explanation.
Basically, the “truth” of Christianity rests on the validity of Revelation - the numerous Revelations of the Old Testament (in which God plays an active role in human affairs) and the Revelation of the New Testament (in which the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is sacrificed to redeemed humanity). The fact that Jesus was a nice guy or that the 10 Commandments are "good principles of living" are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the Revelation. The Revelation is the foundation of Christianity's "truth." Can we agree on that? Yes, I think we can.
OK…having said all that…unlike the atheists, I am not – in principle – opposed to the idea of Revelation…as a believer in God and a believer in God’s omnipotent power (for reasons explained in The Mustard Seed), I cannot – in principle – rule out the idea that God would “reveal” Himself through the Judeo-Christian faith, or any other faith for that matter…God can do what he wants, and I am not arrogant enough to tell God what he can and cannot do.
But here’s the thing…where is the evidence for God’s Revelation?…Yes, I think it is fair to ask for some evidence – some fact that can be identified by the senses, and integrated by our rational brains – something like say, the existence of the Ark of the Covenant, or an independent, non-Biblical account of Jesus' ministry (even the Gospels were written at least 3 decades after his death). No such evidence exists.
But the issue goes beyond sensory, historical evidence…Perhaps we could accept “on faith” that Christianity is true – even if the physical evidence was lacking – if we had strong reason to believe – through experience - that God’s Word (as expressed through the Bible) was valid…In other words: It would reasonable to affirm the practice of Christianity (just the practice) if it lad to morality, happiness, and success?…But as we know, in many cases, Christianity leads to just the opposite: immorality, despair, and failure.
Well, that’s a complicated issue…But in the interest of time, I will simply say, “Because it is not consistent with Reality.” There are too many Christian teachings that are either contradictory or flat-out wrong to lead people to a better future. It is not unreasonable of us to expect that God’s Word would be better than Christianity what has delivered thus far (more understandable, more universal, and certainly more positive in its results).
If I sound negative about Christianity, please don’t misunderstand me: I certainly don’t think Christianity is evil, and I have no interest in trying to convert people away from Christianity. Nor do I declare that someone has to choose between Christianity and Spiritual Rationalism. The principles of Spiritual Rationalism are compatible with Christian teachings to the extent that those teachings are compatible with Reality. I have only been alive for 29 years old in one body. I am not presumptuous enough to say that I have access to all truth. There may be people out there whose experiences are radically different from mine – and based on those experiences – they have come to different conclusions about Christianity. That’s why Spiritual Rationalism isn’t a religion; it’s a philosophy. And it’s not even really a philosophy; it’s more of a “sense of life.”
Even though few people have articulated it in the way I have, I would suspect that many Americans (perhaps 25-40% of them) share my perspective. And in Europe, the numbers are probably between 60%-75%. Furthermore, those numbers are increasing steadily year-by-year. As John Derbyshire has pointed out, the global growth of reason and knowledge has put Christianity on the defensive, and there’s no reason to believe Christianity can surmount its gradual, tactical retreat. That’s why, quite frankly, I’m not terribly interested in Christianity (as you’ve probably noted from the scarcity of blog items about it). To paraphrase Ayn Rand (when talking about Richard Nixon): “People ask me what I think of Christianity. And I say, ‘I don’t think of Christianity.’”
What I DO think about is Reality – and where the search for Reality's Truth is taking us. In contemporary culture, the “Battle over Reality” manifests itself in 3 ways:
First, the decline of Science (in recent decades, Science has become a priesthood that is antagonistic to reason and freedom, and indeed to human dignity ).
And finally, the confrontation between a weak, de facto atheist West and a strong, revitalized Islam (as seen on 9/11, the Iraq Fiasco, the Cartoon Wars, and infinite examples). THOSE are the subjects that get my mind racing. Christianity itself does not hold much intellectual or emotional appeal to me.
Of course, the title of my post is “Why I Am Not Christian (At least Not Yet).” And let me repeat: Not yet. If anyone wants to convert me…well…you’re welcome to try…but I should warn you: It’ll be tough.