The Promises of Religion

 Alberto Fernandez Fernandez

Alberto Fernandez Fernandez

37.) If someone promised you eternal life, the protection of a loving super being, a feeling of moral righteousness, a purpose for living, answers to all the big questions, and a rule book for achieving the pinnacle of human potential, all in exchange for having faith in something that wasn't proven, would you be suspicious? 

Yet again, this question massively begs the question. It assumes that Christianity or theism are yet unproven and that the atheist is just a pinnacle of virtuous objectivity when it comes to the evidence for God and Christianity. He is also back to the legalistic fundamentalism that he loves to toy with when he says like “a feeling of moral righteousness” showing that he isn’t really asking these questions in sincerity.  

However, let us pretend that he is being genuine. The answer is still relatively simple. We should, in intellectual honesty, seek to fairly and accurately evaluate competing claims as we are presented them and to critical examine our own with the new challenges that they have to offer. Should Swan wish to be a critical and objective thinker, he may be suspicious and skeptical, but he would also attempt to better understand Christianity than what he has revealed about his lack of understanding of it in these questions, and subject his own worldview to scrutiny and subject it to the challenges with which a robust Christian worldview has to offer against it. After all, was his goal not to engender self-reflection and critical thinking? Well then he should be the first in line to do the same.  

No reading between the lines is required for this question. Presumably, the sales pitch for this miracle package would not include the lines "in something that has never been proven." If it is pitched that way up front, then suspicion might be the logical route to go. Otherwise, like any savvy consumer, the more appropriate response would be to investigate the claims. If, like Christianity, the claim holds up to scrutiny when the evidence is examined, it sounds like it is a good deal. 


Which is why I am thankful, that God has not left us in such a position.

The evidence for God, especially as He is described in the Bible is quite robust and extensive. However, not only is God well demonstrated in both His creation and logically, the truth of The Bible is regularly “proven” by the witness of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers as they walk with God through this life.

    Absolutely. Should I be suspicious of someone that buys me things, spends time doing things for me, asks me for favors, wants to influence the direction of my life, and wants to have a say so in decisions in my life? The answer again may be yes. However, I was just describing some aspects of having a spouse. How do you know someone loves you and isn’t just manipulating you? You can never know with certainty, but the evidence can support that their claims of love are true.


38.) If someone promised to give you a billion dollars after ten years but only if you worshiped them until that time, would you believe them? If someone promised you eternal life upon death, but only if you spent your life worshiping a god, would you believe them? 


Yet again this would be a non sequitur and, if he makes the next step in inherent in the question, another genetic fallacy. For it does not follow from the kind of offer a person makes to the veracity of that offer. Neither would it matter how someone came to believe it (in this case via personal messenger) to whether or not the hope of the promise was true. In both cases I would likely be skeptical because as a Christian I already have such a hope and a competing one would need an even greater threshold of probability. Again, has Swan done his diligence in examining his worldview in comparisons to others?  

As with question 14, this question vastly mischaracterizes the nature of worship and the method by which one achieves salvation. To re-iterate, worship is a natural response one has to coming to a recognition of the nature of God. If one comes to truly recognize the character of God and does not respond with worship – they have not come to truly recognize the character of God. And if a person has come to recognize God's character to the extent that the person is worshiping him, then yes. They would believe. 

 Marc Lambert

Marc Lambert

In the first instance? No. I've been alive long enough to know that my fellow human beings would make a lousy god not worthy of such worship. In the second instance? Who's the person, what reasons are they giving that I should believe them, who is this God, and what evidence is there for his existence and the truth of these claims? In the case of Christianity, the reliability of this message is rather well attested.


However, it seems to me that this question misses a major point in Christianity. We do not worship God for the rewards. Serving God for selfish gain is by definition the opposite of humble repentance. The main problem with man is that we pridefully seek our own wants. That’s why the Gospel message is that salvation is for those who repent, surrendering that pride. Religious activity that is absent genuine humility is hypocrisy, and the Bible is full of examples of God detesting and judging this two-faced approach to religion.

    If the evidence supported it, why not? This question is simply trying to send doubt by comparing 2 completely unrelated events. Based on the Christian worldview we actually see exactly what we expect from reality (people going back on their word). That does not mean that the Bible will yield those same results if Christianity is true. Not to mention this is an inaccurate description of the Christian view of salvation. Salvation is NOT based on worship but is all about grace through faith.


39.) Why does religion appeal more to poor, weak, vulnerable, young, ill, depressed, and ostracized people? Could religious promises be more of a temptation to these people? 


I have a couple of thoughts on this question that may be helpful in response.  

First, I have alluded to it in other answers, but I do not even know what “religion” in the abstract means. I don’t think there is a such a thing as “religion” as a unified concept such that “religion” is something that appeals to anyone. I don’t think that “religion” appeals to anyone because I do not think “religion” is something that can appeal. I think that specific worldviews that share some features that we commonly identify as “religious” can appeal to people.  

Second, in this case I would need statistics for this claim. I do not know how we would verify what socio-economic class any certain religion appeals to. The sheer fact that there are more poor people who are religious may simply be a function of there being vastly more poor people in the world than the very few rich ones.  

Finally, I think it is a great value that Christianity appeals to the lower echelons of society. It is precisely the fact that it gives hope to those who are often without hope in the eyes of the world that has made it not only beneficial in this world (with the creation of orphanages, hospitals, charities, poor houses, etc.) but also more plausibly true as it is a clear example of true and selfless kindness to those in need – the poor and ill and oppressed. Nearly all other religions actually favor the rich and the powerful, giving them a status with more power and wealth than they had before. But mirroring God’s concern for the poor and the outcast, Christianity teaches the brotherhood of all humanity and that despite one’s station in life, there is hope. There is always hope in Jesus Christ.  

 Joel Furches

Joel Furches

One wonders what Swan believes that the promises of religion are? They aren't wealth, strength, invincibility, maturity or health. Swan, himself pointed out in question 20 that he finds it less-than-genuine when churches are filled with riches. 

This said, Swan is onto something here: cultures with less material affluence tend to be more religious. The more affluent a culture is, the less religious they will tend to be.  

The short answer is that Christianity establishes one's meaning, purpose and existential fulfillment on the transcendent. One can be a king on a throne or a skeleton on a trash heap and still be on equal grounds with God – putting their identity, meaning and hope with him.  

Difference being that the pauper in the mud hole has a lot less distracting him from the greater transcendent hope.  

One does not try to cling to things one does not have. An unattractive person may age more gracefully than an attractive one who clings desperately to their youthful looks.  

One protects one's investments, and when one's only investment is God, one will cling all the more gratefully to Him.

A far more likely explanation is because people who are rich, strong, independent, well established, health, happy, and popular are more likely to think more highly of themselves than they really are and refuse to be humble and submit to God. With pride being the main barrier between God and man, it makes a lot of sense that those with less to be prideful about are more likely to have a more realistic view of their situation and need for God.

I would want to know specifically what research is being looked at before articulating a full response for the individual. I do know some of this is supported by current surveys however there are a number of factors that should be considered before assuming that religion preys on the “weak”. Other possible solutions would suggest that maybe those not in these categories are more likely to reject God due to self-reliance, and this is just to suggest 1 possibility. You can take data and ask questions of it but we should all be cautious in the conclusions we jump to from the said evidence. 


40.) ??? 


This is by far the hardest question of all – the paradox of existence. Why is there only 39 questions on a list of 40 questions to ask Christians.  


We may never know.  

Despite his broad assurance of 40 questions, Swan leaves his readers one-shy. Oversight? Edit? Intentional omission? One can only guess. Personal theory is that Swan wanted a round number, and so just went up to the nearest ten. The original article never actually numbered the questions, so it should probably have gone by the title "40-ish Questions to Ask Christians." 

On the subject of answering questions. If you are a Christian reader, you may have noted a bit of snarkiness in some of Swan's questions. It is probably not unreasonable to assume these were not asked out of curiosity toward an open engagement - probably more likely to shut down any conversation which may arise. So why engage the questions in the first place?

If one is confident in the truth of one's belief, one should never feel threatened by any resistance one encounters. The worst thing that could possibly happen is for you to discover that you are wrong. 

In the course of considering and responding to questions like these, the Christian may discover things about their belief that they had never considered before they were forced to look into it. 

Practical, cautious engagement with questions - even asking your own questions - is one of the best and most rewarding ways to strengthen your mind, your heart and your faith. See it not as a threat: see it as a challenge.