WHY DO PEOPLE BELIEVE/STAY IN RELIGION?

This is something I frequently ask myself – especially in an increasingly globalized world with access to mountains of information and viewpoints. For me, this allowed me to approach the religion that I was raised in (Mormonism) from an outsider perspective; it allowed me to research and scrutinize it like I did all other religions. And it ultimately led me out of organized religion all together. I see around me so many smart and thoughtful people – qualities that I highly connect with. Yet, these people choose to belief and stay in religion, so again I find myself asking why.

to-believe.jpg

In an effort to better understand, I have attempted to compile a list, each with a brief corresponding explanation, of why people believe and stay in a religion.

  • Raised in religion
    • The majority of people who adhere to a religion were raised in that religion. This allowed for the belief to be normalized.
  • Cultural, peer, & familial pressure
    • Humans are social animals – we desire to fit in and be accepted. If you follow the norms and exceptions around you, then you’re more likely to achieve those things.
  • Sense of community
    • Not only do humans want to fit in, but they want to feel like they matter to each other – that they can help others and others will help them.
  • Gives meaning to life
    • The universe is a big place. Having a religion that puts you at the center of it can make this vastness seem a lot less intimidating.
  • Gives guidance to life
    • There are so many choices to make in a lifetime. Knowing which ones are right is extremely difficult. So having a religion that gives you defined steps to take can make decisions easy.
  • Trust in authority
    • As children we have to trust in the adult figures around us to some degree – we literally rely on them for our survival. This mindset can be taught in terms of religious authority figures; there’s so much you don’t know that these people do.
  • Lack of knowledge
    • Oftentimes the world view that people have within a religion restricts their access to other information and ideas.  This lack of exposure can prevent people from ever asking the questions that would lead them out of religion.
  • Lack of critically thinking skills
    • Many religious beliefs are taught to children before they develop critically thinking skills. These beliefs then become ingrained before they can be scrutinized. Moreover, people are frequently not explicitly taught about logic and logical fallacies (many of which are inherent in religion).
  • Cognitive dissonance
    • People are smart and able to think critically. This allows them to rationalize inconsistencies as well as hold two otherwise conflicting beliefs separate in their mind, thus preventing the need for reconciliation between them.
  • Confirmation bias
    • People are able to select information that supports their beliefs and ignore the information that contradicts it.
  • Personal spiritual experiences
    • People are often taught a certain metaphysical outlook – that is when you see or feel something, you are supposed to perceive it a certain way that may or may not align with reality. This allows for things like emotions, coincidences, etc. to be interpreted as supernatural in origins.
  • Belief perseverance
    • People can be stubborn and maintain a belief despite substantial contradictory evidence. This can lead people to hold their religion as the exception. Indeed, because many people are sensitive about their beliefs, they hold them above criticism.  The concept of blasphemy is a perfect example of this.
  • Perceived comfort
    • Religion can address human fears about disease, disasters, unfairness, and death. Moreover, it can allay facing the reality of a situation for a person. This can give a sense of comfort, feeling like you have the answers, that you know what is going to happen, and that everything is going to be okay.
  • Comfortable with status quo/fear of unknown
    • Changes are hard, stressful, and disruptive. Oftentimes, it is easier to play it safe and leave things as is.
  • Incurious
    • Humans, overall, are a curious species. However, sometimes there are people who don’t care to know more.
  • Belief in morality/fear of immorality
    • People often wants things to be black or white, right or wrong, good or evil. This can help make sense of the world. Moreover, moral teachings can guide people in certain situations. Some people believe that – without the moral teachings of religion – they wouldn’t be able to control their ‘carnal instincts.’
  • Fear of punishment
    • In some religions, people are taught that if they question and/or don’t believe, then they will be punished. People can then start to interpret anything “bad” that happens to them as punishment. Not taking that risk becomes more sensible.
  • Fear of death/belief in afterlife
    • Death is scary. A teaching that tells you you can live forever is comforting. Indeed, believing in an afterlife means you don’t have to fully face the fragility of life and how easy it is to waste time/opportunities.
  • Desire for justice
    • Life isn’t fair. People like to know there is recompense for the injustice. It’s nice to know that the guy who cut you off in traffic will get what he deserves in the end.
  • Religious texts
    • Religious texts can provide authority, guidance, and comfort. People can also feel deep connections to them (maybe more than any other book).
  • Pascal’s wager
    • It is better to believe than not believe in case it turns out to be true.
  • Belief in belief
    • People can believe that believing in something – whatever it is – is better than not believing in something. This can lead to a belief that religion is ultimately beneficial to a person.
  • Belief in absolute truth
    • When applied to religion, this is the belief that something – like the religion’s teaching – are absolutely true. Indeed, that there needs to be an inflexible reality.
  • Belief in the supernatural
    • The underpinnings of many religions rely on the belief in the supernatural – that is something beyond the understanding of science and/or the laws of nature.
  • Belief in revelation
    • The supernatural at times reveals information to humans – undiscoverable by other means – about the supernatural, history, existence, purpose, etc.

 

Are there any I missed? Let me know if the comments!

 

To end: I can understand rationally, even sympathize/empathize why people believe and stay in religion. However, now that I am out, I would never go back. Being able to think for myself and face reality to the best of our empirical understanding, makes life much more worth living.

Image result for to believe or not to believe

I’M SURROUNDED BY CRAZY PEOPLE!

I acutely felt this after I left religion and started to view the world from an empirical evidence-based worldview. And frequently still do when I encounter religious believers.

I see people scrutinizing over which shampoo to buy and which toilet paper brand is most cost effective. Yet they barely apply this same level of thought to their religion – an element of their lives with much greater significance. Rather they repeat the stories and mantras they were taught.

doubt your doubts  trust in the lord

They seem to not hear what they’re saying and the actual meaning behind it. And that’s crazy to me!

Why are religious believers crazy?

“If you wake up tomorrow morning thinking that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is going to turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you have lost your mind. But if you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you’re just a Catholic.” – Sam Harris

Religious believers are crazy because they base their worldview on myth (ie a made-up story!). They go around saying things (like Jesus is returning soon) and doing things (like eating pieces of blessed bread) as if this is all real. Image if I based my life on Harry Potter. I’d wave my wand around yelling spells and warning people of Voldemort’s return. If I seriously did that people would think I’m crazy.

Harry Potter real

Why is a life based on religious (or any) myth crazy?

It is crazy because it doesn’t guarantee a life based on reality. It creates alternate metaphysical realities in which anything goes. It causes people to think, say, and do things based on this false reality and to actually believe this mythical reality is more real than what empirical evidence shows. It causes people to disregard – even deny – empirical evidence. This is especially pernicious because someone who does not value empirical evidence cannot be reasoned with.

For example, a religious believer may think that prayer – rather than evidence-based medicine – is the remedy for illness. Well research studies show that prayer does nothing (ie has a non-statistical effect) on whether someone recovers from an illness or not. Evidence-based medicine, on the other hand, actually saves lives.

god answer prayers

Religious parents who vehemently believe in prayer over medicine would let their sick child die, all the while believing they are doing the best possible thing for them. This is why laws have had to be created where parents are not allowed to deny their child medical treatment for religious reasons – because we collectively know that medicine works and that prayer does not.

What about religious people who also believe in some empirical evidence?

While such people may not be as prone to believing and/or following through on extreme mythical beliefs, they still maintain the cultural thread that religious beliefs merit respect. Moreover, they may rationalize their religious beliefs in relation to empirical evidence. For example, they may think that prayer in conjunction with evidence-based medicine (which is guided by God) is what cures someone from illness.

jesus-tumor.png

While this may seem harmless, I argue that this line of thought on the light side causes people to perform mental gymnastics in cherry-picking when to apply their religious beliefs and when to apply empirical evidence.  On the darker side this leads people to waste time on useless ritual while thinking they’re actually doing something useful – when they could actually be doing something useful by doing research or basing their efforts on evidence-based research.

cherry picking 2

Why isn’t religious belief viewed as crazy?

The main reason we don’t say that current religious believers are crazy is because their belief is common enough to be accepted, even propped up by the dominant culture.  If you were to shrink Islam down to a small secluded town in the middle of the desert, amidst the burkas, diet restrictions, and obsession with prayer, it would be considered a cult. However, because it’s followed by a couple billion people, these practices are considered acceptable.

burkas

Interestingly, though, while people in a dominant religion struggle to see their own craziness, they can spot it in other religions. For example, a Christian may be certain that their prayers have a real effect on outcomes. When they learn how ancient Greeks prayed to Poseidon for favorable waters, they recognize that it was obviously ineffective. But, because their religious belief has been normalized and ingrained into their metaphysical reality, modern-day religious believers can struggle to apply the same level of scrutiny to their own mythical system.

your god is real

What can be done when you’re surrounded by crazy people?

Call out their craziness. When religious believers state claims that go against an evidence-based reality, question those claims and ask them to justify it logically.

For example, your aunt is certain that all the prayers from family and friends helped your uncle get better from his illness. You could point out that while it was kind of people to be thoughtful of your uncle, the doctors who treated him and researchers of the medicine he took probably had a lot more to do with his recovery.

confirmation bias

Talk through with someone why they believe their religious myths and help point out where some of their logic isn’t consistent. (I’m a big fan of the street epistemology method). You probably will be hard-pressed to get them to drop their ingrained religious metaphysical viewpoint, but getting them to think critically – even just a little bit – could help down the road.

For example, a Christian person might say they know their religion is true because of personal spiritual experiences. Ask them how that’s different from a Muslim person saying they know their religion is true because of personal spiritual experiences. Moreover, how is it any different from an ancient Greek saying their worship of Poseidon is merited because of personal spiritual experiences. If they were raised in their religion, were they not taught to interpret the world in a certain way that confirms their religious beliefs (such as they felt uplifted during a church service, therefore that’s God’s spirit confirming that church is true)? Ask them if their method of analysis is a reliable one and how they would know if it wasn’t.

my god is better

Conclusion

Ultimately, a culture where myths (especially religious ones) are given credence is harmful. At an individual level, it allows people to be easily duped, manipulated, and impaired by others (particularly authority figures) and causes them to have unhealthy ways of thinking and acting. At a macro level it stifles people from pursing actual truth and using that knowledge to solve real world problems – which ultimately prevent society from progressing as fast as it could.

 

The One True Book…

 

Here it is. The one true book. It is…Harry Potter.
It true because it:
1) Is unique
2) Has no contradictions
3) Is historically accurate
4) Is scientifically accurate
5) Accurately predicts the future
6) Mentions freakin’ amazing Dumbledore!
7) Provides a standard to evaluate truth
8) Is the basis for knowledge
9) Is united (all the books read as one)
10) Is timeless
The proof of Harry Potter is that unless its truth is presupposed, we couldn’t prove anything at all.
harry potter books
So why do you not believe it is the one true book?
The answer seems obvious here…because JK Rowling never claimed that it was anything more than a young adult book series.
However, if we replace the argument for Harry Potter being the one true book, with the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, now people start to take the argument seriously.
Why?
Because people have made claims that these books are divinely inspired, therefore they are true. And people have believed these claims.
Let’s start with divine inspiration.  Divine inspiration is “the concept of a supernatural force causing a person or people to experience a creative desire.” This argument seems dubious from the get go. Anyone can claim divine inspiration from any supernatural force. And people have all through human history, from Muhammad to Joseph Smith. So what makes one person’s claim of divine inspiration any more valid than another person’s? Nothing.
monty python god
Furthermore, what makes something true? ( Truth being defined as that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.) Just saying something is true, doesn’t make it true. Even saying something is true for X,Y, and Z doesn’t make it true.
What makes something true then? The best we can do is acquire a body of empirical evidence via the scientific method that has been systematically corroborated and has yet to be falsified.
Now back to the claim that one book is true. This is a scary proposition for several reasons.
  1. It requires extreme rationalization.
  2. It is based off ill-informed information.
  3. It requires stubbornness – that is the inability to accept and change with new information.
  4. It relies on outright lies.
  5. It conflicts with other truth claims.
sense and logic
The claims I made about Harry Potter being the one true book at the beginning of this blog post were arguments I found online for the Bible being the one true book (replacing Dumbledore with Jesus Christ). These arguments in no way prove that the Bible is true any more than they do Harry Potter. Indeed, one author’s argument that “The proof of Bible is that unless its truth is presupposed, we couldn’t prove anything at all” is actually spot on. Unless you approach the Bible with a predetermined conclusion that is “true”, then you can’t know it is true. This is ridiculous – seen by applying the same logic to anything else. For example, unless I presuppose the existence of the Loch Ness monster, then I can’t know it exists.
Ultimately, I do not think it wise for us as a human community to entertain the claims by some that their book is the one true book. Doing so sends the message that fallacious logic is worthy of respect. Well it’s not. This line of thought should not be upheld as untouchable – but rather should be scrutinized and be called out for its shaky foundations. That is the very reason why I wrote this blog post.

Faith is NOT a Virtue

Where does faith come from? Why are the sources of religious faith unreliable? What should be a virtue if not faith?

When people talk about faith, they are usually referring to religious faith.

Some common religious definitions I hear for faith are:

Book of Mormon:

  • “therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen” (Alma 32:21)
  • “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen” (Esther 12:6)

Bible

  • “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (John 20:29)

scripture faith

A quick google search yields this definition for faith: “belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

Religious faith doesn’t just mysteriously appear. It comes from various sources such as:

  1. Authority figures
  2. Holy texts
  3. Historical evidences
  4. Personal spiritual experiences (anecdotal evidences)
  5. Personal desire
  6. Cultural custom (tradition)

From this, it is important to ask how reliable these various sources are. The definition for reliable being “something that is consistent; able to be trusted”.

I argue that none of these sources are reliable as a foundation for religious faith. Here’s why:

  1. Authority figures are unreliable because the thing you have faith in is only true because these authority figures say so. This follows the appeal to authority fallacy “because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true”.
  2. Holy texts are unreliable for the same reason as #1. A holy book contains the “truth” that backs your faith only because you (or some authority figure) says so. This is the begging the question fallacy, that is “a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise”.
  3. Historical evidences are unreliable for religious faith because while they may provide evidence for events that actually happened and people that actually existed, they do not provide empirical evidence for supernatural conclusions. Such correlations arise from the false cause fallacy that “a perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other”. An example of this would be there is ample evidence that the Prophet Muhammad was a real person. However, that does not mean that his purported miracles actually happened. Moreover, religious faith frequently uses historical evidence by committing the texas sharpshooter fallacy – “cherry-picking a data cluster to suit your argument, or found a pattern to fit a presumption”.
  4. Personal spiritual experiences (anecdotal evidences) are unreliable because they are relative truths and cannot be universally applied. They commit the anecdotal fallacy of  “using a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence”. Moreover, they frequently commit the appeal to emotion fallacy that because a person feels something, their interpretation and designated meaning of that feeling makes the later true.
  5. Personal desire is unreliable because just because you want something to be true doesn’t make it true.
  6. Cultural custom is unreliable because not only is it relative to that culture, but falls victim to the bandwagon fallacy – “appeal to popularity or the fact that many people do something as an attempted form of validation”.

(All fallacy definitions taken from https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/)

circular logic

If you are taught to perceive reality in a certain way (your metaphysical view), then your interactions with the world provide evidence that backs what you were taught and thus your faith in it’s truth. This is unreliable because there are so many different perceptions of reality (many via various religions) which contradict each other. Thus, they can’t all be true. Many of these different perceptions of reality use the same sources (authority, personal experience, holy texts, etc) to arrive at vastly different conclusions. Thus, again, these sources are unreliable.

If the various sources behind religious faith are unreliable, is there a reliable method that can get us closer to truth/reality/fact?

Yes. The scientific method.

The scientific method is reliable because it is a system of falsification and parsimony. You can test a claim under scientific conditions in order to falsify a hypothesis. If the hypothesis holds, then it is growing evidence (a theory) that something is “true”. If a hypothesis doesn’t hold, then it shows that more research is needed. This avoids the God of the Gaps logical fallacy – that is if we don’t know or fully understand something, the response is that more research is needed, rather than saying it must be “God”. Moreover, the principle of parsimony allows for explanations to be honed down to the simplest one.

If almost all of humanity and its knowledge were wiped out, as humans rebuilt civilization new religions would be created that are completely different from the old, but based on the same sources; however, the previous truths discovered via the scientific method would still be the same – and once the scientific method was reestablished these same truths would be rediscovered.

why science works

Now back to why faith is NOT a virtue.

Virtue is defined as “a sense of moral excellence”. Morality can be defined as “distinguishing between right and wrong”.

Is it moral to base your perception of reality on unreliable sources?

I argue no. I do not think that is is ok for our society to hold religious faith up as something virtuous. It doesn’t benefit an individual or society. Basing and perpetuating reality on unreliable sources (rather than skepticism and empirical evidence) is irresponsible. It creates a world in which people live in delusions and devote time/effort towards pointless tasks. 

Faith should no longer be held up as a virtue in our society. Rather, critical thought and research via the scientific method should be held up as the virtues of society. Only through research via the scientific method can we as a human species hope to come closer to actual truth.

SECULARISM AND EQUALITY OF RELIGIONS

Is there need for separation of church and state?

Definitely yes.

Why?

If you want the ability to freely practice your beliefs in private, then the public sphere must remain secular. This makes it so one religion isn’t privileged above another.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to express your beliefs via your dress or your opinions (with some limitations*) in public.

*laws against hate speech and inciting others to violence

However, it does mean that you can’t discriminate against others for their beliefs and vice versa. Examples of this would be a shop owner denying service to someone because they’re wearing a religious symbol or profess a particular belief (like anti-abortion or pro lgbtq marriage).

Unfortunately, the United States has taken a turn towards Christian dominance in the secular sphere. For those who are Christian or ambivalent, this can be easily overlooked. For those of us who are of a different religion or non-religions, it can at times be painfully obvious.

The question then becomes, with such Christian privilege in place, what is to be done?

First, religious freedom needs to be respected. However, this doesn’t mean one religion at the expense of others. All religious (and non-religious) viewpoints need to have equal representation and voice.

You can be diplomatic about it. That is you can seek to create bonds of friendship with people from different religions. This can in turn humanize everyone and allow for common community goals. But what if other people don’t want to be friends? What if they want to suppress your voice?

If you can’t beat them, should you join them?

The club I’m apart of on my university campus hosted the guest speaker Lucien Greaves, founder of the Satanic Temple. When people think of the Satanic Temple they think of Satan worshippers, demonic rituals, and blood orgies. However, the Satanic Temple does not profess to believe in a personal Satan, nor is their goal to be purely a religion. Rather, they aim to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will”.

Lucien Greaves Talk 10-13-17

Via the vehicle of religion, the Satanic Temple attempts expose the hypocrisies surrounding freedom of religion in the United States. When the Oklahoma Courthouse allowed the installation of a monument of the Ten Commandments, the Satanic Temple pushed to allow an installation of their goat-headed deity Baphomet.

If religion is going to creep into the public sphere, then the Satanic Temple maintains that it must be equal in representation. This serves as a red flag to others that if they are uncomfortable with Satanic prayers at government council meetings or Baphomet statues on public property, then how do the rest of us feel when we see “In God We Trust” on our currency, when the Ten Commandments are held up as a foundation for our legal system, and when there is constant reference to the Bible and Christ in the political sphere.

Some criticize the satirical methods of the Satanic Temple as disrespectful to “real” religions. However, I think their combative ways are necessary to make a needed statement against the most entrenched parts of Christian privilege. In certain instances, this may be the best and only way to expose the hypocrisy surrounding freedom of religion in our nation.

Conclusion

Laws need to be founded not on religious beliefs, but on scientific evidence. This is the only way to ensure a system that is based on a common standard of agreement from which religions can be respected.

 

For more information about the club event see:

https://news.hjnews.com/allaccess/usu-student-group-hosting-satanic-temple-speaker/article_1d7dbf77-d237-57af-aff7-dadce4792ae9.html

For more information about the Satanic Temple see:

https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/tenets

 

I’m an Atheist and a Good Person

When I tell people I’m an atheist, one of the questions I frequently get asked is “What makes you want to be a good/moral person then? If not religion, if not God?”

My instinctual response is, “Because I want to be.” Call it consequentialism, call it evolution, call it secular humanism but ultimately I genuinely want to be a good person. I understand that my choices have consequences. I recognize that humans have evolved selfish altruistic behaviors that help them survive. I see how societies have conscientiously collaborated on solutions to progress civilization.

And, at the end of the day, I want to help myself, help others, and leave the world a better place. For me as an atheist this is my one life to live. Consequently, I want to live it to its fullest and become the best person I can.

Now that that’s all said, let’s take a step back and delve deeper into the philosophical side of this question.

What Is Morality?

According to definition.com morality is: “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.”

How Do We Know Right from Wrong?

What this question about right and wrong, religion and God, is actually getting at is whether morality is objective or subjective. Objective morality maintains that certain moral claims are either true or false. Subjective morality states that moral claims are neither true nor false and therefore changeable.

Objective morality cannot exist because the universe is morally neutral (ie it doesn’t care). There has yet to be any scientific evidence for the existence of God, so there can be no “law-giver” of objective morality.

no lives matter

In contrast, it can be demonstrated through scientific study and historical analysis that subjective morality exists. Human morality has changed as humans have continued to evolve and as our societies have evolved.

Here’s a great quote by science writer and skeptic Michael Shermer:

“As a species of social primates, we have evolved a deep sense of right and wrong to accentuate and reward reciprocity and cooperation and to attenuate and punish excessive selfishness and free riding. On the constitution of human nature are built the constitutions of human societies.”

Why Not Religion?

  • Morality does not come religion.
    1. People who are non-religious are just as moral as religious people.
    2. Religious people have committed immoral actions in the name of religion.
    3. Evidence shows that humans evolved a moral faculty that generates intuitions about right and wrong.
  • Religions vary in what they claim to be moral.
    1. This means that religion cannot provide objective morality.
  • Religions often use fear of punishment as a tool to compel people to be moral.
    1. Statistics show that religious and non-religious people act morally and immorally about equally. So this fear tactic seems to not be at the heart of what compels people to be moral.

Why Not God?

  • Morality does not come from God.
    1. Morality comes from evolution and then the rest is man-made.
  • The different Gods of religions vary in what they dictate to be moral.
    1. God, because there are many different ones, cannot provide objective morality.
  • There is yet to be scientific evidence to prove the existence of God.
    1. If there’s no God, then there’s no giver of objective morality.

Conclusion

There are many blogs, articles, and books on this topic. I highly recommend that if you are interested in understanding it more fully, then read some of them 😊.

I think that the next step for humans is to continue to work together to create a better moral framework based on scientific findings (i.e. secular humanism). From this we can aim to have a world where all humans live a life of dignity. Moreover, a world where we can respect the other numerous species on this planet as well. So forget religion, forget God, and let’s make some progress!

The Line Between Myth and History

“When Washington was six years old he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree. When his father discovered what he had done, he became angry and confronted him. Young George bravely said, ‘I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.’ Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.”

This is a well-known story many of us were taught in grade school. We also later learned it was completely made up, a myth. Nevertheless, it has become an iconic piece of American history which our culture enjoys remembering.

For my undergrad I studied ancient history. In the various stories I learned, the line between historical fact and myth were frequently blurred. This was often acknowledged, but, like the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, were told for fun anyway.

The danger comes when the lack of absolute historical certainty is not acknowledged, and even blatantly refuted.

It is easy for modern people to forget that ancient people did not always perceive history in the same way we do. They did not frequently write records with the intention of being “historical” accurate. Rather, they wrote for various other reasons – passing on oral tradition, propaganda, creating a good story. These methods were often blended with elements that we have now confirmed are historical fact, via archaeology and primary documents. However, just because part of an ancient writing contains historical truth, that does not make everything in it true.

The university club I’m involved with recently hosted the historian Richard Carrier. Carrier is best known for his position that Jesus of Nazareth is a myth. He asserts that when you analyze the origins of the New Testament, it is fabricated (aka not made with the intent of being historical accurate). There is no external attestation of Jesus’ existence. There is, however, ample evidence of other cults of the time that had stories, beliefs, and figures similar to those found in the New Testament. The Jesus-like figures of those cults are generally viewed as myths by current scholars, so why should Jesus be any different? Now the present scholarly consensus is that Jesus did exist and was some Messianic, end of days cult leader, one among many other similar leaders and movements of the time. However, that is beside the point.

IMG_3278

I was raised in a Christian religion that explicitly taught the stories from the Bible as truth. When I got older, a new trend had begun to emerge of perceiving some of the stories – those mainly from the Old Testament – as allegories. However, the story of Jesus was still 100% truth. After I left the religion of my childhood, I had to decide whether I still considered myself Christian. So, taking what I’d learned during my undergrad and doing further research, I analyzed the origins of the Bible as well as other ancient Mesopotamian people and their myths/beliefs/text. I concluded that Judaism/ Christianity stemmed from other religious cults/beliefs of the time and was therefore not ‘true’.

Ultimately, I feel dumbfounded that so many people are willing to base their lives on false information, on myths. They fall into the trap of accepting something as historical truth if it is told to them by an authority figure they trust, and then they don’t feel the need to research the claims on their own. Yes, there are some parts of history that we will never know for sure are accurate or false unless further evidence is ever found. In this instance, however, I think it best to err on the side of caution. Therefore, I encourage people to research historical stories (religious and from history class) they were taught as truth, look at the existing evidence, read perspectives from both sides, etc. Then I hope they can determine for themselves where the lines between historical fact and myth lies.