The Christian Delusion Pt.1

Derek Ouellette —  May 16, 2012 — 14 Comments

Can I confess something to you? I’ve been seriously struggling with my faith over the past two years. Not in the “I have doubts, what’s a Christian to do?” sort of way. But a serious, reflective struggle that goes way beyond doubts. I could present a whole list of reasons why, but then I’d have to explain each and that would take us far beyond the scope of this post.

It was on New Years Eve 2011 that I bought my copy of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails with the explicit intention of hearing out these former Christian-turned-atheists. But the book got shelved, other projects came up and took precedence, and my struggle to some extent subsided. But about six months ago my struggle returned and intensified. Then just the other day when I began to pack up my library as my wife and I are preparing to move into our first home, there was the book staring at me and pleading to be read with honesty.

So over the next little while I’m going to read and blog each chapter (article) in the book.

In the Forward Dan Barker writes, “the most important question we can ask any religion is this one: ‘Is it true?'” He goes on to say that the “case for faith is a case for ignorance.” Such us the tone of this book. In your face overconfidence. An absolute surety that the Christian faith is a proof-less and senseless absurdity from people who know, because they’ve been there.

We shouldn’t blame the authors for going into this project with such overconfidence. After all, read some Christian apologetic books from an atheists perspective. No doubt from their perspective we ooze out that same overconfidence.

So are we prepared to seriously pay heed to the question, “Is it true?” Ever since my late teens I have tried hard to allow a quote from Clement of Alexandria to be my motto: “If our faith is such that it is destroyed by force of argument, than let it be destroyed for it would have been proven that we do not possess the truth.”

It is with such a motive that I take up this book.

Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Dave Leigh

    Derek, I will be watching and praying. I took a little departure from the faith at one point after walking with the Lord for about 25 years. The season of atheism that followed was the darkest and most empty time of my life. Yet it only hardened my heart until finally God broke through me. You have no idea how barren and cold the cosmos is without him, if you’ve truly known him, when you find yourself a prodigal in a far off land. Like the prodigal, I “came to myself” and discovered that while I had abandoned me, God never did. He was with me the whole time. But even the greatest Christians have had such struggles. You may want to read Schaeffer’s True Spirituality next.

  • Don (Greywolf) Ford

    I’m Native American, and if I turn my back on the Creator, my life ceases to have value and I lie to myself. I have had too many real encounters in my life to fall for the human teachings of men who never knew God in much depth. Attending Dad’s church does not a believer make us. A person who has had a taste of the real deal, never turns back. Did any have a meeting with the Holy Ghost???

    I don’t just believe my God exists, but I have had genuine stirrings in my heart and soul, much like the words of John Wesley when he reported that his heart was strangely warmed. It is as much a feeling as it is a knowing.

    Ask for my magazine stories of a God who not only answers prayer but at times showed up on my doorstep.

    Where eagles fly,
    Don (Greywolf) Ford
    Author of “Royal Ferdinand” and Death & Taxes” both at Amazon

  • Wade Sikes

    Derek, I too have at times struggled with my faith. Four years ago, I reached a make or break point, and I asked God, if he was real, to reveal himself. He did. Long story short, the past four years have been an amazing walk. my prayers are with you as you take this journey. Check out closertotruth.com for some good information from both sides of the fence.

  • John

    Hi Derek, such a journey can be rich, rewarding and renewing. It is also important to share it with someone who cares about you. Not just someone who will try to argue you into believing, but someone who will listen and love you and allow you to be honest and allow you to uncover the wisdom and desire in your heart. I have been a pastor for 42 years. I have lived with many questions about the truth of my faith over the years. I have found, in the end, that when I asked these questions prayerfully (which is an act of faith) I have always found “the truth”. After the last question, that led me to a huge transition in the way I believed in God, Christ and the Spirit, I realized that for me God is “Truth” and the search for truth is a journey of the head and the heart. Blessings P.S. this search may disconnect you from the faith you have had, it is a letting go of ways that we believe that worked for a period in our lives and change as we grow up. It may be darkness, but it can be a holy darkness, like a dark night of the soul, where our search for truth, or God, leads us to a deeper connection with the Sacred/Holy/Higher Power…..

  • Derek Suchard

    I’m very interested in how the authors of the book define the question ‘is it true?’ If they are limiting themselves to provable, historical proof, then I don’t envy them their challenge. If they are focusing on the promises/commitments of faith, then their arguments can be very interesting, up to a point. For they will only be able to argue the truth of the provable. The inability to disprove the unprovable is as much beyond them as the proof of the unprovable is for the faithful. When reading this book, don’t only question their answers…question their questions.

  • Jimbob

    It is never permissible to entertain thoughts about doubting one’s Faith.

    This is a sin sort of like entertaining thoughts about cheating on one’s wife or husband.

    On the other hand, it is fine and even praiseworthy to entertain such thoughts as a way of strengthening one’s Faith. The key is that you can never actually consider, except perhaps hypothetically, that something opposite to what we know by faith might be true.

    That is called doubt, and it is a sin opposed to Faith. Faith is something given to us by God, something that moves our intellect, and yes it is in no way opposed to reason, but we do not think faith up. It is something that is given to us through grace.

    • William Hooper

      The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is unbelief. Doubt is often necessary in order to nurture faith. It is not a sin to doubt. Doubting does not mean a person has stopped believing; it means they are trying to clarify what they believe.

  • Joshua Haines

    You say “I bought my copy… with the explicit intention of hearing out these former Christian-turned-atheists.” Why? Just reading the book’s description on Amazon makes it clear that its purpose is to undermine Christian belief – your Christian belief, which is a gift from your God and Savior. Why would you entertain the writings of those who refuse the true God and are gods of their own making? Why would you flee the One who you have a relationship with and instead try to understand Him better by listening to those who don’t know Him and yet hate Him? That’s like being married to someone who’s given you everything and has honestly and openly revealed everything to you, then choosing to ask the people who hate her and seek to destroy her for info about her.

    From one brother to another, please, please: pray over Psalm 101:1-4 and ask God to reveal His opinion on this book to you. And regardless of what you do or don’t do next, I will be praying for Him to blow you away with revelations of His wonder and power!

  • Jimbob

    I find that many fundamentalist protestants eventually doubt their Faith because the way it was presented to them was not done in a way appropriate to their nature as rational human beings created in the image of God.

    Fundamentalism seems often to be based on a blind Faith, a Faith that does not ask why, that does not seek understanding. The Catholic view on Faith and Reason, on the other hand, welcomes a robust questioning of Faith, not for the purpose of doubt, but for the purpose of further understanding our beliefs and growing closer to God. Ever since St. Thomas Aquinas Catholics have seen Faith and Reason as two wings that lift the soul to souring heights and contemplation of God. In the Catholic view Theology is “Faith seeking understanding.” Faith is never undermined by reason and reason is never undermined by Faith, they are two corresponding elements of human nature that work together to bring the soul closer to God. Faith is fully reasonable, it doesn’t have any irrationality in it, and reason must be in full correspondence with Faith or it cannot be said to be truly rational.

    In order for Faith to take root in the soul as the life giving gift that God intended it to be the Christian must see it as totally compatible with our human nature and thus with our reason. If Faith is accepted blindly without sufficient thought and rational understanding, which follows the very nature of Faith, it cannot take root in the soul sufficiently. It is like the seed that falls on rocky soul unable to put down roots into the soil of human nature, of reason and understanding.

    I have found too often that many fundamentalist Protestants raised in very conservative environments eventually reject their Christianity as a result of being tought a blind faith that is often united with other negative aspects of problematic family life (I am not saying these people are more likely to have problems in their families than others). If a child is told too often not to question, and that this is what we take by Faith, they will eventually rebel against that because the very statement contradicts our nature as created in the image of God. The child and the adult Christian needs to be encouraged to have Faith that seeks understanding and is not afraid of seeking it, that knows Faith is never contrary to true reason. By encouraging a reasonable Faith we ensure that rebellion against a blind Faith will never ensue.

    Having said all of that, as I have stated in my previous post, I believe the author of this blog seems to be doubting his Faith, which ultimately, is a device of Satan to pull him away from Christ. The better approach is to seek greater understanding of one’s Faith without doubting it. Theology is “Faith seeking understanding,” and we don’t have to entertain doubt in order to seek it.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Jim Bob, I’m not a “fundamentalist” Protestant (though I think that the authors of this book do have fundamentalists in mind). The Catholic Church is even less an answer. If I went for Tradition, I’d go for Orhtodox. But my conviction is that all traditions (yes, yours too) should be open to question and revision in light of the scriptures. But thanks for commenting.

    • Terrence Lewis

      Fundamentalist protestants, evangelical protestants and probably fundamentalist and evangelical any religion have a problem because they ignore the obvious and the factual. Just because the bible is clearly not historical, not without error and obviously not to be taken literally does not mean that a person’s faith is wrong or even under attack. It just means that the Christian scriptures were written by fallible human beings regardless of whether or not they were inspired by god. It also means that assumptions about doctrine should be looked at very closely to discover their source and process of revelation. These assumptions should be reflected against the spirit of Christ and not the words that have been put in his mouth by others, especially recent theologians.

  • William Hooper

    Since the question of truth of Christian faith is involved in the question, I will repeat here what I posted to another group on LinkedIn.

    The theology discussion group to which I belong has been debating whether or not there is absolute truth. For the most part, writers have been equating Jesus with absolute truth because he has said “I am the way, the truth, and the light” as well as a few other statements about truth.

    The whole idea of absolute truth is that certain things are true whether anyone knows it or believes in it. This is really a Greek philosophical idea from Plato mainly. Plato taught that the reality we see is not THE reality, but a shadow or image of THE reality that exists in heaven. For Plato the ultimate reality was the good. He also taught about absolute beauty and truth.

    I do not believe those who listened to Jesus heard him speaking about an absolute truth in the Greek sense, and that has been the general tenor of the discussions of the group. We are so influenced by Greek thought, knowingly or unknowingly, that it colors our thinking. I doubt seriously if Greek was the language spoken by Jesus when he taught, or if he even spoke Greek at all. Some scholars are of the opinion that as a carpenter Jesus may have had a working knowledge of Greek, but we have no way of knowing.

    Jesus’ listeners would have understood truth in the Hebrew sense of the word. This is why Pilate was confused. Truth to the Hebrews was true as opposed to false. What was true was reliable, firm, and dependable. What is true is real as opposed to what is not real. The Hebrew meanings give evidence of Jesus’ character as Messiah.

    We can make a philosophical/theological case for Jesus being absolute truth, but I think it is not helpful in understanding the Scriptures. Apply this Hebrew meaning of truth to the words spoken to the woman at the well: “. . . . worship in spirit and in truth. . . .” Are we to worship God as absolute truth or to worship him because he is true as opposed to what is false, he is reliable and trustworthy, he is what is real as opposed to the many idols we may erect? Apply this to the other statements of Jesus, even “the truth shall make you free,” and we discover a new dynamic to these statements. It is not an absolute truth that sets us free, but Jesus who embodies what is true as opposed to what is false, what is real as opposed to what is not real.

  • Jimbob

    Derek,

    I wasnt suggesting that you are a fundamentalist Protestant, but I was wondering whether you might have been raised that way.

    “post conservative musings…” You seem like someone who is reacting against a former identity whether it is something that you chose or something that you were given.

    Jimbob

  • Jimbob

    Derek,

    There is nothing to revise about the most important truths of the Christian Faitht, the truths that Christ tought during his days on earth and that he still teaches us through the Holy Spirit.

    If your Faith in Christ is revisable its not Faith but simply rational opinion. In short its not given by God, its just a device of your own creation. Simply pride, putting oneself at the center as opposed to God.

    Jimbob