The Burden of Proof in Christianity

Most “revealed” religions are based upon the claims of some man or group of men who claimed to have received word from God telling other people what to do.  The problem with this “revelation” is that it amounts to nothing more than “hear-say”.  The major religions of the world are “hear-say” religions.  God didn’t speak directly to me, but I’m supposed to believe what someone else says that God said to them?  And in the case today, I’m supposed to believe a chain of hear-say going back almost 2000 years?  Incredible for sure!  Now with some lesser important things such as historical information hear-say can go along way.  Historical information doesn’t necessarily change my life.  Scientific hear-say can be experienced and repeated.  But should I be willing to live and die based upon religious hear-say?  Should I willing to base my whole life on religious hear-say?  Should I do all sorts of uncomfortable things (e.g. evangelism) for hear-say?  Should I be willing to suffer martyrdom for hear-say?  Should I be willing to sacrifice important things in my life (i.e. freedom of thought, belief, and conscience) for hear-say?  I don’t think so.  If there is a special message for me from God, then why didn’t he give it directly to me?  Why do I need some self-claiming “holy man” to give it to me?  And if a self-proclaimed holy man has a message from God for me, then I have two words:  PROVE IT.  And if he can’t produce evidence, then I’m not required by God to believe it.

Thomas Paine wrote, “No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a claim if he pleases.  But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only.  When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons.  It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently, they are not obliged to believe it.”[1]  God did not reveal the message of the Bible to me.  He has revealed the world to me, but not the message of any holy books.  All holy books are nothing more than hear-say.  Even if it was allegedly confirmed by miracles, then it was not confirmed by miracles to me.  If it was allegedly confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus, then it was only allegedly confirmed to people who saw Jesus resurrected from the grave.  To me and everyone else living today, it is mere hear-say and not even that, it is a chain of hear-say going back almost two thousand years.

As a reasonable thinker, I’m going to need a lot more evidence to believe something that goes against everything I’ve ever experienced.  Thomas Pain wrote, “A thing which everybody is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal….Instead of this, a small number of persons…are introduced as proxies for the whole world, to say they saw it, and all the rest of the world are called upon to believe it.”[2]   This demand that the entire world believe what a few people allegedly saw is ridiculous and unreasonable.  The Greeks that Paul referred to in First Corinthians are correct, it is foolishness, and it is no reason the Jews stumbled at it (1 Cor. 1:23).

The bigger the demand, the greater the evidence must be.  If Christianity demands that one must give up his life rather than deny Christ, then the evidence must be great, otherwise one is giving up the only thing he knows for absolutely certain, for something that he only hopes or believes to be true based on hear-say.  According to some doctrines of Christianity one must do some great things to have God’s approval and blessing.  Should I be willing to give up the only thing that I know for certain for something I only hope and believe is true?  Certain verses in the Bible teach that I must be willing to endure death itself for faith in Jesus (Matt. 10:22, Rev. 2:10).  I love the life, family, and friends, that God gave to me too much to give it up for something written in a Bronze Age book whose authors I’ve never even met.

If you want me to believe the Bible, then you’re going to need to prove it to me.  And just because it was allegedly proven in times past, doesn’t mean that is proof for us today.  Why is history (i.e. the Bible) used to be our primary source about the Bible God?  Why past experiences and not present ones?  Should we believe the improbable miracles of two thousand years ago over our knowledge, experiences, and observations of today? Sounds unreasonable to me.

Extraordinary claims that make extraordinary demands require extraordinary evidence.  If my kids were to tell me that the mayor was at the grocery store today, I’d believe them on the mere word of their testimony.  If they told me that they saw the governor  at the grocery store today, then I’d be surprised, but I’d still believed them.  If my kids, however, told me that the president of the United States of America was shopping at our local grocery store today, then I would hear them with great suspicion and doubt.  I’d wonder, “Why haven’t I heard any thing about this?  They’ve got to be mistaken.  It must have been a look-a-like.”  Why would I begin to doubt my children’s testimony?  Because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  Now let’s suppose my children claimed that aliens from Saturn were shopping at at the local grocery store today.  I would disbelieve them outright, even though I know them to be honest people.  Why?  Because such an extraordinary claim would require a mountain of evidence to back it up.

The claims of the Bible are more fanciful than aliens from Saturn shopping at the local grocery store.  Hence, it is reasonably required that a mountain of evidence beyond refute be given to support the claims.  Instead of a mountain of evidence, we get a collection of claims from a book called the Bible.  Extraordinary claims that make extraordinary demands require extraordinary evidence, and the Bible and institution of the church is not extraordinary evidence to me.

[1] Paine, Thomas: The Age of Reason, Ch. 2, pg. 14.

[2] Paine, Thomas: The Age of Reason, Ch. 3, pg. 16.

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