Accepting faith: A theory on why many believe in Jesus (and not in Leprechauns)

I've taken the definition of faith from Wiktionary as "Mental acceptance of and confidence in a claim as truth without proof supporting the claim." Faith should therefore come with a lot of cognitive dissonance. However, in the lives of believers, this faith is what they hold onto when the pieces don't fit. It's completely counterintuitive and frustratingly irrational to non-believers.

Our vocal atheist commentor, Psiloiordinary, keeps begging the theists to explain what on earth is wrong with Leprechaunism. If you believe in Leprechauns and spot one, just keep your eye on him and let him lead you to his pot of gold. Easy peasy. Why not have faith in Leprechauns?

Psiloiordinary, like most atheists, including myself with examples such as my Fire-breathing gods post, have attempted to use the rational argument for other gods to challenge the theists. The Richard Dawkins quote, "We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." (From the essay, "The Great Convergence" p. 150, of the book "The Devil's Chaplain") whimsically tries to do the same thing. However, to the Christian, we're talking apples and oranges with these other religions.

Here's what Christianity says, "You are alive and I am the God of Life (Jeremiah 1:5). I made the world (Genesis 1:1). All that you see is an expression of Me. I Am (Exodus 3:13-15). Believe this and have eternal life, but expect to be persecuted for your beliefs (Matthew 5). Ah, but don't worry, those that persecute you will get theirs in the end (Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Matthew 25:46, etc.). Keep believing and you'll get the prize (Revelation 22:12-14)."

What do we all want? We want to live. We want love. We want justice. We want to know why things are the way they are. Leprechaunism potentially gets you a nice pot o' gold, but you know that even if you spot that little green dwarf, he's going to try and dupe you.

On the other hand, Christianity purports explanations for the origin of life, a purpose for one's life, and even an eternal life. It says God is love and proclaims that we can love more purely as believers. It says justice will be served. It says that behind life's wonderful, mundane, random, and terrible things, there is a God who will reveal all things in time. The only catch is that we have to have faith, but with all of these proclamations, and with the threats if we don't have faith, is believing really that hard?

Christianity has enough answers embedded in it while promising what we want to hear. Am I alive? Check. Is the world too big for my head to deal with so I can deduce that there is a God? Check. Do I feel love? Check. Did that non-Christian (I know by the Darwin Fish on his car) just cut me off? Check. Such continual affirmations provide proof of God's existence and validate the chosen path. What's more, Christianity acknowledges that faith is difficult. It's like HDL fat. It may sound like a bad thing, but really you want to have it! Not only when we are told that faith is par for the course can cognitive dissonance dissipate, but there is also the prediction that one can be persecuted for these beliefs. By generally keeping things prophetic, Christianity outlines expectations so that believers can look for "signs" and find them. In this way, faith not only eliminates cognitive dissonance, but when believers imagine a life without faith, then that, ironically, provides them cognitive dissonance!


7K said...

Only got a minute. Good stuff. There is a cognitive dissonance caused by believer's claims when weighed against the reality of what actually happens. This is becoming a real problem for those groups in Christianity that seek to activate miracles by faith. It is a bit like Native Americans rain-dancing. Why would the dancing provoke rain? There is no scientific reason in the connection. But maybe if we see the dancing as a kind of prayer.

Prayer is powerful. I have witnessed it all my Christian life. I also have seen the providential fairly consistently. But is that just my observation? In my economy, I even believe the providential works for you, though you may take no note of it.

I don't think God likes me more than he does you. Nor do I see a lack of faith, even carried to one's death, as hopeless. That thinking is the result of Calvinism.

There is also the problem of whether faith is caused by an action on my part or whether it is just given. To me, there is a give-and-take in everything. There is a sense in which faith is offered to all, a gift. Faith is necessary in this world, but it won't be in the next, because everyone will know the truth then.

If you are right: I will be annihilated and that ends a brief and inconsequential life with finality. But if I am right, death is only the beginning, and not just for believers, but for all.

Cliff Martin said...


Your description of a very shallow Christian Faith is accurate ... for most believers, perhaps. And I think you have identified why more people believe in Jesus than the Leprechaun. Though maybe not to Psi’s satisfaction.

But this idea, implicit in your remarks, that faith means we must resign ourselves to irresolvable cognitive dissonance is an idea that I reject. It may be true that presently we “look through the glass darkly”, and we may not, on this side, ever have the full picture, as 7K suggests. But my life is all about solving riddles, making sense of life, of existence, seeing through dilemmas, absolving dissonance. And when I consider the alternatives, I believe that Christian belief provides me with the best context for that pursuit.

For me, Augustinian Christianity, still our dominate theological system, raises more questions than it answers. The exciting thing for me is that the on-going exploration of creation, coupled with fresh readings of the Scriptures, helps me to see possible answers outside the box of traditional Christianity.

I do not believe that God (who is in my view the well-spring of all rational thought) expects us to disregard our mental capabilities. Faith may always require ... well, faith. Theists and atheists alike must accept some mystery, some degree of uncertainty. But the Creator endowed us with inquisitiveness, a drive to understand our world, and the tools to arrive at intellectually satisfying answers.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi folks,

Must have missed this the first time around.

Cliff said this;

Am I alive? Check.
So only god can create life? An interesting unsupported assertion.

Is the world too big for my head to deal with so I can deduce that there is a God? Check.
Wow - I suppose if you could deal with the world then you would be right again - only this time you would be the god.

This is not just unsupported - it isn't even logical.

Do I feel love? Check.


Did that non-Christian (I know by the Darwin Fish on his car) just cut me off? Check.

Proof of Christian prejudice against non believers? No - just one more anecdotal datum showing such, for the growing pile.

- - -

Do you see a rainbow? Check

Ever had good luck? Check

Ever had bad luck? Check

You are alive? Check?

Top'o the mornin t ya.