Ten Reasons Why Most Believers Don't Seriously Question Their Faith

Every Monday morning I'm posting submitted essays, excerpts from my books, and some of the best posts of the past. Here's one from January 17, 2012.

This topic interests me to no end. Why don't most believers seriously question their faith? Does it take a special type of individual? Does it require some personality trait that believers don't have? Does that make skeptics different people? Could it be intelligence? Could it be that skeptics have a higher self-esteem than others? Is it that we don't need social approval? Is it that life's experiences have shown us we cannot accept the dominant opinion on a matter? Is it that we question what we're told in general? Perhaps, but when we look at skeptics in general there doesn't seem to be a set pattern. Perhaps a scientific poll might help answer that kind of question. What I do think is that the following ten reasons are almost certainly necessary conditions even if they are not sufficient ones:

1) The lack of critical thinking. I cannot tell you how often believers respond to skeptical arguments with informal fallacies in favor of their faith, which includes special pleading, non-sequiturs, all or nothing thinking (i.e., the "either/or" and "black and white" fallacies), begging the question, the "you too" fallacy, and especially appeals to ignorance. They don't even know that's how they are responding. And this is what I see coming from some Christian scholars I have dealt with, even those who teach critical thinking in the colleges, which nearly stuns me. Their responses are bad, really bad, and they don't/can't see it.

2) There is an explanation for why believers reason so badly: They have been enculturated, or indoctrinated to believe, a phenomenon that can best be described as being brainwashed. Christians can acknowledge this with others who believe differently in religions they consider bizarre. Why can't they see it in themselves? The reason is the same one for why the others can't see it in themselves. It's because they too are brainwashed. Only the brainwashed do not know it.

3) A very large percentage of believers do not seek out disconfirming evidence for their faith, which can be decisive. They are sure of their faith so they only look for confirming evidence. This can only make them more entrenched in whatever they were raised to believe in their particular culture. But it's an utterly wrongheaded approach to their faith.

4) Ignorance is another reason, sometimes willful ignorance. The more we know the more we should doubt. Any educated person will tell you this. Socrates even said he was wise because he knew one thing others didn't, that he didn't know. The more we know the less we claim to know.

5) This ignorance is due to the fact that believers fear to doubt. It's the very nature of faith in an omniscient mind-reading God that he is displeased when they doubt his promises. So in order not to displease him they do not seriously question their faith. Believers also fear to doubt because they reside in a Christian community of like-minded believers, their friends, who can be counted on when in need, and who would ostracize them if they walked away from the faith. Social pressure among one's main group of friends keeps them in the fold and blissfully ignorant of the need to test their faith.

6) The biggest reason believers don't seriously question their faith is because of where it could lead them, to hell. They cannot bring themselves to travel down a road that might eventually lead them to eternal torture (or however they conceive the final judgment). The thought never occurs to Christians that they don't have the slightest fear of Allah's hell, or the many sects within their own faith who claim all others are going to hell.

7) Believers conversely have a hope they cannot bring themselves to do without, living eternally in heaven with their deceased loved ones. This hope is so intense they cannot entertain they might be wrong, otherwise they might have to admit they will never see their dead mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters again. That's simply too painful for them to even consider.

8) The nature of faith itself. Faith is a parasite on the mysterious. Without mystery faith couldn't exist. Wherever there is mystery there will always be room for faith because as humans we seek an explanation for the mysterious, and for believers their particular God-concept fills in the gaps. This is one of the informal fallacies I mentioned earlier. Believers require nearly all mysteries to be solved before they will consider their faith unreasonable, and that's an unreasonable epistemic standard since there will probably always be mysteries. Faith is therefore an irrational leap over the probabilities, something no thinking person should ever do with the probabilities given the available evidence. One should only conclude what the probabilities show and never assert more than what the evidence leads us to think is probably the case.

9) Then too, there is the concept of an omniscient God which is used to solve all problems. I call this the Omnscient God Escape Clause. Because theists believe in an omniscient God skeptics must prove their faith is nearly impossible before they will consider it to be improbable, which is an utterly unreasonable standard of proof, making their faith pretty much unfalsifiable.

10) Morality seems to be another issue, that if believers walked away from their faith they would ipso facto have no reason to be a good people who care for the common good of a society. But the overwhelming evidence is against this, best seen in the demographics.

I guess some people just cannot be helped, that's all. ;-)

 John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against MiraclesGod and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon.