Below is my response to a nice Christian lady trying to explain to me the reasoning behind why Jesus had to die for our sins and why this proves or justifies her beliefs in some way. I felt this is worth sharing because if you’re not a religious person, you may occasionally find yourself in the audience of one. I think we could all use some guidance in how best to respond in these situations. I know I could.
First, I present a summarized clip of her explanation.
"He died for our sins in the flesh so we didn't have to die in the spirit, because the cost of sin is death, and the only way we could be saved is by a blood sacrifice. Since He loves us, he makes sure we all have time to make a decision for Him and follow the path of righteousness (according to her flavor of Christianity). Children who are murdered will receive their reward after they die, as will the righteous (of her belief system).”
I should clarify that there's nothing here I haven't heard verbatim almost my entire life. I was an evangelical Christian until I was 22 or so, and still attend a certain church I enjoy on occasion (although I haven't been in a couple years). I certainly believed this stuff as a kid, with all my heart - although I was always asking questions and not always found the answers I received to be adequate.
“But if you take what you just said and swap out the Christian-specific words for maybe, Muslim ones, you might begin to get some idea of just how utterly insane or barbaric this stuff sounds to people without imaginary friends of our own. Interestingly, I've been there and I've said the same stuff, so you don't sound crazy to me - just genuinely misguided. And I can't be mad at that.
You seem very nice, but reading your words and seeing the degree of brainwashing I grew out of is both relieving and unnerving at once. None of what you just said makes sense, yet your beliefs accurately reflect the teachings of the Bible perfectly - and you can’t even see the problem with this.”
Here's the problem as I see it:
Humans all agree on about 99% of the physical reality we share (mountains are tall, trees are wood, cars are faster than people, lightening is caused by static electricity in the atmosphere, etc.). We do so by using our senses (and not just 5 of them) and making judgements about the reality of the things we perceive - which is all science is!
Science is simply observing and measuring the things we can perceive, whether using our own senses by themselves or with the assistance of instrumentation. The definition of Logic could be simplified for ease of application here to “the method of applying reason to beliefs and decision-making, and doing so generally in a way that minimizes or avoids contradiction as much as possible.” If 2 + 2 = 4, then 4 - 2 should always equal 2. This isn’t some magical “scientific method”, this is just measuring what we observe and using words to label numbers. This is how we make calculations and predict outcomes.
We all do this everyday, and we agree on how light bulbs are produced and iPhones enable us to shoot radio waves from our hands, out through space, bounce them off a satellite, and beam them back to earth, so we can video chat with friends overseas. We can track and manipulate the weather, explore the deep reaches of space, and send James Cameron to the bottom of the ocean.
And yet we still live in a world capable of producing human adults who are certain that their cosmically powerful, selectively visible friend is different from the 5000 other such imaginary friends even THEY don't acknowledge, including the countless other versions of their very same god.
This is why logic and reason matter. Because they are the only tools we have to form beliefs and decisions based on the parameters of the physical reality that we all share and actually know exists. And the method we use to observe and measure these parameters - which we do when we cross the road, swim in a pool, make a phone call, tie our shoes, or bake a cake - is called “science”. Basically taking “observing” to “measuring and making predictions”. It doesn’t just happen in a lab, it happens everywhere you go, and guides (in varying degrees) every decision you make.
Dealing with people who possess this ability to subvert logic and reason can be difficult, even for otherwise patient, tolerant people, and I think religious people might consider why that is. It isn’t always because they’re mean or looking for conflict. At least I’m not, and none of my friends are. I just feel a deep sense of sadness when I hear someone express and try to justify beliefs that are offensive to their own intelligence - and they don’t even see it, because they’ve been brainwashed to believe that faith doesn’t question.
I’ve reached the point that I rarely even get angry at this anymore - I just want to help. Because as a fellow human, gifted with a body, a heart, and a brain, I personally believe you deserve better. We all do.
"If someone doesn't value logic, what logical argument could you invoke to prove they should value logic?" - Sam Harris