Debunking 10 Common Objections to God and Christianity

The Flying Spaghetti Monster, a parody god and religion (“Pastafarianism”) in skeptical circles

Skeptics hurl several objections to God and Christianity. You read and hear of them in social gatherings, on college campuses, on social media and the Internet, and in popular culture (Netflix, Hollywood, comedians, etc.). Skeptics who launch these, however, are not aware that there are good answers to these objections. Christianity has a rich intellectual tradition spanning 2,000 years. Its thinkers have and continue to ponder many questions (philosophical, theological, biblical, etc.). They also have and continue to provide answers to objections from non-Christian critics — from pagans in antiquity like Celsus, to atheists in our modern age like the late Christopher Hitchens.

As a Christian who has a lot more to learn, but is nevertheless informed in his tradition, I will respond to ten common objections to God and Christianity in this article, and show why these objections miss the mark. I will first lay out the skeptical objection, then proceed to debunk it with a rebuttal.

1. “Religion is the opium of the people, a ‘crutch’ for those who need hope or help in life.

We can respond to this objection in three ways. First, I will discuss why Christianity does not securely fit the bill of an “opium”. Second, I will clarify that this skeptical remark has no bearing on the truth of any religion. Third, I will point out that this remark can be turned around against atheists.

Responding to this skeptical remark will entail a discussion that could “press the wrong buttons” for some readers but that is not my desire. I hope we can all talk about sensitive topics and ponder uncomfortable questions for the sake of truth, and good and open discussion.

1.1. Christianity does not comfortably fit the bill of an “opium”

Yes, there are pleasing psychological aspects to religious belief, such as, in the case of Christianity, believing that one is immensely loved by God, that one is sustained by God’s grace in one’s life and guided in His providence, and that one will enter into God’s full presence in Heaven (i.e. the beatific vision) if one chooses God over sin in this life. However, not all aspects of Christian belief are pleasing and these aspects go against the idea of Christianity being an “opium”. Belief in the existence of hell for those who choose sin over God in this life is terrifying. Likewise, the notion that man is subject to a transcendent authority is unpleasant for many individuals who wish “to call their soul their own” and “live as they please”. Finally, Christianity’s high ethical demands (humility, chastity, temperance, etc.) are difficult and inconvenient. In fact, the early Church employed athletic metaphors (Heb 12:1, 1 Cor 9:25-27, Gal 5:7, Phil 2:16; 2 Tim 4:7) to describe themselves as Christians (“athletes”) and to describe the Christian life (“a race”). The celebrated 20th century writer, G.K. Chesterton, observed that many of his fellow British did not embrace the Christian life because they saw it as difficult, commenting:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.[1]

Christianity is not an easy and convenient religion. It is because of Christianity’s unpleasant aspects that numerous former atheists have noted in their conversion stories that they were “reluctant converts” (e.g. C.S. Lewis, Guillaume Bignon, Marc Lozano, etc.).[2] They wanted atheism to be true but looking into the the evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Christian religion compelled them to belief in Christian theism. C.S. Lewis, for example, an Oxford academic and writer, describes the climax of his conversion from atheism to Christianity:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?[3]

Christianity does not solidly fit the bill of being an “opium” because there are aspects of the Christian faith that are unpleasant and inconvenient. In fact, there are many people out there who prefer Christianity to be false.

1.2. The remark has no bearing on the truth of any religion

It important to note that the remark “religion is the opium of the people” does nothing to refute the truth claims of any religion. Pleasing psychological benefits derived from a belief system have nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of a belief system. Christianity can be true and at the same time, be an effective coping mechanism for people who need hope or help in life. Likewise, Christianity can be false and be a great coping mechanism for people in need.

Further commenting, as a Christian, I believe the first option is true — Christianity is true and it is an effective coping mechanism for people in life. Speaking as a Christian who believes that Jesus is Lord and that the Bible is the inspired word of God, Christianity is not only an effective coping mechanism by human intention, it is an effective coping mechanism according to theological truth (the historical testimony of Jesus of Nazareth as God in the flesh) and by divine will (i.e. God sustaining us with His grace and guiding us in His providence). Jesus invites us to find comfort in Him (Matt 11:28-30) and assured His listeners to be at peace for God is with them (Matt 6:25-34; Jhn 14:27). As Christians, we should seek comfort in God, who entered into human history and told us to be at peace — for we are loved and cared for by Him.

1.3. The remark can be turned around against atheists

Finally, I want to point out that the remark in question can be easily turned around against atheists.

A theist could say that atheism is an opium for many atheists – a “happy pill” that provides pleasure, convenience, and peace.

Why pleasure and convenience? Under an atheistic worldview, people can “live as they please” and engage in sins that they are attached to (e.g. sexual sins). They would be free from any transcendent authority. Christianity being true is an uncomfortable thought for many atheists because it would compel them, through their conscience and intellect, to conform their personhood and life to the tenets of the Christian faith. A religion like Christianity, if true, entails a lot of change, and change is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Why peace? An atheist can find comfort in the idea that they will not be judged for the way they lived their life after death – and that after death, there is just nothingness. 

Frankly speaking, many atheists today do not just not believe in God, they also do not want God to exist. They have a psychological preference or bias for atheism and want it to be true. Some atheists have even admitted this psychological preference openly.

Thomas Nagel, a prominent atheist philosopher, remarks:

I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.[4]

Likewise, Aldous Huxley, an atheist writer and philosopher, notes:

The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none … For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.[5]

The remark can be turned around against atheists as well — for many atheists have a psychological preference for atheism. However, I also want to bring up the point that many atheists have a preference for atheism because I believe many atheists (to those it applies to) have not confronted this truth about the psychology of their beliefs, and more importantly, they do not realize the negative effect their bias for atheism may have in their pursuit of truth. Wanting God to not exist can be a hindrance to a proactive, honest, open-minded, fair, and vigorous examination of the evidence for God and Christianity.

Ultimately, whether Christian or non-Christian, it is great for all of us to be aware of our biases or preferences so that we can better pursue the truth, especially when it comes to the most important question of all – the question of God’s existence and if He has revealed Himself in any particular religion.

2. “If God created and sustains the universe, then what created and sustains God?”

Nothing did and nothing does. What caused the uncaused first cause? Who moved the prime mover? What sustains the non-contingent ground of contingent reality? Do you see how these sentences do not make sense? These sentences are actually contradictions, making them logically meaningless. God, as the uncaused first cause, as prime mover, and as the non-contingent ground of contingent reality is not caused, not moved, and not sustained by anything else. 

Thinkers of the classical theist tradition (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, etc.) deduced that in order for contingent reality to exist, it must casually terminate in an uncaused first cause, and this is what we refer to as God. If something derived its existence from anything else, it could not be what classical theists refer to as God. 

While discussing this skeptical objection, I also want to clarify another point. Excluding the Kalam Cosmological argument, the classical arguments for God’s existence do not depend on the universe having a beginning. Plato and Aristotle believed the universe was eternal. Although Aquinas believed that the universe had a beginning due to scripture, he did not believe that the claim that the universe had a beginning could be established through philosophical argument. The classical arguments for God’s existence (excluding the Kalam Cosmological argument) work if the universe had a beginning or if it always existed. As Thomist philosopher Edward Feser states:

Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Thomistic, and Leibnizian cosmological arguments are all concerned to show that there must be an uncaused cause even if the universe has always existed.  Of course, Aquinas did believe that the world had a beginning, but (as all Aquinas scholars know) that is not a claim that plays any role in his versions of the cosmological argument.  When he argues that there must be a First Cause, he doesn’t mean “first” in the order of events extending backwards into the past.  What he means is that there must be a most fundamental cause of things which keeps them in existence at every moment, whether or not the series of moments extends backwards into the past without a beginning.[6]

3. “Anyone who rejects Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, and the other pagan gods — as Jews, Christians, and Muslims no less than atheists do — should, to be consistent, go one god further and reject also the God of Western monotheism”.

This statement reveals ignorance about what Christians mean by “God”. When we Christians say God we do not think “one being among many”, “contingent”, or “within the world”.

The historic Christian view of God (i.e. the classical theist view of God) is that God is not “a being”, He is being itself (Exo 3:13-14) or Aquinas put it, ipsum esse subsistens – “the sheer act of to be itself”.[7] Philosopher Edward Feser notes the error in equating the God of classical theism to gods like Zeus and Thor (or other beings that atheists compare God to like Santa Klaus, the Easter Bunny, a Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.):

Proponents of the “ one god further” objection implicitly suppose that that it is a question of whether there exist one or more instances of an unusual class of entities called “gods”, understood as  “supernatural beings” comparable to werewolves, ghosts, and Santa Claus. And they think of the God of classical theism as merely one of these gods or beings alongside the others such as Zeus, Venus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, and so forth … The God of classical theism is not a member of any species or genus — including the species or genus “gods” — because if he were, he would be composed of parts (such as genus and specific difference), and he is instead absolutely simple or noncomposite. He does not share an essence with other members of the same class called “gods”, because if he did, then there would be a distinction in him between his essence and his existence, and in fact he just is existence itself … Each of these various gods is “a being” alongside other beings, whereas the God of classical theism is not “a being” — that is to say, something which merely has being and derives being from some source — but is rather underived or subsistent being itself, that from which anything else that exists or could exist derives its being.[8]

God is also non-contingent. As Feser just mentioned, God does not derive His existence from anything. He simply is. On the other hand, pagan gods such as Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, etc. are contingent. They all have stories of their own creation called “theogeny”, something else is responsible for their existence. Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea; Thor is the child of Odin and Jord; Quetzalcoatl was born by a virgin named Chimalman, etc. Even if other beings do not have origin stories such as Santa Klaus and the Easter Bunny, they are still contingent, for they do not carry within themselves the reason for their existence. Santa Klaus and the Easter Bunny exist because they are comprised of matter such as organs, which are comprised of cells, which are comprised of organic molecules, which are comprised of subatomic molecules, and so on. If you take these away, Santa Klaus and the Easter Bunny would evanesce.

Furthermore, the God of classical theism transcends creation. In contrast, the pagan gods of Greco-Roman antiquity are beings within the world. Zeus resides on Mt. Olympus, and Thor, in Asgard. Quetzalcoatl lives in one of the levels of heaven in Aztec cosmology. Santa Klaus and the Easter Bunny, if they existed, are denizens of the natural world. Santa Klaus lives in the North Pole and delivers gifts to homes around the world while the Easter Bunny lays, decorates, and hides eggs in nature.

When atheists compare the God of classical theism to gods such as Zeus and Thor (or to other beings such as Santa Klaus, the Easter Bunny, or a Flying Spaghetti Monster), then he is committing a category mistake. If an atheist rejects the existence of gods that are contingent beings within the world then so do I. As a Christian and adherent of the classical theist tradition, that is not what I mean by God. 

Another flaw in the “one god further” objection is that it falsely implies that the evidence supporting the existence of God and the evidence supporting the existence of gods (Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, etc.) are the same, which, in the view of skeptics who make this objection, is no evidence. This is false. Philosophical theists throughout history have put forward an array of arguments for the existence of God. See, for example, Craig and Moreland’s The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology and Edward Feser’s Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Another important point is that classical theists have deduced that God, as prime mover, must possess certain attributes (e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, immateriality, oneness, simplicity, will, perfect goodness, and necessary existence). St. Thomas Aquinas devotes over a hundred double-column pages in His Summa Theologica in support of various divine attributes.[9] Much of Samuel Clarke’s book, “A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God”, is, as the title shows, devoted to arguing for certain divine attributes. Other philosophers of the classical theist tradition such as Aristotle, Plotinus, Leibniz, etc. also put forward arguments for divine attributes in their works.[10] 

How many philosophical arguments are presented in favor of a conception of god like Zeus or Thor? None. How many philosophical arguments are put forward for the existence of the God of classical theism? A lot! In fact, the God of classical theism is supported by a rich philosophical tradition. For this reason, the God of classical theism is also referred to as the “God of the philosophers”.

How many philosophers today believe in the existence of “gods” such as Zeus or Thor? None. How many philosophers today believe in the God of classical theism? A lot. In modern times, many atheist and agnostic philosophers have converted and have become classical theists on the basis of philosophical arguments. See, for example, Jacques Maritan, Edith Stein, Peter Geach, G.E.M. Anscombe, Mortimer Adler, Alasdair MacIntyre, John Finnis, Edward Feser, J. Budziszewski, etc.

Another notable example of a convert from atheism to classical theism is Anthony Flew. Flew was one of the most prominent atheist philosophers of the 20th century. Over time, however, Flew became convinced by the arguments of natural theology (i.e. what we can know about God through reason alone) – becoming a classical theist. In his book, “There Is a God”, Flew notes that he shares the same view of God as philosopher David Conway:

As for my new position on the classical philosophical debates about God, in this area I was persuaded above all by the philosopher David Conway’s argument for God’s existence in his book The Recovery of Wisdom: From Here to Antiquity in Quest of Sophia. Conway is a distinguished British philosopher at Middlesex University who is equally at home with classical and modern philosophy. 

The God whose existence is defended by Conway and myself is the God of Aristotle. Conway writes:

“In sum, to the Being whom he considered to be the explanation of the world and its broad form, Aristotle ascribed the following attributes: immutability, immateriality, omnipotence, omniscience, oneness or indivisibility, perfect goodness and necessary existence. There is an impressive correspondence between this set of attributes and those traditionally ascribed to God within the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It is one that fully justifies us in viewing Aristotle as having had the same Divine Being in mind as the cause of the world that is the object of worship of these two religions.”



Conway believes, and I concur, that it is possible to learn of the existence and nature of this Aristotelian God by the exercise of unaided human reason.
[11]

Also worth noting is that Flew would spend the remaining years of his life studying Christianity, not only because its conception of God is consistent with the God of classical theism, but also because Flew found the historical evidence supporting Christianity remarkable, and Christianity’s main personalities (Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus) impressive. Regarding the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection as laid out by Christian New Testament scholars, Flew remarks:

The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity.[12]

Commenting on the Christian religion, Flew notes:

As I have said more than once, no other religion enjoys anything like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul. If you’re wanting omnipotence to set up a religion, it seems to me that this is the one to beat![13]

Ultimately, the “one god further” objection fails because it misunderstands what Christians mean by “God” and falsely implies that the evidence supporting the God of classical theism and the evidence supporting gods such as Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, etc. are the same.

4. “Religion was invented to explain what we did not understand about the natural world. In modernity, we now know that natural phenomena that were once attributed to gods are now explained by science. As science advances, religion retreats.”

We can respond to this objection in two parts.

First, I will address the objection that “Religion was invented to explain what we did not understand about the natural world” and that “in modernity, we now know that natural phenomena that were once attributed to the gods are now explained by science”.

These statements certainly apply to many religions such as the pantheon of gods of Greco-Roman antiquity (e.g. thunder to Zeus, earthquakes to Poseidon, certain weather conditions to the Anemoi, etc.) and to past and present animist religions, which affirm that divine forces organize and animate the natural world. This objection, however, does not apply to all religions. Christianity, for example, started because Jesus’ disciples discovered his tomb empty (Lk 24:9-12) and soon after, they had experiences, as individuals and in groups (1 Cor 15:3-8), that convinced them that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them. The origins of Christian belief in Jesus as Lord and Messiah are not related to phenomena in nature that were not understood in antiquity.

Another point to note is that Christian theology positively contributed to the emergence of modern science. Christian theology viewed God as transcending creation and as having created a rational and orderly universe. Christian theology guided scholars in the Middle Ages to break free from the predominant pantheist-animist view of nature of antiquity, carry out the “depersonalization of nature” (i.e. viewing nature as not divine), and come to the conclusion that nature operates under universal natural laws.[14] With this view of nature, Medieval scholars were committed to developing explanations based on natural causation for phenomena in the universe. This was a critical step towards the emergence of modern science in 16th-century Europe. Looking at history, skeptics may point to the Greco-Roman pagan tradition and say that it viewed unexplained natural phenomena like storms and earthquakes as created by gods, but they may not say the same about the Christian tradition.

Second, I will now respond to the claim that “As science advances, religion retreats”. Science cannot examine the God of classical theism because science is limited to the study of the natural world, while the God of classical theism transcends the natural world.

The pagan gods of antiquity (e.g. Zeus, Poseidon, the Anemoi, etc.) and science compete “on the same field” – the natural world. As a result, the advance of science can tell us that there is zero evidence for superhuman beings like Zeus and Poseidon in the earth’s atmosphere and in the sea, and that natural phenomena that were once attributed to both gods (e.g. thunder for Zeus and earthquakes for Poseidon) are now understood to be the result of earth’s natural processes. In contrast, the God of classical theism and science do not compete on the same field, for the God of classical theism is not an item within the natural world that science studies. Science does not have the tools to study the prime mover that transcends contingent reality. Therefore, the advance of science does not cause the retreat of authentic religion, for the object of both fields (i.e. the natural world and God), once again, do not compete on the same field. Bishop Robert Barron draws an analogy between science and God and the study of the Harry Potter books and J.K. Rowling:

God is not a thing or an item or an event or a relationship within the empirically verifiable universe. Rather, God is the reason why there should be a universe at all … Think of this long sprawling story [like the Harry Potter series] with all these hundreds and hundreds of characters and plots and subsplots and things going on, and Hogwarts academy, and the whole world. Well, I could name all the characters and I could analyze all the characters and all the events. Who will I never find in this story? J.K. Rowling. She is not a character in the story. Rather, she is the reason why there is that world at all … Therefore science, go all the way, advance all you want because it is not in competition with God and the things of God.[15]

Science is also incapable of rebutting philosophical arguments for the necessity of a prime mover, for that is the realm of philosophy, in particular, metaphysics. This is the reason why a good number of classical theists are not fond of the Kalam Cosmological argument, because the Kalam is an argument that is dependent on scientific evidence that points to the universe having a beginning. As a result, and in contrast to the other classical arguments for God’s existence, the Kalam’s strength as an argument may be negatively affected by future scientific developments. As Feser remarks on philosopher William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument:

Another reservation I have is that the [Kalam] argument, at least as Craig presents it, in my view puts way too much emphasis on results in modern scientific cosmology. As I have argued many times, the chief arguments for God’s existence rest not on empirical science but rather on deeper principles of metaphysics and philosophy of nature which cannot be overturned by – and indeed must be presupposed by – any possible empirical science.[16] 

(Note: In my view, the Kalam Cosmological argument succeeds and I do not mind its dependence on science because the scientific evidence supporting it is strong (the Big Bang theory and the Borde–Guth–Vilenkin theorem). The Kalam is actually my favorite argument for God’s existence because it is compelling and simple. It is not technical and you do not need to be a philosopher to grasp the argument well. Feel free to check out Dr. Craig’s video on the Kalam Cosmological argument and Faithful Philosophy’s article on the finite age of the universe.)

5. “Funny that you think that your religion is true. If you grew up in India, you would probably be a Hindu arguing for Hinduism. If you grew up in the Middle East, you would probably be a Muslim arguing for Islam.”

Unless you are talking about geography, geography has nothing to do with truth. If you lived in Rome in the first century AD, you probably would have believed that there was nothing morally wrong with infant exposure.[17] If you lived in China in the 16th century, you probably would have believed that divine forces organize and animate the natural world.[18] If you live in North Korea today, you would probably believe that Kim Jong II invented the hamburger (it is an official state belief — seriously!).[19]

Predominant beliefs in a culture whether political, scientific, historical, philosophical, religious, etc. can be true or false, so we have to discern the truth about reality by following the evidence wherever it leads and assessing rational arguments, if any, in support of different positions. 

This brings us to our second point, which further rebuts the argument that “religious belief is only the result of cultural transmission” – many non-Christians have converted to Christianity on the basis of evidence. Many atheist and agnostic intellectuals, for example, converted to Christianity after being persuaded by philosophical arguments for the existence of God and historical arguments supporting the Christian faith. These former atheists and agnostics include men and women such as Jacques Maritain, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Edith Stein, Peter Geach, G.E.M. Anscombe, Malcolm Muggeridge, Mortimer Adler, Alasdair MacIntyre, John Finnis, Alister McGrath, Edward Feser, J. Budziszewski, Abigale Favale, etc.

Taking one person from this list as an example, Edward Feser was a convinced atheist philosopher for many years. He read the works of numerous skeptical philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, J.L. Mackie, J.L. Schellenberg, Kai Nielsen, etc., and was firmly persuaded by their arguments. Feser’s reading in the philosophy of mind and language (John Searle and Gottlob Frege), however, made him lose his belief in materialism, which was a key component of his atheism. Furthermore, delving deeper into the classical theist tradition made Feser realize that theism was “much more philosophically sophisticated and worked out” than he had supposed.[20] In time, Feser ended up being convinced by theistic arguments for God’s existence — becoming a classical theist.

Now a classical theist, Feser began to look into whether God did reveal Himself in any particular religion. Based on the classical theist conception of God and his belief in the immateriality of the human intellect, Feser was able to rule out most religions. As Feser notes:

Now, since I eventually became convinced by the theistic arguments of philosophers like Aquinas and Leibniz, that ruled out certain religions right away. God, the arguments showed, is utterly distinct from the world, and there is in him something analogous to what we call intellect and will in us. I concluded that pantheistic religions, like Hinduism in most of its forms, are therefore mistaken at a fundamental level. So too are religions that conceive of the ultimate principle of reality in impersonal terms, as Confucianism and Taoism do. Buddhism is even more deeply mistaken insofar as it denies that there is any permanent divine reality underlying the world of appearances. So, while I respected the great thinkers of the Eastern religions, I decided that these religions were too deeply in error with respect to the nature of God to be acceptable.

A second problem with the Eastern religions was what they had to say about the nature of man. For another thing that I had become convinced of, you’ll recall, is the immateriality of the human intellect. The core of the individual human being, I had concluded, is an incorporeal self that stands apart from the entire material world in which we are embedded. And since this self is rational, it is like God in a way that nothing else in the material world is. I also eventually became convinced by the traditional philosophical arguments to the effect that this self’s incorporeal nature made it incorruptible. All of this makes human beings unique in nature; yet this uniqueness did not seem to me to be recognized in the Eastern religions. Even those having a doctrine of reincarnation, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, held that the individual person ultimately disappears, like a water droplet absorbed back into the ocean. There is no abiding self at all in Buddhism; and though there is an abiding self in Hinduism, what strictly abides is the deep core of the self that is taken to be identical to God, and not anything that is distinctive of this or that particular man or woman. For pantheistic Hinduism, everything is ultimately Godlike, because everything is ultimately God. There’s nothing special about human beings.

So, if any of the world religions is true, I judged, it had to be one that recognized that God was a creator utterly distinct from the world he creates, and that human beings do have a special destiny within that creation. Hence, I concluded that it is the view of God and the soul that one finds in the Abrahamic religions that was most in accord with what we could know through philosophical arguments. But were any of these religions true?
[21]

In time, Feser ended up becoming convinced of the truth of the Christian religion – converting in 2001. In his view, Christianity’s answer to the point of human existence is very plausible (reading the early Church fathers and the thesis of salvation as theosis in light of the biblical narrative).[22] He also found the logic grounding Christian doctrine, as well as its systematic structure, impressive. Finally, Feser found the historical evidence for the resurrection compelling as presented in the work of the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig. 

In the end, intellectual religious conversions firmly rebut the objection that religious belief is only the result of cultural transmission. People learn new information and this has the potential to change their beliefs and attitudes towards anything, including the existence of God and the truth of any particular religion. 

6. “The Bible goes against science. I do not believe that the world and all life in it, including humans, were created over a period of seven days. I also believe in evolution.”

First off, the type of Christianity being referred to here is called “fundamentalist Protestantism”. These Christians believe that the Bible has to be interpreted literally. It is important to note, however, that biblical literalism is a modern development and that Christians historically did not interpret the Bible this way. As atheist history writer Tim O’Neill notes (see also O’Neill’s article on biblical literalism):

In fact, the idea of Biblical literalism is a very modern notion – one that arose in the USA in the Nineteenth Century and is exclusively a fundamentalist Protestant idea.[23]

The historic Christian view is that any given Bible verse or passage could be interpreted via no less than four levels of exegesis — the literal, the allegorical/symbolic, the moral, and the eschatological. As O’Neill notes:

Of these, the literal meaning was generally regarded as the least important. This also meant that a verse of scripture could be interpreted via one or more of these levels and it could potentially have no literal meaning at all and be purely metaphorical or symbolic. Therefore the Church had no problem with learning that a passage which had been interpreted literally could no longer be read that way because we now have a better understanding of the world.[24] 

In contrast to modern biblical literalists, the early Church fathers interpreted Genesis in a variety of ways, and they recognized that it employs figurative language while at the same time affirming a primeval event in the history of man.[25] The early Church father, Origen (ca. 185 AD – 253 AD), for example, notes the following on Genesis:

Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars — the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it…No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it…It is very easy for anyone who pleases to gather out of holy Scripture what is recorded indeed as having been done, but what nevertheless cannot be believed as having rea­sonably and appropriately occurred according to the historical account…And many other instances similar to this will be found in the Gospels by anyone who will read them with atten­tion, and will observe that in those narratives which appear to be literally recorded, there are inserted and interwoven things which cannot be admitted his­torically, but which may be accepted in a spiritual signification.[26]

St. Augustine (ca. 354 AD – 430 AD), the Church’s most influential theologian prior to Aquinas, affirmed the use of figurative language in Genesis. He also criticized Christians of this day who attempted to lecture people on the sciences because they thought the information was contained in scripture. As Augustine notes:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.[27]

One can even fast forward to today and look at Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on Genesis:

The Bible is not a natural science textbook, nor does it intend to be such … One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it. Anything else is an image and a way of describing things whose aim is to make profound realities graspable to human beings. One must distinguish between the form of portrayal and the content that is portrayed. The form would have been chosen from what was understandable at the time —from the images which surrounded the people who lived then, which they used in speaking and in thinking, and thanks to which they were able to understand the greater realities. And only the reality that shines through these images would be what was intended and what was truly enduring. Thus Scripture would not wish to inform us about how the different species of plant life gradually appeared or how the sun and the moon and the stars were established. Its purpose ultimately would be to say one thing: God created the world. The world is not, as people used to think then, a chaos of mutually opposed forces; nor is it the dwelling of demonic powers from which human beings must protect themselves. The sun and the moon are not deities that rule over them, and the sky that stretches over their heads is not full of mysterious and adversary divinities. Rather, all of this comes from one power, from God’s eternal Reason, which became — in the Word — the power of creation.



The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the “project” of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary—rather than mutually exclusive—realities.[28]

As Orthodox theologian and scholar of religion David Bentley Hart comments on the historic Christian view of biblical interpretation:

The Ancient and Medieval Church has always acknowledged that the Bible ought to be read allegorically in many instances, according to the spiritual doctrines of the church, and that the principal truths of scripture are not confined to its literal level which often reflects only the minds of its human authors.[29]

So this brings us to the question, how should we interpret the Bible? Well, before answering that question, we must grasp what the Bible is. The Bible is a collection of books of different genres (e.g. wisdom, poetry, songs, Greco-Roman biographies, apocalyptic, etc.), written by various authors, who were situated in particular cultures at different periods in history. Now if Christianity is true and the Bible is an inspired text through which God communicates truth through human authors, and there is an objective connection between the Old and New Testaments since they narrate salvation history, then that adds another layer of richness and complexity to the biblical text. For these reasons, the Bible must be read in thoughtful and nuanced ways.

This is why biblical scholarship is important, it allows us to arrive at proper, nuanced, and rich interpretation of the text through critical reading — taking into account genre, the culture of the author, language used, etc. Theology is also important because it allows us to read the biblical text in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ and salvation history. As St. Augustine remarked:

In the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed.[30]

Speaking for my tradition, the Catholic Church gives freedom to its theologians and biblical scholars to propose interpretations of biblical verses and passages provided that they do not conflict with the dogmas of the faith. The Church sets the parameters of what Christians have to affirm regarding the biblical texts but within and other than these parameters, the Church gives its theologians and biblical scholars the freedom to put forward interpretations that they believe are plausible or fit the evidence best.

On the subject of Genesis and human origins, for example, the Church says that Catholics have to affirm that God created the universe ex nihilo, that God infused our first parents with rational souls, that our first parents fell from a state of grace due to original sin and that we are all descendants of them. Apart from these de fide teachings, the Church “permits wide discussion on the issue of origins”.[31]

Although there are fundamentalist Christians today who reject scientific positions such as evolution, this does not apply to all Christian denominations. The Catholic Church, for example, the largest and oldest Christian denomination, never rejected evolution in its history. The Catholic Church sees no conflict between the Christian faith and evolution and leaves it up to individual Catholics whether to believe in either creationism, evolution, or intelligent design (I personally am an evolutionist).[32] Many Protestant denominations do not see a conflict between Christianity and evolution as well.[33] (For a great book on Adam, Eve, and evolution see Joshua Swamidass’ The Genealogical Adam and Eve).

Having said that, I also want to debunk the idea that Christianity has been a hindrance to science historically because nothing could be further from the truth. Historians of science have long rejected the “conflict thesis”, which sees science and religion as historical enemies.[34] Historians of science now affirm that although science and religion have clashed a number of times in history (mainly due to fundamentalist Protestantism), religion’s relationship with science has been by and large highly positive.[35] In fact, Christianity played a critical positive role in the emergence of modern science in 16th-century Europe. I will provide a summary of Christianity’s contributions to science below but if you want to dive deeper into the subject, you are free to check out section “V. Science” in part two of my Christianity: Builder of Western Civilization series

To begin the summary, after the fall of Rome, the West stood as a patchwork of barbarian kingdoms. Learning and scholarship had reached a low ebb and the next several centuries would be characterized by invasions, fragmentation and chaos, with few brief periods of stability and centralized authority. The West was basically a third-world country, economically poor and uneducated. It was from this low point that the Christian Church gradually took the West under its wing and worked to re-establish the groundwork of civilization.

The Church would educate Europe through its monastic and cathedral schools, and out of the Church’s cathedral schools would emerge the modern university.[36] Institutions of higher learning existed prior to the Middle Ages but the university we are familiar with today with its degrees (i.e. graduate and post-graduate), courses of study, standardized curriculum, faculties, thesis and thesis defense, is a Medieval innovation and a legacy of the Christian Church. These institutions would become the main sites of scientific activity in the West. As historian of science Peter Harrison notes:

The medieval universities, which were the chief sites of scientific activity in the later middle ages, were founded and supported by the Catholic Church.[37]

Likewise, historian of science Michael Shank, comments:

Between 1150 and 1500 … Europeans had had access to scientific materials than any of their predecessors in earlier cultures, thanks largely to the emergence, rapid growth and naturalistic arts curricula of medieval universities … About 30 percent of the medieval university curriculum covered subjects and texts concerned with the natural world.[38]

Popes and Christian religious orders would go on to establish many universities. (Yes, Popes! See Sapienza University for example, the first pontifical university founded in 1303 AD). 

The Church sponsored the education of its clergy at universities and many priest-scientists would go on to make significant contributions that laid the groundwork for modern science.[39] Priests Roger Grosseteste and Roger Bacon laid the underlying scientific principles of observation and repeatable experimentation. A priest by the name of Jean Buridan discovered the concept of impetus, which was the first stepping stone to Newton’s first law of motion. To name one more example, Thomas Bradwadine, another priest, was one of the four groundbreaking Merton Calculators. This group of Oxford scholars was the first to truly apply mathematics to the study of physics! As Bradwadine commented:

[Mathematics] is the revealer of every genuine truth, for it knows every hidden secret and bears the key to every subtlety of letters. Whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start that he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom.[40]

The Merton Calculators laid the foundations for the later key understanding of momentum by distinguishing kinematics from dynamics. In addition to this, they developed logarithmic functions and the Mean Speed Theorem.[41] 

Christian theology also contributed to the emergence of modern science. Christian theology guided Medieval scholars to break free from the predominant pantheist-animist view of nature of antiquity, carry out the “depersonalization of nature”, and come to the conclusion that nature operates under fixed laws. As historian of science Noah Efron notes:

Generations of historians and sociologists have discovered many ways in which Christians, Christian beliefs, and Christian institutions played crucial roles in fashioning the tenets, methods, and institutions of what in time became modern science … today almost all historians agree that Christianity (Catholicism as well as Protestanism) moved many early-modern intellectuals to study nature systematically. Historians have also found that notions borrowed from Christian belief found their way into scientific discourse with glorious results; the very notion that nature is lawful … For all these reasons, one cannot recount the history of modern science without acknowledging the crucial importance of Christianity.[42]

The Church also has a particular interest in astronomy. It provided substantial financial resources and social support over the centuries to this area of scientific study, to the point that historian of science John Heilborn notes that:

The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions.[43]

In fact, at the turn of the 18th century, the four best observatories in the world were cathedrals that doubled up as astronomical observatories.[44] The calendar we use today, the Gregorian calendar, is an innovation of the Church. It was developed by Jesuit astronomer and mathematician Christoph Clavius and enacted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.[45]

The Jesuits contributed excellently to the sciences as well. By the 17th century, just one century after their founding, the Christian religious order had become “the leading scientific organization in Europe, publishing thousands of papers and spreading new discoveries around the world”.[46] Historian of science Jonathan Wright provides a snapshot of the Jesuit’s scientific achievements:

They had contributed to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the coloured bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorised about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light.  Star maps of the southern hemisphere, symbolic logic, flood-control measures on the Po and Adige rivers, introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics — all were typical Jesuit achievements, and scientists as influential as Fermat, Huygens, Leibniz and Newton were not alone in counting Jesuits among their most prized correspondents.[47]

Furthermore, Christian clergy made scientific contributions based on their learnings of the natural world from foreign missionary efforts. Lawrence Principe, a historian of science, notes:

But on a broader scale, during the Scientific revolution, Catholic monks, friars, and priests in missions constituted a virtual worldwide web of correspondents and data collectors. Information on local geography, flora, fauna, mineralogy, and other subjects as well as a wealth of astronomical, meteorological and seismological observations flooded back into Europe from far-flung Catholic missions in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The data and specimens they sent back were channeled into natural-philosophical treatises and studies by Catholics and Protestants alike. This massive collection of new scientific information was carried out by Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, and, perhaps most of all, Jesuits.[48]

Providing three more examples of impressive clergy-scientists, Marin Mersenne, a Christian priest, facilitated an exceptional amount of scientific information during the Scientific Revolution. He corresponded with over 140+ key thinkers throughout Europe (and as far away as Tunisia, Syria, and Turkey). For this reason, Mersenne has been called “the center of the world of science and mathematics during the first half of the 1600s”.[49] Modern genetics was founded by a monk growing peas in a monastic garden – Gregor Mendel. Finally, the Big Bang theory was formulated by a Christian priest, Fr. George Lemaitre.

Christianity has contributed greatly to science and this is recognized by contemporary historians. As historian of science Peter Harrison notes:

[W]e might regard this period, [the Middle Ages,] as one that saw Christianity set the agenda for the emergence of modern science.[50]

Historian of science Lawrence Principe comments:

[I]t is clear from the historical record that the Catholic Church has been probably the largest single and longest-term patron of science in history.[51]

Historian of science James Hannam notes:

[Until the late 18th century,] the Catholic Church was the leading sponsor of scientific research.[52]

Noah Efron, another historian of science, states that the Catholic Church was the leading patron of science for “a crucial millennium”.[53]

Today, the Church’s interest in and support of the sciences can be seen most prominently in its Pontifical Academy of the Sciences (PAS) – a scientific academy, with a first-rate roster, that aims to promote the progress of the mathematical, physical, and natural sciences. The Church also has its own observatory, the Vatican Observatory, in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. Of course, the Church continues to educate people in the sciences worldwide through its schools, especially at the higher level. The Catholic Church’s 1,300+ universities offer degrees in various scientific fields (biology, chemistry, physics, M.D. programs, etc.) and scientific research is conducted and published at these institutions.[54]

Contrary to portrayals in Netflix and Hollywood, Christianity has been, by and large (excluding clashes from fundamentalist Protestantism), an excellent ally of the sciences. Historians have written many works debunking the conflict thesis and detailing Christianity’s critical contributions to science. These include works such as Edward Grant’s God and Reason in the Middle Ages (2001) Roland Number’s Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (2010), James Hannam’s God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (2010), Derrick Peterson’s Flat Earths and Fake Footnotes: The Strange Tale of How the Conflict of Science and Christianity Was Written Into History (2021), and David Hutchings and James Ungureanu’s Of Popes and Unicorns: Science, Christianity and How the Conflict Thesis Fooled the World (2021). Although the conflict thesis has been long rejected by historians, works rebutting it continue to be made. It can earnestly be described as “flogging a dead horse” at this point. Thomas Dixon, a historian of science and religion, observes:

[Ever] since John Hedley Brooke’s Science and religion: some historical perspectives (1991), a thriving industry has grown up among historians of science debunking the idea of an inevitable and timeless conflict between religion and science.[55]

For a free source online, I highly recommend checking out atheist history writer Tim O’Neill’s debunking of the conflict thesis and his rebuttal of historical myths regarding the Galileo affair.

7. “The Catholic Church is scandalously rich, it is disgusting. They are living in wealth.”

The Church has a lot of money, but the question is — where does this money go? Are priests typically living in luxury as a result of donations from the laity? 

Answering the first question (“where does this money go?”), I do not think people who launch this objection are aware of how much money is needed to sustain and expand the Church’s work. I will first talk about the affairs of the Vatican, whose financial assets are managed by the Pope.[56] Then I will talk about the activities of Catholic religious orders and dioceses worldwide. Catholic religious orders and dioceses are entirely de-centralized from the Vatican.[57] They are run by “Superior Generals” and bishops respectively.

The Vatican, like any independent state, has a lot going on that cannot be easily summarized, but we can start our discussion with the fact that the Vatican has sixteen dicasteries (e.g. dicastery of Evangelization, dicastery of Clergy, dicastery of Communications, etc). To give you an example of one of these, the dicastery of Communications is in charge of transmitting the message of the Pope in 40+ languages over TV, radio, social media, print, and photography. This dicastery employs 530+ people.[58] In addition to its dicasteries, the Vatican comprises the Secretariat of State (which is in charge of international relations and diplomatic missions), institutions of justice, institutions of finance, various other institutes (e.g. the Labour Office of the Apostolic See, the various Pontifical academies, the Vatican Apostolic Library, etc.), interdicasterial commissions, and commissions and committees. The point is, do not think the Vatican is just St. Peter’s Basilica, The Apostolic Palace, and St. Peter’s Square and Colonnade. It is much more than these. The Vatican is a city-state that requires substantial financial resources to run. In 2021, the Vatican even posted a deficit.[59]

Going beyond the Vatican, the Church’s religious orders run a large number of healthcare facilities (hospitals, clinics, orphanages, etc.) and schools (seminaries, primary and secondary schools, and universities) worldwide — and money is needed to maintain, develop, and establish more of these institutions. Moving on to Catholic dioceses, these need to be run and developed (e.g. utility costs for seminaries and churches, salaries of church employees, the building of new parish structures and new churches, etc.). For both religious orders and dioceses, funding is needed for various charitable activities and missionary efforts as well.

All of these require a lot of money. A sustainable financial flow is needed to maintain, improve, and expand the activities of the Church, as well as pay off any debts the Vatican, a religious order, or a diocese may have to financial institutions.[60]    

This brings us to the second question: are priests typically living in luxury? The answer is no. Priests do not have high salaries. In the Philippines, priests have an entry-level salary of P23,937 a month, and an average salary of P32,628 a month. This puts them in the lower middle-income bracket of the country (P19,928.94 to P38,597.88).[61] Priests have comfortable lives in terms of being fed well and living in good functional residences but priests typically do not enjoy the luxuries of those living in middle- to higher-end subdivisions (e.g. pools, occasional shopping sprees at malls, higher-end cars, eating in higher-end restaurants, annual or bi-annual trips abroad for recreational purposes, etc.).  

Furthermore, there are other aspects of a priest’s lifestyle that are not easy. Priests do not enjoy the level of privacy that the laity possess in their private residences, since priests typically live in communal residences with other clergy. Of course, priests cannot get married too! 

If you think priests typically live lives of luxury and privilege, you are free to enroll in a seminary right now. There is a reason why most Christians, even most devout Christians, do not become priests – it entails a lot of sacrifice. This is why there is a shortage of priests (priest-to-laity ratio) even in a highly Christian country like the Philippines — not a lot of people are willing to give up many of the world’s goods (material goods, family life, the enjoyment of travel, etc.).[62] If you want to enjoy the goods of a world, priesthood is not the way to go.

Look, I have no doubt that there are corrupt priests out there who misuse the Church’s money (there are good priests and there are bad priests) – particularly those in higher positions within the Church. When people are put in a position of power and have the means to access the pool of money of an organization, corruption happens – be it in government, in business, or in the Church. That is reality. The point, however, is that the average priest does not live a material life that the laity should envy. If you are middle to upper class, you are living a life more materially blessed than the average priest.

As for the many beautiful churches of the Church, including any gold and valuably adorned items like chalices or monstrances in them, these are not for the material benefit of the clergy in their personal lives, these are for the purpose of giving glory to God (wealth can be used to glorify God, see Matt 26:6–13), to signify and honor theological realities (e.g. the Real Presence — that Jesus is truly present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist), and are for the benefit of the entire Christian faithful (beauty uplifts the soul and draws one to God, “Via Pulchritudinis”).

Moving on to the Church’s art, which you see if you go to the Vatican Museum in Rome, these are for everyone to appreciate. The Vatican, like other Western cultural institutions, is serving as a steward and caretaker of European history.[63] The Vatican charges a modest €17 for entry into its museum, which includes access to the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. (€17 is the same price as The Lourve in Paris and cheaper than the Natural History Museum in New York).[64] On the other hand, St. Peter’s Basilica is free to enter, meaning that the cost of upkeep and employees is largely paid for from a deficit.[65]

8. “Christianity is bad for society.”

There is a lot I want to say in response to this objection but to keep my response punchy but not too long, I will set aside Christianity’s contributions in the past (you are free to check out my four-part series, Christianity: Builder of Western Civilization, to learn more on this) and focus on Christianity’s contributions today. In addition to this, I will lay out the positive benefits of religion according to social science. 

Regarding Christianity’s contributions today, the Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education and healthcare in the world.[66] 

In the area of education, as of 2021, the Church operated globally 214,000+ primary and secondary schools, and 1,300+ universities.[67] Especially noteworthy is the Church’s major role in establishing universities across Africa. To give two examples, as of 2019, Nigeria has 23 public universities and 17 private universities.[68] Of the 17 private universities, the Church built them all. Nigeria has 61 private universities. Of the 61 private universities, 31 were built by the Church.[69] Joel Carpenter, a historian and director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity, comments:

This trend is quite dynamic across the continent … sub-Saharan Africa is one of the “hot spots” in the growth of Christian higher education worldwide.[70]

Moving on to healthcare, as of 2010, it was estimated that the Catholic Church managed 26% of the world’s healthcare facilities.[71] In 2011, the Church ran 117,000+ healthcare facilities worldwide, including hospitals, clinics, orphanages, homes for the elderly, handicapped, and those with special needs, centers for the care of those with leprosy, etc.[72] Another notable point is that among the Church’s 5,500+ hospitals, an estimated 65% of them are located in developing countries.[73]

Adding to its contributions in education and healthcare, the Church may be the largest charitable organization in the world. We do not have statistics on the Church’s total charitable spending, but it is reasonable to conclude that the Church is the largest charitable organization today given that it is the largest Christian Church and engages in a wide scope of charitable activities. As journalist David Patton notes:

Caritas, the umbrella organisation for [a large number of] Catholic aid agencies, estimates that spending by its affiliates totals between £2 billion and £4 billion, making it one of the biggest aid agencies in the world. Even these numbers only tell half the tale. Caritas does not include development spending by a host of religious orders and other Catholic charities, while most of the 200,000 Catholic parishes around the world operate their own small-scale charitable projects which are never picked up in official figures. Establishing like-for-like comparisons is hard, but there can be little doubt that in pretty much every field of social action, from education to health to social care, the Church is the largest and most significant non-state organisation in the world.[74]

This is only the Catholic Church as well — Protestant Christianity also does excellent work. According to Forbes, in 2021, Protestant Christian charities in the United States comprised almost half (eleven out of twenty-five!) of the country’s top 25 charities – Salvation Army (#3), Habitat for Humanity International (#6), YMCA of the USA (#8), Compassion International (#10), Samaritan’s Purse (#17), World Vision (#18), Food for the Poor (#19), Mount Sinai Health Systems (#20), Lutheran Services in America (#21), MAP International (#23), and Campus Crusade for Christ (#25).[75]

Christianity is a leading source of social action in the world today. Its impact in the areas of education, healthcare, and charity is terrific.

According to social science, religion has many positive benefits as well. In the section below, I will not focus on individual studies but on meta-analyses and systematic reviews which put together multiple studies to find the overall general trend on an issue (a meta-analysis is “a study that takes in all studies published across a time period on a specific topic”).[76] Moreover, since these studies are conducted by and large in the West, Christianity is the focus of these studies many times.[77]

To start, we can discuss religion’s effect on crime and delinquent behavior. A 2001 meta-analysis (60 studies) showed that religion is a moderate deterrent of crime. As researchers Colin Baier and Bradley Wright note: 

We examined data from 60 studies and we found that religion had a statistically significant, moderately sized effect on crime of about r=-.12 … Our findings give confidence that religion does indeed have some deterrent effect.[78]

More recent studies have also confirmed religiosity’s inverse effect on crime and delinquent behavior. A 2010 systematic review showed that 90% of studies (244 of 270) find an inverse or beneficial relation between religion and some measure of crime or delinquency, 9% of studies (24 of 270) found no association or reported mixed findings, while only two studies (0.008%) found that religion was positively associated with a harmful outcome.[79] A 2015 meta-analysis of 62 studies found that religiosity was inversely correlated with alcohol use, illicit drug use, and non-drug delinquency (i.e. theft, robbery, assault, and murder).[80]

Moving on to religion and personal well-being, a large 2001 meta-analysis of 850 studies found that “religious involvement is generally associated with greater-wellbeing, less depression and anxiety, greater social support, and less substance abuse”.[81] A 2021 meta-analysis (34 studies) also found a “moderate positive correlation” between religiosity and resilience, which was defined as the “ability to recover from a difficult situation”.[82] 

Another benefit of religion is that it fosters prosocial behavior (e.g. helping, sharing, donating, etc.). An extensive 2006 study across 53 countries found that “frequent churchgoers are more active in volunteer work and a devout national context has an additional positive effect”.[83] A 2020 systematic review showed that religiosity is positively correlated with charitable giving to outgroups and secular organizations.[84] A 2015 meta-analysis (93 studies) also shows that religious priming is positively correlated with prosocial behavior.[85] Priming is when researchers divide subjects into a control group and an experimental group. In this study, the experimental group was primed with religious activity (e.g. prayer, worship music, a Bible study, etc.) while the control group was not primed. 

Furthermore, studies confirm religion’s benefits being linked to intrinsic religiosity but not extrinsic religiosity. Individuals with an orientation of intrinsic religiosity “want to hold to the core tenets of a religion … [they] make central their religion as the framework for their lives, and they try to consistently live the religion they believe”.[86] On the other hand, individuals with an orientation of extrinsic religiosity are “religious as a means to an end. One is religious to be a part of a community, for sociability reasons, a distraction, or because it is a family tradition, but one does not have to actually believe what the religion teaches”.[87]  

A 2009 paper that surveyed a wide variety of research found that intrinsic religiosity was associated with higher self-control and self-regulation while extrinsic religiosity was not.[88]  

A 1997 meta-analysis (14 studies) found that intrinsic religiosity positively correlates with mental health and altruism while extrinsic religiosity negatively correlates with mental health and altruism.[89] A 2003 meta-analysis (147 studies) found that intrinsic religiosity was negatively correlated to depressive symptoms but extrinsic religiosity was positively correlated to depressive symptoms.[90] A 2015 meta-analysis (9 studies) and a 2017 review of the literature (8 studies) both showed that intrinsic religiosity was negatively correlated with suicidal behavior.[91] 

A 2002 meta-analysis (12 studies) found that those with an intrinsic religious orientation positively correlated with three of the big personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) and did not correlate with the other two big personality traits (neuroticism and openness).[92] However, those identified as “mature” in their religion positively correlated with four of the five big personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness) and negatively correlated with neuroticism. Extrinsic religiosity, on the other hand, positively correlated with neuroticism and did not correlate with the other big personality traits.

In the end, social science firmly points to the conclusion that religion gives rise to numerous benefits. It deters crime and delinquent behavior, boosts mental health, and fosters personal development and prosocial behavior. Furthermore, the positive benefits of religion are tied to an intrinsic religious orientation rather than an extrinsic religious religion. In other words, religion’s benefits shine through when a person earnestly believes and practices his faith. This is well-evidenced by Christianity’s rich history of saints, Christian men and women of amazing virtue who lived lives of service to God and others (think St. Francis of Assisi, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Philip Neri, St. Therese of Liseux, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frasatti, etc.).  

With that said, I do recognize that religion has negative effects as well. Religious people can be inspired by their theology to act negatively towards others they view as engaging in sin. Christians, for example, can treat people with same-sex attraction poorly (insult, shun, look down on, etc.) due to their faith. However, it is important to note that these Christians, though inspired by their faith to act poorly in these cases, are actually not following Christianity’s teachings. Jesus taught the primacy of love. In fact, it is through love that Jesus said that others would come to know that they were his followers. As Jesus said in Jhn 13:34-35:

As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Jesus also befriended sinners (e.g. tax-collectors and prostitutes) and sought to lead them away from sin (Lk 5:31-32):

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.

In the parable of the Pharisee and tax-collector, Jesus communicates that God values humility and looks down on self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.



The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Treating people badly, such as those with same-sex attraction, is contrary to love, and therefore, contrary to the Christian faith. Shunning sinners is contrary to both love and the Christian mission of preaching the good news. Rather than shun sinners, Christians are called to love them and through earnest friendship, lead them away from sin and towards God. Christianity is at its core, about love, and to love means “to will the good of the beloved”, including and especially his or her soul. Finally, Christianity teaches that Christians ought to be humble rather than self-righteous and that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace (Rom 3:23-24).

The teachings of Jesus are morally excellent. Unfortunately, Christians do not always live up to them. The problem with Christians who treat people such as those with same-sex attraction poorly is that they are so focused on the sin (in this case, non-marital sexual activity — sexual attraction, by itself, is not a sin) that they completely forget Jesus’ teachings on the primacy of love and humility, as well as their Christian duty to preach the good news. The problem then is not Christianity’s teachings, it is the failure of Christians to live according to the teachings of Jesus — the failure of Christians to live according to the Christian ideal. When Christians largely succeed in living the Christian ideal, you get the saints – Christian men and women who cultivated virtue in their lives to a degree that amazes. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI names the lives of the saints, along with the beauty Christianity has produced (Christian religious art, medieval Gothic cathedrals, Gregorian chant, etc.) as the two most effective apologia for the faith. As Pope Benedict XVI remarks:

[T]he true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated … Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.[93]

In the end, it is difficult to deny that Christianity is an excellent net positive force for good in the world today. Christianity’s contributions in the areas of education, healthcare, and charity worldwide are terrific. Social science also shows that religiosity has many benefits – it deters crime and delinquent behavior, aids in mental health, and fosters personal development and prosocial behavior. The findings of social science regarding religion are further evidenced by Christianity’s rich tradition of saints — Christian men and women, in every generation, who have lived lives of remarkable virtue and service to God and others.

Tuloy Sa Don Bosco, a center for the poor run by the Salesian order in the Philippines. The Salesians provide free primary and secondary education to 900+ former street children and children from abusive family environments. They also provide free housing for the center’s 200+ resident students.
Kiria-ini Mission Hospital, a Christian mission hospital in Kenya run by the Consolata Sisters. It is one of the 497 Catholic mission hospitals in the country.
Missionaries of Charity sisters prepare lunch for the poor in the order’s soup kitchen in St. Louis, Missouri. The Missionaries of Charity conduct excellent work for the poor in 133 countries worldwide.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901 – 1925) during one of his mountain climbs. Frassati was dubbed by Pope John Paul II as “the man of the eight beatitudes” and lived a life of outstanding service to the poor.

9. “I don’t see how the Christian religion can be true given the Church’s sexual abuse crisis”.

The Catholic Church does have a sexual abuse problem. Over the past many decades, there has been a plethora of sexual abuse cases. Even worse is the fact that many bishops around the world were complicit in covering up cases of abuse in their dioceses.

Before I address the core of this objection (“How can Christianity be true given the sexual abuse crisis?”), I need to raise four points in order to bring balance to the picture and correct wrong assumptions that could emerge in people’s minds due to the media’s frequent spotlighting of sexual abuse cases within the Church, as well as the common portrayals of priests as sex offenders in popular culture (Hollywood and Netflix).

First, it needs to be clarified that the Pope is not responsible for sexual abuse cover-ups around the world. The Church is a decentralized organization.[94] The Pope does not know what is happening in the diocese of Kalookan, Philippines, or the diocese of Syracuse, New York. The administrators of Catholic dioceses around the world are the appointed bishops of these dioceses. These are the individuals responsible for covering up sexual abuse in an area, should there be any. 

Second, it must be pointed out that the rate by which Catholic priests commit sexual abuse is no higher than the rate of sexual abuse of clergy of other religious groups and less than the rate of sexual abuse among the general population of men. This is what the data shows. As noted by Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University: 

Catholic clergy aren’t more likely to abuse children than other clergy or men in general. According to the best available data (which is pretty good mostly coming from a comprehensive report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004 as well as several other studies), 4% of Catholic priests in the USA sexually victimized minors during the past half century. No evidence has been published at this time that states that this number is higher than clergy from other religious traditions. The 4% figure is lower than school teachers (at 5%) during the same time frame and perhaps as much as half of the numbers of the general population of men.[95]

Likewise, Ernie Allen, current Founding Chairman and former president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, remarks:

We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else. I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others.[96]

Dr. Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Penn State, and author of Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis (Oxford University Press) states:

My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination —or indeed, than nonclergy …  (I cannot be called a Catholic apologist, since I am not even a Catholic).[97]

Michael Castleman, a San Francisco journalist who has spent decades delving into sex-related research, comments that only a very small portion of child sex abusers are priests. As Castleman notes in his Psychology Today article, Beyond Bad-Apple Priests: Who the Pedophiles Really Are:

From media reports, one might infer that Catholic priests commit most pedophilia. In fact, only a tiny fraction of child sex abusers are priests.

We know who the pedophiles are from the National Sexual Health Survey (NSHS), a large, comprehensive study of American sexuality based on in-depth interviews in 1996 with a representative sample of 8,400 Americans…

Ninety-five percent of the abusers were men.

Who were the molesters? NSHS categories included: strangers, dates, friends or acquaintances, parents, step-parents, other relatives, and others. Dates, friends, and acquaintances comprised the largest group of assailants (38 percent), followed by non-parent relatives (23 percent), others (15 percent), strangers (10 percent), parents (6 percent), and step-parents (4 percent).

Victims under 12 were typically abused by caregivers: parents, step-parents, other relatives, babysitters, or camp or recreational-program staff. Teens were generally abused by friends or acquaintances.

Under “other,” the NSHS asked: Who? Surprisingly, not one victim mentioned a priest. Most of the abusers in this category were teachers, neighbors, doctors, grandparents, a parent’s friend or coworker, or an adult around the house: a gardener, or repairman.

Not a single priest. I emphasize this not to exculpate pedophile priests, but rather to elucidate the reality of this crime … The problem of child sexual abuse is much larger than bad apples in the priesthood. As the NSHS clearly shows, we’re dealing with bad apples potentially anywhere.[98]

Yes, the Catholic Church has a sexual abuse problem but the rate of abuse within the Church is no higher than the rate of abuse by other religious clergy and is less than the rate of abuse of the general population of men. Sexual abuse is not a particularly serious problem (compared to the clergy of other religious groups or the general population of men) of the Catholic Church. It is a human problem.

This brings us to the third point — sexual abuse cover-ups occur in various institutions. According to a 2022 investigation by U.K.’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), a culture of sexual abuse cover-up exists in many of Britain’s schools.[99] The investigations found that headteachers and school staff dismiss allegations or do not take proper action when allegations arise because they do not want to damage the school’s reputation. A 2012 review by the Los Angeles Times revealed sexual abuse cover-up in the Boy Scouts of America. There were 500+ cases wherein the organization either did not notify the police or “went out of their way to conceal reports of abuse”.[100] In 2022, Netflix released a documentary on sexual abuse cover-up in the Boy Scouts entitled “Leave No Trace”. Hollywood also has a long history of sexual abuse and people in the industry protecting their own and “looking the other way”.[101] Alissa Wilkinson, a culture reporter at Vox, states:

There’s no political or religious or any other kind of boundary to communities that cover up for abusers and silence the accusers. It happens at Fox News. It happens in Hollywood and among communities of cinephiles. It happened among sports fans at Penn State. It happens on college campuses. It happens in Silicon Valley and in politics on the left and right. It happens in the Catholic Church, in missionary communities, in evangelical churches.[102]

Moving on to the fourth point, at least in the United States, cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church have been on a trend of decline since the 1980s and have especially declined into the 21st century, as a result of effective reforms by the American Church.[103] In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) instituted mandatory reporting guidelines, and Catholic dioceses enacted “safe environment policies” that prohibited adults from being alone with minors except in certain approved situations. David Gibson of the Washington Post notes the effectiveness of the Church’s reforms in his article, 10 years after Catholic sex abuse reforms, what’s changed?, saying: 

Whatever its past record, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has made unparalleled strides in educating their flock about child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are safe in Catholic environments.

Over the past 10 years, Catholic parishes have trained more than 2.1 million clergy, employees, and volunteers about how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse. More than 5.2 million children have also been taught to protect themselves, and churches have run criminal background checks on more than 2 million volunteers, employees, educators, clerics and seminarians. Allegations of new abuse cases continue to decline … and appear to reflect the effectiveness of some of the charter’s policies as well as ongoing efforts to increase screening of seminarians and to deal with suspected abusers before they claim multiple victims.[104]

Having raised these four points and brought balance and perspective to the reality of the Church’s sexual abuse problem, we can now turn to address the core of the objection – how can the Christian religion be true given the Church’s sexual abuse crisis?

The response to this objection is that the moral evils committed by religious people do not make their religion false. A religion can be true while having adherents who engage in moral evil (i.e. sin). In fact, moral evil by men, including Christians, is expected (but not approved) under a Christian worldview, because Christianity affirms that man has a fallen human nature due to original sin and that as a result, he is prone to sin and error. 

When we look at the scripture, we see that men of the Judeo-Christian tradition committed moral evil (even the Bible’s protagonists!) — many of these moral evils were especially grave as well. In the Old Testament, Cain murdered his brother Abel. Sampson slept with a prostitute and broke his Nazarite vow a number of times. King Saul worshipped pagan gods alongside YHWH, gravely violating the first commandment. King David lusted after a woman, had her husband killed, then married her. In the New Testament, Judas betrayed Jesus for money. Peter, Jesus’ leading disciple, denied Jesus thrice and was later called out by Paul for his moral shortcoming in Antioch (Gal 2:10-13). Even if Jesus respected and affirmed the religious office of the Pharisees, Jesus also pointed out their hypocrisy (Matt 23:1-3):

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

All of us are sinners. All Christians fall short of the Christian ideal. I certainly do not expect the Church’s record to be blameless because it is an institution comprised of fallible human beings. Anything involving men, be it ourselves, social institutions, or history, will always be black and white – a mix of good and evil. 

Regarding the moral failures of the Church’s priests (corruption, sexual sin, etc.), I also want to point out that this is why we are often told as Christians to pray for our priests. The devil will especially target God’s officers – His priests and pastors – because he knows that he could do the most damage to the body of Christ by leading these individuals into grave sin. By the nature of their vocation, priests and pastors have a “target on their back”. As it is in war, you target the enemy’s officers. 

Ultimately, this skeptical objection fails because moral evil committed by religious people does not make their religion false. In the same way, religious people doing moral good does not make their religion true. In the case of the Christian religion, its truth is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then Christianity is true. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is false. As St. Paul succinctly put it in his letter to the church at Corinth (1 Cor 15:14):

 [I]f Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

To ponder the truth or falsehood of the Christian religion will entail, at its core, examining Christianity’s origins — the historical evidence for the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, which Jesus’ disciples proclaimed as reality shortly following his death.

10. “Religion does not matter. What matters is that you are a good person, and one does not need religion to be a good person.”

False, religion does matter – if it is true. The question one should ask, above all, is “Does God exist and did He reveal Himself in a particular religion?”. If yes, then it is right and just to give God honor. It is not only right and just to give God honor due to His excellence (perfect goodness is an attribute of the God of classical theism), but also because all contingent reality derives its being from Him.

In order to elaborate further on why it is just to give God honor, we need to talk about the virtue of justice and the virtue of religion. As Christian theologian Scott Hahn notes, justice is the virtue by which “we render to others what is their due”, while religion, as a virtue, involves “giving to God what He is due”.[105] For this reason, religion is “the highest form of justice”.[106] 

Religion is also a transcendent form of justice because it is a case wherein what is owed to another cannot be met. An example of a transcendent form of justice would be our parents.[107] We cannot give them back what they gave us because our parents gave us life, love, food, clothing, shelter, education, wisdom, and all of the nurture that comes from fathering and mothering. When it comes to our parents, justice calls for pietas, or as embodied in the ten commandments – “Honor your father and your mother”. Even more than our parents, God, as Creator and non-contingent ground of contingent reality, gives us everything – our lives, our family and friends, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the nature we enjoy, etc. 

Furthermore, if Christianity is true, then God’s goodness to us should make us feel extremely shy, like how we would feel about a good friend who has done too much good to us – more than we deserve. Under Christianity, God humbled Himself by taking on our lesser human form, suffered for us, and ultimately, died for us out of love. Through death on the cross, God paid the price for all our sins – liberating us from its bondage. In the present day, God continues to provide us the grace to do good (2 Cor 12:9), guide us in our temporal affairs, and bring good out of evil in our lives (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). He is always eager, like the father of the Prodigal Son, to forgive us of our sins, no matter how many times and how gravely we offend Him – He just waits for us to return to Him. Moreover, God, at every moment, loves us infinitely. God is not only our Lord and Creator, He is also our greatest friend, ally, and lover. 

It is right and just that we honor our parents based on who they are (i.e. our parents) and the good that they give us. Infinitely more so, it is right and just to honor God based on who He is and the good that He gives us. As Christian priests say at the Holy Mass:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord. In him you have been pleased to renew all things, giving us all a share in his fullness. For though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself and by the blood of his Cross brought peace to all creation.[108]

In addition to the virtue of religion leading man to give God due honor, the virtue also leads to man’s flourishing. For when man worships God, his mind is subjected to God, and it is in this subjection to God that man’s mind finds perfection.[109] When man orients himself towards God, he orients himself towards the Good and finds true freedom, which is not “the ability to do whatever I want” but the “capacity to do good” and liberation from sin.[110] Think about it, are you truly free when you are prideful, self-centered, vain, envious, lustful, etc.? As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2097, v. 14):

The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.

The virtue of religion, by perfecting man’s mind, also places man on the right path towards eternal salvation. As Pope John Paul II notes in his encyclical letter, Redemptor Hominis:

Our spirit is set in one direction, the only direction for our intellect, will and heart is towards Christ our Redeemer, towards Christ, the Redeemer of man. We wish to look towards him because there is salvation in no one else but him.[111]

Ultimately, man not only reveres God because it is right and just, man also reveres God for his own sake — for it is only in God that man finds his fullness.

Having discussed why it is right and just for man to honor God, and why it is necessary for man to do so for his perfection, I also want to respond to the other aspect of the skeptical objection – i.e. “What is important is to be a good person”.

How do you know what is good? Is the moral good that you believe in subjective or objective?

Under an atheistic naturalist worldview, there is no reason or rhyme to existence, no purpose or meaning to life (except what you make of it), and no objective good or evil. So if atheistic naturalism is true, then you are free to live as you please because all human actions would have no objective moral value. Morality would be subjective. In this scenario, there is no objectively right way to live one’s life ethically, so one can live based on his subjective beliefs of what it means to be a good person.

If God does exist, however, then morality is objectively grounded in His nature as perfect goodness, and based on our created nature as human beings (i.e. natural law) who possess an intellect and a will.[112] If God does exist and if He did reveal Himself in a particular religion, then “being a good person” is not about living in accordance with our subjective beliefs of what it means to be a good person, it is about living in accordance with God’s objective moral law as revealed in sacred scripture (which is a product of divine revelation and providence).

Ultimately, this skeptical objection fails because religion does matter if it is true. If God does exist and if He did reveal Himself in the Christian religion, then we ought to give God honor and follow Christianity’s tenets, not only because it is right and just, and not only because Christianity’s tenets would be true and good in and of themselves, but also because it would lead to the perfection of our minds and put us on the direct path towards eternal salvation.[113] If Christianity is true, then “being a good person” is not about living up to our own subjective moral beliefs, it is about following Jesus in all matters for He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jhn 14:6).

Furthermore, if Christianity is true, then we are not called to spiritual mediocrity (i.e. do not hurt people and be nice to them), we are called to become saints — to become like Christ, to be Christ-like. There is so much more to being good than not hurting people and being nice to them. Pride, selfishness, envy, lust, dishonesty, etc. can all be done while not hurting people and being nice to them. Yet, these are all moral evils that need to be done away with if we are to live morally good lives.

Conclusion

As we have seen, the skeptical objections raised in this article miss the mark. If you are a skeptic reading this, I earnestly encourage you to look deeper into Christianity, for there are good answers to questions you have. I once went through a period of searching myself and had a lot of questions. I looked into various belief systems (Christianity, atheism, and Islam especially) and in the end, I came out earnestly convinced of the truth of the Christian religion. I was convinced by the answers Christianity provided and the evidence grounding Christianity’s historical claims.

As a believer of Jesus Christ, I now do what I can to share the answers and riches of the Christian tradition, and help others in their search for the truth. For those who are interested in looking further into Christianity, I came up with a list of recommended YouTube content creators and books elsewhere in my blog. Feel free to check it out. Of course, you are free to message me if you have any questions about God or Christianity as well!

References

  1. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, ch. 1.5
  2. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, pgs. 228-229. Premier Unbelievable? (2022, July 15). “Graham Oppy & Guillaume Bignon • Rationality, Religious Experience and the Case for God”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/4KCJXMeM9WQ. Capturing Christianity. (2022, July 29). “This Dude’s Crazy Journey from Atheism to Catholicism While Working at the NBA”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/5DpxdE3MsB0.
  3. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, pgs. 228-229
  4. Nagel. The Last Word, pgs. 130-131
  5. Huxley, Ends and Means, pp. 312, 316
  6. Feser, E. (2011). “So you think you understand the cosmological argument?”. Retrieved from:  http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html
  7. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 4, a. 2
  8. Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, pgs. 289-290
  9. Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, pgs. 267-268
  10. Ibid.
  11. Flew, There is a God, pgs. 92-93
  12. Habermas, G. (2004). “My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: An Exclusive Interview with Former British Atheist Professor Antony Flew”. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1336&context=lts_fac_pubs
  13. Flew and Varghese, There is A God, pgs.  185–186
  14. Stasancos, Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, pgs. 101-165
  15. Bishop Robert Barron. (2022, March 21). “Why the Supposed Conflict Between Science and Religion is Tragic Nonsense”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV6pu5R5GBs
  16. Feser, E. (2016). A difficulty for Craig’s kalām cosmological argument? Retrieved from: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/09/a-difficulty-for-craigs-kalam_2.html
  17. Holland, Dominion How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, pg. 143 and Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, pg. 63 
  18. Holland, How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, pgs. 358-359
  19. Beauchamp, Z. (2018). “Juche, the state ideology that makes North Koreans revere Kim Jong Un, explained”. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/world/2018/6/18/17441296/north-korea-propaganda-ideology-juche
  20. Feser in Besong and Fuqua, Faith and Reason Philosophers Explain Their Turn to Catholicism, pg. 37
  21. Ibid, pgs. 47-48.
  22. Ibid, pgs. 48-50
  23. O’Neill, T. “What is the most misunderstood historical event?”. Retrieved from: https://qr.ae/pvk0W6
  24. Ibid
  25. O’Neill, T. (2021). “THE GREAT MYTHS 11: BIBLICAL LITERALISM”. Retrieved from: https://historyforatheists.com/2021/03/the-great-myths-11-biblical-literalism/
  26. Origen, On First Principles (Book IV), Verse 16
  27. Augustine, On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis Vol. 2
  28.  Ratzinger, “In the Beginning…”: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, pgs. 4-5, 50. 
  29. Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, pg. 63
  30. Augustine, Quaest. in Hept. 2,73: PL 34, 623; cf. DV 16
  31. Bergsma and Pitre, A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament, pg. 100
  32. Pius XII. (1950). Humani Generis. Retrieved from: https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis.html
  33. Garte, The Work of His Hands. A Scientist’s Journey from Atheism to Faith pg. 156 
  34. Harrison in Numbers and Kampourakis, Newton’s Apple and Other Myths About Science, pgs. 195-196
  35. Lindberg, Shank, Efron and Principe in Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion, pgs. 23-33, 34-42, 94-104, 114-121
  36. Grant, God and Reason in the Middle Ages, pg. 29
  37. Harrison in Numbers and Kampourakis, Newton’s Apple and Other Myths About Science, pgs. 197-198
  38. Shank in Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, pgs. 21, 26-27
  39. Hannam, God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science.
  40. A.G. Molland, ‘The Geometrical Background to the Merton School’, The British Journal for the History of Science vol. 4, no. 2 (1968), p. 110.
  41. O’Neill, T. “Why did science make little real progress in Europe in the Middle Ages?”. Retrieved from: https://qr.ae/pvMDbw
  42. Efron in Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, pgs. 80-82
  43. Heilbron, The Sun in the Church, Cathedrals as Solar Observatories, pg. 3
  44. Ibid.
  45. Christopher Clavius. Retrieved from: https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Clavius/
  46. Hannam, J. (2011). Science owes much to both Christianity and the Middle Ages. Retrieved from: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages
  47. Wright, The Jesuits: Missions, Myths and Histories, pg. 189
  48. Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, pg. 104
  49. Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, pg. 59
  50. Harrison in Harrison (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion, pg. 6
  51. Principe in Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, pgs. 102
  52. Efron in Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, pg. 81
  53. Hannam, J. (2011). Science owes much to both Christianity and the Middle Ages. Retrieved from: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages
  54. Ceraso, G. (2021). Congregation for Catholic Education. Retrieved from: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2021-11/congregation-for-catholic-education.html
  55. Dixon, T. (2010). Galileo goes to jail and other myths about science and religion. Edited by Ronald L. Numbers. Pp. xiii 302. Cambridge, Ma.–London: Harvard University Press, 2009. £20.95. 978 0 674 03327 6. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 61(4), 789-790. doi:10.1017/S0022046910001703
  56. Breaking In The Habit. (2020, November 12). “Catholic Church: Sell Everything and Give to the Poor?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rRjD3Hh12Pk
  57. Ibid.
  58. Ibid.
  59.  Tornielli, A. (2021). Fr Guerrero: “The Holy See reduces costs, not its mission”. Retrieved from: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2021-03/holy-see-budget-coronavirus-finances-pope-francis-economy.html
  60. Breaking In The Habit. (2020, November 12). “Catholic Church: Sell Everything and Give to the Poor?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rRjD3Hh12Pk
  61. https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job/priest/philippines
  62. Uy, J. (2013). PH Catholic Church badly needs priests for growing flock. Retrieved from: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/464305/ph-catholic-church-badly-needs-priests-for-growing-flock
  63. Breaking In The Habit. (2020, November 12). “Catholic Church: Sell Everything and Give to the Poor?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rRjD3Hh12Pk
  64. Ibid.
  65. Ibid.
  66. Wodon, Q. 2021. Global Catholic Education Report 2021: Education Pluralism, Learning Poverty, and the Right to Education. Washington, DC: Global Catholic Education, OIEC, IFCU, OMAEC, and UMEC-WUCT and Agnew, John (2010) ‘Deus Vult: The Geopolitics of the Catholic Church’, Geopolitics, 15: 1, 39 — 61
  67. Ceraso, G. (2021). Congregation for Catholic Education. Retrieved from: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2021-11/congregation-for-catholic-education.html
  68. Carpenter, J. (2017) Christian Universities Grow in Africa”, International Higher Education. Retrieved from: https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/ihe/article/download/9692/8566/
  69. Ibid.
  70. Ibid.
  71. Paulo, S. (2010). Catholic hospitals comprise one quarter of world’s healthcare, council reports. Retrieved from: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/18624/catholic-hospitals-comprise-one-quarter-of-worlds-healthcare-council-reports
  72. Calderisi, Earthly Mission – The Catholic Church and World Development, pg.40
  73. Ibid.
  74. Paton, D. (2017). The world’s biggest charity. Retrieved from: https://catholicherald.co.uk/a-worldwide-force-for-good/
  75. Barrett, W. (2021). America’s Top 100 Charities. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/lists/top-charities/?sh=1dd0f7c55f50
  76. Inspiring Philosophy. (2022, February 12). “Is Christianity Harmful?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/FnbHal6vL4o
  77. Ibid.
  78.   BAIER, C. J., & WRIGHT, B. R. E. (2001). “If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments”: A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Religion on Crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38(1), 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022427801038001001
  79. Johnson, Byron & Jang, Sung Joon. (2010). Crime and Religion: Assessing the Role of the Faith Factor. 
  80.   Kelly, P. Elizabeth, et al. “Religion, Delinquency, and Drug Use: A Meta-Analysis.” Criminal Justice Review, vol. 40, no. 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 505–523, doi:10.1177/0734016815605151.
  81. Koenig, HG & Larson, DB. (2001). Religion and mental health: Evidence for an association. International Review of Psychiatry. 13. 67-78.
  82. ASchwalm, Fábio & Zandavalli, Rafaela & Filho, Eno & Lucchetti, Giancarlo. (2021). Is there a relationship between spirituality/religiosity and resilience? A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Journal of Health Psychology. 27. 135910532098453. 10.1177/1359105320984537. 
  83. Ruiter, Stijn, and Nan Dirk De Graaf. “National Context, Religiosity, and Volunteering: Results from 53 Countries.” American Sociological Review, vol. 71, no. 2, Apr. 2006, pp. 191–210, doi:10.1177/000312240607100202.
  84. Yasin, Kidist & Adams, Anita & King, David. (2020). How Does Religion Affect Giving to Outgroups and Secular Organizations? A Systematic Literature Review. Religions. 11. 405. 10.3390/rel11080405. 
  85. D   Shariff, Azim F., et al. “Religious Priming: A Meta-Analysis With a Focus on Prosociality.” Personality and Social Psychology Review, vol. 20, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 27–48, doi:10.1177/1088868314568811.
  86. Inspiring Philosophy. (2022, February 12). “Is Christianity Harmful?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/FnbHal6vL4o
  87. Inspiring Philosophy. (2022, February 12). “Is Christianity Harmful?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/FnbHal6vL4o
  88. Mccullough, Michael & Willoughby, Brian. (2009). Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations, and Implications. Psychological bulletin. 135. 69-93. 10.1037/a0014213. 
  89.  Trimble, Douglas E. “The Religious Orientation Scale: Review and Meta-Analysis of Social Desirability Effects.” Educational and Psychological Measurement, vol. 57, no. 6, Dec. 1997, pp. 970–986, doi:10.1177/0013164497057006007.
  90. Smith, Timothy & Mccullough, Michael & Poll, Justin. (2003). Religiousness and Depression: Evidence for a Main Effect and the Moderating Influence of Stressful Life Events. Psychological bulletin. 129. 614-36. 10.1037/0033-2909.129.4.614. 
  91. Wu, Andrew & Wang, Jin-Yu & Jia, Cunxian. (2015). Religion and Completed Suicide: a Meta-Analysis. PloS one. 10. e0131715. 10.1371/journal.pone.0131715  and Lester, David. (2017). Does Religiosity Predict Suicidal Behavior?. Religions. 8. 238. 10.3390/rel8110238. 
  92.  Saroglou, Vassilis. (2002). Religion and the five factors of personality: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Individual Differences. 32. 15-25. 10.1016/S0191-8869(00)00233-6. 
  93. Ratzinger, “The Feelings of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty: Message of His Eminence Card. Joseph Ratzinger to the Communion and Liberation (CL) Meeting at Rimini (24-30 August 2002).
  94. Breaking In The Habit. (2020, November 12). “Catholic Church: Sell Everything and Give to the Poor?”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rRjD3Hh12Pk
  95. Plante, T.  (2018). , Six Important Points You Don’t Hear about regarding Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201808/separating-facts-about-clergy-abuse-fiction
  96. Kaczor, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, pg. 89
  97. Kaczor, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, pgs. 88-89
  98. Castleman, M. (2010). Beyond Bad-Apple Priests: Who the Pedophiles Really Are. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/all-about-sex/201003/beyond-bad-apple-priests-who-the-pedophiles-really-are
  99.  Lynch, C. (2022). Schools have ‘cover-up’ culture and put reputation ahead of kids’s safety, report finds. Retrieved from: https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/schools-are-covering-up-cases-of-grooming-and-sex-abuse-by-staff-inquiry-finds/
  100. Christensen and Felch. (2012). Boy Scouts helped alleged molesters cover tracks, files show. Retrieved from: https://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-boy-scouts-files-20120916-story.html
  101. Wilkinson, A. (2017). The abuse problem within the film community extends beyond big names like Harvey Weinstein. Retrieved from: https://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-boy-scouts-files-20120916-story.html
  102. Ibid.
  103. Douthat, R. (2010). The Pattern of Priestly Sexual Abuse. Retrieved from: https://archive.nytimes.com/douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/the-pattern-of-priestly-sex-abuse/
  104. Gibson, D. (2012). 10 years after Catholic sex abuse reforms, what’s changed? Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/10-years-after-catholic-sex-abuse-reforms-whats-changed/2012/06/06/gJQAQMjOJV_story.html?utm_term=.19297e4e7a33
  105. Hahn and McGinely, It is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion, loc. 460.
  106. Ibid.
  107. Pints With Aquinas. (2020, December 22). “Why Civilization is DOOMED Without True Religion W/ Dr. Scott Hahn”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9dH7SgGCq24
  108. https://universalis.com/static/mass/orderofmass.htm
  109. Paez, A. The Virtue of Religion According to St. Thomas Aquinas. Retrieved from: https://graduate.christendom.edu/pdfs/papers/Paez%20Virtue%20of%20Religion.pdf
  110. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1731-1733 
  111. John Paul II. (1979). Redemptor Hominis. Retrieved from: https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis.html
  112. Feser, E. (2012) Whose nature? Which law? Retrieved from: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/10/whose-nature-which-law.html
  113. Paez, A. The Virtue of Religion According to St. Thomas Aquinas. Retrieved from: https://graduate.christendom.edu/pdfs/papers/Paez%20Virtue%20of%20Religion.pdf

 

2 thoughts on “Debunking 10 Common Objections to God and Christianity”

  1. 1. A pity you didn’t refer to the man who said this first – not Karl Marx but GPF von Hardenberg aka Novalis. Neither said it as an argument against religion.
    2. “Nothing did and nothing does.”
    Missing the point: apologists have to prove that infinite regress is impossible. Also they have to prove that evry natural phenomenon has to be caused or the argument is guilty of special pleading. Physicists have made several propopals. My current favourite is quantum fields. They perfectly can exist beyond spacetime and be “uncaused” (improper term as modern physics is acausal).
    3. As you don’t give a source this smells like a strawman. The argument goes actually like “We atheists just believe in one god less than you do. Tell us why you don’t believe in the others and you’ll understand why we don’t believe in yourse.” I don’t think much of it, but your version is not by any means a common objection. And that doesn’t speak for you.
    4. I’m with you on this one. We simply don’t know because there is not nearly enough evidence.
    5. This is not an argument, it’s a statement about hard evidence. Neither is it about geography, it’s about culture. It simply says that as long religion is incapable of reaching consensus – which is an empirical fact – it cannot claim it has any access to truth. Picking a few carefully selected examples by no means does challenge this.
    6. I’m with you on this one. However it is a problem that religion inspires people to reject science. And no, I don’t deny that atheists can deny science too.
    7. Actually the RCC doesn’t have a lot of money if this means cash flow. Last few decades many RCC buildings had to be sold in The Netherlands.
    8. I’m with you on this one. It’s so superficial that it’s wrong. Also it only can be “backed up” by cherry picking.
    9. Pointing out the hypocrisy of preaching virtue at one hand and the abuse at the other is fair criticism. Pope Franciscus did not apologize for nothing this week.
    10. “False, religion does matter – if it is true.”
    If.
    Of course all bigotry matters, including religious bigotry. The worst recent example of course is Ulster/Northern Ireland. Also the Russian Orthodox Church is not exactly doing a great job at the moment. That matters. It also matters that religion tends to become more bigot the more political influence it has. Exactly catholics should know – roman catholicism has been suppressed for several centuries due to protestant bigotry.
    It’s correct that becoming religious doesn’t make anyone a better person; neither does the opposite. Even if there are relatively few unbelievers in prison.

    Several of your objections against these objections could have been much, much better.

    1. 1. I don’t see why you’re bringing up Marx and von Hardenberg because I never mentioned either of them in my article. I just referred to the phrase “religion is the opium of the people” without mentioning where the phrase originated from.

      2. To deny the existence of God as an explanation of contingent reality, you need to deny the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). Either way, one will arrive at a ground for reality, be it God as prime mover or the universe as a brute fact and this is the debate among philosophers (field of metaphysics, i.e. the study of grounding). Quantum fields are not pure actuality, see chapter 5 of Feser’s Aristotle’s Revenge.

      3. My source is Feser’s book 5 Proofs of the Existence of God. I actually originally phrased it differently when I was writing this post (“I do not believe in your God for the same reason I don’t believe in Thor, Zeus, Santa Klaus and the Tooth Fairy”) but I needed to use Feser’s quote and his quote entailed me using his phrasing of the argument — which is no problem because it captures the core of the objection. I am also aware of the phrasing you used, that is another way to phrase it but again, its core is the same.

      4. Ok.

      5. Bro, we humans disagree on the vast majority of things that does not mean that there is no right answer. We don’t even agree if the earth is flat or not, if we have free will or not, capitalism vs. socialism, the threat of global warming, gun control, etc. — that does not mean that there is no right answer. Truth is a matter of correspondence between thought and reality (and by extension, between language and reality) and as beings endowed with reason, it is up to us to discover the truth about reality. As a Christian, I believe there is strong philosophical and historical evidence pointing to the truth of Christianity, that it is divine revelation, and I am ready to discuss with anyone who disagrees. This is how all discussions go whether its about politics, economics, philosophy, religion, history, science, etc.

      6. Sure and I agree with that. My point is biblical literalism is a modern development within the Christian tradition. The Christian Church, in antiquity and the Middle Ages, did not read the Bible the way modern biblical literalists do and biblical literalists comprise a minority of Christians today. My other point is that Christianity has a highly positive relationship with science historically — not merely having a positive view of it, but contributing greatly to progress in the field.

      7. It depends, the Church is wealthier in some areas than others. The German Church, for example, is very wealthy, and also corrupt and (unsurprisingly) very heterodox.

      8. Ok.

      9. Yes it is fair criticism. I do not deny that but I also wanted to bring balance and perspective to the picture regarding sexual abuse within the Church. I also wanted to point out that sexual abuse within the Church is a poor reason to drop the Christian faith for it is irrelevant to the question of whether Jesus rose from the dead or not and whether He founded one Church on St. Peter (Matt 16:16-19) and His apostles or not.

      10. Yep, that is my point, if it is true.

      And sure, anti-religious bigotry as well. The killing of priests, monks, and nuns during France’s reign of terror, the state persecution of the Christian Church in atheist-communist Russia in the 20th century, and the state persecution of Christians today in atheist-communist China are terrible. So are the many ways Christians suffer negative consequences in the workplace today due to their beliefs (e.g. entering into certain industries like Hollywood, getting employed, running their own businesses, suffering consequences on the job as employees, etc.). Ironically and unfortunately, the biggest bigots today are leftists.

      – “It’s correct that becoming religious doesn’t make anyone a better person”

      I could not disagree more. Your statement goes against the findings of social science as well as Christianity’s rich tradition of saints, as I mentioned in this blog post.

      – “Even if there are relatively few unbelievers in prison.”

      I don’t see how this matters given that atheists make up a minority of the population and among Christians in prison we do not know the split between those who have an intrinsic religious orientation and those who have an extrinsic religious orientation. Furthermore, do you know that many people in prison convert to Christianity and reform as a result? There are many studies on this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.