Monday, July 29, 2013

Maybe belief is the crime

Well, 'crime' is a bit strong. But belief can often cause one try try and justify one's crime. This week, Billy Graham fields a question about belief and crime figures, and unsurprisingly draws a judgmental conclusion.
Belief in God is empty if you don't follow him

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: According to the polls I’ve seen, most people today still say they believe in God. But if that’s true, why do we have so much crime and addiction and so forth? God doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, does he? — W.L.

DEAR W.L.: You’re right; polls today certainly indicate that most people still believe in God. And yet you’re also right when you say that God doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in the way they live (at least for many of them). Why is this?

Let me answer by asking another question: Whose fault is this? Is it God’s fault, or is it ours? I think you know the answer. You see, it’s entirely possible to believe in God, and yet not take him seriously. It’s somewhat like being sick, and having the doctor prescribe something that will cure our illness. We can get the prescription filled... we can believe it will cure us... but if we put it in the medicine cabinet and never take it, it won’t do us any good.

The same is true with God. We may believe in him... we may even believe he can help us, but if we ignore him and leave him out of our lives, nothing will change. Instead of following him, we’ll act almost as if he didn’t exist. The Bible says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that” (James 2:19).

Don’t let this be true of you. Don’t just believe in God, but put your belief into action, by committing your life to Jesus Christ. Then make it your goal to live for him every day. As the Bible says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
WL, what you have been offered by Graham is a presumptive answer and a logical fallacy. Yes, polls show a majority believe, but the question wasn't a simple as simple as 'Do you believe? yes/no'. In fact, the most recent Pew Forum survey asked what religion people (in America) belong to. In this survey, the 'none's, came up at 16.1%. How many answered that they were Christian? 78.4% A further 4.7% followed some variety of religion other than Christianity. That 78.4% answered that they consider themselves Christian. This means that they feel that they believe in Christ and try to live by Christian ideals. So when Graham makes his statement that the reason we see so much crime is because these people believe in, but don't follow God (a god), he is making nothing more than a baseless claim that can't be supported by any actual evidence.

But what if he was acknowledging that the majority consider themselves Christian, but just aren't living up to the term? Well, then he is guilty of the 'No true Scotsman fallacy'.  If that's the case, what he's actually saying is, 'They may be calling themselves Christians, but they're no real Christians.' But the problem is, that this isn't an honest statement. It's an attempt to define Christianity in a way that only your version is the correct version. Remember, there are many, many different sects of Christianity. They all differ from one another on something and claim to be the most accurate representation of their god's word. One church may not hate gays, and another would say that this proves that they're not 'real' Christians. The first church would say that the second church aren't 'real' Christians because they do denounce homosexuality. The list on issues (both scriptural and political) that divide Christianity into it's various sects is quite a long one. But does this mean that most of these groups aren't deserving of the title of 'Christian'?

Actually, no. To be a Christian, you need to believe in Christ, and accept him as your lord and savior. When you get down to the base of it, that's the central requirement. So one church can't accurately say that another isn't a 'real' Christian. Furthermore, most Christians will tell you that Christianity doesn't ask for it's followers to be perfect, but instead seek forgiveness in Christ. We can easily see that perfection isn't a priority by the fact that the vast majority of prison inmates are Christians. Personally,  I feel that this focus on redemption following belief can actually lead to crime rather than deter it. What of a believer that kills an abortion doctor in the belief that they are doing God's will. What of tribes in Africa that to this day, still burn women alive for being suspected of witchcraft, and justify it with the Bible? What of priests that rape alter-boys? Are you claiming that priests aren't true believers and followers. What of the scores that God killed in the Bible? Does Graham think that God doesn't really believe in of follow himself? What about the fact that the most religious states tend to have the highest crime rates, while the least religious have lower rates?

More common though, is the everyday crime that belief may make easier. And the Cristian concept of redemption and forgiveness is central to this. For us atheists, the law is the top authority that one has to worry about. We only have this life, and being a criminal and wasting that life in jail magnifies the loss all the more. That said, the majority of atheists don't stay on the right side of the law because of fear of being caught, but rather don't have the urge to commit the crime to begin with. It's morality, but some belief, that keeps me good.

But for the believer, the law is not the top priority, and they think they will get another, better life anyway. Forgiveness is a real problem. Christianity teaches that everything (except blasphemy) is forgivable to the believer. This means that a believer can commit a crime, fully knowing it to be wrong and illegal, but feel that their belief in Christ will allow them to be forgiven  and be rewarded with everlasting life. Claiming short-term physical gain, but also laying claim to eternal reward. So the belief/crime problem isn't really a problem of people not really believing in and following God. The problem is that they do, and are taking advantage of the proverbial 'get out of jail free' card that the Bible offers up. Instead of blaming those that don't believe and follow for the ills of the world, I suggest Graham first take a long look in the mirror.

-Brain Hulk

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