Imagine you have have been trapped for ten years on a tiny island with two good friends named Tim and Tom, a ghost named George that only Tom can see, and a coconut tree. One day Tim tragically dies in a falling coconut accident. Will you notice any changes in life on the island? You might notice you and Tom have as many more coconuts to eat as Tim used to eat. You might also notice you have half as many friends to interact with. Tom will claim to have only a third as many friend to talk to since George the ghost is still there, but George does not seem to be giving Tom any useful knowledge about himself, the island, or how to survive on the island. Nor does George physically help out in any noticeable way on the island. If fact, the existence of George is practically identical to the non-existence of George. So you ask Tom “If George were to leave this island, how would you know? How would things change here on the island?” Tom responds “If George were to leave, I would know it in my heart. But George will never leave me.” You are not convinced. How could Tom convince you that George was real?
Christianity has made many claims about the intervention of God in our world. The following are just a few of the claims that Christianity used to make about God’s measurable influence the world, but for which it has recently been less vocal about as the purview of scientific and statistical scrutiny expands.
- God sends plagues and diseases as punishment for particular sins.
- God grants military victory to the side he considers righteous.
- God heals the righteous asking for healing more than the unrighteous.
- God gives superior practical wisdom and knowledge to the righteous.
Christianity has been backing away from these claims for good reason. These claims do not hold up scientifically or statistically. All of these claims should be statistically detectable given the tools of science we now have available to us, yet there is no corroborating evidence found in the statistical data.
But what of the many earnest testimonies of individuals swearing they could not have done X if God had not been there to assist them?
First, the aggregate of all these testimonies should result in something statistical detectable. Yet it is not.
Second, individuals of religions incompatible with Christianity are making identical claims of divine intervention, but, of course, attributing the cause to their own God.
Third and most important, many individuals consider themselves incapable of overcoming certain temptations, of doing well academically or athletically, and of making decisions that will further their goals. They attribute any positive outcome in their lives to a power higher than themselves, the power most commonly cited being the God of their culture. Yet when carefully examined, these individuals have more than enough will-power, intelligence, skill and training to have accomplish what they have on their own without a God. There is nothing about their accomplishments beyond the scope of a natural explanation.
So, how would our world change if the alleged Christian God were to disappear? There is strong reason to believe a world without God would be identical to the one we currently experience.
Could you have accomplished as much as you have in life without divine help?Consider teens around an ouija board. They all lightly touch the planchette with their fingers. The planchette moves, seemingly on its own to spell out a word they were all thinking, but not one of them is consciously moving their fingers.
A few years ago, assistants steadied the hands of mentally handicapped patients unable to speak as they pointed to a chart of letters (a practice called “facilitated communication”). Amazingly, the sequence of chosen letters seemed to make sense. The assistants were certain that the patients themselves were choosing the letters. However, upon closer scrutiny it was discovered that patients were “choosing” sequences of letters to form coherent sentences even when the patient was not looking at the letter board. It was determined that it was actually the assistants who were unconsciously choosing the letters to spell out coherent sentences.
This seems to be what is happening with many Christians. They admit they they had their own fingers on the planchette or letter chart of life, yet they still reject the notion that the results were human and not divine.
Another point to consider is the success of insurance companies that rely on extreme statistical uniformity. If there was a God intervening in the health and longevity of Christians, would this not be detected by the increasing precision of actuarial science?
But what about this presence of Jesus that feels so real to so many? That sensation would be impossible were Jesus not to truly exist, right? The drive to believe in divine comforts and promises is strong. We all agree that many have been misled by their minds and emotions, though we tend to think we ourselves are immune to this weakness. This is dealt with in more detail in Chapter #27.