Theories and ideologies must be at least theoretically falsifiable in order to be taken seriously by scientists. The reason for this can be illustrated with the following thought experiment.
Imagine religion X posits a God who promises each believer twice as long a life as they would have experienced had they not believed. When Sister Bethany lives to be 106, the believers rejoice and cite Sister Bethany’s longevity as evidence their God has kept his promise. However, if Sister Bethany would have died at age 30, just 2 years after she believed, we can imagine those same believers also then rejoicing, claiming without evidence she had been originally fated to die at age 29. There is no possible age of death for Bethany or for any other believer in religion X that would falsify the claim that God grants believers double the years on Earth what they would have experienced had they not believed.
Another example is the schoolboy who claims his big brother is nine feet tall. When ask to produce evidence, he informs his classmates that his brother lives far away and is shy of cameras. He could be telling the truth, but we have good reason to suspect he has simply fabricated the story, especially given the rarity of men nine feet tall.
A non-falsifiable theory is justifiably a hallmark of a fabricated theory. If all possible outcomes fit the ideology or theory, and that theory is identical in its results to what we would expect from material causes, then we have good reason to suspect the theory or ideology was simply made up.
Is Christianity falsifiable? In spite of many possible ways the Christian God can allegedly interrupt material causation, and the many apparent promises to believers of supernatural intervention, there seems to be no way to actually falsify Christianity.
The following is a list of some of the most suspect absences of falsifiability:
- When it is suggested that we can statistically assess whether the prayers of fervent believers for the sick are effective, it is suggested that 1) statistics don’t work when you unrighteously test God, or 2) you never know whether someone is confounding the study by praying for everyone, causing everyone to successfully recover to the same degree.
- Answers to prayer in general are unfalsifiable. Getting what you asked for is a “yes”, not getting what you asked for is “God as a better plan for you”, and silence is “God, in his wisdom, is waiting for the right time to respond.” No possible outcome can be called a failure of God, and outcomes appear exactly what we would expect if there were no God.
- If a study shows that unbelievers are less happy than believers, believers find this obvious since they have the Holy Spirit giving them peace and joy, but if there is a study that shows unbelievers are truly more happy than believers, it is claimed that Satan has given them temporary happiness to prevent them from believing.
- If the divorce rate among believers is much lower than among unbelievers, the work of the Holy Spirit is cited as the cause. Yet, if the divorce rate among believers is found to be higher than among unbelievers, the disproportionate focus of Satan on believers is cited as the cause.
- If an unbeliever dies a tragic death, that is considered judgment from God, yet if that same unbeliever were to have a prosperous life, God is simply blessing that unbeliever in an attempt to bring them to Christ. All possible outcomes in the life of the unbeliever are also covered by some scriptural passage, rending the Bible unfalsifiable.
- If there are two biblical accounts of the same event that appear contradictory, since the possibility that the Bible is false can not be considered, 1) the most improbable and convoluted explanation is accepted, or 2) the mysteriousness of God and the Bible is invoked.
- In spite of several Bible passages that promise that God will answer prayer, Christian leaders weaken the promises until there is nothing left to “answered prayer” but what looks precisely as we would expect if there were no God. Many Christians claim God answered their prayers with silence, something any imaginary God could also do. There is no way for a skeptic to prove the prayer was not answered since every possible outcome is covered by creative interpretation of the promises to answer prayer.
- Perhaps the Bible would be falsifiable if God’s omniscience and ultimate wisdom would preclude that he ever regret his actions, right? And since the Bible is the world of God, if we ever found a passage in which God did regret his actions, that would falsify the Bible, right? Sorry. For this and any other passage that clearly contradicts orthodoxy, Christian leaders take the liberty to claim God did not really mean what he said. It is often suggested that this must be God’s kind accommodation of our inability to think beyond an anthropomorphic God. So God simply pretends to blunder at times. No biblical contradiction is possible against such loose interpretive standards. Even intentionally interpolated contradictory phrases could be dismissed through this process.
- When unbelievers treat others compassionately, believers suggest it is evidence of the law of God written on their hearts. Yet when Christians are found to have quite disparate moral stances on a wide range of behaviors, it is claimed 1) that the moral law of God requires acute attention to the moral voice of God, that 2) Satan has twisted the moral intuition in the minds of those who disagree with you, or that 3) others have failed in their interpretation of a biblically vague moral code.
- Some believers suggest that finding the body of Jesus would falsify Christianity. Would it? Would the discovery of a body near Jerusalem that had clearly been crucified convince believers that Jesus had not resurrected? Or if there were found a document that explained how the disciples managed to hide the body, how may Christian believers would abandon Christianity? (See #28 on the notion of doubt.)
- The first chapter of Romans speaks of unbelievers “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness”. When it is suggested there should be some manifestation of these alleged suppressed beliefs that can be detected were we to survey young people around the world, believers claim that these young people would probably simply mendaciously claim they don’t perceive the Christian God, resulting in survey results identical to what we would expect were Romans wrong. These believers themselves seem unable to express what attributes of the Christian God they perceived in “the things which are made” prior to their own conversion.
These are just a few ways Christianity is rendered untestable in the hands of Christian leaders. It seems there is no possible outcome that can not be made consistent with any systematic theology given focused manipulation. The lack of falsifiable claims does not prove Christianity is wrong. The lack of falsifiable claims simply forces Christianity to admit it employs the modus operandi common among liars. Is this the clarity an actual God of the universe would leave us with?