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                   Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 12:01AM CST

Arguments from personal incredulity in belief and unbelief

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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"Arguments from personal incredulity" are a kind of logical fallacy that befalls people of all faiths and positions, and unfortunately are used by Christians and atheists alike. An argument from personal incredulity is a reason to believe something because it is attractive and/or the alternative is difficult to accept. This is opposed to believing in something simply because is true.

Some examples of the Christian (or theist) version of arguments from personal incredulity are the following:

  • I cannot envision a life without ultimate meaning or purpose, therefore I believe in God.
  • I cannot accept a universe without ultimate justice for good and evil, therefore I believe in God.
  • I believe in God because knowing He is in control allows me to deal with the troubles and trials of life.
  • Believing in the promise of heaven gives me hope and makes all of the troubles of this life seem trivial.
These are all examples of the benefits of believing in Christ, but they do nothing to show whether or not Christianity is true! Using these arguments to prove theism or Christianity is fallacious, because the person here assumes that it is true based on their personal ability to agree with it or find comfort in it. By the same token, they assume that atheism is false because they find it offensive and/or difficult to accept.

If it's true that there is no God, then there really isn't any transcendent meaning and purpose to human life, no matter how much we want there to be. If there's no heaven, then wanting there to be a heaven doesn't make it true, even if believing does bring practical benefits (comfort, peace, hope of seeing loved ones, etc). Wanting or preferring something to be true does not make it true, and likewise the inability to accept something doesn't make it false.

The atheist side of the coin is exactly the same. Some examples of non-believer "arguments from personal incredulity" include:

  • I can't believe in a God that would not give me the freedom to live my life any way I choose.
  • I can't believe in a God that will only accept one way of belief and condemn all unbelievers to eternal punishment.
  • I have found great happiness and freedom in being myself, enjoying life and not feeling obligated to any moral standard.
  • A God who would condemn someone based on acting in a way consistent with who they are is not a God I will serve, worship or believe in.
Again, the person using these arguments is not choosing to disbelieve based on the objective truth or falsehood of Christianity, they are choosing to disbelieve based on their personal opinion of what they perceive God and Christianity to be.

When I investigated my faith rationally, I had to disqualify the "arguments from personal incredulity" that favored Christianity based on the benefits I'd enjoy if it were true. I had to look past that and determine whether the claims of the New Testament were credible (and I found they are, you will too if you do the same research). If they were not, then I'd have to abandon any supposed benefits of faith, no matter how much I wanted to hang onto them.

Likewise, atheists can't rationally base their unbelief, either in part or in whole, on their personal disgust with God's teachings. If the God of the Bible is real, then a disagreement with His expectations and standards is irrelevant to the truth of them. Just like I'd have to simply 'deal with it' if I found Christianity to be patently false, the atheist must 'deal with it' if there is a strong possibility that God is real and that the Bible is His communication to mankind.

I would humbly suggest this to those who find God and His teachings offensive: Why not be open to the possibility that you may just be wrong about who God is? That could be for various reasons - either due to misunderstanding the text, using singular verses or passages out of context, maybe something else. The fact that millions of Christians throughout history know the Bible, and still choose to believe, should speak volumes that you just might be wrong about God.

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

The only reason I'm visiting your site in non-chasing season is to read your Christianity messages. I remember you mentioned some people don't like them, but I want you to know there is a person like me, I believe it's not just me, a lot of people (Christians). Please keep this work and stand strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I'm sorry, I'm not so good with English)
- Posted by Luka Lee from Arizona
Thanks Luka, I appreciate the note!
- Posted by Dan R, from New Baden, IL

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