Often when a secular minded person describes religion, or thinks about religion, it becomes evident that they have created a caricature in their mind. They conceive of religion in a way that those who believe in it would not. Then when they share their sentiments with those who are religion, their bias and lack of critical thinking will emerge. People do not care to be engaged with sophisticated philosophy of religion, instead, they only conceive of it in a way that best suits them. They only criticize their caricature of religion. They want to religion to appear to be ridiculous, so that they will not have to think about these things. So then, is religion ridiculous?
What is religion? Is religion ridiculous? I think religion can be defined by two essential propositions, neither of which are ridiculous. 1 – God exists. 2 – God has revealed himself to men.
1 – The proposition: God exists. Now a person can disagree with this proposition, and still recognize that there is nothing ridiculous about it. When it is said that God exists, it means that there is a being who created all matter, energy, space, and time. In fact, some people think that this is just self-evidently true. There is a creation, and therefore, there must be a Creator. In fact, we could probably say that the negation of God’s existence is more ridiculous, for it would mean that the entire known universe just popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing, with incredible order, and extreme fine-tuning. In the words of CS Lewis, “No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that ‘In the beginning God made Heaven and Earth.”
If religion is ridiculous, that would have to mean that the existence of God is ridiculous. But it is not. It is one of the most widely accepted propositions in the history of the world. Indeed, often not even a proposition, but just as clear as the existence of physical objects. It is something that many can just see plainly.
2 – The proposition: God has revealed himself to men. There are certainly times when it is ridiculous for a person to think that God has revealed himself in a certain way. God probably is not concerned with giving athletes strength to win the big game. The claim that all claimed revelations are real revelations is ridiculous. However, the general claim that God has revealed himself in history, to mankind, is not ridiculous at all. If the claim that God exists is not ridiculous, then it follows necessarily that the claim that God has revealed himself to men is also not ridiculous. This is because if God exists, then he should be free to do as he pleases.
In fact, it seems to me that the negation of this proposition is ridiculous. For one to say that God could not reveal himself to mankind, is to say that God is restrained by our conceptions of what it means to be ridiculous. God could not do this. But there is just no reason to think that God is incapable of revealing himself to mankind. Therefore there is just nothing ridiculous about the general claim that God has revealed himself to men, which is essentially what religion is.
Perhaps certain doctrines are ridiculous. I agree with that and I admit that. It could be said that certain religious beliefs are ridiculous. For the person who just manufactures some religious claim or miraculous claim, it is often a ridiculous claim. I have seen this, especially in charismatic churches in which people make animal noises, receive fake healing and so forth. Many religious and miraculous claims are ridiculous when examined.
The Equadistant Letter Sequencing method of finding prophecy is ridiculous. The same principles can be applied to Moby Dick to find prophecy. When we have a religious claim that can be subject to criticism and is unquestionably refuted, it is ridiculous. However, the general claim, “miracles occur” or “some doctrines, like ‘God exists’ is true,” is not ridiculous. These things must be examined on and individual basis and cannot be categorically dismissed. A person cannot say that bad theology proves that there is no good theology.
If religion is ridiculous, it follows that many prominent, world renowned intellectuals are ridiculous. This list would include men such as Isaac Newton, Saint Anselm, William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, Michael Faraday; the list goes on. Men who have literally revolutionized their field, who have sunk into the depth of philosophy of religion and came to the very same truth that even the simplest of men can reach, namely, that God created the Heavens and the earth and has revealed himself in Christ. If we are to say that religion is just dismissible with the wave of a hand, manifestly ridiculous, then we are forced to say they our most brilliant intellectuals were taken in by something that is manifestly ridiculous.
What about Christian theology? Christian theology is a scandal which thrusts itself up against everything that men love and want for themselves. It is absolutely ridiculous to those who are perishing. But those who are saved, it is the power of God.
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