Do Christians Have a Bias to Believe?

By Al Serrato

To the skeptic, most Christians – certainly most who appear willing to “defend” their faith – may seem a bit one-dimensional, perhaps in some cases fanatical. They seem so convinced of their views, regardless of how bizarre some of these views seem to the unbeliever. Many conclude, then, that the believer is simply biased in favor of what he wants to believe. He has accepted a “bill of goods” without having struggled over where best to place his trust.

Christians Bias Believe

But this is not an accurate description of the faith journey of many believers. Indeed, most go through a period of doubt in which they struggle with what they were taught in childhood. That was certainly my experience. Having been raised in the Catholic Church, I was taught doctrines and rituals which were both mysterious and comforting. Until I began law school, though, these beliefs went largely unchallenged, leaving me unprepared to defend what I thought was “the truth.” Encountering highly intelligent people who were not afraid to point out why they viewed my faith as foolish, I began to believe that all religions were pretty much the same – they could provide comfort, but they weren’t really true. Truth, after all, was a relative concept, dependent on one’s point of view and cultural narrative. And science had pretty much shown that there isn’t a need for God. While faith might make a good crutch when bad things happen, it probably did more harm than good in the long run, because it was at odds with reason. These conclusions just happened to coincide with an increasing desire to put the restrictions of Christianity behind me and to put aside whatever feelings of guilt would arise from time to time.

As I look back on it now, I realize that despite my upbringing, I did not actually have a bias to believe in Christianity. My bias, as I was discovering, was to take the path of least resistance. As a practicing Christian, I needed to conform my behavior to something outside myself, depriving me of a certain amount of freedom. Removing the restrictions of religion would allow me to remain “moral” but would also allow me to define morality any way I chose. After all, with no law-giver, there was no reason to comply with rules that I did not make for myself.

Since I knew many believers, I would raise these issues with them, hoping that they could respond to my challenges. Most, unfortunately, would talk about faith as a feeling or remind me that the Church’s teachings were infallible. They would suggest that my skepticism was not pleasing to God and raise the specter of eternal punishment. In short, they were telling me that I was wrong, but not why I was wrong. I would just have to take it “on faith.” They were wrong: I wasn’t persuaded by discussions of how faith would make me “feel” (I already felt good in church) or with threats of hell for failing to follow someone else’s rituals. I also wasn’t satisfied with “infallible teachings.” If in fact the world was broken down into “faith” and “reason” – as my law school friends maintained – then I knew I would side with reason.

I thought this conclusion would satisfy me, but in the end, it did not. Two things continued to nag at me. The first was this concept of truth. As a criminal investigator and then a prosecutor, I had chosen a field in which truth actually mattered. After all, it just wasn’t okay to get a conviction if I had the wrong guy. I became increasingly fascinated with and drawn to the concept of objective truth. From my legal training, I also had developed a strong interest in reason. Concepts such as “the reasonable person” standard and proof beyond a “reasonable doubt” showed that the thinkers who laid the foundation for the orderly society we developed put a great amount of stock in the mind’s ability to reason to a just result. I didn’t know how this applied to religion, and I still suspected that no one religion had the corner on truth, but I made a commitment to myself that I would follow truth where it led. In other words, I realized that I had some strong motivations to ignore the truth, especially when it seemed inconvenient, and I made a promise to myself that I would seek the truth and submit to it, to the best of my ability.

The second problem nagging at me was with the notion that only simpletons adhered to religion. As I learned more about history, I realized that some of the greatest and most powerful thinkers in history grappled with the same questions that troubled me and that they concluded that there is, in fact, a God and that he is the God described in the Bible. These included not just philosophers, but also the scientists who essentially developed what we recognize today as Western science. The more I learned, the more I realized that treating religious belief as an “opiate for the masses” just wouldn’t fly. There was something there, and I wanted to find out what it was.

In sum, then, my journey began with faith and that faith ran into a brick wall that I thought was “reason.” It ended with the realization that the dichotomy between faith and reason was in fact false. The two are in fact compatible. Christianity was never based on wishful thinking, nor is it dependent solely on “faith.” Instead, it was based on specific truth claims about events which occurred in history, and which were verifiable. This evidence supports a conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead, providing a rational basis to place one’s faith in his message of salvation.

Sadly, the nonbeliever accuses those who have taken this journey of having a closed mind. Quite the contrary is true: while my mind is open – to receiving and evaluating new evidence – given what I have seen so far, I am not ambivalent. Can the skeptic say the same?

It is also worth noting that remaining perpetually “on the fence” – unwilling to reach a firm conclusion – brings with it risks as well. In my next post, I will attempt to lay out just what those are.


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19 replies
  1. Bryan says:

    The author states, “Removing the restrictions of religion would allow me to remain ‘moral’ but would also allow me to define morality any way I chose. After all, with no law-giver, there was no reason to comply with rules that I did not make for myself.”

    Evangelical Christians overwhelmingly define morality any way they choose. Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Al Franken….the women they abused were victims. Donald Trump, Roy Moore…the women they abused were liars. Clinton and Franken should be out. Trump, who boasted about trying to commit adultery and of grabbing and kissing women at will….fake news! We’ll give him a pass. Same pass for Judge Moore.

    The reason people like me want nothing to do with Evangelical Christianity is that it is rotten.

    “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity” Jesus supposedly said.

    Maybe to be more convincing to atheists you might want to spend time taking the beam out of your eye.

    • Jeanne says:

      “Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Al Franken”

      None of these men were “evangelical Christians.” I doubt they are Christians at all, since there is no evidence of it.

      Besides, would you have respect for a Christian who were not a “hypocrite”? Or is your argument really, simply, that you do not believe the Bible?

      • KR says:

        ““Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Al Franken”
        None of these men were “evangelical Christians.” I doubt they are Christians at all, since there is no evidence of it.”
        That wasn’t Bryan’s point but rather that Evangelical Christians seem to apply different moral standards to different people for political convenience.

      • Bob Seidensticker says:

        The problem is that “Christian” is in the eye of the beholder. There are 45,000 Christian denominations, increasing at a rate of 2 per day. The Bible is ambiguous, and it allows this fragmentation. That makes the Bible look manmade, not divinely inspired.

  2. jcb says:

    The author asserts “Removing the restrictions of religion would allow me to remain ‘moral’ but would also allow me to define morality any way I chose. After all, with no law-giver, there was no reason to comply with rules that I did not make for myself.” What the author fails to point out is that it is true in any case that one is allowed to define morality in any way one chooses. Some people choose to define morality in religious ways (do what god says!), and others choose to define morality in mean ways (I should kill others!), even while most people define morality in kind ways (be loving! Don’t harm others!). As usual, nothing here proves that god exists. This is just wishful thinking: a desire for reality to be a particular way, and then an unsubstantiated claim that reality is that way. Many of us want others not to be able to choose to be mean, but the reality is, they can. And the rest of us loving people can choose to respond to their choices. The assertion, “Christianity was never based on wishful thinking” is clearly false. The claim that some human beings will live forever is clearly not verified by science.

    • toby says:

      After all, with no law-giver, there was no reason to comply with rules that I did not make for myself.
      That’s funny. If they were talking about new gun laws the stock answer would be, “Criminals won’t follow the laws so why bother making new ones!”

  3. Susan says:

    BIases are a natural component of the human mind. All people have many biases as a bias is used by the mind to organize itself.

    Maybe instead of inspecting believers for biases which are natural to us we should be inspecting skeptics for blocks they have learned and deliberately reinforce.

    Why Is skepticism better than believing?

    Why is deconstructing better than constructing?

    We may have the illusion of free speech but are there really any free minds?

    Believing or disbelieving are both biases but do these biases define people?

    And if they do who are you to try to redefine another person’s self defining bias? Aren’t you messing with their identity then?

    People’s minds aren’t as free as they think. Everyone is influeneable. Some more than others maybe but is the influence a. good one?

    “No man is an island.” – John Donne

    • jcb says:

      Yes we have biases. Nothing about that seems relevant here.
      Yes we should inspect everyone to see if biases are getting in the way of truth. That has not been shown to have happened here.
      As a matter of truth, believing in god is worse in that it isn’t supported by the facts. As a matter of truth, skepticism/atheism is better supported by the facts.
      Again, it would be much more helpful (to me, and evidence gatherers, and those who care about the truth) if you gave evidence.

      • Susan says:

        Arguing on the internet is not truth seeking. it is trying to meddle with or change another’s ideas.

        if you were a truth seeker interested in evidence then you would have went in search of one of these many books yourself and read it.

        Then you would know for a fact Christians do have evidence.

        I hope you learn to be a genuine truth seeker and give up arguing until you have located the evidence and understood it.

        And don’t be shy about asking God for some help in doing that.

      • Susan says:

        Why does exist if Christians don’t have evidence?

        I am not arguing with you any more JCB.

        I expect and encourage you to become a genuine truth seeker and not to argue until
        you locate the facts for yourself.

        • jcb says:

          Susan, I’m not sure you have ever argued with me in the first place. Yes, “evidence” exists in the sense that people have made arguments. No, you haven’t shown any of those arguments to be good. If you tried to make the argument and defend it here, I will be happy to show you the mistakes in those arguments. I encourage you to be open minded, seek the truth, use critical thinking, and pay attention to science. If you did, you would realize that god, a perfect in all ways being, does not exist (as far as we know).
          Discussing matters of truth anywhere, including on the internet, is truth seeking. No I am not trying to meddle, but yes, I am trying to change other people’s ideas, when those ideas are bad/faulty/incorrect. I have read many of the books by Frank Turek and the like, so by your definition, I am a truth seeker! (I knew that already though). Yes, Christians have arguments and evidence that they claim is good. No, they don’t have evidence that shows that a perfect god is probable. (See the problem of evil).

          • Mike Brugge says:

            I have an Atheist friend and one of our chief quarrels is over the rules of evidence that is to be applied to our debate. I drilled down and down into his objections to the evidences I presented. At bottom, he insisted that he cannot accept any evidence that is testimony of witnesses; the only witness he will accept is himself. He is a really smart guy who has fooled himself into believing that he can trust people about all sorts of mundane things, but that he cannot trust anyone about important spiritual matters. Then he repeats arguments that he borrows from other Atheist sources, and when I ask him why he believes those sources, he has no answer.

            The Jesus story was attested to immediately and by multiple witnesses. They shared their testimony at a time when hundreds of people were available who could testify as to important parts of the Jesus story. They never changed their story. They were so convinced of the truth of their testimony that they died rather than retract what they said. They did not die in a group like a cult that could reinforce each other’s resolve; no, they died one by one, isolated, imprisoned, tempted, tortured, and repeatedly offered an easy way out. Their determination to worship only God in combination with Jesus, and to accept torture and death as a consequence of this choice, provides a compelling witness as to the truth of their story.

            Trust the Gospels. Trust Jesus.

          • Susan says:

            You have no right to change people. You’ve exceeded science’s authority. A lot of people act like they don’t know science has limited authority. The actions of other ignorant people and the concessions government makes to science confuse them and blind them to that fact.
            You are not seeking metaphysical truth because you are determined to use the wrong tools so you can permit yourself He illusion of authority over the metaphysical realm.
            But neither logic or science have authority over the metaphysical realm and when you use them to examine metaphysical questions you are just left standing outside asking more and more questions but not getting an answer.
            So God reveals Himself and what do a lot of people do? They refuse to listen. They prefer to keep conceding authority to idols like science and logic. Although the experts in both science and logic tell you there are limits to what they can do.
            Science mainly answers
            “how’s” while the Bible answers some of the whys.
            So don’t keep telling me based on some limit authorities that you treat like absolutes that I have to respond with evidence. You made the idols out of those tools. I didn’t.

          • Susan says:

            Arguing is over rated and I don’t think most atheists think critically because they spend too much time on attacking people who claim to be Christians who may not be. That means the labels fooled them.
            Deep thinking is to be preferred over meditation. I am a Christian and intend to stay that way. No one is arguing me out of that.

            I am way past the arguing stage. I am busy mastering the life lessons the Bible teaches now and there is a lot to learn.

          • TGM says:

            Mike, you claim that the Christian story is true and that I am supposed to accept that. But I cannot take seriously evidence that goes like this…
            1. An historian has said that…
            2. A translator has interpreted…
            3. Unoriginal copies of texts in…
            4. A language that I don’t understand, that…
            5. Is written by people I don’t know and can’t examine, who…
            6. Cite people I don’t know and can’t examine, who…
            7. Claim to have seen something, that…
            8. I cannot confirm is possible, from…
            9. Some ancient desert preacher.
            In order to make any headway into an investigation of such claims, I have to become expert in: dead languages, archaeology, history, linguistics, law, genealogy, physics, and chemistry, just to name a few.
            Now I trust in proportion to the evidence and I don’t believe what I don’t understand. But I will trust mundane things that I don’t understand either because I have evidence that they work, or because the risk of believing incorrectly has minimal consequences. Your friend makes perfect sense when “…he can trust people about all sorts of mundane things, but that he cannot trust anyone about important spiritual matters.” Consider the relative consequences of being wrong.

  4. Susan says:

    Christians are ambassadors Toby and ambassadors talk and deliver God’s messages.

    Does this sound like God is angry?

    18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled US to himself by Jesus Christ and has given to US the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling THE WORLD unto Himself, not imputing THEIR trespasses unto THEM; and has committed unto US the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be YE reconciled to God.

    Christianity is beset by angry God syndrome. We have let it hang out in theology circles so long that most people don’t know God isn’t angry any more.

    I did a stint of several years taking to a
    group of atheists who believed God is angry but it says right there in black and white that He is looking for reconciliation and that is one of the verses that puts the whole bible in context.

    All those atheists wanted to do was argue because they were so focused on this error that none of them would go back and learn God’s position.

    Why would I want to argue with people who refuse to learn God’s position? isn’t that giving too much honor to deliberate ignorance?

    They could have gone back and debunked hell doctrine and been reconciled to God but they were too busy being angry over a doctrinal error.

    Evangelicals are always compelled to talk. It comes with the territory unfortunately some people have to turn a talk into something more than that. Sometimes talks become confrontations.

    But Christians aren’t suppose to be confronting any one. We’re suppose to be helping in reconciling the world but a lot of people don’t see that because of the position they have already taken in their own mind.


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