“Why Are You Still a Christian?”

Faith and doubt coexist for Jay Bakker.

That was the question asked to me yesterday by a dear friend as we drove to lunch. And it’s a good one.

As I’ve written recently, I’m disheartened by the number of friends of mine who are no longer theists. The latest is Ryan Bell, who is starting a Year Without God (I blame AJ Jacobs for all the “Year Of…” madness; I think that meme has pretty much run its course). Ryan is a former pastor, and now a former instructor at Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University. (In a post about being let go from those positions, he says that Christian institutions of higher learning are afraid of faculty asking tough questions. I have not found that to be the case at Fuller, though I do have my concerns about other schools. Fuller has continued to employ me in spite of the objections raised by several high profile alumni.) Is Ryan really living as an atheist for the year? Some atheists don’t think so.

But back to the question my friend asked me. As someone beset with doubts, she wondered what it is that keeps me Christian. I have several answers to the question — many of which relate specifically to Jesus of Nazareth — but here’s the one reason that’s most significant to me these days:

The vast, vast majority of my fellow human beings are theists. Globally, well over 95% of the human race professes belief in God. As others have noted recently, atheism is a position of privilege. Atheism is almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites. The old saying goes that there are no atheists in foxholes, but it should be updated to say that their are no atheists in the slums of Bangladesh, in the townships of South Africa, in the trash heaps of India.

At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from 7 billion of my fellow human beings. I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that there is, indeed, a God.

It’s Moving Day
No One’s Heard of Paul Ricoeur
Did You You Know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer Was a Youth Pastor? [Book Week]
Peace in Platte
  • Peter A

    That’s your answer, Tony? Because everyone else is doing it? As someone who is, I believe, very smart and well read, I find your answer a cop out. Tell us that your relationship with God and all that God does in your life is why you are still a Christian. I’d buy that over thinking you are a Christian because it’s what everyone else is doing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      That’s ONE of my reasons. And not because everyone else is doing it, but because I don’t think that the belief of 7 billion people should be shucked off too easily.

      • stuchan

        Is this really the reason you want to lead off with? It seems rather weak. Is “truth” subject to majority vote? After all, the majority of the world once believed the world was, variously, flat, covered by a giant stone dome hung with shiny things, and surround by an endless ocean of chaos. At least in the case of the physical facts of existence, these matters can be checked, whereas religious convictions are notably subjective. In any case, Christianity might have a bare plurality, with a little less than a third of the world’s population subscribing to some variety of it, but certainly not a majority. And the tide of specifically Christian (or even theist) thought is certainly receding in Europe, and possibly in the USA as well.

        Regarding the notion that atheism is a position borne out of privilege – that’s an absurd notion, as others have pointed out. It’s always best to step carefully when discussing “privilege”, as it has a nasty habit of being invisible to those who have it. You can assert atheism as coming from a “privileged” position…as an educated *Christian* white male from a country which (allegedly) has religious freedom built into its very bones. That’s a bit of irony. And try getting elected to a position of national leadership in the USA as a self-proclaimed atheist. As regards atheism’s relative absence in the rest of the world – check the statistics on religious freedom in any given country, index them against relative levels of education and socioeconomic status, and then perhaps your position might change a wee bit.

        • Jonas

          In a way, it is borne out of privilege. Many theists are theists BECAUSE they don’t have the privilege of not being murdered for not subscribing to the local flavor.

      • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

        There is no monolithic ‘belief’ of 7 billion people – only widely-differing ideas about god(s), religious observance and afterlife. Hell, there is no monolithic Christianity – even within particular denominations. In light of this, I find your rationale to be unconvincing.

        Also, isn’t theological blogging overwhelmingly populated by educated white males? Yet here you are, still blogging….

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Who said that the beliefs of 7 billion people are “shucked off too easily”? I’m sure that many atheists did not just decide one day to be atheist on a whim, but through deep thought and study. Heck, I continue to explore religion, even though I stopped believing when I was around 13 years old. Rejecting a belief is does not mean you don’t take it seriously.

      • Dianne

        Try 3.6 billion people. If you don’t bother with any facts at all, no one will listen. http://www.christianpost.com/news/global-poll-most-believe-in-god-afterlife-49994/

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          Sorry, the Christian Post is not a reliable news source.

          • Paul Zimmerle

            Yeah, we can agree on that, but where the heck are you getting YOUR statistics?
            I don’t see any links proving it.

            You’re the one making the positive assertion that 95% of the world are theists, pal.
            Back it up.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

              According to the CIA, in 2010, it was estimated that 2.01% of the world population was atheist. I’m willing to more than double that to account for under-reporting.

              https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2122.html#xx

              Other estimates put the number of atheists at 5-8%, but there is no credible study that puts it in double digits. But I’m willing to give you 5%. I’ll revise my estimate — which is all that it was — to 90% of the world population is theistic.

              • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                I’ll revise my estimate — which is all that it was — to 90% of the world population is theistic.

                Holy excluded middle, Batman! Aren’t you a Doctor of Theology? You ought to know better than most that theism is a particular broad flavor of god-belief, namely that which asserts an willful, intelligent, active and intercessory creator deity.

                Those who believe in ancestor spirits are, for the most part, not theists.
                Animists are usually not theists.
                Deists are not theists.
                Agnostics (those who use their agnostic position as their primary identifier) are generally not theists.
                Ignostics cannot be theists.
                Pantheists are not theists.
                Panentheists are usually not theists.
                Polytheists are usually theists, but many would not so identify or acknowledge the claim if asked. It all depends on the particular flavor’s mystic tradition.
                And of course apatheists, who are legion, just don’t give a damn.

                There is plenty of space occupied by billions of people between actual theists (the vast majority of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, and Baha’i and a solid majority of Hindus) and atheists.

                In your zeal to erect the largest possible tent you can, you do great violence to the definition of common words and are (I hope unintentionally) eliminationist towards perspectives that don’t comfortably conform to the two boxes you’ve made. All to avoid saying, “Whoops, I may have overstated my case a bit.” Is it really that painful to admit error?

                Especially since the other, slightly less impressive but more accurate number of actual theists is really just as serviceable to your original point about there being billions of theists out there with their accumulated wisdom or what-have-you. Why be greedy? I think you’d find that many of the folks you see fit to drag into your theist tent would not be pleased to find themselves there.

              • Dianne

                Thanks for the link but that page says 2% + 10% unaffiliated. Almost no one is willing to use the word atheist because it will get people killed in most of the world. Here is one stating the unaffiliated is 16% http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/

              • fojap

                According to this survey -
                http://www.pewforum.org/2008/05/01/religion-in-china-on-the-eve-of-the-2008-beijing-olympics/
                there appear to be no “atheists” in China, at the same time it looks like theists are less than three percent. So total population minus atheists does not actually leave you with the number of theists anyway.

          • Al Aquino

            Why is the Christian Post not reliable in this statistic? The numbers they put out makes more sense then your over95%. Others seem to back it up. The CIA world fact book has many of the same statistics and has none-religious at 11.7% and Buddhist at 6.8%(a majority of Buddhist don’t believe in a personal god) are you going to tell me they are wrong as well and still not show where you got your numbers?

      • Rachel

        Most of those 7 billion (and your # is way off, btw) radically disagree with you. A large number of them think you will burn in hell for holding the beliefs you hold, and do not at all consider you “one of the group”. You are at best wrong, and at worst a dangerous rival.

        Holding a belief does not mean that you are suddenly “like” someone who holds a vastly different, competing belief any more than holding one nation’s citizenship more or less makes you a citizen of every other nation. You’re not, for instance, Russian simply because you’re also American. And believing in one god doesn’t make you a follower of every other one.

        • fojap

          I just wanted to add to your statement. I was raised without a religion and I went through a very long period during which I asked questions about religion and one of my main reasons for doing so was because so many people believed in it. I didn’t think the numbers of people meant it was right, but it make dismissing the ideas out of hand seem wrong.

          I do have to say that my parents, both of whom were atheists, humored me quite a bit during that period.

          Certainly, religious belief is an interesting phenomenon.

      • Paul Zimmerle

        I notice you’re evading the fact that your statistics are wrong.

        • Scott Rogers

          The old saying goes that there are no atheists in foxholes, but it
          should be updated to say that their are no atheists in the slums of
          Bangladesh, in the townships of South Africa, in the trash heaps of
          India.

          If I were suffering daily in the slums of Bangladesh, the townships in South Africa, or picking through the trash heaps in India, I would ask myself why a god that loves me and who has infinite power, would let me and countless others suffer this lot in life. I would not want to worship nor glorify a god like that.

      • CottonBlimp

        I wish you didn’t think that evidence and actual arguments should be shucked off so easily.

      • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

        It’s not just any ONE reason, it’s “the one reason that’s most significant to me these days”

        That puts it an Argumentum ad Populum at the very TOP of your list.

        One would think that the popularity of something should be outweighed by the truth of something…..

      • campero

        Your stats are also way off… a simple google search reveals about two thirds the world population believes in the existence of a god. That includes muslims, hindus, and other religions you (Christians) disagree with… Christians alone, which includes a lot of sketchy christian sects (the label Christian is used very loosely) account for one third of the world population… so if that’s going to be one of the reasons for believing then you should consider other belief systems.

        So if we are going to talk about elites then Christians (used very loosely) are a minority. I’m quite disappointed by your poorly constructed arguments.

        Christians would be better off if they declared to the world they believe just because they want and stopped trying to make *beliefs* into *facts*… I always chuckle when religious people use the word belief yet they use it as these beliefs were actual facts.

      • Jonas

        I don’t see any reason the beliefs of 7 billion people should matter. Especially when you go out of your way to tell me the worlds experts think the 7 billion are wrong. Even worse, many of these 7 billion only believe due to systematic brainwashing and threats of violence.

        You should try opening a science book sometime and getting an education, then you’ll quickly realize that groupthink isn’t bestthink. Did you know that most people who “know” how a microwave works are actually completely wrong about how one works? I know, shocker. If people can’t understand the simple principles behind a MICROWAVE while they have google at their fingertips, but are more than willing to loudly and proudly proclaim they DO, what makes you think they’re any more right about God?

        • Jennifer

          So in the interest of solving the question, “Is there a god?” I suggest we limit the conversation to those who REALLY know how a microwave works. :)

          • Jonas

            Not necessary. Merely using it to point out that just because a lot of people agree doesn’t mean they’re right. :D

            • Jennifer

              Of course it doesn’t. I am in 100% agreement with your statement that “just because a lot of people agree doesn’t mean they are right”. Heck, even scientists and other “experts” change their minds when new facts/theories come along”. I don’t, however, think that Tony was arguing for this. He seemed more to be saying that this widespread belief was a pointer in the God direction.

              Microwaved food for thought, though: even though the majority thinks they know how a microwave (representing God, the Divine of some sort) works and are wrong about their facts and theories …it still works ;)

      • Mark

        Again, that goes to a belief in a supreme being, not the same as being a Christian. And probably 200 other commentors have brought up the myriad of wrong belief the world has clung to over the years.

  • https://twitter.com/RollieB RollieB

    Great question, Tony. However there is a huge difference between being a Christian and being a Theist, at least in my mind.

    For me, theism helps me order the universe. Christianity is the tradition which points me to that ordered universe. My guess is that 95% of humanity believes in a divine mystery which many label “God.” The god precept helps us order the universe. Simplistic thinking perhaps, but that’s me.

  • ryanabraley

    I really like this response. This is the first time I have heard anyone say anything like this. I just ended a confirmation retreat with our high school freshmen and we talked a lot about this question (why follow Jesus?)…I will most definitely share this response with them.

    • stuchan

      If this is truly the first time you have come across this sentiment, you need to do your homework in apologetics. As “reasons to believe” go, this is fairly weak, and doesn’t address the actual issue of “reasons to believe, specifically, in Christianity.” It might have a little merit in the pro-theism column, but is still far, far away from saying anything persuasive about the merits of Christianity per se. I was given a host of facile “reasons to believe” which fell apart readily once subjected to any serious scrutiny. If your freshmen are unlikely ever to encounter any serious objections to their beliefs, this might fly, but otherwise you are setting them up for failure, or, at best, a poorly-thought-out facsimile of true religious experience.

    • Al Aquino

      This doesn’t work for the question as to why follow Jesus because only 33% of the world believes in a son of god Jesus and the Muslims who also believe in Jesus only see him as human the two view conflict and therefor Jesus is actually a minority view so if your going by the the argument of because of majority then you shouldn’t really believe in Jesus (at least as son of god) because 2/3 of the world doesn’t believe in him.

  • Sven2547

    As others have noted recently, atheism is a position of privilege. Atheism is almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites.

    You have two separate ideas going on here. You are right that atheists are overwhelmingly educated whites. You are also right that educated whites have a very significant amount of privilege. But it does not follow that atheism is a position of privilege.

    Atheists are trusted about as much as rapists, a fact that makes atheists virtually unelectable in American politics. Yeah, there aren’t many people who admit to being atheists in third-world countries: because being non-religious, or expressing an anti-religious viewpoint, is illegal in most of them. Sanal Edamaruku is an Indian atheist who was driven out of the country by the Christians there.

    Ryan Bell got fired just for even looking at atheism. That’s how bad the stigma is.

    Seeing an educated white American Christian claim anyone else is in a position of “privilege” is galling, to say the least.

    • Guest

      Hell, let’s continue this train of thought. Admitted homosexuals in the United States are disproportionately educated and white. Does that make homosexuality “a position of privilege”?

      • R Vogel

        Ironically, so are Progressive Christian Theologians disproportionately educated and white (probably theologians in general, but that is less ironic) ;p

        • Matt in Memphis

          This is a good point, and it is hard to imagine how the author doesn’t pick up on this. Although this particular dumpster fire of an argument sounds more like something Pat Robertson or Ray Comfort might say, virtually every Christian I know who has received a decent, well-rounded education is of the “progressive” variety.

          • Fred

            +1 for Dumpster Fire Argument!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

            “it is hard to imagine how the author doesn’t pick up on this”

            His being a moron has something to do with it.

      • David

        That isn’t true. Homosexuals are less educated and earn less money than the population at large. Proportionally they are also more likely to be Black or Hispanic that white. See the 2012 Gallop poll of 120,000 Americans here http://www.gallup.com/poll/158066/special-report-adults-identify-lgbt.aspx

        • Sven2547

          Ah you’re right, I misread the statistics.

      • Jonas

        Depends if you’re a top or bottom >.>

    • R Vogel

      I don’t want to speak for Tony, but leaving the racial intonations aside, there is an interesting case to be made that atheism is the result of wealth and privilege, but a wealthy and privileged society, not individuals. A great article on this site, Does Atheism Arise From Wealth? addresses that very question in an evolutionary context. Quite fascinating.
      I don’t mean that to take away from your concerns about the bias against atheists which is very real and truly unjust.

    • PrimateZero

      I’m a Spanish working class atheist with only a high school diploma. So where is this “position of privilege” Mr. Jones speaks of? Oh that’s right, I should thank god that I’m not living in a trash heap.

      • Jonas

        I wouldn’t recommend it since Tony seems to think that living in a trash heap means God.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    I’m interested in details on “I have several answers to the question — many of which relate specifically to Jesus of Nazareth” since therein lies the answer to your question about Christianity. The “solidarity with humanity” answer gets you to some form of theism, but why not Islam or Hinduism, especially since those faiths are held by so many oppressed and underprivileged people?

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      And let us not forget Buddhism, which can acknowledge a deity, is not a theistic faith, and is practiced by 6% of the world, many of whom are certainly not white, educated or affluent.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

        Although Buddhism, on paper, is non-theistic, very many Buddhists in the global south are theists. I have much first hand experience of this.

        • Sweetredtele

          “There are all sorts of anecdotal exceptions, to be sure.” Tony Jones

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          I gave Buddhism a serious look when. I was going through the second redefinition of my faith. I liked the absence of deity and the concentration of introspection along with mindful care for nature and neighbor. If I had actually known anyone who was Buddhist, I probably would have ended up as one. Instead I ended up a liberal, often agnostic (and contentedly so )Methodist who totes along those Buddhist principles I find so appealing

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

            I’m probably not that far from you. For my part, I’ve met many (non-American) Buddhists who do believe in a deity.

            • ash

              Who are these buddhists.. I live in India (the land of the trash heap) .. With buddhists around me.. Real ones (bald and meditating kinds).. I’ve never known them to believe in any kind of a conscious deity.. You are cooking up stories in your head Tony..

  • John McCauslin

    No. You don’t believe because you follow the crowd, nor are you at all concerned about dissenting from a majority position.

    Moreover, belief is less rational than that.

    But you have not answered the question, why are you still a Christian. That question may not be about belief so much as adherence or belonging. So the question may be re-framed as to whether you are still a Christian, and if so what is it you adhere to that allows you to claim the label? And why?

  • Kien Choong

    I wish people would stop debating about whether God exists. As Jesus said, he came to seek and save the lost. If a person doesn’t think there is a God, good for her. She doesn’t need Gid in her life. On the other hand, people in need are likely to look to God for help.

    • Sajanas

      The problem is that belief in God is not necessarily a neutral belief, like enjoying a particular book. People with a particular view of God are committed to any number of political causes, and a lot of them constantly try to impose their beliefs both on members of their own religion with different views, and on different religions and nonbelievers.

      People arguing against God are far more against what I described above rather than your old grandma’s beliefs.

  • http://www.couponcashin.com/ http://www.couponcashin.com/

    I’ll still atheist forever)

  • Drew Sumrall

    If truth is on the side of the majority, why all that business (in the gospels) about ‘narrow roads’ and ‘small gates’?

    Also, I think it’s dangerous to disavow the gap between belief and practice…

    Paul said, ‘No one is righteous [i.e. believing], not even one’. I agree — of course with the added: all (do in fact) believe, yet no one believes in (their professed) belief (directly).

    In short: we believe we believe. No one believes.

  • http://www.friendsofspinoza.com/ JamesH

    I’d be curious to know more about the 95% figure . . . Does that take into account some of the elements in eastern religious traditions that do not believe in the existence of God? And what about the incredibly diverse conceptions of deity throughout our world? Is it really possible to use the single term “God” to label all of these different beliefs? And what about the fact that Christians are a global minority? Does the fact that the majority of the world does not believe in Jesus mean that no one should? I guess for me, the widespread human belief in various forms of “god” does not tell me much about the existence or non-existence of God, but does raise questions about what it is about us as human beings that pulls so many to believe these things.

    • Art_Vandelay

      It’s more like 84%…I have no idea where this 95% number came from but it also doesn’t take into account all of the people that just claim a belief in God because they fear for their lives if they don’t. Like the people in Bangladesh for instance that Tony proudly puts on his side. Hell, even in America there are probably millions of people who would never come out with their atheism just for fear of being shunned or bullied.

      • Joe Agnost

        By throwing out this number (%95) the author has shown me that he’s too lazy to do the slightest bit of research to make sure his thoughts are sound. The author clearly doesn’t care if what he writes is true or not… how hard is a Google search?!

      • Al Aquino

        If your talking about a belief in ONE God then its more like 51%

        http://www.christianpost.com/news/global-poll-most-believe-in-god-afterlife-49994/

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          I’m NOT talking about monotheism. I’m talking about theism.

          • CottonBlimp

            Yes, and WE’RE talking about how your argument is arbitrary and inconsistent.

          • Sven2547

            I’m NOT talking about monotheism. I’m talking about theism.

            Globally, well over 95% of the human race professes belief in God.

            “God” with a capital ‘G’, no less. Seems kinda monotheistic to me. But if you want to move the goalposts again from “Christian” to “belief in God” to a vague semblance of “theism”, go right ahead.

          • Al Aquino

            Well then your use of God often enough makes it seem so.

            But fine lets include religions that have many gods polls have none-theist at around 11-15% so your numbers still don’t add up.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

            Tony, do you see belief in some sort of divine being(s) as a somehow inherently virtuous, regardless of the content of the belief? The blog post doesn’t seem to have been thought through very well to start with, but your answers to comments are muddying the waters further.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            Was this meant to be part of a longer series where you discuss your additional reasons?

  • Ric Shewell

    I think its a good answer. It’s the enlightenment’s pipe dream that assumes research happens in a vacuum. No research about God is unaffected by the researcher, so to get a better understanding of God, we have to listen to eachother’s biased and flawed experiences about God, and the data demonstrates an overwhelming support for God’s existence.

    • stuchan

      It’s a terrible answer. It’s a good example of lazy, sloppy apologetics. Even if “the majority believes in god” were enough to tip the scale against atheism, it certainly isn’t enough to tip the scale in favor of *Christianity*. By its own logic, it tips the scales *against* Christianity, since the majority of the world isn’t Christian. And we haven’t even gotten into the competing varieties of Christianity, the problems (moral and otherwise) lurking in Christian scriptures, etc.

      • Ric Shewell

        Aside from our subjective experiences, what else do we have for reasons to believe God exists?

        • Armanatar

          If the only reasons you have to believe are subjective personal experiences, and your hypothesis is neither falsifiable nor testable, why should you believe? Pure belief is not a truth-seeking way of knowing; it can justify literally any belief with equal efficacy and strength of belief is in no way correlated with the truth value of the belief. Look at conspiracy theorists for a clearer example of why we shouldn’t rely on this type of answer.

          • Ric Shewell

            There is no pure, objective knowledge. Pure deductive reasoning only exists as unexamined modern hubris. All knowledge begins with belief. However, it does not lead us to nihilism like much of postmodern philosophy determines. Critical realism assumes that the universe exists, though we have no objective access to it. We can form hypotheses that are held in modest proposal, able to be refined by other researcher’s experiences and studies, even though they, too, are subjective and altered by the the researcher.

            • R Vogel

              There seems to be an reasoning error here. It seems like you are saying (correct me if I am wrong) “I have a subjective belief in G*d. Lots of other people have subjective belief in G*d. Therefore G*d that is evidence for the objective existence of G*d.” You are overlooking the fact that we are all human beings whose brains have evolved in a certain way. So it might just be evidence that we are all homo sapiens. Behavioral psychology has shown us that we have lots of built-in biases which cause us to think and believe certain things. It is a function of how our brains have evolved. That we as human beings collectively share an evolutionary bias toward religious belief is far more plausible than a divine reality. Human society is now evolving to the point where those structures may no longer have much utility so a large and growing part of the population are abandoning them.

              • Ric Shewell

                I am not arguing for God’s existence. I don’t believe we have any objective access to that, at all. This is essentially all that I am saying: My view of God is subjective and flawed, therefore I should refine my view of God by learning from others’ views of God (even if they are subjective and flawed). This also includes atheists and people of other faiths.

                • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                  Does that not also necessarily include the reports of those who do not perceive an entity they or others would call a deity at all? When they report the absence of such experiences, given the claims often made about the universal accessibility of such a being or beings, their lack weighs as much against the likelihood of it being a real referent as the reports which assert a real entity but diverge in all descriptive aspects to the point of irreconcilable contradiction.

                  Atheists, in essence, argue that perceptions of deity are a consensus delusion, like the Emperor’s New Clothes’ eponymous “clothes”. In support of this, atheists can point to plausible mechanisms (such as R Vogel’s point about the commonality of brain hardware leading to species-wide receptivity to certain types of delusory experience) that more parsimoniously explain the extremely wide variety and contradictory nature and more-than-occasional complete absence of reports traditionally labeled theistic than any hypothesis that posits an actual entity to which they are all referents.

                • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

                  So, you want to refine your view of something that you don’t have objective access to, by learning from other, subjective views of gods and goddesses, which are often in contradiction or opposition to your conception of a god? Sounds like a roomful of blind painters all trying to take art lessons from each other.

                  • Ric Shewell

                    cute quips aside, that is all any of us are doing.

                    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

                      I think the atheists and agnostics have opted out of that art class.

                • katiehippie

                  So, you don’t know something and you think it’s going to help to talk to people that don’t know anything either?

                  • Guest

                    Please tell me how you know anything.

                    • katiehippie

                      Talk to people that know something. The water pump on my washer was leaking so I watched a video on how to change it, and amazingly enough, it worked just like the guy said.
                      It works a lot better than if I had talked to someone that knew nothing about washers.

            • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

              Thankfully, I don’t waste much of my time on philosophical navel-gazing.

          • Fred

            Or better yet, Schizophrenia

        • stuchan

          To properly reply to that question would require many, many volumes. But in short, I’ll say that the matter at hand is whether or not the statement “most of the world is theist” automatically counts as support for “therefore I should believe in Christianity.” The answer is that it doesn’t. That is a huge, huge leap and misses pretty much the entirety of philosophy and comparative religion, at the very least. Therefore it is crap apologetics, to put it bluntly.

          • Ric Shewell

            I think you, and most people here, are reading a deductive positivistic argument into this post. And everyone would be right in saying that this is a bad deductive positivistic argument. But that’s not what this is. In fact, deductive positivistic arguments don’t really exist except as unexamined modern hope.

        • David Pearce

          Wait, in your original comment you say there is data that overwhelming supports the existence of god, and now you say that subjective experience is the only reason to believe in god?? So which is it? Subjective experience is very weak as a basis for ‘data’ as studies into the reliability of eye-witness accounts have shown.

          • Ric Shewell

            The data that overwhelming supports the existence of God is the subjective experiences of most humans alive. There is no other reason to believe in God except subjective experiences, therefore, we should collect as many experiences as we can and attempt to formulate and understanding of reality through everyone’s subjective experiences.

            I would also say that there is no research that is not subjective.

            • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

              @Rick Shewell. Demonstrates the existence of WHICH god?

              • Ric Shewell

                I think that’s a good question. I would say that other people’s experiences of god should help us inform our experiences of god, after all, none of us have unfiltered objective access to God.

                • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                  None of us have unfiltered, objective access to a tree, either, but when several people encounter a tree and write down their subjective impressions of it, those descriptions tend to converge around powerful commonalities.

                  When you pick a dozen random theists from the world over and have them write down their impressions of deity, there is unlikely to be any convergence that would suggest they were responding to the same or even similar entities, if they are actually even responding to anything at all.

                  • Ric Shewell

                    I’ll just comment on this thread, but you other comment expounds on this idea here.

                    You are not wrong, and I think this is a great critique of my positions, as I attempt to apply critical realism to God. However, I don’t think the variances in subjective experiences are so numerous and different that we cannot establish patterns or categorize data.

                    • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                      I think your hope runs headlong into the problem that the reports don’t only diverge but are actually often contradictory, such that to hold one to have a quantum of truth is to necessarily hold many others as false. These contradictions compound over the whole set until there is no coherent statement that could be made which contains semantic content that could be affirmed by a majority of the reporters.

                    • Ric Shewell

                      I’m not sure why you are saying the presence of contradictions obliterates the set rather than refines the set? There will be impasses, where certain suppositions should be abandoned as false. And there will be outliers. But once again, the set is not destroyed by contradiction, and experiences, as divergent as they are, can still be categorized and analyzed in meaningful ways in order to refine any one participant’s view. I know you see this as blissfully and ignorantly hopeful. I understand that. I do think there is an inherent faith and hope built into critical realism, and I’m okay with that. I prefer that to blind hubris of positivism.

                    • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                      Heh. I’m no positivist; my epistemological inclinations run more closely to the American pragmatists. But even at their most permissive, with Jamesan “will to believe” and the like, there was never any willful crossing of the all-too-important line from understanding that a belief claim about a putative object or experience beyond ready intersubjective reach has real utility for a person who holds it, to a knowledge claim that is applicable beyond the realm of that person’s own life.

                      We may be forced, without evidence, and armed only with our subjective impressions of the world, to answer questions of relevance to our lives, but we should not expect the answers we generate from that forced lived necessity to have suasive or objective merit beyond the borders of that life. We can assert that there are circumstances under which it is rationally justifiable to believe in something unattested by or insensitive to evidence, but it is quite another thing (and I would certainly argue, goes too far) to make even tentative truth claims about the putative entities that may be subjectively implied by those circumstances.

                    • Ric Shewell

                      Yeah, I didn’t mean to say that you were a positivist. Thanks for the thoughtful critique. There’s an argument that critical realism doesn’t satisfy postmodernity’s questions (which is what I read in your final sentence). Essentially, it is not enough to simply nod to postmodernists and admit subjectivity in one breath, and then make a general claim in the next breath. But, I ask, what alternative do we have? It seems the ditches on either side is positivism or nihilism.

    • Al Aquino

      Its a horrible answer for a few reasons but the first is that he flat out lies. the number 95% is made up. Chirstians make up 33% and muslims 23%. So thats only a little over 50% that believe in ONE god. I don’t think he should be allowed to include hindus as they believe in a multitude of gods. Non-religious makes up 11% so in the end Mr. Jones is not truthful.
      By your statement of listening to others experiences about god that means you should seriously consider hinduism and muslims religions since they to hold a high present but I don’t think any christian would seriously study these other groups.

    • David Pearce

      “and the data demonstrates an overwhelming support for God’s existence”

      Could you cite some references please? I have never seen even one datum that supports any god’s existence.

      • Ric Shewell

        You are operating with a definition of “data” based on a materialist metaphysic and positivist epistemology. Both views are questioned/challenged/rejected by most postmodern philosophy. The data that I refer to for God’s existence is the belief of God’s existence that most of the world holds. But I understand why you think that doesn’t count as data.

        • Joe Agnost

          Your argument – Argumentum Ad Populum – is a logical fallacy…

          • Ric Shewell

            this is critical realism, not argumentum ad populum.

            • Joe Agnost

              It looks like you’re saying ‘most of the world’s population believes in god(s) – therefore god(s) most likely exist’.

              Is that not what you’re saying?

              • Ric Shewell

                I am absolutely not saying that. That’s an invalid deductive argument. Everyone is trying to place that on what I am saying. I am not arguing that God exists. I am saying that we cannot do that, we do not have objective access to that. I am saying that even our own subjective experiences of God are suspect, and so need to be in conversation with others’ subjective experiences of God to better refine our beliefs. The overwhelming experience of others is an experience of God, and that does speak into my own subjective experiences of God.

                • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                  The overwhelming experience of others is an experience of God, and that does speak into my own subjective experiences of God.

                  What is the unifying aspect of these reported experiences that causes you to conclude they are reactions or impressions of the same phenomenon/entity or even same class of phenomena/entities?

                  • Ric Shewell

                    Probably the use of the word god. But I expect other people’s experiences to be different from mine, and that should affect my interpretation of my experiences.

                    • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

                      Intersubjective induction works to point indirectly to an entity we cannot directly experience only when the subjective reports converge without prior coordination. In this case, the case of deities, the subjective reports diverge rather startlingly, to the point where it is unparsimonious to an unsustainable level to posit that the divergent experiences were caused by the same object, being, or phenomenon.

                      So, the real, glaring problem with your approach is that it is obviously a conclusion is search of support, instead of the other way around. That many cultures have a word that is approximated by the word “god” or “deity” in English is about the thinnest reed one can place an intersubjective inquiry upon, one that wouldn’t occur to anyone but a person who has already assumed the conclusion and hasn’t been taken seriously by any but the most desperate ecumenists. When you look at the actual subjective descriptions of the referent of the word that is translated into “god” or “deity” you find nothing that could support a preliminary unifying hypothesis.

        • Al Aquino

          A majority doesn’t believe in jesus so then by your argument this data shows that he doesn’t exist. And the true number is slightly over 50% believeing in ONE god thats hardly “most of the world”

        • Guest

          So 2/3 of the world doesn’t believe in jesus son of god therefor by your logic this data shows he doesn’t exist?

  • Gerrit Geurs

    Tony, I understand where you are coming from in this post; I wouldn’t necessarily make that my number one reason. This is, however, your blog and I am not going to tell you that you are either right or wrong for stating your view.

    My biggest reason for becoming and remaining a Christian is the miracle of resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus tells me that someone died for me and loves me no matter who or what I am (grace) so that I could be freed from the rest of the world’s expectations, mine included, in order to live a life of love.

    • Moi

      There are plenty of questions around the resurrection as well. Too many to list, with no supporting evidence.

      • Joe Agnost

        It’s pretty strange to read someone write about the resurrection as if it were an actual factual event in history… So this guy (Gerrit) is using a completely fictional event for which there is zero evidence to justify his belief in other fictional things… seems legit! ;)

      • Gerrit Geurs

        I couldn’t agree more.

    • Sven2547

      My biggest reason for becoming and remaining a Christian is the miracle of resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus tells me that someone died for me and loves me no matter who or what I am…

      Maybe I am misinterpreting you, and if I am then I sincerely apologize. This remark leads me to believe that you used to be non-Christian, but the resurrection of Jesus convinced you to be one? What sort of non-Christian were you, when you believed in the resurrection of Jesus?

      • Art_Vandelay

        I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that “becoming a Christian” is just a weird way of saying “My parents told me I was a Christian.”

        • Sven2547

          Well that’s not for me to pre-judge. He says the resurrection was his biggest reason for becoming a Christian, and my line of inquiry will reflect that until further notice.

      • Gerrit Geurs

        Great question. In short, I guess you could say I was an agnostic at the point of believing. I was raised in the church but the beliefs weren’t my own. When I moved out on my own at 22, my beliefs stayed at my parents’ house. It wasn’t until I began independently reading a Bible on my own, something sort of clicked. You could call it a metaphysical experience. I didn’t need a belief or a belief system as a psychological crutch; it all seemed to make sense.

        • Sven2547

          Cool, thanks for sharing.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      Gerrit Geurs, I totally agree with your statement: “My biggest reason for becoming and remaining a Christian is the miracle of resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus tells me that someone died for me and loves me no matter who or what I am (grace) so that I could be freed from the rest of the world’s expectations, mine included, in order to live a life of love.”

      I am attracted by the Jesus I find written from the memories of his earliest followers. He corrects our perception that God is violent, angry, and vindictive, and he shares with us that the Father loves us, desires a relationship with us, and offers us eternal life after death.

      The resurrection of Jesus, which energized his defeated followers, demonstrates his ability to deliver on eternal life and makes me pay attention to everything else he says.

      • Gerrit Geurs

        Thank you for the kind comment and support. The fact that in seeking answers for myself, I encountered something. And in the face of all logical critique which demands empirical evidence, I cannot provide any other than my own experience. If it is flawed or skewed experience, so be it. At least it is a misperceived experience that challenges me to love unconditionally, sacrifice for the widow and the orphan, and put others first.

  • BWF

    How do you take China (which has a large population of nontheists) into account?

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    Strange, I’ve indeed heard similar sentiments, from Africans for example, but those people would lump your rejection of the spiritual world together with atheism…

  • Art_Vandelay

    Wait a second. The question is “Why are you a Christian?” and the #1 reason you give is that 95% of the world are theists? Even if that number were accurate which it’s not, I’ll grant that the majority of the world are theists, you do realize that the majority of those theists aren’t Christian, right? With regards to Jesus Christ…the majority of them are atheist. In other words, two-thirds of the world population rejects Christianity. By this logic, you actually should cease being a Christian.

    • Sheldon Cooper

      I question the 95% as well. It’s about 90% in the US who believe in god, (and about 20 % of Americans don’t align themselves with any religion), and rates of theism in Western Europe are far lower.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      His math is right. You’re just forgetting to count the 116,000,000,000 Christian in the world. I think they all live in Canada. But because all Canadians look alike, they are easily overlooked and undercounted.

      • Jonas

        I’d like to speak to Canadian farmers and learn how they get the crop yield to feed 116 billion people.

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait

      You can’t be “an atheist with respect to Jesus Christ.” That language shows that you don’t understand either monotheism in general or Christianity in particular. Christianity is a claim about the one and only God, the God all monotheists worship (so no, Christians aren’t “atheists about other people’s gods,” at least educated, orthodox, traditional Christians aren’t atheists about the versions of God other monotheists believe in), having become incarnate in Jesus.

      Presumably for Mr. Jones Christianity is the most plausible, or perhaps simply the most familiar, version of theism. He should have fleshed this out, but the leap isn’t an unreasonable one.

  • Ally

    I find this an odd article at best. You are using a childhood copout: but everyone else is doing it! That doesn’t work for kids, so I’m not clear why you think it should work for you. Not to mention, if 95% of the world are theists — believe in God, as you stated it — what does that have to do with one slice of theism, Christianity, when there are many beliefs being calculated in there? Why do you remain a Christian, specifically? Certainly your top reasons, the ones that deserve space on your widely read blog, should be what you list?

  • Sheldon Cooper

    So, Tony, how do you explain me being an agnostic? I’m a warehouse clerk and an agnostic who didn’t finish college.

    I’ll be waiting for your response….

  • Joe Agnost

    The lack of research you put into this blog post is astounding! How do you expect anyone to take it seriously when you don’t even bother to do the slightest bit of research?

    No atheists in Bangladesh? In Bangladesh admitting you are an atheist is almost a death sentence… have you really not heard of Asif Mohiuddin?

    No African atheists? Look at this: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=south+africa+atheists

    This is a lazy article where the author has made it clear that he doesn’t care about writing what is true more than he cares about making excuses for his lazy theology.

  • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

    “I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that there is, indeed, a God.”

    Tony, instead of using the generic placeholder term “God”, why not name the actual god you believe in (Yahweh?). When you do this, your statement is revealed in its falsity, for humanity does not proclaim their belief in Yahweh. They proclaim belief in many other gods and goddesses also and I’m not sure how you can stand in solidarity with that.

    Also, why do you wish to sever yourself (as you put it) from atheists? Aren’t they a part of humanity too? You seem to be joining in the trend of demonizing atheists as a hated ‘other’.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      why not name the actual god you believe in (Yahweh?)

      He prefers to be called Jealous (Exodus 34:14)

  • Al Aquino

    Did you make up numbers? over 95%?. And I guess japanese are now considered white elites since they have a very low percentage in belief in god.

    Seriously where did you get that statistic?

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/global-poll-most-believe-in-god-afterlife-49994/

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Mr. Jones, your argument is so old that it has a Latin name, Argumentum Ad Populum. Essentially it says lots of people believe something, therefore it must be true. Not that long ago, almost everyone believed the Earth was flat. That didn’t make it flat. As more people realized that it’s a spheroid, it didn’t gradually inflate like a beach ball with a kid blowing air into it. Reality does not care about our notions about reality. It isn’t determined by an election.

    As for this new fad of trying to cast atheists as elitists and make the atheism/theism issue into a “class war,” I see that as theists desperately grasping for straws as their other arguments continue to wear thin and convince fewer people. The educated and the affluent are in a better position to speak out about their disbelief because they are less likely to be severely punished socially or physically for doing so. There are plenty of poor and uneducated people who don’t believe the local dogma, but they’re silent because the penalties are far too painful. As more and more people find the ability to speak openly, we will see the demographics of open atheists include more and more of the poor and uneducated people of the world. It won’t be because they have newly turned into atheists; it will be because they are finally willing to break their long, fearful silence and speak up.

    This is also a subtle Ad Hominem argument, taking advantage of the reflex many people have to automatically resent educated and/or affluent people, and to assume that somehow they’re “bad” people. So you seem to be selling the idea that educated or affluent people are not nice, therefore what they believe cannot be true.

    Both of these tactics are rubbish. Anyone willing to think more carefully than a third grader could see through these.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Your comment, particularly the last paragraph, is clearly ad hominem. Thus your entire comment is invalidated.

      • Armanatar

        This is not an ad hominem. He’s not saying the argument is wrong because the author is bad. He’s saying the author’s argument is bad, and he should feel bad for using such a bad argument. While possibly bad form, personal attacks alone do not an ad hominem make. You have to argue against the person’s argument on the basis of their character rather than on the argument’s merits. Wade clearly debates the merits of the article’s arguments, dismisses it on its (lack of) merit, and criticizes you for that same lack of merit.

        • Frank McManus

          Perhaps you missed the point?

          Richard Wade also claimed Tony used the ad hominem in the original post. Did he? No, he did not.

          • Mark

            Yes, Tony did use ad hominem in the original post. He makes his argument by disparaging (in bold type) the white elitist atheists, as if being educated and white is a bad thing and in itself an argument against athiesm. What is the relevance of an atheist being white, or educated? Tony makes no connection, only the attack. This is ad hominem. As if, “the only atheists are these white (ie oppressors), educated (not like us common folk), elitists (and nobody likes an elitist, right?)” Where’s the connection that being educated, or white, or elitist makes one incapable of forming a reasonable belief on the existence of God? And where is ANY mention of Christianity in this incoherent post?

      • Andy_Schueler

        “Ad hominem” doesn´t mean what you think it means.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          I was being facetious. Duh.

          • Cake

            When were you being facetious? Was it when you posted the original article, “Why Are You Still a Christian?” or your replies to the comments?

            I really can’t tell the difference.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I really lose respect for someone when they make what seems like a serious point, get called on it, and respond “I was just kidding! Duh!”

            When Richard earnestly brought up some objections to your blog post, you responded to his criticism to defend yourself. It would seem that someone defending their ideas against criticism would be serious, but now you say you were just kidding. Do you not care to defend your ideas? Is it just a joke to you? You might think that your response was obviously a joke (“Duh”) but I would think that someone who cares about his ideas would respond criticism in earnest, so it wasn’t so obvious to me, or to other readers.

            The “I was just kidding” gambit looks a lot more like an attempt to cover your ass.

            Tony, I’ve read your blog in the past (irregularly, I admit) and always found you to be one of the more level-headed of the Christian bloggers. Although I did not agree with everything you wrote, you at least seemed to truly believe in the points you were making and take the topics seriously. I am surprised to see you respond to genuine criticism by blowing it off with a joke.

            • Frank McManus

              Richard Wade accused Tony of using arguments that were fallacious, but in reality were not. Tony responded facetiously by accusing Wade of using of those same arguments. His point was to show that Wade’s arguments were silly, by pretending to use of those same arguments against Wade.

              Tony didn’t argue in this post that popularity made belief in God true; nor did he argue that the supposed defects of atheists made their arguments false. He actually didn’t say anything about the truth or falsity of “God exists.” He simply said he’s chosen to be on the side of those who believe.

              Maybe it’s not a terrifically good reason to be a Christian — or even a theist — but it’s worth thinking about. I suspect that’s all he intended (though the title of the post evidently led a lot of people to expect more).

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

                That’s right, Frank. That’s exactly what I intended.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

            You were being a dishonest ass, as always.

      • GCBill

        Basically, what Armanatar said. Here’s a more detailed explanation (be warned: it’s very polemical, so please don’t take it personally): The Ad Hominem Fallacy Fallacy.

      • Fred

        Your responses make a great game of Christian Bingo.

      • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

        Your comment, particularly the last paragraph, is clearly ad hominem. Thus your entire comment is invalidated.

        Please feel free to point out which ones of Richard’s statements are specifically ad hom.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          When he compares me to a 3rd grader.

          • Jen Stewart

            You don’t understand what an Ad hominem is then, Tony.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

              Obviously.

          • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

            When he compares me to a 3rd grader.

            Then you would have no problem if I repost 95% of Richard’s post (I’m sure Richard wouldn’t mind), the 95% that didn’t “compare you to a 3rd grader” and then you’d be kind enough to answer:

            Mr. Jones, your argument is so old that it has a Latin name, Argumentum Ad Populum. Essentially it says lots of people believe something, therefore it must be true. Not that long ago, almost everyone believed the Earth was flat. That didn’t make it flat. As more people realized that it’s a spheroid, it didn’t gradually inflate like a beach ball with a kid blowing air into it. Reality does not care about our notions about reality. It isn’t determined by an election.

            As for this new fad of trying to cast atheists as elitists and make the atheism/theism issue into a “class war,” I see that as theists desperately grasping for straws as their other arguments continue to wear thin and convince fewer people. The educated and the affluent are in a better position to speak out about their disbelief because they are less likely to be severely punished socially or physically for doing so. There are plenty of poor and uneducated people who don’t believe the local dogma, but they’re silent because the penalties are far too painful. As more and more people find the ability to speak openly, we will see the demographics of open atheists include more and more of the poor and uneducated people of the world. It won’t be because they have newly turned into atheists; it will be because they are finally willing to break their long, fearful silence and speak up.

            This is also a subtle Ad Hominem argument, taking advantage of the reflex many people have to automatically resent educated and/or affluent people, and to assume that somehow they’re “bad” people. So you seem to be selling the idea that educated or affluent people are not nice, therefore what they believe cannot be true.

            Now, care to respond substantively?

            • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

              Oh come now Tony, you know better; you’re making the fallacy fallacy!

              http://existentialcomics.com/comic/9

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

                I don’t think he does know better … he really is that ignorant and stupid.

                • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

                  Not true; Tony’s no slouch.

      • Manny Panning

        Your reasoning is stupid.

        I am sorry, it just is.

        By your logic, slavery is perfectly okay, and should never have ended, because at one time it was hugely popular, the fact that it is morally reprehensible institution notwithstanding.

      • Darth Skeptic

        That’s not an ad hominem. That’s an insult.

        Insult: Your argument is so bad, you have the reasoning skills of a third grader.

        Ad hominem: You’re argument is wrong BECAUSE you have the reasoning skills of a 3rd grader.

        An insult is just that, an insult. An ad hominem is a fallacy in which someone does not address the validity of your argument, they just dismiss it BECAUSE of a perceived personal flaw.

      • Jesus H. Christ Himself

        Brethren, what this I heareth about me being a human sacrifice for your sins!!?
        May I asketh, who in the goddamn hell came up with that Neanderthal bullshit!!!??

        Die for your sins!!!??? Are you out of your fucking minds!!!???

        Blood sacrifice!!!!??? Listen, brethren, thou’st can take that idiotic bullshit and shove it straight up thy fucking asses!!!!!!!!!”

        —–Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Sane Thought

    • Guest

      Rejecting the ideology of the underprivileged is to show disrespect for them? You must feel terrible about yourself for having rejected cannibalism, shamanism and voodoo… by this you have slapped many poor individuals in the face!

  • http://conticreative.com/ Mario Strada

    By the same logic, a former soviet citizen that had doubts about Marxism in 1920 USSR would have chosen to remain a Communist simply because the rest of his countrymen abided by that doctrine.

    In fact, I think a lot of people make the same choice as you do in respect to theism as the soviet citizen in my example. Or the German citizen during the 30′s or the southern white person during slavery. They would be in the right to conclude that even though they found things they disagreed with in their society, “everyone else abides by it” or “they can’t all be wrong”.

    To me it sounds a lot like peer pressure and herd mentality. Surely, there must be better justifications for remaining a theist than “everyone else does it”?

    Throughout progress and the acquiring of knowledge we know now that a lot of past (and present) societal trends were based on completely wrong assumptions. We would like to think that living back then, but with the knowledge we have know of how the world works, we would have done our best to inform others and at the very least, not subscribe to the same faulty logic and behaviour.

    Transport yourself through history in all these societies we now judge harshly for some of their characteristics and what you are saying is that even though they were morally wrong, you would have still preferred to be counted in the majority.

    Maybe I am not interpreting your post correctly. But I hope, for your sake, that there are better reasons for you to remain a theist and a Christian one at that.

  • asonge

    Individual atheists are often male, white, and privileged, but you’re showing an enormous amount of Christian privilege here. Atheists face institutional disadvantages and discrimination daily. We don’t have the large legally-protected and governmentally-promoted infrastructure of layers or organizations that religions have built over the past 50-100 years in the US.

    Volunteers that have experience with atheist groups often don’t list their leadership experience there with even secular charities because that kind of thing just isn’t good to bring up in polite company.

    If you want a list of some very good/active “atheists in foxholes”, the rationalists in India have been fighting a campaign against “God-men” (con-men who use tricks to take entire rural towns’s wealth in exchange for some kind of healing or luck). Sanal Edamaruku is in exile right now because a group of Catholics are suing him for blasphemy when he showed their dripping-feet Jesus statue (from which they were selling bottled drinking water) was dripping sewerage via capillary action. Fundamentalist Hindus murdered another Indian rationalist, Narendra Dabholkar. Leo Igwe was jailed fighting to keep orphaned children and the elderly from being burned as witches in Nigeria (something that came from the recent mixing of fundamentalist Christian missionaries). He spent some time in jail there because of his activism. Others are killed in various countries for blogging about their unbelief, and we do not have the lobbying clout Christians do in suing for the release of religious and political prisoners in some parts of the world.

    And this still ignores the great many atheists, some of which are my personal friends that I know inside of organizations like the Red Cross and MSF. Their humanism is as much the motivation of their good works as your Christianity is. I personally feel that you are minimizing my acting on the compassion that naturally flows from Humanism. You, sir, are being a tool.

  • Sajanas

    The problem with using the sheer number of believers as an argument for the validity of those beliefs is that, for the large stretch of history, *no one* believed in the Christian god. Was Christianity less true when there were just a few Christians? Was Polytheism more true?

  • jeffstraka

    I know Tony will likely delete this, but, whatever. Tony, you are living in an isolated, ignorant, privileged Christian bubble and don’t have a clue about non-believers. http://youtu.be/-iUcD86YvlE

    • mhelbert

      Thanx for sharing this. I’m sure that a lot of Christian people have no clue what non-believers are all about. People helping people…period.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Try to be civil, Jeff. I honestly don’t get why you’re so angry.

      • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=j.+m.+green&max-results=20&by-date=true J. M. Green

        …but who will moderate the Moderator?

      • Cake

        Let me guess, you’re just being facetious again?

      • fojap

        Your post has caused many people a great deal of pain. You may not want to admit it to even yourself, but it is plain from the responses. Anger is a normal, I’d even say healthy, response to being attacked. Many people on this thread feel you have attacked them.

        We are the misfits and the outcasts. Can’t you see that? It’s true we’re not the majority. A wealthy waspy friend of mine who doesn’t believe in God but calls himself an Episcopalian sees me as being anti-social when I say I’m an atheist. If I wanted to be a member of the “elite”, I would be like him. I would have a doctorate and a position at a University and I would be just Christian enough not to raise eyebrows. Unfortunately, I was born a misfit. I always asked to many questions. I never could fit in. I never could “go along to get along” as my mother used to put it. You may see us as elites, but I see myself as a misfit.

        You’re hurting people.

  • Moi

    *cough Lemming cough*

    That’s a terrible argument. Absolutely terrible. What’s your profession again?

  • Justin Russell

    All I can say is “Fact Check.”

    “95% of the population?” You are aware that in that 95% not all believe in the same “God” as you,

    “There are no atheists in foxholes?” Definitely not true. I contest EVERYONE in a foxhole is an atheist because they do not feel comfortable enough to say “God will protect me from dying.” In fact, they are in foxholes because they are in NO RUSH to get to “Heaven.”

    In the end, all that is needed to show how illogical and unsound your reasoning is, is simply to ask an age old question:

    “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?”

  • Brian K

    “At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from 7 billion of my fellow human beings.”
    That’s a pretty lousy thing to accuse atheists of doing. I’ve respected your writing in the past, so it sucks to hear that kind of charge leveled against me.

  • Darth Skeptic

    Your logical fallacy is the argumentum ad populum.

    https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/bandwagon

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Jeezus, people, I’m NOT MAKING AN ARGUMENT. I’m explaining one of the reasons that I continue to believe in God, in spite of my doubts.

      • http://batman-news.com 3lemenope

        And just as you expressed that reason in a public forum, others are giving you their opinions of that reason. You can’t possibly think that you could express an opinion in such a forum and not have it be scrutinized, did you? There is such a thing as a bad reason, a reason that, when expressed, does not demand respect from those who are made aware of it. A reason that seems predicated on bad internal logic, dodgy facts, or a narrow perspective usually qualifies for this sort of impromptu pig-pile upon the person who offers it.

  • Darth Skeptic

    For the record, 95% of the world doesn’t believe in “God”. About 90% of the world believes in some higher power. The overwhelming majority of world religions are polytheistic, however. Monotheism is almost exclusively Abrahamic. Nonetheless, no matter what you believe, take comfort in the fact that the majority of the world thinks you’re wrong.

  • Steve Barry

    This is a *profoundly* bad argument. Kudos.

  • Dianne

    51% believe in god, and the number is dropping every day.
    http://www.christianpost.com/news/global-poll-most-believe-in-god-afterlife-49994/
    Citations or it didn’t happen.

    • Ben Howard

      You do realize that your citation includes percentages that add up to 86%, is based on the question “Do you definitively belief there is a God”, was almost solely focused on first-world responses, and was an internet poll, right?

      Citations don’t mean much without context.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

        Thanks, Ben.

        • Joe Agnost

          “Thanks, Ben” says that joker that doesn’t bother with citations himself and clearly pulls false numbers out of thin air!

  • http://www.Kamenriderrecap.com Sneezeguard

    If you want to stand in solidarity with humanity, you’re off to a poor start.

  • R Bonwell parker

    If you’re going to claim membership of the 95 percent by principle of majority rule, you must go along with what that majority believes. And the big-umbrella tactic goes both ways: for instance, 93% of people believe that Protestantism is wrong. 85% believe that if you are not prepared to kill anyone who does not share your faith, you do not truly believe. 65% believe that Jesus Christ was not the son of God.

    Meanwhile, over 80% of people in the world agree with atheists that man evolved naturally. Over 90% of people agree that the cosmos was not created by the specific intentional agent that you think created it (this is true no matter what you believe, as the only theory which has more than 10% acceptance is what science dictates).

    Shall I go on? Okay! Schools teach students whatever is reflected by modern academics, and the higher the level of education, the more students are expected to come to their own conclusions rather than simple regurgitation (most graduate-level programs REQUIRE dissertation of an original idea to graduate). Thus, most education is by definition a reflection of what the majority of people agree to be true. That is NOT the case for religious schools, which teach things that are NOT agreed upon by consensus but rather by dictum, which they are allowed to do ONLY because they are privately funded by an exclusive club which attracts students into their group with promises of nepotism and personal gain… the epitome of cultural elitism. By contrast, any idea which does not stand up to public scrutiny is discarded by atheists, no matter how strongly they want to believe it – the epitome of populism.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    A couple years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a 95 year old atheist. Her name was Margot de Wilde, a Jewish woman who was subjected to Joseph Mengele’s experiments in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

    White elitist privilege, right there.

    My atheist cousin is a lesbian who spent ten years terrified that her Christian comrades would expose that she had a girlfriend to get her kicked out of the Navy. She is also an atheist in a fox hole. White elitist privilege, right there.

    The author of ‘Between a Veil and a Hard Place’ a former Muslim woman who used to be beaten if she so much touched her collar bone or the curve of her hip. White elitist privilege, right there.

    My dear friend Mary, a woman of dark skin, fled her home in Uganda after people like Pastor Scott Lively threatened her life because of her sexual orientation. She is a refugee in America and an atheist. White, elitist privilege, right there.

    Even I became an atheist at the age of ten, spurred not by education or elitism, but as a poor half-Roma boy who watched Christian terrorists kill people around him.

    White elitist privilege, right there.

    We don’t all fit in your little box, Mr. Jones. We never will. You can tattoo yourself with edgy, deep words, try to reinvent Christianity as hip and relevant, call yourself inclusive and progressive, but dismissing non-theists who serve in the military as well as every atheist out there with an evocative, heart rending story just proves to us that when it comes to atheists, you’re just another Mark Driscoll.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      There are all sorts of anecdotal exceptions, to be sure. And this is nothing against any one particular non-theist or another. This is 1) a commentary on the theism of the world, writ large, and 2) my own personal reflection on my place in the human race.

      • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

        They are not anecdotes. They are people. As are we all.

        And by stating that there are no atheists here or there, in foxholes or in Bangledesh or India, you have diminished the lives and stories of every atheist in those exact places to something….other. Something of less meaning.

        And so in attempting to find your own place in the human race, you have reduced all those individuals to something less than human with a few keystrokes. You have written off their voices as something less than yours. Something swallowed in the immense swell of prayers rising up to heaven.

        Even as you shout, someone half a world away is whispering. If you would only lower your voice, perhaps you would hear.

      • Sven2547

        And this is nothing against any one particular non-theist or another.

        Nothing against any particular non-theists, just a few dishonest stereotypes about non-theists in general. Cool story.

      • midnight rambler

        This is a commentary on a particular theist, not the theism of the world – you are an exceptionally obtuse moron. I would say more, and more articulately, but the way in which you dismiss real people and the dificulties of their lives frankly gives me enough internal rage that I know it won’t come out right.

      • Mark

        OK, so you believe in God because it’s popular to believe in God; however, the question posed, and the title of your post is “Why are you still a Christian?” And after all your commentary on the popularity of God (more popular than the Beatles, again, at least), and the attack on white educated elitists, you never talked about why you are a Christian? Why are you still a Christian, Tony?

  • Roy Culver

    No offense intended but, seriously, I’d suggest you take an intro to critical thinking class. Learn what logical fallacies are. Your writing and thinking will be better for it. Maybe that makes me one of those elitist white folks but I bet you have more school debt that me!

  • Guest

    Where you got your figures i don’t know, either way they are way off. if you look around the numbers are between 78% – 84% of the world are theistic, not 95%. This means that world wide between 16% – 22% of the population are atheist with 2 basic types. Between 30% and 33% of the world are some form of christian. there is around 41,000 different sects of christians. Between 18% – 21% are islamic with around 73 sects of islam. so if you are going with the popular vote you would be some form of islamic. Between 12%- 15% are hindu with 5 major sects and a unknown amount of minor sects. So christianity, islam, hinduism and atheism are the 4 major schools of thought when it comes to religion. if you take into account the different sects and such, I think the numbers kinda point to atheism being the popular vote.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    only 31.5% of the world’s population is Christian, with the majority, being of the Catholic denomination. Then comes Islam at 23%, then Hindu 15%, Buddhist 7%and others covering about 13%. Non-religious make up 9.66% and athiest, almost 3%. That meanst that 69.5% of the globe is not Christian.
    Bear in mind that there is a percentage of former Christians who have moved to one of the other faiths, or have chosen to eschew religion all together.

  • Ethan Greer

    Where you got your figures i don’t know, either way they are way off. if you look around the numbers are between 78% – 84% of the world are theistic, not 95%. This means that world wide between 16% – 22% of the population are atheist with 2 basic types. Between 30% and 33% of the world are some form of christian. there is around 41,000 different sects of christians. Between 18% – 21% are islamic with around 73 sects of islam. Between 12% – 15% are hindu with 5 major sects and a unknown amount of minor sects. So christianity, islam, hinduism and atheism are the 4 major schools of thought when it comes to religion. if you take into account the different sects and such, I think the numbers kinda point to atheism being the popular vote.

  • MNb

    “well over 95% of the human race professes belief in God”
    China has 1344 millions inhabitants.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_China

    47% is atheist.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/23/a-surprising-map-of-where-the-worlds-atheists-live/

    That’s roughly 650 million, which is quite some more than 5%.
    Add about 450 million Buddhists and well under 90% of the human race professes belief in god. Then I’m generous enough to lump all the polytheists (quite a lot in India) with the monotheists.
    Some christian here got his numbers wrong.

    • Derpington_The_Third

      Don’t you see MNb, the author doesn’t consider those atheists as part of the human race!

  • MNb

    “Atheism is almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites.”
    Some christian got his history wrong as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_India

    Plus I didn’t know that the already mentioned 45% Chinese people belonged to the educated, white elites. Plus this:

    http://redcresearch.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/RED-C-press-release-Religion-and-Atheism-25-7-12.pdf

  • Terry Firma
  • jeffstraka

    Tony, you have no clue how many atheists/post-theists/non-theists/skeptics/free-thought people there are. And in a country that is DEEPLY religious, especially in the South, it likely IS a “privilege” to be an “out” atheist. Most have to hide in the closet for fear of family, friend and even career loss. But the tide is turning. Fast. http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/02/what-can-the-atheist-movement-learn-from-the-gay-movement.html

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from 7 billion of my fellow human beings.

    Atheism doesn’t require you to “sever” yourself off from the world.

    Atheism is simply the rejection of a god claim, as follows:

    Theist: “My god is real!” (Claim)

    Atheist: “I don’t believe you. Gimme some evidence.” (Rejection of claim)

    Nothing in atheism requires separation from family, friends, worldly thing — which cannot be said of Xianity: “If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26

    I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that there is, indeed, a God.

    The “collective wisdom of humanity” has placed women as second-class citizens, or worse, as property, promoted tribalism and warfare, condoned slavery and genocide of “lesser” peoples, and heaped praise on irrational thought in the form of religion. This “wisdom” has poisoned humanity throughout history, including today.

    I have no respect for your “collective wisdom.”

    I have respect for science and rational thought, equality of everyone, including women and minorities, democracies that promote freedom from slavery for all peoples, criminalization of crimes against humanity, including genocide, and rejection of irrational beliefs, like religion, which promote the evils of your “collective wisdom.”

    • https://twitter.com/RollieB RollieB

      “I have respect for science and rational thought, equality of everyone, including women and minorities, democracies that promote freedom from slavery for all peoples, criminalization of crimes against humanity, including genocide, and rejection of irrational beliefs, like religion, which promote the evils of your “collective wisdom.””

      Me too! Yet, I am a Theist, a Christian even. I have a question for you: How do you order the universe? By that I mean, how does all this scientific data about our universe hold together without a central glue? I am genuinely curious about your answer. (I can’t rationalize the universal order without a superior entity that some name “god.”)

      • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

        How do you order the universe?

        What does this have to do with the subject at hand?

        I think you’re trying to change the subject and I am suspicious that it’s your attempt to create an end-run argument for your Xian god, but I’ll tentatively bite.

        By that I mean, how does all this scientific data about our universe hold together without a central glue?

        From your statements, we both agree that the universe exists. The scientific data collected doesn’t need “a central glue” (which, let’s just be honest here, is your dishonest attempt to squeeze your Xian god into the universe). The laws of physics are descriptive (from observation), not proscriptive (like civil laws).

        You’ve added something (“a central glue” aka your Xian god) to something we both agree on (the universe existing), so it’s up to you to give some evidence for your addition to the conversation.

        I am genuinely curious about your answer.

        I’m genuinely interested in your evidence for your Xian god. Have any?

        (I can’t rationalize the universal order without a superior entity that some name “god.”)

        Then that’s your problem. The universe doesn’t need or require your rationalization or mine or anyone’s. It just is.

        Quite frankly, I’d rather know something is true and that it actually exists than cling to a belief with no evidence. And when I don’t know something, I’m comfortable saying “I don’t know.” Theists instead say “goddit!”

        Have any evidence for your god?

        • https://twitter.com/RollieB RollieB

          It was a simple, honest question, Bear. Nothing nefarious about it, I was just curious. I really don’t have any problems with not fully understanding anything. The more I learn about any given subject the more I know I don’t have satisfactory answers to many things. Thanks for your reply.

      • jeffstraka

        Read “The Universe from Nothing”, by Lawrence Krauss. Curious: when you consider the immensity of the universe and the tiny spec in a remote corner where earth is, how is that “order”? Also, there are 4,700 potentially hazardous, near-earth asteroids. How is that “ordered”?

        • https://twitter.com/RollieB RollieB

          I was simply asking a question, I didn’t say I knew how things were ordered. I am now retired after working 43 years in the sciences for a Fortune 100 company. The more I learn the more I realise how little I know. Peace.

      • CottonBlimp

        I wanted to give you a slightly less aggressive answer to your question.

        At the moment, there are a number of theories about the “central glue” of reality; things like String Theory and the Higgs-Boson particle.

        What’s most interesting about the theories is that, consistently, they’re examining things on the micro level rather than the macro – in other words, the “glue” is something infinitely small rather than something infinitely large (like your god). The universe operates up from its smallest properties, it doesn’t take orders from a superior entity.

        • https://twitter.com/RollieB RollieB

          Thanks, I’m very familiar with string theory and the Higgs-Boson particle. Are you familiar with the book “Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics,” by Diarmuid O’Murchu?

          Thanks for the civil reply.

          • Artor

            “Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics,”
            Why, that sounds like a delicious word salad. May I have Italian dressing on that?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I thought I would share a couple of things I wrote previously on my blog on this topic. On why I am a Christian: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2007/09/why-i-am-a-christian.html

    And then more recently, on why I am a progressive Christian (much shorter): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/04/why-am-i-a-progressive-christian.html

  • Xantha

    Join us and you too can become educated and elite.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Touché.

  • S_i_m_o_n

    From a Christian point of view there are far better reasons to believe in God than this. In fact this particular reason that you have expressed hasn’t really got anything to do with Christianity.

    I do get the feeling that this answer may be coming from the work you are doing for your book on The Atonement. Probably too late now but I would suggest the reaction to this post could be a reason to pause and give some thought to your book’s content.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      This post has nothing to do with the book I’m writing. It has to do with a question that a friend asked me yesterday. Did I not make that clear enough in the post?

      • S_i_m_o_n

        Yes you made it clear. I was simply wondering if your emphasis on solidarity is not also perhaps something that we will see in your book. I could be wrong, it’s happened before.

  • Manny Panning

    Sorry, but I’m a high school educated truck driver.

    The internet gives me access to informed information from competent sources. Those sources show me that there is no evidence to support the existence of any higher power.

    The rest of your drivel is preposterous amalgamation of numbers with nothing to back them up.

    The Latin is argumentum ad gluteus maximus (argument from your ass)

  • Al Aquino

    So far Mr. Jones has not answer the numerous questions on where he got his statistics. A few people linked to the christian post to show that his statistics were wrong and all Mr. Jones did was say that it was wrong with out any facts. This was the perfect opportunity to show us were he got his number of well over 95% (what does well over mean…96%…97%?) but he does not. He wants us to take his word that 95% of the world is theistic. If you read his response to a few of the comments you will see that all of them address minor issues but skip around what most comments are about. I see this as a form of dishonesty. Statistics aren’t perfect and so it is perfectly fine not to trust one source like the christian post but the CIA world factbook seems to back up them as well. So that is two sources that show that you are wrong.

    It would be very simple to discredit these two sources by show your own source and it being more credible then both the CIA and christian blog or if your have some facts that show the method in which these to statics have gather the info incorrectly please share. Otherwise why should I take your 95% over the contradictory christian blog statistic?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      It’s Dr. Jones.

      • Al Aquino

        Okay Dr. Jones then…but your Ph.D doesn’t answer the questions.

      • Cecilia Davidson

        Dr., Mr., Ms., Rev., who cares? Where’s the actual citation?

      • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius
      • RoverSerton

        I believe this is called “the argument from authority”. i.e. I’m a doctor and your not, so believe whatever I say.

      • Artor

        You feel the need to insist on that, but ignore the points he’s brought up? You really are a piece of…work.

  • Monty

    I find your position compelling. I’m a skeptic, seminary educated, who is shoeless tiptoeing on the razor’s edge of doubt/faith. I’ve never considered myself elite, but I have been fortunate. Born in US. Educated in US (for whatever it’s worth.) I’ve thought often of this “mass” position, and meditated on it’s implications. I want to believe in God. I sincerely want God to exist. I want something to be “over it all.” But truth is the older I get, the less I see a god.
    Lastly, I think the fact that I can hold either position (atheist/theist) in complete balance makes me something, but I don’t think elite. What I do believe is that doubt/faith are not brothers, two sides of the same coin, twins, etc. I believe both atheism and theism are positions of shared ignorance. Atheism is ignorant because it believes when it sees. Theism is ignorant because it sees when it believes. Neither position in and of itself appears complete. Thanks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      What a great comment. I completely agree with this statement: I want there to be a God.

      • xy

        that seems like a silly reason to have a belief.

      • Derrik Pates

        I want there to be unicorns. So what? Reality doesn’t give the slightest crap what we think should be.

      • A Girl

        Yes, but more specifically, you want there to be a personal omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God, and though “95%” of the world may believe in “god/s,” it’s clearly just as important to acknowledge not all believe in the same god/s, and yet that doesn’t seem to influence your belief that the one true god is the perfect (Christian) God. There are 2.2 billion Christians- that leaves at least twice as many people left who do not believe in the Christian God, despite believing in “a god” or gods or in other supernatural explanations for life and life after death.

        I’m sure you have other reasons you believe you have found the right god- though it would be rather unusual for you to not be a Christian in a country where even in 2014, 85% of religious people are. So, it isn’t just your desire to believe, but that what you believe can also said to be largely attributed to your cultural identity.

        That humans find various religions and beliefs in the supernatural comforting as we all cope with life and death and suffering and meaning and purpose is not surprising. In fact, there is a compelling scientific theory as to the evolutionary advantage of type II errors in processing information about our world. Regardless of what science uncovers about our reality, I think people will still believe- though those beliefs become less and less tied to the natural world (e.g. demons aren’t thought to be responsible for hurricanes anymore). And as long as those beliefs don’t infringe on the rights of others who don’t share them and aren’t presented as science, I don’t care. We are thankfully still free to think what we like.

    • Artor

      Careful you don’t open your mind too much, or your brain will fall out.

      • Monty

        Good point.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “Atheism is almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites.”

    Oh teh horrerz!

    How dare those insolent “educated, white elites” not go along with whatever the rest of the planet says, does or thinks? Why, the rest of the world knows oh-so-much-more than they do!

    As for the accuracy of “the collective wisdom of humanity” … once upon a time, “the collective wisdom of humanity” claimed that the earth was at the center of a universe only a few thousand miles in diameter. Gee, it’s nice to know they must have been right! Why, that educated, white elitist Copernicus should have kept his contrarian thinking to himself! That educated, white elitist Galileo ought never to have dared agree with him! And that educated, white elitist Kepler ought never to have revised the insolent Copernicus’s horribly contrarian model to more accurately coincide with the observations of that educated, white elitist Brahe!

    That I understand that things don’t exist or not based on whether or not I’d like them to exist, must make me one another of those horrific, insolent, educated white elites. Thanks for clearing that up for this cynical, skeptical, godless agnostic heathen!

  • Derpington_The_Third

    I guess according to yourself you’re not educated, you are gullible, and you’re completely fine with being ignorant and gullible.

    That’s par for the course I suppose.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Lovely that you’re practically raging over Facebook and Twitter for making a stereotype about atheists. How about you read Good Without God by Epstein before you make asinine blog posts like this?

  • Ben Hammond

    In some ways I’m not surprised that some people were taken back by the post — mainly the last line. It might have been helpful for Tony if he left out the word “enough” since many people here are interpreting it to mean that those who are atheists don’t respect “the collective wisdom of humanity.” Perhaps it would have been helpful to clarify what he meant by “God” as well. It probably would have been appropriate to ask some clarifying questions.

    But.

    I’m surprised by many of the responses here. It’s hard for me to see how one could interpret this post as being an attempt to assert a detailed argument for the existence of God. Those who responded really intensely I’m guessing either don’t know much about Tony (i.e., have not followed him in recent years, haven’t read his books) or aren’t slowing down enough to think it through (behaving like most of the internet — internet “justice” is typically better characterized as vengeance than “making things right”). To me it’s pretty clear this post was an attempt publicly journal some personal reflections on why Tony is still a Christian.

    To be honest, the intense reaction of people to the assertion that ‘most atheists are educated-white-privileged’ more closely resembles the response of a certain part of the USA to the assertion that the Martin-Zimmerman case was about race. I’m not trying to equate the two, but it seems to fit the pattern that is usual when a group of people responds reflexively to an uncomfortable assertion (whether true or untrue).

    I don’t think that Tony is trying, necessarily, to say something negative about the atheist community. I also don’t think that he is equating the sentiment of privilege and education here in the same way those words are used when talking about issues like race (etc). Instead I think it’s an observation that more closely related to things like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s more common for people that fit Tony’s description to be atheists because base needs are met. Maybe it means that there is space for deeper existential thought (such as the question of god). Perhaps it also means that there is less “need” for a higher being to exist for that individual as well. Clearly, this doesn’t net a “good” argument one way or the other for the existence of god (and much could be added/commented on by either perspective — and clearly that are MANY exceptions in terms of individual experience), but I think that’s ok, because it’s not what the post is trying to do. I also don’t see the post as commenting on whether or not atheists are good people or capable of goodness.

    I also don’t think that the post is suggesting that atheists aren’t ‘good people.’ I resonate the with the post, and I don’t fear the notion of being an atheist. I have atheist friends that I will willingly admit are better people than me (i.e., “Good without God” is a great book).

    In regards to all of the comments attempting to correct Tony thinking that he’s saying that 95% of the world is Christian: Clearly he’s asserting that most of the world believes in god of some sort (again, clarity in the post could have helped, but he’s clarified in the comments since then — but it looks like people not reading them since the same attempts to correct have been repeated many times). The existence of a higher power is at the very base level of reasoning for any faith. It’s perfectly relevant to part of the reasoning of why someone would still be a Christian.

    This is just my own attempt to explain how the post reads to me.

    Thanks for the post Tony. Look forward to hearing the rest. I heard a similar idea discussed end of one of the podcasts on HBC and was actually really humbled by it. The way it effected me was for a different thing that I struggle with. A couple of years ago I reached the place where I was OK if there was nothing after death (i.e., even if the Christian stuff was true, but that “eternal” really communicated a single dimensional idea of quality). I came to the conclusion that my life really is good — I just had to change the perspective that the life I live really is good enough to be satisfied with and not ‘need’ something else afterward. What was challenging to me is that my reasoning is very much something that I came to based on my own experience and anxiety. I also realized that the specific reasoning that I had for that conclusion was very privileged. Now when people ask me if I believe in an afterlife (or some sort of ‘making things right’) I say, “I hope so. But not necessarily for me. I’m ok if there isn’t anything after death. My life is (often/usually) good. I hope that there is for the people who’s lives are stolen — by warlords, sacrificed as children, collateral damage in needless wars, trafficked into slavery and die at a young age chained to a loom (this would also include all sorts of other people too). If a sentient god exists that has the kind of power to do anything about that stuff and doesn’t… that god is an asshole and perhaps shouldn’t be believed in even if god does exist.

    • Al Aquino

      If tony really had the reasonings you said he could have said them himself. But from reading the comments and what I went on about is the number 95%. If your giving a statistic you should have a source especially with a claim that 95% of the world is theistic. Most polls put no belief in a god at 11-15% already making his claim false unless like so many have asked he show his source. And when you give false info that isolate a group even more they will get angry.

      • Ben Hammond

        You’re right. That probably would’ve helped many people.

        The CIA World Factbook puts non-religious at 9.66% and Atheism at 2.01% (2010 est). While it’s likely that the Atheism number is actually higher (i.e., people who do not feel free to be honest about it in the world) I’d be interested to see the breakdown of the non-religious group (as there is probably a range from belief in some sort of higher power to different levels of agnosticism).

        • Al Aquino

          It is very hard to poll for atheism as some still claim religions that allow one not to believe in god or that there are many places were it is illegal to be athiest so of course no one will claim it. What bothers me most is that this blog makes it seem so simple (and that he is right) while ignoring many of these points. It would have been nice to have a discusion on all these points.
          .
          And while some of the comments are mean so truely are just asking for clairification and yet he has ignored them. The few answers he has provided mostly just dance away from the questions. So how are people suppose to take this when Tony refuses to answer. Example: I put a post up asking for his sources and what proof he has that the christian blogs stats aren’t trustworthy and in that post I addressed him as Mr. Jones so instead of answering my legitimate questions he corrects me by stating his title of Dr. Jones…that to me seems like true elitism that he has a Ph.D so I have to address him properly and that my questions don’t merit a response and that bothers me.
          .
          So thats why when you stick up for him I find it hard to swallow.

          • Ben Hammond

            I’m not necessarily sticking up for Tony (though I will certainly stick up for a person for which comments are far meaner than the original words that person spoke could of implied). I think that his responses to people can be quite abrupt sometimes (and I’ve heard him say as much in a couple of interviews before as well). Anything that people felt needed to be said has already been stated many times. Mainly I’m interested in dialogue with regards to the backlash.

            I think one of the reasons that he’s not truly engaging is that he has learned through experience that people who pour onto a blog to mock or laugh or correct “the idiot” often aren’t interested in actual dialogue. It seems to take the form of Zizek and Lacan’s “Jouissance.” When that happens there often isn’t a response that would be disarming enough to cause it to back down.

            According to Fitch: “Zizek asserts that there is always a kind of enjoyment that holds a people together under the domination of an ideology. …There was a self-glorifying sense that we are not those Islamic fundamentalists who do not believe in freedom and respect for every individual. The ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ became the object against which we aimed our enjoyment. We enjoyed with a vengence that we are ‘greatest, bravest, most free nation on earth!’ They had stolen our freedom from us, making us want it all the more. [It created] a sense of energy and purpose to America to the point where we felt more alive… This was all the manifestation of ‘jouissance,’ and a tell-tale sign of this was the way the terrorist was made into an object for our ‘enjoyment.’”

            Clearly all groups and ideologies experience this to varying degrees (Most definitely including me). For Fox News ‘they’ are the ‘liberals.’ For conservative Christians ‘they’ are often the ‘ignorant atheists.’ For some atheists ‘they’ are often the ‘ignorant religious people.’

            When people pour from one blog to another to ‘set the stranger straight’ I’d say that there is usually some ‘jouissance’ at play. Sure, mixed in are desires to “keep people from being ill-informed,” to make sure “the truth is known,” (etc) but there is almost always the experience of joyously celebrating the rightness of ‘us’ over ‘them.’ We can all see it when the ‘enemy’ or the ‘other’ does it to us (it takes on the form of something much more energetic than just trying to ‘set things straight’ — i.e., they ‘need’ you to feel silly for your view, and want others to affirm their success at it). What we often have trouble with is seeing it in ourselves. I think we mistakenly confuse the ‘jouissance’ of the other with their perceived wrongness, not just with the ‘way in which they communicate’ their claim. Therefore it’s hard to see our own participation in ‘jouissance’ because of our perceived rightness.

            I’m not claiming this is you, so please don’t apply it that way. I can’t claim to know the motivation behind individual’s posts, but often when there is an over pouring of similar ‘critical’ or ‘joining with in defense’ posts it seems like this phenomenon is at play.

            For me the goal is not to try to pretend that I never participate in ‘jouissance,’ because then I most certainly will. My goal is to try and recognize when the feeling is surfacing, or to look back over posts later to evaluate if some of that was going on.

            • Greg Gorham

              Wow, this was great!! Thank you!!

          • Ben Hammond

            btw — I agree that’s it’s very hard to poll for something like atheism for the very reasons you list.

  • Mark Burns

    Stand with the collective wisdom of humanity a few hundred years ago and proclaim that there is, indeed, a flat Earth.

  • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

    Brother Toby, have a look at this link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/01/07/this-may-be-the-worst-argument-ever-made-for-why-you-should-believe-in-god/

    This, Brother Toby, is what it’s like to have your entire argument turned inside out. Like the old saying goes, Pick up the pieces and try again.

    • Ben Hammond

      Who’s Toby?

      • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

        Misread his name. Should have put Brother Tony.

        • Ben Hammond

          Now that you say that it makes sense. No sure why that wasn’t obvious to me in the first place. Have a good one.

  • remissional

    I know this is anecdotal, but I lived in Central America as a missionary and had ongoing contact with people that would definitely NOT fall into the educated white elite and I knew many atheists that would feel at home in the areas you described.

    I think one reason we see so many theists turning away from their faith is that organized religion, especially the western church, has trouble dealing with “members” that have questions. The idea that someone can vacillate between belief and unbelief questions the entire us verses them mentality that has been adopted by the institution of the church. Lets be honest, all too often we entice conversion by offering compensation in the form of heaven or to avoid the consequence of eternal suffering in hell which doesn’t work well if we allow someone to wrestle with their belief.

    While you, and frankly the majority of butts in pews, may be comfortable allowing someone to express their doubt, grace is not the usual response given by the church power brokers.

  • An Ordinary Guy

    Thank you!

  • http://theangrytiki.com Tikidoll

    I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of everyone who commented here to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that this is, indeed, a terrible argument for God’s existence.

  • http://tracimsmith.wordpress.com/ Traci

    Ok, so there’s a *lot* of chatter on this post. I didn’t make it through all the comments, but this post made me think a lot about why it seems we are “hard-wired” for belief in God, just as we, as a species, are also hard-wired to believe in life after death. I heard this fascinating TED talk this week, Tony, I think you could write a compelling post about it that might connect to this one. (I’m planning to use this talk as the basis for my sermon on Easter, yup, Easter.) http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_cave_the_4_stories_we_tell_ourselves_about_death.html

  • jeffstraka

    So, Tony, if numbers polls are how you base your beliefs, you must, therefore, be a creationist: http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx

  • BradC

    Wow – check out the response. You certainly hit a nerve – interesting I guess more people than I thought are struggling with this question.

    I am struggling with the question myself and will try to stay on point of your post.

    Christian thinkers found themselves marginalized by the modern/scientific/ enlightenment thinkers, so they “adjusted” Christian thought to be empirical rather than faith based. Now Christian thought is trapped in this empirical wasteland and finds it difficult to escape. Many Christian thinkers still attempt to defend belief with empirical evidence – Keller, McDowell, etc. the irony is – so do atheist.

    No evidence can prove or disprove the existence or non existence of God!

    We are slowly coming to fully understand the limitations of our conceptual realm. More people than ever are grasping the concept of human limitations in our sensory perception, our language structure, our cultural understandings, etc, etc. and the inability to possess absolute understanding (of anything).

    I am still a person of faith. I chose to belief in God in faith. I can’t prove God’s existence and don’t care to even attempt to create a defense for this faith. A few of my friends claim it is just nostalgia – just a hope that my culture, upbringing, memories, activities have become dear to me and I don’t want to shed them – this could be. But, I still have some gnawing idea that we can’t explain our existence apart from the action of the “other” and the Christian story is still the most compelling to me – so I chose to follow in faith.

    I’m not a big fan of the contemporary models of “church” or current Christian thought but that’s off point.

    “I’m still in” on God, but really recognize how limited I am!

  • Seth Callahan

    Appeal to authority much?

  • NathanExplosion

    Heaven is going to be so awesome Tony. Chocolate rivers and mountains made out of Snickers!! Where raindrops are gummy bears and my castle will have a moat full of Cheez Whiz!! (Feel free to not return my lawnmower when you borrow it…. for we will be in heaven where there will be an infinite supply of lawnmowers!!)

    Jesus must love us a LOT to give us Chocolate Freaking Rivers for ETERNITY!! I’m giddy like a school girl! So glad I’m on Team Jezy!!

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      Umm… I’m guessing you’re an atheist…. and I’m hoping you’re about 11 years old. Otherwise you’d be embarrassing the rest of us.

      • NathanExplosion

        I’m sorry that you don’t love Jesus, but please know that He loves you. Don’t you want a castle?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

    That morons like Jones who can’t reason their way out of a paper bag are Christians is not a good reason to be an atheist, but there are numerous good ones.

  • ash

    Toneyyyyyy.. Came over from Hemant’s blog with the rest of them.. Representing the Asian block:
    Ummm.. A BIG ASS point about India.. India, right in the Vedic age,
    consisted of educated skeptics who rejected the tenets of the Vedas or
    any godly rhetoric very openly and notoriously. These people were called
    the “Charvakas”.. Translated literally into “Skeptics”.. These were
    non-believers and relied on evidence and inference as opposed to
    dogmas.. These were probably the first truly “atheistic” (from choice
    and knowledge) people in the world.. By the late Vedic era they were
    driven out or shut up or subdued by the powers to be.. But they never stopped existing.. We are back again..
    In fact Buddhism and Jainism were sects that rose out of the skepticism towards the idea of a conscious god..
    Confucianism also rejects the idea of a deity.. You know that big ass religion in the far east (China)..
    Non-white atheists outnumber white atheists by at least 2:1.. Maybe more..

    And yes.. We are proud of the fact that more education leads to more knowledge and moving away from religious dogmas and the idea of a deity like the one you believe in.. We want more people to be educated..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

    Horrible diseases are widespread among the poor; health is an elite condition. Let’s therefore follow the wisdom of humanity and get sick. And ignorant. And downtrodden. And religious.

  • Lausten

    It’s religion itself that exploits uneducated people and tells them that they do not have power over their own lives. Atheism appears to be privileged because you first have to get yourself out from under a power structure before you can realize that you don’t need anyone telling you what God says and telling you what you need to do to get rewarded. That means getting educated and having a little free time. That it happens that a lot of those people are white is the fault of strong forces of history, something else some of us privileged people are trying to change.

  • Cori Wolvesbane

    Atheism is almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites.
    so you are saying only SMART and EDUCATED people are Atheists… that explains a lot.

  • Alyce Smith

    While I may not believe in God, the comments on this thread are making me lose faith in humanity.

    • tanyam

      Thank you for what I think is the best comment on this board. There is so much vitriol –on both sides– I finally gave up reading. Instead of looking for new insights into the way people who are different from us think– we are consumed with picking the weakest part in another’s post or comment, and pouncing. (Or throwing up defenses because someone just called us arrogant or stupid or both.) Why aren’t we looking for understanding or insight? Have we lost the ability to say, “I’m not sure that is persuasive, can you say more?” Is sarcasm the only way we can discuss stuff? (Because you know, it hardly ever brings out the best in us or our opponents.)
      If I’m convinced of ANYTHING it is that we have got to quit using up our time on this earth arguing like this. If we don’t learn to do this better, then just about the time we’ve settled the disputes between Israel and Palestine, the arguments between theists and atheists will consume the lives and resources of the planet. (And yes, before someone pounces, I know that people are already dying because they happen to have the wrong view in one place or another.) Think of the most humanitarian representative of your side and ask yourself whether he or she would be writing comments like the ones found here.

  • Jon Newman

    Many of the poorest people in the world are Muslims. So therefore Islam must be one true religion. I am no longer a Christian thanks to you!

  • Brad Pliam

    Tony, do you feel you have turned your back on the poorest people in the world after having rejected cannibalism, shamanism and voodoo? I don’t think you do. You may respond by saying Christianity can hardly be compared to these pathetic ideologies and superstitions, but the basis of your argument begs the comparison.

  • Steven Harte

    Wow, interesting the barrage of atheists that took this oh, so literally. I read your post and felt I simply wanted to sigh with you. Keeping alive, what we label God/the transcendent etc., as our defining existence, is incredibly wearying in this day and age. Most surely, the atheists make very great points. But some of us are willing to weather the critiques because something beyond us has truly tripped us up and pointed us to something beyond. The conventionalities that try and make sense of it haven’t yet adequately explained it and so some consider the pursuit of utmost value despite the occasional enervation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Thanks Steven.

  • Mark

    Seriously?!?!? “I believe because everyone else believes”! That’s just about the worst reason you can give. Everybody believed the earth was flat, until someone proved them all wrong. Everyone believed the sun and the planets and other stars revolved around the earth, until Copernicus (and later Galileo) proved them WRONG. And you’re not EVEN talking about 95% of the people being Christians; only, that almost everyone believes in some supreme being. You really never answered the question at all.

  • Andrew Watson

    I want to thank all of angry atheist and trolls I see stomping all over this thread. I see all the bitterness and derision being poured on Mr. Jones here and all I can think is there, but for the grace of God go I.

  • JeanM

    Serious question on a meta level – why do atheists comment on this blog at all. It’s obviously a blog about religion, which most atheists seem to reject. So why waste your time? If someone who is uncommitted either way is swayed by what she reads here, how is that any skin off of your nose? And if someone finds comfort here, why do you even care? As I said, this is a serious question, and one for which I have been long hoping to hear a serious answer.

  • Rusty Shackelford

    There is no punishment for being human. There just isn’t. Nature does not work that way.

  • Marian

    Just thought I’d pick up on the statement that there are no atheists in foxholes which I believed too, until I read “Have you been an atheist in a foxhole?” on “About.com Agnosticism” where, indeed, are to found such creatures ! I found it to be an eye-opener. All the best.

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  • John Katrichis

    Einstein once said that Science without Religion is lame and Religion without Science is blind. I am a Christian because eternity is an awful long time to be wrong. If any one bothers to investigate the facts that evolution without intelligent design is genetically impossible in a sexually reproducing population and that life as we know it is much too perfect to be the product of random gene mutation even an atheist must search for a middle ground. It is imperative to first separate religion from religions. Religion is the relationship a person develops with his Creator while religions are rather archaic belief systems that have proven effective in helping people establish such relationships. Is the earth only 6,000 years old and was Adam the first Hominid to walk the earth? Of course not! If you merge science and religion for a moment and look at the fossil record for human evolution, you will note that 50,000 years ago there was a huge inexplicable increase in cranial capacity. Could this be the result of a God deciding to make man in His own image consisting of spirit and intellect, I believe so. More recently, scientists have devised multiverse theories, believing that parallel universes exist because of the behavior of gravitational waves and the mysterious appearance and disappearance of sub atomic particles. I have believed in this parallel universe for many years, but I call it the Kingdom of God. I believe the belief that a higher, superior intellect exists that is responsible for all creation is a vastly more logical argument than to say everything is one big accident.


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