Is Religion Dangerous?

As a freshman in college, I imbibed a heady brew of modern atheism, served up by Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Freud claimed that religion was a projection, a figment of wish fulfillment. We desire a Heavenly Father to make life tolerable, while the vault of the lies empty. Marx thundered that religion pacified and placated the desire for social justice, since lasting goodness could only be found in a heaven that did not exist. Nietzsche insisted that Christianity was the attempt by the weak to get revenge on the strong and that the truly free can live “beyond good and evil” by creating their own values in the godless, gladiatorial theater of nature.

Having little understanding of Christianity and no awareness of apologetics (the rational case for Christian truth), I viewed traditional Western religion as dangerous to the intellect, while I became attracted to Eastern religions in a vague sense. I stopped praying, tried to meditate, and fancied myself an aspiring intellectual who needed to oppose Christianity.

But something strange happened that first year in college: Christianity began to speak to my condition, despite my antipathy toward it. A philosophy professor assigned some readings by Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish Christian philosopher. After having dismissed Kierkegaard in a paper, I decided to actually read the primary text, The Sickness Unto Death. I found a profound assessment of the human condition before God. Much to my surprise and dismay, the book began reading me—exposing both my rebellion against God and God’s offer of grace through Christ. Added to this was the loving and courageous witness of two Christian women, who were involved in the Navigators, a campus group focused on discipleship and evangelism. Through various providential events, many conservations, and Bible reading, I confessed Christ as Lord in the summer of 1976.

After a difficult summer of vainly trying to believe Christianity without evidence, I discovered the works of Francis Schaeffer, James Sire, C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness, St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, and many more high-caliber thinkers, who demonstrated that the Christian worldview has nothing to fear in the world of ideas. I eventually switched my major to philosophy and began a grand intellectual adventure that continues to this day. Now, as a professional philosopher, I find some of the best philosopher alive defending Christianity.

"The Christian worldview has nothing to fear in the world of ideas."

In a sense, I have spent the last thirty plus years trying to disprove Christianity—not as an atheist, but as a philosopher who has investigated all the major religions and philosophies on offer. I found that the anti-Christian arguments of Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and others missed the mark. I have tackled the toughest challenges to the Christianity and investigated case for other worldviews. My years of study, teaching, and writing have convinced me that Christianity is objectively true, rational, wise, and pertinent to all of life. But I still believe it is dangerous—not to the intellect, but to any other worldview that attempts to refute it.

Author: Douglas Groothuis

Author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, On Pascal, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture. Senior Fellow for Apologetics.com.

36 thoughts

  1. A simple question: how does philosophy alone give evidence for the validity of Christianity? I ask this because science clearly shows that there is no objective evidence for the truth of Christianity and, in fact, has falsified ALL religious claims including Christianity.

      1. Absolutely not. My statement is simply the truth: every religious claim ever made has been falsified. Philosophy has nothing to do with it.
        Do you claim that philosophy trumps science based thinking? If so, how?

      2. thomraff, your statement and reply demonstrate a failure to understand both science, and what it can and cannot claim and philosophy.

    1. That is categorically untrue. Do not be so sure that “science clearly shows….”
      There is not enough room or time to begin to refute your sweeping generalization.

      1. Randall, I am getting so many people entering into the conversation that it is difficult for me to fully know what statement(s) each one is responding to. For example, “That is categorically untrue.” However, I did find my statement, so we are good to go.

        My full phrase is, “science clearly shows that there is no objective evidence for the truth of Christianity and, in fact, has falsified ALL religious claims including Christianity.” I stand by it. It is certainly a “sweeping generalization”, it is true. All religions have particular dogmas, which are claims on reality. Any claim on reality can be examined by the tools of science. All such claims have been falsified by science. Now, does that mean that they are proven false? No, science is not into “proves”, that’s mathematics. What is means is that a claim is examined and if there is not enough evidence to support it, it cannot be accepted as true and, thus, is falsified. There is a reason why religious claims are called faith claims and not fact claims.

      2. Thomraff,
        I’m never going to insult you at all!
        For me SCIENCE is a great tool.. By which we invented space shuttles, medicines, computers.. etc..
        But you mentioned that your senses are limited and your perceptions and understandings can be flawed..how are you sure that you are trusting the right thing..
        I don’t know if you are aware by that or not.. Modern science is built on a BIG philosophical AUSSMPTION which is what we see today will continue to be tomorrow!
        And Sir Francis Bacon who is the developer of the Scientific Method was able accept this assumption becuse he belived that the world is governd by a rule and this rule is not changable becuse its governd by an unchangable power which is the unchangable God!

      3. Bob, you ended your reply by invoking the erroneous God of the Gaps argument. Listen, there is NO evidence for an interventionist deity- – – period.

        Science grew out of Natural Philosophy. It ACTUALLY can show what is real. That is something that philosophy can never do. Think about this: there are many philosophies and religions that do not agree with each other and there is no way to determine what point of view is correct. There is only one science that has shown itself to be capable of revealing reality whether you agree with it’ Findings.

  2. Really Thom? EVERY religion claim EVER made has been falsified? By whom? By what process? Jesus claimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” He validated his claim by rising from the dead which has been confirmed by historical evidence.

    I agree with David that your statement isn’t based on scientific fact but is an assertion.

    1. Every supernatural claim of every religion has been falsified by science. Oh, citing a Bible verse is not going to do it. It is a collection of sayings by unknown authors from verbal reports without evidence. Science is a WHAT, not a WHOM.

  3. Thomraff,
    You mentioned:
    ” I ask this because science clearly shows that there is no objective evidence for the truth of Christianity and, in fact, has falsified ALL religious claims including Christianity”
    with all respect, this statment of your’s was falsified long ago…
    How can science test Christianity in a laboratory??!!!

      1. thomraff..
        Thanks for your reply..
        I’m gald that you mentioned realty!!
        do you think that there is such a thing called realty, if so how did you know, and how this realty is true and if its true ? do you think that this realty will not change tomorrow??

      2. Bob, I am a conscious being who is exposed to an environment. Because my senses are limited and my perceptions and understandings can be flawed, I choose to accept the findings of the best process humans have developed to get the maximum objective information. That process and those findings is SCIENCE. If you think there is something better (oh, please don’t insult me with an answer like “Faith), please bring it on. Thanks.

  4. Thomraff,
    I’m never going to insult you at all!
    For me SCIENCE is a great tool.. By which we invented space shuttles, medicines, computers.. etc..
    But you mentioned that your senses are limited and your perceptions and understandings can be flawed..how are you sure that you are trusting the right thing..
    I don’t know if you are aware by that or not.. Modern science is built on a BIG philosophical AUSSMPTION which is what we see today will continue to be tomorrow!
    And Sir Francis Bacon who is the developer of the Scientific Method was able accept this assumption becuse he belived that the world is governd by a rule and this rule is not changable becuse its governd by an unchangable power which is the unchangable God!

  5. Science can test the factuality of things within the NATURAL world only, but it cannot prove or disprove religious or philosophical claims unless they clearly violate a scientific law or principle. Religious claims must be verified using other criteria; e.g. historical evidence.

    1. Darrell, how do you know there is a reality other than the natural? You also mentioned that religious claims can be verified by historical evidence. How? Give me an example. Keep in mind, do not point to anything from the Bible. There is no outside historical institution that holds that the Bible is reliable as historical.

      1. Thom, first I would throw the question back to you. How do you know there isn’t a reality other than the natural?

        On historical evidence, the fact that Jesus was a real person of history is accepted by ancient, non-Christian historians & writers. Here’s a quote from F.F. Bruce, former professor of biblical criticism at the University of Manchester. “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate a Christ-myth theory of Jesus.” Ancient non-Christian writers such as Tacitus, Lucian, Josephus, Seutonius, Pliny the Younger, Mara Bar-Serapion and more wrote of Jesus, not as a myth but as a real person. Furthermore, the majority of these wrote that Jesus was crucified by the Romans in the early first century AD.

        But beyond that, there have been skeptics who have set out to prove that the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax, believing that in doing so, they could destroy this “myth” if not Christianity. One such person was Frank Morison, a lawyer. Upon examining the evidence from a legal perspective, he changed his mind and affirmed the factuality of the resurrection and wrote a book, “Who Moved the Stone?” Another was Simon Greenleaf, a professor of law at Harvard and one of America’s brightest legal minds. Greenleaf is still regarded as the single greatest authority on evidence. Of the apostles of Jesus, Greenleaf wrote, “The great truths which the apostles declared, were, that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling errors that can be presented to the minds of man. … It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not know this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.” You can do your own research on these men and still get their books on Amazon.

        In recent times, other modern skeptics have also tried to disprove the facts of the resurrection, but after examining the historical facts with an open and unbiased mind, have also accepted the resurrection as a historical fact. Check out the writings of Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, J Warner Wallace and Frank Turek.

        Lastly, I would just say that there are agnostics/atheists today who won’t buy the resurrection but they don’t dispute the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. So don’t say there’s no evidence for the claims of Christianity.

      2. Darrell, you said, “How do you know there isn’t a reality other than the natural?” I don’t, and neither do you. The big difference between you and me is that I don’t make the unwarranted “leap of faith” by claiming there IS another reality.

        Regarding the historicity of Jesus, this link with give you my counter: https://understandrealitythroughscience.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-historicity-of-jesus.html#more

        Now, since the historicity of a Jesus is very much in question, how can you make that great leap of unwarranted faith by accepting the claim that he was God incarnate?

      3. Okay Thom, I’m going to leave it at that because I can see that further dialogue is pointless. I find it interesting that skeptics like you pride yourselves as being people of science, believing that science can provide rational answers to every question of life. Yet you’re unable to explain how biogenesis occurred or what caused the origin of the universe. Beyond that, you’re unable to understand consciousness or why people have the ability to reason or to create things given that (in your view), we’re just a higher developed animal, a product of blind evolution.

        The universe and all living things show that there’s order and beauty everywhere which wouldn’t exist if everything came about by chance. Which to me, shows the irrationality of a purely materialistic, naturalistic worldview.

  6. Thomraff..
    There is no gap that I’m trying to fill with God.. Simply I’m saying the Sir Francis Bacon who was the developer of the Scientific method, was having a brief that supported the assumption if what he is observing today will continue tomorrow.. Which is the foundational philosophical assumption behind Science..

    Again, you mentioned that your senses are limited and your perceptions and understandings can be flawed..how are you sure that science is real and showing you reality

    1. Bob, again, you are throwing out philosophical jargon. How am I sure that science is real and showing me reality? I’m not, we all maybe in The Matrix or in the mind of a powerful computer. However, I know I exist. I know through understanding the methods and findings of science that the probability that science is the best bet on understanding reality. It has advance humanity unlike any other discipline. It is objective, repeatable, peer-reviewed, its finding changeable with better findings. Please present anything else that is better for what it does. Oh, of course you are trying to fill the unknown with “God did it”, please, don’t embarrass yourself. You are supporting a worldview without any evidence that it is real. Listen I was at least as committed as you to the Catholic faith. This link will give you a better understanding of my background and how I arrived at my present POV. https://understandrealitythroughscience.blogspot.com/p/about-author-tom-rafferty.html

      1. Yes I’ve heard the “God of the gaps” counter many times as though that is the coup-de-grace that ends the discussion. It doesn’t. You know there are many things for which you have no explanation. So what do you do? You place your unwavering faith in science, that it can answer all of the questions of life that enter the human mind, believing that some day, science will have an answer. This seems to me, a “science of the gaps.”

      2. Darrell, no, I don’t put my “faith” in science. Science is simply the best way to understand reality and I want to know as much as possible about it. If it shows that my view on something is in error, I will change my opinion. Can YOU say the same thing? You, and others on this comment string challenging me, just do not understand that, unlike religion, there is only one science and it works.

        Now, let me change your words to me to reflect YOUR erroneous thinking:

        “You know there are many things for which you have no explanation. So what do you do? You place your unwavering faith in (my religion), that it can answer all of the questions of life that enter the human mind, believing that some day, (my religion) will have an answer. This seems to me, a “God of the gaps.”

        Now, just WHY do you place so much value on your religion over the thousands of other religions? They all disagree on something, and yet, are supposed to be the “truth” from a hidden, non-evidenced being. EVERY claim on reality by ALL religions has been falsified. You religious, no matter the brand, are betting on the wrong horses. Yes, science does not know everything and will never understand everything. That is reality and the truth. However, it is the ONLY way the BEST understand reality. (mic drop)

      3. I don’t follow a religion, Thom. I follow Jesus Christ. He is the only person who ever lived; who made claims that he was God AND validated his claims through his power over disease, nature and even death. His one solitary life has affected humanity like no other. His teachings are the most noble and compassionate of all comparative religions such that if everyone lived by them, our world would be a much better place.

        I follow Jesus Christ because he died to redeem me from my sin and then rise in glorious power over death. His love is supreme and he invites all to place their hope and trust in him. I bear you no ill. It’s my prayer that you might lay your prejudice aside and receive the love Jesus offers you.

      4. Darrell, you just made a whole bunch of claims about a character called Jesus. The only source in support is the Bible. Why do you assume it is an historical document verses a compilation of myths and legends from unknown sources like so many other myths and legends floating around the Middle East at the same time it was formulated and codified?

      5. The Bible IS an historical manuscript that records events, people and places and fixes events with dates. The archaeologist’s spade has over and over again confirmed those events, people and places. Furthermore, the historical record of the Bible agrees with the writings of other ancient historians/writers.

        Also giving credibility to the Bible is the fact that many things were prophesied far in advance of their actual fulfillment which shows that it isn’t merely humanly in origin. I would also add that the Bible actually reads like an historical manuscript and not a well crafted myth.

        Undoubtedly you’ll refute what I’ve just said but that’s of no concern to me. If you do, I won’t be replying further.

  7. Dearest Thomraff,
    I’m not Catholic! However, I like Philosophy and Science.. Anyhow thanks for sharing the link.. I’ll do eager to read the blog..
    What confuses me a little, your position that Science is the best bet on understanding reality, and your tool to realty..
    So if something else came up rather than science claiming that it is reality and the way to reality, and you’re open to that, as I understand, how will you be able to distinguish which is the right reality if your senses are limited and your perceptions and understandings can be flawed ?!

    1. Bob, you said, “- – – how will you be able to distinguish which is the right reality if your senses are limited and your perceptions and understandings can be flawed ?!” Good question. Short answer: science works and has built-in checking mechanisms. It changes as evidence presents itself. Science means “knowledge.” How can there be any other way to “knowledge.” You are trying to put science in a very narrow box so that you can minimize what it does and has discovered. Please ponder what I am saying instead of being defensive.

      Oh, thanks very much for considering reading my blog!! Get back to me through commenting on the blog post(s) or email if you want to dialogue. Peace.

  8. Another good word! I love the fact that your presentations are short, concise, to the point and relevant. It seems like, much like C S Lewis, that your spiritual life experience, though much different than mine, reflects or reveals much in my own.This is something that while recognizing I often ignore or overlook. Thanks for the reminder that God is paying attention even when I am not.
    I was just discussing the point of “organized religion” with an unsaved, unchurched Catholic. He said he did not believe in organized religion. I told him that neither did I and agreed that it was responsible for much evil in the world. I tried to differentiate between that and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
    I have come to understand that the unregenerate mind in incapable of understanding the difference even if it is enlightened through the auspices of the world’s wisdom. It is refreshing to get a perspective (yours) that has tested the world perspectives of spiritual understanding (religion) and found them inferior, indeed of an entirely different nature, than our Father’s plan and purpose.

  9. I found it really interesting that you mentioned Christianity kept, in a word, ‘pursuing’ you. What was that like? Did you feel distress that this religion you kept trying to distance yourself from kept invading your mind? Or did it make you want to learn more?

  10. There is a major distinction between Christianity and every other thing we consider a religion and it isn’t what most people think. It is that Christianity is NOT a religion. Christianity is a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ. Yes “faith without works is dead” but we are not saved because of the “good works” we do as in the case of every other religion. The very title of this post indicates that you lack this fundamental understanding and may consider reading and studying the Bible more and reading and studying philosophical works less. I say this with all due respect and mean not to offend you. You are clearly an intellectual person, but I fear you may be missing the greater points altogether. It is extremely easy to misunderstand scripture because of things lost in translation so I advise picking up a study Bible with footnotes.

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