By Spencer D Gear
I was reading Bill Muehlenberg’s excellent article on the need for more Christians to think. It was his call to have a renewed mind and respond to the challenges of our secular world in, ‘Let my people think’.
Then came Kurt Skelland’s ‘troll’ by way of response:
If Christians starting thinking there would be no Christians left!
“Most people would rather die than think. And most do.”
Secularists’ false claims
It is not uncommon to read these kinds of statements on websites of skeptics or atheists. Take a read of a leading skeptic, Paul Kurtz, ‘Why I am a skeptic about religious claims’.
How do we respond to Kurt Skelland’s skeptical claims?
1. ‘If Christians starting thinking there would be no Christians left!’
This is a clear example of someone who doesn’t know the content of the Christian Scriptures. If Kurt’s claim were true, there would be absolutely no use for these Christian statements:
- Luke 10:27, Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’ (ESV).
- Ephesians 4:22-24, ‘to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (ESV).
- Romans 12:2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (ESV)
It is obvious that the Bible teaches: (1) Loving God with our whole beings, and (2) After we become Christians, we are to put off the old way of thinking and be transformed by renewed thinking in the mind.
This is the problem which non-Christian people (unbelievers) face, ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Cor. 4:4).
Kurt has another problem with the Christian faith.
2. Why choose a Bertrand Russell quote?
Bertrand Russell 1916. Courtesy Wikipedia
Kurt cited Bertrand Russell, “Most people would rather die than think. And most do”. What’s significant about that? Russell is a friend of skeptics, agnostics and atheists.
On the practical level, this quote may be true for a lot of people. But who was Bertrand Russell? Was Russell an agnostic or atheist? This is what Russell stated:
I never know whether I should say “Agnostic” or whether I should say “Atheist”. It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.
Even in this article, Russell admitted, ‘On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods’.
I have quoted Bertrand Russell at times, but this is to refute his claim on a topic. He said, ‘I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive’, and I cited it in my article, ‘Will you be ready when your death comes?’ Bertrand Russell now knows the truth of what happens after death and he will have found that it is very different from what his agnosticism/atheism taught him. Bertrand Russell died on 2nd February 1970.
How do I know? Jesus died and rose from the dead. He has assured all people of what will happen at the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). I commend to you Dan T. Lioy’s article, ‘Life and death in biblical perspective’.
Kurt’s Bertrand Russell quote would have only passing significance if it were not for his other emphases in his troll statement. His other emphasis was:
3. ‘Thinking is inimical to the fanciful claims of religion’
In other words, thinking and Christianity do not go together. Notice what Kurt does. He provides not one shred of evidence to support his claim. He is into sloganeering by giving us his opinion. Whenever somebody does this, we need to call them to account by asking things like these:
- So you are giving us your opinion in one foul swoop of a slogan. That carries as much weight as a car driver, with no engineering experience, going over Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge and saying, ‘That’s not the proper way to build a bridge. Those fanciful engineers didn’t know what they were doing when they built that bridge that way’. You know such a statement had fanciful, irrational overtones. So has Kurt’s claim about thinking being hostile to religion come with evidence?
- You would never win good grade in any exam with that kind of evidence. You gave zero evidence to prove your point. You’ve made a nonsense statement because it is your idiosyncratic opinion that comes with nothing to back up your claim.
- Get real. I’m a thinking Christian and I don’t buy into your thoughtless comments.
- Your statement really is antagonistic to what you are trying to prove. Your statement is inimical (hostile) to thoughtful people who might want to take you seriously.
However, Kurt’s kind of statement can be found all over the www in relation to religion. These are a few grabs that Google helped me find quickly.
- Freud, ‘religion was our “collective neurosis”’ (HERE);
- ‘When it comes to magic, religion, politics, geography, on and on, you can write whatever you can dream up as long as you make it consistent within your world’ (HERE).
- ‘Religion is fantasy. Everything that you have been taught about religion is wrong’ (HERE).
- ‘The ties between fantasy and religion are quite strong’ (HERE).
- ‘Religions, like everything else, evolved from earlier myths’ (HERE).
Kurt is echoing the statements of other skeptics. The Los Angeles Times published an article, ‘Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds’ (April 26, 2012). The article begins with this statement:
Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.
The study, published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.
Another report on this research stated,
In some ways this confirms what many people, both religious and nonreligious, have said about religious belief for a long time, that it’s more of a feeling than a thought,” says Nicholas Epley, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. But he predicts the findings won’t change anyone’s mind about whether God exists or whether religious belief is rational. “If you think that reasoning analytically is the way to go about understanding the world accurately, you might see this as evidence that being religious doesn’t make much sense,” he says. “If you’re a religious person, I think you take this evidence as showing that God has given you a system for belief that just reveals itself to you as common sense (The Huffington Post, 27 April 2012).
So religion is more of a feeling than a thought! That’s not what Jesus thought when he told us that we are to love God with our mind. Also, there is no point in the Christian renewing the mind if thinking is unimportant for the believer. I’m reminded of how the Bereans were commended for their Christian faith:
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:10-11).
So these Bereans were thoughtful Jews who checked out the apostle Paul to see if what he stated agreed with their Scriptures. Jews/Christians who think have been part of Christianity from the beginning of the Christian era.
Kurt is an example of a fly-by-night sceptical, sloganeering person who is motivated to present slogans on a Christian website (Bill Muehlenberg’s Culture Watch). These kinds of people are stirrers who don’t want to present sustainable content with which we can dialogue.
In fact, they are self-refuting in their approach. Kurt wanted to condemn Christians for not being thinkers but his actual post demonstrated to us that he is the one who is not a thinker. If he were thinking about his post, he would be providing sustainable arguments to demonstrate that religion (Christianity especially) is fanciful. And these would be arguments with which we Christians could interact.
Kurt has demonstrated that he is not seeking truth and he did not present truthful statements about why he thinks that Christianity is fanciful.
What is truth?
‘Preference or truth?’ (Greg Koukl)
‘What is truth?’ (Paul Copan & Mark Linville)
‘The nature of truth and exclusivity’ (Ravi Zacharias, YouTube)
‘Embodied truth’ (Ravi Zacharias)
‘Why truth matters’ (Os Guinness)
‘What is truth?’ (J P Moreland, YouTube)
 Kurt Skelland, 14 September 2012, available at: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/09/13/let-my-people-think-2/comment-page-1/#comment-269299 (Accessed 15 September 2012).
 Russell, Bertrand. “Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? A Plea For Tolerance In The Face Of New Dogmas.” Positive Atheism Web Site, available at: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell8.htm (Accessed 14 September 2012).
 Cited in Richard Dawkins 2006. The God Delusion. London: Black Swan (Transworld Publishers), p. 397. This is from Bertrand Russell’s 1925 essay, “What I believe”. It is available for free download HERE.
 ‘Inimical’ means ‘unfriendly; hostile’, according to dictionary.com at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/inimical?s=t (Accessed 14 September 2012).
 The footnote in the ESV at this point stated, ‘Or brothers and sisters’.
Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.