Self-analysis is an important part of any human life. As the famous Delphic maxim says “know thyself!” When talking about a topic as lofty and emotional as religion it is important that we each understand our own position before attempting to engage with others. Because the topic is so highly subjective, due to the supernatural nature of the subject, it is imperative that we aim to use as much fact based evidence as we can while avoiding emotional and faith based arguments. It is impossible to conclusively prove or disprove the existence of God, so we are forced to look at evidence which sheds light on what is the most likely possibility. It is impossible to know with absolute certainty one way or the other, but it is possible through a holistic evaluation of the evidence to have overwhelming confidence about a particular position. Unfortunately however many people have overwhelming confidence in a position in spite of the evidence. So the question becomes “what evidence do you require in order to alter your position?” What would it take to change your mind? Having given this quite a bit of thought I am fully aware of what it would take to change my mind. While I am currently an atheist, if I was presented the appropriate evidence I am prepared to change my mind. This is extremely important. I am prepared to acknowledge if I should be proved wrong. And I am prepared to follow the truth where ever it may lead. But can you say the same? Here is a challenge for you, particularly if you are a religious believer. I would like you to grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down a list of evidences which if confirmed would cause you to walk away from your faith. These evidences must be actual things which can be proven correct or incorrect.
There are a couple of very big evidences which you should definitely have on your list. If any of these should be shown to be true it should serve as satisfactory evidence that your faith is not warranted. The list that I am providing is for the Christian religion, but the same principles will work for any religion:
- Evidence that the Bible is not divinely inspired.
- Evidence that God is not who he claims to be, i.e. omnipotent, omnipresent or omni-benevolent.
- Evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or didn’t exist at all.
- Historical or archaeological facts which show the Bible to be incorrect.
- Evidence for evolution.
- Evidence that your religion finds its origins in earlier religions.
I’m not saying that you should change your mind if you find just one piece of evidence from the above list, but when evaluating all of the evidence if there is something that would demonstrably prove one of the above, it is just cause to abandon your religion. In actual fact Christianity makes such great claims about the Bible and God that any one disproof of these factors should be considered reason enough to disregard the religion. For example: Christian doctrines claim that the Bible is inerrant, so if just one error is found that is enough evidence to disprove the claim.
If we are going to be truly rational individuals we must be prepared to let go of false ideas. We must be prepared to follow the facts, and go where the evidence leads. If the evidence shows that your belief system is incorrect then you should reject that belief system and move on. If you are unable to do this, or unwilling to do this, then you are exercising blind faith. You are a follower in the true sense, completely sold out to your belief system at all costs. You are exercising a bias against truth and reality. Some forms of mental illness cause people to reject the evidence right in front of their eyes in favour of a delusion. But normal rational people should not exercise this type of behaviour.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty with this is that religious people are just not being rational when they think about these things. Because there is so much invested in the belief system, and so much to lose if it is incorrect, the believer guards their religious system with zeal. They want to believe. The truth moves from an objective reality to a subjective construct. When Christianity presents an idea like “Jesus is the truth!” it is extremely difficult to move a devout believer into a position where they can objectively evaluate their religion. The truth is no longer an external observable part of reality but rather an internal device. This may not happen on the conscious level, but in the subconscious there is a paradigm shift from “I believe the truth,” to “the truth is what I believe.” The vast majority of religious people believe that they have the truth, so they don’t go looking for the truth, they only go looking for ideas which support their belief system or challenge opposing belief systems. In fact, I would have to say that I have never met a religious person who is objective about their own religion. I know that I was not truly objective about it when I was a part of it. It is only once a person floats out to the fringes of that religion that they may feel comfortable challenging its tenets and accepting opposing ideas. Critical thinking is the enemy of religious belief, so most religions suppress it.
One of the truly difficult things about changing your mind on something as important as this is the acknowledgement of your fallacy. Changing one’s mind about this topic requires accepting that one was wrong for so many years. In some cases a person would have to acknowledge that they had lived almost their entire lives under a misconception. This is too difficult for many people to do, so they will remain reinforcing their tenuous belief despite the evidence. A truly mature approach is to follow the truth wherever it leads, even if it means acknowledging that you were wrong for a period of time. A person who is prepared to do this is demonstrating strong values and a sound character. They would rather live with the truth now than protect their past decisions with a progression of diminishing perceptions. There is perhaps nothing more difficult than walking away from a belief system that one has held for so long. That is why anyone who is even prepared to be truly objective has my respect. But real objectivity and the perception of objectivity are completely different things. If a person is not really prepared to put the Bible and God’s actions on trial, they do not have objectivity, and will never be able to know the truth. They will instead live under an illusion of truth, like a prisoner who sits in an unlocked cell convinced that it is sealed and never trying the door.
Ask yourself “what would it take to change my mind?” If you can’t answer that question then your mind has been imprisoned by the chains of your religion. But freedom awaits anyone with the courage and audacity to truly challenge their religious beliefs. What will you do with the freedom that has been given to you?
 Arguments like “I just believe,” or “you just have to have faith.”