Friday, August 5, 2011

A Parable

After a number of my friends and family expressed deep concerns over my leaving the faith, I have been thinking about how to communicate the need for all people to think critically, to investigate the evidence, and to accept the conclusions to which the evidence points. This, in a nutshell, is how I've not only become an atheist (practically, anyhow), but also how I've become more and more convinced of how wrongheaded Christianity's claims to exclusivism are. So, I thought this parable below might convey the point best:

One day, in a small town, someone murdered a well-known citizen (more after the jump...)
The local detective, Donna, assigned to the case knew this person, and also knew that the victim had a longtime enemy, a person known to do whatever it took to get his way. This was the detective's main suspect, further confirmed by her "gut" feeling. 

This wasn't the only thing that prompted her to consider this "town villain" as the prime suspect; public opinion largely held that this disliked fellow was, in all likelihood, the killer. Among such voices included a number of educators, doctors, and lawyers (though none of them knew the details of the case). Lastly, Donna received an anonymous letter that slandered and accused this suspect of committing the crime, written with the utmost conviction. What's more, the chief of police had told her that, because both he and the public trusted her so much, whoever she arrested for the murder would definitely see a long time in jail.

Yet Donna hadn't looked at the evidence; she hadn't checked for witnesses; she didn't even examine the body. Still, she was so sure that her gut, public opinion, and the anonymous letter were right that she had the town villain arrested, and he was subsequently sentenced for a life term in prison.

But what if Donna was wrong? What if the town "villain" wasted away in prison for a crime he didn't commit, having his life wrongfully ruined because the detective didn't do her job? Plus, if the town really knew that the killer was still out there, within striking distance of any of their families, wouldn't they be outraged that Donna failed to pursue all the evidence and conduct a legitimate investigation? Sure, she may have discovered that her hunch was right, but what if she was wrong? 

Most halfway intelligent people would accept that the detective should look at as much evidence as she can; after all, people's lives are at stake. But many of those same people, I would wager, would claim that they "know" that God exists, that they are sure the Bible is from God, and that they know a lot of smart people to be professing Christians. They feel, then, that they don't need to investigate this issue so fundamental in our culture. Many, in the millions, would simply cry, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!"

Woe to those who are unwilling to have their minds changed. Woe to those who suffer because of it.


Andy said...

I'm reading "The Believing Brain" right now and how people typically form beliefs first and then find evidence to support that belief.

Anonymous said...

Nice way of explaining it :)