Volitional Resistance to Christianity Often Masquerades as Rational Opposition
by J Warner Wallace
In a recent blog post I offered three reasons why people typically reject a truth claim. Sometimes folks simply have rational doubts based on the evidence, some people have doubts that are purely emotional, and others deny the truth for volitional reasons. Until the age of thirty-five, I rejected the claims of Christianity (and theism in general). As an atheist, I adamantly identified myself in the first category of skeptics: I was a rational objector. When asked about my resistance, I repeatedly told people it was based on the lack of convincing evidence for Christianity and an abundance of evidence supporting naturalistic processes (like evolution). After examining the evidence and changing my mind, I revisited my prior opposition and realized much of my resistance was simply a matter of volition. At some point I had to ask myself, “Am I rejecting this because there isn’t enough evidence, or because I don’t want there to be enough evidence?”
After writing the post related to rational, emotional and volitional objections, I received the following note from an atheist who comments occasionally:
“I would place myself firmly in your first category, Jim: I’m not convinced by Christianity because I don’t see evidence for it. But I would not say it’s because I lack information – it’s rather that I have too much information, especially information about how the real world works. Your placing yourself in the third category, that of volitionally rejecting God, is telling. Almost all the Christians I know who were once atheists place themselves either here or in the second category, rejecting God because they hate Him. And almost all the atheists I know fit into the first, rational category. I would almost be tempted to say that you were never a ‘true’ atheist. It seems also to be a widespread belief among Christians that most of us atheist are god-haters or self-lovers. I guess that fits in with numerous Scriptural verses, but it doesn’t reflect reality on the ground in my experience.”
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I immediately recognized the words of this atheist reader. They are my words, spoken for many years before I became a Christian. All the atheists I knew (virtually all my friends at the time) identified themselves in the first category as rational objectors. I’ll bet Antony Flew, the famous British philosopher and atheist, would also have identified himself in this camp prior to becoming a theist. I don’t know anyone who was once an atheist who would ever have identified themselves as anything other than a rational objector. This really shouldn’t surprise us.
Looking back at my own life as a young man who spent nine years in the university (prior to returning for seven more), I now recognize a simple truth: The more I thought I knew, the less teachable I became. My educational self-confidence led to a form of self-reliance in many aspects of my life, including the foundational worldview I constructed along the way…