This article in The Christian Science Monitor from 2006 is worth a glance because it offers some insight into the mind of a Christian. I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes find the Christian mind to be a baffling place. Yes, I do still recall my earlier brush with Christianity. I can remember what it was like to be lost under the spell of faith. At the same time, it puzzles me greatly how an adult of reasonable intelligence could maintain belief in imaginary, supernatural beings.
The first insight we get from the author of this article is that religious belief "provides direction and healing answers." Never mind that the belief is false. If it brings comfort, maybe it is worthwhile. But do we encourage other false beliefs simply because they provide comfort? And would we be so quick to exempt other false beliefs from critical examination?
Quoting Mary Baker Eddy, the author observes that she wrote, "Believe...and thou shalt be saved!" In other words, believe because there is something in it for you. You will be rewarded for your belief. Perhaps the reward is faith in itself. If it brings comfort, isn't that reward enough?
The author claims that he/she "needed" faith. Why? Because of "physical healings." Yes, that's correct. This author is a Christian Scientist writing about Christian Science in The Christian Science Monitor. Aren't Christian Scientists the people who will sometimes lovingly let their children die rather than obtain medical care. Yeah, I guess if I was going to allow my children to die through negligent homicide I'd need some sort of excuse too.
Once again, we see that this all boils down to the notion that one should believe because belief makes one feel better. We see that asking questions about one's faith is not a good thing because part of us recognizes the absurdity of believing in ghosts, spirits, gods, etc. We also see the power of suggestion and self-delusion. As the author spends more time and energy in prayer, he/she is able to convince him/herself that faith is justified. Under the wrong circumstances, it could even result in the death of a child.
What do I believe in? I believe that the value of any belief must be determined at least in part by the veracity of the belief. A false belief, no matter how comforting, can never be as valuable as a true belief. I'm not saying that the consequences of the belief do not matter. I'm saying that they are secondary to the truthfulness of the belief. And you know what? Accepting reality as it is and not as I want it to be does bring me some measure of satisfaction.
An earlier version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2006. It was revised and expanded here.