Tin Cans and String, Pt. One: What Fits Best?
… I really, really enjoyed our time hanging out here in [City]! And I’d like to revisit some of the things we talked about. I want to go in ten different directions, but I’ll limit myself to three. And I know you have a whole busy life going on, so I totally understand if you can only tackle one or two.
When I said that there are infinite present, past, or possible religions that could fit with cosmology, morality, and meaning the way that Christianity does, you pushed back. You asked whether there are infinite possibilities that fit equally well. And you suggested that while Christianity is not the only religion that fits, is does fit best. This was a great move, and I’ve really been thinking it over.
At this point, I see two main issues here. First, I think it is difficult to judge what fits best. It’s one thing to judge whether or not a world view can fit with the world we observe in a binary, yes-or-no sense. We can get down to brass tacks and figure out whether there is a contradiction or not. For example, in our world, innocent people obviously suffer. Some people try to use this fact to argue against Christianity, but this effort fails, since Christianity neither claims that innocent people don’t suffer in this world, nor teaches anything that entails this. If some other religion were to claim that there’s no innocent suffering in this world, though, or to teach things that entail this claim, then that religion would be disproven. It would not fit. And we can see that; we can investigate and conclude whether that sort of contradiction is present or not.
But when we’re just comparing different world views that avoid such an out-and-out contradiction, and we’re trying to judge how well they fit with the world, and which might fit best, things get a lot trickier. This is largely because once we move away from standards of strict logical contradiction, I don’t know how we’ll keep our hefty biases out. And two enormous sources of bias toward Christianity quickly come to mind: the ways in which Christianity has shaped our shared Western culture, and the ways in which you and I personally have been shaped by Christianity. Such things could lead us to conclude that Christianity fits best with the world when in actuality, it’s just that we personally happen to fit best with Christianity.
Setting this first issue aside, the second issue is that even if we can determine that Christianity fits best with the world we observe, I’m not sure this would be conclusive. If Christianity simply fits a bit better than its competitors do, this isn’t necessarily a ringing endorsement. It could easily be the case that Christianity fits a bit better than other religions do, and this is part of what has helped it to spread and endure—but it is still only a human construction, just like the rest.