Many years ago, I had to recount the life of Jesus to a young Taiwanese student who knew nothing about Christianity. As I told him about the virgin birth, the miracles, crucifixion and resurrection, he responded with incredulous laughter.
Most nonbelievers in traditionally Christian cultures would show a bit more respect. But inside, our reaction is often pretty much the same: how can people really believe this stuff? Rising from the grave isn’t even the most preposterous part of the Easter story. Far more bizarre is the claim that God had to send his son to die for our sins. And if God really wanted all humanity to heed his message, why did the resurrected Christ only reveal himself to a few select people before ascending to heaven?
Vociferous atheists don’t shy away from revealing their mocking bemusement at all this. Those of us who make determined efforts to understand and debate with religious believers might be too polite to admit it, but we often feel just as baffled.
The laziest way to try to cross this credulity gap is to shrug our shoulders and accept that people are often crazy, stupid or both. Yes, there are plenty of people celebrating the resurrection who are sane, intelligent and well-educated, but they are statistical anomalies in a world where higher levels of education are strongly correlated with a lack of religious belief.
Smart people can have blind spots, but this quick and easy explanation does not do justice to the complexities of religious belief. If we genuinely accept that a believer in the resurrection can be intelligent, but also think that any intelligent person would find the idea of the resurrection preposterous, the most charitable explanation is that intelligent believers are as aware of the implausibility of their beliefs as anyone else. This is indeed what you tend to find if you bother to talk to a Christian. They don’t use the word “miracle” for nothing – they know their faith defies laws of logic and nature. Read More …