Why I am a "Skeptical Christian"

30 January 2006

Unfortunately, many nonbelievers perceive all Christians as gullible individuals. This myth has been perpetuated with the common vocabulary used amongst the atheistic community. Thus, nonbelievers are generally referred to as “skeptics” or “freethinkers”. However, is there any reason that these terms should only be applicable to those who do not hold religious belief?

Actually, the fact that nonbelievers alone are generally called “skeptics” or “freethinkers” undermines the meaning of the terms themselves! Since skeptics and freethinkers are all considered to be atheists, they categorically deny the existence of gods. In other words, skeptics and freethinkers might as well be defined as “those who deny the supernatural, including gods”. However, this does not do justice to the term skeptic or freethinker.

Skeptic is defined (courtesy of dictionary.com) as:

“One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.”

Now, if skeptics are supposed to instinctively doubt or question beliefs, should they not also be skeptical towards atheism? Should they be skeptical towards evolution? But the fact of the matter is, none of these self-professed “skeptics” actually doubt atheism! Doesn’t this seem a little strange, that the term skeptic, which is supposed to imply a questioning nature, has come to be known as referring to those who categorically deny something and never seem to question their own belief?

Freethinker seems easy enough to define. It is simply one who thinks freely without allowing their thought process to be affected by bias and presuppositions. Although this may not be an actual definition found in the dictionary, it is obvious that the word “freethinker” carries this sort of connotation. So, is a freethinker merely someone who has rejected the existence of the supernatural? This seems like an unfair definition, because the evidence could lead someone to accept such beliefs.

The words “skeptic” and “freethinker” should not be used merely to refer to atheists. I am a Christian, and I think that I doubt or question beliefs until I am provided with sufficient evidence. In fact, that is one of my main reasons for participating in apologetics. Thus, I am a skeptical Christian.






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  1. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon—Matthew 6:24

    “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad—Matthew 12:30

    There is no nuetral position.


    Abram DeWeese    Feb 20, 10:27 AM    #
  2. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”—1 Corinthians 2:5

    “For we walk by faith, not by sight”—2

    Corinthians 5:7

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God 2:8

    “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”—2 Timothy 4:7

    “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him”.—Hebrews 10:38

    ”...faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”—Hebrews 11:1

    “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”.—Hebrews 11:6

    “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”—Romans 1:17

    We must live by faith. Nothing can be 100% proven (athism also). The christan worldview however, gives a better explanation for our existance then atheism. In fact, i think it takes more faith to believe in athiesm (i.e evolution/naturalism.


    Abram DeWeese    Feb 20, 10:50 AM    #
  3. Hi,

    I came across your site http://www.skepticalchristian.com/ and I’m interested in translate into Polish articles from Atheism section. I run similar website to yours, which also contend atheists: http://www.trinitarians.info/ If you agree on translations, I

    will put it on this site. Please write if you will give me permission.

    Regards, Jan Lewandowski


    Jan Lewandowski    Apr 30, 11:57 PM    #
  4. Hey Jan,

    I think it would be great for you to provide translations. Let me know if you need any help.


    Kyle Deming    May 18, 05:08 AM    #
  5. I agree! And Bible verses (like the ones posted above) are grand, BUT 1 Cor. 2:5 makes a wonderful point: We should have faith in God, not man! Paul was a man. Are we not right, then, to question everything about his writings (even that verse) until we know for sure it is airtight? Keep up the skepticism. It is just as bad to believe the right thing for the wrong reasons as it is to believe the wrong thing.


    Melissa    Jan 17, 12:17 PM    #
  6. What a wonderful site. I had begun to wonder if I was the only Christian “skeptic” out there.

    One of the issues I’ve had to deal with is how I can be a skeptic in the first place. Without a coherent system of reasoning to rely upon, I would have no basis for skepticism. The biblical model of Christian theism, in my view, is the only one that allows for coherent thinking.

    In summary, I believe that I’m a skeptic because I’m a Christian, not a Christian because of my skepticism.


    — Chris    Feb 9, 06:57 AM    #
  7. I appreciate your distinction between atheism, skepticism, and freethinking. They are absolutely not the same thing. A crucial part of being a skeptical Christian or skeptical religionist must include a measure of active healthy doubt about any absolutist claims, any dogmatic claims. That means that one can certainly hold to the dogmas of one’s tradition, but must consider them as the truth that informs their identity and their reality, but not eliminate room for other views of reality and other relationships to sacred reality. Nothing wrong with dogma and dogmatic claims, but I think we all have to read their intention, not simply insist that they are true in a simple sense for all and forever.


    — Madhuri    Feb 15, 08:16 AM    #
  8. In my experience “free thinking” is often (but not always) another term for “undisciplined thinking”. If you describe yourself as a free thinker you don’t need to worry about how well all your thoughts hold together in relation to themselves.


    LfN    Feb 28, 01:00 PM    #
  9. Oh, I forgot to add a thanks for the cool site…


    LfN    Feb 28, 01:03 PM    #
  10. “Why I am a ‘Skeptical Christian’” is the title, but you didn’t write anything regarding why you are a Christian, so I feel disappointed.


    — Jeeum    Apr 15, 09:58 AM    #
  11. “But the fact of the matter is, none of these self-professed “skeptics” actually doubt atheism!”

    Overgeneralization. There are quite a few skeptical agnostics who hold that atheism makes an untestable, absolute claim. However, the point is solid – nobody who holds a point of view unthinkingly should simultaneously claim to be a thorough skeptic. A skeptic tests all belief in the fire.

    Many atheists reexamine their atheism constantly; to assume that atheists are necessarily simpleminded in their views is to make the same error as those who assume faith must be necessarily foolish.

    I remain a firm atheist, for a number of reasons which I won’t soapbox about here – but I do not believe that to be religious is irrational. The argument from Personal Experience is far too strong for such a statement.


    Paul    Apr 21, 08:23 AM    #
  12. I found some of your points interesting. But at the end of the day I came away with the clear impression that you were merely playing with words. Let’s extend your argument just a tad. If it is to hold water, we must also be able to talk quite cogently about sceptical muslims, sceptical hindus, sceptical mormons, sceptical jehovah’s witnesses, sceptical astrologers and sceptical flat earthers. And where does all that double talk get us? Precisely nowhere.


    — Paul Creber    Apr 22, 12:54 PM    #
  13. On the contrary, I suspect that discussion with Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, astrologers, and even Flat Earthers does indeed get us somewhere. It’s only double-talk if it’s undirected or insincere.


    Paul    Apr 23, 07:25 PM    #
  14. I am very excited about your site. It is well thought out and well designed. I like the approach taken. But for me, it is important to believe that the Bible is the true, infallible word of God and that all its contents are purposed to be in there.

    I agree with Jeeum, I wish you had stronger support of your Christian beliefs and not just your skeptic beliefs. I feel that it is true that you shouldn’t hold something to be true just because it is said to be true. I believe what I believe about the Bible because that is what I have discovered after nearly 6 years of discovery and examination of it.

    Good work on the whole, keep it up.


    brenden    Apr 25, 07:54 AM    #
  15. Love your site.. keep it up! :)

    “I am a freethinker, I think like Dawkins!”


    — Jesper    May 13, 11:55 PM    #
  16. Sorry to be so long getting back. I’m afraid you misunderstand me. I wasn’t saying we shouldn’t talk to Hindus, Muslims, flat-earthers etc. The point I was trying to make was that the concept of, for instance, a “sceptical” flat-earther, is double-speak, simply because the flat earther, almost by defintion, is incapable of cosmological scepticism. Similarly, a Christian who believes that Jahweh literally stopped the sun in the sky to enable Joshua to win his battle is also incapable of cosmological scepticism.


    — Paul Creber    Jun 6, 12:59 AM    #
  17. In the paragraph immediately after the definition, the phrase, ”[b]ut the fact of the matter is…”, appears. A cliched overused phrase that attempts to cut off debate on what follows, for how can one argue against the “truth of the matter?” Saying something is so does not make it so.

    As another commenter points out, this sentence is a generalization anyway. Are you certain that, “none of these self-professed “skeptics” actually doubt atheism”? How do you know? As a skeptic I would think you would want to back up this statement with empirical evidence. For instance, I would consider myself skeptical of Christianity and religion in general. However, as much as I think that Christopher Hitchens is a hoot to read, I can’t buy his arguments. I also believe evolution may be flawed, like any scientific theory may be, but I also think “intelligent design” is creationism dressed up in a rented tux. Not that there is not room for both a God and whatever got all this together.

    I am myself searching for answers to spiritual questions I have. But I’m not simply going to buy your belief system because you say its the only one anymore than I’m going to buy a used car from a salesman using that argument.

    And please, commenters who can only post bible quotes—can’t you speak for youself? I would think that skeptical Christians might realize that their innate ability to think, reason and question may be God-given. So use it and express yourelf.

    But enough criticizing. I find the name of this site intriguing and will certainly visit again.

    Thanks


    Dan L    Aug 18, 03:16 PM    #
  18. Dan L,

    I actually agree with your criticisms of this brief article. To be honest, I wrote this when I first started the site, 5 years ago (I was 16 at the time). Consequently, the writing style could definitely use some work (I agree that the phrase, “the fact of the matter is” is an overused cliche and should probably be avoided), and I also make the mistake of baldly generalizing an entire group (which is ironic because it is what I am criticizing that very group for doing!) To be more clear about my position, I agree that some non-Christians and those who would put themselves in the ‘skeptic’ or ‘freethinker’ community are in fact skeptical, or at least questioning, about their own belief system. I just think that quite often this isn’t the case. Whether or not this is true, however, I still disagree with the use of ‘skeptic’ or ‘freethinker’ to define those who are nonreligious, for the reasons I point out in the essay.

    In any case, I may soon update this article so that it more accurately reflects my views on the issue. Thanks for commenting.

    Kyle.


    Kyle Deming    Aug 19, 12:25 PM    #
  19. C.S. Lewis:

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


    Tim    Jan 9, 01:45 AM    #
  20. I guess I’m a skeptical Christian, too. I believe that God is our Father, Creator, and Giver of Life, that Jesus is the Son of God Who died on the cross for our sins, and I also believe in the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), but I often question whether how much church doctrine I am taught to believe is true and how much of it may be man-made. For an example, why do Christians support George W. Bush and his war in Iraq while totally denying what Bush is really doing to our country? Why do Christians bad-mouth liberal Democrats, but won’t allow us to bad-mouth conservative Republicans? Why did Christians fight to have Bill Clinton impeached for his inappropriate conduct with Monica Lewinski, but they won’t label George W. Bush a war criminal and have him tried and convicted for murdering thousands of Iraqi citizens and American troops in a war that only he wanted? Why is our economy strong when we elect a Democrat into office, but weak when we elect a Republican into office, and why is this trend totally denied by conservative Christians? Why do Christians take everything at face value without researching the evidence, then turn around and deny that they are accepting lies, deceptions, and myths as truth? Why do Christians take the Bible out of context, then turn around and totally deny it? For an example, we all know that masturbation isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible, right, and that most Christians will accept that this is true. So, why, then, are we taught to believe that this is wrong when there is no evidence whatsoever proving that this is wrong? Why are Matthew 5:28 and the story of Onan used instead to justify this matter, when neither make any mention of masturbation at all? These are just a few of the reasons why I struggle with my faith and tend to question everything in sight. I could go on with more, but I think this will do for now.


    Joann    Jul 11, 05:04 PM    #
  21. Great site, with great comments.

    I have make a few observations: your site’s content is extremely rare (as far as I know, one of a kind) for a religious site. This type of skeptic discussion amongst Christianity is unheard of; so accusing the vast majority of religious people of, lets say, blinding bias is not entirely unfair.I find myself hard pressed to have a reasonable discussion with any religious person. Not meaning to offend, but I also find, from what little I’ve so far read, arguments presented as reasonable but (thanks to the tough crowd) are rather easily refutable.

    I even find the personal experiences argument to hold no water; by simply doing what is forbidden in the Bible and questioning the logic behind Gods game that he has laid out for us: Why does God require faith? Why would anyone, including the person having it, be expected to believe personal experiences when the mind is shown to be so unreliable and undoubtably requiring substantial faith / desire for the experience to be real? Why are we “loved by God” and yet forced to participate in his game where he must know that it is preposterous for a skeptical mind to believe in him without “just believing in him cos u want 2” and yet its still a requirement?

    No, this doesn’t make sense. God should make himself plain to us (if God regards nature as evidence for his existence, it plainly is leading us astray). I think if you really are skeptical, you should be able to directly question God and his motives. Moreover, this should also make you realise that you have not for fear of the consequences. What do you have to fear? You embrase the use of reason, so you assume God is alright with this; well then, fearlessly and directly question his actions and motives, clear your mind of the fear of punishment, because it simply doesn’t make sense to be punished. That is (IMO) how you can be truly skeptical; As you can see that would be difficult for most Christians and that is why Christians are known for the ‘sheep mentalitly’; kept in line with fear of sin.

    Perhaps you will realise that this is all gobbeldy gook and the only way that a truly skeptical person can reconsile these absurdities is to feel at peace that any God wanting to be worshipped by me, for who knows what reason, cannot expect me to do so by faith alone. I accept that hard evidence for everything is not available us at the moment, however, a mammoth amount is known and is (recently) widely available for you to draw conclusions, hopefully free of fear.

    Anyway, thanks again for the site.


    Stan    Aug 18, 01:41 PM    #
  22. Excellent site you have here Kyle. Please, do keep up the good work.

    Despite what many would claim, true spiritual strength comes not from the blind acceptance of doctrine, but from the active exercise of seeking answers to the mysteries of our faith (and wherever those answers may lead us).

    I have spent close to 30 years questioning every single facet of my faith. 30 years of studying arguments both for and against my position. From Lewis to Hume to Russell to Craig. Yet, no matter where I turn ultimately I find myself back before the cross. Each time a little bit wiser, each time a little bit stronger.

    As such, as an (increasingly) old man, I have come to one conclusion: Only by questioning ones faith, and only by seeking answers on all sides can one truly call themselves spiritually awake. Such is the case for any belief, and so it is with Christianity.

    Obviously, many would be quick to rehash the tired old canard that religious beliefs are a symptom of a lack of mental fortitude and skeptical capacities.

    For that reason, I am pleased that individuals such as yourself are rising up and proving otherwise.

    Well done.


    Kirby    Sep 6, 09:59 PM    #
  23. I’m a skeptic, skeptical of the claims by the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and Onfrey because they are making claims about history that we can check and find to be demonstrably false. It makes me skeptical of the claims they make that I can’t check up on.

    I’m still waiting to meet a true skeptic, i.e. a skeptic who is skeptical of their own skepticism. I’m sure they exist.

    Hats off to Paul the firm, but somewhat nice sounding atheist. I love people but don’t meet many ‘deep thinking’ atheists who are friendly..many of them are very angry people indeed!


    tosh77    Jun 21, 03:42 AM    #
  24. I certainly agree that in order for anyone to truly do justice to their religious beliefs, they should examine them. Saying you believe in a god or gods is meaningless unless you have given it real thought.
    However, in the case of atheism, while I think it’s great when an atheist is much better off to examine why they are an atheist, I don’t believe it is as necessary, because atheism is the natural (default) position.

    When you are born you’re an atheist, and for at least the first year of your life you are as well, because you have never been able to understand the people around you talking about religion, if they have been.

    It’s important to remember that atheism isn’t a belief system, there’s no atheist bible, no churches, it’s not a religion. I’m an atheist but my opinions on religion greatly differ from many other atheists, we really aren’t a group, it’s just the default position to take when you either haven’t been exposed to a religion or you aren’t convinced of the truth of any religion.

    There are certainly some atheists who consider themselves 100% sure that no gods exist, but I think those people are just as foolish as the religious people with blind belief. Thankfully, both groups are minorities. The vast majority of atheists, when asked if they believe in a god or a religion, will just say “I can’t be sure” or “I’m undecided”. Similarly, the vast majority of religious people have never examined their beliefs, it’s just they were raised to believe and they don’t give it much time anyway.


    SubJunk    Aug 17, 11:06 PM    #
  25. Skepticism is being conservative about stances over the unknown, it’s holding out for reason and evidence, being critical of bad thinking and faulty logic and conclusions. It’s holding feet to the fire of those who make extraordinary claims and demand to be taken on faith.

    There is only one thing that unifies and defines atheists; disbelief in gods. That’s it. Regardless of the nature of all the atheists you’ve ever met, or how even they represent themselves, the one and only thing that can knowingly be universal to atheists is disbelief in gods. That alone does not make one a skeptic, and there are many people how buy into homoeopathy, or alien visitation, or past life regression, or conspiracy theories, etc., and are at the same time an atheist. There are religious skeptics, who are skeptics in all things apart from their religion for whatever reason, but they certainly aren’t that common. Most atheists look at gods with the same skeptical eye as unicorns or Santa, and feel that there’s no good reason to grant God or gods special attention – but of course religion is much more prevalent than alchemy or psychic mediumship. Skeptics are skeptical of the supernatural because, as Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics’ Society, put it, “The supernatural doesn’t exist, it’s a nonsense term. All there is is the unknown. When something in the unknown becomes known, it’s nature. It’s not supernature. So giving supernatural explanations for this just doesn’t make sense, it’s answering the unknown with the unknown, it doesn’t do anything.”

    Someone who is both a skeptic and an atheist (lumped in with freethinkers generally) is someone who says, I disbelieve in gods because I am a skeptic.” It makes them a sub-group in skeptics. So it doesn’t really make sense to say “Shouldn’t atheists be skeptical of their atheism?” As for the skeptics: no, not really. Admittedly there are extremes of doubt, like with the solipsists. For your reasonable skeptic, there is a fair standard of evidence after which things are accepted.

    An atheist skeptic is quick to point out she is agnostic and that agnostic is implicit atheism. One does not know that a god exists and therefore the null hypothesis is atheism. It’s like innocent until proven guilty. The charge laid on god is his existence but the atheist skeptic waits for evidence beyond reasonable doubt. The reason god’s non existence is the null hypothesis is because one logically there are an infinite number of non-existent entities and a seemingly infinite number of non-existent and conceivable entities and if someone accepts one of them for an arbitrary reason, then one logically ought to accept all of them, even the inconceivable ones. It makes no sense for two things of mutually exclusive nature to exist simultaneous so the atheist skeptic, she waits for really good evidence and reasoning. Such is not offered.

    Evolution as a phenomenon occurs, of this there can be virtually no doubt. We’ve seen it in our time breeding dogs from wolves, modern cattle that give off a lot of milk from the old wild cattle that gave up little, or from transforming the banana from its bitter and very seedy indeed wild cousin (of which Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort was very amusingly ignorant of). Combine that with the fossil record and basic principles of geology (particularly rock strata) and one can see how things evolved from very different appearing things. This is called The Fact of Evolution. The thing to ponder over is the Theory of Evolution, which, as with all scientific theories’ can never be 100% accurate (but can only get more and more accurate over time thanks to the scientific method – theists forget that so quickly). But ToE is so very good at explaining the phenomena around biology with tremendous predictive power, and has no rivals in science, that it succeeded in basing reasonable doubt about 150 years ago.

    How exactly are you a skeptic? Other than just doubting your detractors simply because they disagree with you?

    @ Tosh77:
    “I’m still waiting to meet a true skeptic, i.e. a skeptic who is skeptical of their own skepticism. I’m sure they exist.”
    That’s not what a true skeptic is because it makes no sense, it’s self refuting.
    If they’re skeptical of their skepticism, then they wouldn’t be skeptical in the first place. The opposite of a skeptic is to accept things arbitrarily. Why would you want to meet that person?


    Mike Wolfe    Jul 1, 01:41 AM    #
  26. Mike, love your comment. Initially I was very annoyed by the length, but your points are clear.

    The initial post assumes that an atheist is one who claims, “there is no god.” Maybe you could write specifically about why that is incorrect?


    — Artifex    Jul 9, 05:05 PM    #
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