Often when I speak to people about my Christian faith, they respond by saying things like, “I’m so happy for you!” or “I’m glad you found something to believe in!” or “It’s great that Christianity works for you!” Years ago, these kinds of statements puzzled me as it seemed like these people weren’t really understanding what I was saying. I was telling them something that I thought was objectively true, and they were acting as if I was telling them about my favorite flavor of ice cream.
“I’m so glad you like Rocky Road!” “Vanilla is a great flavor for you!” “It’s important to have a favorite flavor!” I now understand that this is what our secular western culture thinks of religion, by and large.
A favorite ice cream flavor, however, is a subjective preference. It says something about you, the subject, and nothing about the ice cream, the object. You would never seriously argue with someone over their favorite ice cream flavor. It’s just a personal taste, and no argument can ever sway the other person because the preference is within them and not moveable by evidential argument.
Same way with sports teams. It’s hilarious to me that some people try to argue with each other over what team you should like. It’s just a personal preference that is subjective. In today’s sports world, if you root for a specific city’s team, you’re basically rooting for a uniform, because the team uniform is about all that stays the same. The players and coaches constantly change.
When I make an objective statement, like “Raleigh is the NC state capital,” this statement can be argued by presenting evidence. You can convince someone of this fact by showing them documentation that Raleigh is, indeed, the capital. If I told you that George Washington, the first American president, was born in AD 1250, you could check that out, too. It’s an objective statement. Its says something about the object, George Washington.
So when I say I’m a Christian, am I just saying that I have a personal preference for Christianity, that I like their team better than other teams? Is that all I’m saying? If so, then it would be ridiculous of me to try to convince people of other religions to convert to my team. Why bother? You like chocolate and I like vanilla. There’s no point in trying to convince you vanilla or Christianity are better.
Those of us who are serious about our faith understand that we are not talking about favorite teams, but about reality and what is true. We are making objective truth claims. Every religion makes claims about man’s origin, morality, meaning, and destiny. Many religions also make historical claims. If you are trying to judge a religion, then you need to evaluate the claims they are making about the empirically verifiable world, and then investigate those claims to see if they are true.
For example, if a religion denies that pain and suffering are real, that they are just illusions, then run away! It is the universal experience of every person who ever lived that life is full of pain and suffering, so a religion better explain where that comes from. Just denying it’s there is totally inadequate and incomprehensible.
If a religion makes claims of history that are patently false, then run away! Any religion that gets major historical events wrong is untrustworthy. If they can’t get verifiable history right, then how can we expect them to get heaven and hell right?
Bottom line: treat each religion as a real and testable hypothesis. Do the research and see for yourself. If you think that religions are just personal preference, you’ve completely missed the point.