I was raised in a Christian home, and when I went off to college I started to have doubts. Ultimately I left the faith and became an atheist. One of my favorite games during that time was, “Why do you believe?” I would find a Christian, and simply ask them the question. Almost every time I would get blank stares. Sometimes people would tell me that they believe because they “feel” it is true or other times they would say they believe because the Bible says so. These answers were easy to knock down and the Christians that I spoke to were far from prepared to think through their faith.
If you’d asked me at the time, I’d have said I was “pursuing truth”. In reality I felt that knocking down their faith justified my own rejection of Christianity. If they didn’t have any real reason to believe it, then I was off the hook. I couldn’t disprove Christianity, but I felt that if I could undermine it then I had “won”.
This sort of an approach has been popularized by people like Peter Boghossian, the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. They call it “street epistemology” (epistemology deals with how one comes to know something). They approach Christians at colleges or universities and ask if they can talk to them about God. Once the Christian agrees, they lead the conversation through questions aimed at undermining the Christian’s reasons for believing in the gospel. They just ask them why they believe and then politely press back on the answers that they get. Many of the Christians are just not prepared to answer, causing them to be vulnerable in these situations.
I don’t want to endorse what they are doing or excuse what I have done, but the question is a reasonable one. If we are going to ask people to radically reorient their life based on a story we are telling them, then it seems reasonable for them to ask us why they should believe the story is true. Why should they listen to anything we have to say?
Later in college I was studying biology and I discovered design in the human cell. That was the major catalyst in my return to faith in Christianity. After having come back I have completed my bachelor’s degree in religion/ministry and am looking forward to completing my master’s degree in apologetics in 2018. Apologetics is the study of answers to that question, “Why should they believe?”