Are Theists Confident Enough In Their Religions To Endure Scrutiny ?

What about it ? Can theists endure with confidence a close and careful examination of their religious beliefs, or do they fear that if they are scrutinized too closely those beliefs won't hold up, that they'll prove false and illogical ?
Since I am an American and most familiar with the Christian religion I will use that as my test case, but these questions apply equally well to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or any other theistic beliefs that may be out there.
Are believers afraid of being questioned about their religious beliefs ? Are they afraid to scrutinize their own beliefs ? For example, consider the following three questions.
Q1: Why are there at least 41,000 different versions of Christianity alone in the world ? This is the actual number, if not more, of versions of Christianity in the world, and not just some number I arbitrarily made up. There are some two billion Christians on earth, making it numerically the most popular religion in the world, followed closely by Islam and Hinduism. How can two billion Christians read the same Bible and end up with 41,000 different versions of what the Bible means ? How does anyone know which version is the correct one ?
Q2: Who really wrote the sixty-six books of the Bible ? Despite the claims of many Christians, no one alive today knows who really wrote the Bible, not even honest Bible scholars by their own admission. The only person we're reasonably certain of who contributed to the writings that we know today as the Bible is Paul of Tarsus, and he never met Jesus in person despite his claims to the contrary. What reason is there to believe Paul's claim of having met a resurrected and glorified Jesus ? Since no one knows who really wrote the Bible, how do Christians know it is reliable ? The Bible was written in a primitive, pre-scientific age. This was a time when everyone who saw or experienced anything they could not understand or explain simply labeled it a miracle or an act of some god or other. This is understandable for that time period since they knew nothing of science or how the human mind works. But science and psychology has answered a great many questions since then.

Q3: Why should atheists and skeptics believe in one of the world's many gods over any other ? Christians point to their holy book (prophecies and all), answered prayers, and miracles, as the proof that their god is the one true God. Muslims, Hindus, Animists, Ancestor worshipers, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses all sincerely make the exact same claims. The ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, made the exact same claims.
When Christians consider all other holy books and gods that are or have been believed in, they are every bit the skeptic that I or any other atheist is. These other extent groups are also every bit the skeptic I am with respect to Christianity.
Considering these facts, why don't Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, apply the same thinking skills and skepticism to their own religion as they do with all the others ? The answer is simple. It's a combination of confirmation bias, upbringing, and culture. Christians were, in most cases, raised to be Christians in a culture where Christianity is the dominant religion. If these same people had been born and raised in Iran or Pakistan they would be Muslims who sincerely believe in and worship Allah.
These are just three questions I have brought up. I could easily come up with many more, but I'm trying to keep this as short as possible. Why don't you Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus try scrutinizing your own beliefs as much as you do all these other beliefs ? You might learn something.

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Comment by Loren Miller on July 29, 2013 at 6:13am

These questions are at least part of the reason that the whole field of christian apologetics exists at all.  As Carl (TFA) has said, many christians will shy away from such discussions because they're not prepared to face some if not all of the answers.  Others, especially like William Lane Craig, Ken Ham and Kent Hovind, THINK they have answers when all they have are well-rehearsed excuses which bear up under neither scrutiny nor analysis.  Their strategy to this point is to maintain a "that's-my-story-and-I'm-sticking-to-it" attitude.  Such an approach may work after one or two debates, but when they break out the same tired lines after multiple confrontations ... well, you wind up with the current state of apologetics - discredited (insofar as WE are concerned) and tiresome.

The problem is that the sheep still stand behind their standard bearers, or at least they have to this point.  There will be those of their number who will make the fatal mistake of starting to think for themselves and ultimately break ranks, while the others cling desperately to their repudiated beliefs and those who support them.  There will be others, particularly the millennials, who simply haven't picked up the torch of religion and have no interest in doing so.  I suspect this is a primary reason why christian protestantism in the US has recently dropped out of its majority standing, while the "nones" grow at an unprecedented rate.

The result will be that christians and christianity will decrease in credibility, popularity and influence, political and otherwise.  This trend has already been observed by some of their leaders, and I've spoken about that here and here.  What will christian leaders actually DO about this decline?  Good question, it shows that you're interested.

Now, if there are no other questions, class is dismissed.

Comment by The Flying Atheist on July 29, 2013 at 1:28am

A religious person doesn't want to take part in this sort of conversation and will turn defensive at the very start. Their reaction is to simply stop asking these questions in the first place because the ways of god are unknowable.  We shouldn't be asking such detailed questions because it's not for us to know or even try to comprehend or even have the audacity to question the methods of god.  The details are not important as long as you have faith.  There's a much bigger picture to be concerned with, and that's our ultimate immortality when we pass on into the eternal afterlife.  

Those are great questions for any person who revels in learning and is a seeker of truth.  But religious people possess a HUGE barrier that most of the time prevents the conversation from even starting.  One of the main tenets of religion which is constantly indoctrinated into you is to not question god.  Some things are not for us to know.  The end.           



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