Evading Jesus by Robin Schumacher for The Christian Post
The British agnostic/philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say to God if he discovered the Creator did, in fact, exist. His reply was: “I’d say, why didn’t you give me enough evidence to believe?”
Although he described himself as an agnostic in his later years, Russell nonetheless assailed God and religion during his lifetime writing, “I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue.” His texts often ran contrary to his agnostic label, with him perhaps coming to grips at some point with what Karl Marx said: “An agnostic is just a gutless atheist.”
When I first read Russell’s short work, Why I am not a Christian, I was surprised to see a man of his intellect use such rudimentary and flimsy arguments against God. His manner of attack was to pile weaker contentions on top of already weak arguments that he hoped to somehow mold into a firm foundation, which would then let him comfortably exhale believing he had won his battle against God.
But Russell’s text is instead a classic case of evasion tactics used to escape and avoid something you don’t want to be true. And when it comes to evading Jesus, there are all sorts of methods people employ.
Playing dodgeball with Christianity
Nobody describes how atheists evade Jesus better than Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor— an atheist himself — in his book, A Secular Age. Taylor defines the process as the subtraction theory, which he says atheists go through when they ‘subtract’ from their thinking any supposed superstition, ignorance, authoritarianism, or something else they believe to be irrelevant or non-material to critical thinking.
Taylor admits that the problem with the subtraction theory is it treats non-religious thought as the only legitimate starting point of adult discussion vs. seeing it as it is: one explanation for life among many. And, moreover, because it cannot prove its position, it is a faith-based belief system just like the religions it dismisses.