The Arrogance of Belief

One of the objections leveled at Christians is that their beliefs are arrogant. How can Jesus be the exclusive way to God and everyone who does not go through Jesus cannot be saved? The reply is that the belief itself is not arrogant at all. This is simply God’s own claim through Jesus. It is either true or it is false, but it is not (and cannot be) arrogant. Atheists find this line of argument completely unconvincing.

John Lennox, speaking in front of a packed crowd of atheists, asked them to raise their hands if they ever doubted their atheism. The air remained clear. But what happens if you ask a church full of Christians if they ever have doubts about their faith? Every single hand will be raised.

The word arrogant is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

“having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.”

Many atheists have a stunning level of absolute confidence in their belief. Perhaps this comes from the fact that, generally, you can’t deductively prove an absolute negative of existence.1 One must instead put great faith into inductive reasoning to support the claim that there is no God. The burden of proof is very heavy and few are equipped to deal with it, yet many accept these claims. This difficulty can result in strong cognitive bias from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

So where is the arrogance? Is it the Christians, who freely acknowledge their doubts? Or is it atheists who are completely confident?2

1 This is not the same as the general claim that ‘you can’t prove a negative’, which is not true. For example, you can use inductive reasoning or experimental proof (such as draining the loch to prove that there is no Loch Ness monster). Some specific claims can be tested, but many can not.

2 This is not to say that Christians cannot generally be arrogant or that atheists cannot be humble. On the contrary, both of these can and do occur. But in terms of belief, it is the atheists that are supremely confident. Atheists who are not so confident are called agnostics.

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