Many of us were told when we were kids that God has promised to do many things on behalf of those who believe in him. After years of studying the bible and Christians, I now strongly believe that all biblical promises to supernaturally alter the lives of Christians have conclusively been broken. There is no effect of a promise made by the bible that falls outside a placebo effect. And this is not a trivial claim. Most Christians will tell you that God, through the bible, has made many promises that should alter their behaviors and physical worlds. I tend to agree. There are many biblical verses that appear to be clear promises of spiritual causes for real world effects. Here are a few such promises to consider.
- Prayer will result in miracles.
- The gift of the Holy Ghost will give you power over sin.
- The gift of the Holy Ghost will allow you to correctly prophesy.
- Christians are are far less apt to be deceived due to the Holy Ghost.
- Christians are happier than other people.
- Christians make wiser decisions than do other people.
How many of these candidate promises do you think are clearly stated in the bible?
With the advent of the science of statistics, there was an initial excitement among Christians that biblical promises would finally be vindicated. Several promises, and especially intercessory prayer, were subject to rigorous statistical testing. And failed. And failed again.
Since these failures, I’ve now noticed the following trends among Christians.
- Statistics and science have been disparaged. These are clearly not educated Christians. These are those who have no idea how much their comfortable lives depend on technologies that emerge from science that is grounded in statistical analysis. They repeat the claim of the ill-informed that anything can be demonstrated with statistics. And admittedly, most of these claimants do not know how to read or assess a statistical study. So they return to their anecdotes without even the slightest cognitive dissonance. They maintain intellectual integrity by virtue of their lack of intelligence in much the same way I keep my hair from looking disheveled by not having any. However, more intelligent Christians take a different approach as will be discussed next.
- More intelligent Christians who understand the power of statistics are beginning to redefining promises into impotent meaninglessness. A very salient example is that of intercessory prayer. Eash bible verse that suggests that Jehovah made a promise to answer prayers to heal the infirmed are buried under arbitrary stipulations found nowhere in the context of the verse, and to such a degree that the “promise” is emasculated to the status of a meaningless utterance that carries no guarantee. (See also posts on the Failure of Prayer.)
Christians in the second group are at least cognizant enough to acknowledge that statistical evidence cannot simply be dismissed. There is hope for persons who are committed to this minimum level of rationality. It is the first group that is most discouraging. How can they still claim to experience biblical promises fulfilled all around them in spite of presenting no testable hypotheses, nor collaborating statistical evidence?
I believe it is due to the fact that statistical truths are often warped by emotional desires, warped expectations, and anecdotes. Selective attention causes individual Christians to see the hand of God in everything. They then “testify” to others in an emotional environment that is steeped with music, rhetoric, and comforting pats of encouragement. The testimony is embellished, and memories are altered. After years of this self-delusion, the Christian looks back on their life and concludes that God clearly was at the helm.
So I’d like to challenge Christians who still believe that biblical promises have some potency. Name any promise in the bible that you feel can be demonstrated as fulfilled though statistics distinct from a placebo effect. If we can identify a particular biblical promise that can be validated by statistics, then you can go on claiming your God is not impotent as are the other gods you dismiss. However, if I can statistically demonstrate that the biblical promise you chose has no effects in the real world, then you will agree to state that the promise is impotent. Sound fair enough?
I believe that the bible is bunk. I believe this for many reasons, including what appears to be a clear failure of its promises. I therefore believe that statistics will invalidate any promise purported to have been made by the god of the bible.
Surely there is some testable promise in the “Word of God” that will validate its claim of potency, isn’t there?