BayesThis is Part Five of the ongoing series “Maps and Territories.”

We just finished talking about the role that action plays in providing evidence for Christianity – before we go any further, it is equally important to determine the role that thought and investigation play as well.

I do not think our first question should be “What is true?” Rather, I think it should be “What should I believe?”

I was dead set on proving Christianity for the longest time, and almost became an atheist over it. I now think we are not going to prove Christianity, and, by and large, we shouldn’t try. Even if the universe does bear the undeniable thumb-print of a creator, I suspect we are far too ignorant to say where that divine signal will be found. Uncertainty is reasonable when we lack all the information, as is acting upon incomplete knowledge. My great temptation is to demand utter certainty, and it almost destroyed my faith utterly.

Rather, I believe we should strive to show that Christianity could be true. In order for a religion to be legitimate, it is quite important for the evidence not to contradict it. Given that we have incomplete information, however, there will be more than one belief system that does not contradict the evidence.

Here’s where I am beginning to diverge from most Christians, and even most philosophers: I do not even believe Christianity is the belief system that is most likely to be true, and yet I believe it. I believe in it because I think it is the second most likely belief system to be true. The first is reductionism, the idea that we are chunks of matter without any transcendental value or meaning. And I refuse to be a reductionist.

I understand this is controversial, and I am more than open to being persuaded that reductionism is less likely to be true than I think it is; but let us assume, for now, that I am right and it fits the evidence quite smoothly.

Truth is not important. That is, it isn’t important except as a means to an end. I value truth because, if there is meaning in the world, knowing the truth will help me figure out what that is. But what if the truth is that there is no meaning? Well, then I just don’t care. Truth’s value is contingent.

Sounds heretical, no? Our culture idolizes truth. It loves it to tiny pieces, as it should, but forgets what it’s there for. We declare that it is a sin to not believe the truth, and then proceed to say, “Well, truth is, there probably are no sins, because it looks like we’re just matter obeying laws, and who tells a rock it’s a sinner for obeying the laws of gravity?” But we are still told to believe this, and told it is a sin not to, because “It’s probably the truth.”

Now, if this reductionism was the only viable belief-system, we’d be stuck. Thankfully, it’s not. Christianity could be true. The evidence doesn’t contradict it. Reductionism is supported better by the evidence (I could be wrong about that, of course), but I don’t care. I’m looking for meaning, and if it’s there, I think it’s most likely in Christianity. And it’s definitely not in reductionism.

And it’s because I think this that I am forced to listen to all the evidence. I really do think there’s meaning, and therefore think it is a sin not to believe the truth. If there’s another belief-system that could lead to meaning, and fits the evidence better, I’ll be that. But I don’t care how likely reductionism is to be true, until it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and I’m forced to give up my search for meaning completely.

Now, I’m committing a cardinal sin of writing: I am making questionable assertions and not backing them up. The first is that reductionism is more likely to be true than any other belief system; the other is that it does not allow for transcendence or real meaning. I will say this – if a reductionist system exists that allows for meaning, then I will convert today. Sincerely.

The real point of this post, however, is that we should be less concerned about proving our religion, and more worried about whether or not it could possibly be true. This changes our goals going into the next week – are there any places where it looks like Christianity couldn’t be true, where it contradicts itself?