Many young people who leave home for college life end up abandoning their religion and moral constraints. (This is what the college professors and staff want them to do.) They are convinced by their professors that their religion was something their superstitious parents clung to, and the children don’t need those beliefs anymore. They are now free to choose the direction of their own lives. So, many young people are persuaded to leave their faith.
This reasoning the staff uses is based on a logical fallacy. A logical fallacy is a process of reasoning that is flawed. In this case, the fallacy is saying that if it is true for a part, then it is true for the whole. It goes like this.
The person who abandons her faith did not really know God working in her life. She is persuaded that her religion was really a product of her society’s conditioning process, family upbringing, or something like that. The logical fallacy comes in when we assume that the experience of one person (the part) is the experience of every other person (the whole). In other words, this person did not know God working in her life; therefore nobody else in any church, in any land, at any time, has ever known God working in their lives. And so a small part (her one experience) is put for the whole (everybody else’s religion is merely cultural conditioning and ignorance).
Just because one person did not know God working in her life, doesn’t mean that all other religious people share that same experience. In this case, many have come to God on His terms and found a loving relationship possible.
I used a logical fallacy when I left the church in my 20s. What was my “part” in my early church upbringing? Men in robes. Stained glass windows. Repetitive sayings. Sing-song Latin. Wooden seats. You get the idea. When I left the church, I put the part for the whole. I made the church all about those things, the only things I knew about. I knew nothing of the spiritual, of God going to work on people’s lives and making them new creations.
Life teaches us that not all people have the same outlook in life; our bundle of likes, dislikes, life experiences, personal tastes, philosophies, and biases make us different from one another. So why would we assume that our experience with religion is the de facto standard for all people on earth throughout the ages?
The truth is that for some people their religion is indeed a product of family upbringing and culture: if you live in Central or South America, you are probably Catholic. If you live in Japan, you probably worship several gods and your ancestors. If you grew up in the Middle East, you probably belong to one of three branches of Islam. And so on.
What’s unique about Christianity is that God calls us out of whatever cultural religion we were engaged in and draws us into a relationship with Him. Paul the apostle, for instance, had to leave his religion, nationality, and Hebrew pride to gain the righteousness of God (Philippians 3:3-9).
Many atheists have bought the logical fallacy of putting the part for the whole. Don’t fall for this ruse. So if you are a Christian merely because you were raised up to go to your parent’s church, then think again. God calls you to a higher way, of knowing His working in your life. The Christian life is more than simply “going to heaven when you die.”
God wants to be known to everyone. Jesus’ mission is to save, not to condemn (John 3:17), and what salvation looks like is a relationship between God and man where one acts in response to the other. It is not merely a set of beliefs and religious practices.
Romans 8:9 shows us the simplicity of getting to know this God: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (ESV). In other words, one need only address God directly, asking him to make himself known, and ask him to teach the way of salvation. Then we start reading the Bible to get to know this God better and find the answers.
There is no reason to continue in wondering whether there is a God when he has made himself known and is willing to make himself known to all who seek him. It is sin that hinders this relationship with God, and Jesus has appeared to put away sin (1 John 3:5) and tear down the barrier to knowing God.