Question:

Alright, how do we know that religion in general is not just our mind playing tricks on us? This has been bothering me badly now. I didn't know if you had an answer or not. For an example, I had a terrible anxiety problems. I was convinced that my house was haunted. I started hearing things and seeing things. I didn't know that this was due to my anxiety. A better example, there is something called HOCD. It's when you are convinced you're gay. (Notice how convinced appears a lot.) This form of OCD tricks your mind into thinking you're gay. As a result you get groinial responses, aka erections. It is as if you are completely sure you're gay. Isn't this the same with those who believe inviting Jesus into their life is the right way? You're not supposed to do that, but people are convinced, and they believe it's true. They feel God's presence. They get prayers answered. I know because I experienced this. But when I found out I was wrong I felt terrible. Well, that's the mind tricking you, so here is the question again: how do we know Christianity (the real version of it) isn't just a mind trick. It seems all religions have prayers answered, and they feel God's presence, but it's not just that, they completely believe they are right, you know what I mean. I hope you understand and let me know if I was unclear on anything. This would be very much appreciated.

Thanks a lot.


Answer:

What you are asking is how can one distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary. If you are suffering from schizophrenia, I probably can't help you because a characteristic of that particular problem is difficulty separating reality from the imagination.

For Christians, the answer is simply a matter of examining the evidence. Yes, I know most religions, including many "Christian" denominations, avoid looking at proof. The reason is simple, they base their beliefs on feelings and feelings won't last against hard facts. But real Christianity invites honest examining of facts.

God challenges the false religions in Isaiah's day to prove they are real. ""Present your case," says the LORD. "Bring forth your strong reasons," says the King of Jacob. "Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination" (Isaiah 41:21-24). Here then is a way to weigh out the evidence:

  • Can the religion accurately explain the past? Skeptics have long claimed that the Bible has gotten some fact of history wrong, but repeatedly as the evidence accumulated, it turns out the Bible was right and the skeptics were wrong because they had incomplete information. The Bible doesn't talk about every historical fact, but when it brings up a point, it has always been shown to be correct.
  • Does the religion show past evidence of being able to predict the future with accuracy? Here is a test that all the world's religions fail except for Judaism and Christianity. The Bible's history covers about 1,500 years of history. Even if we restrict ourselves to know copies, there are multiple prophecies that have come to past with 100% accuracy even though they were made hundreds of years in advance.
  • One that is more difficult to prove is for a religion to make a prediction of the future and let us see if it comes to past. "More difficult" because we have to wait for the results. God has shown this ability in the Bible, so the challenge is can the newer religions do the same. The clear answer is "no."
  • God's fourth challenge is to make something major happen. In this, most religions are lame.

Notice that none of this is based on feelings. God is talking about verifiable evidence. God follows this challenge issued about 700 BC with a statement that He is going to raise up a ruler from the north who will conquer other nations (Isaiah 41:25). God said that no one else could do this. "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath" (Isaiah 45:20-23).

Later God gives more details: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:8-11).

God even calls him by name: "Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," and to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid."' Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held -- to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant's sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.'" (Isaiah 44:28-45:7).

At the time this prophecy was made, Assyria was on the horizon as a growing world power, but it had not come to its peak yet. The Babylonian empire would follow it and the Medo-Persian empire would follow it. It was Cyrus of the Medo-Persian empire who authorized the rebuilding of the temple's foundations. Name another religion that could name a ruler of a world power 200 years in advance -- a world power that no one could see rising. And then accurately state what that ruler would do.

Faith isn't feelings. It is the conclusion a person draws from evidence. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Christian is true regardless of whether anyone accepts it or not. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).

How did you know your house was not haunted? It wasn't by feeling. It was because evidence was presented that you came to accept as being true -- despite your feelings at first.