You may have heard people use the argument before that “people go to Christianity for comfort.” I have heard this objection so many times. I’ve had conversations with older skeptics who exclaimed, “People just want something that will give them comfort, and that’s why people go to religion.”
I’m currently taking a religion class, and we recently had a discussion about why people go to religion. One of the reasons put forward was comfort. People always say things like, “People need something to help them deal with life.” I personally find this argument to be rather empty.
C. S. Lewis once said,
I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.
I have to agree with Lewis. I actually find it quite comical that people think of Christianity as being comfortable. I can think of few things less comfortable than trying to follow Jesus.
The people who think of Christianity as purely being a means of comfort must be thinking of the Joel Osteen, Hillsong type brand of Christianity. The picking and choosing, motivational, inspirational kind. But the actual gospel is incredibly uncomfortable.
What about Jesus’ parables about eternity and salvation is comforting? What about Revelation is comfortable? What about the thought of Jesus returning is comfortable? What about the idea of there being a heaven and a hell makes anyone feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
There are many things about Christianity that I would much rather not believe. There are many things that make me extraordinarily uncomfortable. I personally find many parts of the Bible to be far from comforting. There are many times I almost feel scared to read it because it’s so sobering.
I don’t believe in the gospel because it brings me comfort. I believe in the gospel and in Christianity because I believe it to be factually true, and I know that preferring not to believe something doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.
I for one think life would be so much easier if we all merely became worm food as soon as we died. Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if there were no eternal consequences for anything? That way we could do what we wanted and look for happiness and just try to be good people, but we wouldn’t face any real long-term consequences because we would cease to exist as soon as we died.
Many people seem terrified at the idea of no longer existing. Skeptics argue that people believe in God and eternity because people are terrified of the possibility that we may one day cease to exist. But I honestly don’t really believe this argument holds much water.
Before we existed, we were incapable of being unhappy about our lack of existence, because we simply didn’t exist. So it would be if we ceased to exist. We would return to a state of nothingness, which would not be terrifying or intimidating, but rather the easiest possible outcome.
No longer existing would be the easiest thing imaginable. It is continuing to exist and facing the consequences of our actions throughout our earthly existence that should bring the greatest amount of discomfort.
Jesus asks us to give up everything and to surrender our lives to Him. He asks us to live righteously and to think of the eternal consequences of everything we do. What about that is comfortable?
If all we had to do to be saved was pray a vacuous prayer one time and go to church compulsively, then Christianity would be comfortable. If God was just like a genie who blessed us with earthly happiness and rewarded us with eternal salvation regardless of our relationship with Him, then the gospel would be comfortable. But when you read the Bible, you see that the true gospel isn’t comfortable at all.
Following Jesus means sacrifice and rejection. It means thinking about the consequences of what we do. It means living for more than mere happiness. It means taking responsibility for what we do and admitting that we may not actually be very good people without God. It means acknowledging uncomfortable spiritual realities and accepting that there is darkness and light.
It would be so much easier to bury our heads in the sand and to think that life is just about looking for happiness in the short time we have here. It would be so much easier to think that when we die, we cease to exist.
I think many things about the secular worldview seem incredibly comfortable, and even more appealing, than Christianity. I often would like to do whatever I want and just try to be a good person in my own estimations. I would often like to forget the fact that there will be eternal consequences for what I do now.
If the premise of Christianity was that we can passively and indifferently rest in the fact that we will go to heaven one day because we halfheartedly said a prayer one time and because we go to church every Sunday, then Christianity would surely be very comfortable. And perhaps being a regular, lukewarm, churchgoing Christian is quite comfortable. But following Jesus is anything but comfortable.
When I am in right standing with God, I do feel a profound comfort. But there’s also an incredible, excruciating amount of discomfort that comes from trying to follow Jesus. It’s so uncomfortable that many people fall away or merely remain lukewarm, pew-warming, nominal Christians.
G. K. Chesterton said that,
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.
Although incredibly simple, I find that quote to be the most truthful of the reality of the Christian walk.
Skeptics speak as if being a Christian is the “easy way out.” As if those of us who become Christians were just poor, dysfunctional people who couldn’t deal with life. And that may be true for some of us. But becoming a Christian is hardly the easy, quick fix for life’s problems.
The megachurch type of Christianity is dishonest, because it makes following Jesus seem like something easy, almost as if Christianity is just another product to be sold to hedonistic, first world consumers.
But what about the Christians in third world countries who are facing persecution and who are losing their lives for Jesus’ name? Is that just the comfortable option, an easy way out? This argument only seems to stand in the context of shallow, first world, cultural Christianity.
Yes, there are likely many people who go to a certain kind of counterfeit Christianity in order to find comfort. But I think they will soon have the alarming realization that they only found a false comfort.
Following Jesus certainly does offer comfort, but that comfort only comes after the difficult parts. After surrendering everything that you’d rather hold on to and after relinquishing your preferences. It’s not an easy, empty comfort based on naive delusions.
I know many of these thoughts may have been quite subjective. Everyone will likely have a different stance on these issues. I know there are people who could come up with very convincing opposing arguments. But I just wanted to address these arguments that are often rather condescendingly put forward by skeptics.