Just the other night, a friend of mine was having trouble explaining her faith (and mine) to an ex-christian. He was convinced that religion is a placebo, that sensing a spiritual presence or experiencing comfort comes from the mere belief in the existence of a higher power. Although it did not cause me to doubt my belief in God, I had a hard time trying to think of an argument against what he had said. It made me feel vulnerable, ignorant and suddenly not very confident in my knowledge about Christianity. How can it be that I cannot defend what I believe to be true? How can I feel so strongly about something I cannot explain?
I first tackled his argument by revisiting what I knew about placebos and the conditions in which they work, such as in cases of mild depression, where placebos seem to be just as effective as antidepressants. They fail however, for patients suffering from extreme or severe depression, as placebos seem to work because of the power of expectation, and anhedonia (symptom of depression) is characterized by lack of expectation and motivation and the inability to experience pleasure. Without expectation, the power of placebos cannot be revealed. I thought that perhaps this could explain how some people at rock bottom seem to recover after divine intervention- when they experience God. But doesn’t seeking God in the first place call for an inkling of hope?
I then looked to the bible. I guess that’s where I should’ve looked first.
I used to wish that I could witness fantastic, large-scale miracles, thinking it would help me believe and grow stronger in my faith. Like, hearing a booming, earth shaking voice or seeing a message from God written in the clouds. I used to think that I needed to see to believe. Funny thing is, He was living, breathing proof once. In Matthew 11:1-15, Jesus answers a question about whether or not He is the messiah with “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.” Jesus performed miracles and still, so many did not believe. When He was right there in front of their eyes, they did not believe! What?!
True faith is trust and the knowledge that there may never be concrete “proof”- the sort of truth that science provides. And even if God performed miracles (which I believe He does, albeit not as grandly?? as in the Old Testament), I’m fairly certain there would still be skeptics.
“…Those who believe without seeing are blessed.” John 21:29
Can’t think of a word other than grandly. Awkward.