The supposed irrationality or illogic of Christianity is one of the major themes in cases made by atheists or skeptics. These issues are also faced by the many believers who find themselves seriously pondering the questions and mysteries of the faith.
Some of the most common examples are apparent contradictions like the omnipotence paradox (“can God create a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?”), as well as reasonable questions like, “if God is really omnipotent, omniscient, and truly benevolent, why do atrocities happen to good people?”
These, however, are far from being the most incomprehensible and irrational elements in the Christian belief system.
If you really want to point out the biggest thing about the faith that makes the least amount of sense—the single most irrational thing about Christianity—there’s only one real contender.
And that’s what I’m diving into in the latest video.
I don’t know who you are, and I know you’re probably not the only one reading this. But I’m talking to you specifically. You are different from me. Your life is different. Your mind is different. Your desires, weaknesses, strengths, motives, experiences, and knowledge are all different from my own.
There is a theory that language by itself is not very effective at conveying completely new ideas. That the best it can do is direct your attention to something you can perceive yourself, or draw a comparison to something you’re already familiar with.
This is more or less true. It’s why real-life experience is a better teacher than a book, and it’s why analogies are often so much more powerful than raw, factual descriptions. It’s why a blind person can study and learn all about the color red, and still not know it as well as someone who has seen it.
Another example: Last year, as part of December of Discipline (AKA 31 Days To Masculinity), I ran without resting for as long as I could, right up until I collapsed onto the ground.
I could go into great detail describing that experience to you, but you still wouldn’t really know what that’s like unless you’ve done it yourself.
Experience is simply the best teacher out there. You can learn from others, and they can even give vital input by drawing connections or pointing out details you missed. But ultimately, first-hand knowledge is the easiest to understand, apply, and remember. And it is the basis for all further learning.
This rang true during my experience quitting porn. Along the way, I did learn and benefit from the insights of others. But the major breakthroughs occurred while taking time by myself and doing some real thinking.
After a failure, I had to sit down and figure out what went wrong. I had to personally and honestly analyze the thoughts and events that led to relapsing. I had to take time to think about how my own experiences were related to the lessons I had learned elsewhere.
I had to take the second-hand knowledge from others and turn it into first-hand knowledge.
There is no substitute for this. You yourself must learn. While teaching is good, no amount of teaching can make up for a failure to learn.
Take time by yourself. Turn off the music, walk away from the computer, put down your phone. Think. Pray.
Dissect your mind and your behavior. Dismantle your excuses and self-deception and get to the true heart of your thoughts and actions.
This is something that must be done, and nobody else can do it for you 100%.
Other people can help expose the lies you tell yourself and give you shortcuts to finding the truth. They can give you hints and reminders and explain things you haven’t put together yourself.
But you still have to find out how the truth of these lessons manifests in your own life so you can put them to work. Sometimes this is quick and easy. Other times it takes hours of intense introspection. Either way, you have to take the time to feed and train your mind.
I’ll close with an analogy to drive the point home.
You could assemble the best physical trainers in the world and they could tell you what workouts to do, the best nutritional plans, how to exercise with the best form, and give you all the information you would need to reach any fitness goal as quickly as possible.
But they can’t go to the gym for you. You have to do that.
Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in a number of different discussions and communities focused on the subject of quitting pornography. One of the most common themes I’ve found is a sense of hopelessness after repeated failures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen messages like:
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m out of control.”
“I’m too far gone.”
From an emotional standpoint, it sucks to be in this kind of mood. Hopelessness is one of the most negative states of mind one can experience. But it’s consequences extend far beyond how you feel.
On one hand, it’s good when someone takes this fight seriously enough to become emotionally invested in the outcome. Disappointment, sadness, and—in my opinion—even anger, are sometimes appropriate as immediate, short-term responses to a lost battle. But hopelessness is not.
Hopelessness is in an entirely different category. Hopelessness doesn’t just make you feel bad; it disarms you. More than any other feeling, it destroys the will to get back up and keep fighting.
To be absolutely clear: hopelessness is not merely undesirable. It is your mortal enemy. It is one the most dangerous mindframes you can possibly fall into. One of the necessary ingredients for success in this battle is the kind of indomitable will that keeps you fighting no matter what. The drive to get up and go again when you’re at your wits’ end and victory seems almost unimaginable.
Your enemy is relentless. You must be more so.
And therefore you must completely reject feelings of hopelessness whenever they try to creep up.
I had a series of relapses during 2017, after my nearly-two-year clean streak (during which I thought I had finally quit porn for good). This was enormously discouraging. These battles were vastly different than the ones I was used to, and I was having very little success in getting back on track.
I had no idea how I was going to win. Hopelessness began its grumbling.
At this point I had a choice. I could choose to hear out the arguments put forth by Hopelessness. I could settle for doing the best I knew how while ignoring the rest, consoling myself with the idea that there was nothing I could do to win completely. After all, I had tried everything I knew. And besides, I was still doing better than most people, right?
That would be a reasonable, level-headed choice.
But it would also be a loser’s choice. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
Hopelessness has an arch-rival named stubbornness. Or bull-headedness. Or steadfastness. Whatever you want to call it.
Previously in one of my YouTube videos, I had talked about using stubbornness as an attitude for resisting individual temptations. Now I used it in a different context. I stubbornly refused to accept hopelessness. I decided that no matter what, I would win. I still didn’t know how I was going to do it. But I refused to even entertain the idea that I would not emerge victorious. I chose this mindset and stuck with it from then on.
I failed many times after that. Sometimes I became discouraged again and Hopelessness would try to stick its foot in the door, but I continued to reject it. All the while, I kept on analyzing the battles, adjusting my strategy, and growing in my mindset and discipline.
And sure enough, I eventually got completely back on track.
That stubborn, indomitable fighting spirit is crucial to victory. There is no chance in hell that I would have won if I had listened to Hopelessness.
And there is no chance in hell that you will win either, unless you completely kick hopelessness out of your mind, and determine that you will keep learning, growing, and fighting until you are victorious.
Go get it.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
– James 1:2-4 (ESV)