"I'm a Christian because it makes me happy."

Nearly every Christian I’ve met speaks of Christianity in a utilitarian way. That is, Christians are Christians because it “works”: it makes you feel happy; it gives you hope; it gives you joy; it gives you community; it makes you rich; it gives you blessings.

Of course, because they believe this, when they speak of Christianity with others, they “sell” Christianity in utilitarian terms: “Don’t you want to be happy?” “Don’t you want to go to heaven?”

You see what that does? (And this is a really big deal) It makes Christianity a subjective preference.

For example, replace “Christianity” with any hobby.

Bob = “Why did you start jogging?”
You = “Oh…because it makes me happy. It gives me joy. It gives me hope that my body will last longer.”
Bob = “Huh. Well, I get all those things met by swimming.”
You = “Yeah, it’s a very personal choice in life.”
Bob =  “Huh.”
You = “But, it’s really important that you consider taking up jogging. It’ll make you happy too.”
Bob = “No thanks. Again, I’m already happy enough.”

Here, jogging = Christianity. Replace jogging with any other “personal practice.” Eating chocolate. Reading books. Whatever.

And therein lays the chief problem: Christianity is not a subjective preference.

Moreover, people will never adopt a new subjective preference if they already get that need met.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Like I said in the beginning, many, many, many people choose to be a Christian because it meets certain needs. I know that people do it; I’m suggesting that this should not be a reason to become a Christian.

Does this mean that Christianity can’t provide certain needs? Of course not. As a Christian, I do receive hope, joy, etc. from Christianity. But, that’s not why I’m a Christian.

I’m a Christian because it’s true. That is, Christianity is a religion (yes, it is; it’s not just a “relationship”) with plenty of facts that are either true or false. For example, it is simply irrelevant what joy, happiness, or peace I receive from the fact that Jesus existed, ushered the Kingdom of God, died on the cross, offering me liberation from evil and forgiveness, and was raised to new life as living Lord.

These facts are objectively true. “Objective” means “true, independent of my personal preference.” Think of 2+2=4. It is simply irrelevant what peripheral emotional needs get met from that fact. At bare minimum, I believe 2+2=4 because it’s true. After I accept that fact, I want to teach other people that 2+2=4. Why? Because I choose to believe things that are true and I assume you also want to believe things are true.

Christianity is either true or false. What emotional needs I get met from Christianity are important, yes, but they are what happen after I come to accept the truth of Christianity.

Imagine this crazy example:
You =“David, why did you get married to Elaine?”
Me = “Oh, because I knew that getting married would make me happy, give me joy, and hope that life could get better.
You = “So you got married to have your emotional needs met.”
Me = “Sure. Absolutely.”
You = “So, the reason you got married was that you could use your wife for your emotional needs.”
Me = “Yes, that’s right. In fact, you too should get married to get your needs met.”

Wow. Imagine using my wife and my marriage just so that my own needs get met. So many people I’ve met use God in the exact same way. And guess what happens when trauma and disaster strike? (And I know this from years of counseling) They come to me in tears, wondering why God “has failed them” and they leave their feckless faith. This is so unfortunate. (Of course, I care deeply for their pain. My point is that their “leaving the faith” is really about having false expectations that Christianity was supposed to make certain they were blessed, rich, happy, etc.) Their version of Christianity “didn’t work.” So, they drop that habit as if it were a failed diet plan.

People will always abandon a subjective preference when it no longer works for them. 

I’m not saying any of this to attempt to shame you. I’m writing this in the hopes that you and I can agree together to stop saying that people should become Christians because it meets certain needs.

You = “David, are you a Christian?”
Me = “Yes. I sure am.”
You = “Why?”
Me = “Great question. I’m a Christian because Christianity is true. In my life, I do my best to commit to things that are true. What about you? Do you choose to adopt things that are true in life?”
You = “True? What makes it true? I thought religion was a personal choice.”
Me = “I would love to tell you why it’s true. . .”

Want a tip? Stop using language like, “I feel like Christianity. . .” or “I believe that. . .” (which in American English implies subjective uncertainty) instead, use language like, “I know that. . .” or “It’s true that. . .” or “It’s a fact that. . .”

Does this make you anxious? Are you scared that you don’t know whether or not Christianity is true? Then commence the search. Start reading literature that answers your questions. In fact, that’s one of the chief reasons I wrote my own book, A Skeptic Challenges a Christian. In addition to books, go seek out trusted Christian friends who know more than you do and get some answers. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

The Truth is waiting on you.