One of the reasons why I left Christianity is that, as a Christian, I got tired of employing what I perceived as double standards when choosing what to believe. I will explain with the following analogy.
Imagine if we mix a group of atheists and conservative Christians in a lecture room, and a speaker comes in and claims that she/he had witnessed a dog speaking English. Would everyone in the audience believe that claim? I would imagine that both atheist and Christian listeners would immediately be skeptical, and both groups might request some form of evidence from the speaker. Why?
Well, firstly, the talking dog claim is inconsistent with our personal experience of dogs. Each of us, during our lives, have probably interacted thousands of times with our furry friends, but not one of those experiences involved a dog that could actually recite Shakespeare.
Second, if we read some veterinary journals, we learn that the larynx, mouth and brain of a dog are not adequate or complex enough to formulate human speech. In other words, the talking dog claim is inconsistent with our current knowledge of how the world generally seems to work. So until very good evidence is brought forward, we withhold belief in the speaker’s claim. This only seems rational, right?
The reason why I started to doubt Christianity is that I suddenly realised that although both Christian and atheist in this hypothetical lecture room would react with natural skeptism towards the talking dog claim, the Christian is the one who might not be skeptical of, and even might defend, a 3400 year old manuscript’s claim that a donkey once spoke (Numbers 22:28-30). Is this not inconsistent?
Christianity makes a whole lot of incredible claims. It makes the claim that humans have souls and that there is life after death; that spiritual beings called demons and angles, which we cannot see, wage war in the world around us; that the saviour of our world - the son of God, born of a virgin - was sent to earth, died and raised from the dead; that the red sea was parted; that the sun stood still for a day; that all other faith systems, thousands of them throughout history, systems that have been followed by millions, are basically false (John 14:6); that the relatively young religion of Christianity is the ultimate truth and thus contains the ultimate meaning of life and the universe in which we live.
All these claims contradict much of what we presently know about the world and much of what we have experienced as individuals. How can an atheist be blamed for not believing these claims? After all, when evaluating the two similar claims of the talking dog and the talking donkey, the atheist is simply being consistent.