A common objection to religion in general and Christianity in particular, is that it serves as a type of emotional “crutch.” Often, those who use this argument think of Christians as weak-minded, self-deluded, and in need of some fairy tale “protector” to help them through life. They are contrasted to the more intellectual and stronger-willed atheist that can handle the harsh realities of life. Is this an accurate characterization of Christians or people of faith? More importantly, is it a legitimate reason to choose atheism?
First, let’s address whether this is a legitimate objection to religious faith. At the most basic level, this argument is a logical straw man of massive proportions. This is the case because whether a religion acts as a crutch or not is completely irrelevant to the truth or untruth of that faith. At its core, the crutch argument is an appeal not to logic, but to pride. It is equivalent to saying “You don’t want to be one of those weak minded believers, do you?” However, real arguments appeal to facts and logic, not emotion.
On the other hand, it is true that faith is often a source of strength for believers. But again, the fact that something can serve that role doesn’t make it false. And what many who use this argument forget is that most, if not all, people use something outside themselves as a source of strength. For some, it can be faith. For others, it can be their family, friends, team, morals, patriotism, etc. Are these things fake or illegitimate because they serve as a “crutch?” Of course not. The real issue is not whether one uses a crutch, but rather, whether one is using the right crutch.
A clear implication of this argument is that using a crutch is a sign of weakness. However, is this the case? If someone has a broken leg, are they mentally stronger if they stubbornly refuse to use a crutch and instead try to hobble around with their injury, making it worse in the process? Such a person is obviously not smarter or stronger than the one that uses the crutch, but is instead just being ignorant, stubborn, or proud.
The analogy is very appropriate for Christianity. Christianity teaches that we all have a problem with sin and we can clearly observe this in our daily lives. In effect, we are “broken.” And we are in need of a “crutch” in the form of Jesus Christ to truly heal. In this case, using the crutch that Jesus offers is the smarter decision and the only one that leads to healing and becoming what God intended. On the other hand, the atheist that rejects the crutch because they are “too smart” for such fairy tales, will continue through life with their “injury” only getting worse, whether they realize it or not. They are rejecting the crutch they really need and substituting their own pride and supposed intellect instead.
In conclusion, Christianity can function as a crutch. But it is a crutch that heals our real problem of sin vs. propping up some supposed fragile emotional state. The fact that people draw strength from their faith doesn’t mean they’re weak, because everyone uses some kind of crutch. The real difference is that the Christian has simply chosen the best one.
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