“You don’t really believe in Jesus because it’s true! You believe because you NEED to.” Skeptics often raise this kind of charge against Christians—a claim that Christians can’t make an objective assessment of the facts, that we are so consumed by our emotional needs (the fear of death, etc.) that we are fudging the facts in favor of our faith. To answer this attack, there are two things you need to know:
- This is a logical fallacy. This criticism is an attack not on the facts of the Christian faith, but on the feelings of the Christian himself. It shifts the focus of the discussion from the merits of the argument to the motives of the apologist. It is a blatant argumentum ad hominem designed to dismiss a Christian’s argument by suggesting that it is rooted in bias. More specifically, this is a long-acknowledged logical fallacy known as Appeal to Motive. This fallacy occurs when a person says, “Well you’re biased, so you’re wrong!” Syllogistically the appeal to motive fallacy takes this form:
- Person 1 claims X.
- Person 1 wants X to be true.
- Therefore, X is false.
In this particular case, it occurs when the skeptic says something like “Well, your reason is clearly clouded by your need to believe. If it weren’t, you would never accept the claims of Christianity! Instead, you’d be an atheist just like me.” Why is this a fallacy? Because feelings don’t change facts.
- It is possible to be both biased and right. On the surface, one might wonder what is wrong with this charge? After all, confirmation bias, the tendency to see in new evidence confirmation of what we already believe, is a real thing. Surely, bias can negatively influence the conclusions we draw from the facts. No one is arguing otherwise. But, the fact is that it is possible to be both biased and right. It is not necessarily the case that our biases negatively influence our conclusions. To say it another way, it is possible to be psychologically biased and still objectively rational. As Moreland writes, “a lack of psychological objectivity does not imply a lack of rational objectivity.”
Consider, for example, Einstein’s reaction to Eddington’s 1919 solar eclipse observations. When his theory was proven true, Einstein wrote his mother saying, “Dear Mother, joyous news today.” Obviously, Einstein wanted General Relativity to be true and it was true. But surely Einstein’s feelings had no bearing on the facts or his ability to assess them. Who would seriously charge that his knowledge was invalidated by his bias or that his bias led to his conclusion?!
So, what can you do when the skeptic charges you with needing to believe? You can respond by pointing out that his question is an appeal to motive and is irrelevant. You can further counter that the focus of the conversation should be facts rather than feelings.
Coincidentally, it seems fair to wonder whether the atheist really has no biases, no emotional needs whatsoever associated with his beliefs. The aggressive trolling of Christians by atheists with this fallacious charge would seem to suggest otherwise.
 Flew, Antony. How to Think Straight: an Introduction to Critical Reasoning. Prometheus Books, 1998, p.69.
 Circumstantial. See http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/circumstantial-ad-hominem.html
 This fallacy is also known as the bias fallacy, fallacy of relevance, the genetic fallacy, appeal to personal interest, argument from motives, conflict of interest, faulty motives, naïve cynicism, questioning motives, vested interest, etc.
 To argue to the contrary would be to deny any possibility of intellectual honesty and to commit oneself to a kind of postmodern global skepticism.
 Moreland, J. P.; Craig, William Lane. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Kindle Location 3995). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.