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There Is No Academic Support for the Claim that Christianity Is Purely Emotional, Not Intellectual

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/5/2016 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 810 times Debate No: 87316
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




(This argument will focusing solely on Christianity, not religion in general.)

First off, it must be stated that there are some who call themselves Christians, although in reality they are "Christian" only for the positive emotions it gives them to feel "religious." However, this is not true Christianity; true Christianity is based on an understanding of one's sinful state, of God's enduring love for all humanity, and of Christ Jesus' sacrifice to pay for that sin. It is then the duty of the true Christian, having experienced total redemption from his sin nature through Christ's sacrifice, to desire first and foremost to share the Truth of God's forgiveness with the rest of mankind. This is no easy task, and the strongest and most devoted Christians willingly were persecuted, suffered and even died to share the Gospel of sacrifice and redemption with the world. Examples of such selfless love and devotion include the early apostles and saints, as well as numerous missionaries and pastors throughout time and across the world.
If these Christians held to their beliefs purely for the "good feelings" it gave them, why would they have continued to hold them when those beliefs became the cause of persecution and, at times, certain death? Consider particularly the situation of the first apostles; if they knew that their religion was not actually true--for example, if they had, as the Pharisees claimed, merely stolen Christ's body and claimed He had risen--why on earth would they have been willing to suffer such horrible and painful deaths for His sake?

Despite many attempts to discredit Christianity, no academic source has ever been able to present solid evidence attributing the Gospel merely to emotions and positive feelings.


To begin with, I'm not certain exactly who is claiming that Christianity is purely emotional. In your arguement that Christianity is not emotionally based you state what Christianity is:

"Christianity is based on an understanding of one's sinful state, of God's enduring love for all humanity, and of Christ Jesus' sacrifice to pay for that sin."

It was this statement that got me to accept the debate challenge, because that statement is not a fact, although it is what Christianity seems to have become.

The only argument that I can come up with for Christianity (as I personally understand it) being an emotionally based religion - is my own experience within it, in comparison with how believers in Christ's era received his Gospel message.

Since this is a debate based on "scholarly" relevance, I'll reserve expressing my personal experience, unless the instigator chooses to allow me to explain why my own experience is relevant, and my focus will begin with how Christ both healed and taught individuals that he came into contact with during his ministry. My argument is essentially that; Christianity is SUPPOSED to be an emotional experience, and that the purpose of Christ's message itself is to redeem us by restoring us to our intended purpose, which IS ultimately to feel good about being alive.

I would also argue that disciples and devotees willingness to withstand the kinds of persecution they endured during the early centuries AD, were because the power of redemption (emotional liberation) that they experienced through living according to Christ's message, gave them the endurance they needed to withstand that persecution, not for Christ's sake, (he needs not glory of men) but for the value that they themselves placed on that redemption (emotional liberation)

The instigator has laid the foundation of his position, with very little supporting evidence, as I have also done. During our next round, I will cite sources, as I would expect him to as well.
Debate Round No. 1


I actually started this debate because in a poll a member stated that faith in Christianity was founded only in emotions and was not intellectually supported. However, I will continue this debate as I do not completely agree with your point (although some of your arguments I do.)
I unfortunately do not have time for a proper response right now, which I apologize for, but I do not believe that belief in Christianity should be based in emotion. While positive emotions may of course come from one's faith, our faith convicts as well as rewards us. Hebrews 11:1 states, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is belief, confidence in the unseen, not a vague positive feeling. Also, when it comes to our emotions, Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Although of course we find comfort and relief in our belief, this comfort is not the root of our faith.
(Once again, I apologize for my brevity.)


So far it is obvious that we are both inexperienced debaters, so the format of this debate is not as organized as some of the debates that I have read on DDO thus far. I do think that there is enough substance of the issues we are debating to continue, and that we can both learn during the continuance of presenting the subject matter. I will be refuting statements that you made in both your first and second posts as well as making claims for the emotional relevance of being a Christian.

I can understand why you'd want to debate someone who is not a Christian, on whether emotion is a major motivating factor within the faith, and that intellectual reasoning IS a factor for some believers. I chose to debate this topic, because you went beyond attempting to prove that Christianity has an intellectual component, to stating that "there are some who call themselves Christians, although in reality they are only Christians for the positive emotions it gives them to feel religious." This statement seems to be discrediting the emotional aspect for choosing Christianity, as a valid motivator for continuing in the faith, and I will present examples from within the Gospels of Christ's ministry to prove that emotion was a motivating factor for many of the first believers who listened to his message. I'd also like to present the notion that Christ called sinners to repentance, to offer redemption, not because they intellectually acknowledged his authority, but because their souls were in need of receiving forgiveness and that joy follows.

I will be addressing the claims that you made within your original post during the next segment, and offering proof of my claim that original followers of Christ were emotionally driven and rewarded for their faith.

John 16:22-24 states joy is the reward for asking and receiving, when he was addressing followers who were saddened as he disclosed his earthly departure and resurrection.

"22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you.
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

24 Hitherto (up until now) have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."

Have you considered the possibility that the Christians that you have determined to be false because of the positive emotions they receive, is not because they feel religious, but because it was what Christ informed believers that they should expect to receive?

What does it even mean to feel religious?

Another point I will specifically refute is your claim that first Apostles were able to endure persecution because they knew their religion was true. The early apostles suffered persecution because they were following the example of Christ, and he had forewarned them they should expect to be persecuted.

John 16:2-3

2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.

3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

This is the same Chapter that informs us/them to expect to fully receive joy. I'm going to speculate that the joy that Christ promised was to give them the strength to endure persecution he knew they were facing. John Chapter 16 closes with this: "33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Going back a Chapter to John 15, we can see that the first apostles, were more than just believers that were assigned to spread a religion - they were His friends.

"11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Let's examine the first meaning of the definition of the word friend in the Dictionary.

"1a: one attached to another be affection or esteem."

It is my assertion that we do not chose our friends based on intellectual reasoning, but more likely we chose our friends based on the emotional satisfaction that we receive in their company or thru communication with them.

Now to address the claims that you asserted in your second post. First of all I will note that I am thoroughly familiar with the four Gospels of Christ's ministry, because I believe that it's all that's needed to accept his message and find redemption. Quoting me verses from anything in the Bible, does not convince me that it is as relevant, as anything that is recorded in any of the four Gospels of Christ's ministry while he walked the earth in the flesh. But, to refute your claim concerning the deceitfulness of man's heart in the quote of Jeremiah 17:9, I assert that there is no context within that quote of who that scripture is referring to. As far as I can gather, it is referring to the sin of Judah during that generation, which was definitely before Christ came to earth with his ministry. If you read the Gospels, Christ communicates differntly to specific groups of people or individuals he came in contact with. Some he admonishes for the condition of their hearts, while others he calls attention to for the positive attributes of the condition of their hearts. I apologize for quoting so large a passage, but it clearly shows that Jesus does not consider all people's hearts to be wicked.

Luke 7:36-48

36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.

37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him: for she is a sinner.

40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Sees thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gave me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

45 Thou gave me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same love little.

48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

Here again we have an example of emotion being a contributing factor of faith.

I realize that I have not proven that emotional satisfaction is the only reason for the Christian Faith but I hope that I have proven that emotional recompense is as much of a reason to be a Christian as intellectual reasoning, and that it will be counted to me as a win for this debate, since my opponent has not proven that emotional basis for Christianity is unfounded, or that an intellectual basis for Christian faith is more relevant.

I'd like to thank GiftOfSanity for the opportunity to debate this topic, because it rekindled my feelings associated with my Christian faith.
Debate Round No. 2


I would like to express my thanks to Emmarie for engaging in this debate. This has been a very exploratory and thought-provoking debate, albeit one that has gotten extremely off-topic. (The original subject of this debate was Is there academic support for the claim Christianity is purely emotional and non-intellectual?, a point which I think we both agree on and neither of us have truly discussed. I am not sure how the voters will therefore decide this debate. :) )

My final response:

After a lot of thought and prayer on the subject, I have come to the following conclusion: I too frequently underestimate the power of emotion. The reason for this is complicated, of course, although it owes largely to my personal way of understanding the world; I see practically all things in terms of black-and-white, right and wrong, and I base all my beliefs and actions on what I perceive as right.

Now, is truth and morality enough to understand and accept Christianity? No. With only truth I could claim Christ's forgiveness, but without sorrow I would not feel the need, and without joy I would not appreciate it. I do not base my faith in my emotions as my emotions can easily change; but my emotions serve to expand, personalize, and deepen that which I know and believe.

I do not agree with you, Emmarie, when you claim that Jeremiah 17:9 is not relevant. I believe that it is addressing much more than just the current sins of Judah; it is a statement concerning the worldwide state of the human heart without God. Repeatedly throughout the Bible we are reminded that the human heart, as the seat of emotions, is fickle and prone to sinful and ungodly desires:

"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." - Mark 7:21-23

"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." - Ephesians 4:17-24

"...and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." - Genesis 8:21

"This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead." - Ecclesiastes 9:3

I think that it is clear that the heart (once again, here being defined as the seat of emotion) is deceitful. Emotions, although useful, God-given, and--at times--God-glorifying, are insubstantial and subject to constant change. One's beliefs, particularly concerning something as important as eternity, should not be built on untrustworthy emotion.

I AM NOT SAYING EMOTIONS ARE BAD-- I am merely saying they are not strong enough to serve as a foundation for one's soul. There are many intellectual means for supporting Christianity and the Bible, including logic, archeology, meteorology, the preservation of the Scriptures, etc. Many people may come to Christ through emotion, but unless they then build their faith on the rock of actual Truth, their faith will remain weak.

There are several other points which I feel I ought to address:

You stated: "First of all I will note that I am thoroughly familiar with the four Gospels of Christ's ministry, because I believe that it's all that's needed to accept his message and find redemption. Quoting me verses from anything in the Bible, does not convince me that it is as relevant, as anything that is recorded in any of the four Gospels of Christ's ministry while he walked the earth in the flesh."

2nd Timothy 3:12-17 states: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Certain books or parts of the Bible are not "more" or "less" "relevant" than any others. All Scripture is true and useful, and while the four Gospels tell the story of Christ's earthly ministry, what about the stories of Creation, or Mankind's Fall, or of the Promise of Redemption? What about the rest of the New Testament, telling us not only what Christ did, but how it affects us and should transform our daily lives? You do not pick and choose your own Bible, Emmarie.

One other thing, which I believe is of the utmost importance. In discussing my definition of Christianity, you said: "It was this statement that got me to accept the debate challenge, because that statement is not a fact, although it is what Christianity seems to have become."

What Christianity has become? It is what Christianity is. Either you believe it is truth and accept God's Salvation, or you do not. I sincerely hope that you believe this is fact, and not merely a feeling.

Thank you for a very deep debate, Emmarie. May Christ bless you!

-Gift of Sanity



First, I would like to thank my opponent, GiftOfSanity, for inspiring me to define what it means to be a Christian whose devotion to the faith IS rooted in the emotional need that our faith is intended to fulfill. Without this discussion, I would not have had the opportunity to defend Christians who seek salvation through Christ, because of the sinful condition of their heart and their need for emotional liberation.

In this conclusion, I will address several topics of relevance that my opponent brought to this discussion.The title of this debate, "There is No Academic Support for the Claim that Christianity is Purely Emotional, Not Intellectual," hasn't been specifically addressed by me. It's because the burden of proof, that there is academic to support the claim that Christianity is purely intellectual, rests on my opponent. I may lose this debate, due to the fact that I didn't even look for "academic support," that validates my position but I thought it was more imperative to engage in discourse with my opponent over the validity of Christians, who DO in fact choose to become Christians for purely emotions reasons. So while I haven't cited any academic support for my claim, I have in fact cited enough evidence from the Gospels themselves, to show how Christ assured his followers that they'd receive emotional blessings; and that these emotional blessings were the inspiration that motivated early followers of Christ, to endure persecution in order to preserve and circulate Christ's teachings.
John 15:11-13, John 16:22-24, to

Now, I will reiterate what I think my opponent is trying to convey. GiftOfSanity seems to be claiming that emotion, originates in the heart, and evil originates in the heart, so therefore emotions should not be trusted because they originate from the same place that evil ideas do. He is claiming that intellect is needed, to be certain that emotions are balanced with reason. With this concept I can and do agree to an extent.

My claim is that having one's heart cleansed from the sins that brings one to repentance in the first place, causes a change in the motives of the heart,(emotional liberation) No intellectual reasoning is needed to know that one's heart has sinned and is in need of redemption through forgiveness that Christ offers. It is the entire purpose for Christ's teachings, healings, and forgiveness: to redeem mankind from the sins of our hearts and offer "New Life." When one experiences that forgiveness of the heart, one is cleansed from previous desires and motivations of the heart and one's heart is transformed from it's former tendency toward sinful desires and motivations to being capable of the love of one's neighbor as one's self.

This debate became of personal importance to me when my opponent stated in his first sentence that, (paraphrasing) Christians who are Christians because they derive emotional satisfaction from feeling religious are not real Christians. He still hasn't addressed what it means to feel religious. Most of his rhetoric has revolved around defining what Christianity ought to be composed of, based on intelligent application of the scriptural concordance of the entire Bible. He then dismissed the very use of the application of intelligence, by admonishing my position of using my intelligence to discern which books of the Bible are more relevant, as far as offering solutions to the sinful nature of my heart. This is a contradiction of his own claim for the validity for using intellect in conjunction with Christian faith. The Gospels, and Jesus Christ's teachings within those books of the Bible, in my intellectual reasoning, are what I base my faith in as a Christian. It is from within the content of those Gospels that I find solutions to my emotional need for clemency. It should make sense to anyone who claims to value intellectual appropriation, that a person who identifies as Christian would value the Scriptures that directly describe and contain quotations of the founder of that particular belief that a religion itself is based on, and that within those Books contain details of the conditions that lead to the salvation that the faith offers.

The fundamental difference of my approach to defining the Christian experience and the emotional liberation that it offers, is that I do not dismiss other Christians and claim that they are less genuine in their faith, if they approach Christianity from an intellectual frame work that differs from my intellectual perspective.

I'd again like to thank GiftOfSanity for the opportunity to have a very deep discussion about the emotional and intellectual implementation as it applies to the Christian experience. I know that I've grown in my personal understanding of the topics that were debated during the discourse that we exchanged, and I hope that GiftOfSanity has gained new insights into his personal perspective on what it means to be a Christian.

Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Emmarie 2 years ago
Thank you Hyde for taking the time to read and vote;) I do appreciate your feedback.
Posted by Hayd 2 years ago
RFD Part 1

I'd like to note that Con merely has to give one article that claims that Christianity is purely emotional sans intellect to win this debate, it doesn't even have to be true.

Pro's argument that saints and apostles wouldn't have died to preach the gospel if their belief was based merely on emotion is irrelevent because it has no relevence to acedemic support, only church member support; not the same thus irrelevent. Con's Round 1 is also irrelevent since it proposes no acedemic support as well. Pro's Round 2 is the same deal, and so is Con's Round 2. In Con's round 2, she shows that emotion is the Christians' intellectual reasoning. But this practically concedes the debate, because in order for this debate to exist at all there needs to be a distinction between emotional reasoning and intellectual reasoning. If they are the same thing, neither side can win.

Con claims that the burden of proof is on Pro to prove their is no acedemic support for the inellectual reasoning of Christian believers, yet this is not true. The resolution is negative, Pro cannot prove their is no reasoning, Con needs to show their is, and then Pro needs to show why this is false. In the end, I cannot give either side the win because neither side gives me any argument that is relevent to the resolution. Thus no impact on either side, and tie.
Posted by CaptainScarlet 2 years ago
Not sure what the point of this debate would be. It seems trivially easy to agree with the contention. I am an atheist in the strong tradition, and even I do not beleive Christianity is purely emotional. I do however beleive their intellectual arguments are desperately weak, self serving and ultimately revert to mysticism. But mysticism is not emotional. It is just wrong like alchemy or astrology. As for academic research on this topic, I do not know of any and cannot understand why any would want to investigate this contention.
Posted by Kalleth 2 years ago
Yeah, I would accept but I can see where you're coming from Gift. Now whether or not that intellectual belief of Christianity is valid, or is as Kirkegaard would say, merely a leap of faith, remains to be debated. But that's not what your debating. It does seem to be true that there is no academic proof for Faith being purely emotional.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate went pretty far off track. There was little discussion of the topic at hand, and both sides allow tangents to predominate. Even from the very first round, neither debater really makes an effort to support their side of the resolution, as Pro spends most of the time posing questions why "good feelings" aren't necessarily the only reason why people follow a religion (which isn't enough to affirm a resolution that requires him to show that academic support exists for Christianity being intellectual), and Con spends most of it picking out a point made by Pro and working to refute it. That's a nice intellectual exercise, but it has no bearing on the outcome of the debate. Suffice it to say that neither side did much to support their point, and as the resolution leaves BoP nebulous (Con's final round statement that Pro carries that burden is too late to shift the debate in her favor), I assume equal burdens. Neither side satisfies them, so it's a null vote.
Vote Placed by Hayd 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments