It’s been years (decades, in fact) since I read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, so forgive me if I get some of the details muddled. But there was a story in Huck that I’m reminded of from time to time when looking at how people cling to their faith in spite of everything, and that’s the story of the Duke and the Dauphin. The Duke and the Dauphin were a couple of ne’er-do-wells that Huck and Jim had the misfortune to get entangled with. Despite their grandiose airs, they were simple con-men out to make a quick buck out of people’s gullibility. But one of their schemes went awry.
The con was fairly simple: they strolled into a small, backwoodsy town and began putting up posters advertising a show which they were going to present in a few days time. They gave the show a whimsical and enigmatic title, and then declared that absolutely no women or children were to be allowed to attend. The men naturally got the idea that the show would feature something risque, and eagerly bought tickets. When the show opened, however, the first to attend found out that it was just the Duke and the Dauphin, stark naked and painted red, galloping and cavorting around on all fours for maybe 5 or 10 minutes. And that was all.
When the men realized that nothing further was forthcoming, they realized they’d been duped. But they didn’t want to look like chumps in front of the rest of the town, so they hatched a plot of their own: they started spreading the word about how great the show was (without revealing any of the details) until all of the other men in town bought tickets to it too. As each new audience realized they’d been had, they were let in on the plot. By the last night of the show, every man in town had seen the show, so there was no one left to be embarrassed in front of. The Duke and the Dauphin were promptly tarred and feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.
I’ve often wondered, thinking of that story, how much Christian enthusiasm for the gospel stems from the motivation that, if there is indeed no Christian God, those who’ve believed the Gospel will be shown out to have been a bunch of chumps. If you think about it, it’s pretty silly to believe in a God who loves you enough to die for you, when anyone can see that He does not even care enough to show up and say “hi” once in a while. But people work hard anyway to make excuses for God, and to do good works they can give God credit for, and to think up clever and persuasive arguments for believing in God. Like the duped townsfolk who talked up how great the show was, Christians glorify their own Gospel, so as not to look like the naive and gullible souls people would accuse them of being if they knew the truth.