Of all of those Big Questions central to philosophical concepts that surround life, the universe and everything, the realms of theology and religions and the nature of deities continue to fascinate. Opinions proliferate in books, articles, videos, conversations in bars and pubs, and in fact anywhere and everywhere two or more humans are in proximity. There’s the pro side; there’s the anti-side. There aren’t too many fence-sitters. I’m in the anti-camp as the following religious short pieces illustrate.
Does God Intervene In Human Affairs?
You Know God Exists (Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink)
God in the Bible
In Defence of Santa
What Can Science Say About God’s Scientific Literacy?
Religious Belief Systems versus Truth
Chin-Wagging in the Bible Negates the Bible
What Does Not Constitute Evidence for God’s Existence
Does God Intervene In Human Affairs?
God – assuming a real God of course and that’s pretty doubtful – may or may not intervene in human affairs, but His middlemen (and almost without exception all these middlemen were in fact men) certainly do. These middlemen are the collective powers-that-be behind God’s trilogy of major monotheistic religions and boy do they have an awful lot to answer for.
These religions under the leadership of God’s middlemen have been throughout recorded history the biggest contributor to the suppression of women; the biggest contributor to population issues (be fruitful and multiply); the biggest contributor to environmental issues (humans having total dominion over all of the Earth); the biggest contributor to wars and rumours of wars; the biggest contributor to imposing moral standards on everyone that falls within their sphere of influence and by inflicting severe, cruel and unusual punishments (i.e. – torture) for infractions up through and including capital punishment; the biggest contributor to child abuse (especially sexual abuse) and neglect; and the especially the biggest contributor to dictating all things that happen behind closed doors in the bedroom.
And all those middlemen end up leading the great unwashed up the garden path by promising salvation and a happy-ever-after eternal life (with or without halos, wings and harps) – promises they can’t actually meet. As a result, many of the great unwashed don’t make the fullest and most productive uses of the time in the one life they do actually have on the grounds that they feel there is not much point to this short, nasty and brutish life if there’s a better and eternal one to follow.
Finally, as one of numerous examples, the treatment dished out to the Aztecs and the Incas by the invading and conquering Christian Conquistadors will forever remain a dark and very bloody stain on Christianity. In short, religion and intolerance go cheek-by-jowl.
So God may not have intervened directly to bring these things about, but His middlemen sure accomplished His will.
You Know God Exists (Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink)
Within the scope of people who claim that God exists, you usually get metaphysical arguments that ‘prove’ that existence. Arguments like how there must have been a first cause; how life, the Universe and everything is designed and fine-tuned; where did morality come from if not from God, how God is a necessary being, etc. But then again…
You can get some real theist “nut-jobs” like, for example, Christian apologist Sye Ten Bruggencate who gives an absolute proof of God’s actual existence as follows. Everyone knows that God actually exists, therefore God actually must exist. And the actual evidence for that according to Bruggencate is stated explicitly in the Bible (Romans 1: 18-21) and you will not question this for God will not be questioned (Romans 9: 20) or mocked (Galatians 6:7). God exists because you know God exists because the Bible says so. So there! Case closed!
So the Bible is absolutely true since it is God’s absolute word. Of course how do you know that God didn’t lie to you? Well the obvious answer according to Bruggencate is that God doesn’t lie. So there! Take that you non-believers and stick it up your – wherever.
Anyway, I gather this must be knowledge you are born with. Maybe it comes as value-adding when you get your officially heaven-issued soul. Anyway, the ‘fact’ that everyone knows that God actually exists certainly comes as news to me. At birth I thought we were all blank slates and dry sponges ready to absorb and assimilate whatever version of reality (nature and nurture) that reality throws at us. A blank slate means no preconceived concepts of anything, including God.
Anyway, I don’t know that God actually exists. I’m sure a newborn baby hasn’t a clue. An elderly person with an advanced state of dementia isn’t even aware of his / her own existence and that of his / her immediate family far less that of the actual existence of an invisible magic man in the sky. Humans living 50,000 years ago didn’t apparently know about God (no cave paintings of an elderly bearded male sitting up in the clouds surrounded by winged angels) and even when writing came to pass the first gods that were written about bore no similarity to the Christian God by any stretch of the imagination. Further, if everybody knew innately that there was just such a God, and only that God, then why have hundreds of other religions come up with drastically differing variation on the theme of deities? How did they arise and evolve? And if we all innately know that God exists, what’s the point in sending out missionaries and putting Bibles in hotel rooms?
If you argue that there are other gods that need to be taken into consideration, well there’s a ready answer for that too. There are no other gods according to Bruggencate (the Bible differs on this point in numerous chapters and verses), just idols and admitting that other ‘idols’ exist is idolatry and that’s an absolute no-no because God, who you absolutely know exists, says so.
But apparently if you don’t know that God exists then you have actually and deliberately suppressed this absolute bit of factual knowledge given to you (presumably by God Himself) for one evil or sinful reason or other.
If you have even half a rational mind to think original thoughts with then I think one can easily dismiss Sye Ten Bruggencate. But don’t take my word for it. Watch Bruggencate rant and rave and all but foam at the mouth in debates, interviews and lectures on YouTube. Wow!
God In The Bible
One of the more ludicrous facets involving the God Hypothesis is that during the era where all those Biblical events were allegedly unfolding, Australia was populated; Africa (south of the equator) was populated; the Americas were populated; Asia was populated; Northern Europe was populated and Russia was populated. Yet, an alleged omni-present God [and later on, Jesus] totally ignored these regions and their populations. So the obvious conclusion is that God was just a mythological invention by the Near East and Middle East locals, albeit slightly evolved in concept from the local theological mythologies that preceded the God Hypothesis. Nothing new there. Every populated region on the globe during Biblical times (and often before) developed their own non-Biblical brand of theology and associated deities and no specific region can logically claim to state that they have absolute claim to theological truth and that all else that originates from other regions is mythological by comparison. And just to add insult to injury, neither Father, Son nor Holy Ghost has been sighted now for thousands of years – oops.
In Defence of Santa
Obviously Santa Claus isn’t real, yet you’d be very hard pressed to actually prove that to the satisfaction of everyone else on this planet. So arguing against that rather non-provable proof, just for the sake of argument…
Santa is real. You can post actual physical letters in actual physical mailboxes to Santa himself. You can’t write and post letters to mythical persons.
We’ve all seen pictures of Santa holding a bottle of a well known soft drink and since this well known soft drink is certainly real, well Santa must be real too by association.
There are millions of photographs of Santa with (for example) children sitting in his lap and dozens of movies starring Santa. “Photography is truth. Cinema is truth at twenty-four times per second” (Jean-Luc Godard).
Santa has an established historical record going back many centuries. I’ve even seen a non-fictional biography of Santa in the bookstores.
Ask your typical WASP 5-year-old, or for that matter nearly any 5-year-old if Santa is real. You know the answer you’ll get, and parents will reinforce the child’s answer. I mean on Xmas Day kids will find presents under the Xmas tree with Santa’s name on the gift tag. What more proof do you need to establish Santa’s bona-fides?
There are millions of Xmas cards with images of Santa on them. You can buy all manner of sorts of Xmas kitsch with Santa’s image on them; even Santa masks for use on Halloween.
You can see Santa standing on the street corners collecting for charities. You can meet and greet Santa in the lead up to Xmas in department stores and in shopping malls. Santa answers to the name “Santa” and there are signage posts pointing the way to Santa.
But how you ask can Santa possibly do what Santa does on Xmas Eve? Isn’t that physically impossible? No, all things are possible in the realm of the supernatural and Santa is surely a supernatural being who is all-powerful and can invoke MAGIC to accomplish his Xmas Eve feats.
Further, Santa is surely all-knowing too. That’s because he keeps a list and checks it twice so he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice – so be good for goodness sake!
And finally, Santa, by all accounts, is way, way, way more omni-benevolent, all-loving, all-just, and all-merciful than any god, specifically God. If you’re a 5-year-old, what’s God done for you lately? Finally, I’ve never heard it said that Santa condones stoning children to death or letting loose bears on them.
What Can Science Say About God’s Scientific Literacy?
Since the Bible is alleged to be God’s holy word, then events in the Bible reflect God’s doings and of course His holy word. If some of those events fall within the realm of science (like within the physical and biological sciences) then God is subject at least in part to what science has to say about these ‘scientific’ Biblical events.
The Bible is literally true, and therefore must be 100% scientifically true as well because the Bible is the word of God (2 Timothy 3: 16). If you swallow that hook, line and sinker then you swallow the following claims that I’m sure professional physical and biological scientists would take some serious issue with.
Starting with the physical sciences:
*Life, the Universe and everything created in just six days roughly 6000 years ago.
*The ordering of the creations in Genesis 1 is totally at odds with what science has discovered. Genesis would have us believe that the Earth was created before the Sun and the stars.
*Forty days and nights of worldwide rain.
*A worldwide flood for which there is no evidence.
*Noah’s Ark – and how did kangaroos get to and from the Ark?
*Alchemy – A woman being turned into a pillar of salt.
*A non-consuming burning bush that defies basic chemistry.
*The parting of the Red (Reed) Sea.
*Manna from heaven.
*Trumpets and shouting blowing the rock walls of Jericho down.
*The Sun & Moon commanded to stand still in the sky, and doing so.
*Walking on water.
*More alchemy – turning water into wine.
*The magical multiplication of loaves and fishes.
*Unexplained hours of darkness (during the crucifixion).
Let’s not neglect the biological sciences:
*Adam was created from just plain dust.
*Eve was created from a male (Adam’s) rib – therefore Eve should have been male.
*We have a serpent / snake that talks.
*There’s human lifespans in excess of 900 years.
*Bats are identified as birds.
*Death to all of the ancient Egyptian first born.
*Over 600,000 people wandering aimlessly about in the wilderness for forty years.
*Becoming pregnant at 90 years of age.
*A talking donkey.
*The relationship between hair length and physical strength.
*Jonah’s whale-of-a-tale of being in the ‘whale’ for three days and surviving to tell the tale.
*All manner of weird and wonderful highly problematical creatures including the four-winged cherubim, the six-winged seraphim, the cockatrice (or basilisk), the dragon, a flying horse, locusts (but most certainly not your normal garden variety), the behemoth, lambs with horns, giants (the Nephilim), the satyr, unicorns, the leviathan, sea monsters, and a weird composite beast that arises from the sea in Revelation 13: 1-2.
*A virgin birth – therefore Jesus should have been born female.
*Resurrections from the dead.
So if the Bible is God’s holy word then God has no comprehension of the laws, principles and relationships in and of the sciences He presumably created. On the other hand, if the Bible was written by humans for humans based on the common scientific understandings – plus a goodly dose of artistic license – and literacy of those times, then things are far more coherent.
In conclusion, I think that science has an awful lot to say about God, God’s holy word and what was alleged in 2 Timothy 3: 16. Don’t you? Now are you going to put your trust in hundreds of geographically isolated and unknown authors who probably were just herders and farmers with little actual formal education or scientific literacy; unnamed authors who cobbled together these Biblical texts (some of which were later rejected) over many hundreds of years; authors all living over thousands of years ago – OR – modern day highly educated professional scientists who have to get their work peer-reviewed by other highly educated professional scientists?
Addendum: There’s at least one other well-known scientific anomaly in the New Testament, and that is the ‘Star’ of Bethlehem. It’s bleedingly obvious based on the lone description in Matthew 2 that the ‘star’ can’t be astronomical since it ends up standing still which it can’t do if the Earth rotates, so for all practical purposes one may as well call it a UFO and be done with it.
Speaking of stars, the Bible relates that in the End Times the “stars will fall from heaven” (Matthew 24: 29; Mark 13: 25; Revelation 6: 13) which might have seemed plausible to the great unwashed back in Biblical times, but is total nonsense in our modern astronomy.
There’s even more stellar nonsense in Joel 2: 10; and Joel 3: 15 – “The stars shall withdraw their shining”.
Why do or why should atheists make their atheistic points of view and put them out into the public square for all the world to see? What motivates them apart from being convinced of their own worldviews? Here’s a trilogy of reasons.
Religious beliefs have caused over the millennia massive harm to both human and animal species. Anything that can assist in reducing those sets of beliefs and the numbers who hold them and thus the resulting atrocities done in the name of those beliefs by those people can only be a positive thing or achievement.
Many countries have legislated their national brand of religion as the absolute law of the land (i.e. – the Middle East; parts of Asia, etc.) and other countries like the United States are trying to accomplish the same. There are many on the religious right side of American politics who are hell bent on ending the separation of church and state and turning the USA into a theocracy and thus shoving their religious beliefs and values down everyone else’s throats. I rather suspect but can’t actually yet prove that the current American Veep (Pence) is a political case in point. That’s gotta end.
Anything that decreases belief systems that appear more important than the actual truth of those belief systems in favor of belief systems based on actual evidence is a worthwhile objective.
Religious Belief Systems Versus Truth
Since I’ve raised the issue immediately above, I need explain why often belief systems are more important than the actual truth of those beliefs. This phenomena, by the way, isn’t just confined to the religious-minded. We probably all have at least one belief we’d cling tenaciously to even if we were presented with logical arguments why it was incorrect. Anyway, the focus here is on religious beliefs. We could easily hold those religious beliefs, contrary to rational arguments and evidence to the contrary, because (and I don’t pretend that this is an exhaustive list):
*We might get a sense of comfort and well-being and contentment inherent in those beliefs.
*We might feel the need to grasp at straws – just in case.
*Perhaps our professed belief systems elevate us and give us extra status in the eyes of others (family, neighbours, friends, fellow workers, etc.) and in the general community at large.
*Perhaps our belief systems give us an extra sense of worth, say by contributing to the collection plate every Sunday or otherwise serving in some capacity within the religious establishment’s structure.
*Perhaps we have invested so much time and effort and money into establishing and exhibiting our beliefs that it’s just impossible to do a 180 degree turnaround.
Does the above justify believing without evidence? IMHO no. Obviously true believers will agree to disagree.
Chin-Wagging In The Bible Negates The Bible
The major piece of suggestive evidence that the Bible is just a work of pure historical fiction is that it contains, like all good works of fiction, massive amounts of oral dialogues and monologues with nobody ever identified as being present and accounted for as scribes writing down these conversations, these duets and arias. In that sense there are more parallels between the Bible and say the Iliad and Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh (all historical fiction), or even the alleged plays of Shakespeare (some of which is historical fiction) than with say any nonfictional account of ancient Greek history or even a biography of Cleopatra. There are no monologues or dialogues given in the latter because there’s no record of there being actual oral conversations that were written down in real time and which have survived to the present day.
I mean we have no idea what Alexander the Great, any of the Roman emperors, Socrates*, Erik the Red, Leif Erikson, Pythagoras, Pericles, or Euclid said in any oral conversations they had. Yet we ‘know’ what Adam and Eve said. Really?
We have no idea what Kheops (Cheops), Thutmose III, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Rameses the Great, or Cleopatra VII ever uttered, and that applies to all of the ancient Egyptian Kings and Pharaohs. Yet we ‘know’ what an unnamed Pharaoh in the Biblical Book of Exodus said. Really?
Now we know what these bona-fide ancient historical people actually wrote down, or what they formally instructed their scribes to write down, but as to what they actually said, as in normal conversations, or what they may have muttered to themselves, we know not.
*Though Plato invented many dialogues that Socrates had with other characters in order to illustrate his various philosophical issues and points. In a similar way, Hollywood films or novels that feature the character Cleopatra or Alexander the Great obviously include invented dialogues on their behalf.
What Does Not Constitute Evidence For God’s Existence
Faith or belief. If you have faith or belief then that faith or belief is based without sufficient evidence. If you know something, then presumably that is based on actual evidence that you can share with others.
Personal experiences. Personal experiences are just that, personal. They convey no evidence relating to that experience to anyone else who hasn’t shared that experience, an unlikely happening since, by definition, the experience was personal. Further, spiritual experiences are not confined to God, Jesus or the Virgin Mary. All manner of other deities from Osiris to Shiva to Apollo and Odin have been personally experienced. That also applies to extraterrestrials as well as having visions and communications with the deceased.
The Bible. The Bible is just another holy book, one of many such holy books. The Bible is also just a book and anyone can write words in a book. Libraries and bookstores are full of such books, often called fiction. While the Bible is IMHO historical fiction (like “Gone with the Wind”) there is no actual independently verifiable evidence for any of the alleged supernatural events as related in Biblical texts.
Metaphysical, theological, philosophical arguments. These are indeed just arguments, pure thought experiments, and have never had any satisfactory resolutions – at least to the satisfaction of all who argue. It’s on the other hand hard to argue against evidence. One can argue about which theory of gravity best explains gravity, but nobody argues that gravity doesn’t actually exist.
Appeal to authority. Authority figures aren’t infallible. They can be wrong. Even the Pope can’t absolutely prove that the Christian God exists.
Majority rules. Even if a billion people believe in a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing. Billions have believed that the Sun goes around the Earth, but that belief system has now gone by the boards.
Need for agency. When faced with a mystery, people often resort to an explanation by an agent. The common example is: lightning is a mystery, therefore Thor / Zeus done it. Those that propose that lightning is the product of Thor’s hammer and/or Zeus and his thunderbolts would be expected to produce some more substantial than just “Thor did it” or that “Zeus did it”. They just might be expected to demonstrate that Thor and/or Zeus first existed and secondly had the means and temperament to hurl lightning bolts around.
God of the Gaps: Just because some phenomena hasn’t yet been fully explained (like where something actually came from) doesn’t automatically mean God done it. God is not the default position and when you don’t know something then your answer is “I don’t know”.