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Reasons for Disbelief #2

“Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses face to face; the Christians say, that their Word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say, that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.” ― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

By Wertbag ~

Many apologists will say that the arguments for God’s existence should be seen as a cumulative case rather than any single argument being a reason for belief on its own. This is understandable as the majority of arguments for God are second hand inference, God of the gaps or incredulity based, so as evidence goes none of it should not be convincing on its own.

The cumulative case works in both directions, as there are many reasons to disbelieve in a God’s existence, but any single argument may not be convincing on its own. With that in mind, this Reasons for Disbelief series by addresses common reasons for disbelief and the rabbit hole of questions that these reasons lead to.

The Problems with the Bible

There is no agreement amongst Christians as to what books should be included in the bible (Catholic bible = 73 books, Protestant bible = 66 books, Orthodox bible = 79 books etc), as to what works are inspired by God or how they should be translated and interpreted. There are even more religious texts which at one time were considered holy by certain sects, but nowadays are not considered so by the numerous churches. These aren’t small differences but over a dozen books that some Christians think are divine works while others believe they are only man-made works. This does highlight that there is no objective measurement as to what a divine work should be, and while there is a core set of books which are agreed upon, even that determination is purely subjective.

Once you pick a bible, then you can start trying to determine which parts should be read as literal historic events and which parts are metaphors or moral stories. Fundamentalists will demand that Genesis be read as a historic event, while the Catholic church and many others see Genesis as a moral story about obeying God and how sin is within all of us. Such disagreements can be on the core tenants of faith, including whether Jesus was God, salvation, hell and God’s plans, so aren’t just sideline ideas but the very basis of the churches.

The bible has many passages which make no sense. Some of these are hand waved away as metaphor or reinterpreted to avoid the strange places a black and white reading will take you. A few examples: amongst the many laws handed down from God to Moses was the line “don’t boil a goat in its mother’s milk”, so while the God given laws couldn’t say to treat women as your equals or don’t own people as property, it at least got the important goat boiling law included. There is the story in Exodus of Jacob putting tree branches up so that the sheep and goats that mated in the shade would have striped or spotted offspring, because that’s how that works. Or the man who was horrified at the thought of his two male house guests being gang raped, so instead gave them his servant to abuse, then when she was dead, he cuts her into pieces and sends those bloody chunks to the tribes of Israel.

Or perhaps we just look at the OT and the numerous horrors found there. Stories like God sending bears to rip children to pieces, God killing all the first born of Egypt for crimes they didn’t commit, God setting the law to stone to death Sabbath breakers and other victimless crimes, God striking dead the guy who tried to save the Ark from falling or the guy who wasn’t willing to impregnate his brother’s widow. The bible tells us that the punishment should fit the crime, and yet in the next breath says to kill people for victimless crimes or children for crimes of their parents. But this just leads to the bigger brutal events like the wiping out of entire cities at God’s command “However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.” Or “Blessed is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” or “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

Christians want to say morals are written on our hearts and that God's morals are unchanging and timeless, and yet such actions as described in the OT are abhorrent to our modern morals.

The Problem of Divine Hiddenness

For me this is the biggest problem with all religions. The claim is that God loves us, wants us to know Him and wants a personal relationship with us, and yet He doesn’t have it. The all-powerful God has failed to make Himself known to most of the world’s population. To this day there are people who live their whole lives having never heard of God or Jesus. The bible says, “Seek and you shall find”, but as per the thousands of ex-Christians, many have searched and failed to find. This has famously been put that there exists a group of people who are non-resistant non-believers, that is that they wish there was a God and would love to accept Him but can’t find good evidence to convince them. Non-resistant non-believers shouldn’t be possible if God is actively trying to contact, communicate and have a relationship with these people. I’m not even sure that being non-resistant should be a requirement, after all we are talking about the all-powerful creator of the universe, there is nothing a mortal could do to resist the truth if He wanted it known.

He has allowed His book to be corrupted, His church to splinter, His followers to kill each other and not stepped in to correct any of it. The OT tells us that He wasn’t shy about showing Himself back then, with Him saying “I am the Lord your God” over 150 times, appearing many times as a burning bush, column of fire, an old man, or a voice from the sky, as well as on several occasions sending angelic messengers to tell people of His will. We are meant to believe that He was in direct communication numerous times, but nowadays doing exactly the same thing would be bad for some reason. Apologists would say “If He appeared it would take away your freewill to come to Him willingly”, and yet when they talk about Moses or Adam meeting God, they never consider those people lessened by that contact. Apologists will say “He wants people to come to love Him, not be forced to love”, and yet the first step to any relationship would be knowing the person exists, otherwise it is impossible to come to know them.

If you imagine for a minute a world where God made Himself known. Doing so He would instantly convert millions to be faithful followers. We would have a single church, a single holy book and a single message. There would be no debates, arguments or guesswork required. Crime and sin would drop to nigh on zero levels, as the punishments and rewards would be clear and unavoidable. This has been prayed for by the religious for centuries, as it finally justifies all the claims and requirements. Yet with all the obvious positives that could come from removing all doubt, He steadfastly refuses to do so. Apologists will usually fall back on the free will defence once more, “God doesn’t want to take away your freewill by showing Himself to you”, but that isn’t removing freewill, it is just allowing you to make decisions based on more information. It is knowing the truth and allowing you to choose how you react to it.

The Problems of the Church

In Christian church history, there are a couple of big events that tore the church apart. The schism was where the Orthodox Church separated from the Catholic Church, and then later the Reformation was when the Protestants broke away in turn, both events leading to bloody warfare. Even from the very first records we have there were splintered groups and disagreements from day one. Yet both those early sects right through to today’s thousands of denominations, all claim to be led to their answers by the holy spirit, and yet all come to different conclusions.

The Catholic Church was an immense power throughout Europe’s history, and as the saying goes “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We had numerous Popes who were horrific in their evil, from orgies in the Vatican, to murders and massacres. But regardless of how obviously evil some of the Popes were, the followers had to accept every word they said as though God Himself had spoken them, giving up their own moral standards to blindly accept evil. These same Popes brought about the inquisitions, witch burnings, heretic massacres and while some of the crusades were anti-Islam, some just ended up massacring other Christians.

In more recent years we have the Catholic Church, Baptist Church and others being caught protecting child rapist priests from prosecution, using hide and deny tactics with payouts to families as long as they agree to silence. These people have made it clear that they are more concerned about the Churches image, rather than showing real empathy for the victims and anger at the perpetrators.

Nowadays there are mega-churches that seat tens of thousands, all demanding tithing, and donations. Prosperity preachers who will take a dollar from a starving family, saying God will provide, while heading out to buy a third private jet. You have churches preaching anti-gay messages, you have many involved in politics and wanting a theocracy, you have preachers blaming victims of natural disasters for the devastation, and some taking millions in donations to help people in third world countries, only to have that money sent to fund missionary work instead.

Even just the cost in hours, resources and human effort to build these massive cathedrals. Years of some of the best builders in the world to make these giant edifices, rather than using more simple structures and freeing up the builders to work on hospitals, fresh water supplies or other life changing infrastructure. The wealth that is accumulated is mind boggling, to the point where the Catholic Church is so wealthy that there are not even estimates that can be made due to the size of the Vatican’s collections and vaults of ancient treasures.

Jesus said,
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Truly I tell you; it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

But who needs to listen to that guy?

Originally posted in the Reasons for Disbelief thread on Ex-Christian.Net