Do we live in a world with a god? It doesn’t look like it (part 1 of this series here).
Let’s continue our survey with the next clue that we live in a godless world.
The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Geisler and Howe is indeed big—it’s 624 pages long. Another in this category is The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer. Another is Hard Sayings of the Bible. Another is Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. These books try to respond to the many contradictions and nonsense in the Bible to assure Christians that their faith is valid.
Why is the Bible so confusing that this category of book exists? (I want to ask why Christians are content to accept that their all-knowing god couldn’t get his story down simply and unambiguously, but that’s a topic for another day.) The dictates of an actual perfect god would be simple and unambiguous. By contrast, the “perfect” Bible is so flexible that it has spawned 45,000 denominations of Christianity.
We can look just at the four gospels’ accounts of the resurrection to see the problem. When was the Last Supper—was it the Passover meal or was it one day earlier? What were the last words of Jesus? Did zombies rise from their graves when Jesus died? Who buried Jesus? How many women were at the tomb? Did Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus? Did the women tell anyone about what they’d seen? Could Jesus’s followers touch him after he rose? The Bible gives multiple answers to each of these.
The accounts in the gospels don’t sound like journalism or history, but since they must be for most Christians, apologists are happy to step in to reshape the facts to be more agreeable.
We can go beyond these books that try to paper over the Bible’s embarrassments. There are huge books on systematic theology (fundamental Christian doctrine), some over 1000 pages long. The web site GotQuestions.org brags that it has answers for half a million questions about Christianity. And the very existence of Christian apologetics itself admits that God isn’t obvious, despite the Bible’s promise otherwise.
Eventually, these questions will wander their way to the same few foundational answers, where the questions stop: Christianity is the way it is because of tradition, because the Bible says so, because of the insights of or divine revelations to a leader, or some other “Just because” kind of answer. None of this is like a scientific experiment where you could duplicate the procedure to verify the results (or prove them wrong). Religious dogma is believed because of inertia, not because of evidence or repeatability. Its claims aren’t objective, and they can’t be derived from reality.
Imagine that a global catastrophe wiped out all traces of religion and science, but a tiny fraction of people remained alive to repopulate the earth and recreate a scientifically advanced society. They would roughly retrace the steps we took to develop modern science and technology. Of course, they would describe things differently and advance in their own way, but they would duplicate the very same laws of motion, gravity, and thermodynamics; the same theories of evolution, relativity, and the Big Bang; and so on.
But would they duplicate the same Christianity, Islam, Scientology, Falun Gong, Jediism, and all the others? Of course not. Religion is what people say it is. It’s disconnected from objective reality. (More on this here.)
As yet another thought experiment, imagine a naive religious seeker, unaware of the specifics of any organized religion, who meditated or observed his way to Christianity or any other religion. This never happens.
The Bible says otherwise:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
But the Bible is wrong. That Christianity is ungrounded by testable events argues that we don’t live in a God World.
Which reason will be next? Will we make it all the way to 25? Stay tuned for the thrilling answers to those questions and more!
Continue to part 9.
it helps to lighten life’s burden which,
if he could see himself as he is,
might be too heavy to carry.
— John Lancaster Spalding
Image via Olof Werngren, CC license