Why Does the Bible Have No Recipe for Soap?

Why Does the Bible Have No Recipe for Soap? February 19, 2016

Bible recipe soapThe Bible has a detailed description of the priestly costume in Exodus 28. Aaron and his priestly descendants certainly looked fabulous, but if the Bible can spend an entire chapter on this, why not a method for making something useful, like soap?

It’s not hard to make. Imagine if the following recipe were a quote from the Bible (give it a King James tone if that makes it sound more authentic):

Pack a wooden bucket with wood ashes. Pour in boiling water. Make a small hole near the bottom so the water can be collected in a pot as it drips out. The liquid is caustic, so don’t let it touch skin or metal. Pour the liquid back through the ashes until it is strong enough to dissolve a chicken feather.

Boil this liquid until most of the water is gone. Add rendered fat from cattle or other animals and stir while cooking until it thickens. Pour into molds and let it harden.

There are lots of tricks to making soap properly, but a priesthood could’ve easily perfected the technique.

With this, the Bible could then add the basics of health care—when and how to use this soap, how water is purified by boiling (actually purified, not just pretend purified with a ritual), how latrines should be built and sited, how to avoid polluting the water supply, how to avoid spreading disease, and so on. Other ideas to improve society come to mind—low-tech ways to pump water, spin fiber, make metal alloys, and so on—but health seems to be a fundamental one to start with.

Several passages have been advanced to argue that the Bible did refer to soap. Malachi 3:2 and Jeremiah 2:22 allude to it, but that word means ashes or soapy plant. In Job 9:30, the word isn’t soap but “snow water” (that is, pure water). Numbers 19:1–12 has been claimed as a recipe for soap, though it’s clearly just a ritual. None of these are soap as we would understand it, as defined by the recipe above. If the Bible did have a recipe for soap, wouldn’t we read in the Bible about people using it and the health improvements that came from the new practice?

The Bible has an abysmal relationship with science (more here and here), unless you see it as simply another book of mythology and superstition, in which case it’s a product of its times like all the rest. Jesus does no better with his attempts at medicine. Wouldn’t someone who preached “Love your neighbor as yourself” bring his A game to the problem of public health?

Another attempt to salvage the Bible argues that its odd dietary rules (no pork or shellfish, no mixing of meat and dairy, etc.) are healthy, but these rules are arbitrary when seen from a modern standpoint. Sure, avoiding pork means that you can’t get sick from eating poorly cooked pork, but can’t you still get sick from eating tainted meat from other animals? An analysis by Mary Douglas (discussed here) makes much more sense out of the ritual prohibitions.

There are two possibilities for the Bible’s health advice.

  • An infinitely loving God created us but just didn’t give a hoot about the health of his creation. He could’ve made healthy practices mandatory rituals, but he didn’t. However, he did care enough about making his priests look sharp to devote an entire chapter to their costumes.
  • The Old Testament was just written by ordinary men and reflects their ordinary knowledge and interests.

Which seems likelier?

Man once surrendering his reason, 
has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, 
and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.
— Thomas Jefferson

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/13/13.)

Image credit: Arlington County, flickr, CC


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  • Catechin

    During my youth at church, I’ve heard many times about God’s wisdom with the dietary rules and the health implications. I agree with all your comments about soap … but I wouldn’t go that far! How come god never taught the jews to BOIL WATER before drinking? How many lives would be saved?

    • Greg G.

      Mark 7:15 (NRSV)15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

      How many people died from that bit of Jesus wisdom?

      • Michael Neville

        Eat shit, 500 billion flies can’t be wrong.

        • Greg G.

          The Egyptians worshiped scarabs as representatives of the sun god. They are a species of dung beetle.

        • Michael Neville

          I hate dung beetles. I can’t stand their shit-eating grins.

      • I told you that germs weren’t bad!

        • Michael Neville

          Richard Lenski would certainly agree.

    • Sophia Sadek

      There is nothing in the literature on how to make wine, yet Jews were able to accomplish that feat. Perhaps not everything that Jews did is in the bible.

      • Robert Templeton

        And remember that stint of Jews in Egypt (that we all *believe*, right?). Where is the information on making beer!?

        • Sophia Sadek

          They learned circumcision from the Egyptians.

        • Greg G.

          Osiris was the god of the afterlife and he was resurrected without his penis. Dying without a foreskin was thought to make Osiris more sympathetic when he judged whether a man was worthy of life after death.

          The only justification for it that the Jews came up with was a fist fight between God and Moses.

        • Sophia Sadek

          Abraham was supposedly circumcised long before the Jewish sojourn into Egypt. This does not discredit the notion that Jews learned the practice from Egyptians. If there is any truth to the story of Abraham, he could have encountered Egyptian priests living outside of Egypt.

        • Greg G.

          Yup, right there in Genesis 17. I had forgotten about that.

      • Spinning and weaving are important technologies that also weren’t in the Bible. Metalurgy. Weapons making. And so on.

        I find it significant that there’s nothing useful that’s new in the Bible.

        • Sophia Sadek

          The bible is so old that it takes a PhD in antiquities studies to even begin to penetrate its banal mysteries.

      • Paul D.

        According to the Bible, Noah invented wine.

        • Sophia Sadek

          That brings back a whole flood of memories.

        • Greg G.

          That’s the naked truth.

        • Jack Baynes

          According to many Christians Biblical wine was just grape juice. Not so impressive, Mr. Noah.

  • grasshopper

    Those who worship god before they die will still be worshipping god after they die. Why would god care about soap and disease?

    • Greg G.

      God cares about burying poop. Deuteronomy 23:13

      • Jack Baynes

        God doesn’t want to have to smell that shit.

        • Bawdybill

          And he doesn’t want to step in it, either!

      • Sorry, gonna side with Yahweh here. This rule’s good basic soldiering.

        • Greg G.

          But the justification is not about good basic soldiering. It is to keep God from seeing anything indecent among them and becoming a traitor to the other side.

        • Giauz Ragnarock
        • Ritual cleanliness and actual cleanliness aren’t the same thing? Thanks, science.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          If they had only shat in a latrine and let it stink to high heaven…

      • Maoh

        but if you read it closely, he just wants them to bury poop so he doesn’t have to look at it.

  • coragyps

    More importantly, there’s no recipe for guacamole that never turns brown! What’s up with that?

    • Sophia Sadek

      For Yahweh, not all things are possible.

    • Thought2Much

      One should only make guacamole as quickly as it can be eaten. There should be no such thing as leftover guacamole.

      • Greg G.

        I have heard of Holy Guacamole but I have never seen it. I have never seen leftover guacamole, either. I think both might be myths.

    • TheNuszAbides

      lots of lime juice and keeping the surface as airtight as possible. that’s the best you can do.

  • Greg G.

    Why Does the Bible Have No Recipe for Bacon?

    • Sophia Sadek

      It’s part of the oral tradition.

  • God made dirt;
    Dirt don’t hurt.

    Checkmate, atheists!

    • Greg G.

      How could dirt hurt a creature divinely made from clay?

      • Sophia Sadek

        Clay is a hunk. If the women get a hold of him, they will make lots of babies together.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        By stepping in the dirt everyone shit under and then bathing together in pool that NEVER will have its water changed out?

        https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061113180523.htm

        • Greg G.

          Thanks. That is an interesting read.

        • epicurus

          Great article!

  • kraut2

    https://robertcargill.com/2013/05/02/still-one-of-the-oddest-biblical-commands-cover-your-poo-because-god-might-step-in-it/
    no idea how to keep your chosen people healthy, to build latrines and use hydrated lime to disinfect sewer sludge.Just digging a hole in the ground might mean somebody else eventually hit upon the same hole again…

  • Peter_J88

    Obviously a bit of psychological training would have helped. It’s almost like humanity ‘evolved’ and had to discover things like soap itself…

  • Sophia Sadek

    Science was a Pagan pursuit associated with Egypt, Babylon, Athens and the goyim.

  • epicurus

    All that health info was, of course, in the original manuscripts. Just copyist error later on. Problem solved.

  • tsig

    First you must understand that the Bible is a spiritual guide, not a physics textbook. Then we see that the sooner one leaves this life the less chance to sin so god is doing them a favor by allowing them to die young, the pain is just a bonus.

  • Lark62

    Considering that gob designed humans as walking choking hazards, with food sharing space with the windpipe, it would’ve been nice if it had mentioned the Heimlicht maneuver 6000 years ago instead of waiting until 1982.

    • Greg G.

      Didn’t need it back then. Gob did it himself:

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      AND put a recreation area right next to the sewage works 😉

  • L.Long

    Everything I remember from the buyBull is about appeasing a psychotic daddy, who wants you dead after living in misery his way. It aint about anything good for people in general, just about their imaginary fiend and his wants.

  • SparklingMoon

    Why Does the Bible Have No Recipe for Soap?
    ——————————————————

    There is an interesting abstract from the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad: ”It is an obvious fact that the great merit of anything lies in its fulfilling the purpose for which it has been made. For instance, if a bullock is purchased for ploughing land its merit will be judged by the degree to which it is able to discharge its function of ploughing. In the same way, it is obvious that the true purpose of a heavenly Book is that it should rescue its followers from every sin and the sinful life through its teaching and influence, and its power of reform and spiritual qualities, and should bestow a pure life upon them, and after purifying them, should bestow upon them full insight for the recognition of God and should establish a relationship of love and devotion between them and the Peerless Being. Without doubt, the living and perfect revealed Book is the one which should lead a seeker after God to his goal and, rescuing him from a low life, should lead him to the True Beloved, meeting Whom is salvation itself. It should rescue him from all doubts and should bestow such perfect understanding upon him as if he can see God.

    If a book fails to discharge this duty, which is its real purpose, and seeks to establish its merit by making other irrelevant claims, it would be like a person who claims to be an expert physician, but when a patient is brought to him and he is asked to heal him, he replies that he is unable to heal him, but that he knows how to wrestle, or that he is an expert in astronomy or philosophy. It is obvious that such a person would be called a jester and would deserve the condemnation of all reasonable people. The chief purpose of a Book of God and a Messenger of God is to rescue the world from a life of sin and to establish a holy relationship between God and the world. It is not their purpose to teach people subjects of secular study and to instruct them in worldly inventions.

    • Myna Alexanderson

      I guess you told us, oh righteous and wise one. I will remember this sage rebuke when considering dietary laws or covering my hair lest it drive men or the cooling breeze wild.

    • it is obvious that the true purpose of a heavenly Book is that it should rescue its followers from every sin and the sinful life through its teaching and influence, and its power of reform and spiritual qualities, and should bestow a pure life upon them, and after purifying them, should bestow upon them full insight for the recognition of God and should establish a relationship of love and devotion between them and the Peerless Being.

      So then the Quran is that perfect heavenly book that rescues its followers from sinful life? Show me these perfect Muslims who never sin. Seems to me that I see lots of sinful actions from some Muslims (like I do from other groups).

      • SparklingMoon

        So then the Quran is that perfect heavenly book that rescues its followers from sinful life? Show me these perfect Muslims who never sin. Seems to me that I see lots of sinful actions from some Muslims
        ———————————————–
        There is no doubt that the Quran is the only heavenly book at this time that possesses perfect teachings and its practice rescues a person from sinful life. Its teaching reforms the natural conditions of man and raises him step by step to higher spiritual levels. The only existence of these teachings in the Quran is not enough for a person to save himself from sin but its practice that helps to avoid sinful life. Secondly, there are only prophets about whom it can be said that they never do a sin and other followers attain purity of heart according to their practice and sincerity.

        Secondly, the passage in my previous post says that a heavenly Book: (after purifying its followers) should establish a relationship of love and devotion between them and the Peerless Being. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad explains this subject in his writings: For example Christians and Muslims, both,claim to possess faith and piety,but the question is, which of the two religions actually possesses true faith and true piety in the sight of God. If it was only a question of verbal professions, every religion would claim that there have been, and still are, many truly pious and virtuous people among them. They would even relate some of their superhuman feats, the truth of which would always be difficult to prove. If the Christians really believe that the Atonement helps one to attain true faith and piety, they must come forth and show heavenly signs.Christians do not possess true piety that descends from heaven and enlightens the hearts, and the pious among them are only those who are pious by nature—and such people are found in every nation. Gentle and good-natured people are found in almost every community. Here is concerned with the pure and heavenly life which is acquired through the Living Word of God and which descends from heaven and is distinguished by heavenly signs.

        We will only believe that a nation has become virtuous under the influence of a religion, or that a particular religion is the basis of its followers’ decency, if some of its devoted followers are found to possess spiritual excellencies that are not found in other religions. These excellences are only found in Islam as it has guided thousands of people to such a level of purity that God’s very spirit seems to reside in them and the light of Divine acceptance shines in them in such a way that they appear to be the very manifestations of God’s glory. God hears their prayers, speaks to them, communicates to them the tidings of the unseen and helps them. We find that there have been thousands of such people in Islam,and in this present age I am here to demonstrate all these excellences.

        Since a community is like a body, therefore, when we find in it some people whose purity is affirmed by heavenly testimony, we may safely conclude that the whole community is capable of attaining a virtuous and heavenly life.

        • Myna Alexanderson

          Quote: “There is no doubt that the Quran is the only heavenly book at this time that possesses perfect teachings and its practice rescues a person from sinful life.”

          Then the Qu’ran has much in common with the Christian Bible, which is also the only heavenly book at this time that possesses perfect teachings.

        • SparklingMoon

          Then the Qu’ran has much in common with the Christian Bible, which is also the only heavenly book at this time that possesses perfect teachings.
          ——————————-
          There is no doubt that original teachings of Jesus(as) had much in common with the Quran that was taught by him in his teachings and (some of them) exist in the christian Bible. Actually the Bible at this time does not exists in its original words of revelation of God Almighty but an amalgamation of the sayings of Jesus (described by other people) and explanations of later coming people.

          The language which Jesus and his disciples spoke was Hebrew, not Latin or Greek. So copies of the New Testament written down in Latin or Greek must have been written down long after the time of Jesus, at a time when Christianity had begun to penetrate into Roman territory and Roman imperialist power had become divided into the Italian and Greek parts. Books of this kind, composed one or two hundred years after Jesus by unknown authors and attributed by them to Jesus and his disciples, can be of little use to any believer today. It was necessary, therefore, that we should have had another book (Quran) sent to us from Heaven, free from these defects and one which readers could regard with certainty as the very word of God.

          Jesus declares clearly that he had come not to destroy but to fulfill the older books. As we read in Matthew (5:17-18): ”Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy,but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”.

          From this it is evident that the mission of Jesus(as) was to restore Mosaic teaching, but the New Testament as we have it today teaches that the Mosaic teaching was abrogated completely by Jesus. It is quite clear, therefore, that the present New Testament is not what Jesus taught and preached. The teaching of Jesus must have been a reproduction of the teaching of Moses, except for what the Scribes and Pharisees had themselves added to it. But the New Testament seeks to correct not only what the Scribes and Pharisees had invented but also what Moses and subsequent Prophets had taught in their time, This position is contradictory.

          One part of the New Testament teaches one thing, another part quite another. When a book contradicts itself, it cannot be the work of the same author, at any rate, of a sane author. The books of the New Testament are said to have been dictated by the disciples of Jesus, and we cannot say that the disciples were not sane.The great disciples of Prophets always possess a high degree of sanity . We must, therefore, conclude that the disciples did not dictate any such thing. They talked as they went about. Those who heard them passed on the substance of what they heard to others.When these others sat down to record what they had heard, they added many of their own thoughts. The result was the New Testament as we know it today, a bundle of contradictions.

        • Myna Alexanderson

          Ah, the time honored contradiction argument, yes? No adherent worth his or her grain of salt would arrive unequipped. So with Christianity, so with Islam. As it is, I already agree there exists blatant contradictions in the OT and NT, but can type in “Contradictions in the Qu’ran” onto Google and find me a good list. Of course there will be explanations and sleights of hand by the devout on either side of the fence as to why these contradictions do not really exist. It’s equally tiresome and all part of the same hypocrisy.

          The bottom line is this, while you have written some poetic essays in defense of your faith, they are unpersuasive. As much as I adore the stunning poetry of the Eastern world, and I do adore it, I am not compelled by its influence in composition. There may be a paradox somewhere in that, but there you have it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Your book is nonsense, just as all claims of superstition are nonsense, until evidence is provided.

          Such evidence has to be strong enough that you would accept it even if it contradicted your book.

        • Michael Neville

          At least the Buddha admitted that other religious teachers might have useful things to say to help people through life.

        • the Quran is the only heavenly book at this time that possesses perfect teachings and its practice rescues a person from sinful life.

          Your argument is undercut by the fact that there are sinful Muslims.

        • Thought2Much

          Muslims who sin just aren’t True Muslims™.

        • SparklingMoon

          It is obvious that man is very weak by nature and has been charged with hundreds of Divine commandments. On account of his weakness, he falls short in carrying out some Divine commandments and sometimes he is overcome by the desires of the self that incite to evil. On account of his weak nature, he deserves that at the time of any slipping, if he should repent and seek forgiveness, God’s mercy should save him from being ruined. It is a certainty that if God had not been the Acceptor of repentance, man would not have been charged with these hundreds of commandments. This proves that God turns towards man with mercy and is Most Forgiving.

          When man turns towards God Almighty with sincerity and firm resolve, God, who is Benevolent and Merciful, forgives him the particular sin. It is one of the high Divine attributes that God accepts repentance and saves a sinner from ruin. If man had not the hope of his repentance being accepted, he would not be able to refrain from sinning. The Christians also believe in repentance, but on condition that the person who repents should be a Christian. Islam lays down no condition for repentance. The repentance of the followers of every faith can be accepted leaving out only the sin of denying the Book of God and His Messenger. It is impossible that a person should attain salvation only through his conduct. It is the Benevolence of God that He accepts the repentance of some and bestows by His grace such powers on others that they are safeguarded against sinning. (Ruhanikhazain)

        • Thought2Much

          Yeah. Fascinating.

          This was like reading instructions for stereo equipment… for a brand that I don’t even own.

          I’m not interested in your religion, and the more you preach at me, the less interested I will be.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          your quran is just another book justifying abominations, written by the victors, and is a net negative upon humanity.

        • SparklingMoon

          If we observe with a spirit of fairness and honesty the scriptures if all faith and pondered upon them then we will arrive at the conclusion that ‘of all the scriptures in the world today, the Holy Quran is the only one whose divine origin can be established with irrefutable arguments. It is the only one whose principles regarding salvation are based on truth and human nature; whose doctrines are comprehensive and firmly grounded in truth and are confirmed by powerful arguments;whose commandments are nothing but the dictates of truth and whose teachings bear no blemish of idolatry, human innovations and false deities.Its teachings zealously promote the Oneness, Greatness and Excellence of God; and it is filled to the brim in establishing the Oneness of the Glorious God. It does not impute to Him anything that is contrary to His Oneness or attribute to Him any blemish, shortcoming, or unworthy attribute. It does not impose any teaching upon us without first providing adequate proof in support thereof and explains each of its principles with proofs and clear arguments and leads its followers to perfect certainty and understanding.It removes, through clear and unequivocal arguments, all the corruptions, impurities, defects and distortions that have found their way into people’s beliefs, actions, sayings and deeds; and teaches all ethical and moral norms, the knowledge of which is essential for becoming truly human. It resists every prevalent evil with equal force; and its teachings are straightforward, well-founded and flawless, as if they were the very reflection of the laws of nature and a true picture of human conscience. Indeed, they are as the sun for the illumination of mind and heart, and make good the deficiency inherent in reason.

        • MNb

          “the Holy Quran is the only one whose divine origin can be established with irrefutable arguments.”
          How peculiar that in all those years on this blog you have presented exactly zero of such arguments.

        • Greg G.

          If we observe with a spirit of fairness and honesty the scriptures if all faith and pondered upon them then we will arrive at the conclusion that ‘of all the scriptures in the world today, the Holy Quran is the only one whose divine origin can be established with irrefutable arguments.

          Not with fairness and honesty, you don’t. Religious people tend to assume that their own religion is true so if another religion disagrees, the other religion gets counted as wrong. If you start with one religion, that one will win every time. If you don’t start with Islam, Islam loses every time. If you start with no religion, they all come out absurd and ridiculous.

          If you have irrefutable arguments, tell us about them. If they are anything like the irrefutable arguments of other religions, they will have premises that rely on the conclusion and lots of confirmation bias.

          The rest of your post is about what is wrong with religion in general.

        • SparklingMoon

          I have written :
          If we observe with a spirit of fairness and honesty the scriptures of all faiths … the Holy Quran is the only one whose divine origin can be established with irrefutable arguments.

        • Greg G.

          The Quran relies on ancient Greek science. No divine origin is established. The most irrefutable argument was refuted. We don’t need your second best “most irrefutable argument.”

        • the Holy Quran is the only one whose divine origin can be established with irrefutable arguments.

          Though I may regret it, I’m compelled to ask: What are these irrefutable arguments?

        • Greg G.

          I asked for the best irrefutable argument. It was basically the testimony of reason and the testimony of revelation.

        • Testimony of revelation? Yeah, that’s repeatable.

        • SparklingMoon

          There are many irrefutable arguments about its divine origin and one of them is safety of its Arabic words to safe its message, The Quran can be called a ‘Living Book’ because of having the message of God in its real words.It has promise of God Almight: “Verily We have sent down this exhortation, and most surely We will be its guardian”.(Quran15: 10) All the other books have been distorted and had been tampered with, the Holy Quran,even after 1500 years, stands unchanged in its pristine purity. Not one jot or a tittle has been changed or can ever be changed even up to the end of days.

          Even a very bitter enemy of Islam like Sir Willian Muir was very reluctantly forced to admit in his book,”Life of Muhammad”.He says: “There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used”. “Why should not Islam enjoy a distinction from all the other religions of the world? Because their faiths are shut up within the pages of books only while the Mumlims have their Quran preserved in their hearts”.

          In short,the Arabic words of revelation of the Quran exists in the same form as had been revealed to Prophet of Islam by God Almighty. It is not just a claim but a fact that can be tested by any means. There are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and about all Muslims keep this book in their homes. There are more than 70 sects in religion Islam and the followers of these sects have differences on many religious issues but they all have the same Quran with same Arabic words. There are thousands blogs that have been opened by Muslims who belong to different sects and mostly have the Arabic Quran. You may find differences in their translations or explanation of these Arabic words of the Quran no difference in Arabic words od the revelation of the Quran

        • So the irrefutable proofs are that you say that Islam is correct. Uh huh. Thanks.

          Your quote from Sir William Muir isn’t particularly helpful. He says about the Quran the same thing that atheist Bart Ehrman says about the Bible.

          And Wikipedia says about Muir that he concluded that “Muslim society was stationary and incapable of reforms.” Whether the antagonistic strains and tenets of Islam can adapt to modernity is a current question as well.

          You may find differences in their translations or explanation of these Arabic words of the Quran no difference in Arabic words od the revelation of the Quran

          One then wonders why you say that Islam has 70 sects. A single unambiguous Quran gives us 70 incompatible sects? Somethings not quite right there.

        • Greg G.

          Please present the most irrefutable of those irrefutable arguments.

        • SparklingMoon

          present the most irrefutable of those irrefutable arguments
          ————————————————–

          All divine revelations were meant to bestow certainty on man, but the certainty for which the Holy Quran has laid the foundations surpasses all past revelations. To elaborate, all divine revelations prior to the Holy Quran, being mostly in the form of narratives, only served as testimony to certain events. This is why they became corrupted in the end and selfish and egotistical people interpreted them to suit their own purposes.

          The Holy Quran, however, took upon itself to substantiate its teachings with rational proofs and thus saved man from countless hazards. Firstly, it acted as a true messenger,imparting knowledge of the divine realm; secondly, it substantiated its teachings with the aid of reason. Anyone who studies the Holy Quran will find that, from beginning to end, it provides two kinds of testimonies—the testimony of reason and the testimony of revelation. In the Holy Quran these two are like two great streams running in parallel and influencing each other continuously.The stream of reason shows that something ‘should be’, and the stream of divine testimony assures us, like a wise and righteous informant, that ‘it is.’ The advantage of this Quranic approach is obvious, for in reading the Holy Quran a seeker finds rational evidence for its teachings.What is more, he who reads the Quran reaches the highest level of certainty through the testimony of divine revelation and finds in an instant all that others could not find in a lifetime of effort and deliberation. And so we can conclude that the Holy Quran alone is the surest, easiest and most perfect means for recognizing the true principles and beliefs upon which our salvation depends. (Ruhanikhazain)

        • Greg G.

          The testimony of reason works much better without the Quran.

          The advantage of this Quranic approach is obvious, for in reading the Holy Quran a seeker finds rational evidence for its teachings.

          This is what we call “confirmation bias”. All religions fall prey to that when they start to cherry-pick anything they can to support their religious view and discount anything that goes against those views. Cognitive dissonance can even keep a person from considering conflicting concepts because of the discomfort.

          What is more, he who reads the Quran reaches the highest level of certainty through the testimony of divine revelation and finds in an instant all that others could not find in a lifetime of effort and deliberation.

          This where you abandon the testimony of reason. You cannot validate revelation. You cannot differentiate divine revelation from a wild idea that popped into someone’s head.

          Your “most irrefutable of those irrefutable arguments” is based on the selective use of reason and pretending that some wild thoughts are revelation.

        • Michael Neville

          The advantage of this Quranic approach is obvious, for in reading the Holy Quran a seeker finds rational evidence for its teachings.

          This only works if one already accepts the Quran as being true. For those of us who don’t accept it as anything but a collection of myths, fables and lies, the “rational evidence” is completely lacking.

          Try again, this time making your argument rational for unbelievers.

        • Greg G.

          These excellences are only found in Islam as it has guided thousands of people to such a level of purity that God’s very spirit seems to reside in them and the light of Divine acceptance shines in them in such a way that they appear to be the very manifestations of God’s glory.

          That could be said about my grandmother who was a Christian. Many Christians will say the same thing about their Christian leaders. I have heard similar things from Buddhists about Buddhism masters. I have heard similar things in Hinduism and Jainism. I have heard how the Dalai Lama lights up a room but I have heard the same thing about people with big personalities who are not religious.

          It is not just your religion. It is basic human nature. You attribute good things as spiritual and negative qualities to humanity. You are using a subjective claim supported by confirmation bias.

        • Greg G.

          The Friendly Atheist has a good example of the excellence found in Islam at Saudi Cleric: Women Posting Pictures of Food on Snapchat Are Causing Cancer in Children. The cleric is very educated in Islam yet he claims that posting pictures of food in social media causes cancer.

          His irrefutable proof is:

          A picture might transmit sorcery. The proof is that if I took your picture, and applied sorcery to it, you will be afflicted accordingly.

          So why do we find it difficult to believe that a sorcerer might take your picture from a social media account, print it, and cast sorcery upon it?

          This is coming from someone whose brain is on Islam. We see similar nonsense coming from other religions, too.

        • SparklingMoon

          It would be mistake to confine the world of Islam to this man only. I would like to refer you Dr Abdus Salam in response to know the reality:

          Professor Abdus Salam (1926 – 1996) was a man of three worlds, the world of Islam, the world of Theoretical Physics, and the world of International Co-operation. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979, for his theoretical unification of the two fundamental forces of nature. A year before his Nobel Prize, he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London. He is a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences of USA and also of USSR, a rare ‘double-first’ which demonstrates his important position in the world of Sciences. His association with UN goes back to 1955, when he became Scientific Secretary to the Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. He is very active in promoting scientific research in developing countries.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdus_Salam

        • Greg G.

          A religious person can do great science but that science will not have religion in it. He used the “testimony of reason” alone for his science.

          Saudi Cleric Sa’d Al-Ateeq is what happens when one embraces the “testimony of revelation” too much.

          Science must agree with reality. Religion is not restricted to anything but the limits of imagination.

        • Congratulations for Prof. Salam. However, I would like to see Muslim scholars more involved at the highest levels of scholarship (and no, Muslim scholarship doesn’t count). Looking at Muslim contributions to science or technology, we see that they are under-represented whether you look at the Muslim world by fraction of the population or fraction of the income. My guess is that Islam is a negative force in this project, not a positive one.

  • Myna Alexanderson

    Well, the recipe for soap would have been a good start, but what I want to know is how do you take proper care of dreadlocks? If Yahweh had enough time for butchery, he had a few moments to explain the art of caring for one’s locks. He did insist that one not cut their hair, after all. It’s just plain rude.

    But as in all good things, the dwellers of the globe had to find out for themselves, but a little advice between self-adulation and assorted slayings would have been nice.

  • JBrown971

    If the Bible had included the recipe for soap, would it lead you to believe in God?

    • If the Bible had the first recorded recipe for soap plus dozens of other startlingly prescient scientific observations, it would be the first time that a simple naturalistic explanation was insufficient to explain something about the Bible.

      • JBrown971

        Was that a yes or no?

        • It was a No.

        • JBrown971

          Of course. However, there is nothing that could have been added to the Bible to change your mind.

          This blog is viewed as an attempt to force Christians to justify their belief in God. To that extent, you have dedicated much energy in throwing any possible object against the wall. Many of which, like this article, carry little to no weight. Moreover, your results must be lacking as your audience is largely fellow atheist travelers.

          In the end, it would appear that rather than expect Christian justification (as you do not believe one exists), the premise of this blog is rationalize your own belief. The further you attack Christians and their God, the less you need to spend time in your own head.

          I would be curious to see a series written by you expanding on the positives of your worldview, without condemning the views of others. It’s great contributions to history, it’s great leaders, it’s inspirational teachers and it’s positive view of the future; all premised on secular humanism.

        • However, there is nothing that could have been added to the Bible to change your mind.

          I certainly can’t think of anything. But I hear you have a god who is super smart. Maybe he could’ve thought of something.

          We could put our heads together and think of a dozen traits the Bible could have that would give skeptics pause, things for which I couldn’t find a precedent in another religion’s ancient text or couldn’t dismiss by looking at other examples within psychology or anthropology. That the Bible is explainable by straightforward naturalistic arguments says that you’ve got just another book written by ordinary men.

          Many of which, like this article, carry little to no weight.

          All I have is a dismissive wave of your hand, which doesn’t teach me anything. Tell us precisely what’s wrong with this post.

          Moreover, your results must be lacking as your audience is largely fellow atheist travelers.

          Good point. I know for a fact that 98% of all the world’s 2 billion Christians have read thoroughly at this blog and, because the comments aren’t full of admissions of deconversion (which are to me what unwanted crutches are to Lourdes), that shows that my arguments are meaningless.

          In the end, it would appear that rather than expect Christian justification (as you do not believe one exists), the premise of this blog is rationalize your own belief.

          Suppose my position were the correct one. We’d expect to see what we do see: Christians whose minds are closed by ego and wishful thinking coming here to reject posts with nothing more substantial than a wave of their hands. That’s no proof that my position is correct, of course, but it’s not disconfirming of my position and is a clue that I’m on the right track.

          No, my goal here isn’t to very publicly make shadows on the wall to convince me that I’m right. I want to explore the issues and follow the evidence where it points. You think I’ve missed the killer Christian arguments? Then don’t be shy—tell us about them.

          I would be curious to see a series written by you expanding on the positives of your worldview, without condemning the views of others. It’s great contributions to history, it’s great leaders, it’s inspirational teachers and it’s positive view of the future; all premised on secular humanism.

          That’s a useful topic, but I don’t think I have much new to add. Thanks for the suggestion, though. I’ve read many good posts at other blogs on this. Keep in mind, though, that this is orthogonal to the question of whether there is a god or not. Suppose atheism were depressing and didn’t inspire anything great—that would say nothing about its truth.

        • adam

          “Of course. However, there is nothing that could have been added to the Bible to change your mind.”

          No, if the bible had science in it that would have been unknowable at the time, but instead it has the same IGNORANCE and lack morality that the society that wrote it had.

          NO EVIDENCE of any ‘god’ at all

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Your book has provided no new testable ideas that can add to human knowledge or benefit society. In fact, much that’s in the book is DETRIMENTAL to society.

          So why should we give it any credence when it can arguably harm us?

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day…just because one thing is true in a book doesn’t make the supernatural claims any more likely.

  • NG

    Actually, the Bible does include instructions for toilet hygiene: given to the tribes of Israel wandering in the desert. Each was instructed to have a little shovel with them to build a hole in the sand and carefully bury their waste. Not sure how that worked in the cities, but cleanliness was the thing.

    • Greg G.

      An article that Giauz Ragnarock gave a link for shows that it didn’t work so well. It turns out that the eggs of intestinal parasites survive longer when buried than if the turds were left in the sun.

      Biblical Latrine: Ancient Parasites Show That Cleanliness May Have Been Next To Sickliness

      • NG

        Obviously, it was not an ideal – building a functioning sewage system in the vicinity of nomadic desert camp would have been a challenge even with today’s tools.. Still infinitely better than ‘doing it straightforward’ as still happens in some parts of the world, for example the Indian countryside..

        • Susan

          Still infinitely better than ‘doing it straightforward’ as still happens in some parts of the world, for example the Indian countryside.

          Did you read the article? The point seems to be that it was worse than ‘doing it straightforward’.

        • Greg G.

          It’s not as bad as pooping in your drinking water but the burying was worse than not burying it.

      • epicurus

        Yet another application of the power of disinfecting sunlight.

    • Well, yeah. God is grossed out by poop (Deut. 23:12–14). And why should that be surprising? He’s only human.

  • Samuel Lawson

    It depends what you mean by ‘The Bible’. The Christian texts are notable for their omissions. Other Jewish texts do make mention of what ingredients should be used to make kosher soap. https://www.ou.org/torah/machshava/tzarich-iyun/tzarich_iyun_kosher_soap/

    • Are these Jewish texts remarkable for having the first mention of the recipe for soap in the world? That’s what we’re looking for in this conversation.

      • Samuel Lawson

        I think it’s a more convincing point that they are not remarkable. The making of soap predates the setting of scripture by something like 1,000 years. The origins of Jewish religious texts are mainly concerned with the peculiarities of their heritage and practices. Since they inherited soap making from other cultures — the Babylonians are credited with the first soap around 2,800 BCE or earlier — it wasn’t part of their story, and so not part of the oral tradition; therefore not part of scripture. It would have been common knowledge.

        • Samuel Lawson

          Oh – and by the ‘setting of scripture’ I don’t meant the beginning of time – the creation myth isn’t science. I mean the setting of when the stories likely originated being about 2000-1500 BCE, accounting for the fact that any writings older than ca. 300 CE from which the bible is based are mostly lost. I’m not a young earth creationist and I believe in universal reconciliation. If there is an afterlife, I’m convinced atheists will enjoy it as much as Christians. If there isn’t… well, then atheists will enjoy that as much as Christians, too.

        • Susan

          Hi Samuel,

          Interesting posts. Thank you.

          I believe in universal reconciliation.

          Respectfully, why?

        • Samuel Lawson

          I currently put stock in string theory, stay with me, there is relevance with a certain simple logic applied. Particularly when you get to the part that demonstrates that anything that was once connected retains a bit of that connection in space-time. E.G. you were once connected to your mother by an umbilical cord, and so you will always be connected at that place and time. If God therefore was incarnate through Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, or merely through the supernova that formed the elements we are made of, then every person is part of God by the same argument. This, of course, depends on whether one even thinks there is such a deity… but deity can take many forms and go by many names. The universe is worth studying. Without realising it, people deify “the universe” all the time. We’ve already learnt that by learning about the universe we make valuable discoveries about ourselves. I suspect we are all connected, not just in a philosophical sense. Therefore, if one human being makes a connection with God, or the natural creative forces from which spring life, then all have the means to tap that universal connection. Thus, universal reconciliation. With this logic, you don’t have to believe what I believe for me to consider you as worthwhile as the whole universe.

        • MNb

          “Without realising it, people deify “the universe” all the time.”
          ??

          “We’ve already learnt that by learning about the universe we make valuable discoveries about ourselves.”
          Do you mean “we humans” here? That would be somewhat insulting, even if unintentionally, because no, this doesn’t apply to me. Hence you seem to be suggesting that I’m not human.

        • Samuel Lawson

          First part, on deifying the universe. To personify the universe is to deify it. Consider the statements, “The universe must love me today.” An astronomer who spends her life studying quasars, or a biologist searching for the origins of life identify our universe as something worthy of a life’s work; thus establishing its worth-ship, worth-ship being the etymological origin of the word, worship.

          On the other matter:
          Do you find Carl Sagan’s quote, “We are made of star stuff,” insulting, too? Maybe you are too attached you one restrictive definition of what makes up a human. Is it your body, separate as it is at this moment from other bodies, or is it your brain? Is what we think of as Human, merely consciousness? Is that consciousness produced by the brain, or is the brain merely the driver’s seat? Whatever the answer, you are now whom you are now, but there is a physical (if not spiritual) connection that links you over millions and billions of years all the way back to your first ancestor, to the origins of life, all the way back to the “star stuff” from which we all came. It doesn’t mean you’re a ball of plasma and gas, but then again, why not? What’s so insulting about including all that makes us ‘Us’ as part of what it is to be human?

          Oh – and just for pretense of the original topic… soap: made from organic material. All living things on this planet exist in conjunction. Therefore, the soap I used this morning (if I use traditional soap made from organic material) is part of the grand network of life, too. 😀

        • Greg G.
        • Samuel Lawson

          Funny. Doesn’t apply – I’m quite religious. I’m also a raving heretic. 😀

        • Susan

          Funny.

          It is.

          Doesn’t apply-

          That remains to be seen.

        • Greg G.

          Have you thought about the expansion of the universe? The expansion has been found to be accelerating. There are galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and superclusters of clusters of galaxies. Superclusters are clusters of galaxies that are gravitationally bound to one another but the accelration of the expansion of space between the superclusters is greater than the acceleration of gravity of the supercluster. So the superclusters are accelerating away from each other but not through space as space itself is accelerating. Nothing can travel faster than light through space but there is no limit to the acceleration of space. Eventually, the space containing each supercluster will be traveling faster than light speed away from each other so they will not have any connection to each other.

          Our universe might be a pocket universe that arose between superclusters of a universe that went superluminal long ago but we have no connection to it. Our universe may not be the only pocket universe and the others may be traveling away from us at superluminal speeds. The universe where our universe is a pocket may be a pocket universe, and so on. We have no connection to any of them.

        • MNb

          “The Universe must love me” is totally meaningless to me. You could as well say “That wheelchair must hate me.” or “That heater must get horny when I turn it up.”

          “identify our universe as something worthy of a life’s work; thus establishing its worth-ship, worth-ship being the etymological origin of the word, worship.”
          That’s nothing but a silly semantic game that moreover depends on one specific language. In Dutch it becomes

          “identificeren ons Universum als iets dat het waard is om een geheel leven aan te wijden, daarmee zijn waarde-schap (a very ugly non-existing word – MNb) vaststellend, waarde-schap zijnde de etymologische oorsprong van het word aanbidding. That’s nonsense in the most literal meaning of the word.

          “Do you find Carl Sagan’s quote, “We are made of star stuff,” insulting, too?”
          No. At worst a bit silly. It’s not nearly the same as what you claimed. That I am made of the same elementary particles as the rest of the Universe doesn’t imply that I have made “valuable discoveries about myself by learning about the universe.”
          As for the question who I am: my identity is mainly the product of my brain. As my brain is an integral part of the rest of my body there is a bit more to it.
          As for your soap statement: a pars pro toto is a metaphor, not a statement about reality.
          You keep on missing what is mildly insulting. It’s not your view about your connection with the Universe. I don’t care about it and don’t feel any urge to discuss it. It’s your implication that it says something meaningful about me that slightly insults me. What you say means nothing and is irrelevant to me.

        • Samuel Lawson

          That’s okay that it’s irrelevant to you. I’m sure you have plenty of opinions that are equally meaningless to myself. The beauty is that it doesn’t have to be relevant to you. I’ve come to some conclusions that matter to no-one but myself — however — it might matter to you that here is a religious person who doesn’t think atheists are headed for some kind of perdition. It goes back to my first reply: If there is an afterlife, atheists will enjoy is as much as believers, and if there isn’t one, they will enjoy that as much, too.
          The soap bit was a joke. Although when I consider it, it’s logical that the interdependent nature of all living things on the planet lends credence to the idea the the bar of soap I use is part of the same biological system to which we all belong… We’re waaay off topic, and I’m just acknowledging the original post.

          This is just me being vulnerable because I think it’s worthwhile to tell people that I believe they have worth, and believing or not believing in God doesn’t change that.

        • Susan

          it might matter to you that here is a religious person who doesn’t think atheists are headed for some kind of perdition.

          On some level. To the extent that it affects the way you treat your fellow humans, yay for you! Sincerely. It’s nice.

          At the same time, perdition is an unsupported accusation that I don’t take seriously. I just take the consequences of those beliefs seriously. Sort of like I would have to take the consequences of beliefs that women are inferior seriously in a society in which those beliefs were held, despite the lack of support for those claims.

          If there is an afterlife, atheists will enjoy is as much as believers

          On what basis can you make that claim? What expertise do you have on the consequences for anything if there is an afterlife?

          I think it’s worthwhile to tell people that I believe they have worth

          I can’t argue with that.

          believing or not believing in God doesn’t change that.

          It depends on what you mean by God.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Only thing about hell/perdition that bothers me is that it’s thrown out of ill-will

        • MNb

          “it might matter to you that here ….”
          No, not either. At the other hand I’m not one of those atheists who’s offended when told he/she’s going to suffer eternally in Hell. The reason is exactly the same: that says nothing about me and everything about the person who makes the claim. What I don’t like is people making claims about me (always part of “us”) because it makes them feel warm and cozy to be inclusive.

          In a way you do it again when you say: “if there is an afterlife then atheists …..” You have no idea if atheist me is going to enjoy it as much as believing you. In fact it’s simply incorrect. Afterlife – assuming it will be eternal – will be a torture for me, like eternal life became a torture for Smeagol. Must I assume it will be for you as well? That’s what you say.
          This time I’m not offended though, because I preferred to understand it more charitably.

        • Susan

          I currently put stock in string theory, stay with me.

          OK.

          Particularly when you get to the part that demonstrates that anything that was once connected retains a bit of that connection in space-time.

          What do you mean?

          If God therefore was incarnate through Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, or merely through the supernova that formed the elements we are made of, then every person is part of God by the same argument.

          What is “God”?

          if one human being makes a connection with God, or the natural creative forces from which spring life,

          Are they the same thing? What do you mean by either?

          then all have the means to tap that universal connection.

          You’ve lost me here.

          Thus, universal reconciliation.

          You’ve really lost me here. How does that work on an event horizon?

          Also, are you able to tap into the universal connection beyond the light cone? Are there planets there?

        • I thought that Babylonian “soap” was not the same thing that we call soap, but I’ll look into that. Thanks.

        • Susan

          My very superficial research (Dr. Google) came up with this:

          An excavation of ancient Babylon revealed evidence that Babylonians were making soap around 2800 B.C. Babylonians were the first one to master the art of soap making. They made soap from fats boiled with ashes. Soap was used in cleaning wool and cotton used in textile manufacture and was used medicinally for at least 5000 years.

          Used for cleaning fabrics and used medicinally.

          The bible could have recommended that people use it to wash their hands. But it doesn’t.

        • Greg G.

          The bible could have recommended that people use it to wash their hands. But it doesn’t.

          That’s what I have been thinking. The Bible goes into great detail for mixing God’s favorite incense and anointing oils but never talks about using soap.

        • Susan

          The Bible goes into great detail for mixing God’s favorite incense and anointing oils but never talks about using soap.

          I know, right? The things a deity could communicate while it was divinely inspiring a book.

          “Wash your hands.”

          “Women are your intellectual equals and not your property.”

          “Neighbouring tribe members also. Be nice to them. Form economic treaties and work together.”

          “Don’t abuse your domesticated animals. They feel fear, pain and affection and they bond with their kin.”

          That sort of thing.

          Fancy robes and incense seem kind of frivolous comparatively speaking.

          Of course, that is my cold, materialist “we are fragile, biological beings in a universe that seems to be ruled by physics” position talking.

          What do I know? I have no moral compass ’cause I ain’t got Yahwehjesus.

        • Greg G.

          Why have passages like this:

          Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NRSV)Rebellious Children18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. 20 They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid.

          when it was possible to have Bible verses like this?

          Colossians 3:21 (NRSV)21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.

        • Susan

          Why have passages like this… when it was possible to have Bible verse like this?

          It’s a mystery, Greg. Do you think you know everything?