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, เย็ด 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 second installment of religious short pieces illustrate.
Belief in Deities.
What Does Not Constitute Evidence for God’s Existence.
The Best of All Possible Worlds.
Attention Theists: Here’s the Deal.
Down With God, Oops, Sorry, Big Brother.
A Few Thoughts on the Afterlife.
The Bible as a Work of Fiction.
Cabeza de Vaca.
BELIEF IN DEITIES
You were born an atheist (your mind was a blank slate) yet you became a Christian. Why? Without knowing anything about you I’ll just suggest this sweeping generalization. Young children (who are first exposed to the entire concept of theology) tend to accept without any critical thinking or questioning what authority figures (parents, teachers, the clergy, and adults in general) tell them. In fact if you do question you’re often just going to get put down if not slapped down for your troubles. All too often the typical adult response is “just because I say so”. But the chain of authority figures telling children how the world (life, the universe and everything) works extends ever backwards since authority figures were once children who looked up to authority figures who were once children and who looked up to authority figures.
Had you been born and raised in a different society / culture you’d be singing the praises of a quite different deity with equal conviction and you know this to be so. So what does that say about the existence of your Christian God?
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 done it.
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”.
THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
Let’s assume for the here and now that the traditional God-of-the-Bible actually exists. Let’s assume He has the ability to create Life, the Universe and Everything (LUE) and further that He wants to create the LUE. Now what?
Well God might be constrained as in there might be only one way to create the LUE because there can be only one kind of LUE that can be created. If all you’ve got is a can of red paint then that’s going to be the colour of whatever it is you’re going to paint. In that case, God can be absolved of all blame for creating the LUE mess that the LUE is in and be forgiven.
But let’s assume that God had a free will choice in what kind of LUE He wanted to create. He knew all possible LUE flowcharts before-the-fact. He might not absolutely know precisely the final ongoing outcomes of His various options (though many theists would dispute that since God is allegedly omniscient hence All-knowing where ALL includes ALL of the future) but He knows all possibilities. By analogy, you may not know for absolute sure that you will wake up tomorrow morning, but you do know all of the various possibilities that might arise.
Some would conclude that God would choose a creation process that would lead to the best of all possible versions of LUE. One however could hardly argue that this is the best of all possible versions of LUE. The daily headlines tell you that this is not the best of all possible worlds and that this LUE is not the best of all possible LUE’s. Note that free will doesn’t enter the picture since God knew in advance all possible LUE outcomes including all free willed choices in each and every one of those LUE options or outcomes by those entities He created or could create with free will.
Examining all possible LUE flowcharts, even trillions upon trillions of them, as well as the trillions upon trillions of pathways each and every potential flowchart could take – would seem to be a rather trivial exercise for God – and picking the best possible one (and then enact that one), would tell you the best set of initial conditions to set in train.
So I conclude that either God didn’t create the LUE or that God created the LUE that was way, way less than the ideal LUE knowing in advance that His LUE flowchart wasn’t the best of all possible LUE flowcharts hence the best of all possible LUE’s. The buck stops with God since it was all His doing!
Let’s look at a human analogy – preparing or creating dinner. If step one in the creation of dinner process starts with ingredients that are past their best by or use by date, and you use unwashed dirty dishes (pots and pans, etc.) and have dirty hands and lots of cockroaches crawling around your infested kitchen, then the resulting product (dinner) is going to be less than ideal. You’re not going to end up with the best of all possible dinners. So you need to start your dinner making flowchart – processing / creating dinner – with fresh ingredients, clean dishes and pots and pans, washed hands and a cockroach-free kitchen. The buck stops with the chef since dinner was all their doing.
So to conclude, you know this isn’t the best of all possible LUE’s or worlds because you could improve on it. So the question arises, why didn’t God create the best of all possible LUE’s? Why did God, in a manner of speaking, start out with ingredients that were past their best or use by dates; use dirty dishes and pots and pans; fail to wash His hands; and create in a cockroach infested kitchen? Maybe because there is no God?
ATTENTION THEISTS: HERE’S THE DEAL
Okay theists, here’s a deal. Pick any one of the following alleged Biblical characters, locations or events, an event or location or character of your choosing, and give me independently verifiable evidence, evidence that I can actually verify by myself for myself, that this event actually happened or that this character actually existed or this location can be identified.
Pick One – Events: Eve created from Adam’s rib; that Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt; that the Exodus actually happened; that the multiplication of loaves and fishes happened; that Jesus walked on water; that Jonah lived inside a big fish for three days.
Pick One – Location: The Garden of Eden; the site of the burning bush; the site and actual existence of Sodom and Gomorrah; the final resting location and the actual existence of Noah’s Ark.
Pick One – Biblical Character: Adam & Eve; Noah; Moses; Abraham; Joshua; Jonah; Ezekiel; Samson; Daniel; Methuselah; Goliath; Elijah; any one of the Disciples; Barabbas; Joseph & Mary.
DOWN WITH GOD, OOPS, SORRY, BIG BROTHER
In the novel “1984”, Winston Smith did not worship Big Brother. Winston Smith did not obey Big Brother’s commandments (especially when it came to the opposite sex). Winston Smith made a Big Mistake. So did Julia, that member of the opposite sex.
Does the above sound slightly familiar but in a different setting and context? While we don’t find a great deal admirable about Big Brother (or Dear Leader in North Korea to use a real and more modern parallel), we seem A-OK with Big Brother’s alter ego – God. There are lots of parallels between “1984” and God of the Bible.
There’s no actual evidence in “1984” that Big Brother actually even existed. The same with God, or the God concept. God dictates to you what comes first and that’s love and worship of God (instead of love and worship of Big Brother). You will have no other entities ahead of God, and of course Big Brother is the supreme head of The Party in “1984”. God tells you what to think (ditto Big Brother); what to believe (ditto Big Brother); what to eat / not eat; what to wear / not wear; who to have sex with and in what position, and to top it all off, Big Brother, oops, sorry, God is watching you 24/7/52, even unto your dreams and what’s recorded secretly in your diary.
“1984” had the telescreen (that’s just God in another form or disguise) and the Thought Police (God’s administrators) and even Room 101 (hell). You could say that the Inner Party are God’s angels and other administrators (or enforcers); the Outer Party is more akin to those employed working for God, like priests, and other sheep herders, etc. The Proles are of course the flock of sheep and the sheep of course love Big Brother (God) and worship Big Brother (God again) – or else it’s Room 101 for them and for you! At least “1984” had a ‘happy’ ending, for in the end Winston Smith saw the error of his ways and he loved and worshipped Big Brother.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE AFTERLIFE
*Very few people, past or present, want to die, so therefore the desire for an afterlife, even if it is just wishful thinking.
*When you die you’re not going to find out what the truth is because you’re DEAD! Pity that when you are actually dead, having expected an afterlife immediately thereafter, there can be no oops; guessed wrong.
*At least when you die you escape your terrestrial existence which was probably not ideal if say you’re a North Korean, but you can’t even do that after-the-fact in your afterlife abode. The concept of Heaven, according to the late Christopher Hitchens, is akin to being in a celestial North Korea but with no possible escape. Dear Leader or 1984’s Big Brother (i.e. – God), is watching you 24/7/52 – for all eternity.
*Even a MAFIA Boss couldn’t torture you forever, but God apparently can!
*You were born without any theological knowledge (or baggage), yet between then and now, Christian theists have swallowed hook, line and sinker various facets pertaining to theology and especially salvation and the afterlife. Perhaps such Christian theists and current true believers should go back to their religious instructors and question what they taught – how did they know the correctness of the salvation / afterlife stuff they taught you?
*Post-death is the same state of existence as pre-conception, only you don’t hear Christian theists going on about the lack of a before-life prior to their conception.
*You would argue that you have awareness, self-awareness, self-identity, a personality, memories, and a consciousness or soul or psyche or spirit or essence. Now you would have to agree that there have been slight changes in these traits from when you were 8, hence 18, hence 28, hence 38, hence 48, hence 58, hence 68, etc. But ultimately, you are still you be you 8 or 78. Unfortunately, some people lose all of the above with advanced Alzheimer’s, dementia or senility and lapse into a vegetative state. This can also happen due to other neurological diseases or injuries. The total loss of you while you’re still alive demonstrates that there is no mind/brain duality. Now if you happen to lose all of what makes you, you while you are still alive, how can what makes you, you, be transferred into your afterlife? You would have no post-death awareness, self-awareness, self-identity, a personality, memories, and so on.
*The afterlife can be circumnavigated eventually when your essence, personality, memories, knowledge, psyche, spirit, whatever is downloadable into a more durable substrate – like a computer hard-drive. From there it can be downloaded again and again from hard-drive to hard-drive again and again without end.
*If you believe in an afterlife just based on pure faith instead of some actual evidence, then my response is that was can be asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence.
*If there is no afterlife – and you shouldn’t bet the family farm on that prospect – that just makes your one current shot at life all the more valuable. You can’t put off in this lifetime, on the expectation that you’ll have another afterlife lifetime, if there is no afterlife lifetime.
*Christian theists who claim that there is an afterlife have unfortunately never demonstrated the actual reality of their premise.
*So there you go off to the Pearly Gates to be met and greeted by that Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Oops!
THE BIBLE AS A WORK OF FICTION
According to Wikipedia, “Fiction is the classification for any story or universe derived from imagination-in other words, not based strictly on history or fact… Fiction constitutes an act of creative invention, so that faithfulness to reality is not typically assumed; in other words, fiction is not expected to present only characters who are actual people or descriptions that are factually true. The context of fiction is generally open to interpretation, due to fiction’s freedom from any necessary embedding in reality; however, some fictional works are claimed to be, or marketed as, historically or factually accurate, complicating the traditional distinction between fiction and non-fiction.”
Further, “Realistic fiction typically involves a story whose basic setting (time and location in the world) is real and whose events could feasibly happen in that real-world setting; non-realistic fiction involves a story where the opposite is the case, often being set in an entirely imaginary universe, an alternative history of the world other than that currently understood as true, or some other non-existent location or time-period, sometimes even presenting impossible technology or a defiance of the currently understood laws of nature.”
Reasons why the Bible most certainly appears to be and probably is a work of historical fiction.
#1) The Bible reads as if it is a series of rather unconnected self-contained short stories. Examples could include the Garden of Eden, the Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel, Abraham & Isaac, etc. Each seems to be a self-contained story.
#2) There’s no independently verified historical / archaeological evidence that is contemporary with Biblical times that any of the major players in the Bible (i.e. – Adam & Eve, Noah, Moses, Jonah, Solomon, David & Goliath, etc.) ever existed and that any of the major events (i.e. – the Flood; the Exodus; the Battle of Jericho, etc.) that are related ever happened.
#3) Many of the Biblical tales are wildly improbable at best (i.e. – the Garden of Eden narrative; the Exodus, etc. and often downright scientifically impossible (i.e. – the creation of life (especially of Adam & Eve), the Universe and everything; Jonah and the ‘whale’; the Sun standing still in the sky; the resurrection, etc.).
#4) Like nearly all works of fiction, the Bible contains many hundreds of dialogues and monologues without any explanation (adequate or otherwise) as to who was Johnny-on-the-spot writing down these pithy quotations in real time. Some of these Biblical quotations could only have been scribed down by Peeping Toms or spies and some quotations are noted and logged before any humans even existed that could have wrote them down!
Regarding Bible Quotations: And just who would have even thought to be writing all of these monologues and dialogues down at the time, even assuming that some unknown scribe was Johnny-on-the-spot and just happened to have pen-and-paper (or equivalent) at the ready?
CABEZA DE VACA
Cabeza de Vaca was just one of the ordinary Spanish soldiers known as the Conquistadors who invaded and conquered the Aztec and Inca empires in the 1500’s. Alas, this particular individual was shipwrecked off of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast and only he and three other of his companions survived. Thus began an eight-year odyssey (November 1528 to June 1536), an epic journey on foot across Texas and the U.S. / Mexican border region to the Gulf of California before being united with their fellow countrymen, the Spaniards. They of course spent a lot of time with the Native Americans on that journey. And therein developed amongst the natives the legend that Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions not only had the shamanistic power to heal the sick but also to raise up their dead! There exists texts and artworks available to this day attesting to and depicting these Spanish healers, especially healing and the raising of the dead by Cabeza de Vaca . And I rather suspect that if one were to do an exhaustive search of the literature you’d find other myths and legends surrounding ordinary mortals who healed the sick but more to the point raised the dead. Now either you have to admit that Jesus doesn’t have a monopoly on healing the sick and raising the dead, OR that myths and legends can and do take hold based on little or even no actual evidence. Real news can quickly become fake news and real facts turn into alternative facts with every telling and retelling of the story in question.