Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Give Me A Reason

On Faith

I have a challenge of sorts to those who believe with perfect faith in the biblical narrative, especially as it applies to God's personal involvement in the lives of humans. Give me a reason to believe its veracity. By that, I mean provide a reasoned response using extra-biblical sources and evidence, leading to incontrovertible proof. And, remember, tautological arguments citing the Bible itself or biblical commentaries that do so similarly will not work for the same reason that personal memoirs are not themselves sufficiently reliable.

I think you will have a tough time offering any verifiable and consistent proof, since the biblical narratives are full of inconsistencies and dubious assertions. It's hardly a book that has an inner consistency, notably because it had so many authors—40 in total writing 66 books over a period of 1,500 years. Imagine having 40 authors working together, not collaboratively, but at different times and different places, working on one book. Of course, the Bible was compiled and given authority years later, first the Torah (what Christians call the first five books of the Old Testament) during the Persian Period around 400 BCE, and then the Christian New Testament, completed around 150 CE and canonized around 400 CE; and the Tanakh was canonized by 200 CE,

Having thoroughly and critically read both the Old Testament (Tanakh) and New Testament, and many biblical commentaries, I have sufficient knowledge to offer this challenge; I have noted hundreds of contradictions and fantastic claims that go against nature, including the following miraculous stories: In Genesis 1, God created the earth in six days; in Exodus 14:21, Moses parted the Red Sea; in Joshua 10:12, Joshua made the sun stand still; in Luke 1:24,  the birth of Jesus of Nazareth through Mary, a virgin, impregnated by Holy Spirit; in John 11:1-46, Jesus raises Lazarus, who had died three days earlier; and of course the greatest miracle, Jesus being resurrected, also after three days after being horribly killed by the Romans, it of course being one of the central tenets of Christianity.

Bear in mind that I am neither against individuals holding religious views nor am I against religion in general; what I find problematic and somewhat confounding, is the need among the most zealous of zealots to impose such limited views on others, and the insufferable expectation that everyone ought to, by persuasion or otherwise, agree with them. That validation only comes by wide agreement.

Equally important, I have noted in many personal conversations and in reading many Christian apologetics, that many hold a poor understanding of science, most notable among evangelicals and other conservative Christians. Such individuals generally dismiss science's importance in its betterment of human society. This is to their discredit; ignorance is neither helpful nor becoming.

For my co-religionist Jews, I advise you that I have read many fine and insightful works by such noted rabbis as Heschel, Kook and Schneerson; and by such thinkers as Maimonides, Spinoza and Buber; and by such writers as Wiesel and Wouk. All have something noteworthy to say and I appreciate what they have offered to humanity; even so, after many years of thinking and reflection I have come to a personal conclusion, namely, that it's important that I continue to follow the Jewish traditions, and to impart these to my children. This works alongside a deep conviction that it's paramount that humans work assiduously to make this world a better place for humans.

To make it easier, I offer my view, based on almost 40 years of human experience as an adult. My view is closest to that offered by Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Jewish philosopher, who viewed the bible through the lens of an impersonal God, who neither rewards us nor condemns us. In short, in simple parlance, no involvement in the daily affairs of human and of humanity. It's up to us humans to make the world a better, more humane place to live. If we fail, the failure is ours alone. Such is always the challenge, to live a good moral and full life without the need for outside inducements or rewards.

Another note, particularly for Christians, before you put together a reasoned response to my challenge, you might want to read and consider the simple, yet elegant arguments in Bertrand Russell's essay "Why I Am Not A Christian (1927). Consider as well the argument in the New Statesman, where Jonathan Derbyshire writes about the New Atheists: "They separate their atheism from their secularism and argue that a secular state need not demand of the religious that they put their most cherished beliefs to one side when they enter public debate; only that they shouldn’t expect those beliefs to be accepted without scepticism."

It's up to you, now, to prove otherwise; in effect, to make your case in a reasonable manner. I plan to publish the best essay, if it has merit, on my blog.