Home > philosophy, religion > The Road to Atheism part XIV: Curious Revelations

The Road to Atheism part XIV: Curious Revelations

Most of this series has been about my experiences in getting away from religion. Which means that it is more a-religion than a-theism. I admit that the troubling aspect to is that it is hard to aruge against “god” without arguing against religion. If, for instance I want to argue that god has apparently no problem ordering his followers to massacre and entire group of non-believers, for no other reason that hey are non-believers and that shows that god has issues of immorality, the quick response (and a correct one as well) is that this situation is unique to one particular tradition (unless I’m speaking generally). It means that the tradition includes an instance of immorality, and that perhaps they have gotten it wrong, but surely that is different than god being immoral. What would be needed is to attack not an action, but a series of actions that are common to all traditions.

Of course, this is also frought with problems. It does nothing to argue against the metaphysical definition of god. Yet, since so many people argue for god independent of the metaphysical definitions we can save that for a later date. Instead we can discuss the rather interesting choices that with regard to the alleged messengers of god in both time, place, and person. It would seem, if we accept the stories at face value being true, that this personified divine being didn’t want people to hear his word.

If it did, why, I might ask, wouldn’t it reveal itself to everyone at the same time? Wouldn’t that save all of the people a lot of time and effort as well as eliminating people with my mindset? It’s almost as if this divine fellow wants the people of the world to fight over it like a ten year old in a divorce hearing. I know that in the past, I have mentioned that roughly all of the religions have the same moral stances with a few minor differences, but it’s those minor differences which start wars…even intra-religion. By having a universal revelation we would eliminate all of those wars of succession, wars of difference, there would be no more divine right of passage, people who would use religion to cloak their thirst for power would have a more difficult time of it than they do now. Why wasn’t the divine considering this when he decided to reveal itself to one person alone in a cave, on a hill, on a mountain, forest, or under a tree (Mohammed, Moses, L. Ron, Joseph Smith, Buddha, respectively). Only Arjuna, of Hindu Mythology, is given the truth in a crowd of people (whom he is then commanded to kill half of), but even then Krishna has stopped time to give it to him. Such solitary revelation means that everything is heard second hand, and that those of the skeptical disposition, like myself, would have no room to argue.

But solitary natures aside, what is worse, is who the divine picks. If you think about the world thousands of years ago governments were rules by kings and emperors for whom one word changed everything. Yet instead of going to the top of the hierarchy, god seems to prefer the bottom. Let’s go with Moses. According to the bible, Moses encountered a burning bush imploring him to free his people from the enslavement of the Egyptians. Now Moses had been previously of the house of the Pharaoh and was running from the law for killing an Egyptian soldier (even though he probably could have gotten off with probation given that his adopted dad was the Pharaoh) so that’s at least a good start, he could have the ear of the king…but he doesn’t. He’s on the run. Why take the indirect approach anyway? Why doesn’t “I Am Who Am” just pop into the throne room of the Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go? Were the heralds of god busy that day? I suppose Walken and Rickman are out of a job now if even they couldn’t get an appointment with the king. Quickly the objection will be stated that god is like Captain Kirk and has a directive against interference, but that doesn’t work with the numerous other times that god directly interferes, like when he murders the first born of every Egyptian. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to. Secondly, Moses is the shitty choice because as Ex. 4:10 tells us, Moses has some speech problems and must enlist his brother Aaron (it’s unclear if Aaron is his genetic brother or just his brother because they are both Hebrews). It’s just a bad choice, Moses certainly gets the leadership thing down after killing the non-believers during the exile in the desert, there were easier ways of going about it. Just tell the pharaoh who the real god is and convert all of Egypt to Judaism. That however isn’t the goal, at this point we are talking about tribal gods.

The case of Jesus actually is worse, because He’s supposed to actually be god but as a carpenter doesn’t have he authority to communicate the message even though his claim will be that only through him can one avoid eternal punishment. The message would have been infinitely easier to communicate, if say, Gabrielle had communicated the TRUTH to Augustus Caesar, who like Constantine several emperors later, converts all of Rome to Christianity with a single edict. Divine revelation only occurs to the bottom of society, Buddha–after he abdicated the throne, Mohammed an illiterate sheep herder, Joseph Smith-a convicted con artist, and L. Ron a hack science fiction writer. The late Christopher HItchens observed that this curious pattern is nothing but blatant populism. Especially when you consider that it doesn’t work, we aren’t all celebrating the same religion.

Why else would the time period always predate mass media? The most recent religion to develop is the cultish Scientology, and their unwillingness to share their actual words of truth for free not only belies their status as a cult, but indicates as well that they don’t want everyone in. It’s not even the lack of radio or television that makes the other religious revelations difficult to swallow, it’s also the inability to mass produce books, or even papers, not to mention that literacy rates were dismal during those times. The Egyptians, for instance, didn’t allow their populations to write. Maybe we should be expecting a follow up revelation in the near future where everyone can be connected to the internet, but given the false apocalypses we’ve been having lately (three in the last year and a half) I’m not holding my breath. It wouldn’t be so bad if the religions all weren’t claiming that they were the sole path to truth because of these divine revelations, which we have to all take on the word of those who possess no authority. It’s also difficult to accept because none of these revelations offer anything in the way of a proof for why we ought to believe. We just have to take someone else’s word that this happened to someone else, no court would accept it as evidence labelling it as hearsay at best.

I will give the divine credit in one respect: place. Having three major religions originate in the Middle East makes sense. It being the center of trade and all, and while I give it a hard time for who it chose with regard to Judaism and Egypt, it was at least the most powerful kingdom in the area…that or Persia, Persia kind of had it going on too. Still the problem is that the majority of the world is left out of the running, and word won’t spread that quickly. Heavy population centers are always going to have one or two people thinking that they ought to be in charge if only they could figure out a hook. Unfalsifiable evidence makes a good hook if you can get someone to believe in it. One might argue that if it weren’t true, no one would believe it, but that isn’t a good argument since every religion is set against each other over the “truth monopoly” that they all believe the others are incorrect.

The only remedy is to consider the idea that these stories are just that: stories designed to teach. They can’t be literal, because if they are it’s actually much worse in that whatever is in charge of the universe likes to set us against each other for no discernable reason. Perhaps the lesson of morals and day to day behavior are more important than the exclusionary message seems to communicate. I could accept that. I actually could, but for every instance that the authors of these texts, the alleged witnesses of divine revelation, tell us how to be kind to one another there are two more that command the spilling of blood. Perhaps Critias was right, that religion is a tool of those in power to confer fear on to the masses. The effect of unifying one people and excluding all of the others makes sense in tribal worlds, and always portrays the revealed as being the underdogs who have the edge. Everyone loves an underdog which is perhaps why the revelations always occur…which is convenient in only one sense of the word.

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