I’ve brought this issue up in several venues before but I thought it really deserved its own post. Special revelation, i.e. a god giving its message to specific individuals to relay on to others is an imbecilic system and I’ll try to explain why I think so.
The Weakest Link
The weakest link of a chain is where it is going to break first, so let’s imagine the conveying of God’s message as a chain. At the very least, a special revelation chain has to have 3 links, God, the receiver of the message, and then the rest of the population. In that circumstance the populace first has to have faith in the conveyor before they can have faith in the message being conveyed. This is not an ideal situation, as obviously the messenger is the weakest link of the chain, whether interpreting the message from the deity incorrectly, relaying it incorrectly, or something not being believed by others. This is a faulty chain and a god that would use such a chain should be considered stupid in my books. However, this is not the chain that we supposedly have (given the assumption that the Bible is actually God’s message).
The special revelation chain that we would actually have would be something like this (for the New Testament Gospels).
God/Jesus->First Century Followers->Converts->[insert several decades and who knows how many other transmissions]->Anonymous Gospel Authors->Scribes (who altered the texts)->Translators (for those of us who don’t read Greek)->Us
The number of weak links in this chain is stunning, and many of them have already been broken in the texts, as we have numerous contradictions between gospels and sometimes within the same gospel, perhaps due to interpolations. Any god who would use such a system, where one must place faith in the transmission process before one can have faith in the message and then believe the true religion must be a moron. This is one reason why I think the better explanation is that no such God exists.
Faith in Humans
As I mentioned, in order to have faith in the religion, you must first have faith in the people who transmitted it to you. In some circumstances I am willing to put faith (trust) in other human beings, if they have been shown to have a track record of trustworthiness. For example, a Scientist who has a history of being innovative and ahead of his time, who has later been confirmed to be correct many times over would deserve considerably more faith in their judgment than a John Doe off the street with no credentials.
Surely if a God was dead-set on transmitting his one true religion via special revelation through many people he would at least make sure that the people had an air of trustworthiness around them? Unfortunately for the Christian, that isn’t the case with the Bible. The overwhelming majority of which is anonymously authored. The only books from the Old Testament of moderately ‘certain’ authorship are a few of the prophets (the first part of Isaiah for example). All of the ‘history’ and myth, and law found in the Old Testament is completely anonymous (No, Moses did not write any of it). The New Testament is arguably worse off than the Old, as a substantial portion of that which isn’t anonymous is forged. Half of the letters claimed in Paul’s name are forgeries (2 Thessalonians, Colossians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians) and some of the ones we’re pretty sure were written by him have anonymous interpolations added into them by scribes. 1 & 2 Peter are forgeries; Jude is a forgery and so on. I am not about to go placing my faith in anonymous writers 1900-1800 years ago nor am I going to place my faith in writers who lied about they were. Hell, I’m not even going to place faith in the single identified author of the New Testament (Paul) because I have absolutely no reason to trust him on anything. An Intelligent god surely would have accounted for this, which is why I cannot avoid the conclusion that if the Christian God existed, he would be an idiot.