Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why the Christian God would be Stupid if He Existed - Part 2: Special Revelation

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.

Part 1


  1. Of course the nutters claim that God gave his human messengers credibility by allowing them to perform a few miracles to wow the marks -- burning bushes, turning water into wine, that sort of thing. Too bad these alleged miracles don't seem much more impressive than what a decent stage magician could manage -- and of course there's no evidence that they ever happened, aside from an equally-suspect chain of human testimonies.

    If God really existed and wanted to get his message across clearly, I'd expect to see it in thousand-mile-high flaming Hebrew lettering along the orbit of the Moon, or something like that.

  2. It's circular argumentation really, the Bible's authors are reliable because they performed miracles, which are attested to in the bible, which is reliable because the authors performed miracles etc.....

  3. solid point. thanks for posting!

  4. Thanks I try to keep things interesting =)

  5. I just stumbled upon your blog as a result of searching for skeptical reviews of Keller's "Reason for God" (received it as a x-mas present from my overly religious folks). Have been reading through many of your other posts. All great stuff.

    I was wondering, could you point me in the direction of the sources for Paul's letters being forgeries? The veracity of the bible was the first crack in the dam for me that resulted in my current non-belief, so any new info on that subject fascinates me.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful, reasoned posts!

  6. Thanks for the feedback, receiving kind words helps give me motivation to keep blogging =)

    Regarding Paul's letters, Bart Ehrman wrote a book about it recently called Forged. It's well worth a read.

  7. Bart Ehrman is not a reliable scholar. He is well known as one of a handful of academics who make sensationalist claims about the New Testament. That having been said I find most of your posts on here erudite and interesting, if factually incorrect.

  8. I'm not sure where you got your revelation chain from, but I do not think it was from historical evidence. The authors of the gospels were disciples of Christ, eye witnesses to the events spoken of in the gospels. There is good evidence for suggesting early dates to the writing of the gospels within the lifetime of the eye witnesses. Most of Jesus's 12 disciples died horrific deaths for what they believed and saw to be true with their own eyes, seeing the risen Christ after His resurrection. Would His disciples die horrific deaths for something they did not absolutely believe to be true? Would they proclaim the Resurrection, knowing they would die for it? Their deaths are recorded in history- crucifixion, being beheaded, stoned, sawn in two. The disciples dispersed at Jesus's crucifixion, abandoning Him. It was after they saw Him resurrected, that they were transformed from scared followers to men who believed in Him so adamantly that they gave their lives for their beliefs. Would you die a horrific death to preserve a lie? Many of the writings of the New Testament are letters by the Apostle Paul to the early churches. He also died in Rome for his beliefs. Thankfully, the Bible was translated from Greek to English so that we may also know Him and read His truth.

  9. The revelation chain I hypothesised in the post comes from logical deduction from the facts of the composition of the New Testament, so yes it does come from historical evidence.

    The authors of the gospels were most certainly not disciples of Jesus, nor were they eye witnesses to the events they wrote about. They do not even claim to be such. If they had been, do you not think that it would have been worth mentioning? As a matter of fact, they were writing 'Gospel', not writing history, so it didn't even matter to them.
    There simply is not good evidence that the gospels were written within the supposed lifetimes of the original followers. In fact we do not even know when Jesus may (or may not) have existed, because none of the sources we have place him reliably in any historical context. The earliest documents mentioning 'Christ' are Paul's letters, and he makes no reference to anything that can be historically placed. Even if we accept the popular date approximations of when Jesus lived, the gospels weren't written within the lifetimes of disciples. If Jesus died around 33 C.E. the earliest gospel (Mark) was written around 70-80 C.E., after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. If the disciples were still alive after the war, which is unlikely, considering that Christians at the time were considered rabble-rousers by contemporary Roman writers like Tacitus, then they would have been incredibly old by this point. Life expectancy was around 40, and Mark was written 40-50 years after the supposed events. On top of that, the disciples, according to the very same gospels+acts lived in poor conditions, many of them coming from destitute backgrounds. Lower class citizens would have had even an lower life expectancy.

    There is also no evidence that Jesus' disciples died horrific deaths for their beliefs. The writings their deaths are mentioned in are incredibly late, being written hundreds of years later. Even if we could take them seriously (which we most certainly can not) there are a ton of explanations other than Jesus actually having risen from the dead that would explain their religious/political fervour better. They may have even believed that Jesus rose from the dead, but not even Paul suggests that this resurrection was a bodily, physical resurrection. If they believed it was a spiritual event, the same fervour and zeal could be accounted for, without them having been witness to anything.

    So to sum it up, the case for Christianity you present is not very convincing and is extremely simplistic. The origins of Christian belief are an incredibly fascinating topic to research that I enjoy reading widely on, but I see nothing supernatural in it at all.

  10. I think you are right, God would be Stupid if He Existed. But I think religion started when the first conman met the very fist very stupid man.

  11. I'm gonna put this interesting in a apologetic discussion group on Facebook with the same name. Page's name "Acts 17".