Saturday, 13 April 2013

Why Believe The Holy Books?

Is it the act of a rational person to believe the stories in the Bible or the Qur'an, or any other holy book? All you have is someone else's word for it that the events described actually happened yet you are expected to believe without question. Why is that rational just because these events were alleged to have happened a long time ago and a lot of people have believed them without question in the meantime?

Their belief didn't make the accounts come true, and they certainly didn't witness them. In effect, you are believing something highly unlikely simply because someone else did.

Why don't you do that with things you hear about today?

Try this little exercise for yourself:

Take any story you like from your holy book - stories about what the prophets did or said, or about what different tribes of people are said to have done, or stories about what a god allegedly said to someone - preferably stories which form the foundation of your faith but not necessarily so.

Now, imagine someone passing along your street told you that this event was happening right now, or had just happened, a mile down the road. Would it make any difference if this person wrote it down? Would you believe them or would you think they were deluded, mistaken or lying to you for some reason and probably selling you something?

I suggest that only the most gullible and credulous of people or the insane would believe these stories without at least asking to see the evidence, if they were reported as happening today.

Yet the people who wrote those stories down in the Bible or the Qur'an or other holy books either believed people who told them they had happened or expected other people to believe them without any available evidence. And that's exactly what you've done, if you believe those stories are actually true.

How is that different to believing the person walking along your street? More to the point, where does it leave your faith if you have no rational basis for believing the stories in your holy book?

Try the little exercise above and let me know which stories you would believe and what would convince you to take the word of a complete stranger that these extraordinary events were taking place just down the road today, without needing any evidence.

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  1. Rosa, apologies in advance, but c'mon:

    You are absolutely correct. In fact someone today was telling me about this place called Chile, of which I've never heard but indeed doubt severely as I am used to denying all things unless I have substantial proof of their existence. They proffered me a picture but I am quite sure it was a fake. It looked to me like an image of the coast of Hawaii. A land I also haven't been to(or have much proof of), but which my Government assures me must exist since they have received numerous income tax documents from the people of the isles over the past month.

    Certainly this is how I invalidate most histories in texts such as you criticize. There is no archaeological timeline that remotely coincides with and therefore affirms any historicity of much of the Gospel of Luke. or others. We are better informed if we face the civil war of the United states with the same criticism. Indeed I am sure the South won, though every document from the era might attest to a Yankee victory. All this to say, we must be somewhat open minded to the level of documentation which coincides with the original 'tall-tale,' and evidence is not indeed the end-all of authenticity. You treat your audience (in this regard) like children, who need the experience of the first penalty (spanking perhaps) to 'believe' the next instruction, Give us critical thinkers some credit sir!

    Furthermore, your complete dependence on evidence in your argument against credulousness shows a greater scholastic hole: Any criticism that disregards the literary context of the material within a document, is laughable! It would be like you reading a manifesto written against jews from the nineteen forties without a comprehension of whom the manifesto intended to persuade. Regardless of the question of the existence of Jews or otherwise, you must admit the rant loses much flavor on those who misunderstand the literary and historical context that a particular 'story' shares with the audience beyond its era.

    Cheers my good man, don't think to digress with me into minor examples. You disregard them often enough, so I have little fear of that, just wanted to be clear.

    1. The question was, can you think of any stories from the Bible that, if a stranger passing your house told you was happening a mile down the road right now, you would accept purely on his say so?

      I notice you didn't answer it but went for a long-winded diversionary ad hominem hidden inside a heap of verbiage instead. Are readers to believe that was not significant in some way?

  2. And your retort is baseless and ironically does little to answer my concerns. An eye for an eye, eh?

    I cannot answer your question because there are aspects which are unfit for rational thought aside from evidence. However in order to humor you:

    Joe from up the street relates to me that a young shepherd boy has struck down the giant of a Philistine army that was demanding a contest of champions from the Nation of Israel...

    Clearly Joe must be deluded, I live in Denver, Colorado. As he is a mile away he must be in the same precinct as I. The nation of Israel is many leagues from us and there is no probable cause for their station here, especially since the Philistines are a bygone militant power, and would require a similar excuse for coming to the Americas.

    So: Things that would need to change for this particular example:

    Details on proximity
    Timelines which correspond (such peoples and circumstances must be cohesive with the details of my own environment.)

    You give me plausible cause to not question those two discrepancies and I'm a believer. I no more need to 'see' it than I do the coast of Chile to believe the place exists.

    This is what, in part, I meant by understanding context, something your proposition is not considering.

    I could digress further, there are so many other facets your little 'proof' has not handled which while they may not invalidate it outright, certainly make it transparent and feeble as rhetorical inquiries go. Regardless, words are fun! Readers are to read what I write, not speculate on my verbosity, I am not Hemingway and do not deserve the honor of such 'informed' criticism.

    One final note. That last comment was not ad hominem. If noting that you in fact have created an argument whilst complaining of its shortcomings as an argument is considered an attack on your person, then I'll be sure to tone down my sarcasm in the future. I thought we were discussing ideas like thinkers, not children overly proud of some trinket we made in art class that is in fact valueless. (That last sentence is about as close as I will come to what you accused me of. Now you may complain with due cause.)

    No cheers, this time. I had hoped for at least three paragraphs in your last comment.

    1. The question was, can you think of any stories from the Bible that, if a stranger passing your house told you was happening a mile down the road right now, you would accept purely on his say so?

      Will you be avoiding answering this question and trying to cover it with ad hominem crudely tucked away under a heap of verbiage for many more days before you pluck up the courage to answer it or should readers now conclude that you can't but don't have the moral integrity to say so?

      > I had hoped for at least three paragraphs in your last comment.<

      I find quantity rarely compensates for poor quality. We obviously disagree on this point.

    2. John,

      What if Joe told you he just saw a Snowboarder in Colorado Springs kill a giant with a small rock? I think it is obvious to anyone who is not being purposefully dishonest that Rosa is speaking of imagining the basic story elements that make the biblical story amazing and a tenet of your faith in contextually appropriate details for your current time and place. Sooo....

      If your neighbor Joe came and told you he was out snowboarding in Colorado Springs and a rampaging giant began to assault the ski resort until a scrawny little snowboarder picked up a rock and beaned him in the head, killing him instantly, would you think Joe was bonkers or would you believe him with out even turning on the local news to see if there was footage at 5 pm?

    3. Let's see if John W will answer this. He's been desperately avoiding it for several days now.

  3. Yes Rosa, desperation indeed. What i've been avoiding is an oversimplistic approach to 'stories.' Since you seem desperate to cling to it, and AssassinGrl was so kind as to pose a relatively viable question: (I'm going to go ahead and use the town of Vail since there is no snowboarding in Colorado Springs, but I don't persume that was a jestful trap ;) )

    In Vail? Yes.

    Stranger things have happened and no aliens were involved, so why not allow Joe the benefit of eye-witness testimony.

    That isn't to say I wont watch the news that night. The whole reason that some of the stories in 2 Samuel are so amazing is because they hold up to scholarly scrutiny and postulation. If Joe is lambasted as a liar, perhaps there is reason to re-evaluate. But to assume one popular retelling in a religious text is the only grounds for belief is just lazy criticism. I won't purport to have researched every book's claims but I've yet to come across any that couldn't reasonably 'hold water.' However they hold water on more than just hard evidence, since hard evidence has a way of...decaying. (That was of course, the whole point of my first comment, though it seems Rosa may not have read it, given I didn't give him a simplistic answer to a question that cries out for a very intensive analysis.)

    So, what's the problem with believing believeable Joe?

    1. The question was, can you think of any stories from the Bible that, if a stranger passing your house told you was happening a mile down the road right now, you would accept purely on his say so?

      I see you've still not got the integrity and moral courage to do anything other than pretend you could answer it whilst doing everything possible to put up a smokescreen to try to hide your inability to.

      Would it not be better for the superstition you are trying to defend to simply admit you can't and that your superstition has no basis in rationality? At least it would make it look like an honest irrational superstition.


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