Friday, April 01, 2005

Revelation and hearsay

I'm a deist. I believe that this universe has probably been designed to allow the emergence of life. I am not certain of this รป if the atheists turn out to be right I will not be shocked. I agree that the burden of proof is on those who claim that God exists. I won't go into the details of my reasons for believing this now. They are partly argument and partly hunch.

I do not know the nature of what has designed the universe and I do not believe anyone else does either. I do not believe that God wants to be worshiped or has been communicating with us -at least not through revelations to prophets. I do not know what Its reasons for creating the Universe are. I can only speculate for now. (I use the neuter pronoun because I believe that God is at least in part outside space and time. Male and female are descriptions not applicable to something outside space. Living and non living are categories that are not applicable to something outside time.)

What I am sure of is that the behavior that many religions attribute to God does not make sense. I do not believe that God wants us to believe in Its existence on the basis of what prophets claim to have experienced.

What I am criticizing is Judaism, Christianity and Islam, their prophets, their scriptures and their idea of God. Some of my comments may also apply to some other religions' concept of God. The supposed behavior of aliens abducting people for experimentation etc. is an argument against intelligent life out there. (It sure isn't intelligent behavior.) The behavior that monotheists claim that God exhibits is not that of a wise or completely just or benevolent deity.

If God is omnipotent then It can communicate with us directly. It can do what It is supposed to have done with Saint Paul. "Hey, you! What do you think you're doing?" So why do we have to believe in Its very existence on the basis of what others have experienced? Why are Its commands communicated through priests and prophets?

I do not know whether religious experiences are real. They cannot all be true. The religions do contradict each other after all. But could there be a common true core to many religious experiences that gets filtered through the recipients own pre-existing beliefs? Don't know but it sounds possible.

Most people who follow a religion accept the religious beliefs of those around them. If they had been brought up in a different place most religious people would be following a different religion. Religion provides comfort and a sense of purpose. People want these and if they they choose to get them from religion they will usually reach out what is close at hand. They also usually want to fit in to a community.

So you cannot use the feelings of Its believers as evidence of the truth of a religion. The followers of other religions are making similar claims. There is no way for an outsider to choose between them on this basis.

After all there are bribes and threats attached. "Believe this and you will live forever in bliss." "Disbelieve this and you will be tortured forever." Not exactly something that increases their credibility. (Yes, I know many believers do not believe in the threats. All of them believe in the enticements.)

They claim that God revealed himself to various prophets in the past and others wrote it down. Why should we trust the writers? There has been a lot of opportunities for the story to become distorted. Chinese whispers. This is evidence that a court would throw out as hearsay on hearsay. (I don't believe hearsay evidence should actually be excluded from trials. I believe it should be included and given a very low weight.)

You are asked to believe first and the reassurance will follow. You are offered a benefit for accepting an assertion and not using critical thinking. This is immoral. If someone was asking this of us for anything other than a religion we we suspect them to be a con artist. I don't believe in a God who behaves this way. Why should It?

Yes, I know that a lot of believers do a lot of critical thinking about their beliefs. A lot don't and there is a lot of pressure to just accept what you are told. I am not attacking religious belief itself. I am not criticizing someone whose beliefs are bases on their own experiences and reasoning and intuitions. I am criticizing people whose beliefs are based primarily on others say so especially when this conflicts with their experience of the World.

Sorry for the rant, but I had to get it off my chest. Also I wanted people to know just what my opinions are. As well I have not often seen the Mosaic religion challenged over the unbelievability of their claims about God's behavior.