Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What would I expect from a divine book?

There is currently a debate going on in another thread on the site in which a Muslim visitor is attempting to convince one of our regular posters about the divinity of the Koran.  He's arguing that it's beautifully written, which makes it a miracle, or some other garbage like that.  Our atheist regular is asking for proof, of which he is getting none.  The question is being asked what we'd accept as proof that the Koran (or any holy book of any religion, I suppose) was the word of gods.

I thought about this for a while, and came up with a list:

1.  First, the idea of spreading the message of a god through a book brought to me by incompetents, liars, frauds, murderers and pedophile sex predators, is stupid.  An omnipotent god described by the world's biggest religions could easily tell me its message itself, without relying on these monsters and fools to do its work for it.  So the first thing I'd expect is for there to not be a book at all, but a direct message from the god to me.

2.  If there is a book, I'd expect it to contain some useful knowledge which could be used in foresight, not just hindsight.  Rather than obscure and relatively useless information about the jet streams, or esoteric information about embryology, as our Muslim guest is claiming, I'd expect something along the lines of, "Make sure to wash your hands before eating or conducting a medical procedure, because there are tiny little creatures which can make you sick."  Or how about instructions for making fusion energy work?  See, what's going to happen is that after we do get it to work, some putz is going to interpret a passage of the Bible/Koran to claim that it was there all along.  But if it isn't clear enough to be used in foresight, not hindsight, what good is it?

3.  I'd expect the book to be error-free and to correspond to reality.  The Bible fails miserably at this, as its stories of creation do not match what we observe in reality.  If we're supposed to take such things as myths or stories or whatever, then I'd expect the book to contain a guide as to which of its stories are to be taken literally, and which are not.  I wouldn't expect the book to force me and everybody else to decide for ourselves.

4.  I'd expect to know the book was holy as soon as I read its words.  This shouldn't need faith or convincing.  An omnipotent god should be able to create a book such that the moment any person looks at it, they know it is divine and correct truth, impossible to deny.  Here the religious will argue that this would take away our precious free will, but no it wouldn't.  We'd still have the choice whether or not to worship, but we'd just know that the book is divine.

5.  I'd expect the DVD and Blu-ray versions to have been released by now, not with actors, but with the actual people and the actual events.  Why can't we see it with video?  The argument that there were no video cameras at the time is invalid if you're arguing for an omnipotent god.

6.  I'd expect to be born with the text of the book already imprinted in my brain.  That way if I'm a poor Hindu kid living in a Hindu area, I wouldn't have to wait for a Koran-bearing messenger of the gods to come to my house/shack with a copy of it.  How many Hindus have died without ever having been told about the truth of the Koran?

7.  I'd expect the book to be much shorter, and possibly even just a single image.  An omnipotent god shouldn't need so much verbosity to get its message across.  It must, by definition of 'omnipotence', be able to create just a single image to convey its entire message, including all of the knowledge we need about it and this world.  That would allow the illiterate and young children to understand it, save on translation and printing costs, and make it easier to distribute the truth to non-believers.  We could airdrop leaflets (on biodegradable paper, of course) into those poor Hindu areas.  Dropping Korans from planes on them would not only be more expensive, but also much less humane.

8.  I'd expect that if nobody had shown me the Koran in my life, that I'd have this yearning for it.  That the book wouldn't seek me out, but that I'D be seeking IT out.  That I would know from the time I was a small child that I must find this book as soon as possible, irresistibly drawn to it, like the guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind is drawn to that mountain/rock.

These are the biggest things I'd expect of an omnipotent god with a very important message for me.  The fact that not a single one of them is the case in real life is a big red flag for me that none of these monstrous jackasses has any idea what they're talking about, that the books were written solely by men with no divine inspiration, and that they contain no useful information at all.


Jim said...

I would expect there to be one book. Sure, there would be multiple copies, but there should only be one book.

Also, if it were a book written by a god, not only would I expect it to seem like it was written by god (use of godly language, I suppose), but it should have some miracles associated with it. Like, an illiterate child can pick it up and miraculously understand every word.

Also, it should say at the end, "Don't listen to those Scientology fanatics. They're a bunch of fucking wackos."

Magnamune said...

At an absolute minimum, I would settle for an accurate ans specific prophecy. Not some vague sentence that could mean 100 different things. Something along the lines of: "In the year two-thousand and one years past the time of our lord, the followers of Muhammad will cross the sea to strike two towers of the followers of Jesus, filled with muslim and christian alike."

Feki said...

Well, I would expect no books to begin with. Maybe an ipad...

As pointed by Admin, books are subject to manipulation, clearly lack “omnipresence” and language it's always going to be a problem.

Anyway, a divine ipad with holy wireless connection to god appearing to those who pray for it would convince me.

Magnamune, I do not really understand prophecies. Why would a universe creator bother making prophecies when he can just exert his omnipotence and alter any event past or future? And, if the creator happened to be the christian god, why would he wanted to change anything since, afterall, it’s all part of his divine plan for mankind? I personally wouldn’t want to know in advance of his fcked up plans.

Anonymous said...

How about a book with a passage predicting the gulf spill, AND with instructions on how to fix it?

Of course, with the prediction, we wouldn't NEED to fix it.

Maybe somewhere in there is instructions on cleaning up the spill by tearing the moon in half.

Magnamune said...

FEKI, it doesn't matter whether or not we'd like to know about it. I just would find a book much more holy if the predictions were very specific AND correct. God could change the events as he likes, so long as the predictions remain true. (beng omnipotent would allow him to simultaneously change the events in time and rewriting the book and all knowledge about it)

ANTZILLA said...

The bible/Quarn doesn't even have any cool magic eye pictures.

Daniel said...

This is good ammunition.
My RE teacher is currently battling me on the existence of God, as I keep speaking out and dismantling her 'explanations.'
It's amazing fun.
Also, good news:
in a class of over 30 (were shufled about until summer) only 2 believe in God. Same family and they don't even know why. Most people cite lack of proof. It's a Cathlic school so this is amazing.

Feki said...

Thanks Magnamune, I sometimes forget that omnipotence knows no limits.

However, to the best of my knowledge, prophecies have never informed us of anything remotely practical, or even real.

What would be significant enough for god to secretly confide to one of the bible writers so it can be published?

Since Fatima's Secrets, we don't seem to get any more updates on prophecies. Mayans are not getting more prophecies from their gods either.

So prophetical holy books should at least be updated quartely with the latest scoop on natural disasters, rise of the dead, punishment for sinners, etc.

Jim said...

If a god left actual prophecies, I think that it would sort of negate its relevancy.

Think about it. Let's assume this is an actual prophecy:

"On June 12, 2010, Los Angeles California will be struck by nuclear weapon from a terrorist organization calling themselves 'Al Qaeda'. 4,234,092 people will die as a direct result of this attack."

Now, let's say this prophecy comes true. There are a couple questions that need to be asked.

1. Why did god predict this?
2. Why did god let this happen?
3. Do we have any free will?
4. Is god omnipotent?

The first two questions are rather philosophical, and can be answered in any number of ways. Perhaps god wanted to prove to us that he knows all. Perhaps he let us know in order to give the people a chance to repent. Etc.

The second two questions are more important. If we had free will, than god would not be able to predict any events. No matter what we did, or what we did to prevent the attack, it would have happened. It was carved in stone, and that was the end of discussion.

Also, his accurate prediction would rule out his omnipotence, seeing as god had set his prediction in stone, and would not have been able to change it himself. If he thwarted the attack himself, his own prediction would have been wrong. On the same coin, he would not have been able to do anything anyways, because his prediction was set in stone.

All of this, of course, leads to a god who makes predictions being caught in a logical paradox, or a catch-22. Both of which disprove the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing god.

Magnamune said...

Well, I must admit, you make a good argument, Jim. I can't answer much of it. But as for god's omnipotence, if he were omnipotent, he could change the prediction, and all knowledge of the prediction however he liked. He sets it in stone, then changes the stone, if you will.

That's the most annoying part about god, he can do anything, even if he can't do it. (which in itself should convince people he's not real) And you can't use this argument against a theist, because they agree with it!

I'll finish with : Could god think up and argument SO circular, even he could not believe it?

Jim said...

It's like the old riddle:

Can god make a rock so big that he himself could not lift it?

Admin said...

Jim, I think we can get one simpler than that.

"Can your omnipotent god make itself powerless?" (By making itself powerless, there would be no return to omnipotence possible.)

What do you think? Any good?

Admin said...

"I would expect there to be one book. Sure, there would be multiple copies, but there should only be one book."

Jim, what do you mean by this? Why couldn't we expect there to be one true holy book, with numerous frauds written to try to take money from people or whatever? I'd simply expect the true holy book to have some properties that the others do not. And as far as I can tell, the Bible, Koran, and all other holy books/stories, fail to distinguish themselves from the pack in any meaningful way.

Jim said...

If you were a god and wanted to spread your word through the slowest means possible (i.e. a 'holy book'), it would stand to reason that said god would not allow any books other than its own to be written.

Also, I like your riddle.

Jim said...

Oh shit.

Did I just use the phrase "stand to reason" when talking about religious texts?

That's not right.

Anonymous said...

Well, as far as I see it, free will and a future set in stone don´t contradict itself. I believe that the future can not be changed, though not because of some weird religous reasons, but because I would say that one and the same action will always result in the same reaction.
Think about it, if you put one and the same man with the same character and the same amount of knowledge available in the same situation, he will always choose the same reaction, yet it remains his choice.
As for trying to disprove god by logic, that´s kind of pointless. He is by definition omnipotent and supernatural, which means he can not only defy the laws of nature but also the laws of logic. If he wants that 1+1=3, it does. If he wants to be powerless and omnipotent at the same time, he is.
There are however far more practicall reasons for being an atheist (or at least not part of an orrganized religion).
The most important reason is that if you follow some 2000-year-old myths that were written by some fanatic nutjobs and contain no useful information whatsoever, you won´t be able to adress problems of the PRESENT properly and make the world of everyone else even worse if you have enough power to.

Jim said...

Here's where you're wrong. If something in your future is set in stone, there is no free will. It doesn't matter that you can do anything you want to reach that point, the fact still remains that you will HAVE to reach that point. Your free will becomes an illusion. You think you have free will. It's like playing a video game. Yeah, you can run here and there, do whatever you want on the side, set the game aside for six months, but when you pick it up, the finish is still the finish, and nothing has changed. Your goal will always be waiting for you, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Also, stating that god can be "powerless and omnipotent at the same time" just goes to prove the ridiculousness that is the idea of god. How would anything be able to conceive the laws of logic if one was without logic to begin with?

Admin said...

"Think about it, if you put one and the same man with the same character and the same amount of knowledge available in the same situation, he will always choose the same reaction, yet it remains his choice."

You've assumed free will to be real. If you stop and think about what you wrote, I think you'll find that this is perhaps an argument against free will. If I cannot make a different decision based on my knowledge and past experiences, then am I really free? I don't know if we have free will or not, but I understand why some people would argue that we do not. It was also discussed in the book, '13 Things That Don't Make Sense', which I recommend.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for being unclear, but my emphazise was on the fact, that you won´t choose differently because you wouldn´t want to, not because you would be forced to by some unknown force (bad phrasing, i know). You wouldn´t even try to fight it because theres nothing to fight against but your own decision. And you wouldn´t fight that either because you had reasons for it (and your insight in the results hasn´t changed at all as staded before). If you wouldn´t define that as free will, then of course it isn´t (at least for you), but my point reamins the same.

@ Jim (about the god thing)
Of course it makes the idea of god even more ridiculus than it is now. But my point is that you can´t even disprove god by logic, simply because faith is the exact opposite of it.

Daniel said...

You don't need to disporve something that doesn't exist, it's impossible. The problem is that there is no reason to even believe in it in the first place. In fact if we all stopped telling kids about it, religion would be dead in the West in a few decades. No one knows unless a *human* tells them, so there isn't even divinity in the knowledge.

Jim said...

So, what I get is that faith in a god is illogical. Which is exactly my point. Believing in any god doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

how ignorant can atheists be? every single atheist website is the same old misotheism, no new arguments, since shall I say Neitzsche? What new arguments have you guys come up with recently? The old atheists were so much better. So-called philosophers (haha). Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom. Well, good luck with your fantasies that your brain is able to conceive everything.
"A little philosophy leads a man to atheism. Depth in philosophy leads a man to religion"

Admin said...

Well, the last anonymous comment is one of the least helpful/useful posts we've ever had here. Not that I expect much more from somebody who mentions philosophy so much. We've had several philosophy specialists here in the past, and none of them has ever been able to get a coherent message across. I think communication skills are greatly lacking in that set of the population. Learn to get to the fricking point! How was the comment unhelpful? Let me count the ways:

1. It did not in any way address any of the content of the original post.

2. It offers no specific information about anything, while claiming that we are ignorant. When somebody is ignorant, I tend to explain what it is that they don't know. Philosophy specialists with no actual argument have to ignore that part. He makes no argument at all, other than to tell us that we're ignorant.

3. Atheists don't need any new arguments because the theists have yet to prove their case. This isn't arguing about which is the better among political parties, where new arguments might be required every now and then. This is about the existence of something, and until the positive-claiming side makes its case, we don't have to give any argument at all. For the record, I disagree that there have been no new arguments, anyway. Every scientific advancement teaches more and more that the Universe does not require gods.

4. He uses an anonymous quote as if that should mean something. It also doesn't explain which religion we should be lead to, exactly. I can play that game, too. "Knowledge of the Universe leads a man to atheism, ignorance leads a man to religion."

5. He did not explain what exactly it is that he believes. This is a classic trick of 'spiritual believers', so that when we are forced to make assumptions about what they believe, they can come back and tell us that we have no idea what they believe, and try to score points with that snappy line.

6. He used an anonymous user ID so that he cannot be identified if he returns and posts again, or if he has posted here in the past. It's cowardly. At least enter a name!

Honestly, I'm not sure what this tool was expecting to accomplish except to highlight the fact that he has no argument.

Now, Mr. Anonymous, do you have anything to say about the content of the original post?

Jim said...

The philosophy argument is the weakest argument for religion. Why? Because all of philosophy is hearsay and conjecture. There are absolutely zero facts presented when dealing with philosophy. It's like arguing that god must be real because you've seen people paint pictures of heaven. You're drawing fact-based conclusions from fact-less observations. Go read a science book.

Also, I needn't point out that you're using the same old arguments to prove your gods exist. Perhaps you should come up with something new.

Admin said...

"'re using the same old arguments to prove your gods exist."

There was an argument? What was it? I missed it.

Feki said...

"What would I expect from a religious fanatic?"



Jim said...

I meant "you're" to mean anyone who has ever defended religion. Not Mr. Anonymous.