Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bible Stories and inerrancy

More on Project: The King and I:

The good-natured back-and-forth between believer and non-believer is heart-warming.

Given that @Bruce's purpose was simply to read the Bible
I'm not totally sure where this project will go once it starts but, I want to at least get people to actually read the Bible.
- it seems like a debate on matters not strictly in the reading are not out of bounds - unless @Bruce says they are. So, tossing in the occasional reference to Jesus, while not strictly in context, seems fair enough. Likewise, making a preemptive "what about that don't you understand" is within bounds, as long as the rebuttals are civil. What gets me is the amount of nonsense creeping in. Any of us may or may not believe in unicorns or space aliens, but, as a courtesy to everyone, have your evidence ready and your arguments clearly defined. The preemptive "how can you explain that?" is not evidence.

For non-believers, the existence of god is hypothetical. I, for example, can sincerely hypothesize that god exists. I can conceive of him in 2 ways, off the top of my head. First - god created the universe - and the big bang was evidence of his handiwork. Where is god now? I don't know - haven't seen him, don't have evidence. Second - god exists, and we are within him. How do I know? I don't - he and nature are indistinguishable - and he doesn't appear to interact with the world except in natural ways. The absence of flying cars is a clear indication of his unwillingness to interact with the little people :-D

More seriously, there is no credible evidence of a god sighting in recorded history.

That doesn't mean he doesn't exist, but there is no evidence that he does. The bible tells stories of god, what he did, what he expects of us and of people who talked with god, but there's no independent corroboration that such events occurred. If we're rational, we say "I need some evidence". As Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said of UFO believers: "bring me an ashtray".

Arguing that the Bible must be accepted as the authority on biology, cosmogony, morality or law is baseless. It is not resolved that god exists (no evidence has ever been given). Arguing about words in a book that refer to this apparently non-existent entity as the authority for the words is pointless. Spending hours talking in circles about topics that the bible is clearly unfamiliar with (biology, cosmogony), as a way of establishing its authority, is equally pointless.

If the god of the bible were real, and if he or she were adamant that certain rules for living be followed in order to attain everlasting life, and if he or she was somewhat competent, the bible would have been written in clear, concise, language in a media that was eternal and unalterable so that all who read it would know it was real and what it means.

No such media, and no such words exist.

What we have is a compilation of stories that are sometimes fascinating and sometimes thought-provoking, and always debate-inspiring. It's just not the inerrant word of god.

To believers

@Edward at Project: The King and I is a good sport - one of few believers in a den of non-believers. He guest-posted earlier in the week, a lengthy and generally worthwhile summation of the Pentateuch, with some preemptive apologia thrown in, I presume on points that he felt the need to defend in anticipation of a rebuttal. Have a read here.

I posted a comment very late in the thread, which I thought I'd cross-post here without further comment.

@Edward & other believers:

I know that the appropriate thing to do here is address your original post, and to the thread of comments that it spawned, but I just gotta get this off my chest.

I appreciate the effort you put into defending your faith. I'm willing to be polite about it, as well - for I was once nominally Christian, and was once born-again. But, to be truthful, I don't admire it. Constructing a stupendous mental Gordian knot for whatever purpose - especially for holding onto beliefs that have no evidentiary support or rational justification - doesn't make the world a better place. If it keeps you happy and healthy, fine. There are any number of other strategies that are equally or better suited to the task, and I encourage you to sincerely explore them.

The one general set of strategies that have worked for me - for nearly 35 years now - are these:

1) Make a determined and sincere effort to be mentally and physically healthy. This is my first priority, since I cannot carry out any other strategy without mental and physical health.
2) Make a determined and sincere effort to treat my loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and community with patience, respect and compassion.
3) Do no harm, except when in defense of my loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and community.
4) Give more to the world than I take.
5) Know what I can understand and can't understand, but never give up trying to understand.
6) Know what I can do and can't do, but never give up trying new things, or old things in new ways.
7) Accept the uncertainty in life, but know how and when to be more certain or less certain - and live accordingly.

Believing in supernatural beings, and believing in the Bible were not helpful in getting my life in order, nor in treating my loved ones, family, neighbors, co-workers and community with the patience, compassion, and respect that they deserve, and of which I would like to be accorded in return.

The idea that people really think that a supernatural being is talking to them - physically or otherwise - is (honestly, I'm not trying to be disrespectful here) bizarre. The idea that billions of people do, in varying degrees, hold similar beliefs is almost unimaginable. I know that it's possible however, because I've done it, and I see evidence that it is done throughout the world. That doesn't mean that it's plausible, defensible, or worthy of respect.

I didn't "lose" my faith - I unshackled myself from it. Faith is an uncritical acceptance of things in the absence of evidence. It may be benign, it may be sinister. In my book, faith is to be avoided at all cost. In its stead, reasonable expectations based on evidence and sound logic is preferable, and allows a rational ordering of one's life.

But don't forget to party!