Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Rationalism and Our World. Part II

Religion: As for arguments that deal exclusively with religion, I list and explain here some of the most important issues in my opinion.
The Bible: This book is regarded as sacred and as the word of God revealed to humans. First of all (and I think this since childhood), how do we trust that all books in the Bible indeed constitute direct revelations from God to prophets? Why do people believe in this argument? It seems to me that the authorship of the biblical books is purely human, with no divine intervention. Indeed, if it inquires into historical archives, we will see, with surprise, that many of these books were written with domination motifs of one people over another, or some elite on the masses, or even to lift their compatriots morale, in response to difficult times (wars, persecutions, etc.)..
The gospels, for example, are not only four as everyone knows; they are about ten. Each of them was written by people outside the very environment of Jesus, both on a space and temporal scale, and the authors of these gospels are not the apostles of Jesus (as it is said), but were written between the years 70 to 100 DC, that is, nearly a century after the existence of Jesus!
The reason why the religious authorities decided to include in the Bible only four was because they were the less contradictory between them. Then, eliminated gospels, are conveniently called apocryphal. There is historical evidence that the first gospel was written by Mark, who believed in demons and possessions, which greatly influenced in that gospel. The three remaining gospels were written long after, based on the Gospel of Mark. Despite this, they contain contradictory elements between them. The book of Genesis, on the other hand, tells us about the creation of the universe in only 6 days. This fact (and the totality of what argued in Genesis) is totally irrational when contrasted with the nature and geological, paleontological, biological and astronomical evidence. Explaining all this would require more space than I would use here, but, fortunately, is easily verifiable. Now, we could touch the issue of morality. This issue could be divided into two parts: the morality of the God of the Bible, and the morality of human beings. In the Bible, we see a God with many faces and facets, and in most cases, with features far away from what we usually think. For example, we can see at times a god of love and understanding, although on many other occasions we can appreciate a God who is full of angry, vengeful, vain, misogyny, slavery, and so on. Lets put examples of them, using the Bible:
  • Lamentations 2, 5: The Lord has become like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel; He has swallowed up all its palaces, He has destroyed its strongholds And multiplied in the daughter of Judah Mourning and moaning. (Choleric Character)
  • Deuteronomy 1, 34-36: Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the LORD fully. (Angry and selfish character)
  • Isaiah 10, 24-26: Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “O My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did. “For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent and My anger will be directed to their destruction.” The LORD of hosts will arouse a scourge against him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and His staff will be over the sea and He will lift it up the way He did in Egypt. (Vengeful and genocidal character)
  • Isaiah 14, 1-2: When the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. The peoples will take them along and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them as an inheritance in the land of the LORD as male servants and female servants; and they will take their captors captive and will rule over their oppressors. (Slavery and vengeful character)
  • Exodus 20, 8-10: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. (Slavery character)
  • Genesis 6, 5-7: Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Voluble and destructive character, as well as an apparent lack of omniscience)
  • Numbers, the entire Chapter 31: We note that the nature of God is vengeful, brutal, male chauvinist and extremely bloody and cruel.
  • Hosea 13, 15-16: Though he flourishes among the reeds, An east wind will come,The wind of the LORD coming up from the wilderness; And his fountain will become dry And his spring will be dried up; It will plunder his treasury of every precious article. Samaria will be held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, Their little ones will be dashed in pieces, And their pregnant women will be ripped open. (Bloody, authoritarian and genocidal character)
  • 2 Kings 2, 23-25: Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. (Intolerant, cruel and bloody character)
  • Leviticus 21, 16-24: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. ‘For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. ‘No man among the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a defect is to come near to offer the LORD’S offerings by fire; since he has a defect, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God. ‘He may eat the food of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy, only he shall not go in to the veil or come near the altar because he has a defect, so that he will not profane My sanctuaries. For I am the LORD who sanctifies them.’ So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel. (Cruel, discriminatory and conceited character)
  • Genesis 22, 1-12: Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Irrational and selfish character)

On the latter scripture passage, I would like to make a comment. Obviously this story is a legend created by humans, which aims to show the values of personal sacrifice for God and obedience to him. But look a little more in depth. If indeed occurred this fact, doesn’t it an act of psychological bestiality? Let us think about the poor Isaac. What psychological trauma so great for him was that his own father had tried to deliver a sacrifice to a bloody God (like the one that shows us much of the Bible). Even considering that at the end of the story, God told Abraham to desist from their work, the innocent Isaac have suffered tremendous psychological damage. The only possibility that Isaac would have taken good way, is that since his early childhood has been indoctrinated to die for their God at any price. Apparently, and for the bulk of people believing it would be the right thing: to die for their God. But is it not that what we see every day in the Muslim world today? Just think deeply and objectively about these issues. Turning to the Bible itself, it should be pointed out that the books in which God is presented as an angry, extremely bloody and vengeful God (even more than in the rest of books) are the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Of course, the different Christian religions conveniently omit many passages of these books regarding human morality. Of course, human morality is not at all based on the idea of a God or the Bible. Supposedly, morals and ethics practiced today in the western world are based on the word of God, which are, from believers perspective, in the biblical writings. But if we analyze these writings, we see with surprise that there are many passages like what I described above. So, on what can we discern what is ethical and moral vs. what is not? Well, is in our nature. Obviously we have some mechanism to distinguish the good from the bad, and that mechanism is in our rational thinking features. Morality can be explained as three reasons favored by the evolutionary process: 1. The genetic kinship relations, 2. Reciprocity (give something in exchange for something else), and 3. The benefit of acquiring a reputation for generosity. The structure of our brain is a product of natural processes such as evolution (among others). We have intricate neural networks which enabled us to acquire a new power in the natural world: the intelligence and intellect. But at what cost we could acquire this set of features? Well, there’s no need to be very observer to realize that with respect to other animals, humans have a number of disadvantages (fortunately substituted by the powers that gives us our complex brain). And what are the disadvantages? Only enumerate a few: poor muscle strength, deficient speed racing; deficiencies in taste, touch, smell and hearing; high frequency of diseases of the spine (as a consequence of bipedalism), among others. Something that we might see is that these features are useful for our lifestyle, but are weak in relation to other living things. Recall that the biological adaptations are relative and not absolute, as we sometimes think. They’re relative concerning the environment, interaction between species, the ecological niche and the interaction between the set of morphological features present in the same species. At this point, I think I strayed from the arguments relating to religion and I entered the next group of arguments: those who had to do with natural sciences. Anyway, it should be pointed out that the fact that the Bible presents a conceptually different history from what we are accustomed, not necessarily imply the non-existence of God. I propose this argument as single evidence that it is a book written by men and inspired by men (and mainly by political and economic power, anxious throughout the entire history of mankind).

1 comment:

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