Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why Were Yahweh And Jesus Incompetent?

We are so embedded in our culture's quaint Mesopotamian tribal myths that even with our modern philosophical and theological training we fail to fully grasp how monumental is the burden of proof that Christianity faces when it claims a revelation by an omnibenevolent omnipotent omniscience. We are indoctrinated from birth to be awed by the literary majesty of the Torah and the Gospels, and so we fail to fully appreciate the unimaginativeness of the primitive biblical miracles -- fire pillars, parting seas, multiplying loaves, resuscitating the just-deceased -- and the opacity of the bible's familiar doctrinal edicts (on salvation, hell, divorce, the trinity, christology, etc.).

If you gave me just thirty minutes back in the First Century to rewrite one of the Gospels, I could have given you a document whose authenticity no modern skeptic could reasonably have disputed. I would have edited out all the problems I identify in my arguments against Christianity, and would have added a few simple revelations like
  • the germ theory of disease;
  • the theory of natural selection;
  • the relationship among the Earth, Sun, stars, and Milky Way;
  • basic set theory;
  • non-Euclidean geometry;
  • Newtonian physics;
  • the axioms of special relativity (which are quite simple); and
  • the approximate value of the speed of light (e.g. "sunlight takes eight minutes to reach Earth").
Revealing any one or even two of the above could be plausibly considered a lucky or educated guess, but revealing five or six of them would be extraordinarily difficult to explain way. That difficulty is trivially made into an impossibility if I just embed the value of a couple of physical constants (the speed of light, Planck's constant) to ten digits of precision. If little ole non-omniscient me can think of these revelations in just the last 30 minutes, why couldn't the omniscient Yahweh figure this out during the millennia (or eternity?) that he was planning Jesus' ministry (and foreknowing my writing of this very paragraph)?

And if you gave me two or three miracle cards to play back in the First Century, you can bet I wouldn't have wasted them on a nativity comet or reviving a still-warm alleged corpse. No, I would have authenticated my identity and textual revelation in any of a myriad indisputable ways. I could have re-arranged the stars into an eye chart spelling out my message in Greek or Latin. Or I could have created outside every major city a kilometer-long diamond slab with my complete message massively engraved in every extant human language (with a new universal phonetic script to encode unwritten languages). Heck, I could even have just made every household on earth wake up with a stainless steel bucket with my face and core doctrines inscribed on it. Why were the miracles of Jesus so much more like those of a faith-healing carpenter than like those of an actual deity with a little bit of imagination?

Christian apologists have no persuasive argument why their deity instead chose to restrict every single one of his scores of alleged miracles to just the kind that are consistent with 1) Iron Age myth-making and 2) a perfectly naturalistic and innocent process of delusion, hallucination, misinterpretation, exaggeration, and embellishment. The standard Christian response about coerced belief is untenable. There are numerous persons that the Bible claims were granted direct first-person eyewitness of Yahweh or his miracles, starting with Adam and continuing beyond the Apostles. The Bible repeatedly admits that many of these eyewitnesses nevertheless retained enough free will to reject or deny the Lord: Satan, Eve, Pharaoh, the Israelites in the desert [Ex 32:8], the Pharisees [Mt 9:34, 12:13-14, Mk 3:5-6, Jn 9:16-34, esp. Jn 11:48, Lk 6:10-11, 14:4-6], the villagers of Korazin, Bethsaid, and Capernaum [Lk 10:13, Mt 11:20], various Jews [Jn 10:32, 12:37], disciples of Jesus [Jn 6:66] -- and of course Peter and Judas. Jesus is even quoted admitting that people have witnessed his miracles and still rejected him: Jn 15:24, Thus Christianity's own sacred texts -- and Jesus' own lips -- refute the contention that first-hand evidence of Yahweh must illicitly "coerce" belief.