Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim
Many (I have to qualify this here because the cultural dynamic is different in asian countries like China) western atheists often debunk the Bible and the whole Christian doctrine in arguments about God. Something I’ve been wondering for a while is that is atheism a result of a rejection of Christian doctrine itself, rather than on the whole “God exists” question?
As far as I can find, there aren’t any pertinent statistics where atheists use this as the reason for their atheism. Rather there is a broad range of reasons (not all of them based on reason). As far as I can see, globally atheism is increasing, but the number of Christians and Muslims is also increasing. Though in the case of Christianity this is due to conversions, and for Muslims it is due to high birth rates.
But there is stuff that I can really understand from the atheist’s perspective. At least when it comes to his/her opinion about Christian doctrine of which I personally agree with. I was reminded of this when I came across the polar opposite of this blog “whythereisnogod“, a page rebutting common theistic arguments for the existence of God. Interestingly the author really debunks the credibility of the Bible and Jesus’s existence at the beginning of his rebuttals. I will be writing an article examining and rebutting the author’s rebuttals next, but for now I just wanted to give my bit on the author’s comments on the Bible and Jesus.
The author’s first rebuttal is to the claim that the Biblical God is real. This by itself is highly telling, since the author chose to debunk the “Biblical God” rather than the idea of the “God responsible for all of creation and life”. To be fair, the “Biblical God” is much easier to debunk than the God who we can hold responsible for our existence.
Quote(hyperlink is from original article):
“There is no evidence to support any of the claims made in the Bible concerning the existence of a god. Any ‘evidence’ proposed by theists to support the Bible’s various historical and supernatural claims is non-existent at best, manufactured at worst.”
I am not well-read on the Bible, so I don’t know what proofs the Bible itself provides for God’s existence. But I’m aware of general things like the creation of Adam, parting of the Red Sea for Moses and the Jews, and the various miracles of Jesus (peace be upon him). In fact I would go so far as to say that for all the miracles that are recorded in the Bible (and other scriptures) there is indeed no historical evidence that survives us to this day. Indeed, those miracles have served their purpose for the people of those times. Really, miracles written in scripture is more valuable for a believer to bolster their faith than as an instrument to convince a skeptic.
The next paragraph in the article is actually very interesting:
“The Bible is not self-authenticating; it is simply one of many religious texts. Like those other texts, it itself constitutes no evidence for the existence of a god. Its florid prose and fanciful content do not legitimise it nor distinguish it from other ancient works of literature.”
I would agree that the Bible, though being scripture, is still man-made literature. As the article goes on to point out, the Bible has flaws, contradictions and historical errors, as well as being revised, rewritten and re-edited. All these things are true about the Bible making it a tainted cup of water to drink from even it is slightly sweet in parts.
This is why a scripture like the Quran actually stands out from amongst all past scripture and literature. For Muslims, the Quran is verbatim Word of God. And no matter your stance on it (unless you cover your ears and eyes to it), the Quran genuinely impacts and resonates with Muslims and Non-muslims alike, though it has greater resonance with believers of course. And more relevant to the point I’m making, the Quran is linguistically unlike any other literature both in the past and now. The Quran, for those that really recognise it (though it’s true whether one recognises it or not), is the living miracle, accessible for anyone with ears to hear it, and eyes to read it.
The next point the author debunks is the reality of the historical existence of Jesus. This actually offends my sensibilities every time I see even a whiff of this suggestion. Now Bible scholars (both Christian and non-Christian ones) worth their salt hold the historical figure of Jesus to be an actual person who lived. The argument is really in the details of his life rather than the fact that he actually existed. For those interested, a very interesting book (called “How Jesus became God”) written by a Bible scholar (Dr. Bart D. Ehrman) who used to be Christian about the deification of Jesus wrote that what we can definitely know about Jesus (from scriptural sources) was that Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic preacher and rabbi. He wasn’t a nobody, but at the time of his life he was literally only known by the local people where he lived so he didn’t create any waves. Except for the incident of his crucifixion which then spawned Christian doctrine as we see today.
But even without confirmation from scholars, isn’t it obvious that you can’t have smoke without there being a fire(or something burning)? In the same way, there is such a thing as Islam, because there was such a person called Muhammad (peace be upon him). So also, there is such a thing as Christians, because there was such a person called Jesus Christ (though of course Christ coming from Christos was greek for Messiah, since the first Bible manuscripts were written by Greek Christians). There wouldn’t be something known as the Ten Commandments if a person such as Moses (peace be upon him) didn’t tell the Jewish people about it. These things exist because a person existed, and they are therefore the circumstantial evidence supporting the existence of these historical/biblical figures.
The author mentions again about inconsistencies and errors in the Bible as well as the unknown authors of the Bible and that it was written about a century after Jesus lived. But then he mentions how Jesus’s life has similarities with some other mythologies. This is interesting as I’ve also heard about this, that the resurrection of Jesus is similar to myth about Mithra also being resurrected, and who himself was born on the 25th of December.
I’m not very well-read about the Bible but I know enough to be aware of the differences in how each of the 4 Gospels write about the empty cave and resurrection of Jesus. The specific details are different in each case, some details being mutually exclusive unless you employ logical leaps and add some mysticality to it. As muslims, we believe in the validity of all revealed scripture though we are aware that the Jews and Christians have tampered with their scriptures. Anything written into the scriptures we cannot hold to be absolute truth as it has been filtered through the minds of men. In the Old Testament there is even a list of belongings that the Jews had taken with them when exiled from Babylon. The list then sums everything up, and the actual sum is wrong based on the actual list given. A simple error like that really provides little belief that the whole book is divinely inspired. Parts of it, yeah sure, but which parts?
I find that usually after an atheist has dismissed the religion of his upbringing, then he is left with atheism. Though in this globalised society, most atheists aren’t ignorant of other religions, they are probably ignorant of the specific doctrines of other religions, and likely treat other religions (for example Islam and Judaism) as just a form of Christianity for other ethnicities. At least it appears that they don’t delve into Islam as much once they are convinced Christian doctrine is wrong. After that they make sure there isn’t a “reasonable” argument for God anyways, become satisfied with evolution and science, and then presto a great weight gets lifted off their shoulders and they feel liberated from the oppression of Christian doctrine.
I imagine that finally realising the lie of something really feels like you’ve realised the truth. I can imagine the appeal and seduction of that. But to trade one lie for another…well you’ve gone backwards more than forwards. Or in a weird sense, you’ve gone a step up, but still can’t see where you are.
In many ways atheists are genuine. They’re spiritually and intellectually honest with themselves. They are not willing to live the only life they have to live living according to a doctrine they don’t see makes sense. They only have one life, and they want to live it as they please, as they see fit. But in that case don’t limit yourself with small answers, with only what’s in front of your eyes.