Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bible as evidence of miracles?

This is my response to parts of @No_drones' argument on twitter. His full argument can be found here:

@No_drones says this about claims of miracles:

"These events ARE documented in Scripture."

On related matters he also says this:

"Christians assert the Bible is historical evidence for such a God. You may not LIKE our evidence but that does not invalidate it."

Since both above declarations relate to the same claim, I will deal with them in a single post.

What my opponent is proposing is to ASSUME that the Judeo/Christian scriptures are factually correct.

This amounts to saying "what you're reading is true because those who believed it have written it down".

On this point, the fact that the beliefs were written down is irrelevant. Anyone could write their beliefs down. Thus, the only relevant issue is that somebody held those beliefs. In other words "this must be true because somebody believed it". Of course, this in itself is a fallacy.

If such an argument were allowed to succeed, we would be obliged to believe in Zeus, Shiva, Jupiter and 1000 other gods. We would have to believe that Caesar was divine, to name one. And what of the Book of Mormon? The Egyptian Book of the Dead? Ancient Slavic and Nordic beliefs? Other pagan beliefs? There have been thousands upon thousands of various religions and beliefs.

To claim that the Judeo/Christian tradition should be trusted is to claim that all other traditions (with deities markedly different in kind and number to the Abrahamic god) are wrong.

Unless a very compelling argument for this is presented, this simply isn't an intellectually honest approach. You can't just pick and choose a religious tradition and claim it's true to the exclusion of others.

So far I have seen no coherent argument that would in any way demonstrate the Bible to be true, let alone to be true to the exclusion of other religious beliefs.

If my opponent wants to use the Bible as evidence of supernatural events or entities, he must provide some solid evidence for why the supernatural claims of this particular culture ought to be accepted.

On the face of it, biblical claims are simply ludicrous.

In Exodus 7, Moses magically turns his staff into a snake which then eats the staffs of Egyptian priests (also magically turned into snakes). This is to convince us that the Jewish god is more powerful than Egyptian magic. Sound like something from 1001 nights? You bet.

In Numbers 22 we read about a donkey who has an argument with her owner. Cute. But I wouldn't expect a 6 year old to believe it. It's Alladin's lamp material.

What about the 42 teenaged mauled by 2 she-bears for the great crime of making fun of a bald man? (2 Kings 2). Are we believe these are the doings of an almighty creator of this enormous and wonderful universe? Nonsense.

Adam and Eve are tempted by a talking snake in Genesis. They then eat a fruit that has magic qualities; it allows them to understand the difference between right and wrong. Again, completely incredible. Also, the similarities with Pandora's box don't go unnoticed easily.  Mythology by all standards.

These accounts are no different in their style and content to many other magical claims in other mythologies. On their face, that's exactly what they are; myths. The Bible talks about monsters and giants. It talks about creating a woman from a man's rib.

Christian theology would have us believe that he creator of the universe couldn't find it in himself to forgive people unless somebody (an innocent man; in fact God himself, who is his own son) is brutally killed. Perhaps "killed" is too strong a word as he apparently comes back to live after 2-3 days (depending on the scripture; they're quite inconsistent).

Christ is said to perform miracles too. He restores a man's sight by washing his eyes in mud; a practice that back in the day was indeed widely believed to have magical effects.

On the face of it, all these claims are nothing short of fantastic and mythological. They do not show the world as we know it. Are we to believe them just because somebody wrote them down? Such an approach appears extraordinarily naive.

The Bible is not evidence of its claims; the Bible IS THE CLAIM. To say "it's true because it's in the bible" is to ASSUME that, despite its fantastic and typically mythological nature, the bible is true in the first place.

Unless we are to immerse ourselves in a world of ancient myths, this approach simply cannot be allowed. If you want to rely on the Bible as evidence of extraordinary claims, you must first demonstrate that it is extraordinarily credible.

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