By Khaled Diab
If God wants to reach out to humanity, why rely on prophets and scripture when he presumably has the power to connect with each of us directly?
3 September 2010
An article I recently read posits that, even if we were able to create a foolproof experiment to prove the existence of God, it would not only spell the end of atheism, but also of Christianity (and I presume the same applies to the other monotheistic religions), because without faith there can be no religion.
But do we really need to wait for God to rear his divine face to lay to rest the spectre of religion? For the sceptics among us, this is figuratively a doomsday scenario, as we would have to live with our doubts until the Day of Reckoning comes, which we, of course, highly suspect won't arrive, leaving us stuck in a sort of secular purgatory for all eternity.
But it strikes me that we're asking the wrong question here. God may prove to be an impossible hypothesis to (dis)prove, but the same does not apply to faith itself. I believe we can test the veracity of religion, especially religious scripture which claims to be divinely inspired or even revealed. So, here is my own modest attempt to test run religion and show that it is not worthy of our faith.
God, the author, or humanity, the ghost writer?
The holy books of the three Abrahamic faiths all claim divine authorship, or at the very least, divine inspiration. But if scripture contains the word of God (or his son), why do the monotheistic religious texts show such clear signs of human authorship and contain a recycled mix of older, often polytheistic, myths and legends (Sumerian, Persian, Egyptian, etc.)?
Moreover, if the message in scripture, like the Supreme Being, is timeless and for all time, why do they teach us values and standards that we would, otherwise, find reprehensible and unacceptable, such as slavery (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the subjugation of women, the slaughtering of your (read God's) enemies?
In defending religion, many believers will argue that scripture appeared in the context of a different time and place and, so, not all of it is binding in the modern context. But if we go down the road of selectively choosing which articles of faith to hold on it, what's to stop us from ditching it all and starting from scratch to create something more appropriate?
Similarly, scripture contradicts so many scientifically proven facts – and contradicts itself, such as in the case of the creation of the world in Genesis I and Genesis II – that it would cast serious doubt on God's knowledge of the Universe he reportedly created.
Scripture v Faithbook
The Abrahamic tradition of religion is founded on the dual pillars of message (in the form of scripture) and messenger (in the form of prophets and even the son of God). The most fundamental question this raises is: what is the point of this?
If God is omnipotent and omnipresent, surely he could conjure up more imaginative and effective ways to communicate with his creations. As any good communicator knows, messages are often distorted or corrupted in their transmission. So, what better way to avoid confusion than to drop outdated and outmoded scriptures and communicate with each of us directly?
After all, we humble humans already possess the technology, if it were universally distributed, to communicate with everyone on the planet, and social networking sites already boast hundreds of millions of users. So, why can't God use his omni-powers to create some sort of interactive interface, a sort of Faithbook, to talk to every human? I'm sure he'd have billions of friends (or should that be worshippers?) if he did.
Some might say that God doesn't have the time to waste on this, but I thought he had all the time in the Universe. Others might argue that this world is a test of our faith and, by revealing himself to each of us, God would be making it too easy. Well, Adam and Eve lived by God's side and still they disobeyed him – that's the beauty of free will.
Besides, as they stand, the Abrahamic religions are exclusive clubs that only save those who belong to them. If God is as just and loving as they say he is, then surely he would want to offer all humanity an equal shot at salvation. By addressing us individually, God would be doing the ultimate to empower and enfranchise his creations – not to mention, hold us accountable – and to democratise religion.
Raise prophets by cutting out the middlemen
As purportedly the ultimate proponent of equality, God should not be elevating some humans above others. Yet, between us and him, he has elevated prophets and clergy. If God's prophets are meant to be role models to us all, why are so many of them such unpleasant characters or commit acts which would otherwise be regarded as reprehensible, or at the very least unacceptable: stealing from neighbours, committing war crimes, sexually coercing women and killing their husbands, committing incest, marrying children, murdering siblings, and much more.
And even though many prophets had commendable attributes, they were human and are, hence, fallible, so it is best that God cut out these middlemen – and they are always men.
Humanity's forgotten half
The human race is, more or less, evenly divided between men and women. Despite the insistence of religious modernisers and reformers that God is an equal opportunities creator, scripture seems to place men consistently a cut above women, and demands that women obey men.
Right from the word go, Genesis informs us that Adam was created first and Eve was fashioned out of his rib (or simply created after him, according to the Islamic version). Not only is this creation myth totally unscientific, it also makes no symbolic sense. With the human reproductive functions being what they are, one would expect that, if anyone were to come second, Adam would follow Eve. Even at the molecular level, we see that two X chromosomes result in a female, while an X and a Y chromosome result in a male, which might suggest that the male gender is more ambiguous than the female.
To add insult to injury, Eve leads Adam astray by convincing him to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. In the Islamic version, they are both blamed equally but, still, there are numerous passages in the Qur'an which stress the inferior status of women. For example, Surat al-Nisa (Verse on Women) informs us quite explicitly that: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what God would have them guard.”
This raises the question of why God is such a macho, especially considering that there's little actual difference between the two genders, and women have consistently proven themselves men's equals in all walks of life. If, as scripture seems to suggest, women are so much more imperfect and fallible than men, why on earth did the Supreme Being bother to create them? Couldn't he have just made humanity asexual? Or could it be because it was man who created God in his image, rather than the other way around?