Friday, December 8, 2017

Debunking God and Religion in a Single Sentence

Recently, I was challenged to provide "the most powerful argument, in one sentence, that belief in God and religion is nonsense." Now, I honestly don’t know if the person asking the question was a theist or an atheist or something in-between, but I had to laugh at the artificial stricture placed on any answers. One sentence? Why just one sentence instead of, say, a well-reasoned paragraph or two that might allow one to flesh out the argument a bit instead of just providing an easily dismissed sound bite?

[In fact, the more I think about it, the more I can’t help thinking of that old game show “Name that Tune.” “I can debunk God and religion in one sentence!”]

Anyway, there were certainly lots of ways to approach this challenge. I could, for example, have mentioned the sheer number of religions in the world and the fact that so many of them are mutually exclusive. I could have discussed the lack of any compelling evidence or sound arguments to support a belief in God. But, since the challenge was specifically to provide an argument that belief in God and religion is “nonsense” (and not just improbable or irrational), I finally decided to go with the following:
The original concepts of gods and religions were the product of ignorant and superstitious people who had little or no understanding about the world or the universe and our place in it, and just about everything else they thought they knew to be true has now been proved to be false.
Yeah, it’s a bit clunky, but that’s what you get when you expect somebody to cram an entire argument into a single sentence. Overall, though, I’m satisfied with the way it came out and I think it makes a valid point.

Of course, as expected, people immediately began taking cheap pot shots at my answer, demanding that I provide “citations” to “scientific evidence” to support my assertion that the people who first invented religions were largely ignorant about the world and the universe. Seriously? I need to prove that people living thousands of years ago, without access to any of the technology we have today, didn’t know as much about the universe as we do today?

Well, I don’t know about any “scientific evidence” of their ignorance that I can cite, but fortunately there’s this wonderful invention that actually allows me to see backwards through time and know what ancient people were thinking when first describing their gods and coming up with their religions, as well as what they thought about the universe and our place in it. And it’s an invention that has actually been around for many thousands of years.

It’s called writing.

You see, we don’t need “scientific evidence” to determine what ancient people were thinking when they first came up with their religions since they were nice enough to write it all down for us. From the ancient Sumerians who chiseled cuneiform stories into clay tablets, to the people who wrote the Bible, to the writings of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, to the author(s) of the Qur’an, to the recorded Edda sagas of the ancient Norse, etc., we have an abundant treasure trove of literature that clearly indicates that the people first writing about gods and religions largely didn’t have a clue about such basic things as the fact that the earth rotates on an axis, that the earth revolves around the sun, that the stars are actually other suns unimaginably far away and not, say, pinholes in the curtain of the night, that the universe is many billions of years old, that all life on earth evolved from earlier forms of life, that diseases are caused by germs, etc., etc., etc.

Add to that all the many, many, many different “creation stories” we have from all the various world religions and you don’t need “scientific evidence” to understand that religions and gods were all invented by people with limited knowledge about, well, much of anything, really. Not that they were necessarily stupid or unsophisticated, of course, but simply unaware of things that could only be known with the help of tools such as telescopes, microscopes, rockets, computers, etc.

And please, don’t start pointing out how one particular passage in one particular religion’s holy book can, if translated and interpreted in just the right way, supposedly indicates that the author may have actually understood something about the world that most ignorant people at the time it was written probably didn’t know. Especially if you are then going to completely ignore all the other passages that are obviously just plain wrong no matter how you squint your eyes at them. Seriously, don’t tell me that “Let there Be Light” is an amazingly accurate scientific description of the Big Bang and then try to explain why it doesn’t matter that the Bible also says the Earth was created before the Sun.

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