Invariably when you approach your average Christian family member and summon the nerve to mention that you are not convinced that everything you have been taught is completely true, the next utterance that we are sure to hear is, “you need to read your bible.” Almost as if the weight of what you are saying is not resting on the scales of their mind, “read your bible” is as knee jerk as a reaction can be. The primary issue I have with this response is that if your belief roadblock is less about comprehension of the bible than the bible itself, then reading the book in question will do little to douse the flames of doubt.
Imagine you are telling a friend about a car dealership that sells the best running cars in town. When your friend asks the question “how do you know they are the best running cars,” you reply, “you need to read their brochure.” Did you just answer your friend’s question, or did you tell your friend that their answer would be found in a document that could be categorized as propaganda? In other words, is the brochure an impartial arbiter of pure truth, or does it reinforce the beliefs of the topic in question – in this case, the functionality of this auto dealership’s cars.
Every religion that exists possesses some form of sacred text, journals – written or oral and in the case of Christianity, The Bible. One would expect that if they wanted to reinforce their Islamic beliefs, they would read the Quran. If one wanted to strengthen their belief in Judaism, they would read the Torah. In other words, if one were to consider the Christian bible the complete and utter truth, they would have to assume that all of the thousands of religions and religious text that ever existed before were completely false.
Let’s look at one of our earlier religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism whose origin can be traced back to a collection of Vedic texts called the Upanishads. We are talking about documents that existed since 1200 BCE and influenced largely celebrated religions that are worshipped by people all over the globe. In other words, The Upanishads represent a part of their Sanskrit “bible”. However, if I were to tell a Christian who did not believe in Hinduism that they should “read their Sanskrit,” that would not convince them of the validity of that religion. Therefore, the belief in one bible over the other have less to do with which one came first, but more to do with who taught you which one was right. In other words, whether you are Christian or Hindu have more to do with where you are born, than whether or not your book contains the real truth.
Another topic of consideration is how we view longevity and the subjectivity of our belief in the importance of longevity. For example, if we were to tell your average person that we have two companies that can build their restrooms for the same price; however, one company has been around for 5 years and the other company has been around for 50 years, the company that has existed for 50 years would most likely win most of the contracts because of their seniority. In most cases in life we tend to give more credibility to seniority. Even in the occasion of searching for a job, experience, as outlined in this Mantra article, is sited as being more important than an education to most employers. Therefore, if we value seniority and experience in most aspects in life, why is a book that was written in 1604 AD given more credibility by Christians than a “bible” that was started in 1200 BCE? Finally, I’ve heard the argument that we should believe the bible because there are events in the bible that we know to be true. I find this argument confounding because for all of the things we know to be true in the bible, there are other things that can be proven false today because of science; as humorously outlined on this website. Furthermore, if true events and locations in a book proclaim the truth of the entire book, then the Wizard of Oz must be true because Kansas is a real place and tornados really do exist.
I wish Christians and other religious figures had a stronger argument for fervent belief that was grounded in more tangible proof rather than books that were ultimately written by man and made to reinforce the religious principles they promote. If the only argument for the validity of a car dealership’s credibility is “read their brochures,” then the skepticism the publicist receives is well deserved. A book is not proof of reality, but if to be believed, should direct the skeptical to a place where scientific principles can reproduce the evidence that will lend concrete and tactile truth behind the words in the book.