What Would God Actually Write?

Question from Abdulmalik:
I have a question and I wish you to seriously answer me! if we postulated that God exists…and he sent down his word to humanity as a book…what do you expect that book to be like? or how would you test it to be a God’s book?
waiting for your awesome answers…\
my first suggestion that it should has no scientific mistakes…
do you have any other suggestions?!

Answer by SmartLX:
A book literally written by a god would in many ways be like the Bible or the Quran – as they are described by the people who think their gods wrote them. Specifically, they are claimed to be inerrant, internally consistent, full of divine knowledge or prophecies that either come true or are revealed to be true as time goes on, supernaturally beautiful in their prose and with an ability to influence the hearts and minds of readers and listeners that goes beyond anything the words actually say. Thus, people often claim these things about them explicitly as arguments for their divine authorship. As you can see by simply putting ‘bible’ or ‘quran’ in the search field of this site, after a great deal of discussion I’m still of the opinion that these claims are incorrect, unsupported or subjective.

Further speculation about what a real god’s writings would be like doesn’t tend to move the discussion forward, as such speculation can be dismissed outright by anyone who thinks it is unreasonable or doesn’t match their chosen book. But what the heck, I do have one idea on the subject: such a book would be timeless, such that it didn’t seem more and more backward the more society progresses. In the Bible, for instance, a modern reader has to confront references to slavery, incest, subjugation of women and entire ethnic groups, human sacrifice, demonisation of many sexual orientations and so on. A reader in the first century AD would have taken most or all of it for granted. I think a god would find a way to keep a fixed book from suffering the effects of a shifting moral zeitgeist.

Prophecies or confirmation bias?

Question from: Alisco

Message: There are numerous prophecies in the Quran which has come true.

The Romans have been defeated in the lowest land, but after their defeat they will be victorious within three to nine years. The affair is Allah’s from beginning to end. On that day, the believers will rejoice. (Qur’an, Surat ar-Rum :1-4)

These verses were revealed around 620, almost 7 years after the idolatrous Persians had severely defeated Christian Byzantium in 613-14. In fact, Byzantium had suffered such heavy losses that it seemed impossible for it even to survive, let alone be victorious again.

In short, everyone was expecting Byzantium to be destroyed. But during this time, the first verses of Surat ar-Rum were revealed, announcing that Byzantium would triumph in 3 to 9 years. This predicted victory seemed so impossible that the Arab polytheists thought it would never come true.

But like all the other predictions in the Qur’an, this one also came true. In 622, Heraclius gained a number of victories over the Persians and conquered Armenia. In December 627, the two empires fought a decisive battle at Nineveh, some 50 kilometres east of the Tigris river, near Baghdad. This time too, the Byzantine army defeated the Persians. At last, the Persians were defeated as was predicted in the Quran.

Here’s the problem, prophecies are a funny things. We believe them when they confirm our bias, but ignore them when they don’t. For example take the TV show Star Trek. It predicted handheld personal communicators, medical imaging, high speed transfer of data, equality of the sexes, flat screen tv’s, compact disks, and more. Now, you wouldn’t claim that Gene Roddenberry was a prophet would you? Why not? Is it because he wasn’t part of the same religion as you?  Do you accept the prophecies made from other religions? Why not? Is it because you think that your belief in your religion is more justified then everyone elses? Did you come to that conclusion because of things like the prophecies you mentioned?

Hopefully you can see the vicious circle created by this kind of thinking. When we readily accept something because it agrees with our perspective, and don’t attempt to understand how and why that perspective could be wrong, we fall into a hole of disinformation that prevents us from seeing the truth of a thing.

This kind of thinking is called “Confirmation Bias“. It’s important to be aware of how our minds work and how we sometimes allow ourselves to think a certain way not because it’s true, but because we want it to be true. So how do we stop our brains from doing this? Well you can’t really stop it, but what you can do is learn to question your own assumptions. Why do I believe this to be true? What do the facts say about my “truth”? Do others agree or disagree and why? Could I be wrong, and if so, how? Asking these questions allows us to be a little more objective in our thinking and allows us to be aware of confirmation bias occurring.

I hope that answers your question. Feel free to discuss this further in the comment section below.

You Down With O.T.G?

Question from Joseph:
Hey, I’m an undergrad at a Christian college and my major is Biblical studies. I was raised an evangelical Christian but have been an agnostic for about a year now.

I have a lot of respect for the Bible and think it is under-studied and under-appreciated by atheists.

Anyways, here is one question I’ve thought about. If the OT prophets were misinformed and delivered messages from a figment of their imagination, then why were their messages so self-critical of their people and generally doom-and-gloom messages? You would think if someone wanted to imagine a God, they would make him a lot more compassionate and less vengeful and jealous. Also, where the heck did they actually get their oracles from? Most people don’t discourse with their imaginations to the point of writing out lengthy books about them. The prophets also performed object lessons to demonstrate God’s messages. For example, Ezekiel laid on his side for over a year!

The prophets also predicted a lot of events (usually vague, but still…) that came true. I wonder if this is the same type of trick that fortune tellers use, where they give a vague answer that will inevitably be manifested at some point in time, while those with a confirmation bias will end up being convinced of divine foreknowledge. But some of the prophecies were quite specific…where did the prophets come up with these?

Answer by SmartLX:
To address a couple of things very quickly:
– The Bible is classical literature, certainly. Like all classical literature it’s underappreciated as such in today’s world, and not just by atheists. That said, given that atheists reject the central claims of the Bible, they’re not usually motivated to delve into the nitty-gritty. See my piece on theology.
– Someone advocating the fulfilment of a prophecy wants you to consider only two possibilities: that it was pure coincidence and an impossibly lucky guess, or it was genuine divinely bestowed foreknowledge. There are many other possibilities, some of which I’ve named and numbered in my earlier piece on prophecies.

Now as for the character of God in the Old Testament, let’s continue to assume that the stories were made up, as you posit, for the sake of argument. God does not have a likeable personality because the purpose of the stories is clearly not to make people feel good. (There’d be a lot less genocide in it if that were the case, for one thing.) The purpose of the stories is to inspire awe and fear of God, to influence people’s behaviour as per the Commandments (not just the Ten, either) and to drive people to spread the Word. Like in any narrative, the characters need to be what they are for the author to deliver his or her message, not just for their own sake.

You do get the impression that people did some extraordinary things to receive their messages from God and to get the books written, but that doesn’t really speak for their veracity. Some of their actions, like Ezekiel’s marathon reclining session, could be exaggerated accounts themselves – or even if they’re genuine they could have degraded these people’s mental states to the point where they heard from the God of their day without any real divine communication at all.

We’ll never really know what happened to people like Ezekiel, but an extraordinary story hardly warrants jumping straight to a specific supernatural explanation.

Pick A God, Any God

Question from Fawaz:
What is the true religion on earth? Christianity,Islam,Hinduism,At…
Hello
Do you Know Hindus believe that vedas(Hindi scriptures) is from God,Muslims beleves that Quran is from God and Christian Believes that Bible is from God,Which one is correct and if I say all are correct then.All the three have Scientific facts and we know that Atheists believes in science so so which one to choose.

Hindu vedas(1700–1100 BCE)
Scientific facts
1.Shape of Earth is like an Oblate Spheroid. (Rig VedaXXX. IV.V)
2.Earth is flattened at the poles.
3.Blue Sky is Nothing but scattered sunlight (Markandeya Purana 78.8)
Many more facts
http://tinyurl.com/8qlv834

Islam Quran(1400 years ago)
Scientific facts
1.”Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then we
clove them asunder and We got every living thing out of the water? Will they not then
believe?” (21:30)(Big theory says first stage was singularity)
2.”The heaven, we have built it with power. Verily, we are expanding it(Expanding Unvierse)
3.We have placed in the ground (mountains) standing firm, so that it does not shake with
them.”(This says earth has sedimentary mountains which prevents earthquakes it is scientifically proven)
Many more facts
http://tinyurl.com/d8gyhpa

Christianity Bible( 2000 years ago)
Scientific facts
1.He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.
2.The Earth is not motionless(Psalms 104:5 )
3.The earth is round
There are many more facts you can read it from here
http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/youth/scientificfacts/default.asp
we all know that this scientific facts to be know at that time would be impossible and it can only be said by someone who is our creator or who has the knowledge of all things that is GOD.
As all the divine books contains scientific facts it means that which one to choose.
Do you what is the common thing in all the religion.It is God.But some has many and some has one.
As hinduism is the oldest religion it has most chance that the vedas and other hindu scriptures are changed.
Christianity is mid age religion but it has been changed according to the time.
Islam is among one of the recent religion ,so chance of changes are less.

Hinduism
In Hindu religion there is avatar named kalki
Things mentioned about kalki in hindu scriptures
1.Kalki will be born on 12 day of a month
2.In Purana (a holy book of Hindus) it is stated that Kalki Avatar would be the last messenger (prophet) of God in this world for the Guidance of the whole world and all human beings.
3. In books of Hindus, the names of the father and the mother of Kalki Avatar are given as VISHNUBHAGAT and SUMAANI respectively.
4.God would teach Kalki Avatar through His messenger (angel) in a cave.
There are many more points you can search it.
now if we compare it with a prophet know as Muhammad in Islam.
1.Prophet muhammad born on the 12 day of a month of lunar calendar.
2.prophet muhammad is ther last messenger according to Islam.
3.Name of prophet muhammads father is Abdullah and his mother name is ameena.
Take VISHNUBHAGAT= VISHNU (meaning God) + BHAGAT( meaning slave) = ALLAH + ABD (in Arabic) = Slave of God = ABDULLAH (in arabic) (name of Mohammed’s Father)
SUMAANI= PEACE or Calmness = Aamenah (in Arabic).
4.God taught Prophet Muhammad (SAW), through His messenger Jibraeel (Gabrael) in a cave known as Gaar-e-Hiraa.
There are many more points that i am not writing you can read it from here.
http://www.islamicbulletin.com/newsletters/issue_19/hindu.aspx

Christianity
So we know that bible has been changed according to time.What if we get the pure bible which was revealed 2000 years ago but that is impossible but what if we go to the oldest bible.
Lets see what the oldest bible says.
worlds oldest bible(Codex Sinaiticus) says that jesus predict the coming of the prophet muhammad and In line with Islamic belief, the Gospel treats Jesus as a human being and not a God
There is more infomation you can collect it from this site

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2105714/Secret-14million-Bible-Jesus-predicts-coming-Prophet-Muhammad-unearthed-Turkey.html

Islam
prophet muhammad is the last prophet for whole mankind.
accordint to Islam there is only one God and the God in the holy Quran says that he has sent messengers(Prophets) to all the groups in the world and send the message that there is only one god and also send a message that if a messenger comes in the future they should accept him and follow him .
With this we can say that God has send many messengers and many books but after the messengers died,the people changed the religion according to them.
It is hard for a person that if he is follow something from years and someone had showed him evidence that it is wrong he/she won’t be able to believe that.
Please choose the correct religion ,dont be something by chance ,be something by choice.
So which one do you choose

GOD’s Servent

Answer by SmartLX:
We have a set of claims of divine foreknowledge of both science and historical events…from a set of mutually exclusive religions? They can’t all be right, they can’t all speak for the same god or gods, and yet they all seem to have this amazing predictive power.

So what’s going on here? The simplest explanation is that these predictions are coming from a source other than a god. My reference piece on prophecies always comes in handy in situations like this; most of them are likely candidates for #4. Shoehorned, or in other words the passage’s intended meaning has nothing to do with the thing it’s now claimed to predict. If you really see merit in a particular item among the above (anybody, not just Fawaz) single it out and I’ll address it in detail. Chances are that someone already has, though, especially the Biblical stuff. Try a search yourself.

In the absence of any substantial evidence for any one of these religions, I’m not about to pick one. If any of the others is right, I’ll be punished, possibly more for worshipping a rival, false god than for simply withholding my judgement.

The Ten Kingdoms

“Even prophecies that appear vindicated and legitimate need not be the result of genuine prescience, for a variety of possible reasons.”

Question from Ebony:
I’ve recently come to my senses and become an atheist. I have been puzzled by one thing in the Bible. The 10 kingdoms of the Roman Empire that were predicted. I can’t find any evidence that the book was written after this time. There has to be a reasonable explaination. Please help me.

Answer:
See my piece on prophecies. Even prophecies that appear vindicated and legitimate need not be the result of genuine prescience, for a variety of possible reasons.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, it didn’t instantly shatter into exactly ten pieces, each with its own king ready to roll. First it split into the Eastern and Western Empires, then the Visigoths and other invaders stripped away one country after another until Constantinople was sacked and there was nothing left.

If you think about it, it was inevitable that there would be ten kingdoms at some point. Starting with one whole thing and ending with the dozens of modern nations which were geographically within the Empire at its peak, the number of independent states and/or the number of monarchs must have been ten somewhere in between. (You sound as if you know which specific kingdoms they are; care to fill us in?)

The empire having already split into ten kingdoms is only one interpretation the faithful seriously consider. Some anticipate that the former Empire will ultimately become ten kingdoms, united by the Antichrist, not long before the end of the world. In this form it joins the many endtime prophecies which people argue are beginning to come true, in this case by pointing to volatile political situations in Europe.

Therefore, in the context of my earlier piece this one may be a case of 1. High Probability of Success, 2. Still Unknown and/or 4. Shoehorned.

SmartLX

The Great Big Arguments #5: Prophecies

“…false dilemma: either the authors took wild guesses and were correct multiple times purely by chance, or they were divinely inspired and therefore granted knowledge the rest of humanity didn’t have at the time.”

Question:
The basic form of this argument is that the Bible or some other holy text predicted some event or phenomenon its author(s) could not possibly have known about without divine inspiration. Examples: Jesus’ life and death fulfilled hundreds of prophecies made about him in the Old Testament, every detail of the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack was laid out in Revelations, the Bible or Quran describes scientific facts only discovered later by scientists themselves.

Answer:
Claimed predictions by the Bible (from which my examples will be drawn, since they’re what I’ve mostly received) and other old texts are presented along with a false dilemma: either the authors took wild guesses and were correct multiple times purely by chance, or they were divinely inspired and therefore granted knowledge the rest of humanity didn’t have at the time. There are a number of other possibilities for each supposed prophecy or prediction, which are generally more likely than either. The names below aren’t universal, they’re my own.

1. High Probability of Success: the event predicted was likely almost to the point of certainty, especially given unlimited time in which to occur.

In Jeremiah 49:16, the fall of the city of Edom was prophesied. Edom had many enemies, including Israel, and was regularly at war. Which was more likely, that it would triumph forever or that at some stage it would be destroyed?

2. Still Unknown: the fact given by the text is in dispute even today.

Christians credit the Bible with foreknowledge of cosmology for saying that the universe had a beginning. Even if this is correct, it had a one in two chance which is hardly imposing odds. Importantly, though, the Big Bang might be the very beginning or it may have been caused by some precursor. There’s still the possibility of an eternally old universe or multiverse. Claiming credit for predicting a beginning at this point is like trying to collect your winnings from a horse race before it’s ended.

3. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: the very existence of the prophecy assists in its fulfilment.

There were prophecies, at least as told in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, that the captive Jews would return to their homeland of Israel. Assuming for now that the non-supernatural parts of the stories are true to begin with, the Jews themselves knew of this prophecy. They believed God had stated directly that they would return. To do so was to obey His will. No wonder they did everything they could to get back.

In a more general sense, the Bible lays out a complete future history of Israel and Jerusalem. The Jews there do everything in their power to follow the instructions as far as rebuilding and protecting it, and largely use the actions of the Muslims to fill in the bits about invasion, destruction and exile.

4. Shoehorned: the text only applies to reality or to the present day through an unwarranted act of lateral interpretation.

Isaiah 40:22 says, “It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth.” Some take this as a signal that the author knew ahead of everyone else that the Earth is a sphere, when the word “circle” seems more likely to refer to the apparent disc one sees when one looks out from atop a mountain. The now-all-but-defunct Flat Earth Society, which believed the statement as much as any other Christian group, maintained their position of a flat Earth because they interpreted it as I do.

5. Made to Order: accounts of a subsequent event were in fact tailored to fit the prophecy.

This possibility is most often applicable to the story of Jesus. The authors of the Gospels had access to the writings of Isaiah et al, and had every opportunity to make sure their own accounts lined up with the old prophecies. Jesus, after all, would have been just one of an army of self-proclaimed Messiahs at the time. He needed everything possible to make him stand out, and that meant fitting the bill to the letter.

This list is not a direct accusation that any of the above is in fact the case for any given prediction in an ancient text (extending beyond religion, to writers like Nostradamus). However, any given prediction in texts I’ve read can be explained by one or several of the above. These extra possibilities must therefore be considered in addition to the false dilemma of chance or God. In this company, divine inspiration is less of a sure thing to say the least.

So what kind of a prediction would bypass all of the above and appear truly, plainly supernatural in its accuracy? Simple: one that we are able to test ourselves, without any prior knowledge. An obvious example is the Rapture: if it happens, those of us who are left will know that prediction was right. You can’t engineer the Rapture, or interpret the bodily disapparation of every Christian (of only one denomination, you would assume) any other way.

For a less extreme example, say that instead of interpreting dates gone by to match counts of days in the Bible, someone uses Revelations to predict the day of a future earthquake in Los Angeles, far in advance of seismologists. It could still be coincidence, but it couldn’t be Shoehorned or Made to Order. Further, the chances are low, the outcome is known and the prophet couldn’t fulfil it him/herself without a nuclear weapon.

That, therefore, is what believers in Biblical prophecy need to do in order to score credibility: use the old texts to make new and accurate predictions, instead of cultivating awe for those gone by. Many do try this, of course, and so there’s a growing list of dates for the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Second Coming and lesser events like the collapse of the United States. So far, all of these dates have passed by uneventfully.

SmartLX