God believers on News24 constantly tell us about their wonderful gods and what their gods want and how their scriptures are to be interpreted. Which is all very well and good but what the peddlers of these gods fail to explain is what these gods actually and verifiably ever do. I have never got a credible straight forward answer to that question so I decided to examine some of the claims that we know the preachermen make on behalf of their gods in their houses of worship, pamphlets and advertisements and to see how they stack up against reality. This is #2 in a series looking at the validity and veracity of a wide range of the claims of the preachermen.
The Claims of Scriptural Context
Context is a favourite of the preachermen. Every time a non-believer in a particular brand of religion points out the incongruities, the absurdities or the downright horrid in scripture, the preacherman will quickly up and claim, “What do you know? I have studied this and you don't understand the context.” If you regularly read News24 comments you will be very familiar with this tactic.
Both Christians and Muslims play the context card when cornered.
A Muslim claims Islam is a peaceful religion. You point out the daily bombings, shootings, abductions in Muslim dominant societies. You make the point that Islamic scripture is obviously used to justify these atrocities with verses such as:
“Allah has cursed the unbelievers and proposed for them a blazing hell.” - 33:60
“Unbelievers are enemies of Allah and they will roast in hell.” - 41:14
“When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens.” - 47:4
The Muslim will claim you do not understand the context and, if you did, you would know that Islam is “The Religion of Peace”.
Very often Christians, who have no credible response to a atheist article or comment, accuse us of being fools and idiots. I usually respond by quoting the following.
NIV 1984. Matthew 5:22: "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
News24 contributors know that many, many Christians do not know their Bibles and that what little they do know is limited to the nice touchy feely, lovey bits. This is one godly instruction of which most are patently unaware. And when it is pointed out to them they get all huffy and try to cover their backsides with the whine, “But you don't understand the context”.
Another favourite method preachermen regularly resort to in an effort to explain away scriptural absurdities, contradictions and brutality is to claim the offending verses no longer apply in the 21st Century or have been superseded in some way by an interpretation of other verses.
Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, (in South Africa in any case), go quietly about following their religious beliefs and practices without trying to interfere with or bother about what others do. You just don't hear from them raving about porn, abortions, contraception, moral degeneration, stem cell research, the gays, etcetera. So I leave them in peace.
The Reality of Scriptural Context
The claim by believers that we don't understand the context of what their god intended is, of course, a false argument from claimed authority,(argumentum ad verecundiam).
The strength of the claim to authority argument depends upon two factors:
1. The authority is a legitimate expert on the subject.
2. There exists consensus among legitimate experts in the subject matter under discussion.
Factor #1 falls away immediately because there are no legitimate experts on gods. No evidence for any of them you see! Ok, Dawkins, for example, is a legitimate expert because he recognises that fact.
Factor #2 can also never be met by the scriptural context claimant simply because all the major religions have innumerable different, and often warring cults, each claiming their different interpretation of scripture and that their expectations of the god are correct. Innocent people are persecuted, jailed, car bombed, shot, abducted, left to die horrible deaths without medical treatment, shunned, reviled and ethnically cleansed because of some or other different interpretation of a scripture.
Judaism has quite a number of different movements each with different interpretations of the Torah.
Islam has two major denominations with a multitude of sub cults. Too many for me to bother to count but you can find them via Wikipedia. All have different scriptural interpretations.
Christianity, according to Wikipedia, has approximately 40 000 different cults. And that was this morning. There must be 40 010 by now. And of course each offers wildly different interpretations of the Bible.
Hindus. Wikipedia again lists innumerable denominations and sects all with different interpretations of Hindu scriptures and texts. Sorry to mentioned the Hindus again but my dogs hate Diwali.
So scriptural context is simply the interpretation of scriptural mythology to mean whatever anyone wants it to be.
And I have to mention theology. Theology must be a really great subject and the easiest way to get a Doctorate and claim some respect for being “learned”. Since all these religions cannot be correct and all the gods and different versions of gods cannot be correct, and no single interpretation of a scripture can be correct, one can safely assume that all are wrong and none of the gods exist. So theology is, quite frankly, the study of nothing. A doctoral thesis requires no research, you can make up any old stuff about any old religion and claim your own context. Doctor of Divinity. D.S.N L.O.L! Doctor of the Study of the Non-existent.
Making your own scriptural Interpretation.
The fact that there are different versions of scripture should be enough to alert one that there is something fishy going on here. It actually proves my point. If what a god wrote, or divinely inspired someone else to write, does not suit you, embarrasses you or does not fit your preconception of what you think a god should be like or wants, then simply re-interpret the scripture to suit yourself. I am pretty familiar with the Bible so lets use that to demonstrate how this works in practice, starting “in the beginning”.
“And God said, let us make man in our image.” - Genesis 1:26
I Googled for Christian explanations for the ambiguity of this verse which is in the scriptures which are the basis for many monotheistic religions and found the usual contradictory twaddle such as:
1. “Who is God speaking to in this passage? One teaching is that God is speaking to Himself. This view imagines the Father, Son and Holy Spirit conversing with each other”!
2. “The text is using the "majestic plural" or “God is speaking to a "heavenly court"!
3. “those who deny the Trinity say that when God says, "Let Us make..." He is speaking with the angels in mind”!
LOL! Yeah, guys! That explains everything hey? See how they just make stuff up to explain whatever they want it to mean?
So let's me do my own interpretation of this verse. It says “our image”. I understand that. It says that when the Abrahamic god created the Universe and all, there was already more that one god and all the gods looked like human beings. Or perhaps there was just god and Mrs God and there were just two gods. Anyway there was clearly more than one. When the god wrote/dictated the beginning of his book then the god must have been paying intention, concentrating very hard on his scriptural masterpiece so as to not make mistakes. Only later, when he became tired, bored, or he befuddled himself, did he start making all those dreadful contradictions. In the beginning of the book the god clearly tells us he is not alone and there is in fact more than one god. So all those billions who belong to the multifarious Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions have got it all wrong. Read in the correct context, my interpretation is correct and all those monotheistic claims are just plain wrong.
So the next time some hoity toity, smug Christian or Muslim claims a superior knowledge of scripture and that you don't understand the context, you point out just how many cults there are in his religion and just how many interpretations there are of his particular scripture. Poke the buffoon with a stick, and watch him wriggle. Its fun.
Seen in the correct context it is clear that the all-powerful, all-knowing gods are pretty damn useless in the communications department if they cannot write concise and clear books of instructions. Not only did they create a dog's breakfast with their instruction manuals, they consistently refuse to clear up any of the points of misinterpretation and contention. And the gods don't give a rats how many people get killed arguing about whose interpretation is correct.
So what does your god ever actually and verifiably do?
#1: Faith Healing?
#2: Communicate clearly? Communicate ever?