Imagine nothingness. You can’t.
Imagine infinity. You can’t.
Somewhere between the two, lies the known universe. As science and technology extend our senses, we are able to observe increasing areas of this universe. As philosophy develops, we are able to refine these observations into a progressively more accurate understanding of it.
Currently we think it is about 13,8 billion years old, with a diameter of about 93 billion light years. It is expanding at rates which can exceed the speed of light. In it, matter, and matter’s alter-ego, energy, coalesce in space. Here and there, galaxies are formed, billions of them. In these galaxies, stars are born and die. Supernovas mark the position of the dead and dying. The resulting black holes hide interactions of time, space, matter and energy which we are only beginning to understand.
In an unremarkable galaxy, lies an unremarkable solar system. Around an unremarkable sun, several planets orbit. One of the smaller planets, the third one from this sun, is largely blue because the surface is mostly covered in liquid water. Around the current boundary between two of its land masses lies a desert.
In this desert, about three thousand years ago, an insignificant and primitive tribe of herders and/or hunter-gatherers learned to write from their more advanced neighbours. They proceeded to write down their recollections of the previous three thousand years, as remembered from their primitive understanding of the universe and the oral accounts of their history, borrowing liberally from other traditions in the process.
Understandably, given subsequent advances in human knowledge, much of their narrative is now widely regarded as superstition.
Let us now move forward about a thousand years. The tribe has been colonized by the Roman Empire, and elements within it are rebelling against the occupation. Various accounts of the rebellion are recorded, and a group of these writings focuses on a hero, who is described in superhuman terms. One of the most prolific writers pens his account about fifty years after the events he describes are purported to have happened. A number of sects are formed to propagate the views promoted in these texts.
Fast forward about three hundred years, and a Roman Emperor decides, for various reasons, to adopt these teachings as the official religion. A council is formed which sifts through and debates the teachings, and formulates an interpretation of which of them are acceptable and which are not. This body of work is appended to the earlier writings of the hunter-gatherers described above, and the scripture of a new religion is born.
Unlike a scientific text, where various interpretations are tested and distilled into a theory, the scripture is revised into thousands of interpretations over the next two thousand years or so, as adherents try to fit it to their world view. The new religion splits into thousands of sects.
The central tenet of the believers, a variant of the much older “golden rule,” is disregarded to the point that poverty is still increasing, despite technological progress. The sects, preaching a message of peace and love, engage in violence and atrocities. Not only against other faiths, but also between themselves.
The texts can be shown to be historically and scientifically inaccurate. They promote some very questionable morality. Yet adherents are prepared to kill and to be killed in their name.
Most of this behaviour stems from an unwillingness to accept scientific advances which contradict the texts, and disagreement over the meaning of the texts. Which leads to this question, posed by Eric Kincade:
“Many followers will claim their god is all powerful, all loving, all knowing, all just, all perfect, all wise, omnipotent and knows the past, present and future. They also typically claim their God had the imagination and power to create the entire universe.
If this is the case, why didn't their god have the foresight to inspire the writers of the Bible so the Bible would be filled with timeless morals and ethics which would apply to any culture in any time period of human history and could never be misinterpreted by anyone? Clearly, this would be child's play for an all powerful, all wise god to write such a book.”
Any answers would be appreciated.
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