Revelation, Prophecies, and Sacred Texts in the Light of Reason
On Books written or inspired by God: The Old Testament
The Old Testament is a religious compilation written by priestly hands in Hebrew (which by the way isn’t a divine language, but a dialect of the Canaanite) and some parts in Aramaic. It has been dated between 1000 and 500 BC and puts together the traditions of a tribal, late sedentary society, which had been almost always subjected (Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Lagids, Seleucids, Romans). This subjection is associated with the last flirts in the worship of the god Baal, or the merry and colorist idolatry of the goat on top of the table, which is eventually deserted when Hebrews manage to give shape on their minds a God fitting their long-awaited status of chosen people, and legal real estate owners of all the land in Israel; a collective psychological projection of their idealized kingdom of David.
It’s a stern society, with the yoke always around the neck, and He is a stern God, who enjoys exercising authority, and doesn’t hesitate at a certain point, to exterminate humanity except for Noah and family (Genesis), to spread discord among men in Babel, jealous of seeing their progress when united, or at an unspeakable biblical moment, to send two bears in order to shatter forty-two children who were making fun of Elisha’s baldness (Kings 2). He is not a “centrist”, moderate, dispassionate, democratic god. His literal behavior clearly states He doesn’t give a dam about emotional intelligence, self-knowledge, progress, human rights, women’s liberation, gay pride, and such things.
Having said that, the Old Testament is always a book of recommended reading, and in spite of the fact, rather generally acknowledged, of it not being a piece of remarkable literary beauty (thus pointing to not very divine origins), or some of its passages particularly edifying in moral terms (we have previously cited two or three but the list is huge), its mythological and historical interest is undoubted and its reference place in western culture is well deserved.
On Books Written or Inspired by God: The New Testament
The New Testament wasn’t written by Jesus, neither by people he ever met, not in the language he may have spoken on a daily basis (Aramaic). It was written in Greek between 100 and 200 years after his death. With this dating, it couldn’t possibly have been the work of any of the alleged gospel authors Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark, all of them contemporaries of Jesus, but of later and unknown authors; whose aim was to set on paper the oral tradition of the stories told by early Christians and invest them with authority by attributing the work to Jesus closest comrades.
From among the many existing texts, a selection was made by the canon method (according to which only what fits into previously established standards will be accepted) in various councils and synods between the years 300 and 400 AD, and always with the objective of threading the contents with the incipient nimble ecclesial doctrine in the middle of a confusing dynamics of thunderstorm-theology against enduring heretic bishops: Nestorian (Christ is dual), Arrian (Christ is not God), Priscillian (you can dance in mass), Pelagian (there is no original sin)…
These are human texts, not divine nor whispered by God in anyone’s ears. They were written with a clear purpose for the men of those times who appreciated their alleged eternal salvation beyond anything else in the world; and with a clear purpose for the unveiling Christian church, by then embedded in a purging process from heresies on the inside and paganism on the outside, to be projected into the known universe as a clean and pure entity, worthy of representing the only and true faith. If the Church acted by virtue of Constantinian imperial unification geopolitics or because they believed in their duty of saving the world and winning the religious combat by elimination of the opposite with the biblical excuse of “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14-4) that is another thing. Comments would be appreciated on this subject.
But now let us return to the New Testament, and conclude that its reading is also always advisable as a historical document that may contain some moral truths, some universal rules that still remain valid after 2000 years. But they are rich as well in gigantic blunders, inexplicable cruelties and must necessarily have diminishing meaning for a society that has ceased to pursue and bully the individual for what they think, for what they say or for the way they live their personal and sexual life. They are archaic texts that have no value other than cultural (which is better than nothing) for a society that is making protons collide at the speed of light, investigating Mars with rovers driven from 60 million km away, giving long years of extra life to people with pacemakers or insulin and trying not to damage the environment of the planet in the process.
Wouldn’t you like to be able to know the future in advance, or have a special place in the universe, or being certain you are the pampered creature of an almighty God, a great father, a protector in charge of everything, who even had the delicacy of having left you information about the future, albeit in gibberish code? I wouldn’t mind. The problem is that this idea goes against all the evidence the world presents in all fields of life. The problem is that the only way to achieve this is by recreating it in our imagination through faith. And we all can do it. We all have that capacity. But we know today thanks to psychology and neurology that this ability to recreate imaginary worlds is an evolutionary advantage due to some parts of our brain (pre frontal cortex), an advantage, which allows us to simulate and anticipate experiences in imaginary worlds. From those imaginary domains, we can get happiness of quality not lower than that of real-life experiences, but they are still imaginary worlds, not real worlds revealed particularly to us. And regardless of how much excited or high in spirits we can turn by this mental experiences, we don’t have the right nor the obligation to take to the streets urgently and try and imposing them on the rest of our associates by brute force.
No text on this planet contains, as of today, any fulfilled or credible prophecy in relation to the End of Times, or unfortunately to anything else under the sun. No one has yet succeeded in probing the future with prophetic anticipation concerning anything large, small, medium-sized, white, brown or black. All those bragging about it, have proved to be charlatans wanting only to take advantage in their own interest or fools inhabiting imaginary worlds in the excitement of their allegedly sacred books. The future is unfathomable by definition, by statistics and by physics of chaotic systems.
On The End of Times
Every religion has or had (if no living faithful remain) its own eschatology of the end times. This is logical, since they self-propose as systems that fulfill our legitimate longing for transcendence, or our shared fear of death. But no religion has the moral right to claim its authenticity above all the others as long as convincing evidence is not provided on the claimed amazing stories: creation, apparitions, levitations, speaking in tongues, inspiration of books, ad hoc or general interventions, impressive miracles, healings, etc. No religion should demand to their believers blind faith in misleading assertions, such as “the desire for transcendence was implanted in your heart by God”, or “that ancient text was inspired by God”, or “Our religion is true (take that!), and the rest aren’t because we are more numerous”, “because ours is more ancient”, “because very bright minds accepted it”, or “because it is the usual practice in the place where you were born”.
Rational evidence suggests today that if there is a superior being, a creator, a great father of the universe (and I’m not saying there isn’t), there is no way to reach him other than resorting to imagination, without evidence, in the dark, eyes wide shut, don’t ask, don’t chew just swallow. In addition, we have to choose from among thousands of candidates mutually exclusive and richly endowed with super-powers to pass the theoretical master-creator exam (Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Osiris, Ra, Zeus, Jupiter, Saturn, Quetzalcoal, Viracoha, Khrisna, Shiva, Mitra, Serapis, Apollo, Odin, Thor,… and of course the flying spaghetti monster, the fairy godmother and Bertrand Russell’s Martian teapot). The most comfortable and most common option is to accept whatever the place and time of your birth has in store for you and then perhaps change once in a lifetime for marriage convenience, cultural or geographical shift, fast social promotion (Tom Cruise is already an archbishop of Scientology), on a whim, by curiosity, or simply because the couple of Jehovah’s witnesses who regularly visit you are a real pain in the neck and you are at a loss how to get rid of them; this of course if we are permitted… Because we should not forget that in the 21st century we still live in a friendly alliance of Civilizations with religions such as Islam; which in certain places continues to delicately pursue apostasy on the inside while externally concealing this attitude very successfully indeed; helped, perhaps by our alacrity to look away.
The Role of Science
The scientific revolution of the 17th century set in motion a not intentional process of exclusion of God from any explanation on past and present natural phenomena, which appears to have no limit in the future as well.
“Fundamentalist” believers (no negative connotations intended) have no problem in clearly rejecting the tenets of science that contradict their sacred books, although they equally have no problem in taking advantage of the comfort progress provides us with (You only live once!).
Moderate believers on their side, luckily permeated to a certain degree by the spirit of reason, experience some anxiety in the rough sea of scriptures-science contradictions and lack guidance from their spiritual leaders, who largely have not recovered yet from the involuntary blows of evolution theory and standard model cosmology. These moderate believers have found an area of calm water behind the Big Bang in the hope that science will never be able to explore those early moments of the opaque universe, or under the surface of the primordial soup in which life first emerged, with the certainty that no chemist can wet his gown in that puddle, and wield with a curious mixture of timidity and boldness the fallacy of the reversal of the burden of proof “science”, they say, “will never be able to provide evidence that there is no God”.
But science isn’t looking for a way to exclude God from the Big Bang, but for the way to build a neutrino telescope that may probe that nascent universe. Science does not seek to take God out of the primordial soup, but to find out whether some self-replicating molecules can arise by natural chemical processes. And all this is not intended to eliminate God from the equation but to learn and explain reality. Neither Galileo, nor the first scientists of the Royal Society, nor the same Darwin, were atheists with a plan to banish God from nature. On the contrary, they usually were sincere believers, expecting to corroborate God’s Opus Magna with their experiments. But unfortunately progress occurred and God’s footprint was nowhere to be seen, and in an open society, God himself fell from the equation we had placed Him in. If God exists (and I insist I’m not saying He doesn’t), maybe one day He’ll demand explanations to us, but not for making experiments, but for the expansive abuse of His idea to patch the holes of our ignorance.
We know now that indeed there will be an End of the World, if by that we understand our world of planet Earth in the first place and the universe on a large scale later. Did you ever watch Cosmos TV series by Carl Sagan? Don’t you remember him saying “In about five billion years the Sun will gobble up Mercury and Venus and probably will also engulf the Earth”? Is it possible that the end could arrive sooner, that an asteroid could hit the Earth and destroy us, that a global glaciation freezes us to death, that unleashed volcanic activity causes us to choke? Yes. It’s clearly possible. What’s more, statistically it’s almost certain that some of these unpleasant events will happen in the long-term geological scale of time. What about October 21st 2011 (tomorrow’s Camping Apocalypse) or next December 21st 2012 (Mayan Doomsday)? Well, as many times during this long series of articles, I’ll resort again to my personal hero, president John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) and his response to that Christian Zionist German convert: “I have no problem with the idea that the world is going to end, but in any case 2012 seems to me too soon”.
Area Subliminal Versus Camping Verdict
Presides Honorable Judge Reason
It is the understanding of this court that no person of faith should reject the previous arguments by saying they come from an atheist, because it is not the case. It is necessary for the believer to honestly seek their own arguments, either by himself or with their spiritual guides, priests or imams, in such a way that we can establish a debate that allows rational truth to spring up, no amazing stories or fantastic tales permitted. This concerns us all because it can help bring out the best in ourselves, and truth is not exclusive of Christians or Hindus or Muslims, but common and shared. No person should feel encouraged by this sentence to forsake their beliefs, but to test them and improve them in the light of reason and openly criticize obscure aspects.
This subliminal tribunal has made an effort to understand Harold Camping’s behavior and its conclusion is that, although he is clearly wrong, we can’t critizise his conduct since he has been doing with the best of intentions something based on a lifetime of work and study, as the very Sir Isaac Newton did in his day. In discharge of Mr. Camping’s actions we must consider that he is assuming an idea that, in theory, is accepted by half of mankind: that the Bible is the word of God. Someone may say that he is obviously a poseur seeking to gain fame for him and his Family Radio station. In that case, if everything was the plot of a charlatan to obtain publicity and raise funds, though he is not the first to have done it, this tribunal finds it strange that he has decided to throw away long years of dedicated faith, thus endangering his own salvation, for surely his alleged God will clear his name from the book of life and the list of the 144,000.
Tomorrow is October 21st, 2011, and according to Harold Camping and Family Radio, Jesus will descend from among the clouds and put an end to the theater of life. If he is finally right, these are the last words of Area Subliminal, short of a miracle, and very much we fear we won’t join the 144,000.
If he is wrong and, God willing, Jesus doesn’t come tomorrow (what a terrible thing to say, to think, to hope), we have escaped destruction wiser and richer in our souls, with a wider and more open understanding of some of our brother’s concerns. And now we must not delay too long.
Here, then, as we lay down the pen, we bring this long series of articles about the End of Times to an end.
Notes:Video presentation for the “End of Times” series.
This article is also available in Spanish “El apocalipsis racional (8 de 8)“.