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The Perfect Guidebook

Yesterday I had a twitter conversation with a Christian over something I talked about in one of my Examiner articles. The interesting thing is that it wasn’t even the main point of the article and there is already another article in the “Atheism 101” series which addresses the issue in more detail. In any case, I thought I would discuss the issue.

The article focuses on the “No True Scotsman” fallacy however this particular Christian decided not to address that issue at all. Instead, he focused on the part of the article where I talked about how if the Bible was a written by a perfect deity to be a perfect guide for humanity, then it fails. The fact that reasonable people can get diametrically opposed views from a holy book alleged to be written by a perfect being is logically inconsistent.

The Christian makes two interesting claims. The first is that even though the Bible is “difficult” to understand it does not invalidate the claim that it was written (or inspired by) a perfect being. Again my claim is that if it was written by a perfect being as a guide for humanity then that being would be able to communicate his message perfectly and it would be crystal clear to everyone.

To claim that the Bible is “difficult” to understand is an extreme understatement. The fact is that somewhat reasonable people can and do get diametrically opposed interpretations from this book. Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” is not nearly as “difficult” to understand. That book was written to have a message too and that message is crystal clear to any reasonable or even somewhat reasonable person. It is one thing for a book to be difficult to understand, but for a book to be open to such diametrically opposed interpretations really says something about the author. Claiming that the author is perfect at this point just seems silly.

If I were reading a guide to plumbing and I interpreted it in a diametrically opposed way as my neighbor, we would both have to acknowledge that the author didn’t convey his or her instructions clearly. But if the author was God and claimed to be perfect, then this poorly written guide would be strong evidence to the contrary.

The second point that this Christian made (ironically after he accused me of making the Red Herring fallacy among others) was that scientists disagree on interpreting data all the time. The analogy that he is trying to make here is that just because people get diametrically opposed interpretations from the Bible shouldn’t invalidate the Bible. But there is a very distinct and important difference here. The Bible is alleged to be perfect and written (or inspired) by a perfect being. Scientists may get different interpretations from the same data, but they are not perfect. That is why when this type of thing happens in science, scientists have to design new experiments and/or studies so that they can be repeatable with some degree of accuracy. If an experiment or study yielded diametrically opposed results, then the experiment or study was faulty and needs to be re-examined, fixed, and/or re-done completely.

That is the real difference between religion and science. Science tries to get it right and keeps trying while religion claims to have it right regardless of the results. This makes religion a poor guide to life. Claiming to have the answer isn’t the same as actually having the answer. Science tests its results and is not afraid to re-test them over and over again. Science encourages critics and criticism while religion just asserts their answer without regard to the evidence or the facts.

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