Let me propose this axiom: a human-invented religion will look radically different from the worship of a real god. That is, human longing for the divine (or human imagination) will cobble together a very poor imitation of the real thing.
Let’s first look at an example in the domain of languages. Imagine that you’re a linguist and you’re creating a tree of world languages. Each language should be nearer languages that are related and similar, and it should be farther from those that are dissimilar. Spanish and Portuguese are next to each other on the tree; add French, Italian, and others and call that the Romance Languages; add other language groups like Germanic, Celtic, and Indic and you get the Indo-European family; and so on.
Here’s your challenge: you have two more languages to fit in. First, find the spot for English. It’s pretty easy to see, based on geography, vocabulary, and language structure, that it fits into the Germanic group. Next, an alien language like a real Klingon or Na’vi. This one wouldn’t fit in at all and would be unlike every human language.
Now imagine a tree of world religions. Your challenge is to find the place for Yahweh worship of 1000 BCE. Is it radically different from all the manmade religions, as unlike manmade religions as the alien language was to human languages? Or does it fit into the tree comfortably next to the other religions of the Ancient Near East, like English fits nicely into the Germanic group?
You’d expect the worship of the actual creator of the universe to look dramatically different from religions invented by Iron Age tribesmen in Canaan, but religious historians tell us that Yahweh looks similar to other Canaanite deities like Asherah, Baal, Moloch, Astarte, Yam, or Mot. What could he be but yet another invented god?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
- See all the arguments in favor of atheism at the first post in the series, God Doesn’t Exist: Historians Reject the Bible Story
- Religion Family Tree (video, 2:21).
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“You will not find an American astronomy, a bellicose biology, a capitalist chemistry, a Methodist math, or a feminist physics. There’s only one worldwide version of each, because they’re all based on facts, not opinions. Religion is nothing BUT opinions, no facts involved, which is why anybody’s word on religion is just as good as anyone else’s (to wit, no good at all).”
— Richard S. Russell
Nicely succinct and thoughtful. I like the simplicity of it. I often wonder how one religion is absolutely certain about it’s legitimacy. Take prophets… Did god verify who they would be taking this information to, to make sure it reach the *true* believers? What does one religious group think of the prophets from an other religion? Did those prophets get the message wrong and proscribe to the wrong faith, were they simply mistaken and not speaking with god (making it more likely most/all weren’t talking to anyone either), or did one particular religion luck out and have all the right prophet? To my knowledge, using your example, no prophet has ever provided a drastically different message, they usually sound much the same… so who is to say one of them is startlingly right and all others wrong?
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