Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Science and the scientific method has given us… virtually everything. It is responsible for our lifespan doubling, for the internet, for medicine, for anesthetics and pretty much everything else. Look around. Everything you see is the result of the scientific method being applied to the world you live in and my personal favourite is anesthetics (a quick look at the horror that used to be medicine before the invention of anesthetics is enough to convince me that time travel is, in fact, a really terrible idea).
The scientific method is a profoundly successful process for investigating the world and is the underlying force of all human advances for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The scientific method.
The scientific method is:
a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge
The techniques of the scientific method consists of a process with a number of steps to go through to arrive at a scientific theory:
a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.
These steps include:
- Formulating a question
A question that naturally arises for me centers around what religion – Christianity specifically – looks like when you study it with the scientific method. Interesting, I suppose is an answer. Infinitely boring is probably another answer. It depends rather heavily on what you would like to do with the outcome of the investigation. I’ve also argued before that the scientific method can and should be applied to everything, including the claims of religion, ghosts, the supernatural as well as finding God.
Looking at Christianity one might formulate the following question:
Does the Christian God as described in the Bible exist?
I think that is a fair question. It is after all the crux of what a billion people alive today allege to believe. I concede that it’s also a pretty big question and this short post won’t necessarily do it justice to it entirely but what the hell, let’s have a go. For the sake of a feeble attempt at rigor, let’s define some of the properties of the God in question by using the Bible as the source:
- Omniscience (all-knowing) – John 16:30 the apostle John affirms of Jesus, “Now we can see that you know all things.
- Omnipresence (all-present) – Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- Omnipotence (all-powerful) – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus said in Matthew 28:18
- Eternality (no beginning or end) – John 1:1declares of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
- Immutability (unchanging) – Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
I propose the following hypothesis:
The Christian god does in fact not exist.
I think it’s a perfectly valid hypothesis. Certainly one could propose the converse but I have a hunch that this one is more likely than the alternative so we will investigate this statement.
What predictions can be made based on the hypothesis that the Christian God does not exist? After considering the implications I feel that the following are reasonable predictions of phenomena that might be observed if the statement “the Christian God does not exist” was true:
- Christians who believe they converse with – some call it have personal relationship with – the deity in question would not agree or even be able to generally agree on the wishes of the deity
- There would be inconsistencies and contradictions in stories and texts alleged to be dictated or inspired by the deity
- Edicts on behalf of the deity would be inconsistent and change with time – they will evolve with society
- Morals and morality would be inconsistent and change with time – they would evolve with society
These predictions should now be tested to see if what they describe would happen is inline with reality: are the predictions true or not? So let’s test the predictions:
1. Christians who believe they converse with the deity in question would not agree or even be able to generally agree on the wishes of the deity [if the deity does not exist]
Do we have any empirical evidence to support the prediction that in the absence of an actual deity as the source of information that Christians would have fundamental disagreements as to the wishes of the deity? Yes, I think we do have some empirical evidence that we can put forward.
- There are reported to be approximately 38,000 denominations of Christianity but since many of then cannot be verified to be significant we will list only an excerpt of the major denominations that exhibit substantial dogmatic differences:
- Including more than 20 sub denominations that are country or culture specific
- Orthodox Churches
- Including Eastern and Oriental orthodox churches with more than 30 sub denominations
- Including more than 60 sub denominations
- Including more than 80 sub denominations
- Latter Day Saints
- Including more than 17 sub denominations
- Including among others Jehovah’s Witnesses
It is impossible to argue against the fact that Catholics, Baptists, Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses have irreconcilable differences when it comes to their religions even though all four proclaim to literally worship the same deity and use the same book – The Bible – as its only (except for LDS who have additive reference called the Book of Mormon) divinely inspired true reference.
- A good illustration of Christian disagreement in real life is an event that I posted about some time ago where one Christian denomination put up a poster in-front of their church to portray a message that another Christian denomination found to be extremely blasphemous. Whether something is sacrilegious against a God is entirely up to the deity in question, with which each denomination claim to have a personal relationship. That there is disagreement among the worshippers of that deity cannot be disputed.
- Another perfect illustration of Christians having fundamental disagreement is when you compare Westboro Baptist Church and… basically everybody else. Westboro Baptist Church have controversial views and they are outspoken about them and other Christians do not agree, to say the least.
2. There would be inconsistencies and contradictions in stories and texts alleged to be dictated or inspired by the deity [if the deity does not exist]
Contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible
Empirical evidence for this prediction exists in spades within the book considered by Christians to be the holy and in some cases, literal words, of the creator of the universe – their God. I will list a couple of obvious contradictions and inconsistencies and link to a graphic that illustrates a huge number of them.
- From the Bible:
MATTHEW 27:46,50: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” …Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”
LUKE 23:46: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:” and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
JOHN 19:30: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished:” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
Clearly all three scenarios could not have happened even if one assumes against all available evidence that at least one had to have happened.
- From the Bible:
II SAMUEL 24:13: So God came to David, and told him, and said unto him, shall SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE come unto thee in thy land? or will thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue. thee?
I CHRONICLES 21:11: SO God came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee. Either THREE YEARS OF FAMINE or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;
It is not possible to interpret SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE as THREE YEARS OF FAMINE under any circumstances.
- Follow this link to an earlier post that articulates many contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible.
3. Edicts on behalf of the deity would be inconsistent and change with time – they will evolve with society [if the deity does not exist]
We have a lot of empirical evidence where the ‘official representatives’ of the Christian deity have changed their minds with time motivated by scientific and societal advances.
- An obvious change in the official attitude in the Christian religion is the reversal of opinion around the theory of Heliocentrism – the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the center of the Solar System – by the Catholic Church. In the 17th century Galileo Galilei was persecuted by the Catholic Church for espousing the heliocentric view that the sun – not the earth – was the center of the solar system. He was forced to publicly recant his views and was placed under house arrest by the Church for the last years of his life.This paper by J. S. Daly provides a history and evaluation of the affair within the context of the Catholic church: The Theological Status of Heliocentrism which includes:
We have shown that the Church has implicitly withdrawn her condemnation of heliocentrism, so that Catholics are not directly guilty of heterodoxy or disobedience if they hold that the earth revolves around the sun.
- Several popes explicitly granted permission to keep slaves and make slaves of people to the Portuguese government (King of Portugal, King Alfonso V):
- In 1452, Nicholas V in Dum Diversas
- In 1454, Pope Nicholas explicitly confirmed the rights granted
- In 1456, Pope Calixtus III confirmed these grants
- In 1481, Pope Sixtus IV renewed these grants
- In 1514, Pope Leo renewed these grants
However, even thought the Bible explicitly approves of slavery and even provides instructions on how to manage slaves:
- In 1917, the new Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope Benedict XV condemned the “selling a human being into slavery or for any other evil purpose”.
- In 1992 at the infamous “House of Slaves” on the Island of Gorée in Senegal, John Paul II declared: “It is fitting to confess in all truth and humility this sin of man against man, this sin of man against God.”
- In 1993, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II took, from Vatican II’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, a long list of social evils which includes slavery
4. Morals and morality would be inconsistent and change with time – they would evolve with society
Changes in the official Catholic view on slavery and the slave trade not withstanding, many if not most of the instructions for conduct in the Bible are no longer observed by Christians.
A couple from the Bible might include:
What is our analysis of the empirical evidence we have found to show that the predictions that were made by the hypothesis were true and in accordance with reality? I think that we have enough evidence to say that the hypothesis that the Christian God, as described in the Bible and commonly accepted by most Christians, does not exist, is likely to be correct.
Christians are not all speaking to the same God since none of them can agree on what this God actually wants, likes or prefers. The Bible was not inspired by or written by a being with the properties that Christians and Christianity assign to their deity since it is full of inconsistencies and contradictions which is to be expected if it were not inspired by or written by the Christian God. Christians who have spoken on behalf of their God and who have not been corrected by that God have made statements in approval of or against things that were later a reversal of earlier positions. Christian positions on issues have changed as additional information has been learned and as society has changed which is in line with the Christian God not existing. Instructions given by the unchanging Christian God to his followers are no longer being followed by Christians as those instructions are contrary to what is acceptable to society – morals have evolved – which again is a predictable and expected phenomenon if the Christian God did not exist.
Note that the conclusion that the Christian God does not exist is not a concrete, incontrovertible proof that the Christian God or any other god does not or can not exist. That the Christian God does not exist is only the most likely explanation of the way things are in light of the information and evidence that is available. New evidence might change the explanation, negate it or it might further bolster it.
That the Christian God does not exist is the most likely explanation in light of the available evidence.
Always! Be totally awesome!