Following from this post, which describes questions assembled by apparent atheist-to-theist convert Lee Strobel, posed to Hemant Mehta (and destroyed by Greta Christina and Ebonmuse) I decided I’d ask one or two questions of my own of theologists/apologists. Obviously I have my own thoughts on these questions but I really want to see answers from believers on these matters (even from non-believers who are playing Devil’s Advocate!). Also, I realise my questions may be in some ways incomplete or even naive, both to theists and non-theists alike, however the following are what occurred to me after reading Strobel’s questions (and the ensuing dismemberment of them), and I present them more or less how they appeared in my mind.
Without further ado, let us begin.
1. Considering Christianity is only one of many religions which all make similar claims to be the revealed and absolute word of the creator of the universe and all contradict each other, do you think it’s more likely that:
(a) all religions are equally valid
(b) all religions are equally invalid
(c) only your religion is valid
If (c) how did you arrive at the decision that your religion is the “right” one? How do you discount other religions, many with an equal or greater number of followers, which make similar claims to divine inspiration? How do their various claims of divine inspiration, miraculous occurrences and absolute moral authority fail to meet your standards of evidence? What is it about those other religions’ claims that makes you reject them, even as you accept similar claims from your own religion? Finally, do you think you would be of the same faith you are now if you had been born & raised in a society where the prevailing religious culture were different (e.g. in an Islamic theocracy such as Saudi Arabia as opposed to a predominantly Christian nation such as the USA or UK)? If you were to contend, for example, that you’d still be a Christian even if your parents, family, friends, teachers and entire culture were Muslim, please explain how that would eventuate. If you were to contend that you’d likely be of the hypothetical faith you were raised in, whatever that was, would that in any way, even hypothetically, affect the truth claims of the faith you have now?
If (a) explain how that does not make all religions more or less irrelevant. If all religions make similar & valid claims regarding morality, for instance, it follows that following all or, more easily, none of them is equally acceptable to any gods that may exist. If such behaviour as forbidding murder & theft & promoting tolerance & charity is more or less common to every religion, should it not be sufficient to any god that may be observing us that we simply attempt to be “good” – that is, to minimise the harm we do and maximise the happiness of ourselves and others? Considering such morality is more or less universal among all human cultures and that such morality developed independently among cultures separated both geographically and by millennia, is it not logical to assume that such morality is a purely human development and not a gift from on high?
If (b) well … you’re an atheist.
2. If we accept, for argument’s sake, the premise that there is only one true religion and only one revealed truth of the universe, please explain:
(a) how in every religion there are differing branches who disagree over doctrine, mostly respectfully but all too often violently, despite being spiritual brethren and sharing core beliefs & revelations (e.g. Sunni/Shia, Catholicism/everyone else)
(b) how acts of sectarian violence are often indistinguishable in nature from violence between competing religions
(c) how it is to be determined which particular sect carries the one definitive version of the one truth, considering again the commonality of the source material for each faith.
Considering (a), it seems that the universe’s creator was unable or unwilling to share a single, coherent vision of the required religion with a sufficient number of people. If unable, the creator seems limited in its powers of persuasion or revelation and cannot logically be considered omnipotent or all-powerful, as most followers of monotheistic religion contend. If unwilling, this begs the question as to why this all-powerful creator would allow its creation to disagree and argue for centuries, frequently to the point of murderous intra-faith brutality. If the creator is indeed all-powerful yet unwilling, that requires an assessment of the morality of a creator who could choose at any time to intervene and reveal to the entirety of its creation its wishes, yet does no such thing.