Argument from religious teachings

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Some religious teachers are claimed to have produced teachings of such unprecedented justice and foresight that the only explanation is the divinity of the teaching. This claim is made for religious figures including Jesus and Muhammad.

"Such system was not known at all at the time of the prophet peace be upon him. No other religion has such system. How can an illiterate man come up with such system? A system that had no equal at that time. [1]"
"[...]I believe because I find the Bible to be authoritative and historically accurate. I find it to be authoritative in what it says about me, others and this world. Within the full story of the Bible most, if not all, of life is touched upon in a profound way which leads me to believe it is divinely inspired.[2]"

Variant of the argument include the claim of scientific foreknowledge in sacred texts and the argument from prophecy.

Contents

Argument

  • A religious teacher's message has a particular quality that cannot be explained by any earthly means.
  • The only explanation is the teacher is divine or God revealed a divine message to the teacher.
  • Therefore God exists.

Counter arguments

Overrated teachings

While this teachings were often relatively good for their age, they are usually not particularly good advice for modern times. They are certainly not a comprehensive code for most or all aspects of life. Later reinterpretation, usually with generous allowances by the reader, is usually required to make sense of the teachings in the modern age.

Other explanations

Perhaps the religious teacher was just really smart. Alternatively, the author of the holy book attributed their ideas to an earlier religious figure, making them seem almost prescient.

Omissions

These supposedly great teachers seem to have forgotten some ethical standards that are now regarded as universal. This includes the abolition of slavery, gender equality and political rights. If they overlooked these basic points, they are hardly the greatest moral teachers.

Teachings compared to other thinkers

"There is, of course, much that is wise and consoling and beautiful in our religious books. But words of wisdom and consolation and beauty abound in the pages of Shakespeare, Virgil, and Homer as well, and no one ever murdered strangers by the thousands because of the inspiration he found there."

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

Other ethical and political teachers appear to be superior. Richard Carrier has argued that the Roman Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus (born 20 AD–30 AD, died as late as 101 AD) was a better moral teacher than Jesus. [3] Among other things, Carrier cites Rufus' belief in equality for slaves and his belief that "freedom of speech means not suppressing whatever one chances to think."

Argument from ignorance

This argument falls into the common trap of the argument from ignorance: "something happened that I can't explain, therefore God did it".

Unreliable conclusion

The conclusion "God exists" is not warranted because many gods may exist, or even a divine message may exist with no creator at all. The teacher just figured it out somehow.

Gift/Demand theology

  1. Gift/demand theology states "that gift and demand are logically incompatible in the sense that a gift demanded is no longer a gift."[4]
  2. As described in the Bible, Jesus always interacted using "gift-based communication". "Everything Jesus said was gift-speech."
  3. Gift/Demand theology was only recently developed (circa 2015).
  4. The only way this is possible is if Jesus was aware of Gift/Demand theology.
  5. Therefore, he was divine and the Bible is an accurate record of his sayings.

There are multiple problems with this argument. If the Biblical record of Jesus show his communications have a particular attribute, pointing out the pattern does not necessarily make it foreknowledge, miraculous or accurate.

It is also possible that a fictional person could have formulated the same teachings. The main way apologists support this jump is to claim that the teachings are "perfect", which is questionable. Why a fictional character could not express perfect teachings is not explained.

Interpreting the actions of Jesus as a gift depends on assuming a particular theology, which makes the argument a form of begging the question.

Richard Carrier questioned if the theology was "discovered" in modern times: "Gift vs. demand discourse was already inherent in Pauline theology. He didn't need a modern theory of it. It's simply inherent in what Christians were preaching about grace. That this theological idea gets expressed in fictional representations of Jesus is therefore 100% expected."[5]

See also

References

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]
  5. [5]
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