Puzzles for the Pious

Allan Callahan

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1. Most theologians maintain that the logic of cause and effect proves there must be a God because every effect must have a cause and if you trace these series of causes and effects back far enough you will come to the first cause, or God. However, is it not more probable that they can be traced back indefinitely rather than having a beginning? To say that God is an “uncaused cause” is not justified because if everything must have a cause then God must have a cause. If, on the other hand, it is possible that there can be something without a cause, cannot it just as well be the universe as God?

2. All life on this planet is engaged in a constant struggle for survival with the law of the jungle prevailing. The carnage which goes on day and night causes the earth to resemble nothing so much as a giant slaughterhouse. Does this not suggest blind, unplanned evolution at work rather than the handiwork of a benign creator?

3. Why do you think a kind and loving God would create so many horrible diseases such as diphtheria, infantile paralysis and bubonic plague?

4. If you do not believe that matter, by itself, could have produced thought, then how can you believe that thought (God’s) could have produced matter?

5. Do you believe that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by worshipping God? You may be mistaken. What if God, if God there be, is more reasonable than you suppose and is not at all concerned about what men think or say of him; and in his magnanimity admits the believer and the unbeliever alike to paradise. If God be reasonable, you have nothing to lose. Efforts to please him as being unreasonable might displease him. Why take the risk?

6. If we, as human beings, are imperfect creatures and full of faults, is not God responsible for creating us the way we are? If the design of a building is faulty doesn’t one always blame the architect?

7. Since religious convictions must rest on faith and not on fact, doesn’t it seem unreasonable that God would expect one to believe something for which proof is lacking? Doesn’t it seem cruel on his part to punish those who do not believe something which they cannot believe?

8. Do you believe that God knew before he ever created man that many millions in future generations would be damned?

9. If there were no Devil would the plan of salvation still be valid?

10. The Bible, as we know it today, did not come into being until several centuries after Christ. Numerous writings and manuscripts were collected and assembled at the church councils and it was by vote that it was decided which ones were to be included in the Bible. There was much dissention and many of the church fathers did not agree on the books that were finally chosen. How can we be sure that the right books got the most votes? Were the voters inspired as to which books to vote on?

11. If the Bible is God’s word and he wanted it to be made known to all the world, then why do you suppose he gave it to only a few men in one tiny spot on the globe? Why didn’t he inspire a few wise men and scholars in each land? There are in the world today nearly 3,000 separate and distinct languages. The Bible is poorly represented in most of them, if at all. Then we have the monumental problems of illiteracy and distribution, in many lands. The small number of Bibles the missionaries can get out in many countries is just a drop in the bucket.

The vast majority of people alive on Earth today have not seen a Bible, and many have never even heard of it. Think how it must have been before the printing press was invented some 600 years ago. Probably not one person out of ten thousand ever saw a Bible back in those days and very few could read or write. In view of all this, how can you believe that an intelligent being would try to make his will known to mankind by means of a book?

12. If God will save all those in non-Christian lands who have never had a chance to hear the plan of salvation, then aren’t they safer by being ignorant of it? A good many would be certain to disbelieve it and would therefore go to hell. Are not missionaries responsible for the damnation of all those individuals who would otherwise escape?

13. Isn’t it strange that a God of unlimited power would try to make his will known to all men in all ages by revealing it to only a few? It was revelation only to the original parties who received it and is hear-say to everyone else. Hear-say evidence is seldom acceptable in even the lowest of civilized courts today, yet on such is the foundation of Christianity based. An omnipresent being could easily reveal his will to each and every one of us. Why, therefore, should we be required to accept hear-say evidence?

14. The most famous passage on witchcraft in the Bible is Ex. 22:18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” This and other related passages caused the deaths of three hundred thousand persons during the Middle Ages. There are no nuances here; either witches exist or they do not. If they do not, then the Bible is wrong and Christianity must bear the onus for the deaths of all these innocent people; or else the Bible is right, witches do exist, and we are not living up to Biblical teachings in continuing to ferret them out for execution. Which is correct?

15. A nut shell argument for the existence of God and the divine authority of the Bible is the following:

A: “God exists.”

B: “How do you know?”

A: “Because the Bible says so.”

B: “How do you know the Bible is reliable?”

A: “Because it was inspired by God who is divine.”

In logic this is known as the fallacy of begging the question and it occurs when either the same statement is used both as a premise and a conclusion in an argument, or when one of the premises could not be known to be true unless the conclusion were first assumed to be true. This fallacy is sometimes described as “Assuming what you are trying to prove” or “circular argumentation.” Is it so very wrong to doubt something which cannot be supported by logic?

16. Some of the Bible prophecies are couched in such vague and ambiguous language that they are worthless for serious argument. Others are either false or fulfilled, such as those in Genesis 13:14-16; 15:5; 17:2-8 and 22:17-18. We do not know the exact dates of any of the books of the Bible; consequently there is no way of determining just when any of the prophecies were made. How do you know that the true ones were not written after the events took place?

17. Every one of the Bible passages which are alleged to prophesy the birth of Christ can be explained in the light of their own particular time and circumstance and do not necessarily refer to Jesus at all. The story of the Immaculate Conception, therefore, must stand or fall by itself. To best understand this just imagine what your own reaction would be if any pregnant young woman should present herself to you today and inform you that she was with child by a ghost. Would you be inclined to believe her?

18. Are you aware that there were sixteen other “Saviours” in ancient mythology, all antecedent to Christ, and that most of the alleged events in the life of the “Redeemer of Mankind” have their parallels in the lives of these other saviours?

19. Christ said: “Love your enemies,” but what is he going to do with his own enemies? Burn them in hell forever! If he doesn’t even practice what he preaches, then this makes him the biggest hypocrite in the world, does it not? Or do you think Christ really does love his enemies, and created hell as a way of showing his love? If he is going to torture his enemies forever because he loves them, then how much differently do you think he would treat them if he hated them?

20. Christ believed that disease was caused by devils entering into an individual’s body, and is reputed to have affected cures by casting out these demons. Modern medicine, of course, regards such practices as gross superstition. Which do you believe, Christ or medical science? Should doctors today attempt to cure disease by exorcising evil spirits?

21. Jesus being hungry went to a fig tree to gather figs, though the season of figs was not yet come. Of course there were no figs upon the tree, and Jesus then caused the tree to wither away. If the doctrine of the Trinity is true then you must believe, first, that Jesus was God, who made the tree, and prevented it from bearing figs; second, that God the all-wise, who is not subject to human passions, being hungry, went to the fig tree – on which he knew there could be no figs – expecting to find some there; and, third, that God, the all-just, then punished the tree because it did not bear figs in opposition to God’s (his own) eternal ordination.

Do you not find all this a little bit puzzling?

22. Do you not think it odd that no one reported the darkness covering the earth and the dead men coming out of their graves during the crucifixion except Matthew? Not only did any historian of that day fail to mention it, but neither did Mark, Luke or John. What happened to these dead men? Did they get back in their graves all by themselves, or did they stay alive for many more years?

23. Did Judas die by hanging himself (Matt. 27:5) or did he fall headlong, burst asunder in the midst, and have all of his bowels gush out (Acts 1:18)?

24. If Christ’s crucifixion was necessary for the salvation of mankind, then why is Judas despised for his vital role and why are Pilate and the Roman soldiers held in detestation for the important parts they played? Why condemn the men who helped make our salvation possible?

25. If Christ spent his whole life in a Jewish country, performed his miracles among Jews and was crucified and resurrected among Jews, then why do you suppose that the Jews rejected him as the Messiah?

26. Regarding the mention of Christ in secular history, he is conspicuous by his absence. A few scanty sources outside of the Bible have been construed by some to bear witness to Christ’s existence as a historical person. However, much evidence indicates that several of the passages are spurious and the others are so brief and ambiguous that the figures they portray bear little or no resemblance to the Jesus of the Gospels. But even if one does not choose to entirely discount these sources it still does not explain why Christ was so overwhelmingly ignored by his contemporaries. This period is one of the best documented times in ancient history, yet in over three hundred histories of that age there is not the slightest mention of him. Surely some, if not most, of the Greek and Roman writers would have taken note of him if he did any of the wondrous things attributed to him. And what of the Jews? Two of their best known historians, Philo and Josephus, both wrote in that era and lived on exactly the same spot where Christ is said to have lived. They should have had a great deal to say about him, had he really existed. It is true that the Jews did not recognize Christ as a god but that should have hardly restrained them from writing about him as a man, had he really lived among them and caused such controversy. Doesn’t it seem incredible that a god could make his appearance on earth and perform the most astounding of miracles, finally being publicly crucified near a large city, buried, rising from the dead and ascending up in the sky to heaven, and all the histories and records of that period making not the slightest mention of it?

27. God is said to be continuously affecting miraculous cures among his afflicted followers. Strangely enough these “cures” always seem to be of ills from which the sufferer could recover by natural means in the ordinary course of events. Why is it that you never hear of God restoring a missing arm or leg to one of his faithful unfortunates? An omnipotent being could as easily affect one kind of cure as another. Why do you suppose it is that God never restores one of these missing limbs?

28. All prayers fall into two main types: those of thanksgiving and those in the form of requests. Regarding the latter, it seems presumptuous on our part to ask God for anything. As an omnipresent being he does not need any information or advice from us; one would assume he would of his own initiative grant any rewards or favors where due. On the other hand, if it is his opinion that we are praying for something which we do not deserve, then fawning words or obsequious actions on our part should not make him change his mind.

As to prayers of thanksgiving, the popular conception of God seems to be that of a being who delights in having his praises continuously sung. Such a love of adulation would be despised in a human being. Do you believe praise and flattery are pleasing to God? Do you picture him as a being who is not likely to act unless his vanity is appealed to? If not, then why pray?

29. There is much disagreement among all the advocates of the idea of God as to just what God is. The most popular conceptions of the Deity are either contrary to scientific knowledge or meaningless. God is said to be a spirit. What is a spirit? It has been variously described as something without form or dimensions, without material content, intangible and invisible. Is there a better definition of nothing? Can you imagine nothing pushing a planet? Since God is not a creature of flesh and blood, then of what substance is he composed? Could he be, as Haeckel said, a “gaseous vertebrate?” Is there any definition of God which is not self-contradictory?

30. Over 2200 years ago the Greek philosopher Epicurus said: “Either God would prevent evil, and cannot; or he can, and will not; or he has neither the power nor the will; or lastly, he has both the power and the will.”

“If God would prevent evil, and cannot, he is impotent; if he can, but will not, he is malicious; if he has neither the power nor the will he is both impotent and malicious, and consequently cannot be God. And finally, if he has both the power and the will, then whence comes evil?”

SOURCE: Liberty Bell, May 1983

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