RICHARD CARRIER’S ARGUMENT SUMMARISED:
- History in the bigger picture disproves the idea of a single God - what we see is people making stuff up according to their local culture and the happenstance of history. If there was only one God, surely all cultures and all history would show that the same God was sending the same messages to every people group every where, from as far back as we have any evidence of religion. This is not what we see. Even when we look at written records that go back to about 2000BC, there is no evidence of this having occurred. To the contrary - there are contradictory local religions and local deities and stories.
The earliest religion dates to 40,000BC- with shamanistic cave paintings and burial rituals. The first priesthoods are around 10,000BC after the emergence of cities. This means there was 30,000 years between religious beliefs and Priests. Of note, there is a further 8,000 years before Yahweh claims he is the one true God. Of further note, He does this in one very small geographical location. He does not mention that he exists to anyone in other regions. For a further 1,000 years after that, he does not mention Jesus. Dr Carrier argues that a cosmic deity would have been revealing the gospel way back from 40,000BC
“So when you look at history, this Yahweh based religion, even Christianity, just looks like one among many - it makes no sense from the perspective of a Cosmic deity who would, of course, be revealing the gospel from the year 40,000BC”.
- Judaic religions appear to combine concepts of other regions near them into their own form. Zoroastrianism and it’s significant influence following the Persian conquest on Judaism. The belief in an evil God, in a final judgment by fire, resurrection and a perfect heavenly place were all adopted from Zoroastrianism which Judaism adopted into their religion (Jewish texts before the Persian conquest do not mention the above concepts but do afterwards). Allegedly, the Greek/Roman gods Osiris, Adonis, Romulus, Zalmaxis and Inanna are sons (and a daughter) of gods that have resurrection cults. Allegedly with Osiris, those baptised into his death and resurrection were saved in the after life. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are virtually the same resurrection cult at its root which says the world will end, the dead will be raised and the loyal be saved.
Critique of Christianity’s core beliefs being based on the power of blood to remove a curse and require telepathic communication with an unseen entity (also involving mystical impregnation). The words Dr Carrier uses are more blunt.
There are failed prophecies across many of these religions - e.g. of Israel becoming the master race that the rest of the world will now down to.
- The argument of evil.
Is God willing to stop evil, but unable?
Then he is not all powerful Is he able but unwilling? Then he is not good?
Is he both able and willing?
Then how can there be evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him God?
The lack of actual intervention from God in response to horrible things done by people who follow him - ie horrible treatment of slaves before the American civil war ended is hard to explain away. Nice humans with the power to speak unharmed would be held to account for not having taken action if they could. Any valid excuse not to say or do anything in the face of atrocities is hard to fathom. The question - what is God’s reason (or excuse as Carrier puts it) for not intervening?
Examination of the origin of morals strongly supports atheism rather than theism. Atheism’s prediction of morals is that moral rules will only come from human beings, begin horribly flawed and will gradually improve over 1000s of years. Theism predicts a universe directly governed morally right from the start where the correct moral laws are disseminated correctly from the beginning and nature itself reflects morality. None of this is seen.
- God has never revealed key information that could have saved millions of lives. For example, take the issue of washing hands. In Mark 7 Jesus derides the washing of hands and utensils before eating, saying this is a man made rule and not necessary to follow. Unfortunately, Jesus did not take the opportunity to say “this is a man made rule but still a really good idea and you should keep doing it and even do it more” and therefore save millions of lives. God could have revealed knowledge like this but never did. Mankind has to figure it out on their own. Notably, the various rituals in Leviticus stated things such as not touching a woman for 7 days after her period, they were not a reflection of actual facts but if anything more so guess work around cleanliness.
- Carrier then moves to the concept of making excuses or reasons for the presence of certain elements in a religion to fit with actual reality. He says that the need to even make excuses in the first place should be a sign something is amiss. He then says that many of the excuses themselves have no evidence or basis to them and are very improbable anyway “If you have to use an improbable excuse to explain your theory - the improbability of the excuse then attaches to the theory”. The more excuses the less probable the theory.
Think of the innumerable excuses we make to continue justifying our current beliefs - for example,
Adam & Eve didn’t exist despite Paul and Jesus speaking of them as real people but the rest of the Bible is mostly historical or
The Bible doesn’t mention evolution and gives another version of our origin because God accommodated his message so the original audience would understand , or
Ancient cultures didn’t understand the true God because they worshipped demons who revealed themselves and lies instead (and God didn’t intervene?) or
Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible because there was no reason or
The Bible and Yahweh are not xenophobic because the Ammonites, Canaanites and also the Philistines … [enter excuse here] and the origin stories about Canaan and the Ammonites were anachronistic because that’s just what ancient cultures - doesn’t mean it was false testimony as such*
In response to all this, Carrier points out that a general rule of thumb for humanity progressing forward through the ages has been that when a phenomena has either a natural or supernatural explanation, the use of a natural explanation always bears out as accurate and useful whereas the supernatural explanation is eventually disproved/false
- When you look at the natural world and examine how life came to be - the idea of a God behind the long process is bizarre and doesn’t make sense. For example, we are aware that life has existed for billions of years however approx 2.4 billion years of that time, it was just single celled life. Animals have only been around for around 600 million years in comparison. God would seem then to be more focussed on single cells than multi celled organisms? Carrier asks what was God doing for the billions of year time period where only single celled organisms existed? (sure, God’s view of time is different to ours but c’mon, this is a bit weird). Then God creates algae and that lasts about a billion years before cells can differentiate on their own. Then, (Carrier talking) God takes 500 million years to come up with apes. Just apes. Then it takes 4 million more years before people. When you look at this - the idea of a God behind it doesn’t fit. It’s odd. Instead, this is what you would expect to happen if life is the result of random evolution.
Taking this argument even further - Carrier notes that the universe is generally hostile to life. The universe trudged along for 10 billion years before we see life on earth. Also, the universe is filled with matter and circumstance that makes the existence of life extremely difficult and unlikely. Why these features? All these actual facts fit much better with the idea of there being no creative God behind it all but it all being a random, non planned occurrence. Specifically, Carrier says that 99.99999% of the universe is a lethal radiation filled vacuum. Of that tiny tiny fraction of actual matter existing in the universe - 99.99999% of it is stars and black holes upon which nothing can live. He then says that 99.9999% percent of all the rest that exists - planets, asteroids and moons etc is either barren of life or inhospitable to life - only 0.00001 of that material has the potential, as a guess, to actually harbour life “That’s an extremely bizarre thing to observe for an intelligently designed universe that is meant to be hospitable to life”.
Carrier then shows a picture of a large room inside a house and says, by way of describing the above - that if the house represented the whole universe, the amount of volume inside it that would be hospitable to life is the size of one proton (not a bacterium, a proton in an atom inside a bacterium) He asks, if you saw that, would you think that universe was created by an intelligent force focussed on life? He then notes that Aristotle’s understanding of the universe and how it worked was 10 to the power of 30 times more hospitable to life than our own universe. Carrier rebutts the argument that the probability of life requires so much fine tuning that it had to be God who made it … saying that the idea of God requires more fine tuning.
So, that’s my summary of what Dr Carrier says. He makes some very strong points. It would be really, really interesting to see someone debate him.