Have you ever noticed just how undemocratic most religions are when it comes to sharing their version of truth? Doesn’t god seem just a tad bit stingy about letting us, his favored creatures, in on the secrets of the Universe? Whatever the particular truth, it never seems to come directly from god, but through some arbitrary spokesman chosen by god to relay his message to the masses. This goes back to the earliest iterations of religion. There are always priests, shamans, rabbis, prophets, and other holy men (always men) who receive the Word (capital W) from their god (small g) for dissemination to the people, rather than some comprehensive declaration directly from god, cutting out the middleman. There’s always a middleman.
Take the Ten Commandments. How did we get them? According to Genesis, Moses went up to the mountaintop, and god pulled them out of his metaphorical hat and when he descended to the crowd, he then passed them on (which ignores the fact that humanity was seemingly OK with murder, theft, etc. until then). God could have written the ten commandments in the sky, for all to see, so that they would know it was god who was delivering them, so that the message would be unambiguous. It’s not like he had to write the whole Bible. Just ten short sentences. How hard would that have been for an omnipotent god? Now that would be a miracle you could believe in, and we’d have numerous testimonials from the people who observed it as evidence that it happened. It wouldn’t be proof, necessarily, but it would be evidence.
What about the beginnings of Christianity? God supposedly sent his son down here in human form to tell everyone about his plan for salvation. Why didn’t he simply come here himself? Why rely on a single human, albeit a close relation, to show up in some backwater province in the Roman Empire to spread the message? As I’ve mentioned before, that particular relative didn’t have the presence of mind to write anything down, or for that matter leave everyone some evidence of either his existence, or of his message. He left that to other humans to relay to the masses, and they actually waited years to do so. So it still comes to us via unconfirmed revelation.
Islam isn’t immune from this criticism. Muhammad apparently, at the age of 40, went to live in a cave, to reflect on the questions of life, and coincidentally, it was in this cave that god revealed all of what eventually became the Koran. Of course, he also proclaimed himself a prophet, a job title typically incapable of confirmation, as it relies on self-evidence, but hell, everybody loves a good prophet, so his followers accepted this. He went on to conquer the Middle East for his new religion, and the rest is history.
In modern times we have the origins of Mormonism, where Joseph Smith claimed that it was revealed to him where certain golden plates could be dug up, plates that contained the story that would eventually become the Book of Mormon. His first vision came in what is now known as the Sacred Grove, and later he was visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him where the Golden plates were. There were no witnesses to these visions, and in Smith’s case, it took him years before he settled on the final, canonical story. Of course, he became a prophet too.
The convenient fact common to all revelatory religions, is that there is no way of confirming the revelations. When the revelation is received by one person, without witnesses, even a mildly skeptical person has to question whether the revelation actually occurred. Since there is no evidence in the entire history of mankind that any divine revelation ever occurred, it stands to reason that those being received by humans are either the result of intentional deception and charlatanry or mental illness. Correspondingly, one would expect that a god intent on having his message received and believed would and could devise a method of transmission and dissemination calculated to reduce skepticism to something approaching zero, while reaching the maximum amount of recipients as possible. Again, would this be so hard for an omnipotent god?
Doesn’t the fact that all religions not only start out with one lone prophet, but are usually maintained in the hands of an appointed elite that parcels out the dogma to be followed, militate in favor of the explanation that religion was invented by mankind? And doesn’t the fact that all religions demand a never ending flow of money indicate the human, rather than divine, nature of religion?
Isn’t the point of the gospels, and proselytizing, and preaching, and community, and fellowship, and all the other outward manifestations of religion, to convince everybody to join? If so, why is the nature of religion so damned exclusive, and secret, and controlled? Where is the widespread and accepted sense that the truth is the truth, something we don’t need to search for, sacrifice for, or pay for.
The answer is obvious to me. How about you?