One of my favorite books of all time and earliest reads as I began straying from the "path of righteousness" to that of atheism, is Thomas Paine's magnificent analysis of religion: 'The age of reason.' When I first read this book I was blown away at the direct frontal assault that Paine employed against organized religion although Paine himself was not an atheist but rather a deist. It's been many years since I read this book but one quote stuck to me like glue and I have never been able to get it out of my mind when discussing matters of religion.
"But admitting, for the sake of a case,
that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not
revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only.
When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to
a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those
persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to
every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it."
This quote brings us to the topic of this post. The first thing we must ask is who wrote the bible? Depending on who you ask you may get a variety of answers ranging from men, men inspired by God, or even men who God has chosen to reveal himself to in order to spread the word to the rest of mankind. The next question is who were these men? For the most part regardless of the names attached to the various works included in the bible, its authors are generally unknown.
One of the many reasons why the bible is self contradictory is because it has so many authors and those authors all claimed to have a different revelation from God. The next problem you face is the matter of exegesis. This is clearly demonstrated by simply asking two people to read the exact same verses from scripture and give you their idea of what they think those verses meant. This is also evident in the thousands of religions that call themselves Christian, they are all reading the same book but claiming for themselves very different meanings.
Every church under the banner of Christianity was started because someone in the church did not agree with some of its teachings and decided either on his own or on some claimed revelation that the doctrines as taught needed clarification. Another aspect that is common among religions is that they tend to borrow from each other and those of their surrounding cultures.
Christianity for instance borrows heavily from Judaism and even has some elements of earlier myths believed by the Romans such as the cult of Sol Invictus. I like to call Christianity Judaism light, because it accepts some of the tenets of Judaism and rejects those that are not palatable to a gentile audience. One of the most prevalent was the early churches feud over whether the gentiles should be circumcised as evidenced in Romans chapter two.
Now going back to what Paine said in the above quote, outside of so called divine revelation what evidence do believers have that the bible is true? None! The various disciplines of science and history have proven the bible to be both inaccurate and in most cases untrue. The fact that the bible is based on not one but many peoples so called revelations and that these revelations are so contradictory attest to the fact that the bible is composed entirely of human invention.
In my mind there is not one thing in the bible that screams out divine revelation to me. There is no "knowledge" contained within its pages that man could not have acquired on his own with careful study and analysis. In fact, a lot of it when it pertains to science has been proven to be inaccurate and utterly incorrect!
In closing I would like to remind you that as Thomas Paine stated and I am paraphrasing; " a revelation is only a revelation to the one who claims to receive it, to the rest of us it's just hearsay." The entire bible is based literally on hearsay and the so called revelation aspect of it is irrelevant when it is challenged with facts to the contrary. Arguing from faith based on some unknown authors self proclaimed revelation who are removed from us a little over six thousand years is absurd. Based on this analysis it is my opinion that faith and reason are two terms that don't even belong in the same discussion.