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2.1b This is your God speaking
Let's move on to the Ten Commandments. They appear twice in the Bible - in Exodus Chapters 33 -34 and Deuteronomy 5. Dictated by God, they appear to have been thrown together quickly rather than created with some thought (and there are actually fourteen or fifteen commandments depending how you count.)
Because they were written at a time when Yahweh was struggling for control of the Jews, who were still tempted to worship his siblings Asherah and Baal (Chapter One, Section Five), the first commandments (have no other gods, make no idols, bow down to no other gods, don't misuse my name, keep the Sabbath holy) are the equivalent of martial law. Your duty is to me, not to any other gods you might be tempted to worship. In other words, God's primary concern is himself, not humanity; like a human dictator, a Saddam Hussein, an Adolf Hitler, a Kim Jong-Il, this supposedly all-powerful being, is actually deeply insecure and he needs to be constantly reassured that he comes first in his follower's lives.
The remaining commandments are devoted to human morality. Four are admirably short (no killing, adultery, theft or false witness) and two (honour your parents and don't covet your neighbour's possessions) are unnecessarily long. These tell us that God may be perfect, but he's a poor writer and editor and incapable of setting down a simple list of rules.
For those concerned with sexual morality, there is also a surprising omission. Although adultery (where a husband or wife has a sexual partner outside the marriage) is condemned, the commandments do not refer to fornication (where neither partner is married). Does this suggest God approves of pre-marital sex? Christian teenagers of the world, take note!
2.1c This is the divine rear
When Moses collects the Ten Commandments, God grants him a vision of Himself. However, because the view of God's face would be more than a human could stand, the deity offers lucky Moses a glimpse of the divine backside; unfortunately - or fortunately - the Bible does not confirm whether the deity's posterior was covered or bare. This is another strange passage - since God is all-powerful and he appears to others elsewhere in the Bible without scaring them out of their wits, why can he not modify his appearance for Moses?
2.1d Snakes in the grass
2.1e Make up your mind, Allah!
There are many other such stories in the Old Testament (we look at the New Testament in the next Section). The Quran has fewer inconsistencies, but they still exist. The most glaring examples are the contradictory passages about the Jews. On the one hand, as "people of the book", Jews are as honoured as Muslims (eg The Smoke 44:30-33); on the other hand they are also reviled and described as apes and pigs (eg The Dinner Table 5:60). Although less frequent, there are similar contradictory references to Christians.
Many Christians, Muslims and others are aware of the many contradictions and inconsistencies in their scriptures. They generally respond with complicated explanations, which usually involve the rationalisation "God did it, but it wasn't written down." But such arguments weaken, not strengthen, the case for the Biblical and Quranic God. If scriptures are indeed the word of God, why do they make so many apparent mistakes and require so much explanation? And if God is perfect, why does his personality continually come across as imperfect? Why does he keep contradicting himself? Why does make so many mistakes in his narrative?
It's simple, believers say. The human beings who take down God's word were imperfect and often got it wrong. But that is no excuse. A perfect God would be patient and would help the poor prophet or scribe to get the story right. Yet this does not happen. Ask yourself why.
2.1f The agnostic's best friend
Reading the Bible, an open-minded observer with no preconceptions about religion or the existence of God can only come to the following conclusions:
a. the text is contradictory and frequently inconsistent or inexplicable;
b. the God of the Bible - and Quran - is imperfect, petulant, violent, obsessive and controlling.
These conclusions go on to suggest that
c. the Biblical God exists - but he is not an admirable character; or
d. God may exist - but he is not as described in the Bible; or
e. God does not exist.
It is not surprising that so many rational people begin their journey towards atheism after reading the Old Testament. It is indeed the agnostic's best friend.
In conclusion, contradictions in the Bible do not disprove the existence of God, but they suggest that the Biblical version of God does not exist. The same principle can be applied to the Quran.
Some of the issues in this section were covered in earlier articles on this site: The crumbling Bible and Good news for atheists, which both examine discrepancies in the Old and New Testaments, and In the beginning, which looks at the accounts of the Creation in Genesis.
Three choices for further study . . .
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If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
Check the answer