This post by Robert L. Johnson originally appeared at World Union of Deists.
Many rank and file Christians sincerely believe the Bible is a direct communication from God to man. I know I used to believe it was when I was a Christian. And from recent conversations with many sincere Christians I know this is currently true for many believers. Once it is proven to our God-given reason that the Bible is strictly a man-made collection of mythology the mind loses yet another shackle of “revelation” and is soon on its way to full freedom and progress.
The Bible was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God. It has nothing to do with God. In actuality, the Bible was VOTED to be the word of God by a group of men during the 4th century.
According to Professor John Crossan of Biblical Studies at DePaul University the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (274-337 CE), who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire. Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.
Emperor Constantine, who was Roman Emperor from 306 CE until his death in 337 CE, used what motivates many to action – MONEY! He offered the various Church leaders money to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word of God. The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the “word of God” into existence. (I wish to thank Brian Show for pointing out in his rebuttal to this article that the final version of the Christian Bible was not voted on at the Council of Nicaea, per se. The Church leaders didn’t finish editing the “holy” scriptures until the Council of Trent when the Catholic Church pronounced the Canon closed. However, it seems the real approving editor of the Bible was not God but Constantine! This fact is revealed in the second counter-rebuttal to Brian Show’s first rebuttal to this article. This counter-rebuttal makes the following important statement and backs it up with FACTS – “Therefore, one can easily argue that the first Christian Bible was commissioned, paid for, inspected and approved by a pagan emperor for church use.” Of course, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to fellow Deist Peter Murphy for the great research work he did in order to write such a great counter-rebuttal!)
In the landmark work by H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Vol. I, pages 462-463, we read,
It (the Council of Nicaea) marks the definite entry upon the stage of human affairs of the Christian Church and of Christianity as it is generally understood in the world to-day. It marks the exact definition of Christian teaching by the Nicene Creed.
Constantine ordered and financed 50 parchment copies of the new “holy scriptures.” It seems with the financial element added to the picture, the Church fathers were able to overcome their differences and finally agree which “holy” books would stay and which would go.
Compare the man-made origins of Christianity and its various dogmas to the simplicity of Deism. Deism is belief in God based only on reason and the creation itself. It makes no claim to false “revelations” as all of the “revealed” religions do. To Deists, proof of the Designer is in the design.
To quote Thomas Paine,
Were man impressed as fully and as strongly as he ought to be with the belief of a God, his moral life would be regulated by the force of that belief; he would stand in awe of God and of himself, and would not do the thing that could not be concealed from either. To give this belief the full opportunity of force, it is necessary that it acts alone. This is Deism. But when, according to the Christian Trinitarian scheme, one part of God is represented by a dying man, and another part, called the Holy Ghost, by a flying pigeon, it is impossible that belief can attach itself to such wild conceits. . . .
The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.
Instead then of studying theology, as is now done out of the Bible and Testament, the meanings of which books are always controverted and the authenticity of which is disproved, it is necessary that we refer to the Bible of the Creation. The principles we discover there are eternal and of divine origin; they are the foundation of all the science that exists in the world, and must be the foundation of theology.
We can know God only through His works. We cannot have a conception of any one attribute but by following some principle that leads to it. We have only a confused idea of His power, if we have not the means of comprehending something of its immensity. We can have no idea of His wisdom, but by knowing the order and manner in which it acts. The principles of science lead to this knowledge; for the Creator of man is the Creator of science, and it is through that medium that man can see God, as it were, face to face.
On May 12, 1797 while living in Paris, France Tom Paine wrote the following letter to a Christian friend who was trying to convert Paine to Christianity. Paine’s response fits perfectly with this page regarding the origins of the Bible.
In your letter of the twentieth of March, you give me several quotations from the Bible, which you call the Word of God, to show me that my opinions on religion are wrong, and I could give you as many, from the same book to show that yours are not right; consequently, then, the Bible decides nothing, because it decides any way, and every way, one chooses to make it.
But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law.
The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave.
You may have an opinion that a man is inspired, but you cannot prove it, nor can you have any proof of it yourself, because you cannot see into his mind in order to know how he comes by his thoughts; and the same is the case with the word revelation. There can be no evidence of such a thing, for you can no more prove revelation than you can prove what another man dreams of, neither can he prove it himself.
It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No.
Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’t is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know Moses was not an impostor?
For my own part, I believe that all are impostors who pretend to hold verbal communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and must answer for it in the same manner. But all this does not settle the point, whether the Bible be the Word of God, or not. It is therefore necessary to go a step further. The case then is: –
You form your opinion of God from the account given of Him in the Bible; and I form my opinion of the Bible from the wisdom and goodness of God manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all works of creation. The result in these two cases will be, that you, by taking the Bible for your standard, will have a bad opinion of God; and I, by taking God for my standard, shall have a bad opinion of the Bible.
The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a world and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God in the creation preach to us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a changeable, passionate, vindictive God; everything we there behold impresses us with a contrary idea – that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness.
The sun and the seasons return at their appointed time, and everything in the creation claims that God is unchangeable. Now, which am I to believe, a book that any impostor might make and call the Word of God, or the creation itself which none but an Almighty Power could make? For the Bible says one thing, and the creation says the contrary. The Bible represents God with all the passions of a mortal, and the creation proclaims him with all the attributes of a God.
It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) ‘Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’
That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.
What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case.
In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all. In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit.
As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the case.
You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New.
When you have examined the Bible with the attention that I have done (for I do not think you know much about it), and permit yourself to have just ideas of God, you will most probably believe as I do. But I wish you to know that this answer to your letter is not written for the purpose of changing your opinion. It is written to satisfy you, and some other friends whom I esteem, that my disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it.
The Jesus Myth Theory with Richard Carrier and Raphael Lataster
The True Core Of The Jesus Myth
The ‘Jesus of history’ – Memory or Myth?
Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook