Sometimes, I feel sort of guilty for spending as much time on Christianity as I do. I knew that this would happen when I started the blog, because I live in the US and Christianity is the primary form in which I encounter religious belief, and the primary form in which religious zealotry threatens my freedom to be an atheist American. Still, I think that all the supernatural belief systems I’ve heard of are equally wrong, and I don’t want to imply otherwise with my tag cloud.
I might make a bit of an adjustment to my blogging priorities, though, because of something that occurred to me the other day. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — the three major Abrahamic religions — are very closely related. (“Well, duh,” I can hear you saying. Bear with me.) If you can demonstrate that the oldest of the three, Judaism, is not true, Christianity and Islam fall with it. Now, Christians and Muslims comprise around 2/3 of the world’s population. Jews make up only about 0.2%, so it probably sounds a little silly to spend any substantial amount of time addressing Judaism, but I really think there’s a lot of mileage to be gotten from it.
It’s pretty easy to see why Judaism being false implies that Christianity must be false. The Christians include the Jewish Bible as the Old Testament of their Bible. What if the god of the Old Testament doesn’t exist? The god of the New Testament, which is supposed to be the same god, can’t exist either. Jesus can’t be the son of that god. Jesus’ own religious beliefs would be wrong, and his supernatural teachings based on those religious beliefs, about those beliefs, would be wrong too.
The connection to Islam is a little trickier. After all, Islam holds that the Qur’an as revealed by God to Mohammed is the only book that has received God’s protection from corruptions and other errors over the centuries. Yes, Muslims believe that a number of significant characters in Jewish and Christian mythology were prophets of Islam and that much of the Christian Bible (including the Jewish Bible) was originally a message imparted by the Muslim God. However, they also believe that those books did get corrupted. The existence of errors in them wouldn’t necessarily show Islam to be wrong; if anything, they would seem to be evidence in favor of Islam.
But Islam claims as prophets many Biblical characters such as Adam, Abraham (of course), Noah, Lot, Moses, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. And they’re not just talking about dudes that happened to have those names. Adam is still believed to be the first human being, who ate the forbidden fruit with his wife Eve. Noah is still believed to have built an ark and to have saved many animals and a select few people from a worldwide flood. Jonah is still believed to have been swallowed by a big fish in whose stomach he sat praying until the fish coughed him up. If we conclude that there’s no reason to believe any of that happened, it’s just as big a problem for Islam as it is for Judaism and Christianity.
A detailed examination of the historicity of the Torah, then, would be a challenge to the beliefs of not just a fraction of a percent of religious people, but a majority of people on the planet. Of course, there is one serious problem with this: it’s all premised on the idea that an abstract logical argument against faith would actually change the minds of believers. I doubt most people would think far enough through the implications. But then … that’s probably true of almost everything I write here.