I often hear from religionists in general and Christians in particular that we cannot fathom the way god works or that we must place faith in god's plan. And, most perplexingly of all, I have often heard that we cannot question the authenticity of the Bible. According to these people the Bible has been written by the creator of the universe and is perfectly constructed without error.
I know that most Christians in the United States probably do not believe that, but then again I'm not citing any research, so I could be wrong. Yet, certainly a great number of Muslims do believe the Koran is perfect and is authored by the creator of the universe, or "Allah" as they refer to this being.
The underlying assertion here is that we are not to question authority.
One question: have these people never read the Bible?
Jesus himself turned over the rules and regulations time and time again.
What is most baffling to me is that the fundamentalist, evangelical Christians of today who ask me and my peers to believe in their definition of god and in their definition of a savior named Jesus without question do so without an apparent understanding of their own religious history.
It was Martin Luther who questioned the authority of the Catholic Church in order to usher in protestantism.
If you've ever seen the film Luther you would see this depicted cinematically. What's most ironically fitting is that the portrayal of Martin Luther has an analog to the story of Jesus himself in the cycle of questioning authority and facing retribution.
What I think is unspoken or unnoticed by many Christians is that this story is not anything endemic to the Christian story at a high level. Reformers always question the laws and the traditions that came before them. What's the surprise in that?
What I think is most interesting though is that if the person of Jesus, assuming he was a real, physical being, were to live today, then I think Jesus would be one heck of a scientist.
The Jesus of the Gospels is continually seeking truth. Today's most ardent truth seekers are, in my opinion, scientists who seek to explain how the universe actually operates. They not only question authorities outside of themselves, but they question themselves as well!
The process of real science must incorporate peer-review. This is how ideas are refined and improved. This is why we atheists, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and others have computers to try to convince each other that we are right and the others are wrong. That is, the continual process of questioning assumptions and learning new approaches is what lead the the development of the sciences and technologies that enabled the creation of computers.
While I would never tell someone not to say "Thank God" for those inventions, I would also hope they stop and think people like Tim Berners Lee and Vinton Cerf, among countless other human beings who helped create the internet and the world wide web.
The next time a religionist tries to tell you that he or she has a book that is absolutely correct and cannot be questioned, just ask them what Jesus would have said to a Pharisee or other teachers of the law back in his day?
Ask them what Martin Luther would have done when a Catholic bishop told him the same thing.
Perhaps even better would be to take a totally non-confrontational approach and instead say something like this:
Proselytizer: The Bible/Koran/Gita is a perfect book and authored by God, and you must believe it and not question it.
You: Thank you for your concern. I am very thankful that people like Martin Luther and Jesus Christ had enough wisdom to question the books and rules that people told them were perfect and unquestionable in their own time. I do want to ask you, however, one question. Supposing that Martin Luther and Jesus had not questioned the teachers of the law in their day, would you be standing here today with the older versions of the books and rules that they questioned, or would you have the same wisdom as they to examine them closely enough and finally be the the one to question them? I have read those books, and while I enjoy a fair number of the stories and parables for their symbolic content, I do not find it plausible to believe that, for example, "many saints" came back to life and left their graves to walk around Jerusalem and get seen "by many". If you don't know what I'm talking about, then look up Matthew 27:52. So, ask yourself this question: if I had come to you today and told you that I found a pamphlet from forty years ago that said many dead people came out of the cemetary down the road and were seen by many people in the town, what would you think? What's more, what if I came up to you today, and told you personally that I had seen this happen twenty-five minutes ago? What would you do? I am listening. I would like to know your thought process on this.
The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died rose up. Having come out of their tombs after Jesus’ resurrection, they went into the Holy City and appeared to many people.