Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy

    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Investigating scriptural truth

Posted by robertpriddy on March 20, 2014

All ancient scriptures like the Vedas, The Bible, The Hadith, the Quran and so on were written and put together when human civilisation had not progressed very far in development of information or refinement of the cognitive faculties. Writing as recorded language was a most uncommon occurrence, and even those reading texts were very few and far between. Copying was the only means of reproduction and it was prone to error. Only modern printing developed by Gutenberg in Europe made texts at all widely available. The tools of serious literature such as editing, correcting, reviewing and translating were yet in early infancy, if done at all. Those considered sages in the late Bronze Age had no systematic knowledge and could only guess at answers to a vast range of questions that arise for thinking beings. Therefore no one of historical, anthropological and semantical insight can put much faith whatever in such scriptures other than as fables, the works of a moralising priesthood trying to control and regulate to some extent the huge vagaries of humans, nature, life and death. 

The ‘knowledge is power’ motive certainly very often played a major role in the constant human struggles of survival and dominance through religious ritual and beliefs. The same applies today, no doubt, both in secular and religious contexts, though the levels and extent of knowledge and of possible power have changed beyond all recognition. Likewise today, the pretence of knowledge – the mere belief (that one ‘knows’ truths) can also be an instrument of considerable social power, but one incapable of contesting seriously and reasonably with science. The vast and accelerating growth of objectively testable knowledge – based on proper observation, science and reason – has achieved a status which is beyond the power of all belief systems to shake fundamentally. One proof of the pudding which secures this kind of knowledge is the modern unavoidability of technology, which is dependent on scientific knowledge.

One way in which knowledge progresses is by discovering inconsistencies, illogicality and irrationalism. Any system of knowledge, any philosophy, must be rational and logical in order for it to be consistent if it is to reflect truth. Subjecting statements which go to make up a system to observation, testing and empirical methods wherever this is possible – assuming that the statements assert some alleged fact or state of affairs. By contrast, the rigid and traditional views in most religions that their particular scriptures state the truth, God’s infallible word etc., are too unreasonable and unsupportable by knowledge to consider seriously in any serious truth-seeking debate.

The scriptures of religion cast a spell, which should be broken. It has created commandments and taboos way over and above what is fruitful for the best functioning of mankind. Leaving people to their own superstitions without a word of criticism, however abject the beliefs, is not right or beneficial either for them or for those whom they affect.

That mankind would not know right from wrong without a supernatural, celestial dictatorship is an unsupportable thesis, both on empirical, rational and common-sense ground. A supposed divine creator which hides itself behind layers of personal superstition and illusion based on ancient flawed scriptures is not credible at all. God perceived in a glass darkly, and inscrutable, unaccountable, and irresponsible is an indictment of religions everywhere. Where that God is ‘recognised’ as being extremely cruel, revengeful and a jealous being… or having created inhuman punishments and even an eternal hell for unbelievers and ‘sinners’ it becomes irrational to an extreme degree, if not the result of patent control-seeking dishonesty to manipulate their anxieties and fears.

Religionists are ever speaking of the arrogance of scientists because they insist that everything that can be known will eventually be explainable by science  Yet they exhibit a breathtaking arrogance themselves, claiming to know that God exists – based entirely on subjective speculation and faith (which is blind by definition as it is not knowledge at all), and even that they know God. Though they speak of humility before God, there is no discourse in human culture which enforces humility more rigorously than science – humility before the facts. Scientists are the first to admit when there is something the do not know with a high degree of likelihood.  They will often reply to questions that “it is not my speciality”, but that kind of humble reservation of judgement is seldom heard from promoters of religion.

Constant reading and chanting of scriptures, the recitation of prayers and ‘mantras’, performance of endless ineffective rituals, and meditation of holy figures, deities, god and oneself have the function of closing the mind, deadening and even debilitating it, which last is even made a great virtue by some religions like Hinduism.

Religions preach about mythical figures and their doings as if they really had existed, or even still exist in some imperceptible realm. They seldom make clear that a scriptual tale is only metaphorical or a mere parable, and almost never refer to historical researches (which invariably show that the authenticity of reports are far from certain or genuine). Faith is built on a mesmerising mix of ‘stories’, unfounded accounts of events, doubtful and unclear or unworkable divine commandments and so forth. Such is the case, for example, Adam and Eve and countless other Biblical figures, and it is the very basis of many Hindu stories about Rama, Krishna and a galaxy of other figures in legends and myths of ancient scripture which are taken as literal truth by most of the Hindu population.

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