I absolutely loved this post from Mariano over at the Atheism is Dead Blog:-
Here at Atheism is Dead we have referenced and discussed very many books; some pro theism some contra theism and pro atheism some contra atheism some betwixt.
Yet, there is one anti-religion book that surpasses them all by far—very, very far.
Yes, there is one anti-religion book in particular that I have been aware of for some time but have, frankly, not developed the intestinal fortitude to tackle.
This book is so very anti-religion and makes such cutting statements against religion that, when discussing such matters, it is often all but ignored by both atheists and Christian apologists.
As powerful and destructive of the whole concept of religion as this book is it will, at some point, have to be tackle by someone.
I am not even writing this post as an announcement of triumph over the book’s arguments but merely to all but admit utter flummoxed defeat. It surely requires a mind much, much sharper mine to tackle this book. Compared to what is surely required to overturn this book’s attacks upon religion my mind is about as sharp as a Nerf ball.
This “book” is actually a volume which consists of the thoughts of one conceiver and was penned by 40 authors. Thus, the volume actually consists of 66 books.
This book typically goes by the title: The Bible.
Here are some examples of the Bible’s anti-religion statements:
This people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observances of the precepts of men (Isaiah 29:13, Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 15:8).
Has the LORD [as] [great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, [And] to heed than the fat of rams (1st Samuel 15:22).
“To what purpose [is] the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams. And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats…Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting…Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow” (see Isaiah 1:11-17).
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6, also see 2:11; 4:6).
The Psalmist addresses God thusly,
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require (Psalm 40:6).
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise (Psalms 51:16-17).
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3).
…to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).
There actually appears to be one favorable reference to religion in the Bible and it is when it is defined thusly,
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27)
But wait a minute; did not God Himself establish the Jewish religion and the Christian religion? Did not God promulgate the 613 commandments (which a Jew never had to keep) many of which prescribe religious ordinances? Did not God ordain baptism, communion, etc.?
Therefore, God established and later besmirch religion!
This would be a good emotive/polemical point yet, overly simplistic and caricatured.
Christians, when allowed the privilege of defining themselves, have long stated that Christianity is not a religion but a relation—a relationship with God.
Judaism is to be considered a peoplehood, people who traditionally held to certain tenets. Let us consider some Jewish history.
When God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (and I have yet to read anything by any atheist condemning Egyptian slavery) God was building up a nation from the ground up. The Israelites were institutionalized due to four centuries of slavery. They were freed and had to be provided a premise upon which to be build into a nation.
This premise was the God, their God, the one true God, the one who defeated the Egyptian gods had freed them and was making them into a nation, a people—recall that God stated, “against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment” (Exodus 12:12).
The Israelites agreed to abide by God’s laws and live according to them in their nation. In order to break their institutionalization God provided them guidelines that would place their attention where it belonged—on God.
The modern day environmental movement, even the most extreme sorts, present us with a good example of what the Law, the Torah, was meant to accomplish. The environmentalists hold to a save the Earth worldview. This means that everything they do, purchase, utilize, eat and discard is filtered through the question: how will this affect the environment?
Likewise, everything that the Israelites did was filtered through the question: how will this affect my relationship with God? Or, what has God said about this? Or, do I choose my own will or God’s? Or, some such question.
The Torah was meant to function as building blocks or a staircase that was meant to build the Israelites from institutionalized slaves to free agents who learned thesis and antithesis thinking, discerning, deciding, reason, etc.—recall that it was God who stated, “let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). This is why the Jews have considered illiteracy to be a sin and have always been known as academicians, scholars, intellects, scientists, jurists, etc.
There came a time when the Israelites were performing rituals robotically. They seemed to forget that the spirit of the law was the surface upon which the letter of the law was written. You may have heard about a Shabbat Goy; this is a Gentile whom a Jew may get to perform certain tasks that are unlawful for the Jew to perform during the Sabbath. Thus, the Jew could still get what she wanted accomplished during the Sabbath but not be technically performing those functions herself.
Nationally, the Israelites had reached the point of forgetting what the rituals meant, what they were conveying, to what they pointed, their ultimate purpose and were simply jumping through ritualistic hoops. This, at this level, at this point, really is what is commonly termed “religion” and it is condemnable—God condemns it.
The rituals were meant to symbolically represent one’s relationship to God (as well as the coming Messiah for example). They were meant to enact a change from institutionalized slaves, to people who could daily make various decisions for themselves via laws and rituals, to ultimately changing the persona.
Thus, God emphasizes to them that He wants and what is wrong with “religion”:
They are merely going through the motions whilst “their hearts are far from me” and they are merely following “the precepts of men.”
God emphasizes that to obey and heed is better than sacrifice. What is the point of the performing the sacrifice if it is merely the performance of a religious duty—quite literally; merely a performance?
Just what is the point? “Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”
Why? Because God “desire[s] mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
Judaism has long known that the commandments in the Torah where temporary and that the Messiah would fulfill them.
The Gospel message was given to the first two people who ever lived and thus: it has always been in the ever since. In Genesis 3:15
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.
This is known as the protoevangelium and it denotes that the seed of the woman (note: not the seed of the man) will crush the serpent’s (symbolic of satan) head (ultimate defeat) while satan bruises the seed’s heel (a strike, not defeat). Thus, the belief in the ultimate redeemer has always been known and is in the most ancient knowledge of the ancient peoples.
Don Richardson conducted some interesting research in the area and published a book entitled: Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World
Note Rabbi Saul of Tarsus, aka Paul the Apostle’s condemnation of the trappings, and I mean literal traps, or religion gleaned from Colossians ch. 2:
Beware lest anyone cheat you…according to the tradition of men…So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you…taking delight in false humility and worship of angels…if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Or consider what he stated as gleaned from Galatians ch. 4:
…when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years.
Thus, ritual was meant to be indicative. Paul, notes this in stating,
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).
Thus, let us keep in mind that when anyone besmirches “religion” they are merely seconding the Bible and God Himself. Indeed, religion, the sort against which atheists and various anti-Judeo-Christians rail is the very same religion against which God rails—and He was first.