2. No Scripture ever was delivered from Heaven already printed.
All sacred books claim to be divine in origin; it is a prerequisite for the genre that must be met before they can be used as holy writings. In all the history of the written word, going back some 3500 years or more as far as we know it, the category of ‘sacred scripture’ has a unique status: it is the only type of literature that denies criticism.
No one is allowed to question the origins, content or purpose of a sacred text; to do so is to question the very divinity that produced them, leading to questions about those in charge of those sacred books. To a religious mind, this is not a tolerable situation since it may lead to uncomfortable truths being revealed. Unquestioning acceptance of the sacred text is considered to be the highest expression of faith in many religions. Questions are usually treated as misguided at best, blasphemy and heresy at worst.
The question still remains, in spite of all efforts to expunge it: how does a divine book come into the possession of a mortal human being?
The Koran is a compilation of twenty-odd years of oral teachings by Mohammed the Prophet, but the book was not set down in written form until sometime in the seventh century, long after both the Prophet and his original disciples were dead and unavailable for consultation.
The Torah is a collection of writings extending back centuries, some a part of a court chronicle written for the then-fledgling Kingdom of Judea.
The Bible is a mishmash of Judaic and Greek writings, assembled in order to make a new religion more appealing in the Roman Empire. The books included in the Christian Bible were determined by committee and the final version was decided by a rather narrow vote, as was the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
None of these religions are tolerant of questions as to their having come from a divine source.
How were they delivered, is my question. The Torah has the best claim to historicity, as it contains incidents that can be verified archeologically. If the books are read, it is actually rather mundane until certain miracles appear. The laws and regulations contained in it are the ‘divinely inspired’ part since they are supposed to have come directly from God. How did that happen? Did Moses have a telephone link to God? Did a flaming angel knock on the tent and hand him a copy already written?
No, sorry. Moses, like all prophets, came out of seclusion and announced the new rules to the people. Afterward they were written down and over time achieved divine status. Not obeying them meant that you and your family were subjected to various punishments, up to and including mutilation and banishment or execution.
The Koran was not officially compiled into one collection of the Prophet’s teaching until the seventh century, by the European calendar. Until then it was taught by rote and the faithful were expected to memorize it exactly. Unique among holy texts is that the Koran specifically states that you must accept all of it without question as the divine word of Allah. No questions or compromises allowed, not if you wanted to be a good Muslim. To leave Islam means that you will be hunted down and killed. You are not allowed to convert to another faith.
Whether or not you are allowed to question the tenets of Christianity depends on where you live. If you are in a region where there is a secular government, then there are few consequences in professing doubt. If not, the consequences can range from the uncomfortable stigma of social disgrace to outright imprisonment. Luckily there are few regions where an auto-da-fe might be called and your life lost.
It all goes back to the Divine Scripts. Each governing book for each faith contains the rules, regulations and acceptable behaviors for those that follow its’ precepts. Examples of benefits for adhering to those precepts are included, usually, as well as examples of punitive incidents for failing to follow the rules.
But they were not delivered in a complete form. All of these injunctions came from human beings. Out of respect for the ‘true believers’ of these religions, I will take a step back and note that the authors may have been divinely inspired in their writings, and I certainly believe that they were doing their best. However the writings had to be filtered through the personal prejudices and mindset of the authors.
The contemporary culture was a major influence as well, as in the case of Islam’s ruling that a male may have up to four wives. The Prophet noted that while it was permitted, it was not possible to deal fairly with more than one wife. Yet, because of the polygamist nature of the society in which he lived, the exception was made. Did he cave to outside pressure? It’s not noted as such but it is possible, but that means that at least one instance illustrates the tainted nature of a supposedly ‘Divine’ ruling.
The Christian Gospels also illustrate this point: the Apostles are often noted as not understanding what their leader was saying or misconstruing his meaning and having things bluntly explained to them. The divinity of Christ was decided by vote at the Council of Nicea some three hundred years after the events and for very political reasons. History does record that as fact for anyone that wishes to look it up. Embarrassing for the Orthodox Churches, but undeniable.
This is blasphemy to even consider that a sacred text might just be another human response to politics, societal pressures and human need. I accept that.
I am capable of accepting that the rituals and dogma by which I was raised may not be the true image of a divine message; that they may be myth and philosophy instead. I am an intelligent being and that I have a duty to examine them and make certain choices. The events of millennia past had their place and the religions that grew from them may not be as appropriate as they once were.
Sacred texts are nothing new and I am certain that there will be more written in the future. In the 1840’s in America, a new religion was born: the Church of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. It has proven to be surprisingly resilient, since most new religions seldom last more than a few years at best, a generation at most. They also have a sacred text, supposedly given by an angel named Moroni. Yet again it is filtered through human perception, as is necessary in order to reach its audience, and yet again, it is as flawed as any other.
We are not perfect and we never will be; our religions are not perfect or there would never be such a stupid thing as a religious war. All gods would be acceptable, all practices would be uplifting. It is egotistical in the extreme to think that an infinite being would hand down an instruction manual that doesn’t include everything for everyone, and none of them do so.
Find your peace.