Deeply religious Christians claim that the Bible is the perfect, unerring and true word of their god. Devout Muslims state the same about their sacred texts. Their God, of course, is omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient. However, said deeply religious people never see the contradiction of their assertions with reality that become glaringly obvious in discussions. When quoting their own holy text to such a believer, atheists often hear something like this:
- “You took that quote out of context” (a Christian favorite, and corollary to “you need to read the whole bible to understand it”.)
- “That [the quote] only makes sense in its original language” (a Muslim favorite)
What they seemingly don’t understand is that you should never use these arguments if you think that your sacred texts are the true word of god because of a simple fact:
An omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent being’s true, perfect and unerring word would be impossible to misunderstand.
Also, such a word would not, at least in theory, require any means of interpretation – everyone would instantly recognize and understand its message. The direct, true word of a supreme being transcends traditional communication and coalesces in our thoughts with its full meaning perfectly intact, impossible to misunderstand or misrepresent. An omnipotent being would get its message across.
Now, since not everyone agrees on the same interpretation, let alone same sacred text, something must be wrong. A truly sacred text would not allow a belief to fracture into denominations, nor would it allow factions to go to war over the correct interpretation (orthodox vs protestant vs catholic Christians or Sunni vs Shia Muslims): there would only be one interpretation. Such a text would unite and convince instantly. It would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind.
Supposing, of course, that this god is truly benevolent. It’s entirely possible that a malevolent God seeds many convincing yet contradictory, deliberately imperfect holy texts throughout the world to spread the mayhem, distraught and death we see today.
But if we assume that god is benevolent, and not a prankster, any true word of his or her would pass a very simple litmus test – it must be universally understood.
So here’s an easy test that you can apply to something allegedly holy: if that text required any kind of translation, it’s not His true word.