Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  5 Arguments for the Existence of God: Experience

Bible , Truth and Knowledge

The bible of the Jews or the Old and New testaments of the Christians or the Quran (Koran)  for Islam are all presented as being true in some sense from the most orthodox of those religions.  They are as fundamentalists who claim that the reports are to be accepted as being truthful.  Does the bible include reports of events in time on planet earth that are accurate and true?   Is this the case with the entire bible?  If so ,then much needs to be explained.  If not ,and it is admitted that there are falsehoods and events where it is not known whether or not they are true or not ,then how much of the Holy Book is true?  How do we know this?

The bible can not be used as a source of truth.  It can not be used as a source for knowledge in the same way that science provides knowledge of the physical universe and events within it.  The claims made within the sacred text of the West  have not been verified and most can not be verified and there are many passages that can not be true.

Can holy or sacred scripture be used as if it is a historically accurate accounting?  No.  Why not ?  The accounts are not true.  How do we know that? Not all accounts of physical events in the universe and on planet earth as reported in the bible can be true.  This is so because there are reports that are contradictory.  There are also reports that make no sense or are impossible.

The purpose of this text in this section is not apologetics nor theology nor interpretation. The purpose is to point out that there are problems with the text of the bible and the basic sacred texts of the Western religions if the reports of events are  taken literally as some fundamentalists insist on doing.  If people are wiling to look at the text and consider non-literal interpretations and to look at the meanings and possible value of the text for individuals and groups then the question or issue with its accuracy and truthfulness may be set aside or overcome.  More on this in a later chapter on Religious Language World Views and Reason. 

As was previously noted in the chapter on Religion and Science, there is no conflict between the two if:

1) the claims in the bible are not taken literally but are interpreted and the meaning of the bible text and the lessons of the text are given importance over their veracity as reporting events and making empirical claims.

2) science studies religion as a natural phenomena with manifestations at the level of individual experience and group experiences that functions in a number of ways for individuals and societies.

Are there any parts of the sacred texts that may be true in an empirical and historical sense?  Probably there are, but it is difficult to determine which would be true.

The bible can not be totally true offering true and accurate accounts of events.  The accounts are contradictory. 

Biblical Inconsistencies :

Here is one example:  Is evil from God? 

  • No     (Deut 32:4, Ps 19:7-8, 145:9, Mic 7:2, James 1:13). 
  • Yes    (Isa 45:7, Jer 18:11, Lam 3:38, Ezek 20:25, Amos 3:6).

No   the deity is not the cause of evil    

  • Deuteronomy 32:4, 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,  and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong,  upright and just is he.

  • Psalms 19:7-8,  7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  8 The precepts of the LORD are right,  giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

  • Psalm 145:9  9 The LORD is good to all;  he has compassion on all he has made.

  • Micah 7:2,  2 The godly have been swept from the land;   not one upright man remains.  All men lie in wait to shed blood;   each hunts his brother with a net.

  •  James 1:13    13When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

 YES the deity is cause of all things GOOD and EVIL

  •   Isaiah  45:7,  7   I form the light and create darkness,  I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

  • Jeremiah  18:11,  11 "Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, 'This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.'

  • Lamentations 3:38 38  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

  • Ezekiel 20:25 25 I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by;

  • Amos 3:6  6 When a trumpet sounds in a city,  do not the people tremble?    When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?

There are also reports that make no sense or are impossible.  Take one story early on in the first book of the bible, Genesis: The story of Noah, the ark and the flood.  There is no evidence to support that story about Noah and the ark being literally true.  In any attempt to even make some sense out of the story there are lots of questions that need to be answered.  The story can not be true in a literal sense.  There are too many physical problems , even impossibilities involved in it.

For Christians their sacred scriptures are also filled with inconsistencies and contradictions.  In the holy scriptures of Christians the beginning of their story is with birth of Jesus Christ and with that there are two contradictory accounts in the two of the four most popular "gospels".  The other two "gospels" do not mention it at all.

What do the Gospel writers say about Jesus? When it comes to his birth, as a group, they say nothing. The Gospels of Mark and John never mention the Nativity. Only Matthew and Luke describe it.

But it’s misleading to say “Matthew and Luke.” One might better say “Matthew vs. Luke,” for the Gospels bearing their names contradict each other on almost every detail. The popular image of shepherds and wise men side by side before the cradle? Matthew says wise men. Luke says shepherds. Neither says both.

The star in the East? Only in Matthew.

“Hark, the herald angels sing” . . . but only in Luke. Matthew never heard of them.

READ:   Matthew vs. Luke Whoever wins, coherence loses  by Tom Flynn in Free Inquiry magazine Volume 25, Number 1.2005

Problems with the story about Noah


VIDEO: The Mathematics involved with the story of Noah

The Animals

a) the number
How many species of animals and their variations are there on planet earth today?  Do not guess. Do not take it on this word alone.  Look it up. You will find that there are many species of animals, mammals, birds and insects in the world today and the remains of many other species that are now extinct but would have been alive at the time of the story according to the story.   If as it says "Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. " then all forms that exist on earth today must have been in the ark because according to a literal reading of the bible (which is the issue here) there has been only 6,000 years since the bible's report of creation and there is no evolution of species. And now how many living things would this amount to?  The answer is in the millions!

Some theologians are unclear as to whether there were seven animals or seven PAIRS of animals. If it was pairs then that would mean an even larger number of animals to go on the ark.   Even with only 2 of each type of living non-human animal it would not be possible to build a vessel to hold them all. As the Bible does not state that any species became extinct prior to the flood.  This means that every land animal that has ever existed, including those that are now extinct, had to have been represented on the ark.  Considering the number of species of dinosaur that have been found, and their size, these alone would not have been able to fit on the ark.  Creationist like to claim that the dinosaurs did not make it on the ark, and the flood was the cause of their extinction.  Again, the Bible does not suggest that ANY animal missed the ark.  Besides, Noah was given a direct order by God take every beast, fowl and any other living thing that creepeth upon the earth, onto the ark.  (Read the text below.)

Since everything that creepeth was to be included, this means every species of insect would also had to have been represented, everything from aphids to Goliath beetles.  There are currently 16,000 different species of ants alone, and that is just what is presently living, not counting any species that has become extinct.  If Noah had to take two of every kind of animal on board the ark, he not only had to take two snakes on board, but two kinds of  every snake.  He not only had to take two cobras, two pythons, two boas, two rattlesnakes, etc., but he had to take two of every kind of cobra, python, boa, rattlesnake, etc. 

b) the feeding of the Animals

How much does a member of each species of animal and their variations eat in a day and what type of food is it? How much food would there need to be to support the life of all living things on the ark for that number of days?  Multiply the number of days times the amount of food for one day. Do not guess.  Look it up.  Make a general listing of the categories of animals and their foods.  You are going to have a large amount of food multiplied by 2 or 7 and then by 150!

c) the care needed for the animals
The ark had one door and one window. (Read the text below.) How were the animals cared for by 8 people over 7 months?  How would eight people feed over a million animals each day?  How would they do that with the food needed by the animals including the flesh of other animals?

What about exercise?  The ark would have been so cram packed, the animals wouldn't have been able to move; which means they had to stand or lay in the same spot for over 200 days.  How did they survive with or without movement for that period of time?  What about ventilation?   (Read the text below.)

What about the noxious and explosive gases caused by the digestive and elimination processes of the animals kept in a closed vessel for over 200 days?

d) Providing for the animals

All of these animals on board the ark would need food and water to survive.  Where did Noah put all of this surplus?  Some animals are carnivores.  Did Noah bring extra animals on board to feed to them?  The story says Noah was to bring every kind of food that was eaten (Read the text below.) and so that would include living beings that were killed and eaten by humans as well as by other animals.

2. Time on the Ark

How many days were Noah, the humans and the animals on the ark?  (Read the text below.) In one place it is reported as 40 days and in another 150 days and in another more than 7 months.(Read the text below.)

3.Construction of the Ark

a) Size of the Ark: How large was the ark?  How large would an ark need to be to hold 2 or 7 of each species of animal, food to feed them for over 200 days, room to move, etc.. ?   How much space would be needed for 2 of every species and all variations?

b) How much space for the food to feed 2 of every species and all variations for the total number of days on the ark including space for the animals to be eaten by the other animals?

c) The Bible states that the ark was approximately 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high (Gen. 6:15, a cubit is approximately 1 1/2 feet).  (Read the text below.) A fairly good size vessel to be built by only 4 men; Noah and his three sons. (Read the text below.) An ark of the size specified in the Bible would not be large enough to carry a cargo of animals and food sufficient to re-populate the earth, especially if animals that are now extinct were required to be aboard.  How is this possible for a vessel of this size to hold over a million animals  and their food for over 200 days?

d) How much time did he have to build the ark? It is reported in the text. (Read the text below.)

e) How many people did he have to help him? It is reported in the text to have been Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, and nowhere does it say that the deity offered any assistance.(Read the text below.)

f) How much wood would be needed to construct that large a space for all those creatures and the food supply for more than 150 days?

g) Where would that much wood come from and how could Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons cut and assemble that amount of wood?

4. gathering the animals:
a) How long would it take to gather up the animals safely?
b) The location of the animals-As there are animals that can only exist in certain climates (frigid-e.g., polar bears and penguins or warm-e.g., snakes and iguana) whoever gathered the animals would need to travel all over the earth into the different climate zones to do so. How was this possible?

c) How would the animals have been transported and fed during their journey from their native habitat to the location of the ark?

d) How would the animals that were gathered and kept at the ark location be fed and cared for while Noah and his three sons were off gathering up other animals?

5. Loading the ark: How were the animals loaded on the ark?  Noah had 7 days, from the time the ark was finished, until the flood waters came, to get the animals on board. (Read the text below.)  Loading two of each type per second would require millions of seconds. There are only 604,800 seconds in 7 days.

6. The water  The flood waters

a) Where did all this water come from?  The Bible states that the waters prevailed 22 feet above the highest point.  It only rained for 40 days according to the Bible.  To completely cover the entire surface area of the Earth, 22 feet above the highest point, would require millions of cubic miles of water.  I don't believe that much water could be produced if it rained for 400 days.  The cloud covering would have been so thick, the Earth would probably have compared to a gas giant like Uranus or Neptune.

b) How was the depth of the water determined?
GE 7:19-20 The flood covered the earth with water fifteen cubits (twenty plus feet) above the highest mountains. (Note: This would require steady, worldwide rainfall at the rate of about 6 inches per minute, 360 inches per hour, 8640 inches per day--for 40 days and nights--so as to cover the entire earth with an endless ocean 5 miles deep, thus burying 29,000 ft. Mt. Everest under 22 ft. of water.

c) Where has all this water gone?

7. After the flood
a) Plant survival

Did Noah take seeds or seedlings on board the ark to replenish the plant life that would have died in the flood?

b) Animal Survival

How did the animals get to their present habitats?  How did the indigenous species of Australia get to that region?  How did penguins get to Antarctica?  What about the animals indigenous to the Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin formed his theory of evolution? 

c) human population growth
How did the population of the earth become so large again in just a few years, with only 4 women producing offspring? (Noah's wife and 3daughter-in-laws)  How often would Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, need to have sex in order to produce enough offspring so that in 6,000 they would total 6.8 billion people?  Do not guess.  Do the math.  Do not allow for each couple to produce 100 children or even more than 5 as there is no evidence in the bible for that.  Whatever your rate of projection for the population increase explain how the world's production of vegetation and animal life provided support for that rate of population growth without leaving a trace of evidence for such a rate of reproduction.

8.  Sacrifice or survival?

 GE 8:20 Noah's first recorded action following the flood is to sacrifice one of every clean animal and bird. (Since so few animals were saved, this could be considered rather wasteful and defeating--especially given that the stated purpose of taking the animals aboard the Ark was to keep them alive [GE 6:20].

9. Basic Question: Fundamental Flaw

Why did a supposedly omnipotent god have to go to such great lengths to destroy the Earth?  If he felt his creation was corrupted and wanted to start all over, why didn't he just snap his fingers and wipe out everyone he needed to?

To make the Noah and the Ark story work there would need to be a lot of divine intervention in providing for the time and the materials and the labor and the animals and the food supply and the care and the post flood survival, dispersion and  propagation, etc...  So why not just a direct act of the deity to vanish what was not wanted and then start over again? There is no explanation given or even hinted at as to why if the earth became so full of offense to the deity the manner to correct it involved a flood.  There is no added value in having Noah and a few survivors. This is strong evidence that the Hebrews took a popular flood myth from surrounding cultures and worked it into their own approach to an explanation of events on earth using a single deity idea.

There is much research on flood myths in religions other than Judaism that existed at the time in the surrounding cultures.  There have been plenty of such stories and even evidence of flooding.  There is NO EVIDENCE to support the literal interpretation of the Noah story.

The flood of Noah:

Starting in Genesis 6:6, the Bible records that God was concerned about the level of violence and other evil behavior among humans. He "was sorry that He had made man on the earth..." 1 It says that God decided to destroy almost the entire human race, in the first, largest and most thorough act of genocide in history. Only Noah, his three sons and their four wives were to be saved in an ark of their own construction. The rest of the human race, the land animals and birds were said to have drowned in a world-wide flood. Again, most conservative Christians believe that this story is literally true. Very few liberal Christians, biologists, geologists, linguists and anthropologists agree.

Noah's Story

Genesis 6-9        (New International Version) New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Genesis 6

The Flood
   1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with [a] man forever, for he is mortal [b] ; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."

    4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

    5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD .    

 9 This is the account of Noah.    
   Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

    11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress [c] wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. [d] 16 Make a roof for it and finish [e] the ark to within 18 inches [f] of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark-you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."     22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Genesis 7

1 The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven [a] of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made."

    5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.
    6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. 7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, 9 male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

    11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month-on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

    13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.

    17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. [b] , [c] 21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished-birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
Genesis 8

1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. 2 Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. 3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

    6 After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark 7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. 9 But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

    13 By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

    15 Then God said to Noah, 16 "Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you-the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground-so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it."

    18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds-everything that moves on the earth-came out of the ark, one kind after another.

    20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though [a] every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.    
    22 "As long as the earth endures,     seedtime and harvest,     cold
and heat,     summer and winter,     day and night     will never

Genesis 9

God's Covenant With Noah
   1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

    4 "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.    
    6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man,     by man shall his blood be
shed;     for in the image of God     has God made man.
    7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it."
    8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you-the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you-every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."

    12 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

    17 So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."

The Sons of Noah
    18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.

    20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded [a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father's nakedness.

    24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
        "Cursed be Canaan!     The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers."    
    26 He also said,      "Blessed be the LORD , the God of Shem!     May Canaan be the
slave of Shem. [b]
    27 May God extend the territory of Japheth [c] ;     may Japheth
live in the tents of Shem,    and may Canaan be his [d] slave."
    28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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