The recent book and movie The DaVinci Code raises some interesting questions on the nature and source of the Christian faith. I heartily encourage people to look at the evidence on both sides of the questions, but before jumping into the fray, I think you should consider a few of what physicists call "thought experiments," a study of the logical implications of whatever factual data there might be out there.
I do not believe it is necessary to be a classical theist to run these
experiments, but it does help if you are open to the possibility of an
objective God, separate from our imaginations.
If you met a person on the street (or on the 13th floor of a 10-story building like in one of the movies), and he looks just like any other person, but he tells you he is God, why should you believe him? Does he do something god-like? What would that be? If he exactly matches your preconceived notions of what God is like, how do you know you are not hallucinating and imagining the whole encounter?
It is the nature of gods that they have supernatural powers. Otherwise they would just be humans. Would a miracle1 (some violation of the laws of physics) be persuasive? George Burns in the movie Oh God was asked to make it rain on a sunny day, so he made it rain -- inside the car. "I wouldn't want to spoil the day for everybody," he said. In that movie the dubious human was invited to ask for a miracle, but the movie is fiction, written by dubious humans. What does a real God do to prove who He is?
This is an important question, because there are numerous god-claims,
and it helps to know which are credible and which are ignorant or outright
If you want to give important instructions to somebody so they will remember what you said, do you speak to them in their sleep? Or write it down on a piece of paper? How about carving the words of the message on stone?
Which are you more likely to believe, a piece of gossip given anonymously
over the phone, or a document signed and dated by an author you know and
If these larcenous villains change (or delete) the teachings of honesty and benevolence, who will stay with the religion? All the people who joined because of the high moral values, they will go away and take their money with them. If the usurpers leave the moral code in place, but change other doctrines, everybody who knew the old teachings will cry out that this is not honest, that it is contrary to the true faith, and throw the bums out.
How then can this corruption take place, and still leave a religion
that teaches high moral values, without alienating everybody watching the
transition take place? And if they do, how will they get more adherents,
over the outcry of the alienated original followers?
How long have humans been evolving since they first began to think intelligently? 100,000 years? 1.5 million years? Pick a number you are comfortable with. What percentage of that time is 2000 years? 2% or 0.13%? That means the humans 2000 years ago were in the worst case just 2% stupider than you and I are.
They didn't have modern science, but what did they have? Nature. How
many times do you have to put a seed into the ground and watch it sprout
into exactly the same kind of plant the seed came from, before you believe
that the seeds grow up to be just like the tree they came from? How many
times do you need to put your foot in the water at the beach before you
recognize that the water won't hold it up? How many girls do you know who
got pregnant without a guy's sperm? This is the 21st century, we can actually
do these things! But they couldn't. Why should somebody 98% as smart as
you are -- so close you can't tell the difference without a Stanford-Binet
test -- why should somebody like that believe otherwise?
The Gnostic writings tell a different story. Their demi-urges seem capricious
and changing. They deny important tenets of Judaism. Which "Christianity"
do you think would appeal more to Jewish believers? Who were the early
Christians, anyway? Are you more persuaded by new ideas that look familiar
and fit with what you already know to be true, or by something radically
different from everything you believe?
2006 May 31
2. If entropy takes things into disorder and
corruption, then it stands to reason that it also applies to our mental
capacities, created in Adam at maximum ability and slowly deteriorating