Since the Enlightenment and the invention of observational science, theistic scriptural mythology has been in decline. Theistic scriptures have had their supposedly divinely inspired basis stripped away by the unrelenting contradiction of their creation mythology, their historical legends, their morality, and their ``science'' by the modern ``scientific worldview'' that results from examining nature itself with an unbiased eye, by the systematic study of history and archeology, by their deep and unreconcilable conflict with secular morality.
Nowhere is this conflict more glaringly apparent than in the various scriptural texts of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) - Vedantic Hinduism is organized monistic pandeism and acknowledges up front that its scriptures are myths and legends to be mined for parabolic insight, not ``divinely inspired truth'', and Buddhism isn't a religion, it is an essentially atheistic psychosocial philosophy that unfortunately incorporates some of the religious cosmology of Vedic Hinduism, in particular the notion of serial reincarnation, that is probably false. For this reason this gratuitous polemic will focus on the Abrahamic faiths, as they are the ones that seem perfectly capable of inspiring their adherents to commit horrific acts - suicide bombing, crusading wars, unrepentant murder in broad daylight, torture, maiming, and much more - all in the name of God as described in their scriptural mythology.
We begin at the beginning, with Genesis, a book common to all the Abrahamic faiths, a book that is essential to the rationale of salvation put forth in Christianity, a book that has been shown to be nearly pure myth - false from cover to cover. The creation sequence it describes is not only false but absurd, with flowering trees and plants preceding the sun and the moon and the stars, with the moon glowing with its own light, with the sky a solid bowl (``firmament'') that bounds the seas upon which the earth floats and through which rain is poured. The flood myth could only have been written by superstitious bronze age shamans who were completely unaware of the diversity and number of species and who were unable to do simple arithmetic, and forever after has been an enormous problem for Biblical literalists and apologists who do not want to face the fact that the Genesis is manifestly false and contradicted by mere common sense and numbers even before one considers things like radiometric dating, the fossil record, and a few moments spent looking through the eyes of the Hubble.
In case some literalists are reading this (and have not already turned away lest they be tempted into disbelief) let's run just one set of purely common sense numbers and consider the flood: Mount Everest is roughly 360,000 inches high. There are roughly 60,000 minutes in forty days and nights. Allowing for the rest of the land mass, it would have had to rain at least five inches a minute on every square meter of the planet to flood the earth to the top of Everest, diluting the salinity of the oceans with ( cubic meters of fresh water compared to cubic meters of ocean) by more than a factor of four.
Rooted plant species (fresh or salt water) within a 100 meters of sea level (which is the vast majority of them) would be at the bottom of a water column roughly 9000 meters high, and would therefore be subjected to roughly 900 atmospheres of pressure. First the freshwater plants would be subjected to an osmolar insult as they are immersed in salt water (even dilute salt water is too salty for most land plants) and left there for months (literally pickling them). Second the saltwater plants and all oceanic animal species are subjected to an osmolar insult as they are submerged in water only less than 1/4 as saline as they are evolved to tolerate and left there for months (indeed, it is obviously impossible for the salt water salinity to have ever been restored without the miraculous removal of the water completely off of the planet earth). Sessile and bottom-dwelling animal species such as corals, mussels, sea snails, reef fish - would find their habitats completely disrupted, their cell chemistry broken down, their oxygen supply shut off, the temperature outside of their range of survivability. The arctic polar caps would, of course, melt.
Any one of these insults would suffice to kill every single member of most land or oceanic species of animal or plant on the spot, so presumably they would all have to be accomodated on the ark. Even the relatively few animals, birds, or reptiles that live on the surface of the oceans require air to breathe and would be unable to fly or rest on the ocean's surface, unable to sleep and breathe in a five-inch-a-minute rain. Bear in mind that the current world record rate of rainfall is a mere twelve inches of rain in 42 minutes in Holt, Missouri - a bit over a quarter an inch a minute - this is twenty times higher and is inescapable, falling at this rate everywhere.
A reasonable estimate for the number of species that would almost certainly have been exterminated, including, for example, all mammals, nearly all rooted plants, all saltwater fish, all birds, all sessile ocean or lake species, all freshwater fish, all reptiles except maybe e.g. saltwater turtles, all amphibians, all arthropods) conservatively number at least a million, possibly as many as ten million, as we're still discovering new species at a fairly good clip. Merely collecting a breeding population of all of these species has proven beyond the abilities of hundreds of thousands of modern scientists travelling by means both ancient and modern to all parts of the globe, bearing in mind (for example) poison dart frogs that are fatal to carelessly handle and that live out their lives inside the water trapped inside bromeliads growing high in the canopy of Amazonian rain forests. Yet Noah had to not only collect them in a single lifetime, travelling not only to the new world but to nearly every single island in e.g. the South Pacific where unique species are to be found, but then to load them all into a Wal-Mart sized wooden boat.
Of course most of these species are evolved to survive in very specific ecological niches - you can't just throw them into a basket, a crate, or a cage and leave them for a couple of months in the near-desert (Mediterranean) middle eastern environment and expect them to survive. They require air conditioning, heating, humidity, refrigeration, ventilation, special food, delicate handling, water with just the right chemistry, and a veteranarian or zookeeper familiar with all of these needs and capable of maintaining them and dealing with problems. Many have a life cycle far shorter than 40 days and would require an entire mini-ecology that accomodated their increase during the trip. Polar bears and penguins would not survive two months at tropical temperatures; cacti would not survive two months in 100% humid air, and all of the animals would require actively driven ventilation simply to avoid expiring in their own waste carbon dioxide. None of this technology or knowledge was available to Noah, and building a simple zoo with artificial ecosystems capable of keeping a breeding population of every earth species alive for two months is impossible now with electricity, refrigeration and air conditioning, and a full knowledge of chemistry, biology, and animal medicine. It is safe to say that it is completely absurd to imagine that Noah could have managed it, especially with the tiny window for ventilation the Bible gives the ark.
Then there is the loading problem. If Noah (and his sons) were very sprightly and energetic, and loaded a new species and their food and physical environment every two minutes working 24x7, it would take them at least a year - hardly a day - to load the ark (and during the loading, all of those species both inside the ark as well as outside waiting in line have to be kept alive). The preferred ``out'' for literalists is the assertion that God caused all of the species to come to the ark on their own, creating a rather hilarious view of poison dart frogs hopping along the damp, damp Amazon rain forest canopy, then swimming across the salty salty sea, making their way across the dry dry desert, all arriving on just one day to stand in line with a bit of coral from a south pacific atoll and a couple of sea anemones for its turn at loading. Right.
Not to worry, the problem doesn't go away, not even if God hand delivered them preloaded onto the ark. Once loaded, Noah and his sons would have at most four or five seconds per species to feed and water all of these species, many of them highly delicate and susceptible to disease, check them to see if they need medical care, and remove their excrement or otherwise service their environments a single time over 40 days, a rate that would necessarily persist until the ecologies were rebuilt back in their native habitats. For some animals, a food supply alone sufficient to last until natural food could once again be obtained post-flood would occupy far greater volume than the animal itself, and in the case of the high metabolism carnivores the food supply would itself need a food supply in far greater numbers than the Bible indicates.
Now, just where did breeding populations (which invariably is far more than a mere 1 to 7 pairs of animals, whatever the Bible might say) of all of the species go? Allowing for an ark that is a full 200 meters long, 100 meters wide, and 40 meters high (in every instance larger than biblical literalists suggest, although completely absurd from the point of view of engineering actual wooden ships capable of withstanding the turbulent storm associated with the thermodynamics of a five-inch-a-minute rain that was not simply poured through the windows of a solid firmament from ``heaven'') the ark contains less than a million cubic meters - online Bible literalist sites often cite about half of this. This volume has to hold all of the 1-2 million animals and plants species in suitable environments, including (for example) a full set of saltwater aquariums for saltwater species that cannot tolerate water with 1/4 the amount of salt that they are evolved for, each at a suitable temperature and with only fish and sessile creatures that can survive living together without killing one another, a full set of freshwater aquariums ditto, a dessicated section where cacti and desert animals can survive the crushing humidity, a refrigerated environment for penguins and polar bears, alkaline pools to hold plants and animals evolved to live in narrow ecological niches in e.g. Death Valley, a set of high pressure aquariums in which to keep fish and plants from the deep ocean trenches that cannot survive outside of a narrow pressure range and that die when brought to the surface. Go to the zoo of your choice and seriously try to imagine moving that into a Wal Mart, bearing in mind that the biggest and best zoos in existence only have a trivial fraction of all Flood-susceptible species present.
One way or another, all of these species, their local ecology, their food supply, access aisles and flooring capable of holding up tons of weight per square meter, forced air ventilation that can extract air from a five-inch-a-minute rain in sufficient quantity to keep everything breathing and exhaust all of their metabolic heat energy from the de facto insulation in the form of all the other animals surrounding them, lights (don't want to go in there and feed the mambas in the dark, do we), heating and/or cooling apparatus all has to be packed into a volume of strictly less than a half of a cubic meter per animal. Ouch!
Then there is the simple violation of mass-energy conservation associated with the covering of the earth with a six-mile thick layer of fresh water (diluting the salinity of the ocean by a factor of four as noted), requiring the release of roughly Joules of heat of vaporization ``somewhere'' in the process, followed by the magical disappearance of all of this water afterwards - leaving the salt miraculously only back in the ocean - as on a solid sphere there is no place for it to drain to whatever the Bible might claim and of course there is no trace of it today and if it simply evaporated (to nowhere) it would have left the salt behind everywhere.
It really does seem as though it would have been a whole lot simpler for God to simply poof all of the people that were annoying him out of existence (given that he could make all of this water just vanish) and leave all of the poor plants and animals and Noah's alone. One day Noah wakes up and look! His family is the only set of surviving humans! Time for some more good healthy incest, of course, and it's truly amazing that human variations such as pigmies and aboriginal Australians and so on had time to evolve from this one family given a mere 6000 years or so from complete racial homogeneity in the form of a single family that miraculously avoided the problems of inbreeding from too small a starting population (as did all of those animals).
There is one final arithmetic puzzle to work out. How in the world did the Galapagos tortoises (for example) get back to the Galapagos? How is it that only new world plants and animals went to the new world, old world plants and animals to the old world, the little rainforest frogs made it bad to their dead, pickled and crushed bromeliads in the tops of their dead rain forest trees in time to have a crop of little poison dart frog babies that had enough to eat in the form of still other stuff that had to have been on the ark and used to carefully build full ecologies right back up to where they were before, as the fossil record has no break in continuity? Whatever problem we had with loading the ark or caring for the species on the ark in real time are dwarfed by the problem of just how Noah - alone and starving in a post-apocalyptic world and having trouble with his sons uncovering his nakedness - in a mere three hundred years managed to get all the animals back exactly where they belong before the air conditioning and bronze age ice machines broke down, before the lions, tigers and bears managed to eat all of the deer, all of the cows, pretty much all of the prey animals as their appetite vastly exceeds the rate at which these animals reproduce (which is why there is only one tiger in many, many square miles of jungle living off of the prey animals there, in ecological equilibrium). The odds of Noah being able to do this - imagine the papyrus spreadsheet required just to keep track of where all of these species belong and all of their ecological requirements, a body of knowledge that alone would damn near fill the ark - are very, very small. Teensy. Miniscule. Call them zero - this is absurd.
Genesis apologists, of course, simply ignore the actual numbers and make up their own, shrugging their shoulders and invoking a miracle whenever even their overheated imaginations cannot make them work out. The simple fact of the matter, however, is that this story is absurd! It violates every precept of common sense on the basis of the simple arithmetic involved. An ark this size (with its truly tiny ventilation window) might have sufficed to hold the few dozen domesticated and wild species that immediately came to the minds of the humans who adopted this variation of an existing Sumerian flood myth into their own mythology - it was sufficiently reasonable for the day and established from the beginning that the God of the Hebrew offshoot of the Sumerian civilization could kick butt and take names compared to e.g. Innana.
However, we now know that rain falls from clouds and not through a solid bowl of sky, that mass-energy is conserved, that the earth is round and contains vast numbers of species that evolved to live in very specific ecological niches, that the highest mountain is nearly nine kilometers above sea level, that salinity of water varies according to its freshwater dilution, that water pressure increases roughly one atmosphere per ten meters of depth and that animals and plants evolved to live in a particular pressure range usually die when taken out of that range as all sorts of cell chemistry stops working correctly, that arctic animals evolved to live in cold climates exist that couldn't possibly survive an unrefrigerated trip to the desert, that the world is not flat and that animals live in continents and islands that are completely disconnected from Noah's presumed Sumerian location by thousands of miles of shark-and-storm filled saltwater ocean that poison dart frogs, finches, Galapagos tortoises, and a few hundred thousand more plant and animal species could never have crossed to arrive at Noah's ark on a ``single day''. The authors of this story did not.
It hence becomes infinitely implausible. Apologists shouldn't even bother trying to use reason to argue that it is somehow plausible; they might as well just fall back on raw magic - a purely supernatural miracle. God reached down with his invisible hand and went `poof', and the ark was filled. In fact, he probably created a dimensional warp so that the inside of the ark was vastly larger than the outside, large enough for all of the animal environments. Those environments, of course, were perfectly supported by electrical equipment and machinery (or just God's Naked Will keeping the polar bears cool and the desert cacti dry and the rain forest frogs fed) - or perhaps he just turned the interior of the ark into a giant freezer set at absolute zero, flash froze all of the animals, and stuffed them in. There is always a possible way for the most absurd of assertions to be true as long as one is willing to admit pure magic as a solution. Afterwards, God magically returned all of the animals and plants to their ecological niches - if he brought them by magic, he could put them back by magic - and arranged for them to eat magically generated manna and to miraculously manage to rebuild their species from too small a gene pool by magically manipulating their genes so unlikely things happened. After all, that is how he magically created everything from nothing in the first place - using his awesome God Magic! What is surprising about that!
This, of course, sounds rather like a science fiction story or fantasy, not like a credible description of the real world. Noah's ark is possible only if everything we think we know about our world is false because we never observe magic in the operation of the real world when we look carefully. In fact, it appears to obey absolute physical laws that are quite literally never broken! Only if we live in a whimsical world where at any minute absolutely anything can happen is this sort of thing plausible. It is quantitatively more likely that a shattered piece of glass will rise up off of the floor and reassemble itself into an unbroken whole, that an omelet will somehow slide out of the pan once again an egg, than the mythology of the Flood be true.
At the same time that science has provided devastating blows to the Bible's scientific credibility (and this is only a single example - it is rare that the Bible gets any science correct) the Bible's has had its historical inconsistency exposed by careful archeological and historical research that has revealed that many of the events that are supposedly ``perfectly'' represented never took place, many of the places represented never existed, many event are presented more than once with contradictions between them independent of historical evidence for either one. Moving on from the Old Testament (tempting as it as as a common text to all the Abrahamic faiths) to the New, we consider a single example: it is impossible to reconcile the two supposedly historical accounts of the Nativity presented in Matthew and Luke. The accounts are separated by at least a decade in time (two different Herods, Herod the Great and Herod Antipas) and an entirely distinct series of events (an unrecorded slaughter of innocents, a flight to Egypt versus going home unconcerned and visiting Jerusalem - home of Herod Antipas at the time - every year)The author is grateful to Richard Carrier and this article for this argument, which he makes far more thoroughly and, ultimately, convincingly.http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/quirinius.html.
Of course, how would the authors of these gospels (whoever they really were) have known all of these contradictory details, anyway? They were not eyewitnesses - there were no surviving eyewitnesses by the time that they wrote. They were writing at the very least decades after the historical Jesus (supposing that such a man actually existed) died, some sixty to ninety years after the events in question, in an age where humans rarely lived to reach fifty and almost never reached the eighty to ninety years of age necessary to bear adult witness circa 70 CE to events that occurred circa 6 BCE to 8 CE (depending on whether you prefer Matthew or Luke). Is it any wonder they report two completely distinct legends, neither of them particularly plausible? They are both some unknowable mix of myth (whole-cloth fiction) and legend (fiction with perhaps some small basis in historical reality) - all we can be certain of is that they cannot both be true and therefore they stand as a concrete proof by contradiction to any assertion that the New Testament is divinely inspired perfect truth, or even a less taxing mundane but merely accurate eyewitness accounting of the events its books claim to describe.
Of course there are many contradictions with scientific fact in the Gospels, easily sufficient proof that Jesus lacked preternatural knowledge and hence was no prophet. Jesus asserts that from the beginning of creation God made humans (and animals) male and female, confounded by the radiometricly dated fossil record, observational cosmological and physical evidence, and common sense. Epilepsy is (not) caused by devils. Illness is (not) caused by Satan - it is caused by bacteria, viruses, and genetic accidents. The story of Noah's ark is (not!) literally true. People are (not) crippled by God as a punishment for sin. No good person could ever have been blinded by a just God simply to give Jesus the opportunity to work a miracle by restoring their sight. People who cannot speak are (not) possessed by devils. In the end days the moon will (not) cease to give its light (it never did) and the stars will (not) fall from the solid bowl of the sky (as it isn't).
Finally, the theistic scriptures of the three Abrahamic faiths are all rather obviously morally imperfect and are so full of pure contradiction that the discernment of ``truth'' therein requires an excercise in apologist hermeneutics that a more objective (and skeptical) soul would call mere cherrypicking and creative interpretation. Many, many verses state or show by example that proposition is divine will and perfect truth where other verses state that not is divine will and perfect truth. As any student of logic knows, any proposition can be proven given contradictory axioms, and over the centuries nearly every moral proposition has been ``proven'' with full scriptural support.
It is quite simple to select verses or stories that present as moral, God-commanded examples (that we should presumably emulate) actions such as war, brutal murder, infanticide, and genocide; the ownership and abuse of slaves; the subjugation and sexual abuse of women; and the death penalty for freedom of thought (for example, daring to question the perfect truth of the scriptural theisms themselves) and far more.
Nearly every chapter of the Quran describes the punishments God will inflict on the unbeliever - it adopts the extortion meme invented primarily in the New Testament and perfects it. It describes in sickening detail the skin of a nonbeliever being burned off by God, then regrown just so it can be burned off again, for eternity. It treats women as chattel instead of equals, permitting their male owners (in the form of father, brother, husband, son) to commit horrific crimes by modern standards on their personal whim. Infinite punishment is infinitely unjust for any finite crime, especially the entirely reasonable one of apostasy or disbelief due to the lack of any evidence supporting the absurd claims of the Abrahamic theistic scriptures.
Jesus himself threatens his followers with eternal torment, tells his followers repeatedly to ``tell no one'' of the miracles he works (guess that one didn't happen), tells his apostles that he makes his parables deliberately confusing so that most people will not understand them and thereby be saved - hardly the actions of a just, loving superbeing capable of arranging the Universe and planning every event therein who presumably wants to not torture all the unsaved for eternity. In case this isn't enough, Paul makes the sad truth quite clear. Those who are saved aren't saved by good works or by simply accepting Jesus. They are saved because they were tagged for salvation by Jesus back when he created the Universe. All of the damned are similarly predestined for damnation:
God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.Paul reveals that humans are not damned because they are tempted by Satan. They are damned because they are deliberately deluded by the will of Jesus (who is God), induced to believe a lie.
However, if you feel ill-used by being born blind just so that Jesus can heal your blindness using his patented mix of God-spit and filthy dirt, if you object to being predestined for damnation back when time began, don't complain to Jesus/God about it:
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory...Clearly there is no point in whining about being damned or in feeling special about being saved - it 's all just Jesus's irresistable will being worked out in either case. Jesus makes some human vessels all pretty intending to put them on an eternal shelf, and other human vessels he made ugly just so that he can smash them and thereby demonstrate his awesome power.
This leads to an irresistible vision of God, that supposedly omnipotent omniscient omnibenificent creator of the Cosmos as a twelve-year old boy in the back yard, playing G.I. Joe versus Cobra, making the Joe dolls4 and the Cobra dolls fight, picking winners and losers, Joe in the right hand, Cobra in the left hand, bam, kapow. When he gets bored collects all of the dolls he likes best - which may well include some of the really cool Cobra dolls, God likes what God likes and no doll is gonna call him on it - and lines them up to have a victory celebration with him. All the rest he douses with gasoline, sticks a bunch of firecrackers and wreaks other various insults onto their persons, dumps them onto the backyard grill and lights them on fire just to watch them blow up5.
This is a sorry example of morality, one where even my writing of these words isn't an expression of my own thoughts or free will, it is merely me being a faithful lump of clay. Even if Jesus really was an actual person (there is some doubt brought about by a complete lack of contemporaneous corroborative evidence outside of the obviously biased third-hand and repeatedly redacted manuscript evidence of the Gospels themselves and a single offhand line in Josephus that could easily have been an insertion due to e.g. Eusebius) and really is God, he or his contemporary followers can hardly blame me for being deluded by the ``lie'' of a complete lack of evidence and the theorem proven later in this paper - I'm doing what he created me to do, ``he hardeneth'' my beliefs through the direct action of his will!
The Old Testament, common to all of these faiths, is morally just plain terrible. Numbers 21, for example, portrays the extermination and looting of the Amorites by Moses (who was, recall, a good man - a Saint and Patriarch of all Abrahamic faiths) just because they quite reasonably objected to giving the Israelites free passage across their land. What would happen to me if I wanted to walk across my neighbor's yard (even for a good reason) and my neighbor said no, and my response was to get out a shotgun and blow him away and steal his house and everything in it? Would I, too, become a Saint and Patriarch in the eyes of the world? Numbers 31 is even more horrific, portraying genocide, homocide, infanticide, robbery, and the slavery and inevitable rape of virgin female slaves by their soldier-captors on a grand scale as being commanded by God through his mouthpiece, Moses and carried out by the land- and loot-hungry soldiers of the Israelites.
It is very difficult to perform the mental gymnastics required to somehow transform any of these into perfectly good actions, moral examples that we should emulate (although nothing is beyond an apologist in any of these faiths who holds the Bible, or the Quran, to be inerrant - there is no scriptural law, commandment, or event so wicked and base on the surface that they cannot transform into fool's gold using the philosopher's stone of ``perfect faith'' and inverted reasoning). At the very least even those apologists eventually must agree that we now hold all of these things to be highly immoral, and when modern armies conduct a war in this way - as they have, and continue to do - we call them cruel, wicked and evil. It is difficult to accept as exemplary morality any text that portrays slaughtering babies by spitting them on swords in front of their dying mothers as a good thing, and yet this sort of thing is commonplace in many of the theistic scriptural myths and legends that persist today as the basis of modern religions.
For many people, these inconsistencies are enough to demonstrate that at the very least, documents such as the Bible are not perfect truth or exemplary morality and that we consequently cannot study them and ``interpret'' them as if they are6. Instead of being ``divinely inspired'', they are simply documents written by men, filled with myths, legends, stories, lies, and all the other imperfect desiderata of the human condition, corrupted by thousands of years of manuscript transmission and redaction, and we have to use reason and a moral sense derived independent of the theistic scriptures in order to judge those scriptures and separate out the real gold from all of the dross. However, even such a skeptical view of the scriptures admits a narrow window of possibility that their basic portrayal of God, however distorted by the authors and oral transmitters and manuscript recopyists and redactors deliberate and accidental over the centuries and millennia since their inception, is essentially accurate.
In particular, the lack of a single actual constructive theorem concerning God leaves open a window of possibility that it isn't actually impossible for your choice of scriptural theism to be basically correct even though perhaps the transmission of this essential truth has been corrupted by recording errors or errors in transmission, the incorporation of various myths, parts that we should accept as figurative, not literal truth. Leaving aside the obvious difficulty with this - if God at one time took the trouble to transmit perfect truths to the ancients back when writing was still brand new, it seems odd that God wouldn't take the trouble to somehow ensure its accurate recording and perfect retransmission over the ages or better yet, arrange a recommunication of His tenets in modern times where we have the ability to perfectly record and test the event and message - it is certainly the case that because they cannot be logically proven to be incorrect, a large class of the citizens of the world continue to hold to them.
Most do so by rejecting instead the principles and conclusions of science when they conflict with the divine pronouncements of the theisms, but many otherwise rational people hold onto them by ``juggling'' science and theistic belief in their minds. For example, even the Catholic Church now acknowledges that Genesis is poetry and myth, that it does not describe the actual physical process whereby the world of our experience came to be as it is. It formally accepts the experimental evidence for the Big Bang and that we evolved through a process of reproduction with mutation plus natural selection, as revealed by the radiometrically dated, consistent, fossil record and with genetic studies of modern species that are entirely consistent with this process and are highly explanatory.
The Catholic Church is therefore at this point a heresy by its own prior standards, standards that persisted over nearly two thousand years, standards that would have the current Pope a de facto excommunicant of the Pope of a hundred years ago. For most of the history of the Christian church, modern Christians would have been imprisoned, hung, burned at the stake, tortured, or exiled and ostracized for rejecting Genesis and its stories of the direct creation of the Universe over six days culminating in Adam and Eve in Eden, the literal truth of the Temptation, the doctrine of Original Sin, the myth of the Flood, and all the other nonsense - with the full participation and agreement of the Christian church of those times. Those who think otherwise are encourage to study Saint Bellarmine's infamous letter to Galileo and the details of his prosecution and conviction, his forced recanting and withdrawal of his works, and his house arrest for the rest of his life as an alternative to being tortured and burned alive after being excommunicated - and this for the ``sin'' of doubting the literal truth of the Biblical passages which clearly state that the sun goes around the earth and not the other way around.
By that standard, the most vehement Biblical literalist is a heretic today, because Galileo turned out to be correct and everybody knows it.
All but the most superstitious members in the rank and file or top hierarchy of the principle Abrahamic theisms now de facto or de jure acknowledge that the Bible is not perfect truth and can be doubted, since ``doubt'' in the Book of Genesis and geocentric Biblical cosmology has long since proceded to certainty beyond any reasonable doubt that it is false. These globally dominant theisms have opted to accept the conclusions of reason (at least where they are more or less forced to by the tremendous power of scientific truth inferred from actual evidence instead of divine revelation) instead of rejecting reason itself where it conflicts with the Bible. This is to be applauded as a very good first step. They have formally recognized that if a scripture-based religion is to be accepted somehow as perfect truth, it helps not to incorporate and stand by scriptural claims that any six year old in modern society who hasn't been brainwashed by overzealous theistic parents could tell you are lies and myths. One trip to one good museum of natural history, one week spent watching the science or discovery or comedy or history channels is all it takes.
However, instead of performing the obvious next step of doubting the divine origin and supernatural claims of all of the Old Testament, all of the divine claims of the New Testament (where its credibility is substantially diminished by the known falsehoods in the Old Testament - Jesus, for example, is portrayed as explicitly believing that the Flood myth is true, hardly possible for God incarnate and in possession of preternatural knowledge of all things), all of the divine claims of the Quran or the Book of Mormon and inevitably dissolving these theistic religions on the basis that - given their miserable track record where their claims can be checked - they are all rather dubious and unlikely to be true where they cannot so easily be checked, the Abrahamic faiths have fallen back onto a smaller set of ``perfect truths'' that are still held to be divinely inspired, ones that it presumes will not be so easily contradicted by reason or the historical process. They have opted for a process of gradual decretion as science and history and reason nibble away on the edges of this ``reduced'' scripture, betting that the process will leave it with an unassaible core within which its essential assertions of a (possibly triune) creator of the Universe that communicated some revelations by means of divine inspiration or angelic intervention are safe, so that the ``light'' of these reduced scriptures can continue to shine through the window of at least possibility, if not probability, a gap that can continue to be bridged by faith7. In particular, the Old Testament is now widely viewed as being shaky and difficult to defend (although it is still there to be cherrypicked at will, or for its prophecies and historical statements to be ``interpreted'' as needed). Still, all or part of the New Testament, the Quran, the Book of Mormon are (for these religions) still divinely inspired perfect truth.
This window is now closed. The theorem proven below is completely inconsistent with the Abrahamic theisms. Of course, this theorem (even if widely accepted as being derived in a valid way from axioms that are accepted as true) won't make them all disappear overnight, and perhaps it shouldn't. As critics of this work will no doubt be quick to point out, the very same theisms that have wrought and continue to wreak much evil - usually by defending their indefensible core scripture with fire and sword, by defending their own considerable secular power, by looting much wealth from the pockets of their ``believers'' for wicked and self-serving purposes - have also contributed much good. For good and for ill, theisms manifestly supply a human need and there is evidence that there are brain structures associated with ``religious feeling''. Religious theism provides a framework for much of that which makes us human, and most religions have at least part of their morality in common and in common with the secular morality that has emerged in countries like the United States, not from divine revelation but from a well-reasoned attempt to build a safe and equitable society.
The world's biggest problem all along has been the lack of critical thinking where religions are concerned. Only a handful of religions, notably the Quakers and Universalists in the United States, reject scriptural theism itself while retaining belief in a vision of God that is rather consistent with the theorem proven below, calling on humans to use their reason and listen to their own heart rather than take as ``truth'' the dusty and wicked stories told in ancient epics and continually rewritten not to glorify God or seek ``the good'', but to solidify the degree of control they exert over their adherents. These ``reasonable'' religions still provide a meeting place where marrying and burying can occur, where neighbors can meet in fellowship, where people can get together and learn from each other what is the good and what is the bad and to do good things. Once the bad in scriptural theism is rejected on logical and reasonable grounds (which will include nearly the whole ball of wax, for most of the world's scriptural theisms) it opens the door for human society to deliberately construct a religious view that does not directly contradict natural science or rely on any sort of scripture, one with an ethical basis and fundamental beliefs concerning the origin and nature of the Universe that can be shared by the purely secular atheist and those that continue to believe in God without any serious conflict.
When something is true it is true for reasons other than ``it was written'', especially when it was written long ago. Most of what was written long ago is openly false. We know this. The writers of that time lacked the tools we now use to objectively and systematically determine probable truth. There is no reason to accord ``the ancients'' any degree of unreasonable respect, as the best of them - men like Plato, Buddha, Jesus - were just men, men raised in superstitious times and lacking even one tenth of the knowledge we now possess to fuel their reason and hence their conclusions. Nobody should be surprised that they often turn out to be wrong.
Nothing humans accept as ``truth'' should ever be so accepted on the basis of authority. It should be completely defensible, defensible in such a way that no two humans of good will can examine the same arguments and evidence and arrive at different conclusions. It is one of the saddest aspects of human existence that theistic religions are fundamentally characterized by precisely these two stigmata - they must be accepted solely on the basis of scriptural authority and it is impossible for any two humans of good will to examine the arguments and evidence of scripture and the real world and arrive at the same conclusions.
For this reason, I openly invite the debate of this theorem. Although one or two of its premises are a bit technical - not everybody has even heard of information theory even as much of the functionality of their brains and computers are directly derivable from its premises, even though the theory of statistical mechanics in physics is derivable from its premises, even though it has been shown by E. T. Jaynes and others (including my own work in progress) that it is the fundamental basis of the theory of human knowledge - the proof itself is so very simple, really, that I believe that it is rather accessible and will stand up in a way that ontological proofs and so on in the past have not. Each person who learns of this document, retrieves it from the sites where it is freely distributed or purchases the inexpensive monograph, and then reads it will have to decide for themselves whether or not it is correct, and if they conclude that it really must be true, they will have to adjust their own religious beliefs accordingly and (one hopes) spread the word. There is nothing below that needs to be taken on faith, nothing below that requires validation by evidence, nothing below that should be accepted on the basis of authority.
To those who wish to reject this theorem, especially those who wish to reject it because it contradicts the scriptural authority of the theism they have been brought up with, I have only one request. Try to find a flaw in the reason, and engage in the debate using words and reason. Try not to get angry and issue fatwahs, religious edicts, excommunications, try not to become violent and hurt people as your worldview is knocked topsy and turvy. All I suggest is that you believe in a consistent view of God if you wish to believe in God at at all, and reject inconsistent theisms as being impossible. Jihad (struggle) solves nothing, unless it is the struggle of each of us with our own ignorance as we use reason to make sense of the world in which we live.
If there is a source of real evil in the human world, it isn't storms and earthquakes, death and disease. Those are all just aspects of the natural world, both moderately inevitable (to the extent that they cannot be avoided or ameliorated using reason); they have happened in the past and are to be expected to happen in the future quite independent of the morality or immorality of our actions. Prophecying them, interpreting them as a punishment of Deity inflicted on the guilty and innocent alike is as pointless as prophecying that the sun will rise tomorrow. Natural events are impersonal and hence not evil at all.
No, the real source of the evil we do to one another is unreason. It is the many horrific acts and horrible distortions of life and social interaction brought about by different fundamental religious worldviews that are rotten at the core, not only unreasonable but impossible in a way that goes beyond opinion, in a way that doesn't merely rely on our inability to prove them false in order to give them credence as being plausibly true. None of them make sense; all of them have many adherents who are fully prepared to defend their senselessness to the death by violent or socially coercive means.
Think about that as you try to decide how to act as you learn one very important contingent truth about the nature of God below.