Thursday, March 10, 2011

Revelation versus "pulled out of your b*tttt"

Many religious people speak of God "revealing" things to them, perhaps in a dream, or just as a thought. The rest of us just call this thinking, but, in the highly religious mind, these are email style messages beamed directly to them by the creator of the universe.

However, the question arises of how we are tell the difference between a legitimate "revelation" and just random crazy thoughts. After all, we've all had weird dreams. If we took every dream we've ever had seriously as a direct message by God then the world would be even stranger than it is already by at least an order of magnitude (10 times for non-mathies).

Seriously, though. How can you know the difference between something that is truly a divine revelation versus a "brain fart". Furthermore, have many of the so-called revelations, such as the elaborate one recorded in the Book of Revelation (attributed to John of Patmos), been subjected to rigorous standards, so that we can filter the divine nuggets from the proverbial flatulence?

I think the answer is far from an unequivocal "yes", which is unfortunate. People often accept their alleged "revelations" rather uncritically, it seems, and take them at face value. Many Christians, as witnessed by the popularity of the _Left Behind_ series, believe that the Revelation of John is a literal road map to predicting events thousands of years from the date it was originally written (aka today).

Similarly, when many other religious leaders have some off-the-wall idea, they have no way of separating this from divine revelation. Now, I know some people will claim that they "pray about it", but that is using the same suspect process, because the "answer" to prayers is more "revelations".

Some might say that the details of the revelation itself can be tested. However, as we can see, there is little in the Revelation of John which could be "tested", since it is allegedly predicting events that are supposed to happen thousands of years from the date it was written. Of course, it doesn't disclose that fact, so people throughout the past few thousand years have often thought that it was describing events that were happening in their own time.

In other words, many revelations are not specific enough to test, especially when they may not specify even the ballpark time in which they occur. For this reason, we must be careful reliance on "revelation". It is inherently subjective and even otherwise good people can have all kinds of bizarre dreams and brain farts, which could be declared "revelations" if one is so inclined to label them that way.

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