Arguments against the idea of revelation

Below are some types of experience which believers might see as revealing something of God, but which non-religious people would readily explain without reference to God.

General (or indirect) revelation

The natural world – the beauty and complexity of the natural world can be explained by science. They do not reveal God or His work.

Conscience – an inner feeling we have about right and wrong has not been placed there by God, but taught to us by parents and others when we are young.

Goodness – people do good deeds because they are good people, not necessarily because they are inspired by God. Many good people are non-religious.

Morality – there are many ways to explain moral behaviour without recourse to revelation, including the fact that people need to cooperate in order for society to survive.

Scriptures – to the non-religious scriptures were written by people, usually long ago. They do not reveal things about God, but about what those ancient writers believed.

Special (or direct) revelation

Dreams and visions – we all have dreams and dream-like experiences, and science and psychology can at least partially explain these phenomena. Just because we can’t yet fully explain them doesn’t mean they are revelations of God.

Miracles – miraculous events are by definition ones which cannot be proved to have happened. If there were any hard factual evidence for them, they wouldn’t be miracles but problems for science to solve. Non-believers argue that if we can’t even know they happened, we certainly can’t know they are revelations of God.

Prophecies – like any predictions, prophecies may or may not come true. If they come true, they must have been possible and they reveal more about the mathematical laws of probability than they do of God.

Human conscience and reason

The concept of conscience and reason can cause problems for Christians. They may be unsure how to interpret the voice of God. They may also doubt whether their sense of reason is given by God, or is something humans have acquired or developed. Some Christians may question God’s nature when fellow believers understand Him in so many different ways.

The concept of conscience and reason can also cause problems for Muslims. They may be unsure how to interpret the will of Allah, or whether the will of Allah is even being revealed through conscience and reason. Some Muslims may doubt the exact nature of Allah’s will when there are different beliefs about the Sunnah and the importance of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings.

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