This is the first in a series refuting some of the bad...yet still common...arguments in support of a personal god.
Argument: The Bible is the most popular book in history, therefore it must be true.
This isn't an argument for truth, but rather an argument for popularity. The most common number I have seen is that there have been around 5-6 billion bibles printed [ref] [ref]. This would, easily, make it the most reproduced book of all time. One thought that immediately comes to mind is "How do they know that?" Well, the truth is they don't know that with any real precision. There was never any formal census of publishers to get an accurate count of such a thing. Still; I am willing to go with that oft-repeated estimate. Christianity is the most popular religion and some version (more on that later) of the Bible is pretty much standard issue for Christians since the advent of broad literacy and movable type...6,000,000,000 it is then.
It should be obvious to the casual observer (but obviously isn't) that mere popularity does not infer any higher truth. The number two book in history is Mao Tse-tung's Red Book (aka Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung). Like Christianity; Mao had an obedient captive audience that made ownership of his musings on communist ideology required. Does the popularity of The Red Book mean that communism is a truer form of governance? Is the Toyota Corolla a divine form of automobile? Is a McDonald's hamburger a more inspired form of sandwich? Of course the answer to those examples is a resounding "No!"...and I shan't bore you with saying why the answer is "no". If it needs explaining, then you need a serious intellectual intervention...and you can't get it on a blog post.
Moreover; there are many versions of the bible and they do not all differ merely from translation biases [ref]. Even the Ten Commandments...something ostensibly chiseled in stone by God himself...varies in content [ref] in important ways. Most importantly; the interpretations of those bibles is all over the map...even when using the same version. It would seem to me that, if a book were genuinely divine, then there would be only one consistent interpretation regardless of how it were translated.
But maybe the bible isn't the most popular book....
Think about all the basic mathematics textbooks that have every been printed. Effectively; every person in the world getting a formal education from the 1500's to present made use of a math textbook. [of course early on not every student had their own textbook, but populations were small and wouldn't skew the number too badly]. Let us consider the printing of myriad versions of math texts analogous to the printing of the various derivations of the bible. I would estimate that there have been 7,000,000,000 algebra texts printed ... because I can invoke my own unsourced number to compete with the unsourced 6,000,000,000 of the bible.
Even if I pulled my number from an orifice on my lower torso [I did], it is not insignificant that, while there are far more versions of math texts, there is only one interpretation of their content. If we are looking for a yardstick for determining truth; I would submit that there is far more truth in any math textbook than there is in any version of the Bible.
Next time: "Why is there something instead of nothing?"