[This is the first post in a series comparing the Gospel Hypothesis with the Myth Hypothesis in the light of Occam’s Razor.]
One of the reasons apologetics does so well with a lot of people is because skeptics try to prove that religion is wrong. In other words, the issue focuses on a binary question regarding religion: is it true or is it false? So long as believers can come up with an answer—any answer—to skeptical objections, they will feel justified in continuing to believe regardless of the evidence. And because humans are so good at rationalization, there will always be some answer.
Instead of focusing on the question of whether religion is flat out wrong, we want to take a comparative approach, demonstrating that, even if someone thinks they have good reasons for believing in religion, there are even better reasons for believing that religion is a myth. This makes the apologist’s job more difficult, because then it’s not enough to think up some random, unverifiable rationalization. In fact, random, unverifiable rationalizations may even begin to hurt the case for religion, by highlighting the fact that skepticism doesn’t need them.
With that in mind, let’s begin. The first point I want to consider is the nature of revelation concerning God. If there is a loving, divine Heavenly Father who is all-good, all-knowing, all-wise and all-powerful, then the most immediate and obvious consequence of His nature and His goals is that He’s going to reveal Himself by showing up in person and spending time with us, working with us and teaching us all the things He wants us to know. That’s what any loving father would want to do, so we know God would have the desire to be here, and He’s all-wise and all-powerful, so we know He has the ability to be here. Plus, faith is a quality that grows out of a long relationship of personal interaction, so God’s presence among us would be necessary in order for Him to save us through faith.
In contrast with the Gospel Hypothesis, the Myth Hypothesis implies that God will not be able to show up in real life, for the obvious reason that He does not exist. Any revelation about God, therefore, will have to occur by means of stories told by people. Granted, people could tell stories about God showing up in real life, but we won’t be able to actually see any of those stories taking place. Our only access to information regarding God is going to be people. Even if we rely on our own superstitions, giving God credit for creation and other natural phenomena, we’re still obtaining information about God from people, since we’re people too. So the immediate consequence of the Myth Hypothesis being true would be that all revelation concerning God would come to us through stories people tell us. God is not real, and therefore He cannot reveal Himself to us by showing up in real life.
The real world evidence, obviously, is immediately consistent with the consequences implied by the Myth Hypothesis, and is starkly inconsistent with the consequences implied by the Gospel Hypothesis. Of course, that’s no secret. Believers have known for centuries that their God does not show up in real life, and that our only access to information about God is through stories told by men. There have been all kinds of additional theories proposed to try and explain why God does not show up. But only the Gospel Hypothesis needs these supplemental supports. The Myth Hypothesis fits the facts right out of the box.
The Gospel Hypothesis suffers from the additional problem that each rationalization for why God does not show up only creates additional problems. Any time you explain why God cannot or should not show up for us, you’ve produced a reason why He could not and should not appear to the apostles and prophets as well. And conversely, in order to explain how God could be willing and able to appear in real life to Moses and company, you have to invent a God would would be willing and able to appear to us as well. When your story is inconsistent with reality, trying to rationalize away the inconsistency only creates more inconsistencies!
So yes, absolutely, you can think up all kinds of excuses for why a loving, almighty Father would consistently fail to behave the way He ought to behave if the Gospel Hypothesis were true. But the Myth Hypothesis is still going to be better, because the more excuses you pile on to the Gospel Hypothesis, the more striking it is that the Myth Hypothesis fits the facts without them. The Gospel Hypothesis may create a more pleasing and/or attractive story (to some people), but the true story is a lot simpler.