--Person sitting behind me at a BYU concert
I have a feeling this one might get a little heavy, so let's start light. Here is Mr. Deity and the Promised Land:
Several months ago, back before Netflix totally screwed up their DVD policy, I watched a BBC film called "God on Trial." Set during the Holocaust, a group of Jews in Auschwitz awaits execution and discusses the nature of their covenant with god, as his chosen people. A lengthy debate about the Exodus and Moses, and taking over the Promised Land, ensues; ultimately deciding that god has failed to uphold his end of the agreement. It was interesting to see a Jewish perspective on the Exodus. Over the years I have heard many different rationalizations attempting to validate the genocide of the Canaanites by the Jews, ranging from, "the Canaanites had it coming," to "god was testing the Jews' loyalty." An emphasis is usually placed on context, as if there exists a context which could possibly make genocide OK.
I think it is safe to say that if such a grotesque act of war were to take place today, we would do everything we could to stop it. Oh wait, that is exactly what happened during WWII as the Nazis attempted to take over Europe, and kill all the Jews in the process. This is one of the more poignant points made in "God on Trial," as one of the men postulates that the Holocaust they are experiencing is justice for all the tribes they wiped out. Sometimes irony kills your family.
Now, I'm not saying the Jews deserved the Holocaust--far from it. In fact, there is good evidence that the story of Moses and the Exodus never happened. Besides, Hitler said many times that the Jews deserved to die because they killed Jesus. And I don't feel that the "sins of the fathers carry on to the sons." If this were the case, then I would be morally responsible for the deaths of many slaves and Native Americans during the 1700's. No, this is absurd. But one has to ask oneself, whether the stories of the Exodus, in light of the subsequent Holocaust, make more sense as being literally true, as Mormons and many fundamentalist Christians profess, or that the whole thing is just a fantastic legend or myth passed down many generations from a primitive, ignorant tribe of marauding Bronze-Age Palestinians?
C.S. Lewis once said ("Mere Christianity") that Jesus Christ must be either a lunatic, a liar or the Lord. Matt Dillahunty from the Atheist Experience added a fourth option: Legend. One of the tried and true methods of getting people to remember important stories is through embellishment, making them more interesting and memorable (Ya know, like Robin Hood). Having left the Mormon church, I have reconsidered my entire world view, and I am no longer convinced that the stories in the Bible or the Book of Mormon are true. They make more sense, rather, as fables and traditions.
Is it more likely that god actually gave the Israelites Manna from Heaven, or that it is a myth of some Jewish ancestors? Is Jesus more like Daniel Boone or Paul Bunyan? How does a believing Christian deal with the competing creation myths of the Hindus or Native Americans? How can you say that the stories in the Bible are more true than the Odyssey, if they are equally over the top and lack any evidence whatsoever? How does faith justify believing absurdities?