The Chinese culture has many phrases and sayings. The term for these phrases is called "chengyu" and the Chinese have about 5000 of them. Americans also use phrases, or expressions, to help describe an action (Point of no Return, Burning Bridges). One of my favorite Chinese chengyus is "Three men make a tiger". Below is the Wikipedia description of its origin:
The proverb came from the story of an alleged speech by Pang Cong (龐蔥), an official of the state of Wei in the Warring States Period (475 BC – 221 BC) in Chinese History. According to the Warring States Records, or Zhan Guo Ce, before he left on a trip to the state of Zhao, Pang Cong asked the King of Wei whether he would hypothetically believe in one civilian's report that a tiger was roaming the markets in the capital city, to which the King replied no. Pang Cong asked what the King thought if two people reported the same thing, and the King said he would begin to wonder. Pang Cong then asked, "what if three people all claimed to have seen a tiger?" The King replied that he would believe in it. Pang Cong reminded the King that the notion of a live tiger in a crowded market was absurd, yet when repeated by numerous people, it seemed real. As a high-ranking official, Pang Cong had more than three opponents and critics; naturally, he urged the King to pay no attention to those who would spread rumors about him while he was away. "I understand," the King replied, and Pang Cong left for Zhao. Yet, slanderous talk took place. When Pang Cong returned to Wei, the King indeed stopped seeing him.
What I love about this expression is its applicable value to a discussion with believers. Most modern day religions have "prophets", or people that were specially selected by God for him to reveal himself to. This is particularly useful when speaking to believers of these religions. It actually makes for a simplistic, peaceful and rather humorous exchange of words. We can preface the conversation by introducing Thomas Paine's take on religious revelations in Age of Reason. Paine wrote:
"But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it."
The Jewish religion teaches us that god revealed himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and then Moses delivered the 10 commandments in the ABSENCE of god. Of course, the second, third, and fourth people who Paine refers to (in the case of Moses is was many), it is pure heresy.
The Muslims have Mohamed, who orally received the Holy Koran from an angel called Gabriel. Mohamed claimed to receive this word with no other witnesses and relied on the recitation of the Koran using the last 23 years of his life convincing people through second, third and fourth person heresy.
Now the Christians have Jesus, who was written about some 80 years after his death by several people. There isn't one document or first hand testimony of his existence or words spoken while he was alive. The great Jewish biblical philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who lived at the time of Jesus, never wrote one word about him in 30 manuscripts covering over 800,000 words.
I think it rather appropriate, knowing some of these facts, to bring this all to the application of argument with believers.
They say God revealed himself and delivered the 10 commandments to Moses?
I say "Three men make a tiger".
They say God revealed the Holy Koran through Gabriel the angel to Mohamed?
I say "Three men make a tiger"
They say Jesus was the son of God and died for our sins?
I say "Three men make a tiger"
It will be rather predictable, despite this new knowledge and application of a wonderful old Chinese chengyu that believers will no doubt treat us as the King of Wei did Pang Cong by ignoring our warnings and keep on believing in that tiger.