"Thus saith the LORD" is a frequent refrain encountered in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The Jews' Torah and Tanakh tells the same story in Hebrew. The thing is, though, that since the earliest primitive religions were recorded, not once has God ever spoken out of his very own Divine mouth for us to hear, it is always men who presume to speak the words of God.
Not all believers in God are mentally ill. But these primitive, self-proclaimed, prophets of God were likely one of two types. (1) Either they were mad, apocalyptic fundamentalist lunatics, who actually believed they were speaking God's words, or (2), some of them knew exactly what they were doing, and pretended to speak for God in order to spiritually and consequently subjugate the people and bend them to their will. Whether a prophet was of the first or second type, his followers were blindly willing to obey his every word without question or hesitation because they believed he spoke the very words of their God.
Whether the prophet was of the first or second type, mad lunatic, or master manipulator, the God they presumed to speak for invariably hated the same peoples and practices that the prophet himself hated. This only strengthens the case against God and consequently strengthens the atheist position. God has never spoken in his own voice, which if a God existed, he could easily do, and in the language of every human on earth simultaneously. These prophets only believed themselves to speak for God or pretended to.
There is no empirical evidence that any supernatural Supreme Being exists. Physicists have several good theories that show that the universe can be timeless and uncreated, none of which violate any known laws of nature or physics. This also strengthens the atheist position, and establishes the likely non-existence of God. And while not all believers are mentally ill, they have foregone the use of their reason, and have been duped into believing the words of the mentally ill and manipulators.

 

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Comment by Michael Penn on April 15, 2013 at 10:44am

As a younger man I heard voices call my name sometimes. To understand this you have to ask did anyone ever call your name? It's not an exclusive name and others may have that name also. It's like hearing your telephone ring and thinking "this has happened before." (I'm sure it did.  LOL) I was working on my car one time and someone called my name, but maybe it was a voice from TV or some other person. In later life I was in church and the minister did a sermon about "God calling your name." Many people were crying their wonderful "tears of joy." Today I think it's all insanity. People make something supernatural out of something that can be explained away.

Comment by Matt Skaggs on April 15, 2013 at 9:44am

I suspect that Jesus did live, but the accounts of him in the Bible are hardly trustworthy. However, I believe Lewis was arguing his point from the assumption that the Bible is historically trustworthy. (Settings aside the absurdity of that claim, his "trilemma" seems to hold true.)

I'd like to be corrected on this point if I'm wrong (it's been a long time since I read Mere Christianity), but I think Lewis argued that Jesus couldn't have been insane because of the rationality of much of his teachings (even we have to agree that many of his insights are profound, even if they're not original to him), the depth of meaning found in his parables, and so on. Again, this is assuming the accuracy of the gospels.

Jesus could have been purposefully fooling people, but I'm not sure there's a way to know for certain, even if, for argument's sake, you temporarily grant the accuracy of the Bible. But history is filled with people who were clearly mentally ill and yet highly effective leaders and intellectuals. Obviously one of the most recent examples is Hitler. A supremely evil man with supremely effective rhetorical skills and a mind-boggling degree of delusions of grandeur. Other less offensive examples include Pythagoras and Tesla, who clearly suffered from mental disorders of one kind or another.

A leader's effectiveness is independent of being sane, or mentally fit in nearly any way. Maybe Jesus never existed. Maybe he did and he was just a really great guy whose message has been horribly twisted. And maybe he was a total nutcase who thought he was the divine son of God (the accusation that the Bible claims the Jews used when pursuing capital punishment). Or whatever. The idea that Jesus couldn't have been crazy is itself crazy. Mentally divergent people can still be effective leaders, good or evil.

Comment by Pat on April 15, 2013 at 8:52am

I also think Lewis' trilemma is a false choice, but for an entirely different reason.  Instead of using Jesus as an example, who's historicity is questionable, we can go with a more modern version - Joseph Smith of Mormonism. There is no doubt he existed, and as Anthony pointed out, his believers have been duped into accepting his rantings.

Smith may have been (if I may use the southern colloquialism) a bit "tetched in the head." However, he was not stupid.  Far from it. Prior to finding the golden plates, he was convicted in upstate NY for "glass seeing," or as we know it today, the fraudulent sale of maps to ancient Indian treasure mounds.  I suspect he figured that if he can dupe a few willing suckers out of their money for earthly greed, imagine what he could get out of them for eternal greed and fear of death. I think it's a combination of a mental condition coupled with a desire to control and manipulate people for one's personal fun and profit. Think of the charismatic dictators who blinded populations of entire nations into believing their rants were the path to nationalistic glory, only to later learn it was the path to total destruction.

And, while such a person doesn't necessarily have to rely on one or more gods to control the masses, e.g. Stalin and Mao, the religious based model of praise, worship, symbolism, cult of personality, and complete blinding, fanatical devotion seems to be the best model yet to get the job done.

Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on April 14, 2013 at 7:19pm

Le surnaturel n'existe pas. Il ya beaucoup gens fous dans le monde.

Comment by Loren Miller on April 14, 2013 at 6:47pm

Lewis' trilemma remains a false choice, because the one option he either refuses to acknowledge or is unwilling to face is, to my mind, the single most likely:

Jesus was either a gross exaggeration based on some Jewish rabbi who lived in that time, or an invention out of whole cloth who never existed in the flesh at all.  The liars and lunatics are those who promoted this hyperbole because it got them attention, profit or both.

They say that when a story or a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.  Q.E.D.

Comment by Matt Skaggs on April 14, 2013 at 6:03pm

Good observations. Reminds me of C.S. Lewis's "trilemma": Jesus must have been a lunatic, a liar, or actually God. I have no problem thinking he was a lunatic, though the poor trustworthiness of the gospels makes it impossible to be certain.

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