First, a slightly innocent observation. Is it too easy to notice that when you start quoting this fact or that, or even this study or that, that the religious employ a knee-jerk reaction–and almost before they think about it–and say defensively “…you just read that in some book!”. As if this somehow clinched the matter entirely. I don’t think I have to go any further with this observation.
I’ve been reading some Paine lately. I’ve heard people quote Paine and many atheists who have read his writings have always stressed that he was a great writer. After reading his book, Age of Reason, I have to say, I was far more impressed than I had expected. Here is a man who lived some 200 years ago that wrote one of the most no-holds-barred, courageous eviscerations of holy writ I have yet read. The case for scriptural authority was so demolished and the devastation so complete that I don’t possibly see how Christianity survived it.
One of the points Paine made was about revelation. The point has been made by others in a different way since; either the word of God on matters is either final or not, doctrine is either eternal or it isn’t. Paine put it in these terms; no revelation can be given to a selected person who passes it on to the rest of the people. If the revelation is only to one person; everyone who is informed later is not hearing revelation. They are being given hearsay. It would have to be revealed to everyone simultaneously with no possibility of there ever being someone who could interpret anything differently. Looking slightly deeper into this problem, he makes a point so utterly damning as to be a shock to even myself, he issues the following point; no revelation set down by God can be in any human derived language. This simply wipes the floor with revealed religions one and all and leaves smoldering ash piles in the wake of it. A point that many fail to hit upon in discussions. Any revelation from a God must be in a language that has never been, nor ever could be, open to more than one interpretation. In other words, if Islam had truly been a revelation, there would never have been any need for Sunni or Shia Muslims. In turn, if Christian doctrine was the true revelation, there would be no Baptists or Mormons. There would be only Christians.
The language would not be human, it would be something constructed in such a way that would retain no ambiguity to future hearers of the revelation.