So far we have seen that some faiths are not consistent with their own central claims and others have few or inadequate answers to the most pressing questions of life.

In this post we continue to expose the weaknesses of certain faiths by again appealing to your own built in truth detector.

Guiding Principle #3: Credibility 

Commonsense Statement: Trust those who substantiate their claims with credible evidence. Mistrust those who make lavish claims contradicting what we can verify with evidence.

Life Illustration: Many people dread the process of buying a car. The anxiety level tends to rise when we step on a used car lot because many of us can’t tell the difference between a quality vehicle and a lemon. We have some apprehension that we might buy a car which was heavily abused or damaged but now looks fine. Fortunately there are tools available these days which can verify the car’s history- a CarFax or something similar. Through this verification system, we can ascertain pertinent information such as, how many owners the car previously had or whether the car was in an accident or had flood damage. When a car is flagged as water damaged, for example, you will obviously distrust any salesperson who tries to reassure you that the car really is in tip top shape. Rather you will trust the salesperson who allows you to gather all your facts, then steers you to a quality preowned vehicle. Credibility earns trust, and credibility is only earned as one follows evidence and facts.

Application to Faith: So too with the faiths of the world. Claims must be tested by what we can discover. Facts really do matter if reality is important to you. You should ask: Does the religion have any facts which demonstrate it is open and honest about their history, foundation, and claims? Or do they shove into the closet the evidence which refutes their teachings and history hoping you won’t open the door and peer in there? Fortunately we have ways of analyzing religions. We have archeology and historical documents which shed light on the past. We have a knowledge of how nature operates and the laws which govern it. There are laws of logic which must be followed. How do faiths stand up to scrutiny using this fact finders? Do they tell an accurate view of history or have they consistently distorted the evidence? Also have any of the faiths been able to predict the future? Do they have a record of proven predictions which have come true? Can they demonstrate anything supernatural?

An Egregious Example of Lack of Credibility

Mormonism

As I have mentioned before, much about a religion cannot be investigated because it makes claims beyond human senses and the scope of science which must be taken by faith. However an intelligent and informed faith will not jump on board if there is a boatload of tangible evidence against that faith. Contrary to the poor advice some dispense about religion, a faith, to be credible must stand up to investigation. If the religion is not credible concerning the facts we do know, how can we believe it when it speaks of invisible and untestable matters? We can’t, or at least, we shouldn’t.

This is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), known as the Mormons or Mormonism, fails miserably. Their failures are well documented and known outside of the church and its adherents. I won’t be able to produce all the evidence here against their claims or even most of it. It’s too voluminous and involves the investigation of their historic personages, documents etc… This would be a very time consuming and involved process. I’ll leave that to able scholars who have decimated the claims of early Mormonism by an investigation into the facts.

My aim here is merely to point out some of the major categories of unbelievable claims they have made and continue to make, then leave further investigation to you. My interest is not in demonizing the adherents to this faith, or to quibble over minor points of their religion. I realize religion is personal to many, and my aim is not to call into question anyone’s sincerity. Mormon people may have some admirable qualities. They may be talented or successful in various ways. This is not a critique of them, per se. For none of those considerations alone validate a religion. Kind, polite, and generous people can be found in all peoples and faiths to some degree.

Rather my aim is to steer you clear of misguided claims. It appears that those inside the church who promote the church’s teachings do not adequately and objectively wrestle with these false claims. Maybe some just don’t want to admit them. As I wrote before, it is hard to criticize other people’s cherished beliefs, but it must be done for your faith sake. Leaving people in deception is not loving or wise. Honestly one of the worst things you can do to people is deceive them when it comes to faith and God. So we are compelled by truth and love to expose these errors.

First, a little background …

Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith in the United States, in New York State in the early 1800s. As such it is a very new religion. Its credibility rises or falls with the credibility of its originator and his astonishing claims. Indeed his claims were astonishing!

For our purposes we do not need to investigate all Mormon claims, but we want to point out three major areas where Mormonism is clearly not credible. We choose these three because they are not peripheral matters. We purposely choose what is central and foundational to their religion. There may be other problems with Mormonism, but these three suffice to show that the entire superstructure of their religion fails the credibility test.

The first provably wrong claim is one of the central assertions of Joseph Smith. He explicitly claimed that the original teachings of the Bible have been lost and corrupted, and that all the Christian denominations, without exception, have lost the truth. Of course, with such a startling claim, he followed that up with the next claim: Only he was restoring the proper Scriptures and the true religion to mankind.

Consider the enormity of that claim by Joseph Smith. In all the world of religions based on the Bible, whether the numerous Protestant denominations, Catholicism, or the various Orthodox branches, without exception, lost the original message of Christianity and the Scriptures. None of them properly preserved the message of Jesus or the apostles, written or oral. Only he should be trusted with restoring them to mankind.

That would be a startling claim no matter who made it. Even if the greatest archeological scholar in the world or the greatest Bible manuscript scholar or the greatest professor of world history advanced a notion like this, he/she would be under heavy scrutiny from his/her academic peers. The burden of proof would be too heavy even for a consortium of highly acclaimed scholars to provide adequate evidence. This is so monumental a claim, it requires monumental evidence. How would anyone explain away the tangible Bible manuscript evidence contrary to their opinion? The whole world would be watching, analyzing, and debating their “finds.”

Another reason people would be naturally skeptical of his claims would be that this would seem to impune God’s character and abilities. What does this say about God’s inability to keep the true faith sustained for centuries prior to Joseph Smith? Why did God fail so miserably for so long, and what happened to all those poor souls who lived for centuries believing a Bible which was all a bunch of errors and distortions? Why didn’t God do more to preserve His book? Mormonism makes God seem like a failure.

To add to the lack of credibility, Smith himself was not a manuscript scholar or world history professor. He was an inexperienced, uninformed 19 year old, without any of those kinds of credentials. How is anyone supposed to take a claim from someone like that seriously? Yet you may be shocked to find out that the entire Mormon religion demands his claim to be true, for if they are not true, there is no reason even for the LDS church to exist. Its entire message is based on that claim. If that claim fails, the religion fails.

Not only was there not presented by Joseph Smith strong evidence to the contrary, no evidence at all was presented. It was just expected of people to trust him no matter what the evidence shows. Shame on those who expect our trust without any evidence. Worse still for his claim, strong evidence exists for the opposite.

The unique preservation of the New Testament documents is a perfect example of indisputable evidence against the claim of Joseph Smith. The NT’s preservation has been known in the scholarly world and in well-taught Christian universities for centuries. Fortunately this is not an area where anyone needs to exercise any faith. The evidence for their accurate preservation is tangible and widespread. It goes back to the beginning of the Christian movement in the first century A.D. The New Testament documents have been preserved from the first century A.D. in which they were written in an irrefutable way. Whether one is a devout Christian or a total Atheistic skeptic concerning Christ, the facts remain the facts.

The thousands of New Testament Greek manuscripts found in multiple locations all over the Mediterranean ancient world, starting from the year 125 A.D. with the John Ryland’s papyrus, is enough to completely invalidate this claim. In addition to these thousands of preserved early manuscripts, there are the translations of the New Testament into other languages from early centuries (such as the Peshitta into Syriac in the second century and for the OT the Aramaic Targums translated while Israel was in exile in Babylon) showing the NT was not changed. Either of these first two strands of evidence is enough to refute Joseph Smith’s claim. But there is even more evidence. The church fathers (writers who lived after the apostles) also quoted from the NT from the first century forward. It has been estimate that you could reproduce virtually the entire NT from the quotes of these writings. Any of these three facts are sufficient to refute Joseph Smith’s claim that the NT message was changed. This evidence proves his claim was false. Since his claim is false, the Mormon church is based on a huge – indeed colossal – error.

No other evidence needs to be presented to prove the lack of credibility to this religion. However there is more strong evidence against it.

Second is the story of how Joseph Smith came to be the person who was chosen to bring back this true religion. He not only had to claim all the other religions got it wrong, he had to restore the correct message. This he claimed to do. How did he accomplish it? By claiming God the Father and Jesus visited him in the backwoods of New York. Then he was supposedly visited by an angel named Moroni who was actually a human being in times past – an ancient Nephite warrior, as he called him. Moroni supposedly visited him in 1823 to show Joseph some secret golden tablets which no one else got to see. These tablets, now translated from an unknown ancient language, told him what actually happened in times past. No one else saw the vision.

Does this sound fishy? It certainly sounds very secretive. Then, later only a few of his close companions supposedly saw the golden tablets which then disappeared and were taken back to heaven. That story too is suspect just in the claim. How is one to trust it? Adding to this is the questionable character of Joseph Smith and his family. According to some reports, integrity was not their reputation in the counties around where he lived and grew up. Much has been written to expose the storytelling and other questionable character that was well known in their neck of the woods. This evidence is not slander but substantiated with records.

To illustrate the immense amount of incredulity this story demands of us, imagine a 19 year old boy today emerging from the backwoods of – let’s say – Alaska claiming all the world’s religions and denominations before him, including Mormonism, got the story of Jesus wrong and only he could be trusted to restore it. Would you believe him outright or would you want strong evidence first? If credibility matters to you, and it should, you would not believe him until a full accounting, or at least a strong explanation, could be given. You would test his claim anyway you knew how. Given the highly secretive nature of his claims along with the demonstrably false claim that the original Christian message was lost through the ages, this claim already does not pass the smell test. There is something fishy about a man who claims to have seen something as important as he had seen without providing any evidence to the outside world.

Many have endeavored to give the boy the benefit of the doubt and see if his story was consistent with itself. Under scrutiny what many have uncovered and written has shown several inconsistencies. The account of how Joseph carried the golden tablets given their heavy weight is questioned. The account of whether he was telling stories about what was on the tablets as a young man before seeing the tablets leads to more discredit. Smith was supposedly informed by the angel Moroni that he had buried these important gold plates some fourteen centuries prior to Joseph Smith’s life, not too far from their farm in Palmyra, New York. These tablets got translated into the book of Mormon telling all about ancient civilizations in the Americas. So the golden plates account is essential to prove Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God. Without the story there is no book of Mormon and no Mormon religion.

There is more evidence against the character of Joseph Smith. It seems well established that some folks in New York or PA hired him to find treasures by his looking in a looking stone. He was once arrested for being a “con man.” The judge, Albert Neely, in Bainbridge N.Y. in 1826 found enough evidence to try him. However Joseph Smith left the town and area. There are court documents which offer this proof. All of this happened just four years before he wrote the Book of Mormon.

The third major blow to Mormonism is the archeological evidence against it. This strong evidence against the entire history of the Book of Mormon is also conclusive. Joseph Smith and the founders of his religion made startling claims that in B.C. days there were whole civilizations with cities, massive armies, metal and steel weapons and belongings, concrete structures etc.. here in the Americas. Also these civilizations had ties back to Israel and Egypt. Additionally certain crops and animals are mentioned here in abundance but are not known in the Americas now. Of course, when Europeans came to the American shores, they found none of these things, and no one has unearthed any of them since. That’s a huge credibility problem.

There is no archeological evidence for these massive civilizations in America. The American natives or Indians show no evidence of Israelite descent, as the Book of Mormon teaches. There is no evidence that the following items mentioned as in abundance in the Americas were in our past prior to Europeans coming: Silk, Horses, Cement, Steel, Iron, Coins, Donkeys, Cattle, Cow, Oxen, Pigs.

Furthermore none of the cities in the book have been found. None of the names in any inscriptions found. No Hebrew inscriptions at all were found. No Egyptian language in the Americas either. No ancient copies of the book of Mormon were found.

In fact, no artifacts of any kind and no mention of any of these places has been found, even though they claim that hundreds of thousands were killed in battle. No battlegrounds have been found, no bodies no iron weapons, no shields. If The Book of Mormon is true, certainly some evidence for the items mentioned above should have been unearthed by modern-day archeologists. No one in American archeology outside of the Mormon church even takes their claims seriously. If it were not a religion, most would consider the whole thing to be a made up tale. Indeed the Book of Mormon would be better categorized as a novel.

Any of these three considerations is enough to expose the lack of credibility to the religion. The reader is encouraged to do more research and see how widespread this information and these facts remain. A simple Google search will reveal some excellent resources.

The next egregious example of lack of credibility is …

Islam

The religion of Islam worships Allah (a word meaning “The God”). The term “Islam” means submission. Islam believes that Muhammad was Allah’s greatest prophet (spokesperson). Muslims are fiercely monotheistic (belief in one God). To Muslims there is no more important person than Muhammad and no more important book than the Koran. They place Muhammad higher in importance than even Jesus, and they place the Koran higher than the Bible.

This religion had its beginnings with Muhammad who was born in Mecca to an influential family in the year 570 A.D. (This makes it one of the newest religions in comparison to other world religions.) Mecca today is in Saudi Arabia. Muhammad did not have a prosperous childhood. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was 6 years old. Muhammad then was sent to live with his grandfather. The grandfather also died, and the boy was sent to live with his uncle. The name of his uncle’s clan was Quraish. That clan was responsible for what is called the Ka’aba, an important shrine which is a black cube.

When Muhammad grew up and was 25 years old he married an older woman named Khadijah. She was a merchant and had a caravan business. Muhammad, though, was more interested in spiritual things. He was upset over idolatry and the worship of many gods (polytheism) in Mecca among the Arabs. So when he was 40 years old in the year 610 AD, he was in a cave he frequented, when he supposedly began to receive visions from Allah. At first, he was not sure the visions were from a good source. Through the encouragement of his wife he came to believe that the angel Gabriel was visiting him and bringing the message of God. These revelations he claimed lasted from 610 A.D. to 632 A.D.

Around the year 613 A. D. he began to preach the message he received to the Arabs in Mecca. Though it is claimed that Muhammad could not read or write, he verbalized the messages for his disciples to write out. When these writings were collated, they became what we know as the Qur’an (the reciting). The Qur’an (also spelled Koran) is a bit smaller than the New Testament and significantly smaller than the Bible. It has only 114 chapters called Surahs compared to 1189 chapters in the Bible. Those who follow the teachings of the Koran and Islam are called “Muslims.”

The citizens of Mecca did not receive Muhammad’s teachings of Monotheism because they were dedicated to worshipping the Arabian gods. So they became hostile toward him.

So he and his disciples fled to Medina. In Medina he organized an army and gained control over fighting factions. Then for 6 years he was engaged in a war with those from Mecca. After the 6 years he won the war and forced the citizens to worship Allah and no other god. In 619 Muhammad’s wife died, and he married Sawdah. Through the years he would accumulate over 9 wives and become a polygamist. His youngest wife was 6 years old at one point.

Muhammad died in 634 AD, but his followers aggressively spread his religion by war and by force throughout Africa, Asia, and even parts of Europe. It is fair to say that the military campaigns of Muhammad and his followers are the key to the successful spread of Islam at its inception. Muhammad himself was involved in violence by the sword including the massacre of Jews from the Qurayza tribe in Medina. Over 800 men and boys were beheaded by the founder of Islam.

As to the belief and practice of Islam, devout Muslims believe in central doctrines like God, angels, Scripture, end times, and predestination. They also practice the Five Pillars of their faith: 1. Recite the Creed: “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” 2. Pray five times a day at the prescribed times facing Mecca 3. Give alms to the poor  4. Observe the month of fasting in Ramadan. 5. Make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.

Islamic defenders (apologists) typically point to positive attributes of Islam like its growing worldwide size (over a billion Muslims worldwide), its endurance through the centuries, and its transference to many lands as proof of its credibility. They also point to its contribution to the world in the arts and science, the simplicity of its religious demands on its followers, the excellence of its scriptures, and the clarity of its strict monotheistic doctrine and ethics.

Many detractors of their religion point to the rampant terrorism, violence, and acts of atrocity being committed across the world in the name of Allah and with reference to the Koran. They point to the lack of openness in Muslim countries to religious freedom. Islam dominates countries it takes over in large part because it is unlawful to convert from Islam to another religion. If Islam cannot tolerate Christian or Buddhist schools and houses of worship that does not speak well of their religion. They also point to the violence encouraged by their leader Muhammed.

My concern, though, as it has been in all the other posts, is the heart of a religion and its foundational claims. I am not interested in quibbling over whether Muslims are good people, relatively speaking, or whether they have accomplished noble things. All religions can point to both the good and the bad among their adherents. The foundation of a religion is what must be analyzed seriously before anyone places their faith in it. Islam stands or falls with the claims of its prophet Muhammad. If his claims can be substantiated, that adds credibility to him as a true prophet of God. If his claims can be falsified, that proves he was a false prophet and must not be followed. It really is this simple once all the emotion, intimidation, and peripheral issues are set aside. Use your commonsense and don’t be intimidated by threats or circumstantial evidence. Go to the root of a religion and you will find the truth.

Many people don’t realize that Islam has strong similarities with Mormonism as a kind of religion which attempts to restore an original lost message from God. Muhammad claimed to receive the very words of God to correct what the Jews and Christians did to distort the Scriptures. Muhammed himself and the Koran state that the Scriptures of the Christians and the Jews are true, but he also taught that the Christians had corrupted the message. But is his claim true? How would the Christians be able to corrupt the message of the Bible if the Bible itself was preserved accurately, and even endorsed by Muhammed? This is a conundrum for Muslims.

Just like Mormonism the claims of Muhammad and the teachings of the Koran can be subject to objective tests and proven to be false in their central claims. (See the previous segment on Mormonism). The tangible evidence for Islam’s claim that Christianity & Judaism lost the true message of God is absent. It is a claim without substantiation, yet they expect everyone to take that on faith. However their faith contradicts, not just the claims of previous prophets, but the facts themselves. The tangible evidence refuting their claim is overwhelming. Muhammad claimed to be a prophet from God, but his message is provably at odds with previous scripture which even he claimed were true and not changed. The Scriptures prior to Muhammad were not altered. Anyone can analyze that and see for themselves. How could the message of Christianity be changed if Christians are still teaching from the same Scriptures they received accurately from the past? Remember that Christianity spread rapidly throughout the known world over the first three centuries. How would someone have been able to gather all the manuscripts from all churches, synagogues, and homes and change them without anyone being aware? It just strains credulity. So the fact that Muhammad taught contrary to the Scriptures proves he was a false prophet and not worthy of anyone’s faith.

Muhammad also erred by claiming that the Old and New Testament scriptures predicted his prophetic ministry. (I.e. 7:157). But that prediction of Muhammad or his ministry is completely absent from the Christian and Jewish Scriptures. The prophecy in the Bible most pointed to as proof of Muhammad is Deuteronomy 18:15f. Yet that passage clearly says that any prophet who comes along and claims to be giving a word from God who disagrees with Moses is a false prophet. Muhammad very strongly disagreed with a number of teachings by Moses including the very name of God. That chapter in the Torah also says a prophet must speak in the name of the LORD – Yahweh is the name in Hebrew. That is not the name Muhammad came in (Allah). So this too proves Muhammad was not credible in what he claimed.

This should settle the issue for those who use logic and commonsense. Put aside the emotion and bias, and look squarely at the facts. Were the Scriptures changed or not? The clear answer falsifies Muhammad.

Furthermore, since we have the records of the previous prophets of God intact, for Muhammad to have been a true prophet of God he would have to have affirmed (not denied) the previous prophets of God. By changing their message considerably, he proved he was not sent from the true God who spoke long before Muhammad was born. Since Islam stands or falls with the credibility of Muhammad, his inability, like Joseph Smith, to provide tangible evidence of his claims proves fatal to Islam. All of Islam stands on this claim and foundation. Until it can overcome this (and it can’t because it is at its foundation) the whole superstructure of Islam is wrong and not credible.

Along with this first line of evidence against Islam’s credibility, is the fact that the book Muhammad is credited as delivering to humanity, the Koran, is filled with historical inaccuracies. The Koran explicitly denies that Jesus Christ was crucified even though evidence inside and outside the Bible affirms it. The eyewitnesses of the first century are more trustworthy than a book written 600 years after the facts. Many times Mary is stated to be the sister of Moses and Aaron instead of Miriam which is another blunder. The Koran states that Ishmael not Isaac was offered by Abraham, but the earliest records state it was Isaac. It states the Jesus was born under a palm tree and not in a stable or manger. Again there is no historical evidence for that assertion. It wrongly states that the Samaritans led the Israelites astray during the time of Moses when Samaria had not even been founded as a nation. During the time of Joseph in the OT the Koran states Joseph spoke of crucifixion as the punishment for someone centuries before crucifixion was invented. Crucifixion was invented much later. These and multiple other examples reveal a lack of credibility in the Koran. One helpful website for more information is … http://www.answering-islam.org/

Entry 15 Finding a Trustworthy Faith - A Commonsense Approach Pt. 4
Entry 17 Finding a Trustworthy Faith - A Commonsense Approach Pt. 6