A Lie of Omission
I grew up in an evangelical Christian home. The particular denomination that most of my family still adheres to, and that I was raised under, is known as The Church of Christ. Not to be confused with the Church of God or any of the other over 30,000 denominations of Christians. I make the distinction here because one key differences between these many denominations is the brand of bible they use. For my family the only acceptable brand of bible is the King James version, and for over 15 years it was the only version I'd ever read.
So you might can imagine my surprise when a Catholic friend invited me to attend mass. The entire atmosphere was different and unlike anything I was used to. But what struck me hardest was the sermon I heard that day. For the first time I was told the story of Bel and the Dragon.
For former Catholics you're probably familiar with the story, but it isn't found in many bibles other than the Catholic bible and many Christians have never heard it at all. The story is merely a few chapters that were omitted from the book of Daniel in most protestant bibles. In these chapters we are given the rest of the story of why Daniel was thrown into the lion's den. His true crime was apparently debunking a few idol gods that the king and his nation were worshipping. So why leave the story out of the protestant versions?
Footprints in the Ashes
This is not the only story omitted from protestant bibles, but it is a very important one. You see, in this story we are given the example that a gods validity can not only be challenged, but can be proven or disproven by judging the truth claims made about said god against reality.
In this story we are told that the king worshipped a supposedly living idol god named Bel. The king and all of the faithful followers knew Bel was real and living because they brought him offerings and then locked his temple each night and when they returned and opened the temple each morning the offerings were gone. But Daniel calls bullshit on this and asks the king if he can set a trap to prove Bel is just a statue to which the king agrees. So Daniel goes in the temple after all the offerings have been left and right before the temple is locked. He spreads ashes all over the floor and then the temple is closed. The next day they go inside and BOOM there are footprints in the ashes. Wouldn't you know it, those footprints lead to a trap door through which the temple priests sneak in each night to collect their treasure.
This wasn't some Sherlock Holmes style feat of deduction. It was merely a logical way to confirm a suspicion based on what seemed to be a logical conclusion. Daniel knew that Bel wasn't taking the offerings and he knew they were going somewhere. So the logical conclusion was that someone else was taking them. Since the temple was locked each night, he had to figure out a way to see exactly how the offerings were being taken. As a child I played at similar deductive games, like placing items in my room in a specific manner and checking to see if they'd been moved. Daniel in this story has done nothing more than be skeptical and use his brain to find a logical answer for what seemed at the time to be miraculous.
Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire
Now I have never claimed that god does not exist. That is a claim that I can no more prove than can anyone prove that god does exist. But I have claimed, and will continue to claim, that I can disprove the existence any god offered by the major religions of the world. The reason for this is that men have put faces on gods and given us doctrines that make claims about what their gods can and have done. By the same simple deductions used by Daniel in the story of Bel and the dragon, anyone can challenge the validity of any god, including Daniel's god.
Christians love to claim their god is everywhere and does everything, but they always seem to forget that the bible makes claims about things that god has supposedly done. The bible claims this god flooded the whole world, but that didn't happen. It claims he made humans from dirt, yet again we've learned that humans have evolved like all other animals. Within the bible is claim after claim about the actions of this god, and time after time when we critically and logically examine those claims we find them to be false.
Now of course most religious people believe that this isn't sufficient. But let me make a point that many of them never like to address; No matter whether they accept my claims against the validity of their god or not, they've offered not even one actual proof to back up their claims that he exists. Time and again I'm told that you have to have faith in god, but I've seen the footprints in the ashes and the priests hoarding the offerings. What I've not seen is any god do anything or even a sign that one may have ever done anything.