Cherry-picking religion: Do some religious people just choose the bits they like?


Hello everyone, I am fairly new to Think Atheist, so thought I would start with a topic that has always confused me. If this has already some up somewhere on the site I apologise, but I couldn't find anything regarding this issue.


I have never been religious. I was lucky enough to have parents who always just told me to figure out for myself what I want to believe. (They are not religious as such either, but are what some would call spiritual, believing in an afterlife, I suspect for comfort more than anything else. I do not have these beliefs).


I have, however, always had many religious friends, most of whom are Christian or Muslim. I have had debates with them about religion, and learnt much from it, but one thing has always confused me, and as of yet, I have never been given a satisfactory answer. Why is it (and I am asking both theists and atheists here) that so many religious people feel that they can pick which parts of their chosen religion they want to believe, and which bits are "just stories" or similar? For example, one of my Christian friends believes in God, heaven and hell, but does not believe in creationism. Is there anyone else out there with beliefs like this, and how did you come to this conclusion of what you believe is true from the Bible (or other religious texts) or not?


I am not trying to anger anyone here, and I realise that not all religious believers are like this. I am merely interested in getting an answer.



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I don't have an answer, just wanted to say I am in the same boat as you. If an "intelligent" theist believes in evolution, let's say, that means they don't believe in creation. Logic should dictate that, hey, if creation is false, that means the word of god is false, which should mean maybe it's not the word of god after all, maybe it's just the word of man and I've wasted my entire life believing this crap. 


If you're going to base your life on a book, shouldn't you believe 100% of it? Those that say they do believe and follow 100% should be in jail for having stoned, raped, eaten or slain someone. 

Exactly Marc. I have never met a believer of any religion (who doesn't believe in 100% of it) who has been able to justify themselves in only believing certain parts, other than them saying "The Bible/Koran, etc., isn't meant to be taken literally." But then, how do they make that decision?


Also, that's an interesting point; the fact that the bits left out of their "true" beliefs are often the parts involving stoning, raping, killing etc., brings out the old morailty argument, does it not? Effectively choosing their morals, therefore showing that morality actually doesn't come from religion.

Very interesting point.  God's morality as chosen and selected by human beings.  Do they not like the other things God wants them to do? 

Ever noticed how their god always hates the same people they do?

Right , funny isnt it how that works .

That's how religions adapt to survive; they compromise the integrity of their faith. This is how religions die. They change their values so they won't be ostracized into oblivion for being crazy, and before you know it it's not the same religion anymore. It would almost be sad if it wasn't actually healthy for society (look at it this way: the more they lie about the teachings of the faith in their original context, the less they blow people up). Your friends are a perfect example of the dilution, the watering down, of religion. Their lack of fundamental belief is what's killing their religion. And is that really a bad thing?

On the face of it, no, I don't think that is a bad thing. I just find it extremely frustrating to see so many people unable to open their minds. When I ask them how they can just pick what to believe, and they have no answer, it's like something in their minds simply destroys the thought of what I have said and they ignore it.


It's also not only about how many people will therefore not be blown up, as you say, or otherwise. It kills me (and perhaps it shouldn't) that so many people are wasting their lives, thinking that something so much better is coming at the end. So many people I know are practically just waiting to die, not worrying about what they are missing in this life, because they are so sure heaven is real and will be better. And that happens because they ignore the things they know don't make sense. I realise this is not quite so serious a problem as harming others, but still.

You're right.  If we care about these people as human beings, we should try and encourage them to live fuller lives. 

Religion dying like that takes a long, long time though. In the meantime do we really want to live with literalists? I don't think so. At least you can mostly coexist with the mainstream cherry pickers, since they tend to disregard many of the nastier parts.


Picking and choosing isn't really a bad thing, even if there is no logic or system behind it. People just need to be honest about it. That's the real problem for me. Too many people don't admit that they make it up to suit their own morality and opinions.

And since the Old Testament sanctions absolutely everything, from loving-kindness to serial killing - it's always possible to justify your particular point of view, no matter how bizarre or horrific. 

Yup.  There are so many inconsistencies with them all, it's impossible to accept everything at face-value.  If they find something they don't like, they ignore it completely, or come up with bizarre rationalizations like, "well they don't literally mean to whip your wife".

Are they cherry picking the parts they like or the parts they know? Many of the anecdotal offerings given by people in reference to scripture are obviously situational but in my experience rarely exact quotes but generalized so I guess easier to remember. A common response to the question of biblical inerrancy is that "God is perfect as is his word, but his word was given to man who is obviously not perfect so there were some errors". This is a generalized response of course and a moderately willing concession that the bible is imperfect. The more tawdry bits if the bible are seldom discussed and so seldom remembered. As far as creationism, most of those I have talked to state almost universally that they believe in creationism but fortunately concede that this is only what they "believe" to be true, admitting (finally) that they don't really know. Some others believe in evolution but with the understanding that god caused it to be so. In the end I don't really mind the cherry picking as it works both ways.


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