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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Hi John


Its midnight here so i'm calling it a day.  Just to say though, that there are other understandings of the cultural reason for headcoverings, like long flowing hair being an object of lust in Corinthian culture (IVP Bible background commentary), there are a couple of variations of this in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Dr Wayne Grudem and Dr John Piper.  What I wrote was from Dr Frank Thielman of Duke University. quoted in the ESV study Bible.  Regardless, christians are agreed in the main that Paul is addressing a cultural situation in Corinth that infringed upon male and female distinctions.


Natasha- surely the only ones who don't "cherry pick" are those who are willing to fly aircraft into buildings or walk into cafes and obliterate unsuspecting and innocent human beings? Fundamentalist theists are in essence, the "purest" of believers in that they completely accept their version of creation/God as written in their "holy book".

The vast majority of believers are hypocrites because they, as you say, cherry pick. It's hardly surprising though given their obvious inability to think rationally and logically.  


Sarcasm Trevor, or inability to put forward a rational and logical reply? 

Yes, religious people cherry pick like crazy. I used to do it too. They believe it is okay though, because God is guiding them to pick the right things. So annoying!

In continuation of the topic at hand I did some of my own cherry picking.

1 Timothy 2:11

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (It is here assumed by some Christians that as this was only a church notice and not such for everyday living and that a woman outside of church was free to question her husband as she wished, yet since this biblical passage does not specifically note as such, men have for centuries used this reference as a means to keep women subservient. It can be argued that they are incorrect but why are Christians focusing so much attention and sometimes aggression on a small percentage of atheists when a large contingent of their own flock has been led astray? It would seem prudent to address their own flock and perfect their message first so as to solidify and unify their position before moving forward so as to have a more unified defense against outside pressures.)

1 Timothy 2:12

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man she must be quiet. (This one seems to be the same thing but next we see that it has ramifications outside that of church teaching or at least could easily be justified to be accepted as such)


For Adam was formed first, then Eve.


And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.(At this point it seems to engulf not only church teaching but reverts all the way back to the supposed beginnings of creation)


But women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (So the punishment for one persons transgression equates to everlasting pain for all women and presumably animals too?)


Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (This clearly does not appear to “contain” submission to church attendees.)


Ephesians 5:33

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (The man has to love his wife the wife has to respect her husband, the terminology is distinct and surely not equitable)


1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (so finally women are given respect but with an obvious caveat)


The point to all of this is that cherry picking, although sometimes necessary, sometimes useful, is often misused by those for or against a position, most christians agree that to understand what the bible really means requires reading it without bias, yet how can a christian or atheist be unbiased? A number of debates have taken place which ask the question "Is the bible a source for good" after the debate the audience, be it predominantly christian or not from the outset said no it was not a source for good. Does this mean it certainly is not, or was it the skill of the debaters who merely gave the best representation of their position? WLC has debated numerous atheists with great success (save Sam Harris in my opinion) does this mean WLC is correct? The point most either miss or are unwilling to commit to is that we simply don't know yet.

Citing objective moral standards is another misleading tactic as there is no evidence of truth even though it may seem to be true. Stephen Law did not say objective moral values exist in fact he said they 'seem" to exist in the same way that the earth (from our perspective) doesn't seem to move although we know it does now. What will we know about objective moral standards in the future? Who knows but for now it is just that, an unknown. Presuming not only to know that there is an elephant in the room and to know it's shape, it's expectations, it's boundaries, it's abilities, it's desires, loves, commands, etc. etc. etc. goes way beyond mere presumptuousness dwelling inevitably in absurdity. Again saying you don't know does not suggest inclusion of superstitious concepts is a good idea, but an idea which must be exposed to scrutiny of facts or evidence, which in the case of god/gods are absent.

Hi Jason


Frustratingly I just replied to your post and then somehow lost it before it was posted.  So, i'll try a shorter version now.


1 Tim 2

If men have misued and abused the Bible its because they already wanted to live that way - its human nature.  I could write down:  "Love all people" but there would still be some who would interpret it as "love all people except French people because they are not mentioned"  Human nature is in itself corrupt.  The world is ample evidence of that.


And Pastors preach on these passages all the time on what christian marriage is and church life.  Christian book shops are packed to the rafters with the same. 

Jeffery Damah said that what he did (unbelievable murder etc) didn't matter because there was no God.  Hoewever, although his thinking was a natural ouflow of athiestic thought, I do not hold all athiests accountable for him or that they believe the same.


Ephesians 5

I agree that it doesn't say about submission to church members, but am not sure what your point is.  But on love and respect, bare in mind that its not talking about Hollywood love.  Love in the Bible is a verb.  Its talking about the self sacrificing, putting your wife first.  But of course respect would include affection, but thats not what the writer is addressing. 


1 Peter 3

Jason, do you not think that to love your wife in a self sacrificing way is not also to respect her?  That would be a strange distinction if you are saying that in the other passages the writer is saying love your wife but don't respect here.  Even Hollywood love today would see that as odd.


I would have to take you up on your comment about christians agreeing that the Bible isn't a source for good.  I think you have to reinterpret history to get to that conclusion, and you have to actually not read it!  Can you provide any sources for this?


WLC is good because his arguments are based on logic and deduction instead of emotion.  Sam harris and Christiopher Hitchens main argument is what we read on this website that Christians and their God are evil.  Thats not reasonable argument.  Assuming they are right (which they are not), it would not mean that there is no God, its just appealing to emotion.

WLC and those like him uses cosmology, Physics, Biology, Natural law, logic and reason to show that given the evidence God is the most probobale (not certain as there are no certainties) cause.  He does so successfully because it is the stronger argument.  Its not debating skills that win the day but sticking to logic that makes the issues clear - instead of relying on emotionalism. 


Thats why Dawkins won't accept the offer to debate WLC and turn up tomorrow night, despite saying he wants to talk to religious people and that he would win the argument.  because in the main he only interviews / talks to people who are not on the same intellectual plane as him.  If he did he would be in trouble.  I am going to that debate tomorrow night and I sincerely hope Dawkins turns up. 


Athiests paint christians as unthinking, unintelligent people who are just superstitious, including Dawkins.  When the opportunity comes to test that theory, he is not there and his own athiest colleague in Oxford university call him a coward, and that he is avoiding the strongest arguments.  I sincerely wish, for the sake of progress (I don't care about point scoring) that real dialogue could happen.  Atleast we should be able to move past these stereotypes.


There is very good reason, even better reason, to believe there is a God than that there isn't.  I have no problem with people choosing to believe there isn't but I would like to see more honest engagement and discussion.  Dawkins holds himself up as the champion of militant athiesm (which is what he called for) and the demolisher of religion, well less bluster and more engament is needed.




Your statement - I would have to take you upon your comment abut christians agreeing that the bible isn't a source for good. I think you have to reinterpret history to get to that conclusion, and you have to actually not read it!  Can you provide a source for this?

Re-interpret History - Ah, nobody does that like xians - absolute masters. Any xians, if they happen to agree that the bible isn't a good source for good, and I am not saying that xians think that, see all the horror in the bible, as I do. it is nothing to do with re-interpreting history. The bible is a book of myth and misogyny - not history - myth invented by men, superstitious, desert dwelling uneducated men - with most of the stories pilfered, stolen, re-intepreted, from pagan religion.

Or, do you think the interpreters of the bible, whichever one you like to pick, are insightful, educated, wise, empathetic. 

Your statement - There is no misogony here.  You have to be a misoginist hunter and see them everywhere to honestly interpret these as such.

Ah, no Trev, you don't have to be a misogynist hunter, no, no no. The bible is absolutely riddled with it - and it is god's word, so what can a poor bloke do, but follow god's word. And if you don't you, dear Trevor, will go to hell. So, what xians do, is just ignore the bad bits, but that doesn't make them go away, there still there, for the likes of me to see. 

The following were just made up because this was the society men wanted - subjugation of women - as before that, during paganism there were goddesses, and in this "New Order" they wanted to squash women underfoot. 


God said through the Apostle Peter, "Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands...while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning...but let it be the hidden man of the heart...even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit...For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord" - 1 Pet. 3:1-6

The Lord says to wives through Paul, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord" (Col. 3:18). "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband [not Christ] is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything" - Eph. 5:22-24

God says that "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" - 1 Sam. 15:23

Sorry, Trevor, I can't seem to find anything here about spiritual growth, or love, or respect.

Read these again and tell me how the bible is good - and by the by - exactly which bible should I be reading - 

Israel Authorized Version

Bible in Basic English

Bishop's Bible with Apocrypha

Bond Slave Version

Common Bible

Common English version

Conservative Bible

English Revised Version

English Standard

Faithful New Testament

God's Word

Holy Bible - 1841

Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament

King James Bible 1611

King James Bible 2000 - Which version would you suggest - 


Whose word is taken for law - god or jesus - from what I learned when I was a catholic,  god is boss, including over jesus, so god's word wins = rampant evil mysogony. Quote jesus all you like - god's quote wins.

One of the pilfered gods was Horus - his virginal mother Isis - the Goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility.   etc etc etc.

The Vatican was built on top of the grounds previously devoted to the worship of Mithra - 600 B.C.- Mithra was called the son of God, was born of a virgin, had disciples, was crucified, rose from the dead on the third day, atoned for the sins of mankind, and returned to heaven. all stories pinched and retrofitted. Ring any bells.

Read the following, then come back and tell me what you think.

Sorry, I missed that one - More reason to believe this is a god than that there isn't.

Can you show me proof of god - and I will prove that my lovely White Unicorn is real - 

Trev, Trev, Trev, I just love your sense of humour.

Your statement - Sam harris and Christiopher Hitchens main argument is what we read on this website that Christians and their God are evil.  Thats not reasonable argument.  Why not - that is not only reasonable but true - I have quoted and shown you many instances of abuse, killing, jealousy, ad nauseam - it's not emotional, I get my facts from the bible. you just don't want to understand where Atheists are coming from - you want to live your life as a xian, ignoring the hatred set by the bible. Very sad. You just keep on ignoring, and keep on cherry picking, cause it makes you happy.

You want intelligent discussion, through my experience not very likely as xians just want to believe, no matter what, but that is okay, it's when you say you worship a loving god, nah, not good enough for me.

Hi Suzanne


I have to say its quite tricky having a discussion with you.  I asked if you wanted a discussion or to just make points, and you replied by making points and saying you would not reply to me again.  So I then took up the discussion with Simon, and then here you are again.  Cherry picking seems an apt description!


I have to ask again, do you want to enter into a discussion or are you just making points?  I don't want to spend time on replies if your not really engaging with me, your just running doing a hit and run.  I will be happy to have a discussion with you if thats what you want to do.  Let me know.

Just goes to show, you don't read my comments. At the bottom of the second last post I said I would continue -  women, are very open minded and are not afraid to change their mind, when they see something wrong - xians profess to want to learn how an Atheist thinks - no they don't - they just keep on pushing the same old lines. I absolutely guarantee you have not learnt a thing, and just keep coming up with inane statements, and then call foul, when an Atheist calls you out on something,


If you answer my last post, line by line, and I will decide to continue or not. 

I also "don't want to spend time on replies if you don't engage".




Bummer about the text, I tend to type it up on word or something first that way it doesn't get lost, works for me. Point by point I suppose and I will forgo my cherry picked parts since my point was that anyone can do it and that anyone can interpret it themselves, often incorrectly.


Jeffery Damah said that what he did (unbelievable murder etc) didn't matter because there was no God.  Hoewever, although his thinking was a natural ouflow of athiestic thought, I do not hold all athiests accountable for him or that they believe the same.


Misleading association since atheism has no doctrine as a requirement and that the individual was clearly insane. Natural outflow?

Give me a bit on the sources, I watched a few different debates on it so I'll locate them, quite interesting.

WLC is good because his arguments are based on logic and deduction instead of emotion.

I beg to differ just how logical is a christian assuming god exist as the basis for his argument as opposed to expected and biased his argument fails to be convincing because it begins with a groundless claim and then asserts that the groundless claim (god) provides a sound foundation for objective moral values. The number of assumptions which play into this concept are mind boggling not to mention we are not certain objective moral values even exist. I stand by my opinion that WLC is a good debater with a bad idea.

Harris and Hitchens write considerably better that those on this site (sorry guys) and their message is in no way that simplistic, if you have actually read their work from your perspective you would certainly not like it, but you simply cannot honestly say (remember god is watching) their message is only about how evil god and christian are. You claim to desire a fair discussion then diminish the works of two very adept writers so easily? Things like that will anger people, something you claim not to want. 


I'm sure it pleases you that Mr. Dawkins wont debate WLC as I would probably be happy if I were you as well although I think we both know it would please you more if he did. 

Dawkins is a thinker and a writer, not a speaker and an awful debater in my opinion not to mention as the years have passed and he's gotten older he seems to be a bit more grumpy these days. In fairness I am sure he's tired of the somewhat silly questions he's asked at times and it shows on his face and in his voice. Craig would probably mop the floor with him. Have you read any of Dawkins books though? That is if you are looking for answers as to what atheists think as you suggested from the outset and which I questioned, as the good skeptic I am, I'm left wondering that if you have read those books would it be necessary to come here "looking for answers" or since they are the elites, maybe you desire the insight of the commoner. 

Athiests paint christians as unthinking, unintelligent people who are just superstitious, including Dawkins.

Because many are exactly that as are many atheists, one point you have either missed or have been unwilling to admit (unless I missed it) is that atheists have come to the conclusions they have after very careful deliberation, we were not sat in a pew once a week to have these things drilled into us, we delved into the abyss alone to find the answers. Most of us picked up a book (no not that one) a science book an history book a biology book and so on. It's not a choice to be an atheist, we simply are by definition, though some of us do choose to be anti-theist which is something else altogether.

To add, Dawkins has done a great service to mankind in that he has opened many peoples eyes to what he feels is wrong with religion. Many agree with him some were former christians and even if you dislike his opinion of religion, don't you think it might be a good thing in that those like Dawkins are always available to hold religious groups accountable (Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jim and Tammy Baker etc.) If your faith and gods word are so very strong what exactly are you afraid of? 


There is very good reason, even better reason, to believe there is a God than that there isn't.  I have no problem with people choosing to believe there isn't but I would like to see more honest engagement and discussion.

What is this good reason you refer to?

People are born atheist, they have no concept of what god is and they do not always choose to be religious but are instructed to be so by parents, and I think you do have a problem with atheism, how could you not given your faith, I don't blame you for that but it seems obvious that you may feel atheism is a negative to humanity as opposed to a positive so why would you not have a problem with it?


How does an archaeologist have an engaged and honest discussion with someone who believes the world to be less than ten thousand years old and will not accept facts as worthy to the discussion? Now this is not Dawkins Craig but the point is that why have a discussion with someone when facts have no bearing?

Final point, is it really that hard to say "I don't know?" There will always be questions without answers, then answers which spawn exceedingly more questions. You can make up an answer with no factual basis and believe it to be true, or you can sit on the corner with doubt. It's actually a nice corner.

Hi Jason


Thanks for the very reasonable response which I enjoyed, especially the little glows of humour.


With Damah I wasn't saying that athiests are like that. By outflow, I meant that as Dawkins says, as there is no God there is no good or evil and no meaning or purpose, values are relative.  I can see in that kind of world that our actions have no ultimate meaning.  Damah seemed to be saying that there was no God to hold Him to account and so he could live anyway he chose.  Athiests can say that what he did was not good for society, but with Dawkins, they have to also say that it wasn't morally evil - as that concept does not exist in an atheistic world.


2.  In terms of groundless claims - i.e God, I am sure you would agree there is no certainty in this area.  I do not know why athiests exist.  The boat that everyone is in is looking at the evidence around us and then saying what is the more probable cause / worldview.  I would disagree that Craig's arguments are weak in any way (they are not his, its just classic Christian appologetics).  I think, things like:


a.  The universe having a beginning, ie. matter time and space, at the big bang necessitates that the cause of the universe is immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and given the choice to create and the fine tuning - intelligent and personal.  The facts are in favour, probability wise of the existence of a first cause of this order, ie. God.

Of course, the steady state theory has been proved to be wrong, matter is not eternal. So either nothing created nothing from nothing, or Someone /thing created nothing out of nothing.  Its just probability that the latter is much more likely.


b.  The incredible fine tuning of the universe, and I guess it would be good to look at some of that also points in the same direction.  We live on a knife edge that is so improbable that the most probable cause is a designer.  Even Dawkins says that the chances of our being here and the universe being the way it is are astanomically against it.  So he puts his weight on a multiverse idea, which of course has not a shred of scientific evidence, its contrary to his argument that the cause must be simpler than the effect, and its hugely incredible.  I can come back and quote probabiluty statistics, but its obvious really.  Its not science, its just wanting to find any answer that does not include God.


3.  The moral argument does have weight.  We beleive and live as if there is moral good and moral evil and an absolute standard.  In my example, the holocaust was wrong even if the whole world thought it was right at the time.  This is natural law.  To say something is good and something else is evil, you have to have a third thing to measure them by.  Athiests say that third thing is society, which = moral relativism, but athiests and everyone else do not believe that in practice or live like it.  We live as if there is an objective, outside of us moral code that has been supplied.  And for good reason.


I won't go from there to Christianity, as thats my personal journey - and the right one I think.  But surely you cannot look at the design of the universe and say that the probability is in favour of athiesm.  Or first causes.   I agree this could leave you as an agnostic or deist, and I would have to go all christian on you to go any further! :-)  Point is though it is not irrational in any sense to believe in a creator, given the evidence. 


Dawkins.  I could accept what you say about Dawkins if he hadn't set himself up as the champion of science and reason and put out the challenge that he would talk to religious people and win the argument.  He has made himself a paper champion.  He did to his credit debate John Lennox about the God Delusion, and I don't think he came off well.  If he wants to paint all religious people as lunaticts then he has to step up to the plate.  Its a clear, put up or shut up.  I would be embaressed if I was you.


There are lots of christian ministries and folk who speak out and write against the nutters like Benny Hinn and Pat Robertson etc.  We don't need Dawkins, he is no friend.


Dawkins has not done a service to mankind, quite the opposite.  I think 9/11 showed that religion can be dangerous, the world was aware long before him.  What he has done is demonise all religion doing incredible damage.  Chrisitanity has been an incredible force for good in this world, and still is.  The new athiests are re-writing history.  Sam Harris even calls Mother Theresa evil, not that i am a fan of the whole nun thing. But its just ridiculous.


I would also have to disagree that we are born as athiests.  I think we are born with a sense of the transcendent, with a sense of God.  Thats why athiests are in the extreme minority.  Most people who are athiests, I would guess, have a reason to be so - i.e they had a bad experience of religion that preceded their search to free themselves from the shackles of God. But i am betting the mostly all of them had a prior sense of God.  Its natural, even Dawkins talks about his sense of awe.  In biblical terms God has 'put eternity in people's hearts'

This nice corner of 'I don't know', is that your position?  Are you agnostic?  If all I had was the things I mentioned above I would be agnostic.  I have other reasons that take me to Christianity.


I wasn't referring to the books of Sam Harris and Hitchens but to their debates.  I have read some of Dawkins (God Delusion) but not the other guys.  My reason for being here is evolving.  I wanted to learn first hand what athiests think and why, but I have been alarmed by the stereotypes and groundless sweeping generalisations.  So if I can also help bring some balance to that, I would be a happy chappy.


Lastly, when I said I don't mind if people choose athiesm, what I meant was I am a strong believer in freedom of thought and speech and every individuals right to choose their own path.  That doesn't mean that I believe athiesm is a good or legitimate path or that its good for society.


Sorry, this seems like an unorganised ramble.  Let me know if you want to be clearer.  Thanks again for some stimulating discussion.







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