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 completely agree, but that doesn't stop us raiding them for good ideas. 

When you find one that is worth keeping, let us know...

Love thy neighbour as thyself,  thou shalt not kill,  everyone deserves a second chance...  there is a long list.  Obviously Christianity didn't originate these, but it advocated, popularised and preaches them. 

Love thy neighbour as thyself is an impossible task making the person trying to follow this rule feel like he's always falling short of the mark. It's a tool of a totalitarian regime. Thou shalt not kill's original of 'thou shalt do no murder' is a better translation but is then commanded of the people in the following chapters. So unless the anecdote is don't kill unless i tell you too, I wouldn't utilise the rule from here. And everyone deserves a second chance? I wouldn't give Ivan Malat a 2nd chance. (btw in case you aren't Australian, he was a sick fuck Australian serial killer).

I'd stick to outside sources for morality, especially ones that don't have any black n white judgings on any rule.

Outside sources?  Which ones?  Do you believe in moral relativism? 

No, I do not believe in moral relativism, I really enjoyed Sam Harris' book 'The moral landscape' on the topic of morality, I think he makes a great argument that morality should be built on reason, inquiry and discussion. Outside sources may have been a poor word choice, what I meant was 'other' sources that don't claim divine authorship. Many philosophers do a much better job on the topic.

Religious people have to pick and choose which parts to believe, at least for the dominant US religions, xtanity, islam and judaism. Their religious texts contain so many contradictions that to try to believe all they say would induce madness.  The other world religions, I do not know enough to say whether they contain contradictions.  But no matter who expresses belief in gods, their gods will surely resemble them including their prejudices.

I don't know why people do that but one thing that really angers me is when religious people cherry-pick things from their holy book to turn into a cause. Like how Christians say they don't recognize or support gay marriage because in Leviticus (or whatever book that comes up in) it says homosexuality is an abomination, ( only between men, interestingly it doesn't mention lesbians)  Yet it also mentions that eating shellfish is an abomination, but you don't see them protesting outside Red Lobster on All You Can Eat Shrimp Night!

I'm almost certain that god LOVES the carnal flesh on flesh way anyway...not in any sort of marriage. Adam and Eve... not Eve and....Eve...

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?

My theory is since it is all rubbish, they just pick and choose the bits they like.


For example, people who work on the sabbath are supposed to be stoned to death....Haven't seen THAT in the headlines for a while: "Teen delivered pizzas on the sabbath, parents stoned him to death!"


For me, it's believe it all or believe none of it...hence, I am an atheist (among many other and better reasons)

Simon:  I will admit that there are certain ideas in almost any religion that are "of value," just as there are in "Mein Kampf," or "Playboy," but everything in religion THAT CAN BE UNIQUELY ASCRIBED TO RELIGION is poppycock.  Those "things of value" to which you refer are concepts and practices that would be recognized, and should be esteemed even if religion itself did not even exist.  For example, I doubt very much if human society would have not realized that not killing people was of intrinsic, as well as practical "value" had they not been made aware of it as some religious dogma.  The same goes for coveting our neighbors' wives and/or asses.   I will concede, though, that making "graven images" might not have occurred to anyone had Moses not hauled that notion down the mountain on stone tablets; but I don't really consider that a "thing of value."  I certainly would feel no shame if I made a graven image.        The so-called "golden rule" is certainly a valuable paradigm, but not only would we have realized that without religion, WE DID!  It did not come from the Bible.  It goes at least as far back as Hammurabi and the Babylonian code of conduct.  The Egyptians and Greeks had it, as well, quite separately from their pantheism; only later was it incorporated into religious thought.  I honestly can't think of one valuable idea that any religion has contributed that would not have occurred to and been adopted by mankind otherwise.      When I read the Bible, cover-to-cover, I did not encounter any eureka moments of moral or ethical awakening. I could hardly turn a page, though, without being confronted with some despicable example of murder, torture, enslavement, misogyny, thievery and other malfeasance orchestrated by God.  And, of course, oodles of poppycock.  If you are aware of some knowledge or practice of social utility that humankind wouldn't have stumbled upon as a secular imperative without that old black book of bronze age mythology, I eagerly await your response.  Seriously.  I would find that quite enlightening. But I'm not holding my breath.


Jesus said, everyone deserves a second chance.  In his position as a leader, he was able to impose that view on mankind.  Nobody else did that or was going to do that.  It's not something that other people mention.  It has caused a lot of real good in the world ever since. 


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