A preacher friend of mine posted the above link on facebook along with a short rant about what he didn't like about it. Of course, several Christian friends of his chimed in about how bad the article was, how inaccurate it was, how stupid the author was, etc.
I read the full article and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it matches much of what I have read in studying the origins of the Bible and its contradictions.
So here's my question: I believe that the Christians who hated the article simply do not see it the same way that I do. We may read the same sentence and what I see is completely different than what they see. So I need to question myself to see if I am doing the same thing, by looking at it from the atheist perspective and seeing where I agree with the statements.
Am I not reading it impartially? Am I reading too many books about the history of the Bible that only support my own inclinations? Are the Christians simply closing their minds to anything that threatens their beliefs?
Read the article and respond with your thoughts.
As an atheist who has read the entire Bible (more than once), I am frequently amazed at how so many proud Bible thumpers seem to know even less than I do about what it actually says. The new movie, Exodus, apparently depends upon that ignorance. For example, it portrays Moses as an articulate, forceful speaker. But, in the Book of Exodus, it describes him as so inarticulate, and such a hapless stutterer that he needs his companion, Aaron, to speak for him. In fact, the movie is riddled with things that don’t comport with the biblical account, but most Christians, who don’t REALLY read the Bible, wouldn’t notice.
Sometimes I think I have a greater respect for members of the more fundamentalist cults like the Jehovah Witnesses than I do for you average Christian types. At least what you see is what you get with the JWs’. They will spend time (almost daily) not just reading but studying their Bible. They usually know it inside out and in general will live their lives accordingly.
Of course I think they are all deluded, no matter how intensely they believe in their book. When they call to debate with me they will often comment that they “enjoy” the debates because they know that I too know the Bible (and the Koran).
I have tried to debate Biblical passages with Catholics (are you mad I hear you say!) and whenever I do I will ask them about verses like 2 Kings 2:23-24 when God let bears kill children. This is a great verse to use when discussing “biblical morality”. Almost always the theist will not know this verse. Many will not even believe me that it is from the Bible. Most will not even know if it is from the O.T. or the N.T.
Rather than admit any ignorance of the Bible or any embarrassment at not knowing such a vivid verse they will accuse me of arrogance or of belittling their faith. This once happened in a neighbors house so I returned and gave him a free KJV for himself as he did not own one. This made him quite angry and abusive. I told him I forgave him and said I was just trying to love my neighbour a little and that if he read it he might learn that for himself. At least then he would have some authority to talk about it or discuss it with an Atheist.
I find that few Christians read the bible. Oh, they may read a lot of verses - but they usually aren't reading the book as a book. Sometimes they just open it up and read some random verse and try to think about how it applies to their current situation - let me grab a random passage from a random book on The Project Gutenberg.
Title: The Radio Detectives Author: A. Hyatt Verrill .....
As he spoke his words ended in a high, shrill squeal, but an instant later, as Tom turned the knob on his tuner, the words suddenly returned in a most startling way, the squeal seeming to change magically into words.
Ok, so, as a Christian, how might that apply this to my current situation. Well, it would seem to reference speaking in tongues - so maybe if I just start squealing, my screams will just change magically into words and I'll get some direction from my god.
Uhm, so, yeah, this sort of reading doesn't leave them with any greater understanding of their book. This sort of reading usually just leaves them believing that they faced a problem and the book provided great insight.
The other sort of reading is what I call directed reading. In that case, the Pastor/Preacher/Priest tells them to read a particular verse, and then goes on to tell them how it applies to their current life or, perhaps, some need that the church currently faces - typically financial, so let's pass the plate now.
So, although many Christians may feel that they spend a lot of time reading their bible, they aren't really reading it because their mind is either on something else, or is immediately redirected to something else by their cleric.
If Christians and others would read the bible in its entirety, they might be given pause to think (not holding my breath)
I detest those who cherrypick the beautiful verses and ignore the awful ones.
Even the cherry picked verses make no sense...
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
WTF? The meek get to live on a radioactive, polluted planet while the rich go to heaven?
"Are the Christians simply closing their minds to anything that threatens their beliefs?"
This is probably human nature at it's best. If we believe in something/someone the last thing we want to consider is whether that belief is well founded. No one likes being told they are in error or have a flawed perception. This is true to the extent that they will attack the messenger and dismiss the message. The convenience of being a lazy follower trumps the desire to get to the heart of the matter. Emotion has a way of clouding truth/reality.
"Are the Christians simply closing their minds to anything that threatens their beliefs?"
Yep. That sums it up. It is a well documented and researched phenomenon.
Actually, there are two such phenomenon at work here--confirmation bias and the backfire effect.
It's a fact that the great majority of Christians or even Muslims never actually read their books in their entirety. Most shrug it off like it's homework (because usually that's how they're taught those books).
I really enjoyed the article. Thanks for sharing.
I made it part way through and decided it wasn't worth the read, because the bias was too strong and the scholarship too shallow. I suppose it shows what a rag Newsweek has become, like most of the periodicals Time-Warner recently saddled with massive debt and spun off. They just don't have the resources anymore to do high-quality journalism, let alone reporting.
I think if you found yourself enjoying the piece it was because it spoke to your own prejudice, not because it was very well written.
I will agree that most folks don't read the Bible like a book. Those who do typically get bogged down in Leviticus.
Information like this I suppose poses a minor challenge to our fundamentalist brethren, but not much of one because their approach isn't guided by that sort of analysis. For the rest of us who come from faiths who compiled and copied the Bible and are not fundamentalists, nothing here is news other than the poor quality writing in the piece.
Of course any analysis of the bible that is in any way critical of Christianity or the reliability of wisdom parted by the bible is easily dismissed by Christians. All challenges to theological readings of the bible are easily challenged. If you can read Leviticus and still believe that the Bible can depart wisdom relevant in todays world then you literally have no choice but to cherry pick and explain away what is literal and what is metaphorical. And once you get into the relativistic and metaphorical world of "narratives" ... one is simply totally and utterly impervious to any challenge whatsoever.
Doubter: Hey...telling people to go rape all the girls in a city is crazy as they do in the pentatuach.
Theist: It's a metaphore.
Doubter: What metaphore?
Theist: We can't be sure but what we can be sure of is that it isn't literal.
Doubter: I would hope so. Otherwise you would belong to a bat shit crazy cult.
Theist: My faith is not a bat shit crazy cult.
Doubter: Then god doesn't expect you to go raping girls in towns.
Theist: No...it's a metaphore.
Doubter: How do you know it's a metaphore.
Theist: It just is.
Doubter: By what criteria do you decide if it's a metaphor or not?
Theist: That's impossible to explain...because we are talking about a world view narrative here. I cannot give you a formula.
Doubter: Then your book is nonsense and you can bend and mend whatever interpretation you desire out of that book and pretend the bad bits aren't bat shit crazy bad.
Theist: You are mean and scornful.
We simply have no objective criteria as per how one can make sense of and depart wisdom from the bible. And Dr. Bob I believe would be unable to do so. That's why I find it very rich then Dr. Bob that you claim that some Christians are wrong in how they interpret the bible or that some Christians have idiotic Christian beliefs. That's a strong claim...but you are totally unable to back it up because you have no objective criteria by which to interpret the bible (at least any objective criteria which you've been willing to share with us so far).
And so your opinion on this article is rather irrelevant (even if this article is rather bad as most of us would agree anyways) because ANY article that was critical of the bible would elicit the same response from you (not that it was badly written but that it could be dismissed so easily). Just say: "the crazy parts are metaphores" and "the contradictions are complimentary view points" and "blah blah blah" and if any Christian drives his own well written doubt and criticism in a good point you can just say "he's an idiot Christian and not a real Christian".
The Bible is a human work of literature, @Davis. Why do you feel that there should be "objective criteria" for interpreting literature? Can you think of any other human writing where there is "objective criteria" for interpretation?
Even law and regulation which are designed to be somewhat rigid and technical are open to dispute and interpretation, and then to adjudication in courts or in public discourse and referendums. If we have no objective criteria for law and regulation which takes up dozens or hundreds of volumes and is deliberately written as law, why do you think there should be objective criteria for interpreting a compilation of texts in one small volume that is not deliberately written as law?
You seem (repeatedly) to want to impose a level of "objective" analysis on the bible and religion which I think is nonsensical. That is the same sort of nonsense that is embraced by our fundamentalist brethren.
Are you sure you're not really a fundamentalist Christian? <g>
Human ideas and understandings are human ideas and understandings. Whether religion, science, mathematics, history, art, music, law, policy, psychology or whatever they are all just human ideas and understandings. They are not "objective".
I agree Dr. Bob, the Bible is a work of fiction.