That's not what the Bible Says

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.

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I see what you've done there, @Bob. Very clever.

The difference for me is not about whether I can absolutely prove the existence of energy of the Trinity but what use I can put those ideas to. Our ideas about energy help us when designing and using visible, tangible things. For me, ideas about the Trinity do not help us accomplish anything.

I think now you're on the right track, @Simon.  The way we choose to between different frameworks is not based on evidence for the founding assumptions, but rather on our perception of the utility of those frameworks in looking at the world.  We really have no idea if energy "exists", but "believing" in it is useful.

This is where I don't get atheism, because for me it seems like the most useless approach imaginable.  It makes no predictions, offers no insights, provides no comfort, etc.

Theism, by contrast, has the utility of providing a common, easily taught framework wherein we can all agree that cheating people is a bad thing.  It provides a worldview that allows and requires one to reject tribalism, temper nationalism, and celebrate heroic compassion.

For me, you are a bit like the fellow who rejects science but who enjoys driving around in his car, using his smartphone GPS.  Just as science underpins all of those devices, Christendom underpins the culture and civilization with which you engage every day.  Belief in natural law, belief in the responsibility of leaders to serve the people, personal obligation to charity and self-sacrifice, higher values than tribe or nationalism, on and on.

Sorry, gotta call bullshit on this one.  Religion doesn't require the rejection of tribalism; it is tribalism writ large.

"This is where I don't get atheism, because for me it seems like the most useless approach imaginable.  It makes no predictions, offers no insights, provides no comfort, etc."

I understand where you're coming from if you are looking to use atheism as a guide for things like morality, etc because, as you rightly say, it does not profer anything. But, and it's an important but, it does have a use. In a world where humans are capable of spinning any narrative they desire for a vast array of reasons (fear, malice, confusion, ignorance, self-comfort) there needs to be a way to decide which of those is just imagined in the brain of the speaker. 

If not, you would have to believe everything anyone told you. You would have no yardstick by which to measure the likely truth of something. You are telling us about Catholicism but a Muslim would talk about Islam and I would literally have no way to decide between the two. You may say "pick the framework that suits you best or you lean towards" but I want to pick that which is closest to reality (in other words something that I can use and understand). I have no measure by which to choose that except to try and match what is in those frameworks to other things I know about the world.

A lot of what you talk about makes sense to me in that way. When you start talking about the Trinity and the Resurrection you lose me because these things do not fit in with anything else I know about the world. I therefore have a choice between two conclusions:

1) They exist but are exceptional or inexplicable things which I should just accept.

2) Someone (or many persons, or many persons over time) created them and wrote them in a book.

Without the emotional pull of religion (i.e. as an atheist) I choose conclusion 2. It works for me. Not just about religious things, but about everything. Which is the most likely explanation?

Without the emotional pull of religion (i.e. as an atheist) I choose conclusion 2.

The real question for me is why you feel there is a dichotomy, and why those particular horns of the dilemma.  The problem isn't your choice between those two things; I suspect if forced to I'd make the same choice.  The problem is the weird notion that you think there are only two choices and they have to be exclusive.

Do things not exist if people create ideas about them and write them in a book?

If there are outliers, exceptional, or not-yet-explained things does it mean that you should just accept (or dismiss) them? 

Why can't exceptional things be of interest, to explore and think about?  Why wouldn't people talk about and ponder and write about exceptional things in many books?

The universe is full of exceptional and unexplained things, and we write about them all the time.  This week's news is that the radioastronomy team in Melbourne caught an extragalactic Fast Radio Burst in a real-time observation.  Oddly, the FRB was strongly polarized, and the state of the science is that we really have no clue.   Next week it will be something else, and the week after that something else. 

We live in a universe of wonders.  Where would the fun be, or the learning and growth, if we simply rejected unusual things because we couldn't explain them / they didn't fit into our preconceived notions?

I agree with Mo. Religion doesn't require the rejection of tribalism; it reinforces and embodies it. One does not have to look far with regards to current events to discover this. Look at the middle east right now. Religion reinforces tribal thought, tribal behavior. Religion requires the exclusivity of an "us versus them" mindset - a duality in which I am right but the other is wrong.

The only way around this is to reject the ideas reinforced by religion, of tribalism. The facts remain that humanity, while made up of many parts, is still one whole unit. Our differences are not meant to separate us, but help us learn from each other. Christendom does not do that.

Christendom is a socio-theological contruct that justifies the superiority of the west over the east. It was the driving force behind western colonialism, responsible for countless deaths - genocide, in fact - and the subjugation of other races within the larger fold of humanity. It was done all in the name of "progress" which happened to use the name of Jesus Christ as its justification, which just further produces evidence over-all that organized, institutional religion is a farce in the practice that it claims to be.  

@Barry: Religion requires the exclusivity of an "us versus them" mindset - a duality in which I am right but the other is wrong.

@Simon: You would have no yardstick by which to measure the likely truth of something. You are telling us about Catholicism but a Muslim would talk about Islam and I would literally have no way to decide between the two.

I'm not sure what you all are looking for.  Barry wants to reject the notion of one way of thought being right and another being wrong, and Simon wants to reject anything that doesn't allow one to choose one way of being right and another being wrong.

What I reject, Bob, is the over-simplification of right and wrong that religion can either create or reinforce when it comes to the idea of one culture being superior to another. The world, and humanity, are far more complex. It is not that I reject the idea of right and wrong. It's that I reject, on the larger scale, how simplistic we like to make things in order to make ourselves feel superior over someone else. Look at America's conservative movement in world affairs. We are always looking for an enemy because we cannot shake off the "us versus them" mindset, and what's worse, is that the conservatives reinforce it with religious beliefs that, no matter what evidence is contrary, willing live in cognitive dissonance.

It's that I reject, on the larger scale, how simplistic we like to make things in order to make ourselves feel superior over someone else.

OK, I agree with that.

Honestly, though, that's what I see in Hitchens-style atheism.  Nonsensically simplistic views of religion in order to allow folks to feel superior to someone else.  For example, I think if you consider things carefully, you'll admit that the primary driving force behind western colonialism was and continues to be economics, not religion.  It's fair to say that religion was not successful in stemming that tide, so if you are one of the folks who expects religion to be Magically Potent then you were no doubt disappointed.  All we managed to do was moderate those human impulses to some degree.     That's something, though.

I'm curious, too, what would you say about Soviet (atheist) imperialism and repression?  Was the driving force behind it  atheism, the way some on the right would claim?  Isn't that way too simplistic?  And if so, can you recognize that your own claim is the same?

Yes, I also see that sort of naive simplicity in fundamentalist thought in each of the major monotheistic religions at the moment.  It's particularly pronounced in Islam, and to some extent in Christian segments in America, because in those cases groups seeking economic and political power are co-opting those traditions for their own ends.  That's easier to do with fundamentalism.

So I would certainly join you in opposing naive simplicity and fundamentalist thought, but I would do it across the full spectrum of beliefs, including atheism.

I'm curious, too, what would you say about Soviet (atheist) imperialism and repression?  Was the driving force behind it  atheism, the way some on the right would claim?  Isn't that way too simplistic?  And if so, can you recognize that your own claim is the same?

I would say that it was motivated by the same cultural and economic motivations as western imperialism. The difference is that atheism did not have a God to hide behind in order to justify claims of superiority and rightness. Thus, it is easier to clearly see it as an evil.

Religion, institutionally, muddies the waters by supplying irresponsibly insane reasons to justify bad behavior.

This said, I would never go as far to say that atheism has it altogether right. I would say that atheism tends to be a little more honest about things, given the underpinning ideals of reason and the elevation of human intellect. Does that mean that there aren't any atheists out there who blindly adhere to a set of ideological doctrine (absent a god, of course)? I don't think so. I have seen them hanging around; they exist. And just like a fundamentalist, they are fueled more by emotional argument than rational thought in their "belief system" about the world around them, thus bringing me to another point.

Do you believe in objective truth? Furthermore, do you believe that you can touch it, experience it, in absolute form or fullness? I don't think humanity will ever be able to do that. We are so bound by our subjective nature that all we have with regards to objectivity are slivers of experience, and even then I question just how much objectivity we think we know of. After all, our subjective minds color everything we do. Then again, I digress.

At best, Bob, we agree on something, but we simply do not see the same tree in the forest we are staring at.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_deity

It may function that way now Tom, but the early church was looking for believers and a triple god is certainly a typical mythological construct and the trinity makes for easier conversions.

Those words read like those produced by the poster once known as Dr. Bob. Are they?

_Robert_, I wasn't in school when the early church was doing its thing on the people of its time.

I have no knowledge of the uses to which they put the trinity. I doubt that it was less fraudulent than when I was a kid.

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