I am a recently "outed" atheist. Whenever I discuss atheism with a believer, I find myself using other people's arguments. They are perfectly valid and reasonable arguments, however I would like to be able to quote the Bible as readily as any believer (or any informed atheist (I seem to find that atheists have read the Bible more than most believers)). With that in mind, how should I go about studying the Good Book? I think it has been the antiquated language that has kept me from reading it, even when I was a Catholic.
You should look into classes that offer critical reading and education of the Bible. Don't go to a church Bible study, as these tend to be more erroneous interpretations by laymen who know very little about the Bible.
I am curious as to why you feel the need to become an expert on the Bible in order to refute it. That knowledge may help defend your rejection of Christianity, it doesn't do anything to support your atheism. You'd have to become an expert on every religion known to man and then some. The far more sensible approach (IMO) is to equip your Skeptical toolbox and utilize that to form and defend your worldviews. Unless you wish to get down and dirty with debating believers, that is. Then have at it. But personally, I'd greatly lament all the hours lost studying a terribly written piece of fiction when I could have been studying more useful things like science, math, or history. And don't get me wrong, having knowledge of the Bible is great for literature and history, but having an encyclopedic knowledge of it is overkill and limited in its usefulness.
I understand where you're coming from. It's just that my family is hardcore Catholic and some of my fiancee's family is Lutheran. If and when my atheism comes up, I feel like I should have knowledge of the Bible so that they take me seriously, and not discount my opinion because I haven't read it.
Just be aware that you may gain knowledge of the Bible and they will still fail to take you seriously. Their willingness to respect your opinions probably hinges more upon how agreeable your conclusions are to them apropos of the Bible than how intimate you are with the contents.
I agree, but there's something so satisfying about telling someone to "knoweth thyself" and wait 45 minutes for the light to turn on.
Totally agree. Suffer the little children means something different these days.
I thought it meant kids were annoying brats but we can't get rid of them. :)
Evilbible is a bit ridiculous honestly. I find their academic standards a bit disheartening.
I agree with reading the NIV or some other modernized version.
Then I would recommend 1) Who Wrote the Bible, 2) Jesus, Interrupted, and 3) the Rejection of Pascal's Wager (also a good web site). If you can make it through all these, you will be well versed, in my opinion, with respect to a discussion about the Bible. If you want to go deeper, The End of Biblical Studies by Avalos may be another one to consider.
Good luck- it's a journey (I have a fundamentalist Christian mother).
I have a degree in the study of the bible. My best advice is to get commentaries. When you are just starting, you just want to make sure that you are interpreting it correctly.
As an example. In the OT there is a passage that talks about taking girls after conquering a city or village. Many interpret this to be saying taking girls against their will. But the passage makes a whole lot better sense when reading the Illiad. The entire story is based out of an obligation Achilles has to Bruseis the wife of the man he killed. After he killed her husband, he reassured her that he would marry her, but Agamemnon took her. In the ancient world taking a woman of a conquered city as a wife was considered to be an act of mercy.
Knowing this, you can still point out the moral problems with God advocating something like this as opposed to a better system, but you will not fall into the error of thinking it is talking about raping women.
The best thing to do is pick up a commentary. As you are first starting, get something cheap like the Baker Bible Commentary of the whole bible. It is less than $20. It explains context verse by verse and it isn't too complex. It will not give you the details you will find in Word Biblical Commentary (excellent and found on Logos software with the most critical of scholars), or Hermeneia, but you will get a good intro, and will avoid a lot of contextual errors. Eventually you will want to get ahold of Word though.
Start with the simple commentaries. Then go get ahold of Word or somthing else but it is expensive. Free if you like being a pirate though. E-sword has a few of them, but I think that they may be less honest than Baker, even though baker is conservative. A lot of
Oh and I would recommend use the ESV. It is free with the e-sword software, and it is a fantastic translation using the critical texts. NIV is dynamic equivalent, but ESV is more literal. Dynamic equivalent provides the equivalent of what it means in our language. Literal just tries to stick to what the text says. I think ESV is really readable though.
Knowing the Bible can be a great weapon to have in your debate tool kit. But if you don't have the time to read it all, there are good books out there that go over it well. "Good Book" by David Plotz goes over the OT very well and honestly as well. There are similar books that review the NT as well. I've heard that "Jesus, Interrupted" is good, although I have yet to read it myself. Plus there's always the Skeptics Annotated Bible.
I was raised Catholic and considered becoming a priest at one point. The biggest disadvantage you will have is that you have never even come close to reading the bible. Take a close look at the readings in the missalette. It will say "the gospel according to John - Ch 6 verse 3,5-9, 14, 18, 22-25, 28. It is freakin edited right there in your hands. (If this is not still true, someone please correct me, I havent been to mass for many years.) Anyway, to answer your question and something I'm doing my self in 2012. There are a plethora of "read the bible in 1 year" websites that will break it down and even give you points to ponder on a daily basis. It can be a fun thing to do and it is important, if you are going to be presenting counter-points to xians, to have as good an understanding as possible. (I know the whole-year thing sucks but its a big freakin book, lol)