Posted by: serrels | June 10, 2010

The Burning Question #2

So it’s Thursday, so I thought I’d put up another question. So here it is:

How literally should we take the Bible?

I think this is a question that both Atheists and Christians can discuss. Because regardless of belief in God, the Bible is still something worthy of study, at least it is to me.

I personally find it a difficult one to answer, which is why I’m asking! I think the Bible is full of interesting truths, but if you want to follow it to the letter, your best course of action would be to join the Taliban, because that’s what you’d be letting yourself in for.

Anyway, keen to see what you guys think. Have at it everyone, and no calling each other idiots and suchlike!

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  1. The Bible has no truths at all. Read Christopher Hitchen’s books, and “Godless” by Dan Barker, a former Christian Preacher now Atheist. Read Bart Ehrlman: “Misquoting Jesus”

    I have recently read from Genesis to Kings II. I have never read so much bullshit in all my life so much so, I tore up that Bible.

    The Bible is the worst book of fiction ever written. It is not suitable for under 18 and should be classified Horror/Fiction.

    RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING (Christopher Hitchens)

    • If you think there is nothing worth taking from the bible you’re just flat out wrong, that’s just an extremist view that I, as an atheist, don’t share. Why would you tear up a book that is a pivotal influence on practically every form of literature ever written.

      What about love your neighbour? What about the parable of the good samaritan? What about love your enemies? What about seek peace and pursue it?

      What about this: “Don’t follow their [the teachers of religious law] example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” That sounds like something Hitchens might say himself, but it was actually a quote from Jesus, from the book of Matthew, and as an atheist I think that’s pretty awesome.

      Fascists tear up bibles, not free thinkers. Regardless of whether the Bible says some ridiculous things (and I think it does) or endorses some truly terrible acts (which it also does) it does still have value, on a lot of levels. And that is an undeniable fact.

      • If you think those were the words actually spoken by Jesus you know nothing about the true origin of the New Testament. You refer to the Book of Matthew. To put it correctually it is called the Gospel according to Matthew. Who was Matthew? Nobody knows. When was it written? at least 40 years after the crucifixion. It was not written by actual eyewitnesses and thus can not be corroborated. There are no original authored manuscripts in existence. All we have is later copies.

        ALL the Gospels were written in Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic. It is difficult to translate from Aramaic into Greek keeping the exact meaniong of what was alleged to have been said correct. All copies have mistakes and differences. There ae too many contradictions between the four Gospels. Take the account of the visit to Jesus tomb. How many were there and who were thay? The Bible is not credible.

        I was a Roman Catholic before I became Atheist. I defied the Church and found out the truth for myself, the truth being that the Roman Catholic Church was founded by Constantine I, pagan Emperor of Rome at the time of the Council of Nicea, not by Jesus Christ. It was founded for political purposes as the official Religion of the Roman Empire, incorporation many of the myths from Mithraism which was the popular Relgion in Rome at the time. 25th of December was the feat of Sol Invictus, the Sun God. The name of Jesus was chosen by a committee based on a Celtic God, Hesus.

        As far as tearing up that bible, it was my bible that I paid for and I can do what I like with it.

      • Yep, I’m aware of those things. The Constantine thing, the controversies over who wrote the gospels, etc. That’s fine, I agree with you, but it doesn’t mean the bible doesn’t have value, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t some basic human
        truths written in it. Sorry if I have typos here – this was written in a moving train on an iPhone!

  2. WOW! Hmmm……Yes, I look at the bible a little differently, I guess…as it was written by fallable people and now read by fallable people….and how can one put what is Spiritual, about a God who is infinite into mere written words???? This is why I think people have tried putting it into so many translations…as it will never ‘seem’ right to the human eye.

  3. I think once you’re starting to pick through the gang rape and genocide for the ‘good’ stuff the whole exercise becomes pointless.
    The Bible does not have a monopoly on morals.

    • Luke I see your viewpoint, however read in context these stories you speak of are ways of indicating to people how NOT to act – at least that’s how I read it

  4. The Bible, in my opinion, is just another literary work that went viral after dear Constantine decided to accept Jesus into his heart. It has as much basic truths as, say, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (The books I mean).

  5. The bible is not one big book but rather 66 different books written by different people at different times about different things and for different reasons. Not all of the bible is meant to be a moral code and guidance. You can’t read one book the same as you read another book they have different intents and purposes.

  6. The Bible should not be taken literally at all. It was reading the Bible that deconverted me. I was pretty shocked and horrified by what I read. That’s supposed to be God’s word? Eek! Sure you can strain some good bits out, but the good is pretty much overwhelmed by the bad IMO.

    Btw, I was also pretty shocked at how few Christians I’ve met that have actually read the Bible all the way through.

  7. margiebargie. I’m not shocked. I am a bedraggled refugee from the “Holy” Roman Catholic Church. The RCC discourages it’s “faithfull” from reading all the bible. Certainly most of Exodus with it’s sordid tales of slaughter and genocide would be an embarrasment to the “Holy” Mother Church. Then take Numbers, chapter 31. Would you let children read that?

    As I posted earlier:
    “I have recently read from Genesis to Kings II. I have never read so much bullshit in all my life so much so, I tore up that Bible.”

    I would assume that most People born into a Christian family just accepted the bullshit they heard from the pulpit at Church on Sundays and did not think about what they heard. “Sheeple” is the term for people like that.

    • I was raised Catholic as well. Thinking back, it never occurred to me to read the Bible during the Catholic years. I can’t say I was actively discouraged. It just wasn’t done. It’s a long, tedious, unpleasant book.

      Later on I attended what I would say was a “fundie” church. They called themselves a “Bible-believing” church. On the surface, people were encouraged to read the Bible. In practice, there were limitations on reading the Bible and forming your own opinions. For instance, group Bible study was encouraged over independent study. The Bible studies were led by a “teacher”, awkward questions were discouraged, and readings were tightly controlled. Certain supplementary materials were recommended. Plus there was all that talk of “spiritual discernment”. “Spiritual discernment” more less boils down to this: if you come to a different conclusion from the church, your interpretation is wrong.

      Anyhow, I was impatient with the pace of “Bible study” so I just went ahead and read the thing myself. I thought, “Wow! What an awful book!” I really had expected a lot better. So I read it again and that was it for me. I’ve been a happy atheist ever since. The world makes a lot more sense to me now. Cognitive dissonance is a thing of the past (mostly). The irony is I’d probably still be a Christian if I hadn’t attended that fundie, Bible-believing church. I didn’t have anything against Catholicism, I just thought I’d try something else. Life is so weird and random sometimes.

      It is no surprise to me that people are discouraged from reading the Bible. If people actually read the Bible, I firmly believe there would be many fewer Christians. I do agree that most people avoid examining their religious beliefs. My theory is that on some level they’re not as convinced as they say they are and they don’t want to rock the boat. It’s understandable. After all, there’s a lot of pressure to be religious, at least in my neck of the woods. Being an atheist can be socially awkward to say the least. I have survived many conversion attempts; suffered through many unwanted arguments; and endured oodles of condescending remarks. I can’t say I’m angry about any of that. It’s all worth being out from under all the religious baggage.

  8. Robert, I’m going to kindly ask you to tone it down a bit. You’re entitled to your opinion, but please think a bit more about how you phrase it in future. Thanks.

    • Serrells,
      What are you objecting to in my comments? What do you consider offensive? If it the use of the word “bullshit”, ok I concur. If it is anything else, You suprise me. I am telling the truth, the real truth about Christianity, the truth many Christians cant handle. If you object to that you can ban me from this site thus making me a martyr to the cause of Truth.

      • Yeah basically just the swearing and stuff – not trying to censor you or anything. I want this to be a place where we can respect each other’s views. Don’t worry, I won’t make you a martyr to the church of truth!

  9. I remain in the “I don’t know” group. Yes I have read the bible cover to cover. The old testament, to me, is a bronze age people trying to make sense of their would, and it was a small world because they didn’t know the rest of the planet existed.

    Literally? No. The whole “the earth is 5000 years old” is plain silly and to take that literally is, well, silly. The christians I speak to say God’s year isn’t the same as an earth year, so they explain that away and I am fine with it.

    I see the old testament as a history of the Jewish people. The new testament, fiction. At what point did god decide “the hell with these Jews, let’s go for the rest of humanity”. I don’t believe any of it as pure truth. One can find words of wisdom in there, but literally? no.

  10. A few things have been said on this post and on others about Christians being blind followers, that we don’t examine our believes etc etc. I’d like to know if people who are calling us blind followers have they met every Christian on this entire planet? have you sat in every Christian church? examined every Christian denominations beliefs? If a child is brought up in a household that does not believe in God and does not change that belief in later life people don’t question that and say he is a blindly accepting everything he was told.

    Now myself being a Christian and being brought up so have been taught to questions things. In my church we are encouraged to read the bible for ourselves, we are encouraged to read the bible everyday. Bible studies are meant to be places where people can wrestle with things they don’t understand or don’t like.

    I don’t claim to understand everything in the bible. But this is what I do know. Not all of the bible is meant to be a moral code. Some of it are stories of what happened to the Israelites and other groups of people and individuals. Other parts are poetry and songs. There are warnings from prophets. The New Testament is the life of Jesus, letters that Paul has written to certain churches etc.

    The bible is complex and just sitting down to read it casually and then say ‘nup thats a crap book’ is being a bit short sighted. People have been studying it for years and it would take more than just a quick flip to understand it. I’m not saying everyone has to read the bible, if you don’t want to don’t, but to criticize it with out really knowing too much about it and actually studying (not just reading) it for yourself then thats not a fair call.

    • Caryn – couldn’t agree more. I, as an Adventist find myself constanty questioning stories in the bible and saying to myself “did that really happen, or is it just a good story” either way the fact of the matter is there are great life lessons one can take from stories. I really am not fussed if people identify as Athiest or Christian, it doesn’t matter your background – however if you never question your way of thinking or line of thought then I would say you are ‘blindly beleiving’. but when people do question, and study for themselves (either way) then they are making, what is for them at that time at least, an informed decision, and that in itself is the most important thing – each person making thier own decision based on their own understanding.
      In part that is why I find his blog so beneficial as it allows opinions from either side as well as opinions and questions from people researching and forming their own ideas. I just hope we can continue to respect each others stance without belittling anyone for what they have written.

  11. I was brought up a christian. I loved
    God and went to church. I learned Bible stories and sang christian songs. But in the end all that doesn’t make someone a christian, although I thought I was.

    I believe that now I am a true christian. After a lot of study and trails I knew who God was and that i wanted to be with him.

    Ive heard/read my fair share of these “debates” and in the end not many people listen or want to understand.

    I guess what i have found is that people usually find ways to justify their position rather than search out the truth. (that goes for both sides). It’s usually:

    1. I believe position “X”
    2. Argument “Y” Justifies Position “X”
    3. Therefore I believe position “Y” is truth.

    What I’m trying to say is that you can be arguing for ever. “X” becomes the deciding factor between whats true and whats not and “Y” only changes when it no longer justifies position “X”.

    Hopefully you get what i mean 🙂

  12. Yes, I have searched different faiths and attended several churches in search of truth. What I found was that “christians” are the most judgemental people on earth.

    A question for you christians: suppose a person came to your church, every week, went forward, accepted Jesus, was baptized, joined a small group, and was a model member of your church. Then he/she lets it out that he/she is gay. What is your church going to do? case closed.

    • Debra – in my church we have two members (that I know of) that are gay. I think to answer your question on behalf of all Christians would be unfiair, however I will answer for myself.
      Whilst I consider homosexuality a lifestylyle choice, it doesn’t, to me at least, detract from the person, who they are and the gifts and talents they have. I repect these two people as much as I do any other person in the church. I think that if someone genuinely believes that homosexuality is not an issue for their faith, then who am I to question that. Some people se pre-marital sex as a
      faith issue, some do not.
      In my opinion your choices are between you and God – if people have an issue with it, then those people need to recognise that we all make choices and do things that are not really “Christian”

  13. sorry robert, the bible does have some truths in it! I find the annoying thing is that there is much rubbish, lies, myths, aphorisms, parables, proverbs.. it is so easy to disprove the genesis myth and noahs ark fable that the sda’s still believe in – just nonsense – give me one area of science and i will show you there is old earth / evolution / no god written all over it, anybody? anything? ther bible also disproves itself etc…
    if you are too literalistic you are provably deluded..
    robert, in general you are certainly correct cheers

  14. Andy, you refer of course to syllogisms, i also find them tedious, in fact an argument can be logical sound yet still false and vice versa…

    1 – All living things need water to sty alive. ( true)
    2 – my car needs water in the battery and radiator
    3 – therefore my car is alive..
    nonsense off course.

    Andy i will give you a clue from science books rather than the bible – did you know the rainbow tells a story? it tells us that the sun is not a first generation star and was NOT there in the beginning, elements have a spectroscopic “bar code” you can even do this at home ( prism method, cd method etc ) the heavy elements were formed in a super nova and the later this hydrogen and other interstellar material with all of the heavier elements we find on our planet and in the sun speak to us of the folly of the genesis myth … unless you are sitting on hyrdogen or helium and using these elements only to exist and think etc then you are actually a child of the stars ..

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