Better than the Bible

Time magazine recently ran an article titled “10 Questions for Katharine Jefferts Schori“, an interview with the presiding bishop-elect of the American Episcopal Church. The article contains several questions about issues of social justice and compassion, and though I do not agree with Schori’s theology, I have no disagreement with the ethical philosophy she advocates. Some notable quotes:

What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church? Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

What is your view on intelligent design? I firmly believe that evolution ought to be taught in the schools as the best witness of what modern science has taught us. To try to read the Bible literalistically about such issues disinvites us from using the best of recent scholarship.

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven? We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

These are laudable sentiments, and I wish more Christians felt the same way. Christianity would be a far more positive and beneficial religion than it currently is, if that were the case, and I am glad that there are believers out there who turn their lives to positive goals and resist the hate of the religious right. However, Schori’s moral beliefs, as praiseworthy as they are, owe very little to the religious tradition of which she is a member. Her beliefs are good not because they are in accord with the Bible, but precisely because they recognize the fallibility and inferiority of the Bible, and because she has the courage to disregard scripture where it says things that conscience plainly shows to be wrong.

For example, take her belief that there may be paths to salvation other than belief in Jesus. Again, this is surely a belief praiseworthy for its compassion and tolerance; the opposite belief is an evil creed that makes one’s chance for salvation heavily dependent on the time and place of one’s birth, and that has inspired wars and inquisitions beyond counting throughout history as sects clashed over which one had the true path to God. However, this cruel exclusivism is undeniably taught by the Bible. In John 14:6, for example, Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Exodus 22:20 threatens death on anyone who worships any god other than Yahweh. Only by ignoring these teachings can Schori state her beliefs as she does – and she is right to ignore them, but in that case, why look to the Bible as a moral authority at all? I doubt she believes the Bible is inerrant, but in that case, what does she need the Bible for when human conscience and reason are themselves perfectly sufficient guides?

I wrote in “God Is Love” about this sort of salad bar theology, where believers pick and choose which verses from scripture they follow and ignore others. More importantly, their morality is always suffused with a generous portion of originally humanist ideas. As an educated person, Schori must be aware that the ideals of social justice she upholds hardly got their start in Christianity. In fact, most of the moral progress humanity has made came about not because of the Bible, but apart from it, and in some cases in spite of it. The idea of democracy, to name one basic example, did not in any sense come from the Bible, whose preferred model of government is monarchy and kingship. It came from the ancient Greeks, and secondarily from Enlightenment thinkers who recognized the injustice and the cruelties of divine-right rule. Democracy is surely one of humanity’s most important inventions, and yet the Bible has not a word to say about it.

The ideas of women’s rights and equality did not come from the Bible, and are in fact strongly condemned and rejected by the Bible, as well as by many famous historical Christians. The early suffragists faced vehement and bitter opposition from believers, who correctly observed that scripture indisputably speaks of women as inferior and subservient to men. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “In the early days of woman-suffrage agitation, I saw that the greatest obstacle we had to overcome was the Bible. It was hurled at us on every side.”)

And then there is slavery. Although the movement to abolish slavery had many Christian participants, the Bible itself clearly approves of slavery, establishing an elaborate set of rules for the buying and selling of human beings and even how hard an owner is allowed to beat them. It contains not a word indicating that this practice was abolished or that it was ever meant to end. Similarly, the authors of the New Testament repeatedly exhort slaves to be faithful and obedient, and in one parable Jesus favorably compares God to a slaveholder who whips his slaves.

Today, we see this same pattern echoed in the struggle over gay civil rights, whose opponents point out that the Bible never speaks of homosexuals except when it is calling for them to be put to death or condemning them to eternal damnation. (It is worth noting that even within Schori’s own church, such sentiments as hers are not universal; though she appears to support the ordination of gay clergy, many other Episcopal leaders have made bigoted condemnations of homosexuality, and the dispute now threatens to tear apart the church.) As with many other civil-rights struggles in the past, the majority of people standing in the way of equality and liberty are religious conservatives whose fundamentalist beliefs cause them to view others as less than human.

Although the Bible contains many verses calling for basic kindness and charity, it is silent on, and often actively opposed to, the philosophical principles of justice and equality needed to build a truly good society and not just a society that contains a few good people. Believers who nevertheless support these principles are better than the Bible. They are more just than the Old Testament. Their morality is superior to the teachings of Jesus. They are better people than God.

Believers such as Schori might tell me that I am taking the Bible too literally; that it is not, as the fundamentalists believe it is, the unalloyed word of God, and that some of its verses are meant to be interpreted only metaphorically, or even cast aside as the product of fallible humans from a different culture and time, and that individual conscience must always play a part in determining what is right. I agree with this as far as it goes, but I would actually urge such believers to take the next logical step. Specifically, I would ask them: Why do you follow a book that you yourself acknowledge to be flawed? Why not just cast the entire Bible aside and instead draw your morality from a source you do not have to apologize for? And given your agreement that certain parts of scripture are not meant to convey literal truth but are only metaphors, why not take the next step and say that the concept of God is itself just a metaphor for how certain groups of ancient people saw the world?

Although I fault the religious right’s morality, I acknowledge their consistency. With the religious left, it is the other way around: I applaud their far superior morality, but call attention to their selectivity. We should neither defend these religious texts as factual nor make excuses for them. Instead, I would encourage both groups to come to the side that has it all, both factual consistency and reason-based morality: the side of atheism.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://stupac2.blogspot.com Stupac2

    James Huger made essentially the same point about religious conservatives standing in the way of progress, but in a way that is concise enough to be pretty damning in a few sentences.

    Personally I’ve liked everything I’ve heard about Mrs. Schori. Having more Christians like her speaking out against the bigotry of the fanatics would be fantastic, even if her position is inherently flawed. After all, theistic ones are.

  • Alex Weaver

    Would it be possible to set up a way to load a “printer-friendly” version of these articles (similar to the set-up on Mapquest), so we could print these articules without the sidebar and comments? I know that would make sharing them with Trish easier…

  • Ben Abbott

    Nice article.

    I too am happy to see some one of Mrs Schori’s character so deeply embedded in the Christian religion. However, with regards to the flaws of theistic based philosophy, I’d like to add the real flaw is with regards to all closed philosophies.

    No philosophy is all encompassing.

    The real problem with most theistic philosophies is their claim of absolutes. In Mrs Schori’s defense she appears to reject the notion that closed philosophies are compatible with God.

    We should all be careful not to fall for the same erroneous “easy answers” as do so many theists. It would be erroneous to accuse all theistic positions as being closed and “inherently flawed”.

    No philosophy is all encompassing, and any that make such a claim are inherently flawed.

    Regards

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    No philosophy is all encompassing, and any that make such a claim are inherently flawed.

    Here’s the same point made with more snark, courtesy of the great Lore Sjoberg. ;)

    Alex: That should be possible, yes. I’ll look into it – give me a week or so to see what I can come up with.

  • Philip Thomas

    The Bible is a deeply flawed work, but so what? The point is not the moral system it teaches but the fact of the Resurrection and what this implies.

  • Alex Weaver

    Using a book like the Bible to convey that would do Rube Goldberg proud…

  • Philip Thomas

    In any case, the religous right’s position is not consistent- there are many biblical passages which directly contradict each other, and many more which the relgious right chooses to ignore. And the religious left’s position is no more selective than anyone else’s: out of the great number of possible beleifs, they hold only a few. Concluding that some parts of the Bible are true or useful and some are not is merely applying one’s mind to it in the same way one would to any other source or piece of literature- or newspaper article for that matter.

  • Ben Abbott

    Edonmuse: “the great Lore Sjoberg. ;)”

    Thanks for the link, that really is *great*! :-)

  • andrea

    “the point is not the moral system it teaches but the fact of the Resurrection and what this implies”

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Philip. Your book states that the whole things is God’s Word. I do not understand how you can question the “moral system” and blindly accept the “resurrection”. The magic “fact” of Resurrection is less believable than the moral system that obviously came from a xenophobic agrarian culture but purportedly from stone tablets straight from a deity. I suppose that’s faith for you.

  • Philip Thomas

    my book? You know, when I said I didn’t believe in the literal truth of the Bible, I was including those parts of the Bible which claim that the Bible is literally true!!

    The Resurrection emerges from the historical sources for the period, many of which are compiled in the Bible. I no more need faith to believe in it thatn I need faith to believe that Queen Anne is dead.

  • Ignoramus

    Philip
    Doesn’t your belief in the Resurrection come from the Bible? Do you have historical sources that are independant of the Bible?

  • Philip Thomas

    My beleif in the Resurrection comes from study of the historical material available for 1st Century Palestine and the later Christian communities that spread from it. A considerable proportion of this material is contained in the Bible, but I am not simply assuming its literal truth a priori.

  • Archi Medez

    “interpreted only metaphorically”

    Adam, you say you agree with this as far as it goes, but ask believers to go further in rejecting a flawed doctrine. I think the liberal religious “it’s only metaphorical” defence needs to be nailed down. We shouldn’t let it go without a follow-up. Example: Atheist criticizes Hosea 13:16, re “dashing babies on the rocks”, then liberal* theist says this is some kind of metaphor for something else, that no babies were harmed in this episode, etc. *(Liberal is not a very accurate word, but I’m not sure what else to use…”moderates” maybe?). Aside from the fact that this defence is merely projecting 21st western values onto bronze age chest-thumping barbarism, the atheist can pursue certain lines of inquiry and counter-argument. Namely, ask:

    -Are you sure this is a metaphor and was not intended as a literal threat of attack? If you are sure of this, how do you arrive at this sureness?

    -If it is a metaphor, how do you deem it appropriate the expression in metaphors involving violent infanticide?

    -If it is a metaphor, how do you know the meaning you’ve obtained is valid? Why can’t a “non-liberal” interpreter read the same verse as a justification for smashing babies on rocks as a therapeutic exercise? (This exposes the “verses as inkblots” mentality of liberalist believers–the problem is they have no consistent systematic way of restraining bad or evil interpretations of verses that seem, well, bad and evil). So although “literalism” is often blamed for the excesses of believers, actually a certain amount of literalism constrains believers from getting an even worse interpretation.

    -And why is the Bible filled with these outrageously evil and vicious metaphors, which just so happen to involve lots of blood and gore, dismemberment, death, torture, roasting flesh, and so on (e.g., women being cut up into pieces, with the body parts packed up and sent to different nations, etc.)?

    There is an oft-quoted metaphorical verse from the Gospels, namely, “I come not to bring peace but a sword”. Because the main character, Jesus, in the NT gospels says he is speaking in metaphors and parables, liberal interpreters have some basis for reading this as not a verse of war but as a metaphor for division. But the message of this metaphor is bad. A generous reading of the metaphor is that Christ’s religion will cause social division and conflict, even within families. Then why does he advocate it? And why do liberals (or conservatives) think this is acceptable? One of the (probable) intended messages of the Gospels is that disbelievers will be punished in some terrible fashion simply for disbelieving. With nonsensical, self-serving, fascist pronouncements such as that, why would anyone be willing to cause division and conflict within their own families in order to implement such an ideology?

    Another way of dealing with the “it’s metaphorical” defence is to ask: What about all of those verses that are clearly not metaphorical. For example, the Old Testament gives very detailed instructions for certain rituals. Do we have any reason to think that such detailed, mundane instructions are some kind of metaphorical code for something else? What purpose, from the metaphorical angle, could be served by interpreting that mundane detail as something other than what it seems to be? Next, what about all of those explicit instructions for behaviour? For example, the instructions to kill apostates, disbelievers generally, adulterers, homosexuals, disobedient children, “witches”, etc. are not metaphorical.

    (A common defence used by believers regarding those latter commands is the “context” argument. But the atheist must again not let that one pass, and ask: In what context would it ever be appropriate to slaughter non-Jews/Christians, adulterers, homosexuals, etc., simply for committing those sin-crimes? Also, if the context in which such verses were written is so alien to our present times, why bother with such material today?).

  • Philip Thomas

    I rely neither on metaphor nor context. Many passages in the Bible are false, or wrong, or both. Large parts of it are poorly written fiction, and its moral message is, by-and-large, apalling. These things cannot be wiped away by noting that some of the passages in quesiton contain metaphors.

    As for division, radical doctrine which contradicts the teachings of the religous establishment is often divisive. I’m sure you wouldn’t see that as a reason to condemn it outright…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    In any case, the religous right’s position is not consistent- there are many biblical passages which directly contradict each other, and many more which the relgious right chooses to ignore.

    Philip has a good point here, and I think I misspoke in the last paragraph in my post. Allow me to try to clarify the point I was making.

    By saying that I acknowledge the religious right’s consistency, I did not mean to imply that they follow all the teachings of the Bible and the religious left does not. That is not true. Philip correctly pointed out that the Bible is not a consistent book; there are some passages that call for peace, compassion and social justice and many other passages that call for hatred, violence and bloodshed. The religious right emphasizes the latter and downplays the former, while with the religious left it’s the other way around. (One notable inconsistency in the religious right’s position is that they rely strongly on the Old Testament verses condemning homosexuality, while utterly ignoring the other OT laws in the same section of the book about, say, wearing mixed fabrics or eating shellfish.) And then there are other passages that both sides tend to ignore, like the ones about selling everything you own and taking no thought for the morrow. I think it would literally be impossible for one human being to follow every teaching of the Bible.

    However, there is one notable difference between the two sides that I was referring to, and that is this: the religious right does not apologize for their belief in the Bible. On the other hand, it seems to me that the religious left very often acknowledges the atheist’s points – that the Bible was written by fallible humans, that it is often self-contradictory, that it contains many passages that are factually wrong or morally unacceptable – and then they still go on believing in it. For all of Katharine Schori’s laudable moral statements, I’m willing to bet her congregation still uses an unedited, unexpurgated version of the Bible that endorses the very evils she condemns in no uncertain terms. That is the inconsistency to which I was referring. If Schori or anyone else truly believes that certain passages are not the word of God, then why don’t they make a book like Jefferson’s Bible with the bad parts cut out?

  • Philip Thomas

    I don’t consider myself qualified to decide which passages are the word of God and which ones are not. Preserving the Bible in its currrent state has a certain illusion of historical continuity and it can also be used to make an important point: even if you think you’re inspired by God, you can still get things horribly wrong.

    It does also mean you are maintaing a link with your fellow Christians, which is something I like.

    Atheist’s don’t really have an equivalent, but would you not be annoyed if someone pruned the works of Robert Ingersoll, removing all parts that they felt were irrelevant today, and attempted to impose this pruned version on others?

  • kelly

    I was looking for something and I came to your website. I would have to say I can understand your point of view on the bible if you have no belief in Jesus. I on the other hand am a believer and do believe in the word of God as competely true. The thing I would like to say is this. I do not believe in religion, but in relationship with Jesus. I think religion kills people. Jesus corrects the pharisees and the Sadducees about their religious self righteous behavior. I do know without a doubt that Jesus is true and real and that he heals. I have had many encounters with him. He speaks to us in so many ways. He speaks to us in dreams and visions. He speaks to us in our prayer time with just a still small voice that just flows from within. I’m sure you know all about this because you sound very knowledgeable, but I just wanted to share some of what I believe.
    I smoked cigarettes for about 30 years. I came to know the Lord about 9 years ago and just recently he has called me to give them up. The way he spoke this was so kind and gentle and it was because he has more for me than that. Jesus is truly about relationship. His words to me were that he would help me to lay them down. I did and this was in Apirl of 2006. I am so glad I did. I also drank beer when I came to know him. He didn’t beat me up about it. Through the years he gently takes away the desire for the high. When he starts to speak to you personally and you experience his love, visions that aren’t induced by drugs or alcohol, dreams that are incredible and prophetic then you give up stuff that you other wise wouldn’t want to. I guess what I’m saying is that the Jesus I know is full of Grace and Mercy. His Grace abounds and his Mercy is everlasting. For me Jesus says come just as you are. You don’t need to give up everything and then come to him. You don’t need to live a perfect live and then get to know him. It really is about loving, not judging others, and helping the world be a better place.
    Thank you for your time and letting me share my views.

  • Philip Thomas

    Hi kelly. Thankyou for sharing that with us.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    I don’t consider myself qualified to decide which passages are the word of God and which ones are not.

    I am wondering who is qualified to decide? Certainly there are no shortage of people who claim to be qualified. Can you identify someone who is qualified, so we can know which passages are the word of a god?

  • Philip Thomas

    No.

  • kelly

    I bible is the inspired word of God. That is what it says. All is based on belief. If you believe. It is putting your faith in action. Faith is believing something that you believe, because you believe it. People come to Christ by faith, people don’t believe by faith. Faith is believing in something or someone without logical proof. Being a Christian or an Atheist takes faith, either way.
    I guess to get to the answer of the question, “Who is qualified to decide which passages of the Bible are the word of God”? Again, it is based on Faith. I don’t believe you can believe part of the Word and not believe all, because it says, “The Bible is the inspired word of God.” That is my view.
    You guys are great and I appreciate you letting everyone share their views on this site.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    No

    If you do not know which parts of the Bible are the word of a god, and you don’t know of any other person who can tell you, then what use is it as “God’s” word?

  • Philip Thomas

    Generally speaking, I don’t use the Bible as God’s word. I use it for reflection on the moral issues raised, and as historical evidence for ancient Israel- dubious evidence, but evidence nonetheless.

    You of course claim to know which parts are God’s word (none) and which parts aren’t (all)… Indeed, reading back on the Posts here, it is consistently Atheists (and kelly, but I’m not arguing with her) who bring in the notion of God’s Word, while my reference to it is in reply to their questions.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Generally speaking, I don’t use the Bible as God’s word. I use it for reflection on the moral issues raised, and as historical evidence for ancient Israel- dubious evidence, but evidence nonetheless.

    What about the non-”generally speaking” part of your answer? Do you use any part of the Bible as God’s word? If so which part(s)?

    You of course claim to know which parts are God’s word (none) and which parts aren’t (all)… Indeed, reading back on the Posts here, it is consistently Atheists (and kelly, but I’m not arguing with her) who bring in the notion of God’s Word, while my reference to it is in reply to their questions.

    It seems your position on the Bible and God’s word would be more in keeping with the one you are assigning to me.

  • Philip Thomas

    Ok, “Generally speaking” was a poor choice of words. I don’t use the Bible as God’s Word.

    Enigma, are you an atheist? If not, I apologise for misrepresenting you.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Ok, “Generally speaking” was a poor choice of words. I don’t use the Bible as God’s Word.

    If the Bible contains the word of a god, especially an all-powerful god who created the universe, the book would be of incredible value. But if it contains just the words of men, while there could still be value, that value would be significantly reduced. Hence my wanting to understand your position on the matter as a religious person.

    Enigma, are you an atheist? If not, I apologise for misrepresenting you.

    Yes I am an atheist. But maybe you would agree with me that the Bible has a hold on many of the religious, far out of proportion than it should have. Adam points out in his essay that some liberal theologians like Katharine Jefferts Schori appear to be in effect backing away from the Bible. And yet they seemingly want to have their cake and eat it too. And so they continue to elevate a book that is at increasing odds with their positions, requiring the spinning of explanations to co-exist.

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    I bible is the inspired word of God. That is what it says. All is based on belief. If you believe. It is putting your faith in action. Faith is believing something that you believe, because you believe it. People come to Christ by faith, people don’t believe by faith. Faith is believing in something or someone without logical proof. Being a Christian or an Atheist takes faith, either way.

    Kelly – from reading your post, have you considered the possibility that you are actually worshiping first and foremost not a god, but a convention you are calling “faith”. This faith makes your god possible.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Philip,

    I don’t consider myself qualified to decide which passages are the word of God and which ones are not.

    Oh, come now. You really put so little confidence in your own moral judgment that you don’t consider yourself qualified to decide whether a biblical passage that demands the wholesale slaughter – man, woman and child – of an entire people is the divinely inspired word of God?

    I call this phenomenon “induced ethical dyslexia”: religious believers often become so accustomed to accepting authority unquestioningly, rather than making up their own minds, that they can’t recognize evil for what it is, even when it is staring them in the face, if that evil is endorsed by their own religious tradition. My upcoming post “No Commandments” is going to discuss this very phenomenon.

    Preserving the Bible in its currrent state has a certain illusion of historical continuity and it can also be used to make an important point: even if you think you’re inspired by God, you can still get things horribly wrong.

    That is an interesting point, but to be honest I think it’s far too subtle for most believers to grasp. Again, if Katharine Schori’s Bible and the Bibles of her congregations had margin notes indicating flatly that verses like this were not the word of God, I might acknowledge the point – but I strongly doubt they have anything like that. Even liberal religions tend to shy away from that degree of encouraging critical thinking among their members.

    Atheist’s don’t really have an equivalent, but would you not be annoyed if someone pruned the works of Robert Ingersoll, removing all parts that they felt were irrelevant today, and attempted to impose this pruned version on others?

    As I’m sure you know, Philip, the situation is not at all comparable. Robert Ingersoll never, in his published works, endorses slavery, calls for the genocide of those who believe differently than him, or demands the shedding of innocent blood to forgive wrongs. And if he did do any of those things, I wouldn’t need to prune his works, because I would simply conclude that he was not a good moral authority to follow and set aside his writings altogether. But if he did call for such things, and if for some reason I was bound to believe in him rather than just finding a new source of morality, I would not only accept that pruning, I would demand it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Kelly,

    I appreciate your decision to share your views on this site. It’s always a concern of mine to reach out to the religious community rather than just preaching to the choir, so to speak. I have to note, however, that your comments really didn’t address the substance of my article, and so I’d like to better understand your views with a few questions, if I may.

    First, you wrote that you “believe in the word of God as competely true”, but what do you consider to be the word of God? Have you read the Bible all the way through? (Most Christians haven’t.) Are you certain that you can endorse everything it contains as good and righteous advice?

    You may not be aware of the many verses the Bible contains that endorse quite shocking instances of bloodshed, hatred, killing and horror in the name of God. In one verse from the Old Testament Book of Hosea, for example, God promises to punish the city of Samaria for its nonbelief in him by sending armies to kill its people, rip open the bellies of its pregnant women, and smash its children against the ground. (Hosea 13:16). You spoke highly of Jesus’ grace and mercy; do you really believe, then, that he would inspire a passage such as this? Do you think he would react with such violence and fury just because people weren’t obeying him as he wanted?

    I do know without a doubt that Jesus is true and real and that he heals. I have had many encounters with him. He speaks to us in so many ways. He speaks to us in dreams and visions. He speaks to us in our prayer time with just a still small voice that just flows from within.

    I’m sure your belief is genuine, but I have to ask what makes you so certain, considering that members of other religions use the exact same arguments as you to support belief in totally different gods. Muslims often claim that Allah sends dreams and visions to them confirming the truth of Islam. Hindus, Taoists, Sikhs and many other religions claim to hear God’s voice in prayer. Even Christians who are certain that God has spoken to them personally often disagree dramatically regarding what God’s wishes and desires are. And it has been demonstrated that religions other than Christianity can influence and alter people’s personalities in important ways; for example, there are groups that claim Buddhist meditation can reform prison inmates. All these groups are making the very same claims as you, only using them in support of different religions and different faiths. Can you give me any reason to believe you over them that is not completely dependent on unprovable, subjective personal experience?

  • Philip Thomas

    Ebonmuse, of course the passages which describe genocide and murder and rape are not the Word of God, and neither are those passages which condone slavery or degrading treatment of women. But I will not judge which passages are the Word of God, out of the small number of passages which are not repellent.

  • Philip Thomas

    Besides, there is another reason why I will not cut passages from the Bible, or edit the words. It would be intellectually dishonest. I would be presenting new Christians with a sanitised version of Christianity which lacked all the ‘inconvenient’ parts. I think we can trust the novice to make his own judgement about the Bible, warts and all.

    Of course, a preface saying that some (unspecified) passages are morally unacceptable would be fine.

  • kelly

    Dear Ebonmuse,
    Well I would like to say that I have answers to your questions, but I don’t, not in the way you would like or expect. I can only answer in my way. I don’t have the kind of knowledge or language that many of you have. I only have what I know within.
    One thing I do know is that you have caused me to dig deeper in the Word of God. It causes me to want to spend more time with Jesus which is the word. The bible says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). I don’t want to spend more time in the Bible because I doubt the Bible, but because there is so much I don’t know, but the one thing I do know is that I believe no matter what. I must say that through the years I have questioned many things and even doubted, but this was with my mind. With my reasoning. When I would think about things and wonder how this could really be, I would shake my head as if not sure, but I believe we are made of Body, soul and Spirit. When we come to know Christ and receive him as our Savior then he which is Spirt comes to live with in us. It is then that our Spirit is alive to the truth of the Word. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16. So when I shut my mind off and let my spirit speak to me I cannot deny the truth. Its hard to explain. My Spirt man (heart) is in the pit of my stomach. Its my knower knowing. I know with out a doubt that God, Jesus, the Word is real and alive. When I was a little girl and I mean a little girl, I would have such a desire to talk to God and to Pray. I wasn’t raised up in a home where Jesus was talked about alot, it was just a natural thing. I believe that every person when in trouble or fearful has called on the name of the Lord. (God, Lord, Jesus). It believe we were all created with a measure of faith. Actually, the word even says that. God created us to have a desire to worship. We will worship something!
    Ok, I’m getting off the subject. I read over Hosea 13:16 and it does sound really bad, but as I looked I noticed that that there are more scripture to that and in many different places. I really don’t know much about that scripture, but I will soon, because I will study it. I do know this, that it is a metaphor or a figure of Speech. I know that this is not the answers you are looking for, but this is all I know.
    As for the other religions, I don’t know much about them. I believe that their books were written after the bible and thats about all I know. I don’t know if their religions say this is the way to everlasting life. I don’t know if their religions say this is the way to heaven. I just don’t know.
    If I find out any thing that I can prove, then I will let you know, but until then, it goes back to Belief.
    I got in a hurry here in the end, but I also have to get to work.
    Thanks so much
    Kelly

  • kelly

    EnigmaOfSteel,
    I’m not sure if that is the case, but I know I love worhip God. I believe that there is one true God,that there is one creator. I believe that the God that created me also created you. I don’t think you can worship a convention. I’m not much into that. I need interaction with someone. That would be Jesus. Maybe I’m not understanding your question. I hope this answered your question.
    Thank you
    Kelly

  • kelly

    Phillip,
    Thank you for your reply and you are so welcome.
    Kelly

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Kelly,

    As for the other religions, I don’t know much about them. I believe that their books were written after the bible and thats about all I know.

    On that point, I can assure you that you are simply incorrect. There are many world religions in existence today that are followed by many millions of people and that have holy books that are considerably older than the Christian Bible.

    Take Buddhism, for example. Siddhartha Gautama, who was the founder of Buddhism, lived around the 6th century BCE, about 600 years before Christ. There are many Buddhist texts, including the Perfection of Wisdom texts and the Lotus Sutra, that come from that time. Buddhism, I note, has more than 700 million followers today.

    Hinduism, as well, has texts that predate the Bible. One of Hinduism’s holiest texts, the Bhagavad Gita, dates back to at least 50 years before the time of Christ and may be as much as 500 years older. Hinduism has close to 900 million followers.

    There’s also Taoism, another Eastern religion that has its roots in the BC era. The Taoist sacred text, the Tao te Ching, was written about 600 BC by the sage Lao-tzu. Taoists, while less organized than Buddhism and Hinduism and therefore harder to count, probably number in the hundreds of millions.

    One could even consider Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion that’s believed to have influenced Judaism during the period of King Cyrus (who is mentioned in the later books of the Old Testament). Although Zoroastrianism has only a few million followers worldwide, it is still around, and its major holy text, the Avesta, may date as far back as 1000 BC.

    In any case, if your sole criterion for believing in a religion is that its holy book is the oldest, then why are you Christian and not Jewish? The Old Testament predates the New Testament by centuries. (And if you were to say that the New Testament fulfills and completes the Old Testament, please note that the Islamic Qur’an makes exactly the same claim about itself relative to the New Testament.)

    I don’t want to spend more time in the Bible because I doubt the Bible, but because there is so much I don’t know, but the one thing I do know is that I believe no matter what… So when I shut my mind off and let my spirit speak to me I cannot deny the truth. Its hard to explain.

    However, as I have said, people of many other religions and faiths, including many that are directly incompatible with yours, have expressed this very same utter and complete conviction when they proclaim the truth of their beliefs. But they can’t all be right.

    Human beings are fallible, something I’m sure you as a Christian believe already. No matter how thoroughly convinced a person is of the truth of some idea, they can still be wrong. What makes you so certain that other believers are mistaken but that you aren’t? As you yourself have admitted, you know very little about these other religions; how do you know you wouldn’t experience this same feeling of conviction if you tried one of them?

    Ok, I’m getting off the subject. I read over Hosea 13:16 and it does sound really bad, but as I looked I noticed that that there are more scripture to that and in many different places. I really don’t know much about that scripture, but I will soon, because I will study it. I do know this, that it is a metaphor or a figure of Speech. I know that this is not the answers you are looking for, but this is all I know.

    I’m not looking for any particular answer; I’m just trying to bring to your attention some things about your own religion you may not have been told about. And with all due respect, I don’t think that verse is a metaphor. I suggest you read the surrounding context – that chapter is all about God’s anger at people who have failed to obey him, and what he will do to those people. And, there are many, many other verses in the Old Testament which depict God as threatening dreadful, horrible punishments upon people who disobey him. I could have cited a dozen other verses just like this one.

    But let’s say you’re right and it is a metaphor. What does that change? Does that make the message of this verse any less terrible? Would you ever speak in such violent and hateful terms to someone you loved, even if you only meant it metaphorically?

    While you’re studying, I have another verse you may not have been aware of. This one is from the Old Testament Book of Numbers, chapter 31, and concerns an incident in which the Israelite tribes, led by Moses, were fighting a rival tribe, the Midianites. The following verse presents itself as straight-up history and is surrounded by verses that are also plain and historical. There is no chance that it was intended as some sort of metaphor. This is from verses 7 to 18:

    “And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males…. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? …. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

    Do you think that verse was inspired by God?

  • Rennyrij

    One thing that is being ignored, or not noticed, here, is the meaning of “faith”. I would submit that “faith” in this context is a concept used by the would-be powerful person/people to control and/or oppress the rest of us.

    When someone comes along and says, “trust me”, red flags should go up. Remember the fellow who bought the Brooklyn Bridge? How many people have lost their life savings because they trusted, had faith in, people (roofing contractors and other scammers) or banks (this recent mortgage foreclosure situation) or public corporations they bought stock in, managed to “fold their tents and disappear like Arabs in the night”? Something about these people, banks or businesses made their customers trust them, believe in them, have faith in their ability and intention to “deliver the goods”. And after the loss, whether large or small, other people came along and ranted and raved, “you should never have trusted this person/bank/business without references, proof that there were who they said they were, and they could and would do what they said they’d do!” “Well,” says the victim, “they have a book out, and there were these people who gave testimonials,…”

    Well, why would it be any more right to believe in any religion, have faith in any god, without demanding to see SOLID PROOF for oneself, NOT BASED ON THE TESTIMONY OF OTHERS OR OF A QUESTIONABLE BOOK?

    If you want to get a feel for how easy it is to fool people, read Wendell Potter’s “Deadly Spin”. If you want to get an idea of how religions have taken hold, remember the comment by Cardinal Richelieu, “give me a child for his first 7 years, and I will have him forever!” (Some have written it as “give me a child for his first 7 years and I will show you the man”.)

    We’ve been duped. Our ancesters, back to “year one”, have been duped. And because there were so many people, generations weaving in and out, moving here and there, the church heirarchy became powerful and grew. And it continues as a monstrosity of religion, with the heads of a hydra, all speaking at once, out-shouting the reasonable and scientific world, that dulls our wits and keeps us under it’s collective thumb. Except for those of us who have, sooner or later, opted out.