Lawrence O’Donnell on the Problems with the Bible

In case you missed it last night, Lawrence O’Donnell hit the Louie Giglio story out of the ballpark while taking down the Bible in the process:

It gets really good at the 1:36 and 6:54 marks.

Earlier tonight, conservative pundit Erick Erickson heard the clip and, as expected, urged people to pray for his hellbound soul:




About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.sunstonescafe.com/ Paul Sunstone

    Lawrence makes a number of very good points, but I have a minor quibble with him. He refers to homosexuals as possessing a lifestyle. A lifestyle is a choice, and I don’t think homosexuals have anymore choice in their sexual orientation than heterosexuals. But that’s a very minor quibble since I doubt Lawrence chose the word intending to imply by it that homosexuals have a choice.

    • Anonymous Atheist

      Homosexual orientation isn’t a choice, but the part that really bothers the fundies – engaging in homosexual relationships, sexual acts, and public displays of affection (= ‘lifestyle’) – is a choice, although obviously one that it’s ridiculous to expect homosexuals to not pursue. Homosexuals consistently pretending to be heterosexuals, or homosexuals consistently being celibate, would be acceptable to most fundies. That’s what they mean by that “hate the sin, love the sinner” line… if a homosexual person lives in complete denial so their true orientation is never displayed in their actions, they’d be acceptable to any fundies short of the ‘kill all the gays’ crowd.

  • ortcutt

    I’m confused. Of course the Bible doesn’t use the word “homosexual” given that it wasn’t written in English and the word was coined (in German) in 1869. Does Lawrence O’Donnell think the Bible was written in English? I liked some of this, but it seems like O’Donnell couldn’t decide whether to whitewash the Bible’s condemnation of gays or to argue that we should reject it. So he did both.

    • gg

      Doesn’t matter, The Word is Inerrant and Unchanging…except when it isn’t.

    • http://twitter.com/bryancj82 Bryan Johnson

      No, he said that older versions of the bible used the word “effeminate” (true) and that only the newer versions use “homosexual”…the point is, the bible is anything but un changing.

      • ortcutt

        You do realize that these are translations of the Bible, right? If he had said that translations of the Bible were changing, I would agree. The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This isn’t rocket science. O’Donnell should be able to get basic things like that right.

        • Nate Frein

          Wrong, because the Americans arguing that the bible is inerrant are pointing to the English translations, reading the English translations, and claiming the English translations are inerrant.

        • baal

          I agree with you that Lawrence is eliding the issue of translation. His point, overall, still stands. That point is that modern christians are using political thinking to choose among different translational choices. Given the other christian rhetoric about the ‘word of god’ being capital T truth for the ages, its seems a little silly that they don’t translate to maintain meaning as much as is possible.

          His even bigger point is the Dan Savage one, Paul G. picks and chooses (like everyone else (of necessity, else, burning prostitutes)) parts of the bible and then spins for current whatever. As such, Paul G., is culpable for his views and he can’t rely on “the Bible tells me so, so back off” as a defense.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    @ 6:54 “The Bible has more Death Penalties than Texas Law!”

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Lawrence O’Donnell makes an EXCELLENT point about the INSANITY of swearing on the Bible.

    It is a book FILLED with genocide, slavery, infanticide, incest, etc., sanctioned by an immoral, vengeful, petty god.

    Swearing to ANYTHING on the Bible CHEAPENS whatever oath you are swearing.

    Also, it is way out of CONTEXT to swear on the Bible for a job that is not related to the Bible. I could see swearing on the Bible when you accept a job as a priest or deacon or nun or bishop.

    But to accept the job as President of the United States you should swear on the US Constitution.

    • keddaw

      The oath of office requires swearing to uphold the Constitution so it would be somewhat redundant to swear upon it too. Not that he does uphold it in any way, but he swears to.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

        I respectfully disagree that it is “redundant” to swear on the Constitution when swearing to uphold the Constitution. On the contrary, I think it is perhaps the only logical thing to swear on, since it is the only thing you are swearing about.

        Think about it. If I buy a house, I sign the mortgage and loans papers for the buying the house. I don’t sign a Bible. It’s not “redundant” that the mortgage and loans papers for the buying the house are what I sign. The mortgage/loan papers are the only logical thing that I should be focused on signing in that transaction. It would be illogical to instead involve a Bible (or a Mother Goose book, or my favorite Dawkins book, or a Physics textbook, or a Shakespearean play, etc.).

        • keddaw

          You can’t swear on X to uphold X, it makes no sense. If you’re not going to uphold X then you have no respect for X so swearing on it means nothing to you.

          The whole point of swearing on something is that you do it on something you believe in or care deeply about and shows how seriously you take whatever it is you are swearing to do.

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            To be accurate, you’d be swearing on a copy of the Constitution to uphold the laws and precepts contained within the Constitution, so it’s not exactly the same thing.

          • NewDawn2006

            Shouldn’t the president believe in and care deeply about the Constitution? The founding document of our country is not serious enough for you?

            • keddaw

              Of course he should, but since he routinely spies on US citizens, tortures suspects, murders US citizens, ignores states’ rights etc. etc. then we can safely assume this isn’t the case.

              The point about swearing, or affirming, is that you publicly show just how deeply you care about it by swearing on something other people recognise as being hugely important (like your eternal soul, your testicles [see testimony], your kids, your word, whatever.)

              • NewDawn2006

                So what you are saying is that it is this president that shouldn’t be able to use the Constitution because you think he is not honoring it (even though I see no evidence of torture or murder…). He isn’t honoring the bible either. Unless you think he is going to sell Sasha into slavery for the correct amount of money, or kill Malia for being disrespectful… They all eat shellfish. Besides. He supports gay marriage. Isn’t that supposedly against the bible as well?

                • keddaw

                  He should be allowed to use whatever he wants, the whole ceremony is stupid beyond belief.

                  But… No, this President sure as shit ain’t honoring the Constitution, or the various treaties the US has either signed up to or initiated, so no, I don’t see any point this one using a document he clearly doesn’t give a flying fuck about.

                  Like torturing Bradley Manning. Or murdering 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki
                  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/how-team-obama-justifies-the-killing-of-a-16-year-old-american/264028/

                  or signature strikes…

                  But he professes a faith, so maybe he considers that more important (although 4 years in we should know better than to trust the liar) so he can use that to fool the American people for 4 more years.

                  Point being, why would anyone accept (and this is the point of swearing) that someone will uphold shit in the Constitution when we have no way of knowing if they care about what’s in the Constitution. Except with the last two Presidents we clearly know they don’t. They swear on shit other than the Constitution to make us believe they will care about what’s in the Constitution or they will have broken their oath on the other thing.

                  And why any of these comments got downvoted is beyond me. This is simple shit. What the fuck do you people think the point of swearing is???

                • NewDawn2006

                  So then there really isn’t anything that they could swear on because you never have any way of knowing if they care what’s in it. I have not down voted your comments. I’m just trying to figure out where you are coming from. While I am no fan of Obama, I am also no fan of Romney. Nor am I a huge fan of Bush. 9/11 has irrevocably changed our country, and the government feels it needs to constantly be killing someone in order for the American people to feel safe (so it seems). Bush is just as guilty of spying on American citizens as Obama.

                  All presidents lie. All politicians lie. This is the government that we have. And it sucks. In my opinion it didn’t matter who was voted in. We were screwed either way. Until we can start voting for the best person for the job instead of the lesser of two evils we will continue to be screwed.

                • keddaw

                  They can swear, or place their hand on, anything they want. It shouldn’t matter to the people, they should know better.

                  The only thing to swear on is your word, and your word under penalty of perjury.

                  Obama does much worse than Bush – obviously Romney (or Bush) would have been just as bad, it’s the machine rather than the man.

      • NewDawn2006

        It doesn’t require swearing on a fictional book filled with hate and intolerance. You have to swear, or affirm. Not touch a book.

  • Pepe

    That was splendid. Especially towards the end.

  • Octoberfurst

    Bravo Lawrence bravo! (Oh, FYI, I am sure you are now on the Religious Right’s shit list for speaking the truth.)

  • xeon2000

    Awesome. I’m afraid if I post it on Facebook I’ll start a flame war and have several people un-friend me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/phemmert Paul Emmert

      Same precise thought.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      It’s a good way to find out who your friends are.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I posted it on my wall but most of my friends already know I’m an atheist so they just ignore most of what I post.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The truth is, homosexuality is a sin … in the Bible

    There is no concept of sin except in the Bible (or other religious texts). ‘Sin’ is something you think some god doesn’t want done. Not something that other people necessarily think is wrong.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

      Soy bueno sin Dios.

      • Carmelita Spats

        Bien dicho…No es necesario postular dioses para ejercer una moralidad. La moralidad de la biblia es asquerosa…el dios de la biblia es un ente que merece ser desechado junto con toda superstición.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

          Lo siento. I do know some Spanish, but my fluency is quite low. I was playfully attempting a bilingual double entendre. The first meaning concerning morality is obvious. The second was meant to show that a concept of “sin” exists somewhere other than the Bible.

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    I have a new favorite news caster now.

  • Keulan

    Wow. Lawrence O’Donnell is fucking awesome.

  • keddaw

    So the President’s views on gay rights can evolve but this pastor’s can’t?

    Cynical, cynical move by the White House to choose this guy so they could throw him under the bus in this way. None of this was an accident.

    To be fair, if the President put his hand on the Constitution, he’d be placing his hand on something filled with things he doesn’t believe in too.

    • Bender

      The pastor’s didn’t. Besides, the point is the absurdity of swearing on that stupid book.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      your paranoia is showing, dear. the idea that they chose him “so” they could later ditch him is quite silly. indeed, if anything, the WH is probably quite chagrined that it associated itself with this guy whom they obviously didn’t vet properly. but then again, people like you rarely understand how politics really works.

      • keddaw

        You don’t think they fully vetted this guy before putting his name forward? You think some intern just pulled his name out a hat? Grow up, this is Washington politics, it’s how the game is played.

    • WoodyTanaka

      “None of this was an
      accident.”

      If this was an effort to further show that evangelicals are hateful bigoted scum who no decent person should want to associate with, I’d say, bravo, White House!!!

      • keddaw

        Well yeah, but that’s only if they do it to the whole group.

        To use the full power of the White House and the whole of the media to vilify this one guy is even more ugly and spiteful than his views on gay people. This is generally known as bullying. As is what he does, but there is a clear power differential between some nobody pastor and POTUS, whose PUBLIC views on gay marriage have only recently shifted as opinion polls have come in in favour of it.

        • WoodyTanaka

          so what if this guy is bullied? (he isn’t. stop being such a drama queen.). People who spout this evil Christian garbage should be “bullied”… just like we “bully” Klansmen and neoNazis by telling them that their bigotry has no place in society.

          • keddaw

            Yes, WE bully Klansmen, not the fucking US government. They have a Constitutional right to be assholes and a right not to be harassed in their idiocy by the government. WE can express our outrage at their comments, we can ostracise them from decent society based on their views, but the government can’t.

            But hey, maybe you’re a new atheist and want to pull up the drawbridge behind you now you’ve attained acceptance in society. Maybe you forget how hard atheists had to fight to have their views accepted. Maybe you want to use the law to bar Klansmen from public office, or Nazis from Congress…

            Or maybe you should realise that an open and free government is the best protection we all have from having our minority opinions attacked by the very state we pay for.

            • WoodyTanaka

              First, he wasn’t bullied. He was invited to an event and when it became known that he had made some vile, evil, bigoted comments, he was disinvited. I would expect the same thing to occur if a person was invited to speak at the inauguration and it became known later that the person make similar hateful bigoted comments against Jews or blacks like this guy did. His statements were the same as that spewed by the Klan, so he got treated like them.

              Second, he has no right to speak at the inauguration. Further, on there is absolutely nothing wrong with the government deciding that his evil bigoted comments have no place in the inauguration just as we have the right to say that his evil bigoted comments have no place in decent society.

              Third, and finally, our society is strengthened when this kind of vile bigotry is shown the door. Yes, he has freedom of speech, but he has no right to speak at the inauguration. If he wants to spread his hatred like the Klan, let him get a permit and stand on the corner.

              • keddaw

                You can’t possibly think you are saying anything I don’t agree with (apart from the initial bully part)?

                The White House (again) invited a minister with dubious history to speak at the inauguration knowing full well his past would come to light (did they leak it?) and there’d be uproar and he’d not be allowed anywhere near the inauguration. They used the occasion to allow some views they disagree with to be further pushed to the fringes of society (itself a good thing) but used some poor pastor as the sacrificial lamb for the whole media to attack.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  First, I believe you are making a number of assumptions that have not been shown. I have seen nothing which indicates that this was a set up by the administration. That is a very heavy burden that you bear.

                  Nevertheless, you seem to suggest that I should somehow feel bad because this bigot is made to feel bad. I don’t. Why should I? His words and the attitude of him and people like him do far worse evil in the world. I have no problem with the government making a big it feel put upon.

                  To me, this is all win. The crazy philosophy and theology of this person gets gets more marginalized. Further, this may cause him to cease public commentary which would be a net gain for his country.

                  I would rather this “poor pastor “/bigot suffer as a scapegoat then him and people like him believing that spreading this religious bigotry is acceptable. If this is what it takes to get that message across, then I say it is all for the good.

    • WoodyTanaka

      “So the President’s views on gay rights can evolve but this pastor’s can’t?”

      Obama’s views changed; this vile bigot is spouting the same unadulterated evil he was a decade and a half a go. Let him say all this anti-gay evil was wrong and denounce all of it and beg for forgiveness and then we’ll talk. Until then, the bigot can go babble on with the Nazis and KKKers where he belongs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I get the feeling he’ll end up apologizing for this as he did with his comments about Mormons.

  • A3Kr0n

    That guy was good. Awesome even.

  • Lee Miller

    If the Bible said clearly “Do not enslave people”, “Do not abuse your wife or children”, “Do not rape”, “Do not reject or kill someone who disagrees with you”, and “Do not commit genocide”, think how different human history would have been for the last 2000 years. But the Bible is either silent on these issues, or advises to the contrary. Yet people still call it “the good book”. No one who has really read it can call it that.

    • allein
    • Pseudonym

      The Bible clearly says “do not charge interest”, and look where that got us in recent years.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        The Bible also says “do not covet”.

  • L.Long

    Let’s see how this works….

    The buyBULL says ‘for a man to lie with a man as he would a woman is an abomination and is to be put to death.’ When I lie with a woman I go to sleep, so if a lie with a man and just go to sleep then we are to be killed! So if there is a man in my bed I had better have sex with him to survive!!!!

    Since we are to follow gawd’s example to be good,and gawd as been shown to have lied a number of times in the buyBULL, then swearing on it means I should be lying.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Now I’m wondering if some religious whack job on the inauguration committee tried to slip him in by not fully disclosing the results of the vetting process.

    • WoodyTanaka

      My guess is that it was it was either a religious nut (sadly, they exist on the left, too) or there was an idea that disgusting Nazi and KKK-level bigotry is okay if you do it because of Jesus. We all have to make sure that these people who profess this vile Christian bigotry are ostracized in the same way KKKers and Neo-Nazis are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theodore.hyczko Theodore Hyczko

    I believe in the whole bible Creation, Adam, and Eve, Noah, moses, Jewish law, and resurrection of Jesus Christ It’s clear that Lawerence Donnell doesn’t understand the bible. The jewish people volated the convent with God through Idoltarty so God revoke it and gave a new convent that the law is written on the hearts and minds jesus Christ is the sacrfice for the new convent which we live under today until the time of gentiles are complete. christians don’t follow the old jewish laws because we are above the law in Jesus Christ . the bible is clear sexual immoriaty is sin and people who are sexual immoral in God’s eyes will face death. We all have sin that wh ywe need Jesus Christ to forgive us of our sin
    Sorry Lawerence O donnell I believe every word of the bible as truth


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