Really interesting thread at Love, Joy, Feminism that starts with Libby Anne questioning whether the Bible really makes people into atheists:
I’m often confused by two assumptions I have heard many atheists make: first, that Christians don’t actually read the Bible, and second, that if they did they couldn’t help but see the inconsistencies and atrocities and become atheists. Why am I confused? First, because while I’m sure there are plenty of Christians who don’t read the Bible, everyone in the evangelical community where I grew up read it on a daily basis, and not just the easier books like the Gospels. Second, because I read the Bible through numerous times before I even graduated from high school, and doing so didn’t shake my fundamentalist/evangelical faith one iota.
Libby Anne also quotes people from the Raised Quiverful project saying they read the Bible a whole lot growing up, but then acknowledges it may be different for moderate and liberal Christians.
Some of the comments are quite interesting. One claims that, “Yep. I know a lot of people who lost their faith through reading the Bible, from all sorts of denominations.” Another asks Libby Anne what she made of the Bible when she was a fundamentalist, and Libby Anne responds:
Well if God says to do it…then it’s right and good. Because what’s right and good is what God says is right and good, and what God says is right and good is, well, right and good. It’s the command theory of morality, and it’s what we were taught. “Sin” is “disobeying God” and “righteousness” is “obeying God.” Period. End of story. So…I think that’s why growing up I could read those passages and not find my faith shaken.
Here’s an interesting, and somewhat related, story:
I learn Torah every week over the phone. My study partner was brought up Orthodox Jewish, while I came to it later in life. One day, I brought up the story of Jacob meeting Rachel, and then kissing her. My partner’s response–No he didn’t! I had to point out chapter and verse before she’d believe me. The scary part is, she’d studied Torah her entire life, while I’d started at the age of 18.
This last story is telling. I strongly suspect that plenty of people “study” the Bible without managing to actually learn its contents.
Other thoughts: there may be a divide within fundamentalism between the fundamentalists and hyper-fundamentalists like the Quiverfull movement that Libby Anne came from. One of my friends back in my hometown once claimed he had read the Bible, but later admitted that he had just read a few large chunks. Not surprising, since so much of the Bible is boring.
Also, while I would expect most Christians in the US to be shocked by the atrocities in the Old Testament, I wouldn’t expect them to notice most of the contradictions, because human memory isn’t perfect and it’s easy to forget the details of what you read two books or even several chapters ago.
Beyond that, though, I’m still puzzled. I have vague memories of Dan Barker having really interesting things to say about how he reacted to the Bible when he was a fundamentalist, but I can’t find the quote right now. Anyone have it? Who has other relevant quotes? Firsthand experiences?