Does the Bible make people 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.

This issue was brought to my mind by a recent article on the Friendly Atheist, which reported that the British secretary of education is sending a new copy of the King James Bible to every school in England in order to help students appreciate England’s cultural heritage. Richard Dawkins surprised many by coming out in full support of the initiative for the reasons I mentioned above:

I have an ulterior motive for wishing to contribute to Gove’s scheme. People who do not know the Bible well have been gulled into thinking it is a good guide to morality. … I have even heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that, without the Bible as a moral compass, people would have no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem.The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.

American Atheists’ Dave Silverman took this same idea a step further several years ago in a New York Times article:

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.

Thus for Dawkins and Silverman, reading the Bible is “the surest way” to lead people to question its use as a moral authority or even to lead people to become atheists. Dawkins of course does clarify that he’s especially talking about “people who do not know the Bible,” but Silverman saves no punches in stating that reading the Bible is “how you make atheists.”

When I asked for questions for the Raised Quiverfull project, one reader suggested that I ask how often the project participants read the Bible growing up:

Also, I’d be interested to know how free women and children in this movement are to actually read their bibles? Are they guided away from “dangerous” passages or downright forbidden from reading any particular parts without authorisation, or is this one aspect of life that isn’t strictly controlled? I come from a liberal Christian background but was made an atheist largely thanks to reading the bible. I understand that a lot of other people have had the same experience and that many Christians simply don’t bother to open it. What I’d like to know, is the percentage of people who can read the bible, in all its most gruesome detail, and not question their beliefs.

This reader was echoing what Dawkins and Silverman said, and the way she asked the question she clearly expected to hear the participants say that they had been restricted from reading the Bible or kept away from certain passages. If I’m correct about this, her expectations were definitely not met when the Raised Quiverfull project participants responded:

Joe:

Suffice it to say that I have read through the whole Bible about forty times. …

Latebloomer:

We kids had to read the Bible by ourselves daily as part of our homeschooling curriculum.  …

Libby Anne:

We all read the Bible daily. It was sort of a requirement. …

Lisa:

… Us kids, we were encouraged to take off a few minutes each day for private prayer time. Reading, studying, interpreting certain chapters was also part of our daily home schooling. …

Mattie:

We were supposed to read the Bible every day. …

Melissa:

… We each received a King James Bible of our own at around age 8 or so, and we were expected to read it privately and consistently. …

Sarah:

… We were also expected to read our bibles alone. Any mistakes we made were attributed to fact that we “hadn’t spent enough time in the word.” I read my bible multiple times a day….

Sierra:

I was raised to read the Bible every day and have a personal relationship with Jesus. …

Tricia:

In my home, Bibles were everywhere and they were constantly being read, that is we read them daily or sometimes a couple times a day, both as a family and individually. …

Indeed, I read the Bible every day the entire time I was growing up, and in the process I read straight through it multiple times. My mom read the Bible aloud to us every morning after breakfast. We went to a Bible club called AWANA and memorized hundreds of Bible verses. We learned about the different books of the Bible, learned to find our way around the Bible, learned what the Bible said about everything.

It’s not a mistake that fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are often called “Bible believing Christians.” For fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, the Bible is of foremost importance. They know what is in the Bible, including the crazy Old Testament laws and the genocides. They read it. They almost worship it.

Based on my experience at least, the idea that if a fundamentalist or conservative evangelical just read the Bible for once they would see that it’s a bunch of hooey strikes me as ludicrous.

I wonder if it’s perhaps different for moderate or liberal Christians, who do not, after all, grow up in a climate where reading the Bible daily is emphasized almost above everything else. Perhaps for those whose pastors have glossed over things like the Old Testament genocides, reading the Bible would indeed come as a shock. Perhaps for some, reading the Bible might lead to a questioning of Christianity itself. Or, as a reading of yesterday’s post indicates, perhaps not.

What are your experiences with this issue?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://silence-is-betrayal.blogspot.com Sara

    I do think there is a difference between fundamentalists and moderates/conservatives in how much they read the Bible. In my experience meeting moderate to liberal Christians, many had no idea about disgusting parts of the Bible. To them, God unconditionally loved us and they either didn’t know there were not-so-nice passages or they completely distanced themselves from the vague readings a pastor/minister mentioned or that they had glanced at before. I’d often hear things like, “nothing in the Bible justifies slavery!” or “God never justifies killing,” which was a bit funny to me coming from my background. For myself and other fundamentalists I knew, we were taught to fear God and those passages were examples of why. Of course, we believed God loved us too, but it was more complicated.

    So based upon my experience, I think getting moderate to liberal Christians to read the Bible (either at all or more thoroughly) may have the desired effect that Dawkins and Silverman are expecting. But for those on the fundamentalist side, it may take more. For me, reading the Bible as a child made me dislike God and caused me to doubt whether He existed, and if He did, whether He was worth worshiping. However, other people I knew read the Bible just as much as I did and didn’t have the same doubts (or at least they never admitted it). And even for me, I interpreted this as evidence that there was something wrong with me (poor reasoning skills, being influenced of the devil), and didn’t leave the faith until college. But I do think that even for fundamentalists, reading the Bible as literature, and not just a holy book, could be helpful. It was mind-blowing for me in late high school/early college to learn that we don’t have original manuscripts, but copies upon copies rife with errors, with sections added by later authors and evidence that many of the authors listed were not actually the ones writing them. We were always taught that the Bible was perfect and that there was great evidence for its truth, so at least for me, that knowledge moved me across the theological spectrum until I eventually fell off of it.

  • Charlotte

    My mom is a Catholic and my dad is a Baptist and I never read the Bible. Not even once in Sunday school, where we mostly learned Catholic doctrine. I decided to leave Christianity without ever reading the Bible, I was just sick of organized religion. However, I’m not an atheist and not even reading Leviticus has made me one.

  • Cimorene

    I grew up with liberal christian parents (roman catholic and lutheran). When I was a child, my mother told me not to bother reading the bible because it was the same story told by different writers (she was roman catholic). When I did try to read it out of curiosity, I didn’t get far. I got to the point where the Noah’s Arc story began, and then stopped. Right before the Noah’s Arc story, there was a sentence about angels visiting earth and having super-powered children with mortals, and that causing a new era (or something like that). As a child that loved fantasy stories, this sounded great. However, it then cut off suddenly and changed to the Noah’s Arc story. I was done with the bible after that. I was so dissapointed.

    My opinion of the bible had nothing to do with my faith, though. First I believed because my parents said christianity was true, and I thought my parents were always correct about everything. Once I realized they weren’t infallible, I don’t think I actually believed anymore. I didn’t like the Christ story when I was a kid, because it was violent and scary. So, once I realized that my parents saying it was true didn’t necessarily mean it was true, I just mentally filed it as a more violent and dark version of the Greek Myths I loved reading, and stopped caring. From that point on, I did Sunday school and church because my parents made me, and hopped between religions in high school because it was only socially acceptable to believe in something (anything) supernatural. I didn’t realize that not believing in the supernatural was an option until after high school, it was so hard-coded into society. So, now I’m an open agnostic/atheist.

    • Neuroturtle

      Have you read Madeleine L’Engle? In her series that begins with A Wrinkle In Time, there is a book called Many Waters. It is a great YA fantasy novel about Noah’s family immediately pre-flood, and the nephilim feature prominently. L’Engle is big into apologia, but her stories are great in my opinion. And this one might make you happy. =)

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I have always being an atheist and although I’ve learnt most of what the bible says through numerous places I have never read it through, nor I plan to so I really can’t give an informed opinion but here I go anyway.

    The funny fact is that if I’m reading this article correctly (http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2010/09/why-do-atheists-know-more-about-religion/22880/) Silverman statement came after a study that showed that atheists and agnostics knew more about Christianity than Christians taken into account different educative levels. this obviously doesn’t prove his statement at all but I think this kind of studies (where white evangelicals place after atheists, jews and mormons http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/28/nation/la-na-religion-survey-20100928) give people with personal stories of having questioned and left Christianitiy because of reading the bible the impression that it is like that.

    In the end I don’t think it is true for most people that reading the bible is going to make them atheists, specially so in environments like the ones where all of you grew up but I understand where the people who believe it are coming from.

  • Tisha

    I grew up in a Catholic family and, as I’m sure is a common experience, we never read the Bible. We had parts of the Bible read to us at Mass on Sundays. When I started going to a Southern Baptist church, I started reading the Bible. And I can say without a doubt that reading the Bible started me on the road to becoming an atheist. There are so many parts that are just absurd and conflict with what, even at 16, I knew to be true about the world. But I guess that was because I wasn’t raised on the idea that the Bible is inerrant. That idea came to me as a teenager and even though I really wanted it to be true, because it would make the world so much easier and simpler than it actually is, I just couldn’t turn off my brain.

    I know that fundamentalists read the Bible and that doesn’t make them atheists. Why do you think that’s so? Do they just buy into the explanations for all the contradictions because they’ve heard them all their lives? Do they just not see them? I once commented on Facebook that the Bible was so vague and self-contradictory that almost anything could be consistent with Christianity. That seemed like such a self-evident statement. Yet one of my fundamentalist friends said she disagreed. So what explains her thought process?

    • machintelligence

      Allow me to introduce you to Bob Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” : http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

      I realize it is not a short work, but you can read it or download it for free. Short answer: Authoritarians can tolerate high levels of cognitive dissonance. They believe many contradictory things are all true.

    • shadowspring

      I think she has been brainwashed to dismiss certain thoughts out of hand and accept others without question. This link may be more concise, but probably covers the same concepts:

      http://undermoregrace.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-can-i-tell-if-my-church-is-abusive.html

  • machintelligence

    I guess it makes a difference whether one reads the bible or “reads” the bible. By “reads” the bible I mean viewing it as the word of God which cannot be questioned (Yup, that’s what God says, all right). Really reading the bible would involve comprehension and critical thinking. (God can really be a shit. Who could worship a deity so vile?) If you are not allowed to question God’s motives, then all of the nasty parts of the bible are OK, I suppose.

    • shadowspring

      Or you could doubt the motives of the authors, and their integrity, which I often do.

    • Davka

      There is a huge difference between the fundamentalist version of “Bible Study” and any sort of actual scholarly study of the Bible. I was a fundamentalist for many years, but I approached the Bible from a scholarly perspective, learning the original languages and studying not only the text but also the context and history of the Bible. This raised questions which were very unwelcome in our fundamentalist “Bible Studies.”

      Eventually, the cognitive dissonance between what I knew about the Bible and what I was erroneously being told about the Bible became too much. Today, I am an atheist, and I am finally free. If “god” wrote the Bible, then BibleGod is a sociopathic mysogynist serial killer, indistinguishable from the devil.

  • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

    Well, I am a liberal Christian and I found my faith as an adult and I have read the whole bible but I do not read it every day and reading the bible has built my faith not weakened it. I do not understand everything in the bible and to gain knowledge I pray for help and look for other people’s interpretations and gradually some of the more difficult passages have made sense to me.

    The main difference between me and a fundamentalist is that I do not think the bible in inerrant and that it was written by people inspired by god so I do believe that there is a possibility of the bible being wrong although I believe one cannot jump to this conclusion very easily. I believe that interpretations may change over time and be different for different people and that this does not devalue the bible or the religion itself. Why would not god be able to give us our ‘own’ version when we are in fact individuals? I have struggled with this, is this way of being a Christian too flimsy and do I in fact know god? I have however come to the conclusion that I need to trust that the spirit is not leading me wrong in this because I feel the blessing of god every day and a close spiritual connection with the divine. To me knowing and feeling god is why I believe, not the bible itself although I see it as necessary for me to be able to continue to build my faith.

    • Karen

      This is a good description of my own faith. My parents were liberal Christians at least in the sense that the weren’t fundamentalists. My father once explained the Bible to me as inspired by God but not dictated by God. That is, the writers used their own knowledge to interpret Divine inspiration. They had to translate God into language they and the people of their own time understood. I also read a lot of books on early cultures and mythology and saw that the Bible came off much better in comparison to other works written at the same time. I don’t like the 5th chapter of Ephesians but Paul is loads better on wives than Aristotle. Cato the Elder encouraged Roman landownership to starve slaves once they became too old to work; Leviticus requires they Jubilee to free them as well as having escape from slavery as the national origin myth. No, the ethics aren’t 21st century but they are the base of 21st c ethics. No one can be educated without studying the Bible.

  • jose

    I guess the people whose faith was weakened by reading the bible will say that the bible weakens faith, while the people for whom this wasn’t the case will say otherwise. Since we have no real data, we can’t really make a judgement. I wonder if Gallup has thought of making a poll about this.

    Personally I think you need to have a little prior skepticism in you in order to doubt the bible, but the bible on its own won’t trigger skepticism in a gullible person. This initial seed can come from any past experience no matter how unrelated it may be; even from seeing obviously fake spam email and online ads (“YOU ARE THE VISITOR 1 MILLION! CLICK HERE!”).

    • Rosa

      Yep. I know a lot of people who lost their faith through reading the Bible, from all sorts of denominations – my own experience was that it was the response to the questions reading it raised, more than the actual Bible, that was so hard for me. But we have an adult friend raised in a literal-Bible church who had managed to just never really listen- he’d read the whole thing, he knew you were supposed to take all of it literally, he assumed nobody really did, until a climate change discussion made him realize his pastor really did believe it all, even the parts with giants and sea monsters and even the YEC timeline that made evolution and geology impossible.

      All the liberal protestants I know had to read the whole Bible at some point, but since they don’t take the old testament rules as applying anymore, and allow for metaphor and literary usage in all the stories, it doesn’t stop them from shrugging off all the problematic parts in order to focus on the “real story” of love and redemption.

  • Dianne

    If you’ll excuse the rude question, when you read the Bible when you were still a believer, what did you make of the passages where God tells the Israelis to go wipe out one tribe or another to the last baby? That sort of thing tended to shake my faith at least in a good and just god and finally in a god altogether.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      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.

      • smrnda

        I know you’ve mentioned the whole idea that something that is ordinarily wrong becomes “right” once God says to do it goes against the idea of Christianity being based on ‘absolute’ moral standards, so you obviously now would think that it’s ridiculous to say that it’s wrong to kill but that it’s somehow okay to kill if God says so, but at the time did you kind of wonder that and have to fight thinking that way or did the ‘if God says Do It it’s right’ actually seem like a satisfying explanation at the time?

        I actually had an argument with a guy over the same issue but his response was that the children who were killed in the genocide would go to heaven. (I pointed out that if that’s true, aborted fetuses would go to heaven but he didn’t take to well to that point.) What shocked me was how *not bothered* the guy was by the idea of people killing children. This is a reason why I tend to think that religious people are less moral than other people – they are less horrified by an action being inherently *wrong* or *hurtful* but are more concerned with who does it.

      • kagekiri

        Yeah, a key bit of reading the Bible without problems is having teachers/authorities/parents who brush aside the inconsistencies. “Oh, adults read it and don’t see a problem, there’s probably a way to reduce this problem to something that’s acceptable”. So for younger kids, you can gloss over it.

        Another thing that helps is getting all the stuff about how unworthy, depraved, and evil we naturally are in the basic salvation message, so you believe everyone deserves total horribleness and hell. Thus, God choosing to mete out punishment on women and children is totally justified; no one is innocent.

        That kind of utter self-hatred was one of the reasons I could read those passages and thank God that I wasn’t chosen to be killed for my unbelief and horribly offensive (to God) existence, instead of wondering what kind of monster curses and kills children for their parent’s errors. When that self-hatred almost killed me, I started to question more as I tried to pull myself out of a depression nosedive, and realized how horrible all those beliefs were.

        So yeah, if you just got the Bible without any teacher or Christian guiding you in a specific order, you very well could use it to cement your atheism. But going in as a moldable kid with the encouragement of authority, and supplementary teachings to mask the horribleness? It really is possible to read of nihilism, genocide, generational curses, and all that horrible rape and slavery and think “well, obviously God is real, so I guess either my judgment is wrong, or we deserve it, or there is more information thanks to God’s mysterious ways (like God magically simulating people’s lives and killing them off to prevent future horribleness, aka maybe God really did know they were all particularly evil and deserving of their fates and not going to change their minds)”.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    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.

    • Anat

      BTW the talmdist rabbis said it wasn’t immodest of Jacob to kiss Rachel because they were cousins after all. (And yet it was OK for them to marry eventually too.)

  • Karen

    I grew up Catholic going to Catholic schools, so I didn’t read the whole Bible until I got to college. I’d read the New Testament growing up, but just a few scattered readings from the Old Testament. I found that it neither inspired or reduced my faith, because my Catholic background allowed me to read it as an inspired, but not inerrant, work. I attended a nondenominational Christian church for awhile after graduating, and was shocked when I found out my fellow congregants took the book literally! My road away from faith is a long story, but the Bible didn’t really have much to do with it.

  • Matthew Gill

    My parents were divorced, my dad was very evangelistic and my mother was very secular. I believed in my father until I was 11 or so, and then became atheist gradually over time for about five years.

    I read the bible a lot, we all did in that church, but I don’t think it was very critically. I think for some people it goes like this: Once you get that seed of skepticism because of one verse that strikes you an odd way it starts to unravel. You go from a mindset of “everything in this book is absolute truth” to “well, if one thing in this book could be wrong, what about the rest?”

    Others are more devoted and skepticism either never comes or never stays like that. And others, probably the largest number, just don’t examine the bible in great detail.

  • http://www.brooksandsparrow.com Angelia Sparrow

    It depends on how you approach the tales of atrocities and horrors. If you are all “Go Team Israel!” then the Old Testament genocides work for you in a very satisfying way. Sampson, for instance, is less like a mass murderer of real people and more like John Carter hewng his way through the savage hoardes of the Warhoon.

    My parents loved me. I knew that, but they still punished me, sometimes harshly. My uncle loved me and still tried to drown me. How could God possibly be any different? OF COURSE, God killed and hated and destroyed, even as he still loved his people. If humans were capable of more than one emotion, surely a deity could be as well.

    It’s one thing to be “Go Team Israel” when it’s nameless Egyptians dying thousands of years ago. It’s another entirely when that particular god decides to harm your own children. And that was when I left. I don’t stay with abusers, human or divine.

    • Fortuna Veritas

      Your uncle tried to drown you and your parents didn’t do anything?

      Lucky you lived through that. @_@

    • kagekiri

      Yeah, it’s easy to go through it and just assume “well, if God killed them, they were obviously actually evil; after all God is just and good and perfect”.

      Then you realize kids just don’t have solid beliefs about anything and shouldn’t be killed for religion of all things, and that being screwed for things your parents did is horrible, and the injustice just becomes too obvious.

  • Gordon

    I grew up in the kind of christianity where the bible was more or less irrelevant. You would own it and they’d have you memorise the names of all the books in order in primary school and you’d occassionally read the gospels. But the rest was fairly irrelevant.

    I remember reading some of the old testament because someone told me there was a UFO in it.

  • Spidersbane

    Unfortunately it all comes down to cherry-picking.

    Christians will read the bible and focus on the preached verses they hear in church and the other feel good parts.
    Atheists will read the bible and highlight all the immoral, unethical and contradictory passages within the bible.

    I personally don’t think reading the bible will make or break someones faith in the sense this post is commenting on. However, reading the bible while your on the fence will actually push you towards atheism and away from Christianity.
    If your not predisposed to find all the good or bad in the book you’ll read it like a novel instead of a reference book and will recognize the inconsistencies. With the general message of Christianity (being the likes of love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness) it’s easy to see where Prof Dawkins and Dave Silverman are coming from. Give the bible to a child to read without instruction and they’ll read it like any other book. Then try telling them it’s all true and you’ve got yourself an atheist, agnostic at worst.

    for example;
    1 Timothy 2:12 – “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” – Would suggest God (or at least Timothy) is against women’s rights.

    1 Samuel 15:3 – “Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” – The word of God telling his followers to commit genocide.

    1 Peter 2:18 – “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” or in a similar vein, Ephesians 5:22 – “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

    Genesis 22:2 – “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” – A rather sick test to play on someone. Makes you wonder how far is too far by this Gods moral standards.

    21st Century King James Version – http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/21st-Century-King-James-Version-KJ21-Bible/

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html# – As voted by a christian website.

    The problem isn’t with the verses, so much with the churches insistence that the bible is gospel or the truth. How many devout Christians can hold their hands up and say they follow all those messages to the letter?

    You then have the Bible scholars who will argue the legitimacy of the bible in a historic context. To them:
    Snakes talk
    The Earth is only 6000 years old
    A man managed to get every animal on the planet, collected both a male and female specimen, then stored them all on a boat long enough for a flood to come and go. then put them all back where they belong (marsupials in Australia etc).
    Oh Zombies, aka the living dead, can and do exist.

    It starts to get a little far fetched with today’s scientific knowledge and the greater understanding of the cosmos and our place in it.

    Unfortunately Religion is fast becoming less attractive to the modern world.

    In antiquity primitive man knew very little about the world around him, fire was hot, water was wet and each day the sun and moon would cross the sky. He knew these things were real and happened but didn’t understand why. That’s where Gods came from. The Gods made fire, controlled water, made lightning, were the stars, Moon and Sun (it’s an easy, if primitive answer). As mankind understood more of the world around them, gods became redundant. Thor the Norse god of thunder, lightning and war isn’t worshiped anymore because we understand where thunder and lightning comes from. Neptune the God of the sea is no longer sacrificed to before a sea journey.

    What the Bible God did was get rid of the hundreds of gods and just have the one.

    2000 Years ago God still controlled the weather, lightning, floods, stars, planets e.t.c.

    Today, not so much. If you take a long hard look at the god myths and compare it to what we understand today using the scientific method (evidence that’s been peer reviewed) you end up with only one thing that science has yet to understand or explain that’s long been attributed to God. What happens after you die. There are other things with holes in the theories but mankind has a grasp on the reasons things happen, they’re just working to prove it. Death on the other hand can’t be explored and reported on. Unless mankind finds a way to make zombies that can talk about their experiences being dead, we may never know.
    Meanwhile the church is driving possible new followers away by being tied to 2000 year old superstitions and a book that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in a very skeptical world. If they hope to survive into the 22nd century they need to modernize to convince the younger and even more skeptical people.

    Maybe make Apostasy punishable by death again?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy#Islam
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy#Countries

    “And has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.”

    Deuteronomy 17:3-5 – Old Testament could always make a return.

    TL;DR
    No the bible doesn’t make Atheists, Religions do…

    Signed
    Agnostic

  • Camilla

    If a sample of door-to-door proselytizers encounters a bible-quoting atheist, most of the proselytizers will leave without actually engaging on the subject in any detail. The atheist may conclude from that the proselytizers don’t know their bible.
    (I can think of many other explanations that don’t hinge on whether the proselytizer in question has read the bible, but I think the above observation is where many atheists are coming at this from.)

    • Jerusha Wheeler

      Good point…a lot of fundies are told by their pastors that you shouldn’t “throw pearls before swine” or waste time on someone who will not passively agree to pray for forgiveness of sins.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    To a certain extent. In my case it was because the preponderance of Christians that I have encountered or seen in the media are not actually Christians, and having actually done the unthinkably shocking (to my parents, peers, and adults in the church) thing of reading the Bible I was continually disappointed that the Pope, Jerry Falwell, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Robertson were not struck down in a rather clear way for their lies. I was always fond of the story about the bears, but I believe that’s mostly just because I liked bears first.

    That, and the adults were largely apathetic and concerned with appearances but the children and youth in the church when I grew up were the most spiteful and hate-filled demons I’ve ever encountered. The kids I got into fistfights with on the playground because they were violent misanthropes were more pleasant to be around.

    • Fortuna Veritas

      Basically, what better argument for God not existing, or at least not being the God of the Bible, is there than for evil men to be the only ones speaking for him and not only does no one object, but the angry god who would kill over nothing in the old testament doesn’t even do anything himself?

    • kisekileia

      I liked the story with the bears because it helped me feel that God was anti-bullying. My understanding is that it was basically a gang of young men who were harassing Elisha, not little boys, and that might actually have been really dangerous.

      There’s definitely stuff in the Bible that’s pretty hard if not impossible to reasonably justify, though.

  • Ibis3

    I think that for many people, they are raised with a humanist, post-Enlightenment morality. They believe in human rights. They believe that racism and sexism are wrong. They believe blood sacrifice is both primitive and wrong. They have been taught to abhor slavery. They think that violence is only okay in self-defence or in defence of third parties. They believe that unnecessary cruelty toward animals is wrong (even if they disagree where to draw the line). They believe in individual freedom. None of these moral positions accords well with the mythology and doctrines of the Bible. It is racist, sexist, full of god-sanctioned violence, torture, rape, and slavery. It isn’t much of a leap to think: if this is the best “God” could do, maybe I should reconsider the Bible’s divine inspiration or holy status. Those are the people Dawkins and Silverman are talking about.

    For people who have been indoctrinated from the beginning to believe that racism, sexism, slavery, and violence are ordained by God and because God wanted them to happen they are inherently good, there’s no dissonance when you read that stuff in the Bible. Therefore, reading it isn’t going to necessarily make you start asking questions.

  • Emma

    I grew up secular, so I may be totally wrong about this. However, here’s my thoughts. If you’re basically required to read the bible everyday, then bible reading becomes an institution. Presumably, as part of that institution, your parents/pastors/whoever are giving you (explicitly or otherwise) a particular interpretation of the material that you should have, an interpretation which would rationalize/justify all the more horrific passages in the Bible. When you got to the point that you can read the Bible on you own, you probably had sufficiently internalized those expectations that you didn’t need much explicit guidance. Moreover, I think that if you believe in “To Train Up a Child” style discipline, it’s probably easier to accept God doing horrible things to sinners (since God smiting sinners is analogous to parents hitting children).

    When liberal Christians read the Bible for the first time, they’re much less likely to have other people or institutions guiding their interpretations in such a rigid way. Moreover, they’ve probably been raised with a system of morality that is much harder to reconcile with a lot of what happens in the Bible.

    Also, for the record: I didn’t need to read the Bible to become an atheist. It cuts both ways. (Though I’ve read parts of it since).

  • shadowspring

    Without reading anymore than the title, in a word, YES…but I qualify that with this caveat: only to those who were taught it was the inerrant, divinely written complete and exact Word(s) of God.

    Now I gotta go read the article and comments!

  • shadowspring

    So, as usual, the answers fall across the spectrum of human experience. This was a great post, Libs. I enjoyed reading it and the comments.

  • Noelle

    I read everything thing as a kid, and the bible was one of those things. We mostly attended moderate Xian churches, so I was neither encouraged not discouraged to read the entire thing. I mean, Sunday school and VBS rewarded me for memorizing the books of the bible and handful of common verses and being able to find verses quickly as a game, but that was about it.

    How did I like the violent parts? Fascinating. Like Grimm’s fairy tales. But I did believe them at the time.

    Children read things different that adults do. They ask different questions and take away different meanings. The bible is not what made me an atheist. I’d already read it long before that part of my life.

  • Glia

    Having observed a lot of different ways to be Christian, I think maintaining a literalist view of the bible often comes down to either limiting how well you understand the bible, or limiting how well you understand the world.

    The people who go the first route mostly study the bible through secondary/indirect means, like working through a devotional, that focuses in on small passages and gives an analysis. If they touch on the really shocking parts at all, it is in a context of briefly mentioning it without being too explicit, and then emphasizing, for example, how it demonstrates the faith of the people depicted, and then asking how well you would compare. (Hint: not well. You never compare well to the examples in the devotional. You should probably pray on that.) These types will claim to know their bibles well, and to an extent they do, but they never look too deeply into the hard parts. They assume that the bits they don’t really focus on are as good as the ones they do, and therefore assume they know what is in there. In other words, they are primarily exposed to carefully curated parts of the bible, that avoid forcing them to examine how taking the bible literally contradicts what they can see in the world around them. I think those who became atheists after reading the bible may often fit in this group, or the group of moderate and liberal Christians who just frankly don’t read the bible much at all.

    The other option is to limit exposure to the parts of the world that don’t match the bible. I think this is why so many fundamentalists can encourage total immersion in the bible. Rather than hiding the parts of the bible that contradict reality, they hide the parts of reality that contradict the bible. This is why they (also at one point, I…) could, say, be so confident that evolution was a wrong-headed lie while barely knowing anything about it. This group assumes the evidence supporting the bible is out there and is obvious when you go looking for it, and therefore honest study will lead right back to the truth of the bible. Instead of their scriptures being curated, their reality is. I think for this group, that knows the bible forward and backward, becoming an atheist usually comes about by learning about how the world doesn’t conform to the bible like it is supposed to (evolution makes sense, patriarchy makes our family miserable instead of happy, gay people and science professors are normal and even nice, rather than debauched demonic forces of chaos, etc.)

    Anyway, my experience has been primarily that people are not running around with a lot of cognitive dissonance, trying to make two contradictory world views fit together, but rather that most of the Christians I knew fit somewhere into a spectrum between those two extremes of either assuming the bible matched their view of the world or assuming the world matched their view of the bible, and not trying too hard to understand the other well enough to disrupt that.

    • Rosie

      Well said, Glia! I was going to say much the same, but you’ve done it for me, and very well. Reading the Bible does not necessarily make atheists, but the conflict between the Biblical view and the real world often makes atheists of previous believers once they learn enough about both to realize there’s a serious conflict. But that also tends to depend on a somewhat literal interpretation of the book, or at least the propensity to consider it an authority. Which may or may not include all who consider themselves “believers.”

  • Glia

    Whoa, total wall of text. Sorry, I am only starting to be able to talk about this stuff at all, I seem to be unbottling.

    • shadowspring

      No, thank you, Glia. It was brilliantly laid out. Halfway through reading it I said out loud, “I love you Glia!” <3

  • John Small Berries

    I read the Bible all the way through in high school, and it didn’t turn me into an atheist. Because when I came across passages that didn’t seem to make sense, or seemed wrong – like a law forcing a rape victim to marry her rapist – I shoved it aside for fear of committing blasphemy by questioning or doubting.

    But when I read it through a second time, in college – and actually thought about what I was reading, with the philosophy that something which is true should be able to withstand even the most rigorous questioning or scrutiny, and something which cannot stand up to such scrutiny is untrue, and therefore not worth believing – well, that was a different story.

    Before I had even finished Exodus, I could no longer reconcile the God of the Bible with the “just, benevolent” characterization of him that I had been taught as a child; by the time I’d gotten all the way through the New Testament, and discovered that every testable claim and promise I found therein proved untrue*, I was forced to conclude that either God’s word was utterly worthless, or that he didn’t even exist**.

    (I didn’t arrive at my atheism easily, though; as I felt the foundations of my beliefs crumbling, I prayed more and more desperately for divine inspiration or signs to shore up my failing faith… but none ever came. I sought, but found nothing; asked, but received no reply; knocked, but the door remained shut fast. The latter possibility, therefore – that God didn’t exist – seemed the most likely explanation. And the more I have learned about the world and universe around me, the more certain I am that there is no need to believe in gods to explain anything.)

    So, yes, reading the Bible did make me an atheist – but only once I was willing to actually use my brain and examine the things that I was reading.

    ___
    * Well, I didn’t try drinking poison to verify that it didn’t harm me, nor ask anyone else to demonstrate that particular sign of a believer. So I guess I didn’t test every testable claim.

    ** “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” isn’t such a bad bit of advice after all.

  • Shira

    Reading the Bible did, in fact, make me an atheist, or at least set me on that path. (I’m Jewish, btw, not Christian.) In my twenties I joined a chavurah or “do-it-yourself” synagogue. Every Shabat one of us would prepare a D’var Torah (a talk based on the Torah portion of the week, plus any scholarship we dug up on that portion.) At some point I did a D’var Torah on one of the genocide stories. I decided some parts of the Bible must be true and some inclusions from other people, then I went off to study Torah to prove it. I studied text-critical methods and had to conclude that there was no way to draw lines around the parts that offended my sense of ethics and declare them “borrowed” while the uplifting parts were “original”. It took awhile, but this realization eventually made me an atheist.

  • Elizabby

    No, I don’t think so. I attend a liberal Christian church, where the Bible is read every week and everyone is encouraged to read it on their own. I’ve read the whole book through – but I think interpretation (ie non-literal understanding) and taking it in context is important. Sure, people do nasty stuff to each other in the Bible – same as they do in the real world. This isn’t surprising or shocking to me at all. It would be weirder to have people in the Bible who were always perfect, wouldn’t it? Isn’t everyone’s favourite disciple Peter – the one who asked the silly questions and made mistakes? I don’t see how we could read or identify with the Bible if everyone and everything in it were perfect – it wouldn’t relate at all to the real world. I think the problem of cognitive dissonance mentioned above only occurs if you think everything in the Bible is literally true and was commanded by God to be as it was. Since I don’t believe either of those, it’s cool. The Bible is stories of people doing the kinds of things people do – that’s life.

    • Anat

      This isn’t surprising or shocking to me at all. It would be weirder to have people in the Bible who were always perfect, wouldn’t it?

      That’s not the problem. The problem is all the nasty stuff that is promoted as good and required behavior, from genocide to stoning disobedient sons to death. As well as immoral doctrines such as hell (and the criteria about getting there).

      • Elizabby

        That’s an interpretive decision though. I don’t see the genocides as “good and required behaviour”. The doctrine of hell isn’t in the Bible you know – that’s another interpretive extrapolation. And that is the reason why I think it is important for Christians to read the Bible – to know what is *really* in there as distinct from what is commonly thought to be in there (or common interpretations/teachings of what is in there).

      • Azel

        Problem is that God did require slaughter of a city inhabitants (Ai in Joshua 8:1-2) and even a fullscale genocide, with extermination of the livestock (the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15:1-3). So even if genocides were not described as good, it’s not an interpretation to describe them as required, with dire consequences if you didn’t kill everyone (as Saul was informed by Samuel’s ghost in 1 Samuel 28:16-19).

    • RowanVT

      The behaviour of people in the bible didn’t bother me at all. The behaviour of this “good and moral” deity did.
      I ran into real problems early on…. Free will is a gift to us, right? But god took that free will away from Pharoah… to give god more glory.
      Offering up two young girls to be gang raped was righteous?
      God telling people to stone to death their *children* if they act out in any way is good?
      God killing Job’s family…. on a bet with the devil? *This* is supposed to be the action of a benevolent god?

      Reading the bible led me to realise that I am more moral and compassionate than the being portrayed therein.

      • shadowspring

        If you take that as real history, and not as an early story trying to answer the question “why do bad things happen to good people”, then that God is an asshole. Seriously.

      • RowanVT

        Actually, even if you take it as a “why do bad things happen to good people”, the answer clearly presented in so much of the bible is “Because God did it to them” just makes God an asshole all around.

  • wendy

    My husband’s experience growing up was more how atheists imagine, although his family didn’t consider themselves liberal Christians. (He never even saw The Wonderful World of Disney! Yikes!) While he was not expected to study daily, church members were clearly guided on how to read the bible. Thus, adult members might read the entire bible in a year, but in a specific order through the content (thus prioritizing scriptures in a way that influenced understanding). And, yes, further independent exploration lead him away from belief.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    I think there’s an enormous difference between devotional reading of the Bible–which is usually broken up into digestible chunks and the interpretation guided by teachers or a written guide (full of rationalizations for the difficult passages)–and a genuine critical reading of the Bible. The latter is the kind of reading that drives people into atheism or liberal Christianity.

    • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara

      exactly

    • Didaktylos

      There’s quite a difference between reading large quantities as coherent narratives and studying selected passages according to someone else’s plan.

  • Contrarian

    How do you take a moderate, “fallen-away” Christian and rescue them? Give them a Bible to read, say the fundamentalists.

  • SophieUK

    Elizabby – I don’t think anyone’s too surprised about how people in the bible act, it’s the way in which God acts that shocks many people (me included). I wouldn’t’ expect people in the bible to be perfect either but I would expect God to advise them and help them to become better people, rather than just inciting them to commit genocide!

    • Elizabby

      I think it comes down to what kind of book you think the Bible is. I would say it is the stories of people who are interacting with God. They write their stories from their point of view, and for us thousands of years later it can take quite a bit of digging to understand how they saw the world. From where they were standing at the time, they did what they thought was necessary. I would say overall that the Bible shows a trajectory of moral evolution which *is* always helping the people of God to become better people.

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara

    For those of us that were raised with a “faith” that said that we would go to heaven if we believed that the bible was all historical fact, ACTUALLY reading the bible distroys our faith. I grew up in that environment. I went to AWANA, sunday school, bible camps, etc. I have so many verses memorized, but I never actually sat down and made it through the whole thing until after I had my first kid and we moved away from my home church. I already had a feeling that something was wrong with my faith so when I read the different versions of the same story in the gospels and the details were different I was totally shaken. I mean there were either two guys there when the demons came out of the pigs or there was one. It can’t be both ways. And this started an avalanche of learning about error in the bible. It’s a beautiful and amazing and inspired book, but it isn’t without error. That was a lie. All you have to do is read it and find out. Read the beginning of the Exodus. Did the Isrealites leave quickly in a hurry or did they take their time? It depends on which paragraph you like better, I suppose. When I was younger I just ignored the stuff that didn’t make sense to me, or I heard the pastor’s explainations in my head. As an adult I couldn’t do that anymore I had to confront it all. So yes, as an adult, reading the Bible shook my faith a lot. I still believe very much in a spiritual world, I’m just not sure it looks anything like the Christian story….well at least not the conservative evangelical christian story.

    • kisekileia

      The level of inconsistency among the four Gospels has actually encouraged me to continue believing that the Gospels really were written by people who were fairly close to Jesus and portrayed Jesus’ ministry as they genuinely saw it, because the level of disagreement in the various accounts is pretty much what you’d expect for four people recounting another person’s ministry several decades later without writing much down in the interim. There’s a lot of overlap in the general thrust of the stories, but significant discrepancies in the details, which is pretty much what you’d expect under those circumstances. But I was raised moderate evangelical, not fundamentalist, which I think makes a big difference.

  • http://travelingtxn.blogspot.com Traveling Txn

    I think that its the context of reading the bible that matters. Reading it in the context of a fundamentalist movement where you go into it assuming everything is true, it probably wolnt shake your faith. But where I think Dawkins, Silverman, and the rest have their point is that for those who are on the fence about Christianity vs being spiritual or any of the other soft beliefs reading the bible in its entirety seems like it would likely drive them away from faith in a biblical god. I think it would be interesting to see a study done on the effects the not-so-nice portions of the bible have on peoples faith taking into account where they were before hand (i.e. baptist but non-church attending, devout catholic, ect.)

  • RowanVT

    It was reading the bible that was the final nail in the coffin of my faith. I’d already had problems with the idea of hell from the age of 5, and I remember crying myself to sleep that I’d done something wrong and that I’d be tortured for eternity. I couldn’t understand how god would do that if he loved me, and it terrified me. Looking back on it now that I’m almost thirty I’m infuriated that an adult did that to me. Mom must have realised how deeply that affected me, however, and we mostly stopped going to church. She’s not a hellfire/brimstone type of Christian anyway, and doesn’t believe in hell.
    Then I went to a Catholic high school. I got a great education, but hated religion classes. I was technically a Christian at this point in time, but had managed to never read any part of the bible. Oh what a shock that was.
    Because of my general lack of religious upbringing, I didn’t associate morality with god, but rather god with morality. People told me god was good, so that means that god had to be a *good* entity.

    And then I read the bible.

    A man considered righteous who would offer up his daughters for gang rape?
    God taking away free will, all to add to his own glory?
    God murdering infants, all to add to his own glory?
    God making a man’s life a complete nightmare, up to murdering his children… all on a bet? A whim? And then offering him new kids, as if that will erase the pain of losing his original family?
    A woman who is raped should be made to marry her rapist?

    Within the first semester, I decided that the deity portrayed therein was callous, malicious, sadistic, vainglorious, and generally acted like a toddler having a temper tantrum when things didn’t go exactly how he wanted. And I realised something else.

    I was more moral, more compassionate, more loving than god. I could never send anyone to hell.

    It’s also hard to take the bible seriously and as ‘inerrant’ when you find typos in your study bible. Ruth was Roth, and some gentleman sinnned. Must have been some sin, to get three ‘n’s in there.

    So yes, I think reading the bible does make people atheists. It will make atheists of those who never learned much in the first place, those who picture god as moral instead of the other way around, and those who have been already injured by Christianity in some way.

  • Brad

    Growing up in the Evangelical church, I’ve read through the entire Bible several times, and large portions (entire New Testament, all the OT Poetic books) many more times. I’m currently on a journey away from my faith, but problems with the Bible came as a RESULT of my journey into skeptical/atheist writing, not as a fundamental cause of my doubt.

    For a believer, it’s just way too easy to read what someone else might call a “problematic” passage and justify it with one of any number of excuses:
    * This OT command was superceded by grace in the NT
    * This OT was important for Israel at the time
    * God had to gradually move Israel toward righteousness, and this passage is a very early step in that direction
    * God was teaching Israel a specific lesson
    * If I took the time to study this passage, I’m sure I’d understand what it REALLY means
    * If I knew Greek/Hebrew, I’m sure I could resolve this dilemma
    * I’m sure that there commentaries that explain this passage, if I took the time to find them
    * What spiritual lesson can this passage teach me today?
    * Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through his word to me? If not, pray more!
    * If I don’t feel a prompting from the spirit regarding a passage, I’ll just go on to the next one.
    * If I don’t understand a passage, I’ll read it in a different verson.

    Frankly, even in the midst of my post-evangelical crisis, I’m more bothered by the META-PROBLEMS with the Bible than by the contents of the book itself (questionable authorship, probably late date for many books, haphazard way the books were assembled, lack of extra-biblical confirmation of events). After all, if the book is unreliable as a whole, then I don’t even have to crack the cover to know that it shouldn’t be used as a life guide.

    • shadowspring

      I think the Bible is a lot of things, but is only useful to me as a written record of the thoughts, ambitions, practices, blunders, and beliefs of people whose lives had been touched in some way by the Divine. I suppose you would say I’m the anti-inerrantist. I believe every author of every passage of the Bible was merely human, but some of them had some extraordinary experiences and the people around them thought the stories useful enough to preserve as best they could. That said, I also believe I would benefit from reading other holy books from other faiths. So far I’ve only looked at a sliver of the Dalia Lama’s writings, a bit of yoga and Zen, and a cursory look at the Sikh faith, but not the Guru Granth Sahib itself. It fascinates me.

    • kisekileia

      “For a believer, it’s just way too easy to read what someone else might call a “problematic” passage and justify it with one of any number of excuses:…”

      This is pretty much my situation. I read the Bible through at 13, and I can recall only one thing–the curse placed on Eve in Genesis–that really tripped me up at the time, because of those various ‘excuses’.

  • Cranapple

    I am an ex-fundamentalist (now atheist), and I too have felt Libby-Anne’s frustration with those people who seem to believe that Christians must not know or read the bible. To be sure, the bible can “make atheists”, but I think it is a narrow range of people who could be affected in such a way. Non-literalists may not have difficulty with the bible because it doesn’t surprise them that men included their own faults in the text, from their own limited viewpoints. Fundamentalists are often not troubled at all by parts of the bible that others find abhorrent, being insulated by interpretation and the desire to have a “biblical worldview” or a fear of having unorthodox views even unwittingly.

    My upbringing placed less emphasis on the command theory of morality, instead arguing that God must have had a good reason for commanding or allowing things like genocides. I would have been told something like “man’s inability to think of a reason why that was the best choice of action does not mean that God didn’t know a good reason.” The same would likely be applied to passages about slavery or women’s rights, either that or they would otherwise be explained away by saying something like “Jewish slavery was different.”

    I think that mainly fundamentalists or other biblical literalists/inerrantists are susceptible to becoming atheists from reading the bible, but since that is something they are likely already doing on a regular basis (again, I was a fundamentalist who read through the entire bible on multiple occasions, yet that never played a major role in my deconversion) it must be some other factor. IMO, that factor is honest questioning and doubt. If you are trying to believe, trying to have faith, trying to learn “correct doctrine”, your mind is simply not engaging in skepticism or doubt. It’s not that I was incapable of being skeptical or thinking critically (I am obviously capable, since I do my best to do so now), it’s that I never even seriously wondered whether the bible could actually be wrong in any way. There’s a big difference between reading Lee Strobel to learn how to defend your faith, and actually wondering if you could be wrong.

  • Cranapple

    EDIT: I meant to say “I don’t think that mainly fundamentalists or other biblical literalists are susceptible to…” I was hoping to make the point that fundamentalists can become atheists from reading the bible if they are truly asking questions, and others can become atheists if they have not been previously exposed to troubling passages.

  • vida

    Reading the bible did lead me to drop Christianity. I was raised by religious people but they tended to pick the ‘nicer’ parts to talk about. Once I read it all I was aghast. We live in an area with a strong fundamentalist / evangelical base and about half of those I know have actually read the bible on their own. They either are led in reading by a preacher who tells them what they just read means or they simply don’t read it at all and believe whatever they’re told is in there. I had a person who identifies as a very faithful Christian ask me whether Dec. 25 wasn’t actually in the bible as Christs’ birthday. She thought it was.

  • mostlylurking

    It sure helped me on my way, tough I was never a Real Christian (TM) in the first place. My grandmother was the only one in the family who ever tried to instill some faith in me, but it never really took. But when it came to Confirmation time, I decided to do it properly, and actually studied the Bible on my own. I was appalled, infuriated and disgusted. Jesus “sweet and mild”? More a first class jerk! God was a monster, and Paul a misogynist jerk. And everything so glaringly obviously man-made, full of contradictions and sometimes ridiculous errors, no divinity in sight. My Confirmation classes turned me from somewhat apatheistic lukewarm agnostic to full atheist, as I quickly realized that the very foundation of all faiths were complete bunk!

  • Sue Blue

    I know that, for me, really studying the bible DID lead to becoming an atheist. Like many commenting here, I think there is a difference in the way that some Christians read the bible – reading only the New Testament, or only the passages picked for them by their pastor or their bible study guide, or accepting the explanation that the truly barbaric stories of the OT are the result of misunderstanding or misinterpretation – or that that was just the way God had to be with the early Hebrews in order to bring them out of their primitive, idolatrous ways. I know that when I was younger, I didn’t notice the many inconsistencies and contradictions because I read the bible only in bits and pieces, for short periods of time, and usually as part of some lesson or study group. I didn’t sit down and really study it, comparing texts and verses, and thinking critically about what I read. It was my doubts about the farfetched tales of Genesis, and the pervasive misogyny that I noticed when I got older that made me really take a good look at the bible, and I finally began to see what had always been there – atrocities, lies, impossibilities, contradictions. After studying it for more than two years, I finally realized that it was far from the supposed “infallible” Word of God I had been taught, and if not, then the God described in it was probably not real; I couldn’t realistically base my life on an ancient set of myths, and that I was, finally, an atheist.

    • shadowspring

      Actually, I think the atrocities of the OT were committed by people, because they WANTED to commit them, and then used God to defend their actions. And people still do it today. :(

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  • Sinjin Smythe

    I’ve read the bible and found it to be an awful book filled with preposterous stories, an egomaniacal diety that can’t in any way represent love, and the ancient logic of a less educated time.

    When I read that someone else also read it and that it didn’t shake their faith I have trouble believing they actually read the book.

    You can’t debate this with a person that makes such a claim. You just have to give fools wide berth.

  • tybo

    I think you are missing the key factor here known as free thinking. Those people who read everyday were also told how to interperate the bible. As i was. I don’t have a link but there was a project where you could use the bible to explain or prove literally any “crazy” idea just by the way you interperate the verses. Besides the bible is fiction and has been altered over time. Seek the truth and you will find it. I’m still seeking but I’m done looking at the bible for the answers.


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