Answers in Genesis teaches how not to read a story

In Nature, Andrew Curry offers a fascinating overview of the recent developments in the study of when humans first came to live in the Americas. The article is titled, “Ancient migration: Coming to America“:

For most of the past 50 years, archaeologists thought they knew how humans arrived in the New World. The story starts around the end of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower and big-game hunters living in eastern Siberia followed their prey across the Bering land bridge and into Alaska. As the ice caps in Canada receded and opened up a path southward, the colonists swept across the vast unpopulated continent. Archaeologists called these presumed pioneers the Clovis culture, after distinctive stone tools that were found at sites near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s.

… But findings over the past few years … have shown conclusively that humans reached the Americas well before the Clovis people. That has sparked a surge of interest in the field, and opened it up to fresh ideas and approaches. Geneticists and archaeologists are collaborating to piece together who came first, when they arrived, whether they travelled by boat or by foot and how they fanned out across the New World.

The beginnings of the Clovis culture date back to around 13,500 years ago. The newer findings suggest people had arrived in North America even earlier — as early as 14,300 years ago.

Allow me to translate those figures for my young-earth creationist, illiteralist fundamentalist friends. The godless scientists used to believe that the first humans arrived in North America 7,484 years before you think the Bible says the universe was created, but now the godless scientists have found evidence that humans were here at least 8,284 years before the creation of the universe.

I know, I know, picking on the young-earth creationists is too easy. Fish in a barrel and all that.

But they invite it. They’re not just wrong, but audaciously wrong. The weirdness of their conclusions becomes all the more horrifying when you try to trace the arcane routes they traveled to arrive at them.

Take for example the illiteralist fundies who sat down and calculated the hourly rainfall in the story of Noah’s flood.

This is how these folks approach this story. This is how they hear a story and how they read a story. They don’t seem to notice that the story has a narrative, themes, characters, a beginning, a middle and an end. Or if they do notice those things, they don’t care about them, because that’s not what they see as important in a story.

What they see as important are measurements, logistics and the calculating of numbers that do not actually appear in the story itself. They contemplate the buoyancy of gopher wood. They calculate the cubic cubitage of Noah’s ark, the rate of rainfall and the capacity of the firmament canopy (don’t ask).

This is a dim, illiterate and aggressively obtuse response to a story. This is ridiculousness that demands to be ridiculed.

Seriously, people, it’s a story. If you don’t know how to read stories, then you don’t know how to read.

If you don’t know how to read stories, then you become the literacy equivalent of that person who never lets you finish a joke because they’re always interrupting with irrelevant questions and thinking they’re particularly clever for pointing out that a bar stool probably couldn’t support the weight of a gorilla.

But here’s the kicker: This rate-of-rainfall foolishness didn’t come from the illiterate fundamentalists of Answers in Genesis. It came from the Freethought Alliance Conference at UC Irvine.

Sigh.

I’m trying to follow the logic there. “Hey, those Answers in Genesis people are completely incompetent and ignorant when it comes to biology, geology and cosmology — so let’s assume they’re competent, knowledgeable and authoritative experts at biblical exegesis!”

Um, no. Their biblical interpretation is no better than their paleontology. Why would anyone imagine it could be?

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Update: Here’s what the billboard says, “Noah’s flood / 8712 inches per hour = nonsense / what other biblical nonsense is there?”

That’s not mockery of fundamentalist literalism — it’s an uncritical validation of that literalism. It embraces that absurdist literalism and then criticizes the text for being absurdly literal. It’s a variation on Bill Maher’s “book with the talking snake” dismissal.

Try this version: “Rainbow crow / 2,583,333 miles per hour = nonsense / what other Lenape nonsense is there?”

Or this one: “Four Yorkshiremen / 29 hours in a day = nonsense / what other Python nonsense is there?”

That bit about “29 hours a day” is right there in the text of that Monty Python tragedy. Such obvious errors make it very hard to take the play seriously.

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but it also has the unfortunate connotations that:

    1) They would be Christians if only this one part of the Bible weren’t factually wrong;

    2) Atheists are complete a-holes.

    Neither is a good message to send.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And why shouldn’t they? When some Christians (particularly RTCs like LaHaye) tend to insist on literal reading and then get very mushy and wishy-washy about the nitty-gritty of what chapters and verse need a little less “literal” reading –

    As well as the insistence – vehement insistence – that every word!!!11oneone is the WORD OF GOD–

    Well, don’t be surprised if atheists who are a little fed up with the way Christianity dominates the secular political and social discourse decide that the counterstrategy is to point out the absurdity inherent in a literal reading and to legitimately question why certain verses can be disregarded as irrelevant to belief in God.

  • Ben English

    Just a story:
    The fall of Jericho, Noah’s Ark, Genesis 1 and 2

    Actually Happened:
    Genesis 3+, killing thousands with the jawbone of an ass, Dives and Lazarus

  • GDwarf

    …So what should the FAC have put on their billboard? If they put a critique of a non-literalist stance then the exact same argument could be made, albeit by the literalists instead of others, and it’s not as if you can fit a long, nuanced, argument for all possible positions on a billboard.

    Instead, they targeted what is usually the most oppressive and politically-active branch of US Christianity, which makes perfect sense to me.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Here’s what the billboard says, “Noah’s flood / 8712 inches per hour = nonsense / what other biblical nonsense is there?”

    I could go either way on this, but I’m leaning toward what seems to be the majority opinion here because of the next line of the billboard:

    “Join us at the Freethough Alliance Conference / May 19-20 at UCI”

    This invitation makes the question less rhetorical and less overt mockery than it would have been had it not offered an opportunity to explore the issue further.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I have never met an atheist who held the “if some of the Bible is true, all must be” attitude. Ever. And I am an atheist, and I do run into a lot of atheists and people who are not Christian in my daily life. Plenty of atheists do poke holes in “Biblical inrerrancy” by pointing out how full of holes the Bible already is, and that is a legitimate debate tactic. 

    For instance, everyone’s heard this one: Leviticus says I’m supposed to hate gay men, but it also says mixed fabric is an abomination, so why do you pick one of those to believe and not the other? Why do you condemn lesbians when the Bible has nothing negative to say about them? Why do you choose this and not that? You say you’re a literalist, but you demonstrably are not. You pick and choose. That argument is not one that has as its basis the idea that the Bible is supposed to be read literally; it simply points out hypocrisy and the reality that certain people who claim to get their beliefs from the Bible do not actually get their beliefs from the Bible, but rather come to the Bible with certain assumptions.

    I also have never known a “nerd” who started going on and on about something like the Kessel Run as if it were deeply important who did not get shouted down by other “nerds.” Many so-called “nerds” (are we now 12?) enjoy intellectual challenges and figuring stuff like that out, but the vast majority of them — us — don’t think it really matters

    On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of men say that I should submit to all men because Eve was made from Adam’s rib. Tearing down that argument by demonstrating it’s impossible is a valuable thing to do. Maybe the men trying to make me into chattel won’t be persuaded, but maybe the women in their families will hear it and maybe some will know that there is somewhere to escape to. Maybe if we’re loud and insistent enough about tearing down that argument, those men will be marginalized. Persuading them is not the point; they are not the center of the universe.

    I don’t know about this billboard in particular. I’m inclined to be against anyone who thinks Christopher Hitchens is a laudable person who should be quoted. But I don’t think the billboard is meant to persuade right-wing Christians of anything. I know privileged people go into conniptions when something is not addressed to them (see also how many men on the internet react to Twilight), but giving privileged people conniptions is also fun and even valuable in and of itself.

  • TheBrett

     It’s also 2.2 inches per second. Considering how fast rain falls and how heavy water is, that much water hitting you would probably cause physical injuries.

  • AnonymousSam

    I linked this awhile ago, but recently found a rebuttle to it that I’d like to link as well. It might help ease some of the urge to throttle people.

    A Rebuttle to ’101 Evidences for a Young Earth’

  • Tonio

    About talking snakes, maybe Eve was really a Parselmouth…

    At that point if you’re intellectually honest you have to reject
    Biblical inerrancy.  The only options, then, are to go with a
    pick-and-choose metaphorical thing or to reject the entire idea.  I went
    with the latter.

    For clarification, what was the “entire idea” you were rejecting? Biblical inerrancy, or the Resurrection?

  • Worthless Beast

     
    The billboards are better designed than some “atheist advertising” I have seen.  Readable fonts, good visual flow, good use of color…
     
    Whether or not they are “successful,” however, depends upon their goal.  If they are advertising for people who already agree with them in a “Hey, come to this conference and learn how to fight religion with us!”  Then, I’d say it works.  If they are trying to “convert” ( de-convert) anyone, I’d say it’s rather fail.  The literalist-AinG types are going to put their fingers in their ears (eyes? Hopefully not while driving…) and go “Lalala!” Most people (those with the vague “I once heard this in Sunday School” attitude) are probably not going to *care* enough to really think about it and Fred and those of us like him are going to shake our heads and wonder why a freethought society (supposed to be “smart people,” right?) are stooping to play the game by AinG’s rules.  Sometimes answering a fool according to his folly only makes one look petty to the peripheral targets.
     
    It’s kind of like the title of a book I’ve seen bloggers promoting on HuffingtonPost.  I have not read the book, but I’ve read articles by the author and someone promoting the author.  There’s a book written by a neuroscientist titled “The Republican Brain: Why They Deny Science – and Reality.”  With a title like that, I don’t even *care* how sound the science might be – my old advertising training tells me that the only people likely to read it are Democrats/Liberals seeking to *confirm* their own perceived natural brain-superiority and a few angry Republicans who will pick it up only to pick it apart.   
     
    There are messages so-delivered where you’ve got to know that you aren’t reaching anyone who’s not already on your side.
     

  • Worthless Beast

    This always kind of annoys me because I find truth in fiction (*known* fictions) all the time.  It’s almost like saying I cannot draw a sense of courage and heroism from “Lord of the Rings” becuase there is no arechelogical evidence that Middle Earth ever existed.

    The Bible is trickier, though, as I do stake some spiritual truth in it beyond what I find in fantasy novels and it ties into history, philosophy and policy in ways that no other work, fact, fiction or in-between ever has.

    Still, I remain annoyed by the attitude that nothing is “of value” unless someone in a suit or a labcoat tells you it is.

    I don’t know much about Bill Maher other than his family was Catholic?  How strict were they about it?  In my experience (on the Internet, at least), people who are the most angry, literal-minded-playing-by-fundie-rules anti-thiests are people with strict religious upbringing. The above reminded me of an ex- Jehova’s Witness I met once. His literal thinking could be excused because that is what he was raised with, the only kind of Bible-thinking he knew.

  • Tonio

     

    Leviticus says I’m supposed to hate gay men, but it also says mixed
    fabric is an abomination, so why do you pick one of those to believe and
    not the other? Why do you condemn lesbians when the Bible has nothing
    negative to say about them? Why do you choose this and not that?

    The Gideons may have been onto something when they distributed New Testaments accompanied with just Psalms and Proverbs. Imagine someone who had never heard of Christianity or Judaism attempting to read the Bible casually – the person might not realize the importance that Christians place on the Gospels. Or that Christians and Jews disagree on whether Jesus is foreshadowed in the OT.

    (If some anti-theists are being rude in telling Christians they’re wrong in not reading the Bible literally, are some Christians wrong in telling Jews they’re wrong about their own culture’s book? To play Voldemort’s advocate, should the reading used by the culture that wrote the book be used as the default?)

    see also how many men on the internet react to Twilight

    OT: That’s odd, because most of the Twilight objections I read come from women, usually about the unhealthy nature of the Edward/Bella relationship.

  • Tonio

     

    Still, I remain annoyed by the attitude that nothing is “of value” unless someone in a suit or a labcoat tells you it is.

    I doubt that the folks behind the billboard were making that specific claim, and from my reading, no one here is making it.

    The Bible is trickier, though, as I do stake some spiritual truth in
    it beyond what I find in fantasy novels and it ties into history,
    philosophy and policy in ways that no other work, fact, fiction or
    in-between ever has.

    Part of my objection about the culture treating the Bible as authoritative is that it’s often regarded as having a monopoly on spiritual truth.

  • Worthless Beast

    I remember, growing up, my father was the Bible-expert in the family and the rest of us, for the most part, didn’t bother reading it. We weren’t a churchgoing family, but we all had a vague theism…

    When there was a family argument, however, on occasion, one of us would ask Dad “This is in the Bible, right?”   We saw this as winning the argument.

    We weren’t really interested in the Bible beyond using it to win arguments.  I think that’s how a lot of people in America are.

    I know when I had my conversion experience (I started out conservative, literealist, now I’m progressive, back to non-church and somewhat agnostic)… actually reading and studying the thing was a whole different experience than my “typical American upbringing” with a few of its stories scattered about my conciousness.

  • Tricksterson

    If there was any hope of convincing them that they’re ridiculous that approach would have merit.  But it doesn’t because their answer to any such argument is “God says.”  f God wants it to rain 8712 inches an hour then it will.  It’s like trying to put makup on a porcupine.  it accoplishes nothing but to irritate the porcupiine.

  • Tricksterson

    Wait, are you saying that Once Upon A Time isn’t real?  Blasphemer!

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     For clarification, what was the “entire idea” you were rejecting? Biblical inerrancy, or the Resurrection?

    Religion, actually.

    For me it was a progression from a more-or-less Biblically inerrant position to a status of non-religiousness/atheism.  But it’s not like I woke up one morning and said, “Y’know, I’m tired of this.”  I had a “crisis of faith” brought on by believing a few things I’d been told about god all along that I suddenly realized were both untrue and about to drive me insane.[1]  I didn’t leave the church then, I went to a liberal church that didn’t pull that kind of crap.  I’d also been studying the Bible as a historical document from a secular academic perspective, rather than the church-approved “Biblical history”-type stuff.

    One day I was sitting in that very nice mainline liberal church filled with wonderful people who seemed to take the whole thing about Jesus wanting them to make the world a better place and I realized that I didn’t care because the Bible itself was not a trustworthy document.  It was filled with some good stories and a few good morals, but so are a lot of other books.  That being the case we might as well have been listening to a sermon on how Zeus wanted us to behave or what to do to stay on Superman’s good side.

    So I walked away.

    -

    [1]That’s the downside of the “god speaks to you if you just listen” meme in Evangelical Christianity.  We all got a good laugh at god telling Santorum, Bachmann, and Cain that he wanted each of them to run for President and assumed it was a cynical, self-serving thing.  But my church(es) taught me that god would speak.  Then one day “god spoke” and told me something that was logically impossible.  When you’re also told to have faith, though, rejecting the logical impossibility of god’s directions is an invitation to the abyss, too.

    So I nearly went nuts.  Then I realized that I had to make a choice between listening to god and listening to myself.  I chose me.  Then I gradually recovered, went back to the Evangelical church I grew up in, and about four months later I was sitting on a retreat as a youth leader with the junior high youth group when the guest pastor pulled a, “Ask god to speak to you,” routine.  I nearly had a complete nervous breakdown that night.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Still, I remain annoyed by the attitude that nothing is “of value” unless someone in a suit or a labcoat tells you it is.

    Who, pray tell, says that?  Is this some sort of position that you think all atheists, skeptics, or scientists hold?

    We all make our own value.  Setting up someone in a “suit” or “labcoat” as an external arbiter of value is foolish.  But so is looking to someone standing behind a pulpit.  Both are simply alternative forms of authoritarianism.

  • Worthless Beast

    Defensive much?

    Maybe I should have went with “preacher” instead of “guy in a suit”.  I was going to say “unless a preacher or scientist tells them” but I thought it sounded better the other way.

    I wasn’t talking “atheists and skeptics” as a broad brush, I was talking about people who take a very literal attitude to things, people on *both* sides.  “If it’s a myth, it’s wholly worthless,” and “The Bible says so, so there!/If it’s not in the Bible, it’s worthless!”

    Thanks for reminding me why I hardly ever bother to engage on disscussion here and remain a lurker most of the time.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Defensive much?

    Nope.  You’re the one who made a fairly blanket statement.  I was just trying to suss out whatever the hell you were trying to say.

    Maybe I should have went with “preacher” instead of “guy in a suit”.  I
    was going to say “unless a preacher or scientist tells them” but I
    thought it sounded better the other way.

    You probably should have done that, since “guy in a suit” is a completely meaningless phrase.  I assumed you meant “businessmen” and were talking about people only putting value in things that could get them money.

    Thanks for reminding me why I hardly ever bother to engage on disscussion here and remain a lurker most of the time.

    Or, y’know, you could take this as a learning experience and try to communicate more clearly the next time.  But what do I know?  I’m apparently being mindlessly defensive.

  • Worthless Beast

    You’re still being defensive, but you’re right in that I should have communicated that a little better. I kind of assumed that “preachers wear suits, everyone knows this.”   Businesspeople work, too, since we do tend to follow marketing and advertsing.  For some people, branding is religion.

    Though, I wonder, if I hadn’t mentioned earlier that I “believed in stuff” would your reaction have been different?

  • Tonio

     Thanks for sharing your experience. To be honest, I have no clue what “god speaks” means – I picture something out DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.

    Is there such a thing as religion that doesn’t include belief or faith? I’ve been told that Confucianism doesn’t “qualify” as a religion.

  • John Small Berries

    “Furthermore, since the psalmist describes God as “my” shepherd, this
    implies that God is in the psalmist’s employ.  The rest of the Psalm of
    course becomes a complete non sequitur.”

    The rest of the psalm is not a non sequitur, however, if one’s insistence upon a literal reading of it results in the understanding that the psalmist was a particularly erudite sheep (perfectly in keeping with the precedent of talking serpents and donkeys).

    But that would be a silly interpretation.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     You’re still being defensive

    You telling me that I’m being defensive doesn’t make me defensive.  You could also say that I’m eight feet tall and my skin is a pleasant shade of chartreuse.  That doesn’t mean I have to make sure to buy houses with vaulted ceilings.

    Also, judging by your snap responses, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe you should be looking in the mirror.

    Though, I wonder, if I hadn’t mentioned earlier that I “believed in stuff” would your reaction have been different?

    Nope.  Mostly because all I’d read was the comment where you made the claim I found objectionable.  It came across to me as you being dismissive of an extremely common strawman of atheists as mindless nihilists.  I asked for clarification, then I offered the most common response to that particular line of attack.

    That’s all there is to it.

  • Worthless Beast

    I know I’m defensive as Hell.  I don’t need to look in a mirror to know I have that trait. 

    And again, I wasn’t attacking.  I was making a metaphor about the attitudes of some people I’ve engaged with online, religious people included. (If anything, they’re worse about following only what some authority figure told them). 

    I’d like not to engage with you anymore, okay?

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Thanks for sharing your experience. To be honest, I have no clue what “god speaks” means – I picture something out DeMille’s The Ten Commandments

    In the Christian circles in which I ran it was a thing where you’d pray, then ask god to speak to you, then be quiet for a while.  Eventually (if you were doing it right or had the right level of faith or something, it’s hard to explain the thought process) you’d “hear the voice of god” telling you things.  In your head.  In a non-audible but also totally-not-crazy-go-nuts sort of way.

    Yeah…looking back on it now I’m astounded by how utterly insane it all sounds.

    Either way, the “voice of god” generally sounds a lot like the voice of the person hearing it.  It also generally says what the person hearing it wants to hear.  Funny how that works, I’d say.

    Is there such a thing as religion that doesn’t include belief or
    faith? I’ve been told that Confucianism doesn’t “qualify” as a religion.

    Buddhism qualifies, I think.  I think there’s at least one branch (school? sect?) of Taoism that would qualify, too. Both probably depend on who you’re talking to, though.  I suppose that a loos Unitarianism or Deism might qualify.

    Confucianism is more of a philosophy than a religion, so, yeah.

  • rrhersh

    “I think you missed two critical points.”

    “One is that the history of Biblical exegesis is not well known outside of the religion…”

    This is a fair point, of my hypothetical correspondent is open to education.  I occasionally find ones who are indeed interested to learn that modern American Evangelical Protestantism holds positions which are peculiar within the larger world of Christian thinking.  Others are not so interested, and indeed cleave to their ignorance.  This is fine if the individual is not terribly interested in the subject and makes no claims about it.  Among those prone to taking vocal public stands, ignorance of their topic is not a winsome trait.

    “The other is that the Psalms are poetry, and the use of metaphor in that format is very well known…”

    I didn’t miss that point.  That *is* the point.  My hypothetical correspondent asserts that the Bible must be read literally.  I point out that many parts are read literally by no one, and cite a familiar and obvious example which is not disputed.  This ideally leads to a discussion of the various genres found in the Bible and how intelligent persons of good will might seek to identify them.  Starting with a less obvious and more contentious example would defeat the purpose.

  • rrhersh

    “Well, don’t be surprised if atheists who are a little fed up with the
    way Christianity dominates the secular political and social discourse
    decide that the counterstrategy is to point out the absurdity inherent
    in a literal reading…”

    Sure, if the purpose is to score silly rhetorical points.  But if the claim is “I am smarter and better informed more rational than you!” then is behooves the claimant to make a smart and informed and rational argument.  As it is, I look at fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist atheists and often see little to choose between the two groups.

    “…and to legitimately question why certain verses can
    be disregarded as irrelevant to belief in God.”

    This is a poor characterization of the actual argument.  Surely you can see a distinction between “this text ought not be read literally” and “this text can be disregarded as irrelevant to belief in God.”

  • Tonio

     

    My hypothetical correspondent asserts that the Bible must be read
    literally.  I point out that many parts are read literally by no one,
    and cite a familiar and obvious example which is not disputed.

    But in real life, almost none of the anti-theists we’re talking about would explicitly include Psalms and Proverbs in their idea of literalism. If any do assert that believers adhere to a 100 percent literal reading cover to cover, most likely they’re using inappropriate hyperbole or they’re simply ignorant of the poetry sections.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     In an ideal world, the FAC would have said to themselves, “Hey, this is extremely insulting both to fundamentalists and also to liberal christians, and hurting liberal christians is not actually our goal, and we’re better people than to go around hurting people indiscriminately.”

    Frankly, I don’t see “Atheists are often mistreated by fundamentalist christians, so it is okay  for them do say and do things that are indiscrimantely hurtful to all christians, not just the ones who have hurt them,” as being much different from “Some muslim terrorists attacked America, so it is okay for America to treat all muslims as Teh Enemy.”

  • Richard Hershberger

     “But in real life, almost none of the anti-theists we’re talking about
    would explicitly include Psalms and Proverbs in their idea of
    literalism.”

    Perhaps.  I have never personally observed anyone, Christian or atheist, assert “the Bible must be read literally, except for Psalms and Proverbs” but I don’t claim my experience is comprehensive.  But no matter.  Were one to make this qualified assertion I would merely begin the conversation one step advanced, with a discussion of why these books are not to be read literally and what other parts of the Bible might merit similar consideration.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FRDTPMBW7IBKWIU3763AI6FYOM Steve

    Hmm. many Courtier’s Replies here.

    I was raised in a not-particularly-fundamentalist or literalist church.  But I can see why that type of thing exists.
    First Principles are where my atheism is based, and believers never quite seem to go back that far.
    For instance, if the Bible did not exist, would there be Christianity?  And if so, would it look like the church that exists now?
    This is important, because The Bible is all there is as a basis of Christianity.  Take away the Bible and the stories therein and what do you have left of the church? 
    Think for a moment what religious stances you have that are not based in some manner on that book.  Take them away and what have you got left?
    No Creation, No Flood.  No Leviticus or 10 Commandments or Moses or enslavement by Pharoah.  No exile, no prophets, no psalms.
    No Jesus–he left no writings of his own anyway, unlike Paul.  No virgin birth, no cross, no death no resurrection.  No martyrdoms, no turning the other cheek, no casting the first stone.
    (No Bible quotes to demonize your enemies safely.  No verses handy to suppport your political goals.)
    No Second Coming, no eternal life, no Lake of fire.  No Heaven or hell.
    All of that stuff depends on the Bible, because that’s where it is written down–there and nowhere else.
    Sure, you can have a personal relationship with Jesus, but how do you know that’s Jesus unless you got that name from the Bible?  Do people who have never heard of him–if there still are any–have such visitations, or do they have personal relationships with their own cultural figures?

    It’s important, because without the Bible–or the various collections of early christian documents that make it up or could have made up similar scriptures. you’ve got nothing left.

    It’s all a story.  And so, determining if it is in fact a true, or at least reliable story, is actually important.

    Now, let’s say, for instance, that Jesus never existed.  That the whole thing was made up by a 1st Century Jewish cult.  The story contains some great ideas and philosophies. Not saying it is or isn’t for this purpose.

    But if it wasn’t true, would you still worship Jesus?  If you knew Jesus never existed, would you still be a Christian? Could you be?

    If you knew Jesus definitely did exist, but never did any of the things attributed to him–miracles, Sermon on the Mount, Death and Resurrection, would you still be a Christian?

    Finally, would you want to know?

    When truth ceases to be important as a  factor in attributing authority, what does it leave? 

    So atheists like me, whoever that may be, have decided to apply truth as an authority and we don’t see it in the Bible.
    Without a true Bible, all that’s left is a long tradition of contradictory human opinions, and we all know the spectrum of value of those.
    “Because I said so” is not an argument, nor is “Because some other guy said so.” 

  • Pixie47

    I was raised as a conservative Christian and I adhered to it into my twenties. I was taught not to question the Bible. Then one day it hit me. why would God object my asking questions? Most every church has a different take on the Bible anyway.

    Once I made that decision I felt so free! Questioning the Bible is not the same as questioning God. And eventually I did reject the literal interpretation of the Bible. I don’t consider myself a Christian anymore, but I still believe in God. And I also came to the realization that if you don’t question your beliefs, then they were never yours to begin with.  Meaning that most of us inherit our religion from our parents, without ever actually finding out whether it is true or not.

    I do get tired of those who want to put me in the cage again. Here are some of the nonsensical comments I have gotten from “true believers”:

    “The only book you should be reading is the Bible!” 

     This came from someone who probably believes in book burning and took offense when I told her I was reading a book about how the New Testament has been altered from the oldest known manuscripts.

    This conversation is fun:

    “The Bible is God’s Word”

    “Okay, how do you know that?”

    “Because it says so in the Bible.”

    And then they look smug because they think they have won the argument?!

    As for pointing out the scientific problems in the Bible I have to say that I don’t usually talk about that because then the fundamentalists get rabid!  They don’t get it that you don’t have to give up your faith in God just because the Bible isn’t true in the scientific sense.  It was never meant to be a science book!  It was “inspired” by God not written by God  There is not anything in the Bible saying it was written by God!  It is a record of man’s evolutionary journey towards the understanding of God. 

      

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FRDTPMBW7IBKWIU3763AI6FYOM Steve

    “There is not anything in the Bible saying it was written by God! It is a record of man’s evolutionary journey towards the understanding of God. ”

    Well, no.  It’s not.  It’s a collection of stories that have been imbued with authority, and since they make little enough sense in view of the real world, they are deemed to be of deep and obscure meaning.
    There is no more evidence of your view than that the whole thing was dreamed up to make money. 

    What you’ve got here is called a ‘rationalization.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    They
    seem to be using what is possibly my favourite debate tactic: Assume
    that all of your opponent’s premises are correct, does this lead to any
    ridiculous answers? If so, you’ve shown that at least one premise is
    almost certainly wrong (if you can get outright contradictions from
    those premises then you’ve proven that at least one is definitely
    wrong).

    Except that they”re switching premises halfway through. They assume that *creationist* premises are true, work them out to ridiculous conclusions, then declare that this proves that *Christianity in general*’s premises are wrong.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    This is important, because The Bible is all there is as a basis of Christianity.

    You do realise people started becoming Christians before the New Testament was written, right?
    Not to mention all those Christians who never learnt to read, and wouldn’t have had access to a Bible even if they could.

    But if it wasn’t true, would you still worship Jesus?  If you knew Jesus never existed, would you still be a Christian? Could you be?

    Personally? Yes, I would.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So all the hand-waving I see when it’s all like “Oh, that’s the Old Testament! Jesus totally threw that one in the garbage which is why we totes don’t need to make animal sacrifices or circumcise anyone anymore, so just ignore it, mmkay?”

    and then ten seconds later it’s all like

    “A MAN SHALL NOT LIE WITH A MAN AS A MAN LIES WITH A WOMAN. It totes says that in Leviticus and such a sin is an affront to God, mmkay?”

    with nary a hint of the cognitive dissonance involved–

    Excuse me for thinking that perhaps some Christians, at least, are just giant hypocrites. And liars into the bargain about what their religion really entails as the necessary precondition for belief in its holy deity.

  • GDwarf

    Except that they”re switching premises halfway through. They assume
    that *creationist* premises are true, work them out to ridiculous
    conclusions, then declare that this proves that *Christianity in
    general*’s premises are wrong.

    No they don’t. That’s you reading more into the ad then is actually there.

    At no point do they say “Ergo Christianity is wrong/stupid/whatever.”

  • SrGrvsaLot

    This was a silly post.

    It’s pretty obvious that the most natural reading of the flood story is as a historical account. It doesn’t really make sense as allegory or metaphor. What’s more, that’s how it has conventionally been read.

    It annoys me greatly when liberal theists assume atheists have no memory. The fundamentals of modern geology come from people who were trying to prove that the great flood happened. When I was a child, this particular story troubled me greatly, but no adult ever comforted me by telling me it wasn’t literally true.

    Yet, when it becomes an embarrassment, then it is dismissed as a “story.” The thing is, even if taken on those terms, the story of the great flood is still abysmally awful. God destroyed all life, from the worms on up to the people, to eliminate some vague “wickedness.” And he spared Noah and his family because Noah was “just and perfect” in some ill-defined way.

    This doesn’t make any sense at all. What possible sins could the infants have committed that would have justified a terrifying death by drowning. Hell, what sins could the adults have committed? Are we to assume that all humans were basically Jeffry Dahmer?

    All the Bible says is that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and
    that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” But PEOPLE DON’T WORK THAT WAY. People have cares and affections. They have daily routines of survival. They deal with stress and worry about the future. There is not room in the human experience for continual thoughts of evil. And besides, what could possibly be an evil thought to a mind capable of conceiving and executing genocide?

    The story, as a story, is utterly depraved. It is completely without value, unless you count demoralizing and degrading humanity as a whole to be a kind of value. At least, if it were read as a historical account, it would have the virtue of being a true depiction of events. A non-literal reading preserves the awfulness, but deprives it of its one use.

    Criticizing the flood for its physical absurdity is actually the approach most generous to Christianity.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    But PEOPLE DON’T WORK THAT WAY.

    Neither are princes always charming, witches always wicked, or long-lost princesses indisputably the fairest in the land.

    It’s a STORY. Realism is beside the point.

  • Tonio

     That’s too dismissive of SrGrvsaLot’s argument. While I disagree that a historical reading is the most natural one, a moral analysis of the story wouldn’t depend on the story being historically accurate. The god’s actions in the story are morally indefensible. I don’t think this necessarily speaks badly of either Judaism or Christianity, but it does speak badly of the people who think it’s cute to use Ark imagery in children’s bedrooms. A more realistic depiction would be the Ark surrounded by bloated, stinking corpses. At least Fantasia 2000 acknowledged in some way the loss that those on the Ark would have felt.

  • rrhersh

     “Excuse me for thinking that perhaps some Christians, at least, are just
    giant hypocrites. ”

    This is an unremarkable,  obviously true observation.  It is also nearly entirely unrelated to our previous discussion of the assertion that the Bible (or some specified portion of it) must be read literally. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh no? A literal reading usually implies also accepting the text as given, which, in the case of the Bible, is an Old and New Testament.

    So what happens when the material is internally contradictory?

    Well, one answer is definitely clear: elevating it to the status of inerrancy is probably the wrong way to go, given that it also implies being unable to reconcile the inconsistencies thereof.

  • Tricksterson

    I do not, alas, remember the title or the authors (and will appreciate it if anyone can remind me of same) but I remember a few years ago a book that made a good case for the seed of the Flood story being an actual sudden inrush of water from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea causing it to grow by about a third in less than a generation about 15K ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Except that they”re switching premises halfway through. They assume
    that *creationist* premises are true, work them out to ridiculous
    conclusions, then declare that this proves that *Christianity in
    general*’s premises are wrong.

    Precisely. “If Jonah was not swallowed by a fish, then God isn’t real and Jesus doesn’t love you” is an unsound premise, but I have repeatedly seen people behave as if addressing this premise somehow addresses all forms of Christianity or even all religions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    No they don’t. That’s you reading more into the ad then is actually there.

    At no point do they say “Ergo Christianity is wrong/stupid/whatever.”

    In my experience? Yes, people have said this. Repeatedly, to my face. Even though I’m about as far from a literalist as a Christian can be, they assumed I was because of their strawman picture of monolithic “Christinaity/Religion,” and so knew what I really believed better than I did.

    I am fairly certain that none of this was because the people in question were atheists, but mostly because they were jerks. But still, I have had the exact experience that you are denying.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Tonio, there’s a reason I responded with examples from fairytales: I believe Noah’s Ark should be read in a similar way. Not simply as a fictional tale, but as a fairytale.

    SrGrvsaLot said:

    All the Bible says is that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” But PEOPLE DON’T WORK THAT WAY. People have cares and affections. They have daily routines of survival. They deal with stress and worry about the future. There is not room in the human experience for continual thoughts of evil.

    My argument is that Noah’s Ark goes:

    “Once upon a time, the world was full of the EVILEST PEOPLE who ever evilled, and they were SO BAD that…

    Fairytales are notably short on nuance. It’s part of the genre.

  • GDwarf

     See, now you’re adding extra stuff to the billboard. The ad does not state any of those things, you seem to be assuming that it must because other atheists have in the past.

  • Tonio

    While I appreciate your point about storytelling hyperbole, that doesn’t quite get at why I find the story objectionable, which is that death is a deserved punishment for wickedness.

    Plus, it reads somewhat differently in the context of Genesis, where it was preceded by the transgressions of Adam and Eve and Cain.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

     Sure. But that’s a different bit of discussion than the bit I was addressing.


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