Thanks Mogg. Sorry it's a bit late. Was trying to have it done like five days ago (not even entirely sure if Jus is still here). Lots of interruptions this week.
Apparent errors in the Bible. One at a time, please.(162 posts) (21 voices)
Ah, but it must be vetted first. It needs to be read and rejected out of hand by a fundamentalist.
The essential reading thread is getting awfully long. If you add Nox's wall of text, and I add an overview of deontology, consequentialism and standpoint ethics and a section on common criticisms of Christian morality (as I plan to), and someone does the anti-intellectualism, Pascal's wager, and thermodynamics take-downs that are in the hopper at the bottom of the post, the thing will achieve book length.
Normally that wouldn't be a problem for me, but the longer it goes, the more it guarantees that visitors will not read it, which kinda dings its purpose. I think it would be beneficial if we reorganized it a bit so there is at least a linkable table of contents and if each entry were pared down some; I know my contributions are already far longer and more detailed than they should be to serve the intended purpose. I am absolute shit at editing my own stuff for brevity, never mind anyone else's.
A table of contents would be very useful, not only for visitors, but also for those who would like to reference this stuff in other conversations. Seconded.
The funny thing, Ursa, is that, even though all one has to do to "salvage" one's faith in the face of these inaccuracies is admit that the Bible is not inerrant, very few people will be willing to do that. It's such a tiny admission, really. Damn fundamentalist Christianity. (And I use that damn in the biblical sense.) I really wish it would just go away. It makes me so unbelievably sad.
Nox, as ever, the amount of work you put into this is staggering. Also, as ever, I've learned a great deal. Thanks. I suspect the single most useful detail for me will be Matthew's simple substitution of Jeremiah for Zechariah.
Edit: It occurs to me that if anyone needs stuff edited, either your own or stuff already on the site, for reformatting purposes, I would be happy to help. I'm fairly good at that sort of thing.
Inerrancy allows doubt.
And it is much simpler to indoctrinate people with, "Every word is the truth of God!" than it is to say, "Every word means something, we guess. Do a lot of study. Think about it. Remember to apply historical methods to get the context of the culture in which it was written. Also, keep in mind translation can change meanings. So, you know, some good stuff, but gotta dig to find it."
Half way through that your audience has switched back to Jerry Springer.
Maybe after I get done moving I'll try to figure out how to put lots of folds in that article. Not now though. Tad busy.
One pretty bad error that I came across was the final part of Matthew 16. Most of that chapter, Jesus is talking to his disciples about judgement day and ends by saying "And everyone will be rewarded according to mwhat he has done. I tell you the truth. There are people standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom." Which implies that Jesus believed the End of the World would be within the lifetime of his disciples!
Apologists have tried to explain it away as Jesus talking about the resurrection or the transfiguration (which it isn't). I have even spoken to Mormons about this and they believe that Saint John hasn't died yet and is safe and well and living in some mysterious location! Which explains why there hasn't been a Second Coming yet!
"I'm tempted to add this latest wall to the essential reading for theists post."
Thanks Custador. I don’t know if I’d call this one essential reading. It’s more like supplemental material. The main point of that post was already made as briefly as I could manage within a previous post on the overall accuracy of the bible.
I would definitely approve and appreciate if a link to that one was incorporated into the “So you’re a theist...” post. Not just for the nox plug. My point in writing it was to answer an assertion (biblical inerrancy) which still comes up ten f*cking times a week (obviously I already knew Notashamedofchrist wasn’t going to get it). And while I don't like to positively review my own work, I think I can say it does answer that assertion, and I think I've demonstrated here (and in other threads) that my original points are solid and can be solidly defended.
A link to both would be awesome. As this one is all about clarifying context, and the most common response to part one (or really any list of errors in the bible) will be the claim that they must be taken out of context (which for some strange reason is never accompanied by any real explanation of how the context would fix the problem). Apparently that was the response to this as well (though I'm quite pleased to see Jus went with a slightly more original variation on this argument than I expected).
I'd also agree with JonJon and Elemenope about the table of contents. No rush of course. But if the point of the essential reading post is to have a set of already written responses to a set of frequently repeated arguments, having a direct link right to a specific response to the specific thing this person just said, would probably make it more effective.
“Why Pascal’s Wager was meant to be ironic”
The question of what Pascal's Wager was meant to be, is a somewhat fuzzy topic. It was written as part of what was going to be an apologetics book. As far as I can tell it was meant somewhat seriously, but it was definitely meant to be something considerably different from the argument we see so often today. Pascal's version was a math problem. The concept at its core is not heaven or hell, but the contrast between finite numbers and infinity. Most modern users leave the math out of it and opt for the simpler "you'll get your evidence in hell" argument that technically predates Pascal.
The section of The Pensees which Pascal’s Wager comes from was part of a larger dialogue. The surrounding passages somewhat suggest this wasn’t exactly an argument Pascal was using for belief in god, so much as an example he was using of one argument someone might use for belief in god. Also he wrote in The Pensees and Lettres Provinciales about his own reasons both for theism and catholicism. I won't speculate whether risk avoidance played some unstated subconscious role (except right here where I speculate that it very well may have), but it doesn't seem to be among his own stated reasons.
Blaise Pascal had many delusions common to the 1600s. But the inventor of the hydraulic press, the syringe, the roulette wheel, Pascal’s Triangle, and probability theory was not quite the dumbass that his association with this argument might suggest. We don't even know if Pascal ever intended to publish this section (it's a centerpiece of a large part of what book is there, so I'd guess yes anyway, just saying we don't exactly know). He never finished Apologie de la Religion Chrétienne. It was published posthumously from a collection of unfinished notes found in his study after he died.
I think in any discussion of what Pascal's Wager was meant to be, that one fact there should be included. It may even be the most important detail. F*ck, I've got gigs of random unfinished notes around here. If someone stole my hard drive after I died and crammed all the word documents in one folder into a book (replace "hard drive" and "word documents" in this sentence and this is basically how The Pensees was compiled) I'm quite sure there would be passages in the finished text that could give you the wrong impression of the author's intent.
As for the argument itself (a more pressing concern than original intent, as it isn't even Pascal's version that keeps showing up here), I wrote a piece on Pascal’s Wager about a year ago. And reposted a condensed version on the “About” page in response to a use of the wager from Stephen (groktruth) (the section of that post labelled 5).
If JonJon or anyone wanted to edit that for brevity, that would be cool. The main points I'd like to see included are (a) not everything which could possibly exist has a 50% chance of existing, and (b) even if you do assume that the odds for intelligent design are 50/50, there is no a priori reason why yhvh should automatically get the entirety of that 50%.
I have that same condition that Elemenope described. I'm not particularly good about brevity, and to be honest, it usually isn't my first goal anyway. Writing in a medium where extra letters don't cost extra (and anyone can scroll past them easily enough) allows me to take a little more time to delve into things. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not looking to waste anyone's time here. If I could make my intended points in 140 characters I'd f*cking do that. The points are often complex ones to begin with, and there is often more than one point that needs to be made. Even that last soliloquy (and this one coming up in a minute) represents the end of a week long internal debate about how much to include and how quickly those points could be effectively made.
"Also, as ever, I've learned a great deal. Thanks. I suspect the single most useful detail for me will be Matthew's simple substitution of Jeremiah for Zechariah."
Thank you JonJon. I usually don't know whether you'll get anything out of my criticizing a version of christianity you don't believe anyway. But if you got something helpful out of that, I'm glad. This next piece is partially a followup to our previous discussions. I'm not really sure how much there is to learn from it. This one is more of an opinion piece, and it is still mostly an appeal to things you already know. But I think you may find it a little more directly applicable.
“The funny thing, Ursa, is that, even though all one has to do to "salvage" one's faith in the face of these inaccuracies is admit that the Bible is not inerrant, very few people will be willing to do that. It's such a tiny admission, really.”
It would depend on what proposition they are trying to salvage faith in.
For certain versions of what it means to be a christian, dropping inerrancy shouldn’t even be an inconvenience. If one wishes to follow the teachings attributed to Jesus, or engage in christian rituals, they could simply decide to do that. Inerrancy wouldn't really be necessary. It matters whether they believe these teachings because they like the teachings or because of the association with Jesus. If X is true because Jesus said so, then admitting the unreliability of scripture does bring up some troubling and ultimately unanswerable questions of which parts he really did or didn’t say.
Some of the statements attributed to Jesus are ethical concepts. Some are spiritual concepts. Some of the statements attributed to Jesus are meaningless if you don't believe Jesus is the son of god. So there's still a point there where trust in the reliability of the gospels comes into play. If you don't believe the bible is at least basically right, there's no particular reason you'd believe Jesus was the son of god, or that he rose from the dead, and if you didn't believe Jesus was the son of god, you probably wouldn't get much out of John 3:16.
But "turn the other cheek", "love your neighbor as yourself", "love your enemies", "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", "sell what you have and give to the poor", "love each other as I have loved you", "blessed are the peacemakers", to believe or practice these things, you don't really need to believe Jesus was anything more than a man, and you don't need to believe the book they're in is anything more than a book.
Of course the book often has Jesus assigning a religious justification to these ideas. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you for this is the law and the prophets. Love your neighbor as yourself because it's god's second greatest commandment. Once you accept supernatural authority for ideas, you're already putting the text in a special category. But I think a lot of Jesus' ideas could be reasonably separated from the attribution. And better justifications could be given than what is seen in the gospels (who the f*ck knows, maybe Jesus did give better justifications than are seen in the gospels). Many of the better or more well known ones are not even original to Jesus. Leaving that and the various contradictions aside, if one were to just read the statements attributed to Jesus in the synaptic gospels, a certain philosophy emerges. It is hardly a perfect one. But it does have its merits.
The bible would need to have no errors to qualify as inerrant (and if it somehow did, that alone would not be evidence of the supernatural claims within, just one less strike against it). The bible would not need to be inerrant to qualify as a collection of texts which can tell us some interesting things. I'd even say it is necessary to understand that it is not inerrant before you can get anything worthwhile out of it. When you realize the garden is not actually where our species originated, you may see it says something insightful about how our species thinks. When you can conceive that the Torah might not have been written by Moses, the narrative strands begin to separate and it becomes a very different book. When you dismiss the gospels as an accurate biography of Jesus, it becomes possible to read them as what various early christians were trying to say about Jesus. When you can read the words of Jesus without assuming that Jesus actually said all these things or that anything is true because Jesus said it, some jump out as meaningless or obviously false, and some jump out as clever stating of self evident truths (or as one gospel author described them 'as easily distinguished as diamonds in a dunghill').
Even the best parts are nothing better than anyone of reasonable intelligence should be able to figure out without biblical guidance. The high points are a little below where we should be by now. Holding it up as ultimate truth is a good way to leave our search for truth frozen in place two thousand years ago. But what if people could view the texts in the bible not as ultimate truth, but as part of the process of looking.
The idea that it is the uniform word of one god with one message forces a flat uniform reading. But the bible is not the word of one anything with one message. It is a commentary on itself. It is an argument with itself. To treat it as the big list of stuff god said separates it from the religious and political background that led to it, and the separate voices and agendas that speak within it. With the necessary implication that the bible is consistent with itself, the doctrine of inerrancy rules out the separate positions the authors/editors were arguing/prophesying/propagandizing for. As that seems to be the main point for which most of them wrote in the first place, it adds insult to error. In order to preserve their belief that the entire bible is one book, free of contradictions and errors, the inerrantist must ignore or pave over the plainly stated meaning of most of what's actually in the bible.
What I would consider the most worthwhile lesson of the bible is something which is only accessable to the critical reader and unthinkable to the inerrantist. It may not be an accurate account of the origins of humans or human morality or most of the topics it deals with. But taken as a whole it is illustrative of where we came from, at our first uninformed attempts at understanding our place in the Universe and how to deal with our fellow humans, how those ideas failed us, and how they developed (and one might say improved) as we began to learn more.
Once one can let go of their belief that the bible couldn't be wrong, and god's morality is perfect, the Torah is a graphic lesson in exactly why that kind of thinking doesn't work. Even within the Torah the differing strands show something like, if not exactly linear progression, certainly a marked difference of opinion about what god's will even is. It lays out the most primitive form of sin based tribal ethics, and immediately begins with the commentary. Layers of complexities and rationalizations are added to a one note god. Through the old testament, more authors and editors continually add their own interpretations of god. This pattern of Torah, Mishnah, and Gemara is visible throughout much of the bible (in the Talmud we can see this same pattern marked a little more visibly).
As god evolves, one of the major shifts is that god goes from a present and visible actor to the man behind the curtain. Earlier depictions of god have him (physically) hanging out on Earth, and constantly using his god powers to interfere in nature and smite people. Later depictions have him privately interacting with prophets who say plenty about what god is going to do, or what god did in the past, but there is a definite narrative trend against god actually doing anything.
One of the other major shifts is toward benevolence. In all parts of the bible "right" is defined as "god's will", but through the course of the book, god's will seems to transition from genocide and the sacrificing of livestock to something more like social justice. The Torah tells the israelites to deal honorably with each other in the context of telling them to slaughter and enslave other tribes. The next several books are primarily concerned with the israelites following god's orders (or sometimes not) and the various reported backs and forths of various stages of the conquest of Canaan. The next several after those are primarily concerned with the aftermath of the kingdom of Israel. Most of this is still yhvh will judge this city or that nation, but among the prophets there are some individual voices that exhort their readers to think outside the tribe. The Torah goes out of its way to call god merciful, but its portrayal of god's commandments and behavior in no way backs this up. In the later scriptures there are some passages which portray god (the same god from Exodus 12?) as loving or merciful, and passages which tell humans they should be the same.
A few years before Jesus, a rabbi named Hillel The Elder (see Talmud Shabbat 31a) is quoted as saying "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn it". Of course Hillel is wrong, as that is not the whole of the Torah. But the lesson he somehow extracts is a better moral guide than anything in the Torah. The ethic of reciprocity was not original to Hillel (or Jesus), and it is contrary to the letter and spirit of his stated source. But this is still a really good idea. Hillel's version of yhvh was better than the older version of yhvh that he was explicitly basing it on.
The whole thing that makes Jesus such a badass is that (whether portrayed accurately or not) the story portrays him directly challenging and expanding on previously established conceptions of god. Jesus' claims about what the Torah and prophets say are objectively wrong, in that the Torah and prophets don't say that. But he is part of the noble tradition of moral expansionism. He is wrong because his god is yhvh, and he is dramatically wrong about yhvh. But his version of yhvh is (mostly) an improved version of the barbaric god portrayed in the Torah. If things were a little different maybe he could have challenged his audience to drop the god thing altogether, but it's unlikely anyone (including Jesus) would have been ready for that idea yet.
There was a point in our path here where someone had to actually write down "an eye for an eye" as a preventative measure. And a point later where someone had to actually explain why that isn't a good solution (it makes the world blind).
There are several places in the gospels where we see Jesus broadening the moral subset of the Torah ("ye have heard it said X; but I say unto you Y"), or expanding traditional expressions of tribal empathy to include those outside the tribe or those classes that traditional judaism didn't really view as human. What I would consider the best example is Jesus' redefinition of neighbor. The phrase "love your neighbor as yourself" isn't original to Jesus either. It appears in Leviticus 19:18. The key difference of course is that there it quite literally means neighbor. Like the guy living right next to you. Jesus references this and builds on it in the sermon on the mount ("Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.(Matthew 5:48)"). And in the gospel of Luke we get this scene.
25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
You know that guy who is not part of the in group, who your established moral tropes tell you to hate. Yeah that guy. That's your f*cking neighbor. That's who you're supposed to love as yourself. Go do that.
Like Jefferson said, diamonds in a dunghill.
But if you have to believe the whole thing, you have to file every statement attributed to Jesus (or his biographers) as perfect. Inerrancy leaves no way to separate out the diamonds from the untrue stories and bad advice. It leaves no reason to suppose a secular reason for feeding the poor. It drowns Jesus' moral philosophy in pronouncements of his divinity. It leaves no room to perceive that man alone (including some greeks before Jesus) could come up with anything better than what Jesus proposed. It forces one to believe that the books Jesus misquotes are themselves perfectly accurate, but that Jesus' conflicting version must also be accurate. It forces the reader to conflate the words of Jesus, Paul and Moses as one indistinguishable paste.
Belief in the inerrancy of the bible makes otherwise reasonable people believe things they would never believe, and defend things they would never defend.
If you have to believe the whole thing then you end up having to believe the whole thing. And there are some horrible ideas in there. In the thread leading to this we have a christian who has been entirely polite and deferential in his dealings with the enemies of yhvh here, but is literally defending genocide. I don't think Jus really approves of what he has called right here (no more than I think William Lane Craig would actually stone his own children). He just thinks he has to believe it's right. And in service of the thing they must believe, bibliolaters will say things they would never believe on their own.
And that is the problem with inerrancy. If all of it has to be right, none of it can be wrong. If you're stuck with inerrancy, you can't walk away from the bad ideas. The Earth has to be 6,000 years old. Everything god commands (even the obviously wrong stuff) has to be right. If you're committed to seeing the whole thing as the word of one god, the idea that the bible is an argument with itself is imperceptible. Inerrancy makes it impossible to separate the good ideas from the bad ideas. Judging the ideas separately on their own merits is impossible if you have prejudged them all to be perfect.
Where most atheists object to religion is the lack of evidence. It's a legitimate complaint. Those who don't interact with reality will make decisions not based on reality which often have consequences in the real world. But it's not my main objection. As I've said before, I'm not exactly an empiricist, and I don't lose much sleep over wiccans or horoscopes. The real danger of supernatural thinking isn't that someone might believe in fairies. If people aren't too attached to them, unevident beliefs will go away on their own as more evidence becomes available. The problem is with the codification of belief, with the thing you are required to believe. Belief with mandate is more troubling to me than belief without evidence.
For too long the dead hand has been allowed to sterilize living thought. By dictating what people must believe and what people can't believe, the christian church has kept humanity chained to obsolete unexamined beliefs. Some of which would have been rather progressive three thousand years ago. But dogma locks thought in place, and condemns its victims to always being a few hundred years behind. The highest priority is the wishes of some long dead men who knew nothing of the world we live in now. By carving these things in stone, what could have been an inspirational little bundle of zen koans, has become the thing which is crippling us as a species.
Most of the best ideas I've encountered came from books I read. And in every case yet, from books which are not inerrant. The only reason this should be a problem for those ideas is if the ideas themselves are tied to the alleged infallibility of the author. If even the most revered voices are only treated as a potentially good source of ideas which must then stand or fall on their own merits, we can get a lot more from them with less of the pitfalls that come from codifying belief.
The Age Of Reason is among the books which have most informed my personal philosophy (it's also the book that laid the original foundation for what is now known as atheism). And it is certainly not inerrant. It has given me access to some great ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself. But it has some ideas which are at best obsolete. It uses some arguments against the bible that have been discredited. It uses something very similar to Aquinas' "uncaused cause" to argue for deism (the most honest use of the argument I've seen, but still fallacious). And it makes statements about science that are the type of thing someone writing about science in the 1700s might say. Thomas Paine was wrong about a number of things. It makes the book less perfect. But no one has ever suggested Thomas Paine was infallible. For human authors, being wrong about one thing only means they're wrong about one thing.
The Communist Manifesto is the book I would most dogmatically like to believe is perfectly inerrant. It describes a way in which we could make a better world. It tells us what we're doing wrong, and what we could do better. It is profoundly right about many things that humanity still needs to learn. It is a clever response to a major problem. But inerrant? With some of the things we've seen in the past 164 years, there's no honest way I could call communism a perfect system. It's never been as bad as our Cold War propaganda implied, and most of the worst outcomes of "communist" systems were from countries which weren't using anything close to what Marx and Engels said. But there is a systemic problem in the idea itself. In any society based on the marxist maxim, someone has to do the taking and giving, and in most cases so far that will become a power structure unto itself with very different interests from the proletariat.
If there were one example I could hold up of a truly holy book, it would be Cosmos by Carl Sagan (yeah, it's a book too, the documentary is better but work with me here). Of every bound text in every library on Earth there is not a more perfect specimen. With transcendant prose and clear logic, it tells us where we came from and where we're going. This is as close as we've come yet to one book containing all of what a perfect all knowing being would tell humanity. Prophets of all ages speculated about the heavens. Carl Sagan took us there and laid bare their mysteries. But it does have the disadvantage of having been composed in 1981. It is as far as I know inerrant in the sense of containing nothing which could yet be called an error. But it is already out of date. If for nothing else because it was limited to artist's conceptions and grainy photos of things we have much better footage of now, and guesses about things we no longer need to guess about. Ten years after it was released Sagan filmed a series of updates for the documentary. And even those are now out of date. Even if the upcoming remake is everything I hope it will be. It too will eventually be out of date. And that is the best possible thing one could hope for it.
That is not to say all ancient wisdom is worthless. Plato still has much to tell us. As does Jesus. As does Socrates (whose existence is no more firmly established than Jesus', but who might have said "the unexamined life is not worth living"). But their great contribution was to point us in a useful direction and lay the foundation upon which better ideas could be erected. If we lock our minds into the limitations of the ancients and stare dumbly at their foundation without building on it, their work is worthless. Ancient philosophy, like ancient science, represents a good starting point for a species that starts by knowing nothing. We don't revere Newton for being right about everything. We revere him for updating our knowledge. The best thing a philosopher can do for mankind is to give them new ideas. The best way to repay philosophers is to improve on their ideas.
But for those who believe we left paradise in the garden and the best knowledge was the lack of knowledge, there's not really any interest in moving forward.
We're apparently still having the contraception debate in 2012 (not even abortion, contraception). We have congressmen saying global warming can't be real because it isn't in Genesis. There are well funded and popular movements entirely dedicated to protesting science. Our most powerful political party literally has a mission statement of moving backward and taking the world with it (listen to anything Rick Santorum says, and then ponder that this is an actual presidential candidate). The gap between what is known and what people know has never been broader, and we're well past the point where that has become an actual danger to the species. We've been to the moon and there are still geocentrists. We have nuclear weapons and stoning is still a thing.
We are living in a world where we can no longer afford such primitive thinking. There may have been a time when that foundation was necessary. Either way, the time for that foolishness is done.
It is time to put aside childish things.
We need to f*cking evolve faster.
Christianity has only ever been a force for good in that it has occasionally been a force for progress. But much of their progress has simply been against the oppressiveness of the faith itself. When christian abolitionists twisted the bible to justify banning slavery, they were wrong to see that message in that book, but more importantly they were right to see that their fellow humans deserved freedom. When liberal churches consecrate female bishops they are not reflecting biblical values, but more importantly they are reflecting much better values. When some churches accept gay congregants, it's encouraging to see them taking a stance against homophobia, but I always have to wonder if they even realize where most of that homophobia comes from in the first place. Post-Enlightenment christianity exists in a world informed by ideas so far advanced from those in the bible that many bible believers just assume those ideas must be biblical. At this point all the most progressive elements of christianity are merely responding to the regressive elements that are christianity. Their great reform is to create a slightly less bigoted version of a religion we don't need anyway.
I was raised christian and raised to believe that the bible was not only free of errors but by definition could never be in error. Now at this point it's been around ten years since I really considered myself christian in any sense, and awhile longer than that since I had to abandon inerrancy. And I still believe some of the teachings attributed to Jesus. Some are pretty high on the list of things I believe the most strongly. Not because Jesus said it. I don’t believe anything because Carlin or Nietzsche or Sagan or Jesus said it. That would be a bad reason to believe anything. I believe individual points which appear to me as true.
We don't need to accept what we hear by report. We need not accept tradition just because it is found in a book, or in accord with our beliefs, or because it is the saying of some teacher. We can be lamps unto ourselves. I am the ultimate arbiter of what I believe. And ultimately you are the arbiter of what you believe.
(Most of what I've said here is specifically in reference to the beliefs of the individual. For the beliefs of the institution (or the individual as subject to the institution), there is the matter of proof texts. And that whole concept absolutely does rely on the idea that the bible is proof of things (or at least authoritative), which kind of does rely on inerrancy. There are many things the various parts of the bible actually advocate or condemn (not always clearly delineated) (and a bad reason to believe anything). In addition to those things there are many things various churches would really have liked the bible to have actually advocated or condemned. In much the same way that the early christians drew on the jewish scriptures, most christian churches draw on the bible to justify what they want to do. Associating church policy decisions with the word of god gives church leaders an easy way to beat their flock into submission.)
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