Why Do Intelligent Atheists Still Read The Bible Like Fundamentalists?

Why Do Intelligent Atheists Still Read The Bible Like Fundamentalists? July 25, 2017

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Before I begin, if you’re an atheist coming here looking for a fight, I’m the wrong guy. Yes, I’m a Christian (okay, the Religious Right would take issue with that claim, but whatever), but I have the utmost respect for my atheist friends and colleagues– especially the fruitful dialogue we have, and the many areas of common ground that can be discovered when we take the time to listen to one another.

One of those colleagues I respect is Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist (and in further disclosure, Terry Firma at Friendly Atheist is one of my real-life best friends).

Hemant has given me some thoughtful and friendly push-back from time to time, and in this case, I need to do the same.

So here is the question I can’t figure out, and was reminded of when reading a piece Hemant wrote: Why do intelligent atheists often insist on reading the Bible like a fundamentalist– as if there’s only one way to understand and apply it to Christian living?

Case in point: Friendly Atheist today is poking a bit of fun at a Miss Teen USA contestant who happens to be a devout Christian. Their issue with her?

That she has a tattoo.

Hemant writes, “I just want to point out that, for all the comments about her “devout” faith and dedication to the Bible, she breaks a pretty famous biblical rule…” Furthermore, the title of the piece asserts that she “clearly hasn’t read the Bible.”

As a theological scholar and a Christian with a boatload of tattoos, I take real issue with Hemant’s hard-line take on this. It’s a classic case of when atheists insist on reading the Bible like fundamentalists. It is unenlightening and causes one to become judgmental of others, such as the judgment that she “clearly hasn’t read the Bible” or by putting “devout” in quotation marks as if her having a tattoo actually calls into question the sincerity of her faith. 

It’s as if there’s only “one way” to read and interpret the Bible– and as the one they call Formerly Fundie, let’s just say I’ve seen this approach before.

So, let me break it down for you as to why this entire argument is deeply flawed– whether it’s a fundamentalist or an atheist making it:

First, this argument fails to take into account the historic context of these ancient Scriptures.

The area of Scripture in question is describing the birth and organization of a nation and people group that happened long, long ago. It is descriptive, instead of prescriptive. The Hebrew people arose as one culture among many others, and one of their cultural values was to live differently than the people groups around them. In the case of tattoos, the prohibition first discusses “cutting” your skin for the dead, and then lumps tattoos in with it– both were popular religious practices to honor the dead and to get the attention of the gods, particularly of the Canaanite people they were trying to distinguish themselves from.

Thus, when we see this prohibition of tattoos what we’re seeing is a description of an ancient people group establishing a new religion, and who wanted to make sure they lived and looked differently than the people groups around them. Had the Canaanites all worn funny yellow hats and 80’s style basketball shorts every Saturday, I’m sure they would have prohibited that, too.  The only way the ancient Hebrew prohibition on tattoos (or on wearing mixed fibers) is relevant to the life of a modern Christian is only if one finds cultural anthropology interesting– that’s because it is descriptive of an ancient people, not prescriptive for Christians.

The second reason this argument fails, is that it operates on the assumption that in order to be a good Christian, one must follow ancient Jewish customs. Ironically, the Bible *actually* deals with this issue later (you have to read waaaaaay past Leviticus, though) when the Christian religion is born out of Judaism. In fact, the early Christians argued over this issue– but the position that won the day was that gentiles (that’s us) do not have to follow these ancient customs (shout-out to all the uncircumcised folks out there). In fact, there’s even a famous story in the New Testament where early Christians claim that God himself told St. Peter to no longer follow some of the ancient customs. Oh, and let’s not forget the inconvenient truth that the founder of Christianity (you-know-who) was actually executed, and that one of the reasons why the religious leaders colluded to see that happen was because he wouldn’t interpret the ancient customs the way that some Baptist churches, and now Friendly Atheist, say we should.

Long story short: the vast majority of Christians for the past 2,000 years have felt little compulsion to follow most of the ritualistic and cultural practices of our religious ancestors. Alyssa Williams is well in line with Christian tradition.

The Friendly Atheist article says that Alyssa Williams “clearly hasn’t read her Bible,” but the irony is this is a case of pointing one finger, only to have four pointing right back at you.

Because if you finish reading the Bible, it actually tells you that Christians are not under obligation to follow these ancient customs.

I love my atheist friends, and I respect my colleague Hemant. But as a Christian I’ll say this: we give you plenty of good and valid hypocritical reasons to make fun of us, but going after a teenager who seems like a good kid, simply because she’s a Christian with a tattoo, probably isn’t the most compelling argument you could make today.


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com. 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yeah, I get this a LOT. And in some cases fundies bring it on themselves by citing Leviticus as something Christians SHOULD be following.

  • Rational Human

    I don’t speak for Hemant, but I think he was probably just poking fun at Christians hypocrisy and cherry picking, and I would say the cherry picking criticism actual applies more to liberal Christians than fundies.

  • Pat68

    Many have come out of fundamentalist circles and that experience, unfortunately, has colored the way they view all of Christianity.

  • Rational Human

    As a former fundie myself, who blew right past liberal Christianity without even slowing down on my trip to atheism…the better question for you is…why would an all-omni God who says he is the same yesterday, today and forever, ever ask his people to follow Levitical law in the first place, and then do a 180 and flip the script and make a new covenant? It just doesn’t make sense on every possible level, and it renders the meaning of the word “covenant” meaningless, and turns God into an indecisive weak minded ninny at best, or a liar and deceiver at worst. Or nonexistent.

  • Bill Burchard

    I’m atheist and I agree with you, Benjamin; Hemant’s article seems like a cheap shot. (BTW: I subscribe to his blog and yours.)

    I have seen atheists quote Leviticus verses when a fundamentalist uses Leviticus to justify condemning homosexuals. (I do this, and have been doing quite frequently lately, regarding those who condemn same-sex marriage as a sin. Though, I’ve never used the “tattoos are a sin, too!” response.)

  • AJ

    As a Christian myself it annoys me when people say “The Bible is the 100% Word of God” when it clearly isn’t

    The Bible was written by man, with man’s flaws. Many Christians turn the Bible into some sort of infallible idol that MUST be obeyed, even when it contradicts itself

  • Bill Burchard


    “why would an all-omni God who says he is the same yesterday, today and
    forever, ever ask his people to follow Levitical law in the first place…”

    I Benjamin answered it in his post: “The area of Scripture in question is describing the birth and organization of a nation and people group that happened long, long ago. It is descriptive, instead of prescriptive. The Hebrew people arose as one culture among many others, and one of their cultural values was to live differently than the people groups around them. In the case of tattoos, the prohibition first discusses “cutting” your skin for the dead, and then lumps tattoos in with it– both were popular religious practices to honor the dead and to get the attention of the gods, particularly of the Canaanite people they were trying to distinguish themselves from.”

  • Their issue with her?

    That she has a tattoo.

    Yes, I agree with you. When I saw Hemant’s post on that, I did wonder what was the point.

  • David Cloutman

    As someone raised in a fairly liberal church, and now seeing myself in the agnostic atheist camp, I fully agree with this article. I have invested a great deal of time studying the Bible and much of it has been in trying to understand the _context_ of the texts. One isn’t going to really understand some of the eccentricities of the Bible without really doing some serious historical and linguistic research, but I think the more reactionary atheists would rather skip over that part.

    One of my core practices in studying the Bible is to embrace the reality that it is not just a Christian text. It is also a Jewish text and rabbinical literature is a great source of information when attempting to engage in exegesis. Rabbis, for instance, will tell non-Jews that most of the Torah does not apply to gentiles, which is consistent with much of the New Testament teachings regarding Jewish law. Circumcision, dietary restrictions (aside from the consumption of blood), rules against tattooing, etc. are all non-applicable to non-Jews, a reality that the uninformed, cherry-picking Christian fundamentalist and their militant atheist counterpart are likely to either ignore, or be in total ignorance of.

    Moreover, if we dig even further back to a time before the Rabbinical age, there was a time when the applicability of Leviticus to non-priestly Jews was a matter of legitimate debate, which makes the fundamentalist fascination with passages from this book even more confounding. But Leviticus is a powerful, albeit crude, weapon for extremists on either side of the theism debate to wield against their opponents.

  • //Many Christians turn the Bible into some sort of infallible idol that MUST be obeyed, even when it contradicts itself//
    Perhaps some class atheists are reacting to a trigger when one tries to discuss bible. I like the qualifying ‘descriptive’ rather than ‘prescriptive’ way of interpretation. I think many fundamentalist atheists have endured the atrocious side of fundamental evangelical Christianity as children and are walking wounded. Cognitive processing is very difficult when one’s emotions have been damaged. A lot of atheists I’ve encountered have defensive reactions based on past trauma when it comes down to trying to introduce more nuanced discussion about progressive Christianity. I think maybe their coping with a lot of pain that goes unrecognized as being inflicted in childhood by abusive caregivers who were religious addicts. That festering make one hidebound. One’s core formation may be totally infected with paranoia and obsession. The us vs them paradigm & compulsion to seek someone or something to scapegoat is prevalent in both fundamental Christians & fundamental athletes in my humble opinion.

  • I would second much of what David Cloutman says below. I was likewise raised liberally (12 years of Unitarian Sunday schools among other things), and I’ve done a great deal of reading in the Bible, theology generally, as well as history and anthropology. I would have to describe a great deal of my concern in this area as a matter of basic self protection.

    The problem is not Ben Corey’s theology or biblical interpretation. The problem is that there are literally thousands of other interpretations, some more or less mainstream; some admittedly on the fringe. Once you abandon a purely literal interpretation and start to construe certain parts of the text as allegorical or perhaps metaphorical, or argue that some of the provisions relate to some parts of history but not others, there really aren’t a whole lot of rules generally agreed upon as to how to make those distinctions.

    This tends to set the stage for interpreting the Bible according to one’s internal preferences. Not infrequently, this leads to Christians arguing that all of the other priestly laws described in Leviticus are now no longer binding, although with the exception of the abomination of homosexuality. Often that’s the only law they feel that still operates in full force. What kind of argument can you bring to bear against that? There aren’t any formal criteria set forth anywhere for making this decision, other than the fact that a whole lot of people in the society find even the thought of homosexuality to be pretty icky. It’s a short step from icky to abominable, when you have a Book of Leviticus at hand.

    I have no problem with anyone getting tattooed or pierced or otherwise body-modified, although I don’t happen to have any such modifications myself. On the other hand, I do have a problem with tattooed people arguing vehemently that Leviticus 18:21 proves that I’m an abomination who ought not to have the same basic civil rights that anyone else has. I don’t regard any text as divine or outside the range of human interpretation, although I understand that other people do. You can perhaps understand why I’m a bit skeptical about this whole process of picking and choosing which parts of an ancient text ought to justify persecuting me, and which parts are really just anthropology or advice. Absent formal rules, it seems that the process of scriptural interpretation is often more about finding justifications for personal preferences that it is any kind of consistent or rational exegesis.

  • Lark62

    It is the cherry picking that I find obnoxious.

    A. With one verse, it is “This is the word of God, how dare you question it?”
    B. The very next verse is “This is obviously a description of an ancient culture, how dare you take it seriously?”
    Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Like watching an hours long tennis volley.

    There is no apparent difference between the two types of verses. The “descriptions” sound an awful lot like “prescriptions” when the plain language is read. “Thou shalt not” and this is “an abomination” are pretty dang clear if you ask me. “If they do this, stone them to death” seems to imply that the perfect, unchanging deity thought it was kinda important.

    But there are some very easy things to consider when determining which verses are “A” and which are “B” –
    – Does the command cause inconvenience to the christian?
    – Does the command allow christians to flaunt their holiness?
    – Does the command cause more discomfort to outsiders than insiders?
    – Would obeying the command get you convicted of a felony?

    “Honor the Sabbath” is quite inconvenient but makes the christian look holy. Sometimes this is still valid, sometimes it isn’t.
    “Don’t pray in public” Surely you jest.
    “If a married women is has sex with anyone but her owner/husband, throw large rocks at her until she dies.” God never said that.
    “Don’t have unapproved sex” How dare you question the clear word of god?

    Notice the things this lady said – She will not drink before age 21, she will not use drugs and she will not have sex until marriage. Two of those are not ever forbidden by the bible. The biblical teaching on sex focuses primarily on the property nature of women rather than the evil of sex. Sex with slaves and war captives is fine. Rapists are required to purchase their victim, after which there is no limit on the number of times the rapist may rape the woman. Virginity is important only because virgins were more valuable to the men who bought and sold them.

    Very little of the Bible is actually applicable to a modern society where even women are considered to have human rights and genocide is recognized as evil. Very little of what modern progressive christians focus on is even found in the Bible.

    Yet atheists are accused of being less moral because we don’t have the “unchanging absolute morality” beloved of christians.

    It’s a catch 22. Progressive christians are kinder and to my mind, more moral, than fundamentalists because they ignore so much of the bible and make it up as they go along. But this doesn’t change the fact that your book, when read honestly, is repugnant.

  • Mark Moore

    Because that is what the Bible says. Might I remind you that this is the purported word of God. Once you start “Interpreting” the Bible it becomes anything you want it to be. The interpreted Bible is how you get 30,000 one and only true Christian faiths.

    Are you going to risk a tattoo for eternity? You might note that in eternity the age of the universe is so infinitesimal you would never find it on the time track.

    People who get tattoos, work on Sunday, mix the threads in their clothing, trim the corners of their beard, fail to give all their money to the poor are risking an eternity of hellfire in which a trillion trillion times the age of the universe is so small as to be insignificant.

    Clearly you don’t really believe the Bible but then, who does? Not me. I think it is silly. Go get some more tattoos, make some false prophecies, check your bank account, watch the latest on Porn Hub and know in your heart you are going to Heaven.

  • Rational Human

    My question was “why would God…” . Your answer was all about ” this is why people would… “. Was that intentional? An acknowledgement that it’s all human?

  • “Because that is what the Bible says. Might I remind you that this is the purported word of God. Once you start “Interpreting” the Bible it becomes anything you want it to be. ”

    The Bible doesn’t say anything apart from interpretation, just like every other book in existence.

    “People who get tattoos, work on Sunday, mix the threads in their clothing, trim the corners of their beard, fail to give all their money to the poor are risking an eternity of hellfire”

    The Bible doesn’t say what you just said. That’s an interpretation.

    Your point doesn’t make any sense regardless of one’s view of the Bible’s credibility.

  • And by read “honestly” you mean “read from a literal 21st century Western interpretation.”

  • When did God say he is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

    I think maybe you’re thinking of the author of Hebrews who says that about Jesus Christ in 13:8. You seem to have based a very strong opinion based on a passage that doesn’t exist. So much for a commitment to evidence, eh?

  • Michael Wilson

    Is he interpreting the Bible like a fundamentalist though? I mean Fundamentalist don’t follow Jewish levitical law eithier, they eat pork and so forth. I think Friendly Atheist just hasn’t kept up on 2000 years of discussion on Christian relation with Old Testament law. I mean Christians are all about not commiting murder or adultery, so why so lax on circumcision?

  • Dennis Lurvey

    Tattoos are common, 61 were found on the iceman’s frozen carcass found in the alps dating 5000 yrs ago. Tattoos are found on mummies and ancient drawings of leaders all around the world (done while the person was alive). The canaanites because the jews, they were the same people thru time. The canaanites converted to judaism mostly by force due to the ten commandments, a constitution for a state religion.

    I became an atheist by reading the bible trying to get closer to god, I read it cover to cover twice. God kills 158 times in the bible and orders others to kill whole cultures. Once I found the bible stories were not historical (using archeology/outside texts and carvings/carbon dating) I was angry at first. Then I became curious how this ruse came about, how so many people fell for this conspiracy theory. Very few of what the old and new testaments say actually happened, very few of the names are verifiable outside the bible. If we compiled only what is provable (with real rules of evidence) in the bible it would be a pamphlet.

    As an atheist I am still fascinated by religion in general, christianity, the writing of the bible (who, what, when, where). I normally only look something up when I’m verifying a memory or refuting a comment. I also study slavery, our religious history, our founders, the gnostic gospels, and whatever gets my curiosity up.

    I recently read on st augustine, the man who made sex a sin for christians in the 5th century. He was bisexual, had sex with his mother, was never faithful to anyone admittedly. When his sexuality waned in his later years he decided sex was a sin (for others). He also invented original sin, which was adam and eve not being able to control their sex drives and had to put clothes on. According to him our original sin is that we get horny, and it’s out of our control.

  • Lark62

    No. I mean reading the plain language without gymnastics. When the book said to sell your daughter to her rapist that’s what it said. When the book said the soldiers should keep the little girls for themselves after murdering men, women and boys, that is what it said.

  • boneheadaudio

    It seems to be their only reason for hating on LGBT folks.

  • Bill Diaz

    As a person whose only dog in the fight is also having a tattoo, it seems to me that the point of mentioning the tattoo on the young lady was clear, to point out the general hypocrisy of ‘christians’ to take a fundamentalist view of some passages (Leviticus being a biggie), while completely ignoring other ones right next door.

    Also, it is another sign of hypochristianity to go digging in the ‘deep album cuts’ of the Biblical text, while largely ignoring the more direct exhortations of the person they purport to follow. I dont really know anything about the situation or the young lady in question, but if I had to make a $5 bet on it, what she believes is probably closest to ‘Free Market Jesus’ with a little ‘Mark of Ham’ thrown in for good measure. In her understanding of the texts ‘The sin of Onan’ was probably the ‘spilling of seed’ rather than a flagrant violation of a woman’s rights of autonomy, property and fair treatment.

    I have had the fortune to know people from all over the world of all different religious and spiritual beliefs, with a range of ‘devoutness of practice’. In the end, it isnt the religion that matters, but the level of hypocrisy demonstrated between their expressed beliefs and actual conduct. With that in mind it seems to me the point wasnt the cheezy tattoo, but the willingness of many ‘christians’ to selectively choose which of the ‘illuminated words of god’ they value and the order of precedence each violation takes.

    The point at which your religion requires (or promotes) you to believe that the world is ~6,000 years old, or that there was a ‘flood’ and an ‘Ark’ (with dinosaurs), it is difficult to distinguish religious belief from mental illness. Oftentimes the claims of being a ‘christian’ is an implied claim to moral superiority and pointing out logical or factual inconsistencies in such a declaration should be expected.

    With the overwhelming support that the ‘Talibangelical’ community in the US for Donald Trump, it is clear to me (among others) that many ‘christians’ have thrown aside the cloak of their ‘beliefs’ for another set of beliefs and desires far less wholesome. If someone is going to mount that ‘high horse’, their own flaws and shortcomings become more visible as well.

    Have a great day!

  • jbhodges7

    Because, many self-decribed “Christians” persist in making moral judgements about other people, citing the Bible as a moral authority.

    Do you hear me? I’m trying to answer your question.

    For example, in recent years many SDC’s claimed that the Bible taught that a “marriage” was, and could only be, a formal commitment between “one man and one woman.” But, in the OT there are many prominent people, supposed followers of God, who have multiple wives and concubines. And, cover to cover, there is not a word against polygamy.

    So: No, it doesn’t teach that marriage is between “one man and one woman.” THEY MADE THAT UP. That is a little fact worth thinking about. THEY MADE THAT UP.

    So, when SDC’s make a claim that “the Bible says this” or “the Bible says that”, the simplest and most direct rebuttal is “No, it doesn’t.” And the only effective defense of either claim is the “plain meaning of the text”,… if you have to “interpret” the words to support your reading of it, you are essentially saying that the “plain meaning of the text” favors your opponent’s position.

    I am hardly the Bible scholar that you are, but once I did a study of the ethical teachings of Jesus. I went through the four gospels and collected everything Jesus is reported to have said about what his followers should DO, and abstain from doing. Reading over what I had collected, I was surprised to find that it all hung together, it all made perfect sense, given his starting assumptions. And it did not REMOTELY RESEMBLE modern Christianity.

    Since then, I have found that whenever I quote the words of Jesus to a Christian, always, without exception, they immediately reply “He didn’t mean THAT.” Since the day Jesus left the scene, church leaders, starting with Paul and including many other since, have been “explaining” that to get into Heaven, Christians didn’t really have to follow all of that stuff. Or, indeed, ANY of that stuff. They say, “we are not saved by works”, and ethical behavior is works. All the “theology” I have ever heard from “Christians” I would describe as a theory, by someone OTHER THAN Jesus, explaining why we could ignore what Jesus plainly said in Matthew, Mark, and Luke., specifically that obeying and following ALL of Jesus’ commands to his followers was a necessary condition for being saved.

    See http://atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/open-letter-to-the-saved

  • Bill Diaz

    Most people not only dont know much about the Bible as a religious text, but even fewer know about it as an historical one. What got put in (or left out), what words were used and who made those decisions throughout history are very important parts of what you read.

    The willingness of people to put literal faith in a document of dubious provenance seems crazy, lol.

    Have a great day!

  • God is still speaking in my humble opinion. I found contact on the 3rd step in a 12-step program. He helped me get clean and sober. I stay centered in his presents on a daily basis. I’ve been following this simple program 15 years. I’ve never been happier than I am now. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7ec3fbea2b39f222a235076676168beab627c2404c11d44cb51b415047c6ab84.jpg

  • Olive

    “Does the command cause inconvenience to the christian?”

    Literally laughed out loud.

  • Brian Doyle

    You just wrote that the Bible says you don’t have to do what the Bible says.

    The problem intelligent people (Atheist, Fundamental, or otherwise) have with this is that it’s subjectively selective. It gives you the ultimate out. It allows you to simply scan through and find passages that agree with your moral code (whatever it may be at any given moment) and discard the rest that don’t. The consequence of this approach, when distributed across many people and applied to social norms, is tremendous variance on what constitutes both acceptable behavior and “good character.” The thinking person, or one who strives for a set of rules that are uniformly fair (or at least universally applicable), finds this broad disparity unsuitable for use as a system of belief. After all, how can any of us play by the rules if we don’t first agree what the rules are?

    To answer the question that seems to elude you: Atheists use passages in the Bible to discredit fakers and charlatans. It’s easy to respect a person who does what they say they’ll do, but it’s another thing entirely when someone says one thing and does another. In this case, our supposed “Christian” beauty queen, who claims to follow the Word of God but clearly doesn’t. To those who seek truth and fairness in a hard world, such behavior is reprehensible.

  • DoctorDJ

    Ramen, bro.

  • tyler

    so long as progressive christians don’t refer to the bible as a moral guide i don’t really care

  • Bones

    Because it isn’t……

  • Erik

    Did you miss the part about how that beauty queen doesn’t have to avoid tattoos because she’s not a Jew?? How is that reprehensible?

  • Fundamental athletes? So, all these arguments that go back and forth on the Internet have been between church-types and ardent soccer players? Or maybe football players arguing about Hail Marys?
    (Poking fun at a small typo you did at the end there).

  • Tim

    I think perhaps part of the reason this happens is that fundamentalist readings of the bible are a large contributor to the creation of atheists. Many of them read the bible this way because that is how they were taught to read it by Christians.

  • jbhodges7

    But do you expect to escape Hell? On what grounds?

    There is an anecdote about Mohandas K. Gandhi: someone once asked him what he thought of Christians, and he replied “I don’t know, I’ve never met one.” This is a man who went to college in England. I think I know what he meant.

  • Lark62

    Says who?

    And 2.5 of her 3 biblical rules aren’t even in the bible.

  • Lark62

    Because it highlights the never-ending Christian tendency to
    1. Make up moral rules out of thin air
    2. Declare those rules are biblical when they are not
    3. Flaunt their holiness for obeying the rules they made up
    4 Subtly or bluntly accuse non christians of being less moral because they don’t follow the rules christians made up.

    Tattoos are too petty? Try this one: the bile does not prohibit or condemn abortion.

  • Lark62

    This is a minor example of the obnoxious christian skill at making up rules and trying to enforce them on society as “indisputable commands” while ignoring clear commands you find silly or inconvenient.

    EXAMPLE

    Though it found time to condemn tattoos The bible does not prohibit abortion.

  • Why do intelligent atheists read the Christian bible the way fundamentalists do?

    It’s simple, really. We read the bible like fundamentalists do because that’s the way fundamentalists read it. We’re fighting them on their own ground.

  • Lark62

    They also made up the “biblical” commands prohibiting abortion.

  • rationalobservations?

    to enable a sensible answer to this question would require revealing which version of bible is being referenced?
    There are many diverse and different, confused and internally contradictory, historically inaccurate and scientifically absurd versions of christian bible that have been fabricated since the very first 4th century bibles were written at the end of the 4th century.

    The first christian bibles (Google: Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) differ from each other and modern bibles differ in many thousands of ways from those including being in a different order, containing texts that do not appear in the oldest bibles and excluding whole books that do appear in the oldest bibles.

    When anyone references “the bible” that should always invoke the response: “Which bible?”

    Apart from the evidence of human fabrication contained within all bibles, Here’s a reminder of the best argument against religion that has a factual basis:

    Today the top ten most peaceful and law abiding nations of the world in all human history are the least religious.

    The readers of these columns still await any evidence supported argument in favour of religion, and belief in magic and super-spooks.

    https://kenyatalk.s3.amazonaws.com/2016/03/96338_790965a8b767cfc304de88b35b3ae419.jpg

  • Anri

    Oddly, the only true parts of the bible are the parts that the Christian you are currently talking with agrees with.

    For any Christian objecting to this characterization, let me then ask the question: what parts of the bible are true that you think are false, or vise-versa?

  • What do you mean by “true” and “false?” An honest question here – if by “true” you mean “historically accurate and occurred as described,” I can most definitely get you a list there, but if you mean “valuable,” as I’ve encountered elsewhere, well, then it’s all true. A myth doesn’t have to have actually happened in order to be important.

  • Well, it’s pithier than Romans 1, and if you look too deeply into that passage, you’ll soon see it doesn’t say what you want it to.

  • Yes I know that verse, kill your children before their born so it will go well with you…

  • “Why Do Intelligent Atheists Still Read The Bible Like Fundamentalists?”

    Because fundamentalists read it that way, and they’re the ones who do the most harm. “Cafeteria Christians” like yourself (those who rationalize away or just ignore the nasty Bible passages) merely tacitly support the fundies – you’re not going out bombing abortion clinics and shooting people who don’t believe in God. You can be safely ignored, because although you give unknowing support to the real nutcases, you’re merely harmlessly delusional.

    If you want our attention, you’re going to have to start hurting people. Then we’ll start reading the Bible your way.

    As for Miss Teen USA, her faith appears to be grounded in Old Testament laws. Maybe that’s why Hemant Mehta is criticizing her based on those same laws. Also, let’s not forget that Jesus himself said, in Matthew 5:17-18:

    “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
    For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

    So the idea that “gentiles (that’s us) do not have to follow these ancient customs” is nonsense. If it has all been superseded, why do even liberal Christian sects still include the whole of the Old Testament in their printings of the Bible? If it’s all been superseded, your sect could save a lot on printing costs by just deleting it.

    So let’s not pretend that the OT is wholly negated by the NT. It isn’t, and to suggest it is is disingenuous.

  • Pop Vasile

    Sure. Then next step is to live in harmony with gay people, because Sodom is not really relevant anymore, being part of the “old customs”. Isn’t it?

  • Lark62

    The bible requires an attempted abortion for a pregnant woman suspected of adultery. This is the only mention of abortion in the bible.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Recall Pablo’s Guide to Interpreting the Bible
    1) If it is something that is verifiably true, then it is true
    2) If it is something that is verifiably false, then it is either a mistranslation, metaphor or taken out of context
    3) If it is non-verifiable, then if it makes God look good, then it is true. If it makes God look bad, it is either a mistranslation, metaphor or taken out of context.

  • Pop Vasile

    So wait: you were an alcoholic by free will and cured yourself by free will? How did God help you? Just asking

  • otrotierra

    God’s judgement at Sodom had nothing to do with “gay people.”

    Stop bearing false witness and start following Jesus. You could start today, right now.

  • Because of Matthew 5:17-18.

  • The thing is, once the cherry pickers extract all of the “nice” things from the bible, that leaves 80-90% of the tome. That is the percentage that is either irrelevant to, or contradicts their cherry picked interpretation.
    I find it funny how liberal christian values, which they say they get from the bible, align almost exactly with Humanist values — which predates christianity.

  • God comes to you disguised as anything Christians want him to be, as far as I can see. None of it is convincing as evidence that there’s anything there beyond wishful thinking.

  • Pop Vasile

    “False witness”. Sorry, but I was not witnessing anything in Sodom, the marvelous theoretical town where they has all those funky orgies. So how can I be a “false witness”? Or you.
    So let’s say that Sodom and gay people are not related and the “sodomy” word is just a coincidence and sure, men wanting to have sex with the male-looking angels is just a coincidence. And for some reason, Lot, a proxenet and incestuous person, was the only “righteous” dude in Sodom. Sure.
    I feel like you did not sense the sarcasm in my initial comment, wierdly enough. I was making fun of the cherry-picking on the Old Testament which makes Christians go against homosexuals, but somehow does not make them stone unvirgin brides anymore.

  • Shakespeare’s works were never intended to be, nor are they regarded as, a guidebook for living a moral life. The Bible is so regarded, and was almost certainly intended to be so regarded. That is the difference.

  • Because of Paul’s letter to the Galations:

    Galatians 5:2
    “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.”

  • ScoobyDude

    The problem is, if any of it is real, it should read more like a newspaper. To us, that’s an admission that this doesn’t point at a deity.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    This of course is assuming that we “Cafeteria Christians” hold the Bible in the the same idolatrous regard as fundamentalists.

    And so when it comes to their morality, they just make it up based on what sounds good?

    I mean, if it’s not the bible that’s the source of teaching for your religion, what is it?

    I think that is the part that atheists are calling out. OK, you are making this stuff up based on what you think works best. Same as me, for that matter. So why come off calling it “Christian morals” as opposed to just, “morals”?

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    The reported treatment of the “angels” was not the cause of the destruction of Sodom. In fact, the reason they went there in the first place is because God was already planning to destroy the city, irrespective of how they were treated.

  • Major Major

    If I was told I had to depend on the correct interpretation Shakespeare for the salvation of my everlasting soul, I would hold him to a different standard. Seeing as it’s not, it doesn’t matter as much to me if there are edits or sketchy motives on his part..

  • Pop Vasile

    “And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: ‘Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.'”. After which they refused the girls. I get it, who would have sex with girls when angels are available? Two things then:
    – you gotta stop using “sodomy” in English
    – without Sodom, isn’t really hard for Christians to find reasons for fighting against homosexuals? Like the 3 million Romanians sending petitions to the Parliament to change the Constitutions definition of family, in order to be sure that gay marriage will never be allowed.

  • If everything in the Bible is open to interpretation, why print it at all? Why read it at all? Why bother going to church to hear a sermon? After all, according to Paul, God wrote his laws in our hearts and in our minds. If you’re a Christian and everything in the Bible is open to interpretation, and if your mind says killing someone is okay, why not? Using interpretation, nothing in the Bible says you can’t.

  • Major Major

    You forgot to include Oh, that was just a metaphor for the verifiably false stuff.

  • ScoobyDude

    She certainly doesn’t mean valuable.

    What she means is, you never find a Christian pointing at a passage that they find ugly or immoral or otherwise problematic and saying “Man, I wish that was allegorical but it reads like its literal.”

    Each Christian decides that the pet they like is “true” and the rest is “allegorical” or “a historical description, not a rule” or “must be read in a very particular (tortured) context”.

    But the parts they like are just straightforward.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    I’m someone who doesn’t adere to scripture as infallible, especially in regards to morality.

    So back to my point: you have your own morality, that is independent of the bible. It’s not biblical morality, nor Christian morality.

    And as long as you are know that and internalize it, no one cares. But in this case, the pageant contestant is the one spouting her Christian morality. If Christian morals aren’t based on the bible, what are they based on? The Pope?

  • Ok, so you mean “read from a literal 21st century Western interpretation.” That’s what “plain language” means to us.

    Which is a puzzling position to take, considering that the Bible is an anthology of writings spread out over a massively large span of time in the Near East written by authors, many of whom we don’t even know, in various historical contexts. And we don’t have what they wrote. We have copies of copies of copies of copies from manuscript traditions that have disagreements both large and small. Then, the Hebrew or Greek or occasional Aramaic has been translated to English making all the different interpretive triage decisions that translators make.

    Your contention is that the “honest” way to read such a document is for a 21st century Westerner to pick it up and just read the language the way it most naturally would read to them in much the same manner that I might read, say, a blog article written in English by an American yesterday.

    Any attempt to try to interpret the document taking into account things like genre, historical context, textual disagreements, translation issues, Near East conventions, the philosophies and myths that were in the air, the distance between the author and the events they are describing – all of that to you is “gymnastics” and gets in the way of an “honest” reading, which needs to discard all those things and just read it in the way where the language makes the most intuitive sense to a contemporary, Western reader.

    See, that is precisely how fundamentalist Christians read the Bible. So, you more or less proved the point of Ben’s article.

    What is fascinating to me, however, is that fundamentalist Christians actually have a justification for such a bizarre way of reading – they believe the Bible is a supernatural product of a single author that reveals timeless, transhistorical truths that, by nature of the case, absolutely must be true in every way those statements could be understood to be true because of their perceived nature of God.

    Atheists, however, do not have that baggage, and yet they adopt the exact same reading. They have far -less- reason to adopt that position than a fundamentalist Christian, yet they are equally committed to it. I find this fascinating.

    Hey, in Act 1 Scene 1 of Hamlet, Francisco demands of Bernardo, “Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.”

    Unfold yourself? Is the “honest” reading of this passage that Bernardo is a contortionist and is all folded up on the ground? I mean, unlike the Bible, this play was originally written in English by a Westerner, and there’s only a few hundred years of distance between us and the play.

    OR does “unfold yourself” mean “reveal/identify yourself?” How would you explain this using an “honest” reading and not a bunch of dishonest “gymnastics” like the conventions of the English language 400 years ago?

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    The “taken out of context” was intended to cover that, but I’ve modified it to make it explicit. Thanks.

  • “And by read “honestly” you mean “read from a literal 21st century Western interpretation.” ”

    Then throw it all out, because if everything in it has to be translated based on a 3rd Century AD Middle Eastern interpretation, it may as well be written in Klingon.

  • Pop Vasile

    It was not the cause, it was just another example of how “sinful” the inhabitans were, isn’t it? Again, if sodomy was not their sin, why is it called “sodomy”? And why are Christians so much against gay people then? And why “offering your virgin daughters to strangers and having sex with them in the cave” are still considered stuff that a righteous man would do?

  • ScoobyDude

    Oh, fundamentalists aren’t true Scotsmen… err… Christians. I get it.

  • Claire Voyant

    That approach makes sense when you are fighting a fundamentalist, but not when you’re fighting a Christian who is not a fundamentalist. FYI, most Christians aren’t fundamentalist, and it is foolish to paint them all with the brush.

  • If you have to be a Biblical scholar to properly interpret what the Bible means, then it isn’t worth believing at all, because it’s always going to be incomprehensible to the vast majority of people.

    I do have to note that God must be pretty incompetent if he allows a major source of his divine wisdom to come down to us in such a flawed way. Maybe the problem is that he isn’t real.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Again, if sodomy was not their sin, why is it called “sodomy”?

    Because for hundreds of years (or more), that story has been used as a condemnation of homosexuality?

    That doesn’t mean it’s right. I mean, read the bible. It specifically states that the sin of Sodom was NOT homosexuality, but was a failure to care for others. And that is clear in the story, that God planned to destroy Sodom before the “inhospitality” took place. Consistent with the explanation provided in Ecclesiastes.

    It also explains why Gomorrah was taken out as well. Why isn’t it all gomarrahy?

  • ScoobyDude

    If Scripture isn’t infallible there is no reasonable and rational way to believe that a Jewish carpenter from 2,000 years ago, whose existence is only known through Scrupture, really lived, then died, then undied, then voiped into the sky.

  • Bill Burchard

    “Was that intentional? An acknowledgement that it’s all human?”

    Well, of course it’s “all human.” I believe that was Benjamin’s point.

  • Pop Vasile

    1. How do you know that? How can you know what were the intentions of those (fictional) sinners? There’s nothing in Genesis 19 about their kinky motives, “taking honor” and all.
    2. Allright, “sodomy” also includes bestiality, but is mostly used for homosexual male sex.

  • Tim

    I’m afraid that’s a modern assumption though, not an ancient one. Any ANE culture scholar would tell you that.

  • Malachi 3:6
    “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

    James 1:17
    Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

  • Then what can you trust from it? Why call yourself a Christian when the whole thing may be fatally flawed and just plain wrong?

  • ScoobyDude

    The opinion that the creator of the universe is personally invested in your sobriety is the most unhumble thing I can imagine.

  • Pop Vasile

    “It specifically states that the sin of Sodom was NOT homosexuality” Where does the Bible say that Sodom’s sin was NOT homosexuality? And if so, AGAIN, why the hell Christians are so obsessed about gay people?
    Gomorrah must have been a really irrelevant little village, all they got now is one lovely italian movie. Probably they were lame as sinners. I’m not even talking about the poor babies which must have been horrible sinners as well :)

  • Thank you!!

  • Pop Vasile

    @ScoobyDude:disqus , come on, the creator has enough time for dress codes, He gotta find some time for sobriety as well :D

  • … to you!!

  • Pop Vasile

    Funny, but rather irrelevant

  • There are other mentions of nations who practiced killing their children. It did not go well for them. But see Psalms 139 for an example of how God views the unborn:

    Psalm 139:13-14
    (13) For You formed my inward parts;
    You covered me in my mother’s womb.
    (14) I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Marvelous are Your works,
    And that my soul knows very well

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Among the sins of Sodom listed, homosexuality is not included.
    “These are the sins of your sister sodom…”

  • Nimblewill

    There are honest atheist and dishonest atheist.

  • Junius

    In Ezekiel. Here’s the passage I get after Googling the familiar phrase, “This was the sin of your sister Sodom”, and I converted it to my favorite context-heavy translation:
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+16%3A49-50&version=AMP

    Behold, this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters (outlying cities) had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and committed repulsive acts before Me; therefore I removed them when I saw it. Ezekiel 16:49-50 (AMP)

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Jesus was a historical person.

    “Jesus” according to the bible is the son of God, and was crucified and rose from the dead.

    The closest anyone ever comes to even trying to turn that into a “historical person” is to try to argue that there may have been a Jewish rabbi who was killed by the Romans.

    That makes Jesus from the bible about as historical as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, because it can be shown that there was a girl named Dorothy who lived in Kansas with her Aunt Em (in fact, there was – she was L Frank Baum’s niece).

  • Everything we read is interpreted. There is no linguistic communication that exists that is not “open to interpretation.” We can debate the merits of various interpretations and why we think a given interpretation is likely or not, but the fact is that everything we hear and read gets interpreted by us. If this were not the case, then everyone would always get the same meaning from anything anybody says all the time.

    What facilitates the process of communication are the social rules we know that assist us both in creating and understanding communication, and these rules are context dependent. So, if an American comes up to me and says, “You really nailed that presentation, today,” I know that he does not intend to be taken literally. I did not pick up a nail and nail my presentation to anything. What he means is that I did a good job with my presentation.

    If I got in a time machine and told George Washington, “You really nailed that presentation, today,” he would understandbly be confused about what I meant because we don’t have the same contextual frame of reference. He might very well think I meant he literally nailed the presentation to something. He might think, because he did not nail the presentation to anything, that I was being figurative in some way that he was not familiar with. The odds that he would know exactly what I intended are low.

    This is just how communication works. The Bible is not exempt from this, nor is any ancient writing. The only reason Internet Atheists ™ and Sam Harris are so committed to the fundamentalist paradigm is that it’s easier to critique. Basically, you’re way too lazy to know what you’re talking about.

  • Are you… wait… what? 3rd century AD Middle Eastern interpretation? Are you Greek Orthodox or something?

  • Pop Vasile

    Alright, so you actually wanted to say “It doesn’t state that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality”. Better now :)
    That’s rather very bad news for Christians, isn’t it?

  • Junius

    Can I take a time out and just tell you how much I like your handle?

  • None of those verses say, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Furthermore, how do you know those verses are God’s declaration of Himself and not the theological interpretations of James and whoever wrote Malachi?

    Those are all interpretations, and they don’t change the fact that the verse the OP cited doesn’t exist.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Because we instinctively know what is right and what is wrong.

    If you need a book to tell you what’s right in what’s wrong, then you don’t understand morality.

    So if what you say is true, you also don’t need religion. In fact, I agree.

    But back to the topic: the pageant contestant made a deal of her “Christian” morality. So now you are agreeing that her concept of “christian morality” is made up, and is irrespective of Christianity?

    I tend to agree, but I’m curious what your fellow “Christians” feel about the approach that you do just what you feel right and call it Christian morality?

  • Pop Vasile

    @TinyHands15:disqus (cool nickname, I bet Trump is envious :) ) so as I said, the Bible does not specifically says that homosexuality is a sin. It does not say that it says specifically that homosexuality is NOT a sin, as @thebofaonthesofa:disqus said initially. That’s a bit of a difference.
    Otherwise, probably it’s included in “other repulsive acts” (not to me)

  • Pop Vasile

    I don’t know any Christian willing to accept homosexuality in the community. They live with it, but that’s it. Sure, I live in an Orthodox Christian country, so you can imagine how “modern” are folks about life…

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    The bible clearly lists the sins of Sodom, and neither homosexuality nor inhospitibility are included. I never said anything about the rest of the bible, but the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not a condemnation of homosexuality.

    And including it in “other repulsive acts” doesn’t work because it assumes your conclusion.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    I don’t know any Christian willing to accept homosexuality in the community.

    There are religious sects in the US that welcome homosexuality, having no problem with it at all. It’s not an issue.

    You may not know anyone from them personally, but that is a reflection of your limits, not religion.

  • While that’s certainly true, just like all other groups, I really don’t think this particular issue has much to do with honesty.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Mark did not see Jesus as a performer of miracles who died and rose from the dead?

    Otherwise, so what? “Jesus” according to the bible was not just some rabble-rousing rabbi who got killed by the Romans.

  • I had some nieces who were my age who were adopted by my sister. They went to Parochial School and told me about the ‘hell’ the sisters we’re banging into their heads about. to me it was horrible, but just a story. I was glad I was not Catholic!! But they believed in it. Their dad was an alcoholic. I heard him beat them with a belt. I guess they knew what hell is like. the memory lingers. Every time I think of it I’m in hell. Thankfully I don’t think of it that often. I know other children who have similar experiences are now going through that kind of hell and I can sympathize and emphasize. The 12 step program I follow helps me encourage others to heal as I’ve healed from alcoholism and Trauma. I have no grounds to believe in the permanence of either Heaven or hell but I’ve experienced both temporarily. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f0feaa221ab9712159e91560894b4065438bcab1364d245697a28570acd6f0b.jpg

  • pud

    Your hypocrisy is the least of reasons we rational people should have nothing but contempt for you. Your willful construction of a world view based around ancient text, absurd characters, fantasmagoric events and impossible scenarios is enough. That you indoctrinate children into your ridiculous cult brands you as child abusers which should see you all in jail. You vote, you propagate falsehoods, you repress knowledge and human advancement all should see you heaped with ridicule and nothing more

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    So again, back to the topic of the pageant contestant: why is she boasting about “Christian morals” if, as you contend, they are not really based on anything to do with Christianity, but are based on her innate knowledge of right and wrong? Unless she thinks they are based on the bible? In which case, criticisms of hypocrisy are completely justified.

  • Junius

    IMO, that’s a take that omits cultural context. There was no real notion of an Israelite nation at the time, so any Levitical repudiation of “lying with a man as one does with a woman” doesn’t hold any sway. Ezekiel might have thought gay sex to be included in repulsive acts personally as an Israelite, but judging the context of his own sermon (which is chock full of sexual imagery, but in metaphor), he doesn’t seem to mention it as a primary factor. Or really at all. And we might be prone to see it as included as a “repulsive act”, but so much of that thought is programming from our own sex-obsessed American Jesus hegemony that I think this view unravels under scrutiny.

    I won’t fight about whether the Bible says it’s not a sin, because it honestly seems pointless. Any time the Bible seems to mention dudes into dudes, it’s wrapped in layers of context. History has buried the lede on this one, and I’m good with affirming the image of God without legislating it one way or the other.

    EDIT: I’ve been Tiny Hands since before Trump was daily, never-ceasing news. He’s an embarrassment to the short-fingered vulgarian community. There are literally dozens of us!

  • Do you know anything about alcoholism?

  • In my experience, atheists and non-fundies don’t get into many serious fights over the nitty-gritty of doctrine and scripture. What is accepted by a handwave can be dismissed by one, and rarely does that cause much more than minor grumbling and mutual insensibility.

  • Pop Vasile

    How is this “my limitation” myself being an atheist which has absolutely nothing against homosexuality?
    You are talking about some shady denominations in US which are accepting homosexuals, that’s what, 0.04% of the Christians?
    I’m surrounded by Orthodox, Catholics and neo-protestants. And the vast majority are not taking kindly the homosexuals existence. Sure, it’s their limitation, but a very real one.

  • ScoobyDude

    That’s a cop out. It’s like No True Scotsman’ing 95% of the professed believers in a religion.

  • Pop Vasile

    That’s Christian God, he created the Universe, DNA, acoustic harmonics and tigers, but always pays attention on how people are having sex..

  • ScoobyDude

    Right. Which is the problem. Everyone is just sanctifying their own intuitions. Which is dangerous.

  • Anti-Muslims will do the very same thing with the Quran: “You say there are compassionate, gracious, loving Muslims, but the Quran demands they kill and destroy…”

    Literalism is the stone-thrower’s best friend. Pull the one-liners out of the context of a relationship with a merciful, gracious God. Then bludgeon.

  • Oh the autocorrect!! Oh The agony!! Oh the humanity!! Oh the hilarity!! Oh the dyslexia!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9788f400d6faaf81f0be5661295dc582854273ec446a7e4ecd783e378f357810.jpg

  • Junius

    Sorry for assuming with the “American Jesus” drop– I’m sure Romanians deal with the same stupid Jesus crap that we do =P

  • apoxbeonyou

    Welp, you are most certainly a troll. No actual argument, no actual intelligence, just vile vomit spewing onto your keyboard. Have a nice life!

  • ScoobyDude

    This has been debunked.

    A) There is no contemporary extrabiblical evidence. Anything Josephus or later should be seen as a report of Christian myths not independent confirmation.

    B) The Bible wasn’t written. It was compiled. The individual books were written. I’m not sure how a later date of writing improves the Bayesian analysis here.

    C) Alexander the Great has archaeological evidence in support of his existence. Furthermore, no one is currently defending any supernatural claims about AtG. Furthermore, he moved with armies, etc. There was a Persian Empire, then there wasn’t. Ptolemaic Egypt came into existence. These demonstrable events imply their own cause. Christianity, otoh, does not require a real and divine Jesus. It just requires a convincing Paul.

    When I see this argument, I know I’m dealing with someone who knows just enough to be dangerous.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I think it’s funny, too. And I guess I’m a ‘liberal Christian’.

    I regularly preach (and so do many of my ‘liberal Christian’ friends) that Jesus’ message was not unique. He was talking to people who needed to hear it (Jews). But yes, the message to love your fellow man existed in other places at other times.

  • pud

    Really? Does your cult indoctrinate children? Yes or No?
    Do you “believe” superstitious nonsense for which there is absolutely no evidence? Yes or No? Do you vote for religious lunatics who shun science and reality? Yes or No? Do you teach and believe in physically impossible events and scenarios from talking donkeys to men living in fish? Yes or No? I rest my case..you are all lunatics…destructive, backwards, willfully ignorant lunatics

  • pud

    You cannot demonstrate that your “jesus” ever existed let alone did the things ascribed to him. You fail to see that even if he did exist that he was a moral monster. He supposedly healed a few lepers but did not cure leprosy….A Dr. who did such would be condemned by everyone today why not your mythical jesus?

  • apoxbeonyou

    1) I don’t belong to a cult; I go to a place where we accept anyone no matter their creed or beliefs. We don’t teach anything but love to children.
    2) I don’t believe in god as if he’s a dude with a beard pulling strings on the earth. I think of it more like a creator force whose essence is love. I don’t think it has a penis or pen (didn’t write the bible).
    3) I vote for anyone who supports science and humanism.
    4) Not really; I think most of those experiences are attributed to god but there is no proof. The bible is mostly humans having experiences that they attribute to god.
    5) Thanks for the insult!

  • apoxbeonyou

    I don’t care if I can or not. I just preach love, brother. You seem to spew hate. I’ll take my belief in something I cannot prove over your hateful attitude over my beliefs any day of the week. Why? Because I believe in love.

  • That doesn’t leave much that’s true and that was invented by the folks who wrote the Bible, because most of the stuff that is verifiably true or that makes God look good was actually taken from Greek science, Greek philosophy or Babylonian law.

  • pud

    You ‘believe” nonsense no matter how you couch it, sweeten it or define it with made up woo woo words.

    Personal experience is not evidence.

  • D.M.S.

    Even mankinds only evidence still comes down to God/Jesus in everything they do and believe.

  • pud

    Nonsensical gibberish

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    No, I would need to have “extra biblical evidence” for miracles and rising from the dead in order to consider it to be evidence for “Jesus.” That you think this is only in the bible just proves the point that there is no extra biblical evidence for the Jesus described in the bible.

  • apoxbeonyou

    That’s correct. I don’t dispute that. You don’t seem to be comprehending what I’m saying. I don’t have to provide you evidence for anything, I’m not defending whether or not god exists or not. You want to believe I am so you can feel better about yourself, I guess? LOL

  • So why do you still believe any of it at all?

  • pud

    That’s too bad. Rational people do care about what is true and what isn’t. Love given freely is worth nothing! Like respect, love has to be earned not handed out like cheap trinkets.

  • So why believe? If it’s all prone to error, why do you think that some of it isn’t?

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    This is exactly what Chris is saying. Everyone knows their own version of right from wrong, and then they just call it Christian. Why? As you say, to sanctify it.

  • ScoobyDude

    If a single thing was most demonstrative of the mythical nature of the Bible to me, when I exited Christianity, it was the Synoptic Problem.

  • Lark62

    If you teach children they deserve torture, that is abusive.

    If you teach children that people they know and love will be tortured for believing the wrong things, that is abusive.

  • Artistree

    pud, your hate is spilling over the brim. You forgot to take your reason pill today.

  • ScoobyDude

    Except he didnt

  • pud

    Spot on. It is a cult of guilt and shame thrust on children who cannot reason for themselves. They indoctrinate them from birth teaching them what to think not how to think. Totally abusive and dysfunctional

  • pud

    Nope…not hate…contempt.

  • ScoobyDude

    Right. The cherry picking is what we object to. It’s nonsense. If you have to do it, you’re not looking at a divine book, stop pretending, and stop sanctifying your own moral intuitions.

    Hence, pointing out the tattoo hypocrisy.

  • Er… there are thousands of coins with Alexander’s name on them. I even own such a coin, minted in Babylon and dated between 325 and 323 BC, during the time he was in Babylon. But sure, those are only claims – maybe he wasn’t real. Maybe my coin is a fake – maybe they all are. Maybe Philip of Macedon lived to conquer Asia and Alexander is just a myth. But the key issue is that it doesn’t matter. The existence of Alexander the great isn’t all that important, because no one alive today claims he was the son of the living god. The same cannot be said of Jesus – 2.2 billion people think he’s the son of God. This is why it’s important that there be lots of evidence – EVIDENCE, not just claims. Evidence, not just for Jesus’s existence, but for his miracles. AND THERE ISN’T ANY! NOT ONE PIECE!

    So here we are. You admit that you can’t trust the Bible because it was written by fallible humans. Yet you believe some of it because there are other texts, also written by fallible humans, that claim Jesus was a real person.

    I mean, WTF!? Are you serious? You’ve got nothing – you even ADMIT you’ve got nothing, yet you believe the wildest claims!

  • Because reasonable people shouldn’t believe unsubstantiated claims.

  • pud

    You cannot have a “relationship” with an invisible non existent made up entity…that is delusional at best and psychotic at worst. “Context” should NEVER have to be considered if the book is the “perfect word” of a deity.

  • ScoobyDude

    I’m aware of that. But THAT is because ancient people were superstitious and not empirically minded. Which is only MORE reason not to believe the God-and-Resurrection claims underneath them. And THOSE must be newspaper-true for any of this to matter.

    The fact that ancient people did not even have a notion of empirical truth is MORE reason to disregard all this Bronze Age desert nomad nonsense.

  • Junius

    If Mark, Matthew, and Luke read like Hemingway, John reads like Tolkein.

  • “Because we instinctively know what is right and what is wrong. We know that murder, rape and torture are wrong.”

    How does that prove that Christianity is real?

    Surely it’s more reasonable to believe that we evolved morality due to our being a social animal. Other social species also exhibit moral behavior – apes, dogs, whales, elephants, for example. Given that, it is irrational to just ignore that and insist that morality comes from the influence of a god for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

    As for Jesus turning immorality on its head, have you ever read the Gospel of Matthew? Jesus spends half of it gleefully ranting about how he’s going to have his angels throw people into a lake of fire, punishing with infinite torture finite crimes (including the thoughtcrime of mere disbelief).

    Oh, but that’s a misinterpretation, right? If Jesus does bad things, like cursing a fig tree, calling a Canaanite woman a dog and refusing to help her, or promising to torture people who have done no harm, we can just ignore that, because Jesus is good, right?

  • Etranger

    I think many people wonder why, if the Bible is the inspired word of God, one can criticize one interpretation while forming one’s own different interpretation. As an example, I read a lot of progressive Christian posts on LGBT. They are, thankfully, very supportive of gay people. To an extent. They still have a sexual morality code that is biblical in nature – that sex is okay for a Christ-centered, monogamous, committed gay couple. Otherwise, it is not okay. Yet these same people will criticize a fundamentalist who says all gay sex is wrong. Both positions are rooted in the Bible. Neither has firm ground to truly criticize the other. Reaching an interpretation on a moral issue by logical, rational thinking would be much better.

  • A little more dishonest? From what I’ve seen here, I don’t see a difference. Each of you is willing to ignore anything that contradicts what you personally don’t believe. You all call yourself Christians, yet your morality has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with what you prefer.

  • WayneMan

    Issue one is that many atheists are x-Christians and have already read the Bible. I certainly have, but do not continue to do so. Secondly since most of us have read it, there is nothing wrong in pointing out ambiguities and contradictions when someone is using Bible quotes as part of their “proof” on the debate topic. You point out that Christians are not obligated to rules like tattoos, yet they use those exact same chapters to slam gays. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Artistree

    Your contempt comes across as hate and antisemitism .
    You should communicate in a more tolerant manner.

  • pud

    Not an argument…try again

  • pud

    Grow a pair. I have no tolerance for child abusers

  • To any reasonable person.

  • Artistree

    Pud,
    So you deny secular and Jewish historians of Jesus’s day ?
    Time to open your eyes to logic and reason.

  • If you think a god is the only thing that can cure it, you certainly don’t.

  • pud

    There are NO extra-biblical accounts of any “jesus” There is no contemporary historical evidence for his existence. Everything written about this mythological character is hearsay decades removed from the time in question. You can produce no evidence whatsoever that qualifies as evidence for the supposedly most important character in all of human history.

  • Artistree

    You are forgetting the testimony of Jude, Jesus’ “brother” and the witness of the Quran which retells the Sodom story.

  • Yes. In other words they ignored Christianity and made up their own rules based on philosophical writings they agreed with due to the moral sense they got through their evolution as a social species.

    So why bother believing a bunch of superstitious bunkum? Why believe any of it when you admit it’s completely unnecessary?

  • WayneMan

    Yes, the Bible can be used to support whatever belief you bring to it. Just get a few Calvinist and Orthodoxed Christians in the same room and asked them about free will. They can quote you supporting scripture on exact opposite interpretations.

  • I find it ironic that you write paragraphs on how communication is inherently flawed, then you finish it by claiming that our communication is perfect enough for you to conclude that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I laughed out loud at that one. I think you’ve just been hoisted by your own petard.

    Anyway, why bother believing a bunch of superstitious bunkum? Why believe any of it when you admit it’s completely open to interpretation and likely to be false? Why not base your life around things you know to be real, and around the morality that evolved in us as we developed into a social species?

    Why trust in a god who almost certainly doesn’t exist when there are better options?

  • Artistree

    Obviously you are not well read in either Jewish or Roman history of Jesus’ day, not the school of logic.

  • Your response leads me to believe that you don’t know anything about alcoholism from the first-hand experience of recovering from it.

    ‘Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.’-Carl Jung

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d93f6adb39b2bc9b2bd98ba5a7cb4fb9b73367ac8554a889f7e566c832fafcde.jpg

  • Tim

    “And THOSE must be newspaper-true for any of this to matter.”

    Yes, and the apostle Paul even insisted upon this himself.

  • pud

    Is that so? Post a single extra biblical historical account…waiting…

  • Straw man. Sophistry.

    Not going to actually address my point? I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I don’t believe or teach any of those things.

  • Artistree

    so vulgarity is also a part of your attributes

  • apoxbeonyou

    I disagree :) Love always wins. If everyone loved each other, there would be peace. Conditional love is not really love at all.

  • SavannahRob

    The problem is that real-world Christians apply it literally when it suits them and make excuses when it doesn’t. Most literally believe the creation story. God literally commanded genocide, the slaughter of children, the stoning of gays, the evils of shellfish.

    The Bible doesn’t scope it’s laws to a particular time and place. Please show me where it does. Christians say that God and his perfect laws are unchanging.

    Pointing out the uncomfortable or downright evil in religious scripture is an invitation to acknowledge that it is all a maleable human invention.

    When forced to change (women can now wear pants in church, tattoos are ok, gays… won’t be stoned but are still evil) the religious will act as though it never happened and it belonged to another time and place. It’s very hard to discuss issues in our current world with people who don’t see the problem here.

  • I think it’s far more likely that I’m right.

  • Artistree
  • pud

    Kum ba ya….Not everyone deserves love. Love is to be earned. What delusional planet do you live on?

  • pud

    Wrong! Not a contemporary, not an eye witness, wrote only of the christian cult, was forged by lying christians which even stupid bible thumpers were forced to admit. Try again.

  • LOL! No. None of those things actually say precisely “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

    Malachi 3:6
    “For I, the LORD, do not change…”

    Seriously, dude! If you’re going to insist that a Biblical verse say exactly word for word what you say it needs to say, when it says exactly the same thing using slightly different words, well then you’re just twisting the reality to suit your needs – i.e. you’re a liar – a pretty contemptible one – and there is no point discussing anything with you.

  • I often find when i encounter fundamentalist atheists an insistence that Christianity be one-size-fits-all. I’m guessing that It’s easier for them to identify Christian demographic as either dumb as dirt, naive and / or as cons, thieves, traitors. The most fundamentalist characteristic I find in either Evangelical fundamentalist or atheist Fundamentalist is that they appear to me to be rather two-dimensional, cartoonish and immature.
    That is why discernment and nuanced conversations are a foreign concept to them I reckon. Keeping it simple the US versus them paranoia puts blinders on them.

  • apoxbeonyou

    We can disagree without the insults. I’m done with this, though. Too much trolling and not enough meaningful conversation. You are exactly like the fundamentalist trolls like DMS. You are exactly who Dr. Corey is talking about.

  • Artistree

    So these hundreds and thousands of Christians who claimed to follow a man named Jesus were willing to be tortured and killed for believing in a figment of their imaginations ?
    Why were the first 15 Jewish Christian bishops of Jerusalem executed ?

  • pud

    There are hundreds and thousands of muslims willing to blow themselves up too. Proves nothing only that people are insane and do insane things. Millions of people through the ages have died for causes. Google Kamakze Try again.

  • gimpi1

    I agree with this. It’s no more logical for an Atheist to pretend that there’s only one, absolutely literal, absolutely all encompassing way for Christians to understand their Bible than it is for conservative Christians to make that claim.

    The idea that any nuance, interpretation or cultural consideration makes one a hypocrite is toxic. It’s toxic no matter who it comes from. Now, if the young lady in question had made a big stink about the “complete, inerrant Bible” and claimed to follow it in all it’s minutia, the Friendly Atheist’s complaint would be valid. It doesn’t seem that she makes that claim.

    Is she perhaps a bit vague, a little naive? Likely. A blazing hypocrite? I don’t see it.

    (I often love the Friendly Atheist blog. I just thought this post missed the mark.)

  • pud

    You call it that I call it brute honesty

  • pud

    Dr. of what? Truthology from Christain Tech? You’re as easily impressed by letters as you are with superstitious nonsense eh?

  • gimpi1

    Those that do that, yes. Especially since very few of them would turn down bacon-wrapped shrimp.

  • Newton Finn

    You’ve put your finger on the “tell” that gives away the superficiality of the aggressive “new atheism” (as contrasted with the long, respected history of secular humanism). Aggressive atheists read the Bible like a fundamentalist because they read the world in the same way– with literal, linear, either/or thinking. Albert Schweitzer, an unorthodox follower of Jesus (often accused of being an atheist himself) said that thoughtlessness begins with a lack of appreciation for the mystery of existence, in taking life as simply a given without the need or desire for reflection about whether it has a meaning or purpose. Such reflection has become increasingly absent in our society, and thus, while we are swimming in knowledge, there is little wisdom to be found. Noam Chomsky is an excellent example of a secular humanist whose atheism is the result of reflection, and thus his attitude toward religious believers is respectful and refreshing.

    https://attackthesystem.com/2012/03/11/noam-chomsky-on-the-new-atheism/

  • David Weller

    I find this discussion strange all around. Clearly atheists insist upon reading the Bible like fundamentalists in order to point out the hypocrisy of fundamentalists, and for no other reason. But the tattoo question is somewhat of a red herring. Fundamentalists don’t ban tattoos on religious grounds as far as I know. Fundamentalists pick and choose the things they want to ban based upon the conviction of their hearts, or , in other words, based on their own biases and prejudices. Tattoos aren’t on their list, so they don’t ban it. Abortion is on their list despite the fact that it’s not mentioned in the Bible, or may be advocated in Numbers, but it is on their list, so they ban it and call it sin. These things aren’t really related to what the Bible has to say whatever lies the fundamentalists want to tell about them

  • Lark62

    It’s your book. Both progressives and fundamentalists use it to declare your own righteousness and attack outsiders. But both groups cherry pick.

    Those having to watch the self righteous gloating of cherry pickers have every right to highlight the hypocrisy.

  • So what’s the difference between that and secular humanism? Why believe in a god at all when you have no evidence that he exists and so no reason to believe he’s real. Atheists believe in beauty, goodness and love too – why the need to name it “God” when there’s no reason to do so?

  • Artistree

    So you don’t believe that Mohammed existed either….tiny world you live in.

  • Lark62

    First you declare your book to be the authoritative word of god.

    Then you ignore 4/5s of it.

    Then you invent stuff that isnt in it (abortion, gay relationships cant get legal recognition, trans people can’t use public restrooms) and work to get those things into our secular laws.

    Then you complain when atheists read your book and highlight the hypocrisy and absurdity.

    If you are going to try to force your religious nonsense into public law, atheists are going to push back. This includes highlighting exactly how stupid your precious book actually is and how little of it Christians actually believe.

  • pud

    You’re not very bright…I can tell. There is ample evidence for a man name of Mohammed existing and being the founder of Islam. Not so your jesus fellow. Zeus Thor and Odin fall into the same category as your mythical deity.

  • David Weller

    agreed, mostly. I guess I would say that fundamentalist Christians use it to attack all outsiders and Progressive Christians use it to attack fundamentalist Christians.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Nail-on-the-head question. The real answer, like Mike McHargue has said, is very personal to me. I have my reasons, but they are my own. I believe in a divine ‘something’ but my reason for existing is not to prove whether or not it exists but to be a good human to other humans.

    I just came up with a new label for myself: Mystical humanist who tries to follow Jesus’s teachings.

  • Lark62

    You don’t teach about heaven? No hell? Really?

  • apoxbeonyou

    Pointing out something isn’t necessarily attacking. But humans are tribal in nature so fighting happens inevitably.

  • Samoht

    Saying things like “Bronze Age desert nomad” is both ignorant and bigoted. For one, it’s arrogant and a little racist.
    Secondly, it’s inaccurate. The Bible is largely an Iron Age work. Some Bronze Age traditions might have been inherited by it, but as a whole it’s Iron Age, and most of it probably not even early IA at that.

    Secondly, the sources are diverse. Maybe there’s some desert nomad traditions in there somewhere, but also (and this goes for ANE myth in general) reflects the traditions and beliefs of people in more civilized settings. Unless of course, ancient city states are also nothing but desert nomads.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Heaven was mostly talked about in reference to the current time, not something that exists later after you die. Hell was an english word constructed to replace Gehenna and Sheol.

    This other guy (ChrisDACase95) on this thread explains it pretty well:
    “When Jesus talks about Hell he is talking about a literal place called Gehennna which is just outside Jeruselm. “Genenna” wasn’t translated (pretty faultily at that) as “Hell” and “Eternal Torture” until the Bible was translated to English. But in the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages, Hell never comes up, let alone eternal torment….Jesus spoke in parables; metaphorical imagery to convey a deeper meaning. What Jesus refers to is the destruction of Jeruslem at the hands of Rome, that is also what the allegorical book of Revelations [refers to].”

  • Samoht

    We don’t even know what that passage means, really, so calling it an abortion as a fact it’s something you can hang your hat on.
    At least one (Jewish) scholar interprets the symptoms of that curse as the signs of being pregnant, since swollen bellies and sagging thighs are more in line with pregnancy than abortion. In other words, if she has committed adultery, let it be proven by her becoming pregnant with the adulterer’s child.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    Personally, I am not a huge fan of tattoos. I more than not agrre witht the article. I know that matter of the tattooing was about things having to do with either ‘death’ or tattoos of things having to do with false religion and the ‘god/s’ of those things. Now, today we aren’t under the Law though the principle of not putting tattoos on one’s self having to do with ‘worship’ or even any kind of acknowledgement of what is not ‘of God’ would seem to be anything other than acceptable to God,would you not agree?

    That being said, I think ppl have the option to put certain kinds of tattoos on them if they want to. But again, there are things to keep in mind. And this certainly would be ‘how will my getting a tattoo come across to others? Will it cause ppl, especially the new ones, to ‘stumble for some reason? Is my personal desire to have a tattoo worth tripping anothr person over? What is my purpose for having the tattoo?

    Let us remember that Paul even said that if meat were something to stumble a person then Paul would not eat meat. We would do well to think along these lines in over matters as well. And again, in other parts of the world tattoos have a grander significance to the ppl than they do here in this part of the world. Is this not so?

  • pud

    Abortion is condoned in the buybull. There are step by step instructions as to how a priest is supposed to perform it with some toxic drink should the husband suspect his wife of infidelity…funny how the thumpers gloss over that

  • Samoht

    The Bible was not intended, in Christianity at least, to be a moral rule book. That’s another mistake of fundamentalist thinking. For most of Christian history, morality was something implanted by God in humanity by nature.

  • pud

    It’s supposed to be the “perfect word of god” isn’t it? Perfect words of deities do not have error, contradiction, need interpretation, are not culturally dependent and do not need context.

  • Ian

    First you declare your book to be the authoritative word of god.

    You just proved the point. It is a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible to see it in those terms. For the majority of Christians now, and through history, that has not been the case (at least not in the way that fundamentalists, and it seems you, are using the words).

    The problem really is that atheists have been cultured into believing that there really is no other way to understand what a holy text could be. This is the great success of fundamentalism in American culture. American evangelicals have, by and large, succeeded in making their (relatively small, globally and recent, historically) denomination appear normative.

    I’ve met a lot of atheists who are very proud of how much of the bible they know, but can’t articulate even the basics of a nonfundamentalist theology of the bible, despite the fact that the vast majority of Christians are not fundamentalists. In my experience, when pointed out, such folks tend to respond by doubling down on their own assumptions, and deriding anyone with the different understanding of the Bible as ‘doing it wrong’. In exactly the way that fundamentalists do.

  • Ian

    Why respond to

    It’s no more logical for an Atheist to pretend that there’s only one, absolutely literal, absolutely all encompassing way for Christians to understand their Bible

    with a variation of ‘but it’s supposed to be interpreted in this one literal, absolutely all-encompassing way.’?!?

    You missed the point of the comment you are responding to? Perhaps a better way would be “so what are these alternatives, who believes them, and how long have they been around?”

    To be frank, as an atheist myself, I don’t find many of them any more persuasive than the fundamentalist hermeneutic. I’m not claiming that they are correct. Just pointing out that you are proving the original point.

  • joshuaism

    So if one was born Jewish and then converts to Christianity, do they have to keep to the commandments of the old testament?

  • Well, your criticism would be true if our only two options were:

    1. Every item of communication has a single meaning that is equally clear to all receivers at every place and every time.
    2. Communication is impossible.

    Then I would be hoisted by my own petard, impaled on the horns of your dilemma.

    Unfortunately, the empirical evidence dictates otherwise and your dilemma is false. We know communication is fraught with misinterpretation and there are tons of factors that go into interpretation. We also know that communication generally works, often with a certain amount of trial and error commensurate to how conceptually close the receiver is to the initiator.

    It is completely unsurprising you’re jettisoning our actual discussion about the actual points raised in the actual article to fall back to, “Oh yeah? Well, uh, believing in God is stupid!” Fine and dandy, but that doesn’t change the fact that interpreting ancient texts is far more complicated than someone in the contemporary West picking it up and just reading it, and it’s incredibly lazy and inaccurate for you to pretend that it is.

  • Because your point is a total non sequitur. What does the 3rd century Middle East have to do with interpreting ancient writings?

  • As flounces go, I’ve seen better.

    Your objection proves my point. You think it’s -ridiculous- that I demand the plain language of the Bible state what the OP claimed. Why is that? Because you’re relying on my ability to -interpret- to take texts that do not say what the OP claimed and accept them as a functional equivalent.

    But that requires interpretation, which is what you’re vehemently arguing is dishonest. So, I’m a liar if I require interpretation, and I’m a liar if I disallow it. Sounds like you’ve pretty much made up your mind regardless of the merits of argumentation, which is pretty typical.

  • joshuaism

    If I believed that I was supposed to act and behave in an Alexander the Great-like fashion in order to be a good person then I would probably be very concerned if the canon contained errors.

  • joshuaism

    So what do you non-fundamentalists use a Bible for? A doorstop? Is it more special than Shakespeare or does it hold the same level of purpose, meaning, and inspiration? Do you believe there is a canon or can we add Romeo and Juliet to the end of the Bible because it also contains words of wisdom?

  • Samoht

    You honestly can’t think of any other use for the Bible than a rule book?

  • Zeiglarre

    I would disagree with your assertion “both groups cherry pick.” As I understand the term, to “cherry pick” is to choose the best parts and ignore the rest. This is not what Dr. Corey is advocating or describing. Progressive Christians do not insist that the entirety of Scripture is dictated by God, and then ignore the bits they don’t like, which would be “cherry picking” and is what some fundamentalist Christians do. Instead, progressives try to understand Scripture in the context in which it was created and in light of the entirety of Scripture. Reading the various pericope in its appropriate context — historically, theologically, ecclesiologically, etc., is not, IMHO, picking cherries. OCICBW.

  • Artistree

    Being a brute and an atheist is pretty much the same thing.

  • joshuaism

    The only commandment I have seen all Christians claim subscribe to is to lead a Christ-like life. If the Bible describes how Christ lived, then yes, for Christians it’s most important use is as a rule book.

    At that point, it becomes very important to describe which rules apply to the Christ-like life and which do not. Most Christians have arrived at the same canon, and yet, still disagree about which parts of that canon are Christ like and which are not.

    Almost no Christian has said the canon should be changed. But if the canon includes a number of rules and proscriptions that are unhelpful to following a modern Christian life, shouldn’t the canon be changed?

  • Lark62

    You just described cherry picking.

    All Christians still ignore the plain language of their book and pick and choose which parts to pay attention to.

    And every sect in every culture in every era has different ideas about which parts are relevant. And every sect in every culture in every era has its own special rationalizations for what’s in and what’s out and why they are right when every one else is wrong.

    I like vanilla ice cream with cherry pie.

  • Lark62

    Yep. They will look you straight in the eye and tell you the bible does not say what it plainly says.

  • Lark62

    We think there is only one way to read the bible? Since when?

    There are about 43,000 versions of christianity, each and every one convinced they read the bible right and everyone else reads it wrong.

    And no, I am not going to give your special reading preference over the other 42,999.

  • Samoht

    Using it for Jesus’s example is not the same thing as it being a rule book. There are rules in it, but that also doesn’t reduce it to the simple role of rule book. As I said, for most of Christian history, morality was something natural to man, which is why Paul said that Gentiles without Jewish revelation still had a law in their hearts to be judged by. Also, canon wasn’t decided on the basis of Christ-like vs non-Christlike.

  • sizzzzlerz

    See? There you go again, cherry picking. You obviously don’t have a pair of the magick bible-interpretation glasses that show only those things you should treat literally and obscures those that are just parables, analogies, or jokes, or anything xtians ignore.

  • Lark62

    If you don’t teach that crud about hell to children, bravo. But it seems that strays pretty far from christianity.

  • Lark62

    Not one mentioned jesus or any person like him or any of the events that should have gotten the attention of contemporary historians such as all of Jerusalem there to see him ride in on a donkey.

  • sizzzzlerz

    What vulgarity? Reasoned, literate, opposition to your views you label as vulgarity?

  • In discussions with Christians, I don’t bang them over the head with the Bible, insisting that it must be read only literally or fundamentally. I usually argue against that, because that reduces its value. I sometimes say that that would be as unwise and downright silly as a literalist/fundamentalist reading of Aesop’s Fables. To insist that those are actual accounts of foxes who literally talk to crows, and hares who literally scheme to beat tortoises in races would be to entirely miss the value of the stories.

    HOWEVER, I am frequently frustrated and annoyed by some (certainly not all) Christians who with facile expediency switch back and forth between a literal and a metaphorical interpretation of the very same passage in the Bible as it suits their purpose in a given discussion. That shows a lack of integrity and a willingness to manipulate people in an insincere and cynical way.

  • Lark62

    Read the plain words on the page without gymnastics.
    1. Woman pregos
    2. Hubby jealous and suspicious
    3. Priests mixes noxious drink
    4. If noxious drink causes an abortion, stone Ms. Pregos to death for adultery.
    5. Concern for the aborted fetus? None. Zippo. Nada.

    Reconcile that with “glob hates abortion.” Let the tap dancing commence.

  • joshuaism

    Would there still be Christians if there was no Bible?

    Is the Bible just another Christian book? or the most important
    Christian book? And why? And is the canon important or unimportant for
    Christians?

    Is the Christ in the apocrypha the same Christ that you worship? If so, why isn’t the apocrypha in the Bible? If not, why do you believe in the Biblical Jesus and not the Apocryphal Jesus?

  • apoxbeonyou

    Mainline fundamental evangelicalism, yes. But this conversation is making the point of Dr. Corey’s article.

  • joshuaism

    When nothing was written down, people were free to preach whatever they wanted as Christianity. The letters of the apostles were allegedly written to tamp down on such behaviors in disparate churches. Because at some point, even though you claim to be Christian, apparently you really aren’t. The fact of the matter is that you need a canon or you do not have a set of shared beliefs. You need a canon because you need to be able to hold everyone at their word. Without a Bible you don’t have Christianity, it would have splintered into a million pieces and died out.

    But now you have an inconvenient record of outdated beliefs all written down in a canonical Bible. Some of it can’t be squared with the modern world, so you now supplement with traditions. But if the traditions aren’t written down and added to the canon then people once again freely subscribe to the one’s they like best and preach whatever they want as “the traditions” of Christianity. So at what point does tradition supplant the Book? Once again, there’s a point where alleged Christians aren’t really practicing Christianity anymore.

    Your trouble is with textualism, not with literalism. You don’t want to be bound to the bad parts of your book. Unfortunately as long as the Bible is treated as your primary and unalterable text, then people are going to hold you to it.

  • Dachusblot

    “Fundamentalists don’t ban tattoos on religious grounds as far as I know.”

    No, they just look at you askance and silently judge you. Hah.

    So, funny story: my dad (who wouldn’t call himself a fundie but basically is one in many ways) actually pulled out that Leviticus verse on me when I decided to get a tattoo on my ankle for my 21st birthday. I replied by pointing to the verse right before it which forbade men from clipping their beards. Since my dad definitely shaves his beard, he left me alone about my tattoo.

    Point is, it’s a thing that happens. It’s stupid and nonsensical, but it’s a thing.

  • David Weller

    If progressive Christians are trying to understand scripture in historic context only, and not as dictated by God, what sets scripture apart from other historical texts? And why are later Christian works not considered scripture?

    I guess I consider it cherry picking when Progressive Christians describe Jesus as a man of peace and ignore the fact that he at one point instructed his disciples to arm themselves, or when they find ways around the fact that the Bible is really vile to homosexuals, or that the New Testament gives husbands authority over wives.

  • Dachusblot

    There’s a big difference between someone who looks at a verse in its historical context, or in the context of the whole scriptures (as Dr. Corey points out, later parts of the Bible suggest we don’t have to follow all those picky laws in Leviticus), and says, “I don’t think this is important or relevant to me, compared to other things,” vs. someone who says that the whole Bible is the plain Word of God, and uses verses taken out of context to condemn others, while conveniently ignoring parts of the scriptures that might condemn themselves. Case in point: the story I mentioned earlier up this thread about my dad trying to use that Leviticus verse to shame me about getting a tattoo (because GOD SAID SO, SEE?!), but then ignoring the verse literally right before it which prohibited cutting the sides of your hair or clipping your beard. That’s real cherry-picking, right there.

    And yes, I do think that the person’s motivations are a factor. I am more willing to forgive cherry picking that’s done for the sake of being more loving to others, since being more loving to others is sort of the whole message of the Bible. But I’m less willing to forgive cherry picking that’s done purposefully to condemn, belittle or exclude others, since that’s something Jesus repeatedly told us not to do.

    Also, the fact that we naturally tend to focus on some things over others isn’t really cherry-picking, to me. It’s just a natural way that we read things, and we do it with everything. If me and my brother both read Hamlet, I might focus more attention on the character of Ophelia than my brother does, because I’m a girl and he’s not. Or maybe not? You never know. But that’s not really cherry-picking. Cherry-picking would be like if, I dunno, I decided that Hamlet was Jesus, and then conveniently ignored all the asshole things he does in the play because such things would contradict my preferred interpretation.

    Just a random example off the top of my head, but yeah. It seems like you’re trying to equate two things that are not really equivalent.

  • I know!! I’ve pondered many times why this should be so. I am grateful to the fundamentalists of any ideological stripe and I’m thankful for each opportunity to engage with unique individuals who have become so hidebound and delusional. the Many truths they miss stand out in stark contrast in such engagements. Some of them are quite unbalanced and I suspect that some of the trolls I’ve encountered have possibly stopped taking some medications. I am thankful for the internet otherwise I would not feel they are safe to be around in person. I think There are reasons and wisdoms why they would seek out a blog like this. I find that if they are trolls what they are really trying to do to get someone to argue with them on their terms. I’ve seen this behavior many times!! It’s a repeating pattern and a display of coping and defensive mechanisms of someone who has been severely traumatized I think. I try to let them know that they are among friends who will be honest and not reject them. I don’t expect all people here who are faith-based will be patient, tolerant, loving towards them but some of us will!! I encourage them to Keep coming back!!
    ‘Not all who wander are lost’ is a quote from JRR Tolkien.
    Many times I have the feeling that the atheists I’ve encountered have had traumatic experiences happen to them in church when they were children.
    I have had such happened to me both as a child and a young adult.
    It’s one of the reasons I no longer go to church. I found a higher power that loves me and helps me stay clean and sober and Serene. I have a chronic disease that keeps me in bed most days. So one of the things I can still do to keep my intellect sharp is to binge post. So I really have more in common with them!!
    A fellow blog friend opined that some of the fundamentalist’s pleasure is found in getting negative responses from challenging others to give them sight without risking to open their eyes. There are many things here in these conversations that are interesting to me in puzzling over why these cognitive barriers exist. It’s a kind of Laboratory, really an ideal one, as I feel safe and support around me. When I see obsessive compulsive Behavior in action in someone who is very ill and in denial about it I know why I was like that and feel compassion. I am very fortunate to have gotten into a recovery program. What happened to any of them that come to us with such similar symptoms and behaviors? It’s like they’re all one cartoonish person they sound so alike. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/12a05b0f3d2a7af97fd0a5dbce225e9f1ec57d16b3fd89eef43c1c2c0f9f4a86.jpg

  • Artistree

    Titus Flavius Josephus

  • David Weller

    Christianity through the ages has been more authoritarian than not. I applaud your attempt to turn what’s good about Christianity into mainstream Christianity, but I don’t see it as historically or culturally accurate. Since the Protestant Reformation, Christians have sought authority in the Bible. Today’s Fundamentalists differ only in that they also claim that God speaks directly and authoritatively through them. It doesn’t matter to the rest of us if God, through the Holy Spirit, tells you to go forth and love people non-judgmentally and relieve suffering and serve mankind. Some of us can appreciate that kind of quiet divine inspiration, but when the Holy Spirit tells Jimmy Swaggart or Pat Robertson or Jim Bakker, and they in turn tell millions of Evangelicals, that we need to oppress homosexuals or to vote for Donald Trump to keep God from destroying our lives with tornadoes and hurricanes, everyone with a brain in their head should stand up and cry foul on Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians.

  • boneheadaudio

    I’m an atheist. I don’t care what it says. My point is that a number of xians use it as an excuse to deny rights to people who aren’t just like them.

  • Samoht

    If by “Bible” you mean “New Testament”, then sure. Christians existed before the first line of the NT was written.
    The canon came about various ways, one of the important ones being that what was included didn’t conflict with what was already believed. Even then, not all works that were excluded were considered uninspired. Things like the Didache enjoyed (and still enjoy) high regard.

  • Artistree

    “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”
    – Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63

  • Obviously you’re never taken a biblical hermeneutics class. It’s okay; neither have most Fundamentalists. They make the same error.

  • pud

    Personal “experience” is not evidence for anything. 1000s of people “experienced” alien abduction and you can actually email them! Does it mean it happened? NO. People have all kinds of life changing experiences WITHOUT a deity involved..so what? People are pattern seeking primates who see things that are not there and ascribe agency to anything they can’t explain rationally. Notice that we don’t throw virgins into volcanos anymore

  • Samoht

    The problem is that you’re assuming 4. It’s not clear that abortion is mentioned at all. That’s not gymnastics.

  • rtgmath

    “Why do intelligent atheists often insist on reading the Bible like a fundamentalist– as if there’s only one way to understand and apply it to Christian living?”

    Because many intelligent atheists were once fundamentalists. Or their only interaction with Christianity was fundamentalism. Frankly, everything you hear on the news, the positioning of so-called Christians is exclusively fundamentalist (or Conservatives, which amount to about the same thing.)

    Atheists have been told that if you don’t believe the Bible is literally true and don’t give up scientific thinking, then you can’t be saved.

    So it isn’t really a surprise.

    What’s needed isn’t some kind of rebuke. What’s needed are lessons in how to read the Bible using metaphor and ways other than literal and prescriptive theology. Because when you approach the Bible, the metaphor doesn’t shout out that it is metaphor. It says “God sent a flood to kill everyone on the earth.” So, to nearly everyone, that is what it means. It said God told people to kill women who were raped if they didn’t cry out. So that is what it means.

    If it means something else, you will have to tell us. Because even looking at the cultural contexts, and even looking at other legal codexes (Hammurabi, etc.), a law was pretty much a law, a regulation was a regulation, and an injustice was an injustice. Slavery was slavery, and it was awful. But it was sanctioned, encouraged, and even commanded.

    Even if much of the Law was descriptive instead of prescriptive, it *was* prescriptive to the people of the time, and that still presents a problem. There would have been other ways to distinguish themselves from other nations than with some of the nonsensical regulations in the OT.

    So if you wish to enlighten atheists, go ahead. But don’t expect them to have a better view of Christianity than the worst parts it is showing today.

  • pud

    LOL…If the “word” is from a deity and supposed to be “perfect” NO ONE needs classes…hahahahhaa!

  • pud

    They are deranged.

    Personal experience is not reliable and we do have other means of establishing what is most likely true…science, evidence, logic.

    The most simplistic and wrong explanations might be compelling but they have no basis in truth

    Proof only exists in mathematics, logic and by definition…everything is a probability function which we assign based upon empirical evidence not “faith” or “belief”

  • Herm

    Rationally speaking, does the quark exist in your world?

  • Russell Houghton

    We atheists who speak out do so primarily because of the effects of religion on society. And those effects are inflicted primarily by fundamentalism. Maybe we get so used to attacking fundamentalism that we aren’t good at shifting.

    Your criticism is valid. To speak with a Christian, you’re going to need to speak to them based on how THEY view the bible or you’ll simply be talking past each other.

    I fully support the shift away from fundamentalism; my response to a Christian refusing to defend the old testament by saying “Why? It’s not my book.” is applause. And the Liberal Christian acceptance of gay rights, science, etc is wonderful thing to see.

    But I still sometimes find myself forcing the fundamentalist viewpoint into the conversation. I’m working on it.

    As fundamentalism fades, we’re gonna need to update our arguments. This is a good thing.

  • Herm

    That is self centered bullshit. Did you earn the love of your parents, if so, by doing what?

  • WayneMan

    There is no “only way” or accepted way to read the Bible, otherwise there would not be a thousand different Christian denominations. Just ask a Calvinist about free will and pre-selection. The Bible is full of ambiguities and contradictions, which makes it susceptible to supporting whatever belief you already had, depending on individual biases and interpretations.

  • pud

    When you are a child below the age of reason you get a pass. If you grow up to be Adolph Hitler and your parents still love you then they are just as mentally ill as Hitler.

  • To quote Han Solo, “That’s not how the Force works.”

    Every written word requires context in order to be understood properly. “Step on it” requires that you know whether I’m talking about a gas pedal, a cockroach, a stool, or a baby’s head.

    Admittedly there are many Christians, Muslims, and people of every religion, who don’t care about context; they just want their scriptures to back up whatever harebrained belief they wanna teach. They object to studying context because it gets in the way of them doing this. And Fundamentalists commit this error so often, fundamentalism has become synonymous with blistering ignorance, plus magic scriptures that do whatever you want.

    If this is what you imagine “perfect” means, you’ve been hanging around Fundies too long.

  • J.C. Samuelson

    Because intelligent atheists are no less susceptible to cognitive bias than their theist counterparts.

  • pud

    Wrong…we are not talking about a novel here, we’re talking about a book claimed to written by the creator of the universe. Is it beyond his omnipotent ability to craft a text so perfect that it could be understood without any contextual explanation requirement? If he can’t then he’s not omnipotent and the whole book is then suspect. Where’s the buybull part 2?

  • Herm

    pud, you are one, I’m assuming now, ugly American. There are millions of people throughout the world, and in the USA, who work harder than you, with no time to badger others on the Internet, if they and their own are to survive, only because they don’t have the opportunities you were given freely.

    I have worked very hard, have much more than over 80% of the world, and compared to others, I have met in this world, I did not earn what I have based on my own merit.

    pud, you are getting a pass right now that most in this world do not get.

  • pud

    so what?

  • Herm

    What love are you earning right now?

  • pud

    Does it have shape? Can it be measured? It it detectable? If so then it “exists” and not just in “my world”

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    As a Reconstructionist Jew (and no, I don’t have a tattoo but I do eat seafood occasionally), I’m constantly seeing the same thing, and it applies to Judaism as well. They act as if there are only two choices, complete belief in the literal truth of every word of the Bible (which is actually more of an early 20th century Christian phenomenon) or dismissing the whole thing as nonsense. The one I’m most sick of is Bill Maher’s “talking snake,” which no one I know, Jewish or Christian, believes in. I’m also constantly pointing out to them as well that even if you dismiss it as a religious document, saying it’s totally worthless shows just how irrational their hatred of it is. It still contains the accumulated wisdom of a lot of very smart people; poetry (including some pretty racy love poetry); some history, even if it is a polemical view; the mythology and legends of a people, etc. I sincerely doubt that any of them would dismiss the Iliad or the Odyssey as “worthless,” even though no one (at least that I’m aware of) worships Zeus or Athena these days.

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    Ditto for liberal Jews. My Torah study group discusses the stories AS stories, character motivations, what this says about the time, what insights we can gain for today from what people thought was important back then, as well as archeologically, sociologically, etc., and even the drier parts such as the rules and genealogies.

  • Lark62

    This text is a forgery. Josephus might actually have mentioned jesus, but whatever he might have said is lost and replaced by a christian hoax. This passage is meaningless, totally aside from the fact that it was written 6 decades after jesus’ death

    Do your homework.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    Here’s a good reason why: because either the bible IS the inerrant word of god or it isn’t. On what basis do you cherry pick which verses are applicable and which aren’t? Are the biblical endorsements of slavery and mysogeny still applicable? The bible certainly never corrects THOSE clear prescriptions. 10 commandments are still spot on right? Gay people are we stoning or accepting these days? See you can’t have it both ways. If its the perfect word of god then it needs to not only be consistent (which it demonstrably isn’t) but it also needs to be consistently adhered to even if its inconvenient. One would think a perfect god would have done a better job fact checking his memoirs.

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    Yes, I have seen and talked with many thoughtful, respectful atheists, both IRL and online, and the so-called “New Atheists” are completely different. I prefer the description I’ve read of them as “ANTI-theists.” I have even seen places where they have brought up the idea of banning religion, though I’m not sure how they’re going to do that without some kind of authoritarian/totalitarian government structure, the very idea of which I’m sure they would disavow. You put your finger on it with the either/or, black/white thinking. The biggest danger in the world, I’m convinced, is anyone who is convinced that they have the “Truth” with a capital “T,” whatever that “Truth” is, and that anyone who disagrees with them is either evil or stupid.

  • pud

    It’s shitty poetry, shitty literature, shitty morality (none actually) shitty commentary on reality and isn’t in the same league as the works of Homer. It’s a stupid shitty book cover to cover

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    Actually that section is pretty unclear, even in the English, never mind the original Hebrew. Nowhere, for instance, does it say anything about the woman being pregnant at the time, just that her husband suspects her of infidelity.

  • Roger Morris

    “Why Do Intelligent Atheists Still Read The Bible Like Fundamentalists?”

    Because intelligent and unintelligent conservative Christians read the Bible like that and try to impose it on everyone. Because most Christian Progressives are so benign and wishy-washy, and often so close to skeptics anyway, that they are not worth arguing with.

    And BTW, ‘atheist’ should not be a term that you use to throw a blanket over those who are skeptical of the claims of Christianity. It’s far more nuanced than that.

  • maggieloe

    While I agree and am happy for your tattoos, I think what some of us bible thumping atheists are getting at is condemnation of homosexuality while indulging in the tattoo fad. Indeed, I saw a guy who had the Leviticus admonition against homosexuality tattooed on his arm. Hmmm. Both are fine with me, but if you are going to interpret this thing literally (“I don’t hate homosexuals – God does”) its kind of hypocritical to say it only applies to “others.”

  • Herm

    Can you rationally tell me, in all honesty, that the quark has shape and can be measured?

  • True, we’re not talking about a novel. But the rules for any literature, be it historical, theological, or fictional, are all the same. Context matters. What you’re doing is insisting it doesn’t for religion; that a deity’s omnipotence should be able to overcome that. It’s a belief only Fundamentalists agree with… kinda making Benjamin’s point

    It’s the equivalent of rebuking Harry Potter, not for following J.K. Rowling’s rules for how magic works, but for not following your rules—because magic should follow your rules, otherwise it’s not real. Apparently you’re the only one who gets to be omnipotent.

  • pud

    Can you read? Is that what I wrote?

  • pud

    No..it’s a logical conclusion. An all powerful deity should be able to produce an owners manual free of any and all defects, errors, need for contextual interpretation, confusion etc

    The ONLY other options would be that the deity is purposefully vague or deceptive OR the deity is incapable of producing a perfect document.

    Deities are not JK Rowling are they?

  • RossM

    The basis on which you cherry pick is in the words of Jesus himself as recorded in Mark 12: 30-31, Matthew 22:37-39 and Luke 10:27. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”.

  • Dennis Lurvey

    If that were true they wouldn’t still be trying to legally discriminate against gays because of their bible, or take away a womans privacy because of their bible, and wouldn’t still be trying to make this a christian theocracy. The small percentage (now maybe 20%) that believe they should attack or kill whoever the bible says are sinners, are the loudest voices in the media by far and are being heard.
    The moderates you write of are silent, go along to get along, because that’s how moderates think. We need moderates to wake up, take back the message of christianity from the fanatics who embarrassed them everyday. Love your neighbor as yourself, damnit.

  • Then why bother including the rest of the bible as canon? I agree with Michelle… either it’s inerrant or it’s not. And I can see so many contradictions, calls for violence (kids dashed against rocks, bears mauling kids, etc), and cherry-picking of values. I’m a former missionary and always agreed the principles you mentioned were what was important, but there will always be people who read it at face value. If it’s not good, why is it left in?

  • pud

    Fine…proves my point that it’s useless primitive drivel good for toilet paper only

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    “Or their only interaction with Christianity was fundamentalism.”

    Really? Where do they live? I’m in a city now, admittedly, but I grew up in a small town in Western New York (maybe not the Bible Belt, but still a pretty conservative area close to the Pennsylvania border), and even I barely ever interacted with any back then, unless they were being very quiet about it – not something they’re known for, exactly. I can think of one person I know now (who works where I do but not in my department) who would qualify.

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    However, you WILL give the “every word the literal truth” reading preference over the other 42,999, since it’s the easiest one to tear down.

  • Snagglefritz Sagenschnitter

    Because if you finish reading the Bible, it actually tells you that Christians are not under obligation to follow these ancient customs.

    But in the gospel of Mark Jesus says you must follow the old customs:

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

  • pud

    Because religion and reason are incompatible. The religious fly planes into buildings the rational fly space ships to the moon.

    Bernie is a communist who would bankrupt the nation overnight. Get your own damn health care, it’s not a right and you have no right to steal my money to pay for it.

  • Bernard Dainton

    Which is actually much closer to the Islamic view of inspiration than the Christian one.

  • JP

    the Bible never calls itself “inerrant”. It does say “inspired”. Once you start saying how it’s inspired, and even saying exactly what that means, you’re into philosophy, not theology.
    Nobody is cherry picking anything simply by noticing the the various epochs and contexts of the 66 books and their purposes. Just the way one might study any ancient (or not so ancient) books or letters.
    But your post must have been fun to write even if it’s not much of a gotcha..

  • Bill Burchard

    Benjamin addresses this in another post:

    Which brings me to everyone’s favorite counter argument: “But didn’t Jesus say ‘I didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it?”

    Yes, yes he did. In fact, he says that in Matthew 5. Unfortunately, this is perhaps one of the most misunderstood (or perhaps just misused) verses in the Bible. The problem is a lack of understanding of definitions– and I’m not even talking Greek yet– there’s a basic misunderstanding of the English definitions here.

    To abolish means to annul, destroy, and formally do away with. To fulfill means to complete, or finish. Both words lead one to the same place (something in both cases has ended) but differ in how they caused or arrived at finality. Perhaps a better way to look at it is this: abolish means to cancel, but fulfill means to bring to it’s natural end– aka, “complete.” In the former something ended prematurely, but in the latter it ended via arriving at the proper ending point.

    Let’s use an analogy. If I were to say that my daughter’s softball game was cancelled (abolished), it would tell us two things: first and foremost, it tells us the game is over and secondly it tells us the game finished prior to the natural end. However, if I said that my daughter’s softball game had been completed (fulfilled) it would also reveal two things: likewise it would reveal the game is in fact over, and would also reveal the game did not finish prior to the natural completion point.

    Fulfilled and abolished functionally get one to the same place: the Law is over. Where the words differ is where it speaks to how the law was brought to an end. Jesus said it was completed, and brought to its natural conclusion. In fact, those were the words he spoke on the cross: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

    The Law is over- it was brought to the natural ending point with Christ’s death on the cross. Thus, the Law is no more in the life of a Christian.

    Now, does all this mean we’re free to live however we want?

    No, not at all. At one point Paul says, “I myself am not under the Law” but then he immediately qualifies his statement and essentially says, “Well, I am under a law– I’m under the Law of Christ.” (see 1Corinthians 9)

    If you’re a Christian, you’re not under the old Law, but a new one: the teachings of Jesus found in the red words of the Bible. All this he said, could be summarized via “love God” and “love everyone else, too.”

    May we have the courage to live by this new law.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/for-the-people-who-say-but-jesus-didnt-abolish-the-law/

  • Herm

    Based on or in accordance with your reason, or your logic, is the quark detectable?

    I risk that you don’t have the sensitivity to confirm through experimentation the building blocks of hadrons, or I will have to draw another picture to help you understand that what you accept as truth, based on your conditions, leaves you exponentially very little truth to make your choices to be constructive, or, if you choose, destructive.

    Without a good measure of “faith”, in what you cannot see or even rationalize is actually supporting your existence, fear of what you cannot control would freeze your very next choice to step in a direction.

    You take for granted the empathy, compassion and forgiveness, freely invested in you daily, only founded on the fact that you are apart of their species.

    You don’t understand the full import of in everything do to others what you would have others do to you, regardless of if or what others are doing to you. That is not reasonable or logical when you believe you have to earn everything first, but it works.

    I drive a car on our public highways first because I have faith, not reason, that my fellow drivers will, for the vast majority, drive reasonably having faith that I will do the same. Second, I drive my car far from home on the faith, not reason, that it is sound enough to get me there and back safely.

    What you won’t accept today, but is true to me (beyond faith), based on personally confirmed experimentation, is that I have a social relationship with and in spirit which includes and transcends physical. Your ignorance is understood because I was once, as you are, where physically tangible facts had to be my foundation. Now I realize that physical will always die (dust to dust, ashes to ashes), with good reason, while spiritual has no reason to have a beginning or an end. Eternity and infinity in spirit are more real to me today than the restrictions of ever changing and shifting physical within a finite, macro or microscopic, cosmic mass.

    Yes, I read what you wrote. There is exponentially more in your world that exists to influence your existence than you, or we today, can realize the shapes, can measured or detect. Our ignorance in no way diminishes its truth.

  • pud

    What a long winded bowel full of incomprehensible nonsense!

    “Eternity and infinity in spirit are more real to me today than the restrictions of ever changing and shifting physical within a finite, macro or microscopic, cosmic mass.”

    What a load of woo woo bullshit.

    I drive a car on the freeway because I know the odds and probability of successfully navigating it. No “faith” required

    If a “quark” (not to be confused with you a quack) is detectable then it exists. If it’s not detectable then it is exactly the same non existent. Undetectable and non existent are the same thing.

    “What you won’t accept today, but is true to me (beyond faith), based on personally confirmed experimentation, is that I have a social relationship with and in spirit which includes and transcends physical.”

    You’re on drugs or you’re insane. We don’t “personally confirm” anything. Confirmation is done via peer reviewed falsifiable models that can be replicated and empirically evaluated. A “social relationship with and in spirit..that transcends physical” LOL!! Define “spirit” show that such woo woo exists.

    “Yes, I read what you wrote. There is exponentially more in your world that exists to influence your existence than you, or we today, can realize the shapes, can measured or detect. Our ignorance in no way diminishes its truth”

    This isn’t even a coherent sentence! “Truth” is that which comports with reality…it can be shown…if you can’t show it, you don’t know it.

    You’re a lunatic…a stark raving madman

  • WayneMan

    A talking donkey at that.

  • It’s a mystery to me when I encounter these kinds of assertions by atheists. But then, in order to understand some of these oddities in Scripture, we have to have a broad understanding of the Bible and knowledge of hermeneutics as well. Besides, while the fact is guaranteed to burn off the ears of atheists and progressives, one of the effects of the Fall of mankind is called the noetic effect, which is a darkened intellect. That can only be rolled back when a person has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and becomes spiritually alive.

  • Herm

    I love the “bowel” part, thanks. I didn’t really expect you to be able to understand. I had to try for your sake. As it is, you really don’t have anything more to offer than to say that who we see as God you are totally blind to. Great, duly noted!

  • Anri

    It could go either way, really.
    Believing that you can pick out the historical facts in the bible using just the bible is, for the purposes of this question, the same as believing you can pick out the moral bits of the bible based just on the bible.

    My point is that I have met – well, I won’t say none, but vanishingly few people who accept that a moral tenet laid down in the bible is both the word of god and immoral. Whatever agrees with what they believe is moral – that’s what parts of the bible are authentic.
    Historically, it works the same way. When historians assumed the bible was a historical authority, well, then all of it was historically correct. Now that we have different techniques, some bits of the bible are regarded as historical and others are not. But, oddly, the bits of the bible that aren’t historical must not actually be part of the “real bible story” in the minds of many believers. Just that parts that are confirmed or ambiguous.

  • pud

    I don’t see pink unicorns either…gee I’m really missing out eh?

  • Anri

    They have far -less- reason to adopt that position than a fundamentalist
    Christian, yet they are equally committed to it. I find this
    fascinating.

    As an atheist, I’ll make a deal with Christians: when they stop claiming it, I’ll stop debunking it.

  • RossM

    The rest of the Bible is a history with examples of how the worshippers of God have, over many generations, worked out what the commandment to love God and your neighbour means in everyday life. Why is the bad stuff left in? I don’t really know, but I guess it is instructive to see the wrong turns people have taken as examples.

  • Herm

    Thanks, that’s really nice to know. It wouldn’t have bothered me if you did as it would only be between you and your unicorns. Why does it bother you so what is between God and myself?

  • Marc B.

    The problem with this explanation is that it is built on the convenient presumption that you yourself have been regenerated (I’m going to assume that’s what you believe).

  • pud

    If it stayed between just your imaginary friend and yourself and you didn’t vote, deal with children, have children or otherwise influence or interact with society, I wouldn’t give a shit what idiocy you “believe” …the problem is, lunatics like yourself can vote, do interact with children and do have children of their own who they pollute with their insane vision of reality…otherwise known as child abuse

  • “[O]nce I did a study of the ethical teachings of Jesus. I went through the four gospels and collected everything Jesus is reported to have said about what his followers should DO, and abstain from doing. Reading over what I had collected, I was surprised to find that it all hung together, it all made perfect sense, given his starting assumptions. And it did not REMOTELY RESEMBLE modern Christianity.”

    Well, you certainly got THAT right. Although, there are modern Christians who do their best to practice exactly what you describe. But they are not all that easy to find because they are scattered through most if not all “denominations” of modern Christianity.
    There are some places they are more easily found than others, but there is no single denomination that can guarantee that you can walk into any one of their congregations and find one. “[S]trait {i.e., tight, narrow} is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

  • Anri

    Knowing that Le Morte d’Arthur correctly places Britain as an island off of the west coast of continental Europe does not mean it is accurate about Lancelot’s ability to heal people by the laying on of hands.
    A work can contain both errors and truth, but works that contain errors have no reason to be believed on things that cannot otherwise be verified.

  • Newton Finn

    This unorthodox Christian agrees with you whole-heartedly. American Jesus is a dangerous idol, and those who worship him have blood dripping from their hands, not from sacrificial wounds but from wounds inflicted on others.

  • Anyone quoting Fr. Rohr is doing something right in my book. Love the man.

  • Not the only other options. You’re forgetting free will: The deity gave you a brain, and wants you to figure out most things for yourself. Surely an all-powerful deity should be able to produce humans who are largely self-sustaining, no? With holy books to set ’em straight, not dictate everything for them.

    That’s another odd phenomenon I tend to notice among atheists: They keep demanding we theists be deterministic, like Sunnis and Calvinists, and never care to notice significant numbers of Muslims and Christians have chosen not to go that way.

  • pud

    Nope…there’s no such thing as “free will” Every single thing you do that you think is an act of “free will” is the sum total of every event that ever took place over your entire life. If you were beaten as a child you would not be the same adult if you hadn’t been. You are what you are and your neurons are wired the way they are because of every experience you’ve ever had.

    Demonstrate that there is a deity. Demonstrate that he/she/it gave you anything. Demonstrate that this deity “wants” anything….All powerful eternal entities do not “want” or “need” anything by definition

    The “holy books” are crap. Do you approve of slavery?

    You didn’t “choose” to go any way…you had no choice

  • Don Roberts

    This is true. But if you read Hebrews 8:13 “When He said, “A new covenant” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” If you want smoothing from Jesus, check out Matt. 5:17 and Luke 5:36-39. The quote from Matthew 5 above was stated by Jesus before His mission on earth was completed. The Hebrews scripture I quote is of course much after Jesus died and rose again, and He was talking to Jews that were under the Old covenant in your Matthew quote.

  • Herm

    … the problem is, lunatics like yourself can vote, do interact with children and do have children of their own who they pollute with their insane vision of reality…otherwise known as child abuse

    First, I can honestly say there are as much chance that there are “lunatics like yourself” that do the same. But the rational odds are that the majority of lunatics liken to you or I do not.

    Second, there are a greater number of human beings that subscribe to one or another form of spiritual awareness than those satisfied with what they can control themselves. That may frighten “lunatics like yourself” more than it frightens lunatics like me.

    Third, it does bother me when either lunatics like you, or me, invade the other’s space to demean what they do not understand. I don’t even know what blog space physical fundamentalist lunatics like you occupy, nor do I care.

  • pud

    “First, I can honestly say there are as much chance that there are “lunatics like yourself” that do the same. But the rational odds are that the majority of lunatics liken to you or I do not.”

    You can’t even write a coherent grammatically correct sentence that would make sense to yourself!

    “There are a greater number of human beings that subscribe to one or another form of spiritual awareness than those satisfied with what they can control themselves. That may frighten “lunatics like yourself” more than it frightens lunatics like me”

    They all “believed” the earth was flat once too.

    Define and demonstrate the existence of “spirit” GL lunatic

  • I think I’m getting where you’re coming from – if it helps, I do find that some of the laws in Leviticus are both from God and immoral. I also believe that He gave us the means to improve on them, and that we’ve done so. I mean, there are rules about how hard you can beat your slaves before it’s wrong, but you don’t see a whole lot of Jewish slave-owners in the States, or in the world, so obviously that changed.

    Which, I think, it ultimately the problem – people who see the rules of the Bible as being laws rather than commands.

  • Ah, that’s why I have no choice but to not take you seriously.

    Again you keep insisting on your right to define the deity, then dictate to religionists how this being oughta think. By your definition an all-powerful eternal entity neither wants nor needs. Well, what if such a being decided it wanted a creature which existed outside its control or influence, created such a being, and limited itself so the creature would have free will? …Or is this deity not actually omnipotent enough to do so?

    Granted, people are the sum total of their experiences. It may very well be if my atheist father hadn’t beaten me, I might also be atheist. But I could use that experience either as an excuse to duplicate his behavior upon my own kids, or determine otherwise and be a better man than he. I choose how I’ll interpret my own experiences, thank you very much; I do so have free will. It’s a cop-out to claim otherwise.

    Hence if the deity wants me but won’t force itself upon me (y’know, lovingly), I can choose to interact with it. Or not. Or object it doesn’t act like the deity I want, so it can’t be a deity; there isn’t any deity. I know; if I were a deity I probably wouldn’t take that kind of risk, but good thing I’m not God.

    And hey, isn’t that the usual complaint atheists have about theists?—that we use a deity to justify all our rotten behavior? Man alive, you’re getting more and more Fundamentalist as we go.

  • pud

    Do you know how “logic” works? I thought not.

    If you are an all powerful deity then you cannot lack for anything. You cannot have any unfulfilled needs or wants or you wouldn’t be omnipotent would you?

    The deity could not produce a creature outside of its control or the deity would no longer be all powerful or omniscient would it?

    The claim that “god” is omnipotent and omniscient proves said god cannot exist. If an omnipotent god can do anything he cannot know the future for he would then be powerless to change it. You people cannot win, you are irrational, illogical and delusional

    You do not have “free will” you will eat what you do for dinner because every single event from your past has shaped your current desire and mood. You will not freely choose what to wear tomorrow because again, your entire mindset has been crafted by the sum of everything that transpires before that moment. Any deviation in those events would produce a different outcome thus proving you have no real “free will”

  • Herm

    Awareness and influence before, during and after the results of the “big bang” within the parameters of eternity (no beginning or end to the flow of time) and within the boundaries of infinity (no dimension demanding shape or micro/macro limitations).

    It wasn’t luck, just a divine Teacher!

  • My apologies Ben, but I am for sure a certified non-believer of any deity, but allow me if you will to counter your argumentative debate.

    I indeed to appreciate much your approach, but it doesn’t matter whether you are a fundamentalist or a true believer in Jesus…a Christian must follow Jesus and his teachings and Jesus wore no tattoo simply because it was a law commanded by your god.

    Without a doubt what you emphasize is that it was indeed a man-made law for Jewish identity purposes as was circumcision. But if you read the Bible it specifically states these were commands directly from the biblical god; therefore to be a Christian you must obey, for religion is a tradition and what god said then still stands today…

  • Oh so you want a logical argument? Very well.

    All-powerful means one has the power to do all. Not that one has done all, nor will do all. Not that one has fulfilled all their desires. Has the capacity to, but hasn’t necessarily. I have the capacity to call you rude names; doesn’t mean I shall. I have self-control. So, I would hope, would any mighty being; any god without compassion would suck. Like Loki in the Marvel movies.

    Perhaps you’ve fantasized—as have many of us—that if you were omnipotent, you’d deny yourself nothing. But that lack of self-denial is another trait, independent of omnipotence. You’ve added a definition which is not inherently there.

    Perhaps you believe one leads to the other, as it would in most people. But that’s only because we’re the sum total of our experiences. We’re used to being powerless; we’d like to give infinite power a whirl. Maybe try some stuff we’d always dreamed off. Like flying. Like vengeance. But assuming a deity, who’s always been omnipotent, would have the same motives… well, that’s pure projection on our part. And illegitimate.

    And you don’t a free pass for your illogical definition simply because every single event from your past has shaped your inaccuracy.

  • pud

    Holy fuck…you need medical intervention and psychiatric help stat!

    Your “comment” LOL is swill…woo woo nonsensical irrational illogical shit

    Demonstrate that one filament of that useless disconnected babble is true

    “Infinity” has no boundaries you crazy loon.

    You have no teacher…you’ve gone insane all on your own

  • pud

    Wrong. If you are all powerful all knowing bla bla bla you cannot have “wants” or anything unfulfilled. It’s not a question of willful denial it’s a question of a perfect being denied something, wanting something, desiring something…if you are perfect you cannot be lacking. If you want, desire, need you are lacking and if you’re lacking you’re not perfect.

    Assuming a deity in the first place is your first mistake

    Because I like your tone I’ll give you something…the best explanation I’ve ever heard as to why there’s no such thing as free will. Well worth your time.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

  • pud

    And yes, I do get a free pass just like the son of Sadam Hussen should have given who his father was…he had no choice but to be what he turned out to be did he?

  • You assume I have the requisite free will to have my mind changed by a clever YouTube video.

    Back to logic: All powerful means the ability to do anything. Like gain knowledge. Not that you’ve exerted this ability, and become all-knowing. If you wanna insist the deity is omniscient, fine. But stop mixing up your omnis.

    Now for omniscience. Given the deity is all-knowing, it again doesn’t logically follow the deity’s gained anything other than knowledge. Knows all would mean the deity knows precisely what it wants or needs. Doesn’t automatically mean the deity will act upon those wants and needs. Just because it can doesn’t mean it will.

    You keep insisting a perfect deity would act on those wants and needs. We have very different definitions of perfection. Most religionists would be more interested in moral perfection than material perfection: The deity’s only interested in the moral thing. Hence many religions encourage their practitioners to reject any material things that get in the way of morality. Perfection is defined by doing what’s good and just, not by having everything you could ever ask for.

    Since I’m describing how religions understand the deity, and you’re speculating about what a deity might consist of (and, schizophrenically, objecting to this god of your own invention), it sounds like you’re making far more of the assumptions in this conversation.

  • pud

    Watch it..do yourself a favor

  • pud

    No. Your mind won’t be changed via your free will…it will be changed whether you like it or not. It might not be changed so that your free of your delusional thinking but it will be changed in that it becomes one more thing in the long list of causal factors that make you do what you do.

    No. All powerful implies having all knowledge. You cannot be all powerful if you lack some knowledge. You cannot act as an all powerful entity unless you possess all knowledge..you would screw up, make mistakes, be in error for lack of knowledge therefore not all powerful

    No. Omniscient means that the all powerful entity KNOWS the past present and future. If that entity KNOWS the future he is powerless to change it! If he changed it then he wouldn’t have known it and if he knows it he cannot alter it.

    No. Morality is entirely subjective and decided by societies not deities. There is no perfect morality because it’s entirely subjective. Is your deity moral because morality is separate from him and he has no choice but to honor it or does he decide what is moral? If the deity said raping babies was moral would it be? I would hope you say that it isn’t moral by any sane human standard. So does the deity decide morality or is he subject to it?

    I am using the common descriptions of a deity as articulated by the vast majority of people who might be interested in this blog…not my version.

  • Rizdek

    Does being fundamental with regard to how one views the Bible carry with it a negative connotation?

  • Great comments Chris, let’s see if I can comeback half as well…

    1. Yes, Jesus obeyed for in Leviticus 19:28 it implicitly says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” So, even though you are Christian, you still worship the biblical god, therefore go and do as he says. But in one aspect we surely concur on, Jesus did break with traditional Judaism such as you suggested in accepting gentiles, but also in breaking from the Sabbath, accepting an adulteress instead of stoning her as commanded by the biblical god. Jesus shunned god’s specific Leviticus 13 instructions on how to deal with unclean lepers and many more, but he held steadfast to the tattoo thing. ‘Christos’ is Gnostic Greek…the root of the term, Christian and it literally means to be a follower of Christ. So yes, Christ did not adhere strictly to Jewish law, but he certainly did not tattoo himself.

    2. I believe two is fairly covered under one.

    3. Unfortunately for you and the rest of Christians, the biblical founders decided to use the Old Testament instead of simply only using their own New Testament. This has created much conflict and adversity that results in attempts to justify the contradictions and differences between Judaism and Christianity as you are kind of doing here. I guess there is always still time to delete the Old Testament, but that will never happen. At least Muslims were smart enough to write their own scripture. Even though they worship the old Jewish god as Christians do they did not retain any Torah books in their holy book, the Quran. This makes for a fresh break and no conflict of interests.

    4. I would wholeheartedly debate your conclusion on number 4. It is true that god becomes mute in the New Testament, but in the Old, which is half of the Bible, Jesus voices many commands and issues out executions for those that disobey. Directly or indirectly, god had a personal hand in killing over a quarter billion folks, including man, woman, child and infant…

    Appreciate much the conversation there, Chris…

  • Artistree

    Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me”, referring to the Eucharist. He did not say, “write this in memory of me”, although some of his eye witnesses did write memorials.

    Eucharistic liturgies sprang up across the entire Roman Empire from the British Isles to India in a short period of time after Jesus.

    So you are saying that the Roman Empire was conquered by pacifists who believed a myth within few centuries ??
    Wow, now that’s faith ! Gotta hand it to you.

  • Common descriptions aren’t necessarily correct ones—an argumentum ad populum you yourself might object to when surrounded by theists.

    Your definitions include a lot of debatable implications, and your insistence they’re not is a blindspot. And not logical. Logic dictates we reduce definitions to their most basic elements; not insist that because P causes Q, Q must mandatorily be included in P’s definition.

    Omnipotence, you insist, implies omniscience, because one can’t be one without the other. In other words, knowledge is a subset of power. I agree you could make a case for this, but you haven’t; you just demanded this be accepted as true. Likewise that an almighty, omniscient deity can’t make errors: You’ve skipped several steps in your reasoning, haven’t articulated them, expect me to accept them. How is it that the theist is the only true skeptic in this discussion?

    But back to omnipotence and omniscience. “Knowledge is power” is a popular slogan, but is it true?—does knowing a tsunami is coming make us able to prevent it? Does knowing a tsunami is coming make an almighty deity want to prevent it? Do we ignore the fact an intelligent deity might have its own motives? Or do we demand that no, we deduced how it works, and it’d better work that way?

  • Artistree

    Chris,
    Read Jude again and compare it with what Paul said.
    Jude…
    ” And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; 7 just as Sodom and Gomor′rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

    Paul….
    ” For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
    Romans 1:26-27.

  • pud

    No. This debate is centered on the common description given by the majority of christians, muslmis and jews as to what their deity is. I did not make up these descriptions they are central to the religious dogma and common to all. I don’t know of any adherent of any religion that doesn’t define their deity as all powerful, omnipotent, omniscient etc so I don’t know what your’e getting at all

    NO. All powerful means without ANY limitations. That by definition would include any and everything you can conceive including omniscience. Without omniscience you are lacking a quality that defines all powerful so therefore you are not.

    I didn’t skip any steps. If you are all powerful you cannot have any limitations including the quality of omniscience. You cannot be omnipotent and omniscient both of which are qualities the religious claim their deity has. You cannot have both qualities because they are mutually exclusive as I’ve shown.

    I don’t expect you to accept anything. I articulate well thought out bullet proof logical arguments…you do what you want to with them…or rather what you have no choice about what to do with them…lol

    “Knowledge is power” has nothing to do with this discussion about a deity. In the human realm knowledge is powerful…consider the alternative of having no knowledge…how many would be your limits then? Just because you can’t “prevent” a tsunami you can get out of the way where the idiot with no knowledge would be swept out to sea and not even know why

    No. All powerful omnipotent deities do not have motives. Motives imply desire for an outcome. Omniscient deities know the outcome and all powerful deities determine the outcome in advance. They/he/she/it doesn’t need a motive or one causal event to get to another event or set in motion a chain of events. All powerful deities do not need anything let alone entertainment where they’ve seen the beginning middle and end of the movie.

  • Fred Meekins

    It is really pretty simple. Either the Bible is the inerrant word of God (the fundamentalist position), or it isn’t (everyone else’s position). If one believes the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, then the Bible ends up being read through a lens that allows an infinite degree of interpretation. It is this infinite degree of interpretation that has resulted in the many hundreds if not thousands of different denominations, often with their own unique interpretation of critical dogma or doctrinal concepts. And for me, once you acknowledge that the fundamentalists have it wrong, then its a very slippery slope for those professing Christianity. Because if one acknowledges that there are errors, or conflicting versions of recorded events in the Bible, then the veracity and historicity of every asserted event, quotation or miracle must be called into question. So in a sense, while I don’t agree with the fundamentalist position, they are to be admired for taking a principled and intellectually honest position and defending it vigorously. Christians who acknowledge that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, fall somewhere on a spectrum of belief, and have to decide for themselves what to take literally and what to take figuratively.

    Now, to address the author’s observation. I would guess that most atheists read the Bible like fundamentalists because the Bible itself claims to be the word of God, and centuries of church teachings and Papal decrees have reinforced the claim. It is been only a fairly recent development for those claiming to be Christian to be allowed to question the inerrancy of the Bible (without threat of a heretic’s death). So as I understand it, the Bible claims to be something that most Christians now understand it is not. Trying to debate theology with someone whose beliefs and understandings shift over time with changing interpretations, is like trying to herd cats. So any real argument/debate has to be framed in such a way that both parties to the debate assume the book means what it says.

  • pud

    Further…If a deity knew a tsunami was coming and “chose” not to prevent it then he/she/it would fail the other common quality ascribed to deities of being all loving. Any deity who could prevent human suffering yet chooses not to is evil. There can be no logical or moral escape clause for this no matter how many twists you put on your brain.

    The problem of evil, also known as the Riddle of Epicurus, states:

    If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to

    Then He is not omnipotent.

    If He is able, but not willing

    Then He is malevolent.

    If He is both able and willing

    Then whence cometh evil.

    If He is neither able nor willing

    Then why call Him God?

  • paganheart

    “And why are later Christian works not considered scripture?”

    There’s an argument to be made that perhaps it is time to add later Christian works to scripture. Fred Clark has made the argument over at his blog (“Slacktivist”) that Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” would be a worthy addition; being female, I would like to see the voices of female Christian writers, scholars and mystics (Hildegard von Bingen comes to mind) included. But such talk tends to make Christian scholars’ and leaders’ heads explode, so I don’t know if it will ever happen in my lifetime anyhow…

  • Marc B.

    “If one believes the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, then the Bible ends up being read through a lens that allows an infinite degree of interpretation.”

    IMO you’ve created a false dichotomy. Even if one believes the Bible IS the inerrant word of God, there can still be many degrees of interpretation. I have no idea why you laid the burden of interpretation solely in the camp of “everyone else’s position”. In fact, you first need to define what you mean by “inerrant”. Also you seem to fail to take into account that the Bible is actually many different kinds of books/letters/writings written across hundreds of years compiled together. So no, I don’t think it is “pretty simple”. I think it’s actually pretty complicated.

  • Anri

    May I tentatively suggest it clashes somewhat with the concept of a perfectly wise, perfectly good being to get laws about how to treat people wrong the first time? Or, indeed, ever?

  • jimoppenheimer

    Oh dear! Somebody needs a hug.

  • It does. And I honestly have no answer to how to square that circle.

  • paganheart

    I regret that I have but one upvote to give this comment.

  • jimoppenheimer

    Actually, it is up to you to get up to speed. It’s not rocket science. If you get the _New Oxford Annotated Bible_, you get the best translation with excellent notes at the bottom of each page, explaining the funky stuff and the puzzling stuff and the stuff related to cultural norms we have not known for centuries.
    It is true that the NOAB can cost you forty or sor bucks at places like B&N, but you can pick up a copy at the American Book Exchange
    [abebooks (dot) com] for far and away less. They claim the books are “used”, but often they are in pristine shape, and this is a great place to locate lots of unusual texts. I got my first copy of the NOAB at seminary, but in time it wore out. Got another at ABE, and it’s in beautiful condition. Pristine.
    In any case, there is no reason not to know this stuff anymore.

  • Philip Bourdon

    The article refers to atheists and pud is one. Do you completely understand now?

  • Ian

    And if you listen, they might even tell you why. But that is a big ‘if’ for any good fundamentalist, atheist or Christian.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    No, the original post has it right.

    Given that Christians must accept at least one thing that would otherwise appear to be impossible, how does one discern between impossibilities that did happen and those that didn’t happen?

    Appealing to metaphor doesn’t resolve the issue since you still need some method to know when something outlandish is miraculous and when it isn’t meant to be true.

    Invoking the bible’s complex origin also does nothing to get you out of this corner since it doesn’t provide any clear mechanism by which to discern between metaphor, lack of understanding and genuine miracle.

    Interestingly, your concession that an inerrant bible could still be open for interpretation only worsens the problem, since it means a perfect bible could still suffer from the issues outlined above. Your insightful comment highlights the true dichotomy: either the bible is 100% accurate as written or there is no clear way to know which is the proper interpretation.

  • Artistree

    No Thanks, I’ll stick to natural law, reason, biology, the teachings of Holy Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, the Early Church Fathers, and the teachings of Mother Church as my authority.

  • Why is it a problem that I believe in the Biblical account of the Creation, the Fall and God’s plan of salvation?

  • Michael Aronson

    The problem with this article is that it’s from the perspective of someone who is not a fundamentalist and who does not claim the bible is infallible.

    The hypocrisy argument on the part of atheists serves to undermine fundamentalist claims of the bible as some historical and moral authority. It’s pretty straightforward.

  • Richard Lambert

    Pardon, but where exactly does Jesus speak in the old testimate? Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but Im pretty sure that Jesus was born much later that where the old testimate ends. :/

  • Richard Lambert

    Maybe I’m mistaken, but didint you say you were an atheist on another comment?

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Well said.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    There are no rational refutations of irrational statements like these. Nevertheless, I’ll try. The Old Covenant Torah regulated and limited the abuses of slavery common in the ancient world. The New Testament teaching does not in any way “endorse” slavery but commends everyone to be the “slave” of everyone (how can that be considered an endorsement if the owner is to be the slave of the slave he owns?). Read the texts; fact check them yourself before you condemn them.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    If you can’t even read the Bible literally (where does scripture say God hates homosexuals?) why would you judge Benjamin as “kind of hypocritical”?

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    So are you saying that you feel justified in imposing a literalistic understanding of scripture on others because someone else does?

  • maggieloe

    The bible is a collection of books written and translated over long periods of time by many different people. Within these books are admonishments for the most hateful and heinous cruelties as well as phrases that inspire compassion, inclusion, self responsibility and kindness. Which statements one chooses to live by, and how one chooses to interpret them, says nothing about God, very little about the Bible, and volumes about oneself.

  • I’m more than happy to have a long argument about literary parallels between Homer and the Gospel of Mark and the various literary techniques and the positions the experts have on the text. But, if you think the Bible is totally true, then I’m going to tell you that’s not true.

    Much of this argument comes off like asking why atheists argue against Christianity more than Islam. Um, my sharp wit and witty criticisms go to where the hypocrisy in front of me is. If you think the Bible is totally true and you say you believe it, you’re going to get a fundamentalist interpretation back. If you think it’s the best literature ever and entirely full of great advice, I’ll point to where it’s manifestly stupid advice.

    I’m not sure why this is that hard to follow. I don’t believe any of it. So the way you say it’s true, is the way I’ll relay it back to you. Because you, personally, don’t think it’s true in that manner doesn’t make my reading to this other person wrong. To criticism fundamentalists I interpret the bible like a fundamentalist. To criticize a religious liberal, I interpret the bible like a religious liberal. Your ability to watch me criticize a fundamentalist doesn’t mean I read it like a fundamentalist. I personally read it like a text written by ancient people who made a lot of the stuff up and borrowed other bits, and none of it actually bears out. But, reductio ad absurdum requires that take another person’s viewpoint.

    I don’t really know how to make you see your beliefs clearly without showing you them in a mirror.

  • Fred Knight

    I’m not sure how other “non-believers” respond, but sadly I see a trend. I get your point in spades, and it literally mystifies me as to why fellow atheists can’t make subtle distinctions…..I could deflect and make excuses, but truly it baffles me. Why do atheists refuse to take you at your word and superimpose a hyper-literal interpretation and then laugh at you when you object? I have to go back to the “human condition”….not sure why atheists are uncomfortable with that….a great irony there.

  • Fred Knight

    I don’t see them as one who is outside the Christian box, bur rather more typical than not, why don’t atheists hear the point? NO! nullify and destroy the enemy…..lack of hearing going on in the atheist community….and damned if I know why….insecurity?

  • Michael Aronson

    Why don’t atheists hear what point?

  • Fred Knight

    “Because, many self-decribed “Christians” persist in making moral
    judgements about other people, citing the Bible as a moral authority”

    that just blows me away. do you not understand that “secular” “atheists” claim and execute their moral authority.in spades, all day long, every day? forget about gay and trans activists who claim to be the underdog as well…everyone is exerting moral influence, for good or bad, all the time

  • Fred Knight

    because abortion is so lovely and praiseworthy and honoring true womanhood…..the bible is so backward!

  • Fred Knight

    sadly, from what I’ve gleaned, atheists seem to be dumb as shit (at least in this forum) in regard to basic humanity and common sense questions…..this is an apologetic site, nothing more…..I really hope Christians don’t form their opinions of all non-believers based on these responses…..color me disappointed and wondering why we look to the internet for real world answers (if we actually do….which I doubt.)

  • Marc B.

    No, you have it wrong, in my opinion.

    First of all, there is neither a corner nor a problem. These are just our opinions. Whether or not they cause problems or corners is completely arbitrary.

    Anyways, two things:

    “Given that Christians must accept at least one thing that would otherwise appear to be impossible, how does one discern between impossibilities that did happen and those that didn’t happen?”

    Why is it important for a Christian to discern which did or didn’t happen?

    “your concession that an inerrant bible could still be open for interpretation only worsens the problem, since it means a perfect bible could still suffer from the issues outlined above”

    Are you an authority on what would constitute a “perfect” Bible? How would a person know the Bible is perfect? Is a perfect Bible supposed to be discernible as perfect?

    But let’s take the latter option of your final dichotomy — from your post, you seem to think that a Christian has to have a “clear way” to know the proper interpretation. Why? What if a Christian is okay with not having absolute clarity? If the most important thing to a Christian is the manner in which they live their life, doesn’t all your reasoning and logic become irrelevant?

  • Fred Knight

    yeah, hypocrisy of Christians is the true issue of the day……and the Biblical text is so perverse, blah blah blah……if there is a central core universal intelligence, congratulations you have officially tapped out and are not in touch.

  • Marc B.

    First, my comment never stated that I have a problem with what you believe. Where I think the problem lies is in your reference and appeal to the noetic effect and being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

  • Fred Knight

    “It is the cherry picking that I find obnoxious.” wow, the stench of the hypocrisy reeks to high heaven……seriously, atheism sucks ass! why are you so goddamned proud of it??? nothing resembling reality is found here.

  • Snagglefritz Sagenschnitter

    He was talking to Jews that were under the Old covenant in your Matthew quote.

    I wonder who he was talking to in Matthew 18:6 when he said: If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

    I wonder if he ever followed up on that threat or was he just engaging in trash talk?

  • Bill Diaz

    You know, that was the same advise my PhD mentor gave me regarding public speaking in scientific forums. The first an most important thing being to insult your audience and to further establish your contempt for them and their opinions. Wait, that never happened and it is ridiculous for me to suggest it did.

    I couldnt understand your question until I read this comment. Your comment and conduct place you firmly within the ‘Willfully Ignorant’ and ‘Aggressively Stupid’ categories. Those are people whose ‘thinking’ can be safely and completely ignored.

    The best equivalent I can come up with, are white supremacists. Looking at pictures of those groups (based on 20+ years of medical research), they probably arent the best spokescritters for their avowed purpose. You similarly seem to be a poor example of human intelligence, much less a ‘central core universal intelligence’. Your argument is the opposite of persuasive, whatever you believe it is likely that I would be happiest on the other side of that issue, lol.

    Have a great day!

  • Jordan F. Mooney

    However, the code of moral conduct as it pertains to the Decalogue is spelled out by St. Paul, and the homosexuality question would fall into that category.

  • Lark62

    Hmm, in the face of such clarity and logic, how can one respond?

  • Bill Diaz

    As an old bald guy whose daughter used to make fun of for being bald 2 King 2: is my favorite part of the Bible. I used to tell Maria that if she didnt stop, I was calling for bears to take her away. I fully support that idea, that if you dont get off my lawn and make fun of me for being old and bald, I get to feed you to bears, lol.

    Have a great day!

  • Fred Meekins

    I have to assume that you do believe things, or else there would be no need to admit you were religious.. Excuse my laziness for not consulting Websters, but the internet dictionary defines the word religious as: ” relating to or believing in a religion”. Religion is then defined as: “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”.

  • How do you even get out of bed in the morning without believing things. I mean it seems like an extraordinarily stupid claim to make. Do you mean something else? That religion isn’t about believing absurd notions, or that religion isn’t about what you believe but how you feel about life, or basically anything else that isn’t effectively saying you are not a functional adult. — Sorry, challenge rejected.

  • Fred Meekins

    Exactly what do you say is untrue? I don’t disagree that the inerrancy lunacy is a recent development. My whole point is that you have to argue with those that claim the Bible is inerrant by reading it the same way they do. My second point being that those who don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, would need to explain why they chose to accept some of the teachings as true, others as metaphor, and why they totally disregard others.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    I don’t know how you think it’s rational that I should take pointers on the concept of “reality” from someone who believes a magic sky fairy “loves” him “unconditionally” on the express condition that he accepts and believes based on no good evidence whatsoever.

  • Fred Meekins

    Point conceded. Those that believe in the inerrancy of the Bible do have a wide spectrum of interpretation as well.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    If owning another person as property and being allowed to beat them within an inch of their lives as long as they don’t die within a couple of days of the beating has a context in which it is morally okay, I would be very interested to know what it is – unless of course god’s morality progressed as societies progressed, which completely negates the concept of “objective morality” coming from god. As for your proposition that the new testament does not endorse the concept of slavery – please feel free to refer to “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5 NLT) and “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT) – If you are a god that wants to communicate a message to people, do you think an omniscient, omnipotent god that knows what’s going to happen would use such a poor communication device? A prescriptive morality open to massively divergent interpretations with passages that are direct quotes that are supposed come from himself (as communicated to his vessels) that are demonstrably immoral?

  • Fred Meekins

    “Why is it important for a Christian to discern which did or didn’t happen?”

    Because the entire foundation of a Christian’s belief system is based upon a reported miraculous event (spontaneous conception, the creation of a viable diploid zygote from a single haploid egg cell) that does not occur in nature, at least without some supernatural cause. So if you believe in the asexual conception of Mary, then you must presuppose the existence of a supernatural being, for which there is no evidence.

    And we haven’t even talked yet about the resurrection, the ascension and the other miraculous events relayed in the Bible’s stories which form the basis of Christian belief.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    If an omniscient and omnipotent being chooses a book to convey his message to the world and for it to be used as “proof” that he exists and should be honoured, worshipped and obeyed? For darn skippy I would expect it to be inerrant… unless your god makes mistakes, in which case, why use the bible as the basis for your faith at all? I’m basically saying, if this message was so important to the lord of the universe, why didn’t he take greater care for it to be conveyed accurately? Yes, other ancient texts are open to interpretation, have poor moral codes in them by modern standards and in many cases are just plain wrong. The difference is, they’re not being sold as the one true basis by which I should live my life.

  • Anri

    To maybe expand on my initial snarky answer:

    I am willing to meet Christians on whatever footing they wish to insist on for their holy book.

    If they with to tell me it’s the infallible, inerrant word of an all-powerful god, I’m willing to examine to see if that holds up.
    If they wish to tell me it’s a garbled or confused version of a perfect being’s perfect wisdom, I’m willing to have a discussion about how to distinguish garble from truth and god’s failure to keep his message intact.
    If they with to tell me it’s just a big book of middle eastern fairy stories that seems derivative of local cultural currents, I’m wiling to discuss it’s overall validity.

    In other words, I’m not insisting that any Christian interpret the bible as does a fundamentalist. I’m merely recognizing that some do, and those that don’t might need to explain why they don’t.

    If you tell me a perfect being authored a book with flaws, I’m going to – quite reasonably I think – start questioning your premise.

  • Lemme let you in on a little secret. The Bible is full of shit and says contradictory things all the time. You cannot argue that it says one thing one place and counter that notion with it by saying that it says something else, elsewhere. It says both A and ~A. You cannot find some section where it says doing thing X is good. And then suggest it says something else somewhere else and thus didn’t say the first thing it clearly did.

  • Anri

    Personally, if my train of thought was leading me to results that didn’t match reality, I’d start questioning either my logic or my premise.

    But I guess that’s why I’m an atheist.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    That’s a lovely passage to use. But what about the really awful things the same jesus is recorded to have said? In support of bigotry Matthew 15:22-26 we find this telling conversation:
    A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” – Breaking families apart in Luke 14:26:
    “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Not to mention that Christ expressly says that he is not sent to overturn the laws of the old testament in Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” So here’s the question, why choose that particular passage to base your entire belief system on and disregard the bits that are inconveniently awful. Why is the “word of god” open to interpretation, misinterpretation and the nasty bits can be disregarded based on what? Xtians say that their morality comes from the bible and then disregard entire passages where god prescribes morality that is inconvenient.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    I can deal with the “wrong turns” people may have taken in this ridiculous book. But how do you account for the wrong turns god himself appears to have taken and then never bothered to correct in over 2000 years?

  • Fred Meekins

    I don’t disagree. But I think the rise of the “anti-theist” movement is a direct response to the rise of the “wear your fundamentalist religion on your sleeve at all times” movement of the religious right wing. In my mind, this all started with the co-opting of Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority ilk by the Republican party to help put Reagan in the White House. But what do I know?

  • Lynn

    Thanks for this comment. I would have an issue with this, too, if it’s solely used to manipulate an argument. But trying to read a passage in different ways, through different lenses, in order to discern its meaning is longstanding intellectual tradition in Christianity. Even those closest to Jesus had to ask him what his parables meant; why should we be any different? The spiritual practice of holding and examining paradox, as a way of letting go of self, is usually respected by atheists when Buddhists do it. But most atheists demand that Christianity should be free of paradox. Why, I wonder? Why demand that the Christian God must present everything to us at a first-grade primer level?

  • Realist1234

    My experience in conversing with atheists is they insist that the Bible must be understood in a particular way as they know they can then use it against Christians and their beliefs.

    Genesis is a good example. Ive found many to insist that it must be understood literally, as a scientific textbook. End of conversation. They then use that to mock such beliefs. If you then argue that the Bible has different genres, not all historical, then you are accused of trying to ‘explain away difficult parts’. Even if you point out the text itself indicated it is not to be taken literally, eg how can you have a literal 24-hr day without the sun (not ‘created’ until day 4)?, this is also dismissed.

    I know Christians often have their own agenda, but it’s obvious so do atheists.

  • SavannahRob

    Can you give me some examples?

    The point I want to make is that it isn’t about the book or how I read it or how Christians read it, it’s about the believers apply it.

    Atheists cite the parts they want to ignore because it weakens the idea that the Bible should inspire any modern law. Application of Biblical law and practice changes based on the evolving cultural preferences of Christians. That’s “building a house on shifting sand”.

  • Tim

    Just an observation on #3: Yes, but in retaining the old testament, the intention was clearly not to follow it to the letter, given heavy reinterpretations of its meaning by those in the NT, Jesus included. Jewish faith seems to consist of a lot of debate rather than dogmatism, a feature I wish had translated over to Christianity.

    On #1: Does this not at least give us a clue that the function of the OT was not to be read with wooden literality?

  • ZackBop

    I don’t always agree with you, but this post is spot-on.

  • Walter LeSaulnier

    Even though I’m an anti-theist, I have many Christian friends.These friends all take the bible in the the way you describe. The problem is that there are many Christians that take the bible, especially the old testament, 100% literally and do not make that distinction..

  • gimpi1

    Well, the thing is, many Christians don’t buy that “perfect word” line. Now, many do, and this is just one thing that the thousands of denominations of Christianity disagree about.

    Now, if Atheists want to challenge the groups that do fall into the “perfect word” dogma – such as the Southern Baptists – fine. I’m all for that. However, I think it’s disingenuous to challenge Christians about that belief when their group – like, oh, say, Christian Unitarians – doesn’t buy into that belief.

    It’s like holding Libertarians responsible for the standard Republican culture-war stuff because they agree with the Republicans on low marginal tax-rates. There’s plenty of things to take both Libertarians and Republicans to task for, without throwing their beliefs into a mix-master.

  • pud

    Doesn’t matter. ALL christians buy into the same fundamental delusional ideology….That there is a god, one god, their god, that magical jesus rose from the dead. These are core beliefs along with an afterlife, heaven, some version of hell etc. They all deserve the same contempt for holding and propagating stupid idea.

  • Bill Burchard

    “Maybe I’m mistaken, but didint you say you were an atheist on another comment?”

    You’re not mistaken; I am an atheist. (But I like Jesus’ teachings.) And I truly wish that all Christians would follow Christ’s teachings, which are founded on treating each other with love. Unfortunately, too many Americans claim the title “Christian” while ignoring Christ’s teachings; especially His most fundamental teaching and foundational commandment: Love God and love your neighbor, upon which “All the Law and the Prophets” hangs. When I encounter such folks, I encourage them to reread Jesus’ teachings and view His messages from the perspective of love, and treating others—everyone—with love.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I don’t think that every Christian’s belief system revolves around the ‘virgin birth’. For me, it revolves around the humanist teachings of Jesus.

    This is why there are 40,000+ Christian denominations; nothing is clear and everything is subject to interpretation/context/culture.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Maybe he’s a Christian atheist. I know a few of those…

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    That Christians just determine their own morality and then throw the label “Christian” on it to sanctify it. It is not based on the bible, although they think it is important that they make it look like it is.

    If us atheists would just get this through our thick heads, life would be so much better. Then again, maybe if Christians understood it, too, there wouldn’t be as many problems.

  • gimpi1

    I think we’re just going have to agree to disagree, then.

    I won’t hold people accountable for things they don’t believe because people sort of like them believe something. Christians who don’t believe in an inerrant Bible don’t get put in the same box as those who do, in my view.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    If the most important thing to a Christian is the manner in which they live their life

    Given that many Christians consider belief more important than works, this may not be as universal as you imply.

    doesn’t all your reasoning and logic become irrelevant?

    Not at all. In fact, this is the point of introducing tattoos in the first place. Are they improper? How do you know?

    Is turning the other cheek a good thing to do? How about having one of the punishments for rape be that the abuser must marry his victim? Is that right? How do you know?

  • Michael Reid

    I’m a secular humanist, and a fan of Hemant Mehta’s writing, but I have to acknowledge that you make a good point. Teasing a teenager is a bit unnecessarily mean, as well – low-hanging fruit. However, as Walter LeSaulnier points out below, many Christians – especially those of the traditions that this young lady appears to subscribe – do read the Bible in this uncritical, unintelligent manner. But good blog post. Intellectual honesty requires us non-believers to permit our own sacred cows to be gored.

  • Herro

    Bill, that interpretation just doesn’t work. In the very next sentence Jesus says that not a single jot or tittle of the law will be abolished and that those who break the smallest of the commandments will be called the least in heaven.

    That doesn’t fit with “the law is over”.

    Funnily enough, that’s how fundamentalists interpret these verses, but you will not see critical NT scholars interpret it this way.

  • Query: how do you know when you are encountering fundamentalist atheists who have plethora of fetid assumptions and festering prejudices?
    //My experience in conversing with atheists is they insist that the Bible must be understood in a particular way as they know they can then use it against Christians and their beliefs.//
    This is my experience too! Often I think they are in denial about some childhood traumas regarding being exposed to caregivers who were religious addicts. Literal interpretation is all they know and, in my humble opinion, they’ve been hurt by it and that hurt keeps hurting them. They’re looking for somebody to blame for that!! In a pinch you will do!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/77ee955125b786f64069b7b15b018bbf100604c75d86bfe85f9dc6efc3328349.jpg

  • Amor DeCosmos

    If God was real, you’d think he’d have released The Bible v.III by now, just to clarify a bunch of stuff and to say that things like pedophilia, slavery, and treating women like chattel are no longer cool and tattoos, cutting the sides of your hair, and wearing mixed fabrics are totally fine now… unless God thinks pedophilia, slavery, and treating women like chattel are still cool and he’s still against tattoos, cutting the sides of your hair, and wearing mixed fabrics are out and we’re all sinners bound for hell for even suggesting all humans have certain equal rights… I just don’t know…. hopefully The Bible v. III will clear that all up… But who will be the prophet that writes the Bible v. III – Joel Osteen? Franklin Graham? Ray Comfort? Which human is closest to God and most likely to actually speak for Him? ….OR is this Bible stuff just stories made up by ancient people and we should treat the Bible the same as a book of Greek mythology…?

  • You are quite right about the approach. I have no real problem with most Christians. I may not understand why some Christians believe as they do (the concept of original sin, for example), but they are not trying to cram it down my throat. I have a problem with those people who attempt to legislate their religious beliefs.

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    If you think this is a discussion about the literary or even cultural value of the bible, then you’re not really intelligent enough to be participating in this conversation in the first place.

  • Bill Burchard

    “In the very next sentence Jesus says that not a single jot or tittle of the law will be abolished…”

    Well, it actually says “not a single jot or tittle of the law will be abolished” until the law is fulfilled.

    As Benjamin points out:

    The Law is over- it was brought to the natural ending point with Christ’s death on the cross. Thus, the [Mosaic] Law is no more in the life of a Christian.

    If you’re a Christian, you’re not under the old Law, but a new one: the “teachings of Jesus found in the red words of the Bible. All this he said, could be summarized via “love God” and “love everyone else, too.”

  • Michelle Bezuidenhout

    Mein Kampf has literary, cultural and historical value. It’s author even thinks he was divinely inspired. There are some good parts in there. But nobody thinks its a good basis for moral and spiritual guidance. We’re not discussing literary value Professor Mushferbrains. I repeat, if you’re incapable of grasping the discussion topic, then maybe you shouldn’t be participating.

  • Adam

    You mean, the Book of Mormon? Not looking for a fight, but what you described is literally the founding argument of the LDS faith.

  • “Long story short: the vast majority of Christians for the past 2,000 years have felt little compulsion to follow most of the ritualistic and cultural practices of our religious ancestors ”

    For the fast majority of the time, when a Christian wants to speak to an atheist about the Bible they want to show how stupid we are for not believing.

    They tend to be Evangelical fundamentalists (William Lane Craig, Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, etc.) that hold a literal interpretation. As a result many atheist especially those with no Christian back ground end up reading the Bible as the fundamentalist.

    As a result we do make mistakes by assuming as Hemant (who’s blog I read “religiously” ;-) every day) did that the young lady followed a literal interpretation. I agree with the other atheist on the comments like Michael Reid and Walter LeSaulnier. And fully realizing that I will be recognized as a No True Scotsman; I grew up in a Progressive church, became a fundamentalist, then back to progressive Christianity and now am an atheist. I do know ‘the vast majority of Christians for the past 2,000 years have felt little compulsion to follow most of the ritualistic and cultural practices of our religious ancestors’. The problem as I see it, those are not the Christians go out of their way to interact or engage with atheists.

    One of the reasons that I started reading this blog is because I was searching for common ground with progressive Christians in hopes that together we could advance those areas we agree.

  • Irfan Nurahmed

    The more intelligent a person is, the more desperate they are for answers to unanswerable questions.

  • Don Roberts

    I believe Jesus was talking to the powerful in this passage. Those who have opportunity to control and manipulate His children

  • Vin Rohm

    Okay…. I’ll try to explain it to you as plainly as I can.

    The “enemy” is not the liberal leave ’em and love ’em Christian like yourself. The folks out their trying to get their religion in our science classes and their ridiculous religious beliefs legislated are the fundamentalists. We have to read the bible like they do or they would never, ever understand us, just like they don’t understand you. You can try to “correct” their misunderstanding… believe me, I’ve tried (I’m a former Bible scholar) but it won’t work. So, we fight fire with fire, literalism with literalism.

  • RossM

    You are treating the Bible as if everything written in it is of equal value, but there is an historical progression. For example, the Matt 5 extract is largely superseded by

    (1) Matt 27:51 – the splitting of the veil in the Temple. For the Jews, the Shekinah – the Presence of God – dwelt in the holy of holies room in the Temple, a place that only the High Priest ever entered, and then only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The veil was 15m high (48 feet in British Imperial units) and was split from the top. In other words, at that point God himself changed the laws and the old way that people related to God changed forever. That is, all the Old Testament laws regarding priests were scrapped.

    (2) Galations 2 shows the scrapping of the need for male believers to be circumcised.

    (3) Acts 10 shows Peter deciding that the Jewish dietary laws no longer needed to be followed by Christians.

    So Jesus may not have intended to change the law, but the law – much of it anyway – did get changed because of the crucifixion.

    I note that you carefully didn’t post the end of the story about the Caananite women, when Jesus changed his mind. What on earth makes you think it is OK to quote just half a story?

    Also, remember as you read the Bible that it was written in a different language in a different culture and time. Words may have had meaning in a cultural context then that they do not have now, and vice versa.

  • “Why Do Intelligent Atheists Still Read The Bible Like Fundamentalists?”

    So that we’re better prepared to have discussions with fundamentalists…

  • Claire Voyant

    I’m a Christian, and I also have a problem with people who attempt to legislate their religious beliefs.

  • Historically, Christians have placed the Bible at the foundation of an ongoing body of written tradition, which seeks to clarify and reinterpret its principles for each new generation. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches still insist that it is the Church, rather than the Bible, that defines Christian doctrine. The Anglican Church and its offshoots take a similar approach, but with a more complex interplay between church, tradition, and scripture.

    While it’s true that fundamentalists take a radically different approach, that approach is much more recent. Even the original Protestant reformers–despite all their talk about “sola scriptura”–never imagined using it the way today’s fundamentalists do.

    So there’s no need for a Bible v.III. Many Christians are quite comfortable recognizing the Bible’s flaws as well as its strengths. What is needed is to make sure those who would use the Bible as a weapon don’t have the power to do so. (And work to remove them where they do have such power.)

  • Herm

    If a no begin and no end spirit, all caring, God exists, influencing in all space, requiring no physical space to function wholly as a single They, with all hearts, souls, strengths, minds synchronized as one, then there are none of the human species, on this earth, who can bear the heat of literalism. We all get burnt when left without metaphor and allegory to picture outside common understanding. Thank God that forgiveness is real because I just explained it to you as plainly as I can!

    It is not the literal that convinced me to seek God as portrayed by Christ. It was the projected upon fact that fighting fire with fire (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth) leaves a trail of ashes, even from the backfire. Fighting imperfect literacy with imperfect literacy, which includes us all relatively speaking, leaves a trail of evidenced destruction without end. To love my enemy, empathetically possible for any within my species, enough to die for, in the off chance that they might learn to live constructively actually makes more sense for the good of my species. I guess that would not be necessarily true if each one of us were not so certain to die as we each are.

    I agree, Vin, that it is the fundamental literalists of any religious bent, even religiously atheistic, who are the enemy. Christ made it very clear that the merciful are my good neighbors and that the covetous, the subjugaters, the intimidaters, the manipulators, the confusers, and the narcissists are my enemies. I cannot fight them in kind and expect to win for any of us.

    Thank you for your effort in explaining it as plainly as you did!

  • Your entire worldview is made of belief. And all religions are simple composed entirely of beliefs. You can argue those things you believe are true and well sourced with good evidence, but not that you don’t believe anything.

  • Even people with true religions like theistic scipans still believe things. Even though they don’t believe anything I wouldn’t also believe or things not founded on good evidence. The problem is you’re saying you have an element of a worldview but that element isn’t made out of beliefs. It’s like saying you have eat a banana because you don’t eat any chemicals.

  • Herm

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say desperate. The more I learn, the more I do and the more I just simply sense, the more I realize how little I really know and how little I can be assured to control my own future.

    I really didn’t care about eternal life, for it is beyond my finite understanding, until I realized, at the age of 40, that it would take me at least that long to experience all the possible adventures left untried even if I lived to be a healthy 120 years of age. I have been very comfortable since that time taking moments out of every day to savor. I actually do feel blessed to have even this opportunity of a short little flicker of life to be aware of and influential in.

    I still would value more time to live for I can clearly see now, at age 73, that it is just past the end of eternity that I will finally have no more unanswerable questions to pursue. Can that be considered light at the end of the tunnel?

  • The Bible doesn’t need defending, and there are enough mealy-mouthed people in the world. Truth is truth. God gave us all the task of sorting the wheat from the chaff for ourselves, so it’s inevitable that many here will disagree with me. Believe it or don’t, but I can’t sugar-coat my speech for the benefit of unbelievers.

  • Marc B.

    Right, you’re regenerated, and your proof of this is…. because you say so. Logic therefore dictates that you know what truth is really truth. Does that about sum it up?

  • Well, obviously people wrote the writings that ended up in the Bible, and people collated those writings as well. They are products of their time just like any other writings.

    Granted, fundamentalists see the issue differently, and this is why I’m curious about this statement from you:

    “In other words, I’m not insisting that any Christian interpret the bible as does a fundamentalist. I’m merely recognizing that some do, and those that don’t might need to explain why they don’t.”

    Why exactly is the burden of proof on people who do not interpret the Bible as a transhistorical book written by a divine being? It seems like, by your own assumptions, the burden of proof should go the other way.

    I mean that as a legitimate question, because you are not the first atheist I’ve come across to more or less assert that the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is the -default- and any other interpretation is basically waffling or sophistry or is just liberal nonsense that can be safely ignored. This is basically Sam Harris’ position, and he gets points for consistency because this is also his position on Islam and the Koran.

    But why is that the default?

    For me, the Bible is an aggregated collection of disparate writings written by human beings using their human brains. The writings show every evidence of this being the case and, as such, are best interpreted the same way we would interpret any piece of ancient literature, which is most definitely NOT a plain, literal interpretation according to 21st century linguistic conventions.

    But you’re saying that -I- need to justify my reading, whereas the fundamentalist reading – which is that the Bible should be read as the infallible product of a divine being, and since the words transcend history and should be crystal clear to anyone who might pick it up, the best way to interpret it is plain contemporary literal English – is the default and needs no particular explanation.

    If I’m reading you wrongly, I apologize. It’s just that I run into propositions like this from atheists with some degree of frequency, and I don’t understand why the fundamentalist reading gets to be the default reading. Why do they win?

  • Yepper, richard ya indeed did misunderstood me…

    However Jesus did refer quite a few times to the Old Testament ~ Jesus said the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). He referred to Scripture as ‘the commandment of God’, Matthew 15:3, but also more vehemently as ‘the word of God’, Mark 7:13. To his disciples, Jesus constantly referred to the Old Testament: ‘Have you not read that which was spoken to you by God?’ Matthew 22:31.

    There are more, so there ya go, Richard…

  • Irfan Nurahmed

    I, too, believe that can be considered the light; the light of attaining wisdom.

    The more I learn about concrete things, the more I realize something I thought I knew can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways by its beholders. That irony brings me the desperation, I think; perhaps more like an unquenchable thirst to fathom, for example, why a train is a transport vehicle to some and a monster to others. So, the more I learn, the thirstier I become to understand the many possible iterations of a thing and, so, I often find myself referring to the Holy Bible or the Quran and other texts to gain some perspective on even “mundane” things like humanity.

    This thirst is unquenchable because, of course, I could never know all the different faces of anything. But I will aspire to the wisdom inherent to some thing; some universal truth that must remain therein.

    One might argue that that truth is Wisdom. Such a drink is not quite as thirst-quenching as coconut milk, when gathered for the sake of seeing why a train is transportation to some and a monster to others. But it does work rather like cool, natural spring water for me when I’d like to gain some insight on the paradox of perception. Bottoms up!

  • Richard Lambert

    I love you <3 ! ^__^

  • Good to hear from you Herm! I found this quote earlier today and it seems cromulent to this discussion in my humble opinion! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6e98ffee66a51271504afbdf531d69be3c93859c2ece06436ea8042663e55d1f.jpg

    And this:Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.-Frantz Fanon
    And this! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5450615ebe192535e14c59d8cdb4328f0103e4b4adc5d2b644ea126237bdc3bd.jpg

  • Speaking of trains I thought you might like this video of the world’s most extreme trains.
    https://youtu.be/gV79eObat24

  • Anri

    The bible claims to be the story of god, as inspired by god and written at the behest of and with the guidance of god.

    If you want to tell me it isn’t, that’s fine – but I certainly don’t see any reason for me (or for you, but that’s not my call) to believe the fairy stories in it if that’s the case. Moreso, as most books of fairy stories don’t try to pass themselves off as truth.

    The only reason to accept the truth of the bible is to assume the bible is true. I think the fundamentalist position is self-explanatory: a perfect being created a perfect work to spread their perfect word.
    The concept that a perfect being created a flawed work not all that good at spreading their vastly important message requires a great deal more explanation.
    A person insisting on the divine origin of the bible while also accepting that it is flawed is saying that god either can’t or won’t make his message of saving mankind clearer. The former doesn’t make any sense in the case of an all-powerful being, and the latter doesn’t make sense in the case of an all-loving being. The christian god is supposed to be both.

    So, no, I don’t think that believing that god is perfect but just gets stuff wrong sometimes is a good default position.
    Nor do I think accepting on faith the cosmic worldview of book of fantastic stories made up by fairly primitive people is a good default position.

  • joylederman

    It’s the HYPOCRISY of Christians that stinks in my nostrils. They pick and choose which verses of the Bible they’re going to adhere to.

  • JP

    of course you’re free to challnge…..but you may as well get the opposing claims right. This “omniscient omnipotent being” (three words you will not find in the Bible) never chose “a book”. Read Hebrews 1 (in the NT) to see how Christians think he chose to convey his message. All your accusations have (at least) one thing in common….the presumption of how an “omniscient, omnipotent being” ought to behave. Doesn’t it seem odd that we who are NOT “omniscient” nor “omnipotent” should prescribe how such a “being” should behave?
    I suspect you’re having fun vs. attempting serious engagement. You seem more capable than your argumentation suggests.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Did you read the article? Explain your point, please.

  • Thats Really quite amazing. Trying to use the presence of contradiction, falsify, and paradox as reasons to accept a particular set of beliefs as true! The less believable the better! Wow!

  • Pop Vasile

    :) Spot on. I mean, Jesus seems to not like America that much, why would He send a buffon to the White House otherwise? Cause we all know, the president, this particular one is sent by God. At least that’s what all my neo-protestant ex-buddies who moved to USA are telling me..

  • Pop Vasile

    Sure thing, but this did not stop Christians to use Sodom for blaming homosexuality, for hundreds of years.

  • Pop Vasile

    Sure, but again, this is a list of the sins, it does not say “specifically” that homosexuality was not a sin. Nevermind, this fine details did not stop Christians to go against homosexuals

  • Pop Vasile

    “I don’t know any Christian” is not the same “there are no Christians”. It’s important to note here that all these denominations you mention are rather a niche more than a big part of Christianity. You know, 0.05% of Christianity are accepting homosexuals, 0.05% of Islam is made out of jihadists, etc.
    US Christians are playing a big role here in Romania, they are swaying a lot of Orthodox Christians, converting them to Baptism and Penticost, mostly. And Jehova’s Witness, but that’s borderline Christianity :) So, I went to this Baptist church once, I have never heard a more homophobic preacher in my life and Orthodoxism is very homophobic. So yeah, there are rainbow churches in your town, but you know, no rainbows on Catholic/Orthodox/Baptist/Penticost churches/temples.

  • Pop Vasile

    No doubts, things changed a lot since the medieval times (for USA even more, if you think about what was around in medieval times :) ). “shady” was a very wrong word, it was supposed to be only about numbers, my bad. I know people became more comfortable with homosexuals, if you ask american preachers coming to Romania about it, they will tell you US is becoming Land of Sodom and God’s representative, Trump, is the last hope. I’m actually quoting here.

  • Pop Vasile

    How do you get from “cruelty to the poor” to “rape”?
    Sodomy is about non-standard sex, if you really are picky about the definitition. Anal, bestiality, oral sex, you name it. On the other hand, isn’t it funny that God punished the sodomites with fire because they were cruel to the poor, but forgot to gave poor people a heads-up and they also died in the fire?

  • Pop Vasile

    Sure thing, but:
    1. “educated guess” is what all Bible cherry-pickers are doing, forgeting that Bible is the Word of God and is supposed to be superclear.
    2. ancient world sucks, sure, but here we are, living in a world where billion of people are using ancient world tribal rules as “Christian morals”. Not morals, Christian morals. Cause japanese, chinese, romans, pre-christian greeks, they had no concept of morals, sure thing.

  • bobnelsonfr

    If God was real, you’d think he’d have released

    The whole point of Dr Corey’s article is that it is an error to “believe” that God wrote/writes the Bible. And that this error is particularly egregious coming from atheists who aren’t supposed to believe in the Bible at all.

    It is nonsensical for atheists — people who do not believe in God and therefore cannot believe in the Bible — to base any of their argumentation on that Book.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Christians shouldn’t be taking the OT in any way at all. It was decided only a few years after the Crucifixion that gentile converts to Christianity were not at all engaged by OT rules.So unless these fundie “Christians” are recent converts from Judaism, they shouldn’t be bothering with the OT.

  • ThunkingMan

    If one could see one’s own hypocrisies, then they wouldn’t BE hypocrisies!

    Atheists need to know the bible to defend themselves from the bible-worshippers, fundamentalist Christians.
    Oh? YOU’RE not “one of those type Christians”; do you regularly condemn fundamentalist for going overboard by trying to create a theocracy, to set public policy based on bronze aged writings?!

    The hypocrisy here is, Christians won’t police their own, so it’s up to atheists to do your dirty work.

    You’re Welcome!

  • AtheismRules

    When debating the bible with christians it boils down to one of three responses from them :

    1) The passage says exactly what I believe – the bible is the literal word
    of god.
    2) The passage says parts of what I believe – the bible needs “interpreting”
    3) The passage says the exact opposite of what I believe – the bible is didactic;
    it is teaching us what not to do.

    So what we are doing is pointing out to Christians that ANY book would
    function as a bible. Literally ANY book would meet that requirement !!

    We are pointing out that THEIR BOOK IS IRRELEVANT – and that BOTH OF US, atheists AND christians – obtain our morality from our peers and society – and NOT from the bible.

    As we sometimes mock (yes) christians, “are you telling us that the only reason that you dont kill is because of a passage in a book from bronze age illiterate goat herders – and without that passage there would be blood and carnage ” ?

  • AtheismRules

    Well MY response would be that (e.g. from the article) – Christians tell us that the bible supposedly tells us how to live our lives, but the moment that we quote a dozen passages (e.g. a female mixed fabric wearing preacher who eats shellfish etc etc etc) we get the usual HYPOCRITICAL logical fallacy responses.

    If the author of the bible (GOD supposedly !) had intended to convey a particular message – you would have thought that he could have done it without contradicting himself – or making it so unclear that even Christians themselves cant agree what it means – hence THOUSANDS of sects.

  • bobnelsonfr

    You betcha! Just point us toward any other collection of religious texts compiled over a few millennia. I’m sure they’ll be equally useful.

  • bobnelsonfr

    “police”???

  • bobnelsonfr

    Christians tell us that the bible supposedly tells us how to live Read the article.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Because the entire foundation of a Christian’s belief system is based upon a reported miraculous event (spontaneous conception, the creation of a viable diploid zygote from a single haploid egg cell) WTF??

  • bobnelsonfr

    No. Being inerrantist carries a negative connotation.

  • Fred Meekins

    I have struggled with this as well. While I don’t still “believe” after 50 years in the church, I acknowledge that faith satisfies certain needs for some people, and it does provide a sense of “hope” that atheism doesn’t pretend to offer. I have come to the realization that much of what Jesus taught, at least as far as how to live one’s life in community, is universal and it would benefit humanity as a whole if we all followed those teachings. But you don’t have to buy into the theology of Christianity to do that. Jesus, if he was a historical figure and if he actually taught what the Bible claims he did, can be seen as an enlightened teacher without having to believe him divine.

  • Fred Meekins

    Sometimes you have to put on the armor of absurdity to fight the absurd.

  • Fred Meekins

    Sorry if I hurt your feelings. But I stand by my assertions. I would suggest that if close to 50% of the US electorate believes in the Genesis creation story (6,000 – 12,000 year old earth, spontaneous creation of species and all that goes with it) then your “small minority” argument is shot.

  • Fred Meekins

    Its called “science”. And it is your friend.

  • Fred Meekins

    Now we are getting somewhere!

  • bobnelsonfr

    Nonsense

  • I agree as atheism is just a rational conclusion based upon lack of evidence for a supreme being. And most atheist are really agnostic-atheist who if presented with overwhelming and credible scientific evidence (repeatable, demonstrable evidence) would believe in a supreme being.

    As for “hope” that is why I believe in the Humanist philosophy. I know that being a ‘secular humanist’ is a term that, especially evangelicals, start casting as a sign of the devil back in the 80’s. But studying the philosophy it is easy to see how much of what Jesus, as described in the bible, taught is as you say “universal and it would benefit humanity as a whole if we all followed those teachings”. The same could be said for Ahmadi Islam and some of it’s teachings. Or even Buddhist quest for knowledge and truth. These are tenets that could be used to create a sense of unity in what I believe is our one and only chance at existence.

    I do not see the opportunity that has been granted to us with our limited lifespan as a negative but at a chance to make our lives, other peoples lives, our children’s lives and this one world that we all share better. Right now the only reality we know with any certainty is this world that we live on is the only world can support our human existence. Unless we realize this and work together as a human race our species, intelligent as we maybe will face an extinction event. Then all of Trumps Towers, our systems of government, wars fought, monuments built, rivers tamed, space travel, science, literature, language, philosophy, nationality and arts mean nothing. If we truly, want to be immortal then we have to actively do something to make this world better.

    Sorry I got “preachy’ there. But short story long: I agree Fred.

  • Fred Meekins

    I think you have the right idea. I keep coming back to the analogy of the hive. The “hope” that secular humanism offers, is the hope of making the world a better place not only for ourselves, but for future generations. That somehow, in our short but magnificent existence on this planet, the individual can not only have a meaningful existence, but accomplish something that improves the chances of survival of the human species. For despite our intelligence, and our ability to influence/control our immediate surroundings, we are just another species that fortuitously popped up, came to dominate our environment, and could just as easily be permanently eradicated by natural causes or by causes of our own creation.

  • I would encourage you to join the AHA American Humanist Association. https://americanhumanist.org

  • Rizdek

    If one’s argument is to point out problems with the Christian doctrine as presented in the Bible, why would one not use it?

  • Rizdek

    Maybe the passage of time isn’t linked to the sun. In which case I could dismiss that apparent problem as a concept that disqualifies the Genesis creation account as obviously not to be taken literally. IOW, if I think (or want to argue that) the folk(s) who wrote the creation account(s) meant them literally, that particular point doesn’t persuade me that I’m wrong.

  • Amy

    Why not just leave the religion?

  • bobnelsonfr

    Almost all “Christian doctrine” was developed long after tje writing of the books of the New Testament (as well as the books that didn’t make it into the NT). Christ Himself gave us just one single commandment: love God and your fellows.

    Clobbertexting is the refuge of the intellectually incompetent.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Well, God didn’t write the bible; men did. Men are fallible.

    Also, the bible doesn’t tell us how to live our lives. It tells stories about men’s experiences (or believed experiences) with God. The best (although not 100% unique) advice is via Jesus.

    But yes, there are fundamentalists who read the bible literally and give a multitude of illogical arguments to defend that stance. There are others of us (like Dr. Corey) who read the bible recognizing what it is, and don’t feel the need to defend it’s accuracy or whatever.

  • Rizdek

    So, just to clarify, your view is that one could be a Christian without believing Jesus is the Son of God or that he died as an atonement for the sins of mankind? In fact, could someone be a Christian and not believe there is a God at all?

    It seems to me that belief is a significant part of religion, but that’s just based on what others tell me.

  • Joe Fogey

    We seem to be hearing a lot of this sort of whingeing from xians lately. It’s become a bit of a routine, perhaps to be wheeled out when short of a blog topic?

    I think many if not most atheists are aware that xians disagree about all sorts of things, including how literally to take which bits of the bible. But we end up talking to xians with all those different views, so if I respond to a fundamentalist by criticising some fundamentalist position it doesn’t mean I don’t know it’s not the only possible position that xians hold.

    I’m sure there are xians who are so non-fundamentalist they think the resurrection and god are metaphors or symbols of some kind. But apart from them you’re all fundamentalists to a greater or lesser degree, as far as I can see.

  • apoxbeonyou

    LOVE THIS:

    “Clobbertexting is the refuge of the intellectually incompetent.”

    Stealing it :)

  • Herro

    >”Well, it actually says “not a single jot or tittle of the law will be abolished” until the law is fulfilled.”

    Well, my translation has something like “until everything has happened”, and the verb here is different.

    But that’s besides the point: Look at what Jesus says in the very next sentence:

    “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    This doesn’t fit with the interpretation that Jesus had just said that the “Law is no more in the life of a Christian”.

    And critical scholars admit this and think that the author of the gospel of Matthew was a “legalistic” Christian. While fundamentalists (whether conservative or liberal, like Corey) try to fit the saying with New testament books that are on the opposite end.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Be my guest. It’s already been stolen, a paraphrase from Isaac Asimov.

  • Where does the Bible claim that it is, as you said, “the story of god, as inspired by god and written at the behest of and with the guidance of god” How can “the Bible” claim things about itself in passages written before the Bible existed?

    The closest anything comes to saying what you say is in the Bible is in a letter that claims to be a letter Paul wrote to Timothy, where he says, “All Scripture [is] inspired by God, and is useful for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Tim. 3:16-17

    I put the [is] in brackets because it isn’t in the Greek. The Greek is “all Scripture God-breathed.” But what does that even mean? Theopneustos is a made up word that only ever appears in this passage right here. Our only clues as to what the author meant are by what follows – the Scriptures are “useful” for the categories it lists so that those who follow God will be ready to do good things.

    And since this was obviously written long before the Bible was canonized and even before several other New Testament books were even written, obviously “all Scriptures” can’t mean “the Bible.”

    Now, fundamentalists -claim- the things you said: that the Bible was written by God about Himself. But nothing in the Bible says that, so that brings me to my question – why would an atheist presume that the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is the right one to use? It seems like the -default- would be to interpret the writings that ended up in the Bible using the same tools we use to interpret any ancient text, because the one thing we know for sure is that those writings were produced by ancient peoples. Shouldn’t the fundamentalist reading have to justify itself?

  • Amor DeCosmos

    Also, the Quran is supposedly the Bible vIII if you believe that kind of thing…

  • Marc B.

    “Given that many Christians consider belief more important than works, this may not be as universal as you imply.”

    I can only speak for myself.

    As for your 2 hypotheticals, this is where I think our mindsets diverge. You seem to think that Christians generally turn to the Bible as a sort of “manual for everything”. That is not how I read the Bible. So as for tatoos, irrelevant to me. Turning the other cheek? Case by case basis. Punishment for rape? We have laws that already deal with that.

    From my reading, the Bible sets 2 directives higher than all the others: Love God and love neighbor. If anything is “pretty simple” that’s it.

  • Trixie Wolf

    Friendly atheist here! I think I can explain this one.

    Atheists who appear to be reading the Bible literally (or other religious texts) do so neither to build a straw man of the religion, nor because they mistakenly think that all adherents do the same. They do it specifically because they want to target the beliefs of religious extremists.

    This leads to some unfortunate misperceptions of atheism, including by atheists themselves. Richard Dawkins is a great example of this. People think of him as an evangelical atheist, and he’s clearly brilliant, but he rarely says anything related to atheism. He wants to attack particular beliefs, and his attacks rarely hinge on atheism in any way.

    Why do some atheists do this? It’s because the people who hold those extreme beliefs and interpretations are the vast majority of people responsible for specific social and political positions that most atheists consider harmful to society. This is most notably a problem in the United States.

    The people trying to remove data about the geological record from children’s textbooks are generally the same ones who believe humans used to live for centuries and ride dinosaurs. The people who defend reparative therapy despite overwhelming evidence it increases suicide are those who strictly believe not only literal stories like Sodom and Gomorrah, but also interpretations of those stories which are authoritatively handed down to them by their denomination. There are plenty of other examples, but you get the idea.

    This isn’t only a problem in the US, either. You’d be hard-pressed to find an atheist who thinks it would be a good idea to go to African countries ravaged by famine and AIDS and tell them they shouldn’t use condoms, but the Catholic church continues to do that today.

    In short, the reason some atheists seem to read religious texts literally is that adherents who do so as well are the primary adherents that atheists would like to critically examine and question their beliefs. The primary motivation is sociopolitical, not religious. Atheism has almost nothing to do with it.

  • DwayneDiderot

    This reminds of a Catholic woman, who when asked about the Pope reasserting the church doctrine banning birth control said “well, that’s his opinion”.

    It’s your faith, believe whatever you want, but if you use some version of the Bible to justify that faith, don’t be surprised when someone points out the glaring contradiction between your actions and what is purported to be the written word of a god.

  • Anri

    I’m happy to engage with anyone who thinks the bible is the word of god, fundie or not.

    But, yes, when dealing with fundamentalists, I grant them their premise that the bible should be read as if it were the inerrant word of god. When dealing with Christians of different flavors, I ask them on what grounds they’d like to argue the bible.

    Why shouldn’t I read the bible as they insist it should be read when arguing with them?

  • Anri

    If Christians don’t think they’re getting the word of god from the bible, why revere it?

    If you’d like to check to see if your average Christian, fundamentalist or not, believe that the bible at the very least contains god’s word, be my guest. What do you think you’ll find?

    The bible quotes god pretty frequently. If god’s quotes aren’t god’s words, what are they?
    The bible then goes on to quote Jesus, who is also supposed to be god, pretty frequently. Jesus also talks about what god wants and says.
    If god’s not the one dictating, who the heck witnessed the Genesis creation story?

    It seems like the -default- would be to interpret the writings that
    ended up in the Bible using the same tools we use to interpret any
    ancient text, because the one thing we know for sure is that those
    writings were produced by ancient peoples.

    Because the tools we use to interpret any ancient text include – correct me if I am wrong – not accepting their supernatural explanations for things. We reject parts of the ancient texts that we know contradict reality, and give little or no credence to those parts that simply cannot be proved.
    Obviously, Christians don’t do this.
    In pointing out errancy in the bible, I’m trying to get them to do this.

    If someone wants to argue that the bible is an essentially fact-free book of ancient allegorical stories, that suits me fine. But such a person would not be in line with mainstream Christianity. Obviously.

  • ThunkingMan

    Yes. Police.

    (transitive, figuratively) To enforce norms or standards upon.
    to police a person’s identity

  • The Bible also never says Jesus is God. Yet, as you say, that is the line many Christians would take (after the 4th century, anyway – there was not a majority until the Council of Nicea).

    There are plenty of Christians who think the writings in the Bible are not verbatim communication from God – we’re a lot more of a diverse group than we get credit for, sometimes, because not all groups are equally loud or trying to wrench politics in the direction of turning their country into a Christian theocracy.

    You are correct, though, in saying this is the common position of fundamentalists and evangelicals in general, which is probably the most common view in America, or at least the loudest. Definitely, if you get into an argument with a Christian on the Internet, the odds are astoundingly in the favor of the person you’re talking to having the view that the Bible is a transhistorical, inerrant, uniform document that basically dropped off of God’s desk. So, I understand where you’re coming from on that point and, if you were arguing with someone of that ilk, that’s the standpoint you’d want to address.

    My question, though, is why should -you- assume that’s how the Bible should be read? Why should a non-fundamentalist have to argue the viability of their stance to you? Why is the fundamentalist reading the “legit” reading of the Bible, whereas Christian readings that just treat the Bible like ancient, man-made documents are somehow not as genuine?

    I don’t think most fundamentalists or evangelicals know what the f they’re talking about when they talk about “what the Bible says.” They have a narrative they claim represents what the Bible says, and this narrative seems to be more or less uncritically accepted by most atheists as a legitimate depiction of the Bible. And that’s a mystery to me.

    I’m not disputing that they think that’s the correct context for the Bible. I’m asking why -you- also think it’s the correct context for the Bible. Once again, apologies if I misunderstood.

  • bobnelsonfr

    A follower of Christ (“love one another”, “turn the other cheek”, …) cannot “police” the faith of anyone else. If you see someone trying to impose their norms and standards on others, that person does not FOLLOW Christ, regardless of what label that person usurps.

  • Anri

    I’m not disputing that they think that’s the correct context for the
    Bible. I’m asking why -you- also think it’s the correct context for the
    Bible. Once again, apologies if I misunderstood.

    I’m saying I’m willing to argue based on what I am told by the theist.
    If the theist says their holy book is the perfect word of god, I’ll work with that position.
    If they say that their perfect god somehow flubbed in getting his message out, I’ll work with that position.
    If they say that their holy book isn’t actually from god, and doesn’t describe god’s words or thoughts, I can even work with that.

    Personally, I assume the bible is not an accurate portrayal of the world, especially when dealing with the origin of the world, mankind, the supernatural, and morals and ethics. As the number of Christians that would agree with my view are vanishingly small, arguing from my interpretation of the bible isn’t going to get me anywhere.

    Out of curiosity, can I get an answer to a question I asked?
    I asked:

    The bible quotes god pretty frequently. If god’s quotes aren’t god’s words, what are they?

    Maybe it got lost in the shuffle.

  • Paul

    ^^This^^

  • swbarnes2

    If atheists are reading the bible as if it does not obviously lead one to 21st century Western liberalism…they aren’t wrong.

    If atheists are expounding on it like 21st century Christian fundamentalists, then they are utilizing a very extant lens that is prominent in 21st century America.

    What we see is Christians of all stripes agreeing that yes, the Bible really does have the right answer for 21st century issues, when interpreted “correctly” and you all just disagree on the niggling detail of how to do that. You want atheists to stop pointing out where fundamentalist interpretations of the bible lead to? Convince your religious brethren to drop the premise that the bible has all the answers to today’s social and political and environmental problems, and then atheists will stop caring what it says.

  • Paul

    _There are others of us (like Dr. Corey) who read the bible recognizing what it is, and don’t feel the need to defend it’s accuracy or whatever_

    I simply love the liberal interpretation of the bible. This book outlines how you, as a christian, are supposed to get to heaven after you die. But you can’t bother with its accuracy…no, just give me the feel good parts and block out those other parts.

    We atheist read the bible as fundies do, because of the 2.2 billion christians in the world, MANY OF THEM BELIEVE the bible is the literal word of god.

  • Paul

    “Christ Himself gave us just one single commandment: love God and your fellows”

    How do you know this? Oh, wait…YOU READ IT IN THE BIBLE. The first gospel of Mark was written over 40 years after jesus’ death. Scholars are more than certain it wasn’t an eyewitness, who wrote the gospel.

    THEREFORE, you can’t really be sure if jesus actually said that. In fact, if you studied jesus’ ministry, you’d see he was an apocalyptic preacher, who thought god would return during his life time.

  • Paul

    “It was decided only a few years after the Crucifixion that gentile converts to Christianity were not at all engaged by OT rules.”

    No offense, but you need to study the early christian church more, because this statement simply isn’t true. It wasn’t until about 50 years after jesus’ death that they made the decision to allow gentiles (council of jerusalem). However, there were still sects that practiced jewish law.

    So no, it wasn’t decide just a few years.

  • Well, it would depend on which writing we’re talking about. Some of the writings are myths, some are songs, some are wisdom literature, some are laws, some are apocalyptic – I don’t think people can really make encompassing statements about “the Bible” because that’s just a term for a collection of very disparate writings. The Bible is more like an anthology than a cohesive book.

    But if we’re looking at a narrative section that says that God said this or that, I’d say what we’re looking at is a story and theological interpretation by the author. The Bible also quotes Abraham, and nobody who wrote the writings in the Bible was alive when Abraham was. It’s part of the formative narrative, not a newspaper report.

  • justhinkin

    Athiesm is just a decision to rely on the rational to guide all thought and belief. I’ve always been good at that. And many athiests are irritatingly dismissive of the experiences of divinity and revelations that have affected people since prehistory. Good luck with that, we are more than we know. Doctinal faith passes down codes and rules that have been established socially by previous groups, conditions, and efforts to codify inspirations and motivate people. But these are stultified by time, and lack of transferability. There are other modes of experiencing divinity, and the times I have been confronted with it, I could hardly give word to describe, because there is no road for words there. I just have to trust all will have their chance.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    Thanks for the response.

    I can only speak for myself.

    Fair enough.

    You seem to think that Christians generally turn to the Bible as a sort of “manual for everything”.

    Correct, because a significant majority of the Christians I encounter claim to do just that. Obviously fundamentalists are more strict about it, but the rest consider some stuff to have higher authority than man.

    If I might be so bold as to paraphrase the rest of your comment, you evaluate actions on a case-by-case basis, you accept the things that you feel apply to today’s society and you leave the rest.

    If this is so, couldn’t the same be done with many other books, even known fiction? Do you believe the bible has inherent importance or utility beyond the reach of something man could compose?

  • I will concur with ya on that point, for ever since the imagination came into focus in primitive man…it is in our ethos to invoke supernatural beings as bigger than we are.

    I don’t knock religion, in fact I do not even like the name tag, atheist for it almost becomes a religion unto itself, except that it is a non prophet organization. It appears to me though, that religions are more atheist than I am for they are constantly disclaiming other religions and their deities as false and there’s as the only true path. If there was one god, then there should’ve been only one religion, especially if that god had indeed revealed himself. The only way the three religions of the old Jewish god (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) revealed their god was through man and was either through force or annihilation. I say, no matter what religion, let them believe in peace, for a lot of folks…all they have is their religious faith to fall back on.

    Let it be as long as they do not attempt to force it upon others…

  • I thank you for that.

  • In discussion on a self-described Christian blog about the Bible and how it is received by unbelievers, the scriptural perspective is relevant. It sounds like you believe people ought to apologize for the Biblical message. I do not.

  • Logic is only one route to knowledge. You would do well to study epistemology.

  • Or a cheeseburger.

  • Marc B.

    No, not apologize for the Biblical message. I believe people, Christians in particular, should acknowledge that dogma and epistemology will only get you so far.

  • I’m just kinda chuckling because there’s no such thing as “the plain language” when dealing with a text written in a language which is sometimes impenetrable even by the people who speak it. There’s a section early on in what is typically labelled Numbers 11:25 in which there is an uncertain negative applied to the text, leading translators to uncertainty as to whether it says that an event happened and then stopped, or if it happened and then didn’t stop. Two completely opposite interpretations off text which reads to the effect of “the elders prophesied no.”

  • Anri

    I don’t think people can really make encompassing statements about “the
    Bible” because that’s just a term for a collection of very disparate
    writings. The Bible is more like an anthology than a cohesive book.

    And yet Christians – and not just fundamentalists – do it all the time. They typically use the term “Holy” as well, suggesting they think it’s something special.

    But if we’re looking at a narrative section that says that God said this
    or that, I’d say what we’re looking at is a story and theological
    interpretation by the author.

    I doubt most Christians would agree with you that when the bible quotes god, it’s not actually quoting god.

    But I said I’d work with the bible under the terms presented, so:
    Are you saying that the bible can’t be counted on to accurately reflect god’s message?
    Because if it can, that would make it god’s word, regardless of filter, yes?

    Let me try to put it this way: why would someone who did not believe in the divinity story of the bible call themselves a Christian?
    What christ would they be following if not the one discussed in the bible?
    Would someone who believed in, say, the divinity of Buddha but not of Jesus be justified in calling themselves a Christian?

  • Would there still be Christians if there was no Bible?
    Quite possibly. There are a number of religions out there which are passed down exclusively through oral history to this day.

  • Don’t forget the scriptures which are not collectively shared as canon, everything from the Apocalypse of Zephaniah to 4 Maccabees. These were around, even if future generations didn’t decide they were authoritative enough to be included in what would eventually become the most common set of canon books.

  • A thing’s likeableness has no bearing on its morality. Open-heart surgery is deeply unpleasant, but no one undergoes it for funsies.

  • Right, but you have to understand that many Christians have no idea how to interpret ancient texts. They pick up the Bible, read the words, and understand them according to our contemporary usage of language. Few Christians can read the original languages. Few are aware of the differing manuscript traditions. Few are aware of the history of how the Bible even came to be about. Few know much about the cultures of the ancient Near East, the various historical circumstances surrounding a biblical writing, the genres of the time and how they were used and how they appear in extrabiblical literature, the conventions of ancient historiography, etc. etc. etc.

    In fairness, many atheists are also completely unaware of these things, and I think that contributes to the widespread phenomenon of atheists capitulating to the fundamentalist interpretive paradigm. They legitimately share it. Obviously, I’m painting with a broad brush stroke.

    To even use the phrase “the Bible quotes God” is kind of bypassing a lot of that territory. Only in very rare circumstances was a biblical author even present for the things they were writing down. It’s not like ancient peasants in the Levant were walking around with notebooks in case something interesting happened. What we see are redacted compilations of traditions.

    I might, for instance, write a story about George Washington, and I might have him saying things in that story that might reflect the sorts of things he might have said under those circumstances, but I’m not “quoting” him the way a newspaper article would quote a source.

    As for working with the Bible under the terms presented, I’m not really that interested in us having a debate about the merits of the Bible. You’re an atheist and I’m a Christian and I seriously doubt either one of us is really going to move the needle for the other person in a random comments thread. What I was responding to was the phenomena the article described: why do atheists interpret the Bible the same way as Christian fundamentalists?

    If you’re just curious as to why I can call myself a Christian without believing the Bible is a direct product straight from God’s brain, I’d tell you that the fundamentalist view of the Scriptures is, in terms of world history, a very recent view and (almost) exclusively American. People followed Jesus before there was a Bible, and the vast majority of people didn’t have a copy of the Bible until the printing press made it viable, and even then, many could not read it. The whole deal about the Bible being this divinely perfect book mostly arose in the context of modernist controversies in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. I’m not saying the view wasn’t around at all before then – just saying it wasn’t the commonplace sort of discussion that you find, today.

    What I do think the Bible is is, like (probably) Paul wrote to Timothy in a letter almost two thousand years ago, useful. Because I can read it with its limitations in mind and my expectations set, I can get information from it that is useful for me in my spirituality.

    For instance, when I read Cassius Dio’s Roman History, he was not present for hardly any of the things he writes about. There are things in his History that seem unlikely. For instance, Dio records that an Eqyptian magician called forth rain to water the troops of Marcus Aurelius in 172.

    Tacitus in his history records Vespasian being able to miraculously heal, along with some other events like miraculous springs, voices from heaven, etc.

    These are all just woven into ancient writings, and it doesn’t make them totally useless pieces of fictional trash. It just means you have to exercise careful study, use the tools that we use to determine how the original audience would have received such a writing, and decide if that reception is relevant in any way to us, today.

    Reading the Bible is not too much different than that, if different at all. The multitude of genres, authors, and the wide span of historical circumstances make it much more complex than, say, Dio’s History, but still.

    So, I try to put myself in the same stream of spirituality I see described in the Bible. I think Jesus was maybe the clearest representative of that spirituality, and most of what I know (or think I know) about Jesus comes from the writings that eventually ended up in the Bible. But I can’t just read it uncritically, nor do the “flaws” make it totally useless. We would never deal with another ancient work that way.

    And if a Buddhist is about the work of showing compassion in the world, establishing justice, defending the weak, caring for the poor, speaking up for the powerless, forgiving people their trespasses, making amends for their own, alleviating suffering, and basically loving and caring for their fellow human beings, then I think of them as allies in the same project I’m involved in. I also feel that way about atheists who are doing the same thing.

    In fact, the Bible contains a parable where Jesus portrays a group of people who don’t even know who he is receiving the reward of the righteous because they cared for persecuted disciples. That story resonates with me, as well as others.

  • At least one translation refers to the bitter waters as causing a miscarriage, but granted, not all of them do.

  • Also not helpful for the framing of Deuteronomy 13. That’s one of the worst bits in the entire collection and is not readily explained in any particularly easily digested fashion.

  • Actually, they tended to be both superstitious and empirically minded, which is also true of people today. Quite a lot of scientists are religious; they just aren’t recognized as such if they aren’t trying to find ways to make the data conform to their beliefs (or more importantly, doing so in order to force others to conform to their beliefs).

  • At least a chunk of what constitutes morality comes from seeking to please others and earn praise in childhood. A large number of people who grew up in abusive households just assumed that’s the way life was for everyone, and were legitimately shocked to find out how many people had different experiences.

  • Herrnhut

    A-theist is a man whose religion is his brain, very limited brain with an expiration date.

    A man of religion is a man like Cain believing God but reliance on his own work hence all these scandals in all religions including Christendom. A man who believe in the Savior somehow confessed by mouth and then spirit live in heart that Jesus is the beloved son of God who died and now lives with and in the man like Abel.

  • Peccatum Sodomiticum (literally “sin of Sodom”) was a phrase coined in Ecclesiastical Latin and is the phrase from which “sodomy” as a verb derived, which in turn is a language which was codified by the Roman Catholic Church. The phrase originated as much as a thousand years after Genesis was written and is entirely a Christian creation.

    Most Judaism does not hold that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality, although it is believed that the people of Sodom raped strangers irrespective of sex as a means of defending their borders against outsiders.

  • Anri

    Right, but you have to understand that many Christians have no idea how to interpret ancient texts. (etc)

    Well, I’m not the one claiming that the message of truth, morality, and eternal salvation are in those texts – the Christians are. As I said, if a Christian claims they understand the bible, I’m willing to meet them on that ground and discuss what they think they understand.

    If the vast majority of self-proclaimed Christians don’t understand the bible, god’s doing a really terrible job of saving humanity, isn’t he?
    Unless scholarly understanding of the bible isn’t actually required to be a Christian, in which case I don’t know why there’s any objection to my engaging Christianity as presented by Christians.

    I tend to argue with Christianity as I actually encounter it, not as a very narrow, albeit erudite, section of Christianity tells me it must be.

    What I was responding to was the phenomena the article described: why do atheists interpret the Bible the same way as Christian fundamentalists?

    And I have explained I do that when faced with fundamentalists, because it’s the only ground on which we can have a discussion.

    I’m only speaking for myself, of course.

    Tacitus in his history records Vespasian being able to miraculously heal, along with some other events like miraculous springs, voices from heaven, etc.

    But you don’t accept his accounts of that, yes?

    Do you also reject the idea that Jesus was able to heal the sick?

    Do you reject the idea that Christians are able to hear voices from heaven?

    But I can’t just read it uncritically, nor do the “flaws” make it totally useless.

    I didn’t claim it was totally useless, just no more useful than any other ancient text describing supernatural events. In reading other accounts, we’d reject out of hand the idea that gods were acting historically, wouldn’t we?
    Christians reject the idea that Leda was inseminated by a god, but accept that Mary was. That’s not treating the texts in the same way at all.

    And if a Buddhist is about the work of showing compassion in the world…

    That’s an answer to a question, just not an answer to the one I asked.

    I’m not asking if someone who denies the divinity of Jesus can be a moral person. I was asking if they can be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.

  • I feel like the US can identify with Sodom, but not because of homosexuality

    Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

    Add to that the Jewish exegesis that Sodom was particularly hostile toward refugees and travelers…

  • I consider it ironic that after years of living without a religion which provided any direct form of moral guidance, I have had to learn how to better navigate social situations with people because of their religion. I know someone who observes the Dionysian Mysteries, and the particular qualities of that religion have led me, though I share little in common with their followers, to become a more respectful and compassionate person.

    There is a story told in this religion. I have no significant opinion as to its authenticity, but something in it speaks to me. Here is how I learned it:

    Dionysus, god of revelry and wine, was traveling when he came upon a grape farmer, Icarius, who was interested in learning how to create wine. He had enough of an understanding to create a concoction with promise, but Dionysus saw potential in him to brew something far better and took the farmer under his wing and taught him the intricacies of fermentation. While he stayed with the farmer, Dionysus fell in love with the farmer’s daughter, Erigone, and though he knew he would soon have to leave, he promised to return to her one day soon.

    After Dionysus left to his travels, the farmer continued brewing and one day produced a vintage of special potency. Deciding to share it with the men of the nearby village, he held a celebration and the men all drank until the dawn. Unused to potent wine, the villagers drank themselves to unconsciousness.

    When their wives, mothers, daughters and sons awoke the next morning to find that many of the men had never come home and those who had were insensate and could not be roused, and then found the rest scattered around the farmer’s property, they believed the men had been poisoned. Dragging the farmer from his home, they murdered him before anyone could awaken and explain coherently what had happened.

    In grief, the farmer’s dog (Maera) threw itself off a cliff, and Erigone hung herself from a tree on the property.

    When Dionysus returned and learned of what had happened, he was grieved and angered, and shamed the village folk for their crime. He made Icarius, Erigone and their dog Maera immortal among the stars, and they form the constellations Virgo, Boötes, and Procyon. To punish the villagers, he vowed that each of them would swing as had Erigone, and cursed them to commit suicide in the same manner.

    Those who observe the Dionysian Mysteries have an observance. Among finer details, it involves contemplation of death, the drinking of wine, and revelry in the form of swinging or sex. I have participated in this observation though I do not share necessarily belief in the history of its origin. I drew something through that participation which I believe has enriched my life in a subtle way, but I could no sooner enumerate what it was than I could explain the poignancy of a dream.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I don’t really ‘believe’ that I get to ‘heaven’ when I die. I don’t know what happens next. How could I? It doesn’t matter. What matters is how I *live*. If you want to call that ‘humanist’; fine. It’s not about blocking the ‘bad parts’. It’s about understanding who wrote it, why they wrote it, to whom they wrote it, and WHEN they wrote it.

    It’s like science. Take all the facts you have and then make a logical hypothesis.

    Also, the bible is not the literal ‘word of god’. Men wrote it; how could it be?

  • You are aware many scientists are religious, yes? I mean, it’s interesting that you even used that example, flying a space ship to the moon. A ship named after a god; piloted by a Deist, an Episcopalian, and a Presbyterian; and more likely than not built by engineers and designed by scientists with a variety of religious backgrounds.

  • Heh, well, that could be the Book of Mormon.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Gotcha!! You are so-o-o-o clever! You nailed a Christian for referring to the Gospels!

    Ummmm…. no…

    Please note that I did NOT cite any particular verse. I think it impossible to read ALL of the Gospels without understanding His central message of love.

    OTOH, if you carefully cherrypick your clobbertexts, you might even come away with the crazy notion that He was primarily an apocalyptic preacher…

  • Mmm, thank you for having helped me to the wording that’s been circling aimlessly in my mind: the thing some atheists have in common with some Christians is an obsession with being right which overrides any desire to be good, as they believe that the two are synonymous and thus the actions stemming from one must necessarily be also the other.

  • That’s an argument with regards to disbelieving it, not an argument with regards to why one regard any specific interpretation over others.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Fair enough. As long as we agree on humanist topics, me thinks we can be friends.

  • Ejaz Naqvi

    Even if she did “violate” the Biblical teaching, why would the friendly atheist question her devotion to her faith? Why do we expect that “religious” people must be perfect at all times? She has a lot of positive attributes and the only one that becomes the subject of a post (and criticism) are her tattoos?

  • Funny enough, of all that, only “there is a god” is the one belief I suspect all Christians share. Every single one of the others falls under dispute by various groups. Heck, John Shelby Spong questions almost all of them:

    1) Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

    2) Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

    3) The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

    4) The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

    5) The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.

    6) The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

    7) Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

    8) The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.

    9) There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.

    10) Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.

    11) The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

    12) All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

  • Though I agree that is basically what that passage described, having also studied the ritual in question as it is elaborated upon in the Tanakh, it’s less clear than it seems since the explanation doesn’t really focus on the woman being pregnant at all or what might happen to the fetus if she is. It spends a great deal of time talking about different ways to shame and humiliate her into confessing to adultery before ever reaching the part where she drinks the bitter waters, and from there my reading kind of trailed off and I’m not sure if it ever elaborated upon the afterward period or not.

    From what I gather, it seemed a woman might be judged guilty even if she gave birth normally and then the child died unexpectedly as much as several years later.

    So on one hand, reprehensibly sexist to the core. On the other hand, there are apparently no records of it ever having actually been done at all. So… yay?

    (Similarly, for all the strictures about killing people who sinned, actually managing to get killed was quite difficult. You basically had to be witnessed by two or more people, affirm that you knew it was a sin at the time that you did it, and then show that you were doing it willfully and deliberately despite knowing that it was a sin.)

  • bobnelsonfr

    It is absurd for atheists to define “Christian doctrine” by any process whatsoever… because there is no such thing. Christianity has been marked by divergent doctrines since its inception.

    The same error is made by anyone who speaks of “Christian doctrine”, but it is particularly egregious coming from atheists, who also often take note of the division among Christians, as though thinking and debating are forbidden to persons of faith.

    It is understandable that a “person of faith” believes that their own doctrine is the “truth”. That is intrinsic to faith: one “knows without proof”.

    OTOH, an atheist declares having no faith, and therefore may not generalize about “Christian doctrine” without documenting the generalization. Good luck with that! Attempting to define “Christian doctrine” leads atheists to exactly the error that Dr Corey’s article underscores: clobbertexting!

    In any serious conversation about “beliefs”, we quickly find that there are almost as many Christianities as there are Christians. Progressive Christians have long since accepted each other’s differing approaches to Christ. So… How does an atheist acquire the authority to define “Christianity”?

    You certainly may debate any one person’s beliefs. No problem! But you are debating a strawman if you define the arguments against which you then debate.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Seen from a perspective of two thousand years, fifty is “only a few”.

    Does it matter if it is “only a few years after” or “only a few decades after”?

  • bobnelsonfr

    A follower of Christ (as opposed to some random person who calls themself “Christian” on the basis of belonging to a congregation with a cross on the lawn…) must “love one another” and “turn the other cheek”.

    Kinda hard to “police” others’ behavior!

    My point — and I think we actually agree, fundamentally — is that “policing” anyone else’s behavior should preclude that person’s usurpation of the label “Christian”.

  • and for no other reason.

    I’ll dispute that since I’ve seen atheists time and time again attack non-fundamentalists for allegedly believing the things fundamentalists believe, or sometimes for failing to believe them. Heck, I’ve seen atheists attack non-Christians for allegedly believing the things fundamentalist Christians believe. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen an atheist’s diatribe against religion explicitly describe things ubiquitous to certain forms of Christian and alien to religions outside it.

  • Some of my friends grew up in pretty isolated rural areas where fundamentalist Christianity was not only the only flavor of church, it was also the church to which virtually everyone in town belonged, meaning if they were of a mind to make your life difficult, you’d have no recourse except to leave town if you wanted to get on better footing. Which they leveraged to effect.

    Sundown towns are still kind of a thing in some parts of the US.

  • Acts 10 says a lot more than that!

    “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”

  • Marc B.

    “If I might be so bold as to paraphrase the rest of your comment, you evaluate actions on a case-by-case basis, you accept the things that you feel apply to today’s society and you leave the rest.

    If this is so, couldn’t the same be done with many other books, even known fiction? Do you believe the bible has inherent importance or utility beyond the reach of something man could compose?”

    I’m definitely tracking with you here. After 20+ years as a not-quite-so-fundamentalist evangelical, I’ve certainly had a major shift in my thinking. That said, I can’t deny that the Bible and the person of Jesus in particular have played a very significant role in shaping how I think and how I live. Perhaps not in the same way a fundamentalist would, but I would say it does have inherent importance, the nature of which I am still not 100% certain about.

    Going back to the original comment, Fred said this: “And for me, once you acknowledge that the fundamentalists have it wrong, then its a very slippery slope for those professing Christianity. ”

    I am actually okay with this. I don’t really see it as a slippery slope. Or perhaps it’s a slippery slope for institutional Christianity and that is exactly what is needed. I see it as a natural result of the day and age we live in, with science taking a greater role and influence in people’s minds, an exponential increase in access to and consumption and analysis of information, and social and global networking. So I think there is a lot of theological noise out there that is just a lot of back and forth and going round in circles and doesn’t really accomplish much. Because at the end of the day, it’s all just dogma until it gets validated by a higher power. So we’ll see where it all goes from here.

  • I agree. I don’t have any use for dogma, and empirically divined truth (epistemology, scientific inquirty) is only a thin slice of what’s out there. Blessings.

  • I’m chuckling, because in my experience, if I take five people who attest that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and put them in a room, I’m usually going to get five people angrily arguing with each other about what the plain, literal interpretation of the text happens to be.

  • This seems to just kick the question of belief further down the line without actually answering it. If no belief is involved, then how do you determine what specific practices best exemplify living in accordance with your faith? It seems like you have to have a baseline, even if it were to be an intuitive one (e.g., “I trust God to guide me” is still a statement that God exists and grants you inspiration and guidance, even if you otherwise demonstrate this entirely through actions).

    I’m a proponent in the statement “always preach the Bible; when necessary, use words,” but one still needs to have some means of discerning what the message is that they will attempt to convey through heart and deed.

  • .. And now I’m picturing Fizban of the Dragon Lance books, who is frequently found complaining about trees that abruptly grew right in his way.

    (It’s later revealed that he is a god, so it’s not impossible, even though his antics are probably a comedic act, that he really does view the growth of a tree as something that can be comparatively abrupt compared to, say, a millennia-long tectonic shift.)

  • Well, I’ve read the Gospels and didn’t necessarily come to that conclusion, but I have a less typical lens through which I do my exegesis. 1 John 4:7-21 and 1 Corinthians 13 do a better job for me.

  • I don’t know if I count as intelligent and have no ready means of gauging such with any accuracy I’d trust, but I know that my desperation to have answers has waxed and waned throughout my life, and presently sits at “not really excited either way.”

  • bobnelsonfr

    Reducing Christianity to the virgin birth shows a serious ignorance of the topic.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Perspective….

  • bobnelsonfr

    They do it specifically because they want to target the beliefs of religious extremists.

    That would be legitimate… on the condition that they say that that’s what they are doing. If they just say “Christians believe that…”, then they are not addressing just extremists. They are addressing all Christians, as though they are all extremists.

  • Fred Meekins

    I am not trying to be dismissive, I really am not. But a lot of the “divine revelations” of other religions are discarded or mocked by those that accept the revelations of their chosen religion, in this case Christianity. (think Joseph Smith or Mohammad, or L.Ron Hubbard). My point being that the human mind is a mysterious thing, and we don’t really know exactly how it works. I have dealt with people who believe, no they “KNOW” they are hearing voices telling them to do things. It is REAL to them. But the source of the voices is not some invisible being, it is mental illness. (yeah, I know, straw man fallacy).

    I will concede that there are certain things and experiences in my life that have inspired great awe, even reverence. But I would stop short of attributing them to divinity. And for the same reason I don’t find any compelling argument to believe in a supernatural god figure; there is simply no evidence to support it.

    I will leave it at this. No one has all of the answers, and probably never will. I am willing to concede that there may be a divine being, and if he/she/it ever reveals himself/herself/itself to me in a way my scientific rational mind can accept it, I will do just that. But in the spirit of intellectual honesty, I think every theist should also acknowledge that their particular belief system has been significantly influenced (dictated?) by the beliefs of their parents, their family and the community they were raised in. I would go so far as to say that a substantial majority of theists simply adopt the religion of the geographic region of the world they were born into without ever questioning.

    My biggest problem with “debating” religion with an ardent adherent of any religion, is that while I am a strong skeptic, I will at least acknowledge that I could be wrong. Try to get that admission out of theist.

  • Fred Meekins

    I’m wondering if the pigeon holing of all Christians in the fundamentalist camp isn’t exactly the same thing as pigeon holing all Muslims in the Jihadist camp.

  • Fred Meekins

    Question. Can one “follow Christ” without necessarily believing he is divine? If so, call me a Christian, or at least an admirer.

  • Fred Meekins

    I apologize if the “virgin birth” is not a critical doctrinal requirement for being a Christian in your particular sect. It was in the one I was raised in and spent 50 years believing. We could just as easily discuss one of the other “required” beliefs, the resurrection, the Trinity, original sin, salvation by grace, but we end up in the same spot.

  • Pop Vasile

    US seems to have now a few millions immigrants hating newer immigrants. Sodomy, indeed

  • Dr. Cat

    Atheists wouldn’t push back against the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible so strongly if it weren’t for the fact that some of the Christians who cause the most problems are, in fact, interpreting it that way. They’re called “fundamentalist Christians”, maybe you’ve heard of them.

    If you could get them to stop, or at least to stop proposing laws based on their extremist views, then you wouldn’t have to listen to people arguing against their viewpoint so often.

  • As a directive to a culture under siege in the Bronze Age, it makes a kind of sense but, yeah, not an easy passage.

  • Bill Burchard

    // But that’s besides the point: Look at what Jesus says in the very next sentence: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” This doesn’t fit with the interpretation that Jesus had just said that the “Law is no more in the life of a Christian”. //

    Hi Herro.

    Well, it does fit from this perspective: Jesus is explaining that He is here to fulfill the law; to bring it to its “natural end,” as Benjamin points out. However, its natural end–its conclusion–doesn’t occur until the crucifixion. So until that moment, until Christ dies on the cross, the old law still applies.

    As Benjamin explains: “Jesus said it was completed, and brought to its natural conclusion. In fact, those were the words he spoke on the cross: ‘It is finished.’ (John 19:30) The Law is over- it was brought to the natural ending point with Christ’s death on the cross. Thus, the Law is no more in the life of a Christian. If you’re a Christian, you’re not under the old Law, but a new one: the teachings of Jesus found in the red words of the Bible. All this he said, could be summarized via ‘love God’ and ‘love everyone else, too.’”
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/for-the-people-who-say-but-jesus-didnt-abolish-the-law/

  • Irfan Nurahmed

    I agree that such “answers” are
    a luxury to have; maybe even vain.

    But what is a man’s life without some collection of vain things like coins, or cars, or cigars, or answers long sought after by countless generations before his own? By those who left them to him, his successors and descendents, to continue to try to figure out anyway? Especially since for many people, the consistancies of these answers’ progenitors’ findings were all of what remained of their legacies for them; for their students, apprentices and apostles, to inherit?

    What a science it is to understand the universe, say, that contains so much useful information like atomic fusion, but which thus far has not fully been understood by generations alone?

    I will not be arrogant and say, “Their work was all in vain.” I will not say Jesus’ teachings were worth no more than their face values. I will concede the contrary; that the answers they offered were products of the unanswerable questions of their times, regardless of the ages, genders, intelligences, convictions etc. out of which they arose. These answers were men’s luxury items, but these men’s sole legacies nonetheless. They are therefore worthy of inquisitive interest, I think; they are in need of research.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I don’t really believe in ‘salvation’ in the traditional since, anyway. All of those ‘required’ beliefs are human constructs and in my opinion, lead to a misunderstanding about what we should be *doing* (i.e., living like Christ).

    But yes, I also spent many years of my life believing my way was the ONLY way, and everyone else was doomed to eternal torture.

  • If the vast majority of self-proclaimed Christians don’t understand the bible, god’s doing a really terrible job of saving humanity, isn’t he?

    That objection is question begging, though. It assumes that God is trying to save humanity through what’s written in the Bible. That’s not my contention. If someone believed God were trying to save humanity through what was written in the Bible, and then proceeded to say that the Bible is not an infallible series of documents, then yes, that would be an interesting thing to ask that person.

    I tend to argue with Christianity as I actually encounter it, not as a very narrow, albeit erudite, section of Christianity tells me it must be.

    Well, if I may, I don’t think that’s completely true. In our discussion, you’ve actually questioned me on the basis of several fundamentalist presuppositions. It appears to me that fundamentalist Christianity is still your default definition of Christianity, and you’re trying to treat me as a fundamentalist unless proven otherwise.

    I’m not telling you my version of Christianity should be your default, either. It just keeps going back to my original question: why would an atheist take a fundamentalist reading of the Bible and go, “Yep, that’s what the Bible definitely says, all right?” They obviously don’t agree that the Bible is -true-, but they agree that’s what the Bible -means-.

    Now, if you’re telling me you have no preconceived ideas about what the Bible means, and your goal is just use the meaning proposed by whomever you’re talking to, that makes sense to me, but that also makes you atypical by my experience. So, maybe this is an exercise in both of us having to adjust to not receiving the normal script.

    But you don’t accept his accounts of that, yes?

    Do you also reject the idea that Jesus was able to heal the sick?

    Do you reject the idea that Christians are able to hear voices from heaven?

    I don’t discount a priori the idea that Vespasian could heal someone. I think it is unlikely based on my experience of people being miraculously healed. I think it is more likely that the miracle stories in the accounts of Vespasian are there to get a point across about Vespasian, and this is largely the function of miracle stories in the Bible as well (I mean, not about Vespasian, but you get the idea). The value of the miracle stories is in the point they are trying to get across. I do not think they are objective accounts of what “really” happened, by and large. I also should acknowledge the possibility that they might be. I mean, if it turns out that Vespasian could actually heal people, how else would that be documented?

    On the other hand, I also know of people recovering from sometimes even radical sicknesses in ways that are difficult to explain.

    I didn’t claim it was totally useless, just no more useful than any other ancient text describing supernatural events. In reading other accounts, we’d reject out of hand the idea that gods were acting historically, wouldn’t we?

    I don’t reject that idea out of hand, no. I try not to reject any ideas out of hand. Maybe that’s just rank stupidity on my part, and I’ll cop to that I guess, but I feel like I have to maintain a healthy level of skepticism of my own ability to understand the universe or humanity’s collective ability to understand the universe at any given time.

    I agree with you that, in terms of text communicating information, the writings in the Bible are not any more or less useful or reliable than any other documents from the same times and cultures. I can only speak to how useful it’s been to me and others to whom it’s been useful. And it has been, at least for the purposes I find it useful for, moreso than, say Dio’s History.

    For Roman history, Dio is more useful.

    I’m not asking if someone who denies the divinity of Jesus can be a moral person. I was asking if they can be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.

    Oh, absolutely. Historically speaking, MANY Christians have denied the divinity of Jesus. In fact, Eusebius was Constantine’s own bishop and represented a delegation of Arians at the Council of Nicea. Constantine decided Trinitarianism would need to be the official doctrine of the church, but his own bishop was Arian (i.e. Jesus was a special being, but still created like any other being and was not God). It’s only after that Council and the accompanying “death or exile” threat that Trinitarianism became the default.
    And even with that, the Christian Vikings were all pretty much Arian and gave such councils a nice Nordic middle finger. Those are my ancestors, btw.

    Honestly, I am TREMENDOUSLY tentative and immensely skeptical about both Jesus’ divinity and whether or not you can actually establish that from the Bible. Basically, there’s a few statements that all come from the same author (John) that draw a strong connection, but even that is far from conclusive.

    If the Bible -does- teach Jesus’ divinity, and I’m pretty much of the mind that it does not, then that fact is completely irrelevant to the biblical narrative. Everything Jesus says and does in the Bible, he does so as a first century apocalyptic Jewish rabbi.

    Perhaps a related question that is fitting to what you’re trying to get at: could a person believe that Jesus was nothing special at all in any sense of the word and be a Christian?

    Well, that probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Calling yourself a Christian sort of entails that you are trying to imitate Jesus to some extent, and if you aren’t, I don’t know why you’d be interested in calling yourself a Christian. Also, a mainstay of the movement since its inception has been the conviction that Jesus is a ruler in some sense or another, but whatever that sense is, it is in a way other rulers fall short. I also believe this.

    But can someone have no particular regard for Jesus and still be about his work in the world? Sure. And people who claim to have special regard for Jesus can be totally against him in practice. That’s the pivot of the parable in Matthew 25:31-46. In my view.

  • Paul

    then why even call yourself a christian? Buddhism sounds a lot more up your alley. It’s a lot closer to what you seem to believe.

    My ex-wife was exactly the same way. didn’t believe in any of the tenants of christianity, but called herself a christian. Liberal interpretations like this provide cover for the fundamentalist.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I ordered one on my first visit to Israel. Oh, the looks I got…lmao.

  • apoxbeonyou

    My view is exactly that. I don’t know if ‘son of god’ means Jesus was divine, but ‘believing’ that doesn’t make one a Christian; doing Christian things does.

    I also don’t believe in the atonement for sins, because I don’t believe in ‘original sin’. Penal substitutionary atonement is a shitty doctrine, IMO. It inevitably points to god as being an angry sadist (allowing people to be born in a place where they won’t hear of Jesus so the prize they get at the end isn’t bouncing on a cloud but being burned and tortured for eternity).

    I also know quite a few Christian atheists. I think I border on being one myself, since it is impossible to prove anything divine exists. I have had a few run-ins with it (I hate to even call it an ‘it’) that cannot be scientifically explained or proven, so I think it exists. Maybe that’s where my ‘belief’ kicks in. I also would like to believe that what we know about Jesus, or at least, what was written, is accurate, so when I do things that reflect those things I am considered a ‘Christian’.

    To me, doing Christian things is paramount. Like, seriously. :) All the other crap is up for debate.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Ooooh…and if you want to get crazy philosophical, you could argue that *if* god is timeless then this ‘fulfillment of the law’ thing transcends time. Otherwise, all humans are screwed if they weren’t Jewish *or* if they are born in a time and place where they didn’t know the law or anything about Jesus.

    This also assumes that the ‘Penal substitutionary
    atonement’ is the only correct doctrine. I think it sucks, but many Christians I know (at least here in Alabama) think it’s the only ‘real’ way to believe.

  • apoxbeonyou

    ‘Otro’ is a she :)

  • apoxbeonyou

    Ooo, ooo, me! Though I guess I’m not a 100% ‘theist’. I will say the only way to learn is to be open to new ideas.

    The only reason I believe in something divine/supernatural/god is that I have had a few (less than five) crazy experiences that I cannot explain. But I don’t care, because I don’t pursue those experiences anymore. I only care about how I treat my fellow man. More humanist than anything else now, I guess.

  • David Weller

    We expect perfection from them because they judge secular society by our lack of adherence to the moral codes they claim to get from the Bible. They use the code they claim to get from the Bible to try to control how the rest of us live. It’s right and good that we should point out their hypocrisy at every turn. Otherwise we let them make sheep of the rest of us and destroy the quality of our lives.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I think so, because I am very hesitant to believe he was divine; any more than the rest of us, at least. I even hesitate calling myself a ‘christian’ because it puts me in some box with all the ‘labelers’. F that noise.

  • apoxbeonyou

    I don’t really call myself a Christian, though I have most of my life so it is a little hard to stop. I think a more apt label would be: mystic humanist who [tries to] follows Jesus’s teachings.

    My basic belief is that any religion that seeks the divine is looking in the same place, just with different cultural lenses. How could one location/culture have a monopoly on the truth of the divine?

    I guess I believe that Jesus was the best representation of that, but his teachings were not 100% unique.

  • bobnelsonfr

    People are uncomfortable with “hating”… but hatred is also a natural emotion. So it’s nice to find a perfectly despicable target for hating. We can happily hate those awful monsters who behead helpless prisoners. … But in fact, we never encounter those monsters, so we have to make do with whatever comes closest among those we actually do encounter. It’s cruel, stupid, … and very human.

  • honesttoGod

    As the blog author posits, not as clearly as I’d like, often atheists approach the Bible and notions of God in ways that make the same (faulty) assumptions that Christian fundamentalists do. So here, in demonstrating the relevance of what Christians call the Old Testament you point to Jesus quoting the OT. But this comptely ignores the process of canon formation and treats the “scripture” as if it is a much more settled thing than it was– joining in with the ahistorical way that fundamentalists approach Jesus, God, the Bible, and Christian doctrine in general. Jesus does not quote the OT at all: he quotes from “the Law, the prophets, and the writings” (sometimes “Psalms” takes the third position). What books fit into each of these areas at the time of Jesus isn’t certain, with the contents of the “Writings” being particularly in flux. But you, along with the fundamentalists, take it for granted. Basically, the fundamentalist approach reads current understandings backward ruling out any development. Ditto many (not all, by any means) atheist discussions of Christianity.

  • Anri

    It assumes that God is trying to save humanity through what’s written in the Bible. That’s not my contention.

    Then from what source do you derive god’s plan?
    From what extra-biblical sources do you determine the teachings of the person you claim to want to emulate?

    In our discussion, you’ve actually questioned me on the basis of
    several fundamentalist presuppositions. It appears to me that
    fundamentalist Christianity is still your default definition of
    Christianity, and you’re trying to treat me as a fundamentalist unless
    proven otherwise.

    Well, unfortunately, I have to determine what you believe before I can discuss it. I believe I am trying to determine what, if any, parts of the bible you consider true – which can’t be assuming a fundamentalist position, as there’d be no question on my part if I were.
    In your particular case, it probably would have been a shorter process to start at the other end of belief and work towards the bible, but I didn’t know that going in. That’s also pretty atypical, in my experience.

    I don’t discount a priori the idea that Vespasian could heal someone. I
    think it is unlikely based on my experience of people being
    miraculously healed.

    So you’d accept a scholarly work that based its conclusions on Vespasian’s healing ability ’cause ya never know?
    Really?

    I agree with you that, in terms of text communicating information, the
    writings in the Bible are not any more or less useful or reliable than
    any other documents from the same times and cultures.

    Do you then agree with me that the vast majority of Christians consider them hugely more useful and authoritative than other myth stories?
    And that if I were to discount this, I’d be failing to accept the things I’m being told about a religion by its adherents?

    If the Bible -does- teach Jesus’ divinity, and I’m pretty much of the
    mind that it does not, then that fact is completely irrelevant to the
    biblical narrative.

    I’m pretty sure it teaches that Jesus is god’s son (the famous John 3:16, yes?), which – assuming he was conceived with Mary and not just inserted into her, would (by any other mythic standard) make him at least a demi-god and therefore at least partially divine, yes?
    If there’s another interpretation of this, I’m all ears.

    Also, a mainstay of the movement since its inception has been the
    conviction that Jesus is a ruler in some sense or another, but whatever
    that sense is, it is in a way other rulers fall short. I also believe
    this.

    In what sense is he a ruler different from other rules if he is not god’s son? I ask this because it honestly seems like you’re simultaneously trying to claim that Jesus was nothing special, and that any stories, biblical or otherwise, about his divine origin shouldn’t be taken seriously, and also that he was a unique individual who should be emulated in a sense that other semi-mythic figures should not be. That does not sound like a consistent standard of judging myth figures to me.
    You are certainly free to represent your Christianity that way, and I will remain free to point out to you that that’s not the way most Christianity works in the real world. So if I have approached you in a different tack than you find useful, I will say in my defense that it has taken a bit of calibration to adjust to your pretty eccentric version of Christianity. I’m still working on that, actually.

  • Trixie Wolf

    Agreed, of course.

  • Albert Magnus

    I have atheist friends too, but my guess is, it’s easier to trash religion reading the Bible in a literalist way, than in a more nuanced and multifaceted way. The way it should be and is read by intelligent, educated Christians and Jews.

  • Yeah, but a lot of atheists and people in general now a days tend to stereotype all Christians as that fundamental one. Like in the article here. Why bring that up about the tattoo to a random contestant? Like that’s just hate. Hatred toward the fundamentalist a-hole Christian geared to all Christians. I actually had one guy tell me I am not allowed to talk about science with him because I was a Christian who believes the world is 3,000 years old, and I don’t believe that the world is 3,000 years old. I believe in evolution. Ice Age. Hell Ancient Egypt goes back to at least 5,000 BC. And science? I got an A in Physics and Chemistry. I love reading about it. No matter how great my comments were like, “Sub numbers into this equation to get an idea of how the variables interact,” I was still an idiot because I’m a Christian. That’s the issue many Christians are facing, much like Muslims. We are all being stereotyped AND BLAMED for what the small, minority of loud jerks are doing in God’s/Allah’s Name.

  • This was incredibly well written, and one of the most intelligent perspectives I’ve read in a while. I may have to look into getting Ben’s book now.

  • Ron Clayton

    That said, there are also millions of liberal Christians. Liberal Christians who would agree with atheists on some of their criticisms of Fundamentalism. But most atheists act like there are no liberal modern Christians. Are they ignorant of this fact?

  • Ron Clayton

    Agreed. I once had an atheist tell me I wasn’t a true Christian because I didn’t “believe” the Bible, i.e., I am not a Fundamentalist. Many atheists seem totally unaware that there are millions of modern, liberal Christians.

  • Ron Clayton

    I am a liberal Christian and absolutely NOTHING you just said applies to what I believe and do. And there are millions of liberal Christians who don’t believe one iota like you just accused them.

  • Ron Clayton

    As a liberal Christian I appreciate that nuanced statement.

  • David Weller

    If you are not trying to re-shape the general society in the shape of a harsh, judgmental religion, then you are not who I am talking about. Christians have done a lot of good in the world. The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s was led by Baptists, and many third world orphanages are run my American missionaries, and in his nineties, Jimmy Carter continues to build houses for the homeless and teach Sunday School.

    If that’s you, you’re not the problem. If that’s you, other kinds of Christians are today determining how Christians are seen by the rest of the world.

  • Then from what source do you derive god’s plan?

    Derive God’s plan?

    I guess, again, that would presuppose that’s the Bible’s aim. Rather than deciding beforehand what the Bible’s aim is and interpreting it in that light, I’d rather look at what the Bible is and see what it does.

    Near as I can tell, the overwhelming majority of biblical writings revolve around telling the story of Israel with the main emphasis being on her relationship with her God. The “rest of the world” doesn’t really come into it as a focus until as we get into some of the New Testament writings. Gentiles start worshiping Israel’s God because they heard about Jesus, and now everyone has to deal with it, and you see this occupying a large part of the rest of the New Testament. The entire book of Romans, for example.

    It does not appear to me to be a “plan” or a “mission” or an instruction manual for life or a love letter or anything like that. It appears to me to be a collection of writings that, over an immense span of time, were useful for the community of Israel as she tried to understand herself, her history, the circumstances she found herself in, and her faith. It involves myth, narrative, law, songs, prayers, prophecies, apocalypse, proverbs – a wide variety of genres that get collected over time.

    So, maybe that’s where some of our disconnect is coming from. I don’t go, “I wonder how to get to heaven when I die. Maybe this book will tell me,” or “I wonder how I should live a moral life.
    Maybe I’ll find it in this book,” and then read it in that light. Or insert whatever predefined purpose you care to. The overarching theme that unites the anthology is “Israel and her God,” and each specific writing in that anthology has something to say about it.

    So you’d accept a scholarly work that based its conclusions on Vespasian’s healing ability ’cause ya never know?

    No, but I’d read it to see what it said. Like I said, I think it’s highly improbably Vespasian could heal anybody, and I wouldn’t proceed on the assumption that it was just as likely as he could or he couldn’t. But that’s a false dilemma you’re proposing. My choices aren’t, “Either Vespasian absolutely, 100% total certainty did not heal anybody, or it is just as likely that he did as didn’t.”

    I’m not saying I’m equally open minded about the possibility that he did as the possibility he didn’t. I’m not. I’m just saying that I take on risk as soon as I decide that, without any possible shadow of doubt or nuance, X is true or not. Your mileage may vary and that’s fine, because the beautiful part about adult life is that you and I don’t have to justify our decisions to anyone.

    Do you then agree with me that the vast majority of Christians consider them hugely more useful and authoritative than other myth stories?

    Sure, I also consider them more useful than other myth stories. But what I potentially disagree on is whether the fundamentalist/evangelical understanding constitutes “a majority.” In America the past century or so, that may be true. Worldwide? Eh…. Throughout world history? Definitely not.

    I’m pretty sure it teaches that Jesus is god’s son (the famous John 3:16, yes?)

    Yes, a statement from John; I already brought him to your attention in this regard.

    But “son of God” is not an equation with God. Adam is also the Son of God (Luke 3:38) as is David (Psalm 2:7 – note that it also uses the language of being begotten) and Israel (Hosea 11:1). It’s a designation that someone is God’s image and representative in the world, not that they partake of the divine nature.

    Someone could argue that Matthew and Luke intend that with their stories of the virgin birth (John does not portray Jesus being born of a virgin), but they don’t say that anywhere and neither does anyone else.

    In what sense is he a ruler different from other rules if he is not god’s son? I ask this because it honestly seems like you’re simultaneously trying to claim that Jesus was nothing special, and that any stories, biblical or otherwise, about his divine origin shouldn’t be taken seriously, and also that he was a unique individual who should be emulated in a sense that other semi-mythic figures should not be.

    I can see why it would seem that way, mostly because the evangelical story generally stakes a lot on Jesus being God, and if Jesus isn’t God, then somehow the whole thing falls apart. The fact that no Scripture actually says that Jesus is God and that many Christians historically have not thought him to be God and that such a thought would be offensive to any Jewish follower doesn’t really seem to give them pause.

    The reason Jesus is portrayed as special is because he emulates God’s desire for a faithful king in a manner unprecedented by Israel’s earlier kings or the lords of the Roman Empire or the religious power structure in Judea at the time. What is more, he warns his people of a coming calamity against Jerusalem and guides them to faithfulness so that they might come out the other side of it. To sum up: he represents how God wants to rule His people and how He wants His people to live with one another.

    There’s a lot that goes into that. For example, the resistance against Jesus from the power structure and why that was, and how he was vindicated against that resistance, and how that played out in the life of the early church, and so forth.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Jesus is not significant to me because he had magical powers or anything like that. He is significant to me because of what he accomplished, modeled, and how that continues to work in the life of the Church, today.

  • Fred Knight

    you know, considering I’m (for all intents and purposes) basically an “atheist” (or classic “agnostic”) – it might be worth asking why I would find it offensive and hypocritical. You choose to deal in varying degrees of snark – great and fun tactic for those who are actually not serious about the issues. Get this, sincere religious people actually and really care about truth….so do thoughtful and careful atheists…..I reject the trolling and snarky aspect of new atheism….and if that is something you cannot acknowledge as a factor, I would question who is really being objective in all this.

  • Fred Knight

    look, you got the wrong guy, dude. But if you reject the notion that the snuffing out of a potential human life is a small thing, you are clueless. Most especially for women. “Women’s Rights” needs to represent ALL women to be consistent.

  • Anri

    I guess, again, that would presuppose that’s the Bible’s aim. Rather
    than deciding beforehand what the Bible’s aim is and interpreting it in
    that light, I’d rather look at what the Bible is and see what it does.

    I’m not presupposing. I’m being told by adherents of the religion what the purpose of the religion is.
    Would you argue that, per Christianity, humanity does not need saving from sin? Would you argue that many Christians believe that?

    It does not appear to me to be a “plan” or a “mission” or an instruction manual for life or a love letter or anything like that

    Well, it certainly does seem to appear that way to the vast majority of Christians – or at least that’s what they publicly say. In dealing with them, I’ll take them at their word about what they think the bible means, and criticize it based on that.

    But what I potentially disagree on is whether the fundamentalist/evangelical understanding constitutes “a majority.”

    But I didn’t say that.
    I only said that the majority of Christians believe the bible to me more authoritative than other ancient myth stories. That there is a clear double standard within Christianity in viewing religious stories.
    Would you argue, for instance, that the Catholic Church puts equal weight behind the Koran and the bible? Or is one taken to be an authority on cosmic truth and the other not so much?

    It’s a designation that someone is God’s image and representative in the world, not that they partake of the divine nature.

    First of all, the John quote specifically names Jesus as god’s only begotten son. Is this an incorrect interpretation?

    Secondly, why is your interpretation that the son of god thing is metaphorical rather than literal correct?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Jesus is not significant to me because he had magical powers or anything like that.

    Do you feel the majority of Christians, or Christian sects agree with you on that point?
    If not, you will make long strides in understanding why arguments that you do not consider relevant to your faith are massively relevant to others, and why objections you have to those arguments are not relevant when discussing their faith.

    Don’t mistake me – there’s nothing wrong with your take on Christianity. It may very well be better supported by the bible than more mainstream concepts. But those concepts are hugely supported by Christianity as it is actually practiced, worldwide. It is supported by the Christians looking to impose pernicious legislation on other around them, and those that grant them legitimacy by sharing a professed faith with them. That’s who I’m typically arguing with, and I tailor my arguments to fit their understanding of the force that makes them try to harm me and mine.

  • justhinkin

    I respect your view. I find truth in a lot of places. When you say we don’t fully understand the human mind, I think of Descarte and Kant. But I also think of my study of neurobiology. Is the “mind” the same thing as the brain? Does the brain do more than percieve, react, and reflect? What happens to the “mind” when I, as an anesthetist, block the brain from doing those things? Do I shut ‘you’ off? Are ‘you’ still there? One could ask if the human mind is a pinnacle object, in it’s plastic magnificence, or a step in evolution. And what is it’s purpose? All are good intellectual exercises. None would account for the power of an unbidden healing experience, entering your heart, revealing all of you, and letting you taste infinite love. I don’t need an explanation. I won’t try to ‘convince’ anyone I know more. One of my favorite Buddhist verses from my early reading was ” When they curously beseech thee, asking what IT is, affirm nothing, deny nothing. For what can be said from a land where the charriot of words can find no track?. So when they curiously beseech thee, offer them silence onlyl. Silence and a finger to point the way.”

  • Fred Knight

    hey, Bill, font of knowledge, I’m actually a real person (most likely with an IQ above your own, but let’s not quibble) Look, I get you don’t like my assessment, as it was admittedly pretty harsh….but you are simply bringing a lot of smoke and mirrors, bullshit pop psychology to diminish me…which is your right, maybe I’m a total douchebag (+ being a white supremacist/racist/hater, etc.)….but then again, we have to ask that both ways,,,,(nice deflection and ad hominem, btw)….either way, pound for pound, you strike me as a total douche….and long winded at that…congratulations for putting me in my place with no substance whatsoever.

  • I don’t consider it a small thing, but I consider it a necessary thing. I am morally opposed to forcing a person to remain pregnant against their will. I consider it equivalent to sexual assault.

  • Fred Knight

    again, you got the wrong guy, as I pretty much have no stake in the game….and am not rabidly pro-life….but as fellow dudes, and as well as science, and as a actual pound for pound stake in the game, women (as they should) differ on where they come down on that issue…..my point being, this is not some atheist/progressive slam dunk issue. No one has the moral high ground….stop pretending as if you do….on both sides.

  • Would you argue that, per Christianity, humanity does not need saving from sin? Would you argue that many Christians believe that?

    You had several questions kind of along these lines, so let me sort of put them together, and you tell me if you think I need to unspool them.

    Through the biblical writings themselves, we can observe a story that is, more or less, a political one as seen through theological eyes. The main players are Israel and YHWH – her God – and the other characters are the other nations. This relationship has its ups and downs as it plays out in the course of Israel’s national history.

    By the time we get to the New Testament, Israel sees her condition as a result of unfaithfulness. She’s under pagan dominion. The Temple is controlled by government shills. The High Priest isn’t even Jewish. The Judean governor is an Idumean who is despised for his cruelty, extortion-level taxation for his own luxury, and various things he does to the Temple that shows he doesn’t particularly give a rat’s about them. The general public is ground into poverty, people working as sharecroppers on land that used to belong to their family and now belongs to some Sanhedrin or some Senator. It is this situation that they want to be saved from – the situation they perceive that has been brought on by their sins – and is into this historical context the narrative of Jesus is told – a primarily political narrative seen through the eyes of Jewish faith.

    People hear about Jesus, and Gentiles begin to get in on this. Jesus’ followers begin to consider what the fate of this movement might mean for the Empire. Their letters and writings and gospels start to be circulated.

    So, reasonably soon after the events described in the New Testament, these stories are now in the hands of Greco-Roman lawyers, philosophers, etc. throughout the Empire who have virtually no Jewish context whatsoever. We actually know more, today, about first century Judaism and the ancient Near East than those early church fathers did. They have these writings, now, and they have to make sense of them for their world.

    In their world, their questions are things like: is the soul immortal? What is the transmigration of the soul in life and in death? What does it mean to be just? What does it mean to live the good life? What is a perfect being? And so on. The Bible gets used to answer those questions and, when you read the writings of the early church fathers, you will find they are all over the map as these very well-intentioned people who have no particular context for the story except their own try to mush them together.

    So, during this period – say the 3rd and 4th centuries – the Bible becomes about these spiritual and philosophical questions. Cosmic questions about good and evil, life and death. Because the followers of Jesus grow incredibly rapidly in Gentile nations as compared to their Jewish counterparts, this story more or less “wins” despite its many, fragmented manifestations. Constantine has enough of this and makes the church come to some level of common understanding, and all bishops have to sign off on it on pain of exile or death. His goals are political, but the net effect on the religious community is hard to overstate. His successors only tighten these screws.

    This sort of story – cosmic tale of life, death, good, evil, the afterlife, etc. – controls the shape of the narrative, and the church does not continue the narrative. Instead, the church forms a systematic theology, and THIS is what gets passed down from generation to generation – a set of static doctrinal formulations. The whole sense of narrative and the world that produced it begins to recede into the rear view. Still, the narrative is mostly understood in a collective way, but this changes in past few centuries of history where it all gets shifted around the individual.

    So, now, the general story is that the Bible is about an individual decision to believe in Jesus and either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell as a result – a story that no longer has anything of its original context or narrative.

    The reason I present all this is because when we talk about “what Christianity is” or “what Christians believe,” we have to understand that this has never meant a single, monolithic thing ever, and it sure hasn’t gone through the permutations of world history that way.

    Now, would I say that most Christians that you would have a discussion with would hold to the story that the Bible is about an individual believing in Jesus and then going to Heaven or Hell as a result? I would very tentatively say yes, but only because fundamentalists and evangelicals tend to be loud and pushy. There are many MANY Christians and Christian denominations that do not think this way.

    Is this what most Christians believe who want to force your kids to learn it in public school? Yes. Almost to a man, that is what those sorts of Christians believe.

    First of all, the John quote specifically names Jesus as god’s only begotten son. Is this an incorrect interpretation?
    Secondly, why is your interpretation that the son of god thing is metaphorical rather than literal correct?

    The phrase also appears in 1 John 4:9 (also by John) and Hebrews 11:17 (we have no idea who wrote this).

    One possibility is that John and Mr. Hebrews are mistaken, because David refers to himself as God’s begotten son. This seems unlikely, not because the Bible can’t have contradictions, but because both John and Hebrews indicate familiarity with the Old Testament. It seems like they would have known what David claimed about himself.

    Another possibility is that John and Hebrews believe David was in error. This seems like an unlikely thing for a first century Jew to believe, although possible.

    What is probably more likely is that John and Hebrews believe the phrase David used to describe himself fits Jesus, and probably fits Jesus even better. In fact, Luke documents Paul, in a sermon to Jews, saying that David’s psalm was “fulfilled” (ekpleperoken – “made full out of this”) in Jesus and quotes it in Acts 13:33. Hebrews 5:5 does the same thing.

    David used the phrase to describe his coronation as king. For John, Paul, (George and Ringo) and Hebrews, Jesus is a king that surpasses David. So, something along the lines of, “Yeah, you remember that psalm David wrote about being God’s begotten son? Well, Jesus is WAY more that than David ever was.”

    This is an extremely common pattern of the New Testament usage of the Old. Passages from the Old will be brought forward into the New Testament for the purposes of importing the past meaning to explain something current. It’s all over the place. Especially Matthew, who can’t seem to write five lines without doing it.

    How do I know “son of God” means “representative/image of God” instead of “also a divine being equivalent to God?” Well, I don’t know that for an absolute fact, but I just showed you other instances where the Bible uses that phrase to mean the former (David, Adam, Israel) and clearly not the latter. I guess I’d need to see instances of the phrase that obviously mean “divine being who is also God” to consider that such an interpretation is equally likely. If we’re trying to decide what authors mean when they use the phrase for Jesus, and everywhere else it appears it does NOT mean a divine being, but rather a human who displays the characteristics of God in the world, then it seems probable to me that’s also what it means when used about Jesus. To begin with the idea that Jesus is a divine being equivalent with God and use that to define the phrase is question begging.

    But those concepts are hugely supported by Christianity as it is actually practiced, worldwide. It is supported by the Christians looking to impose pernicious legislation on other around them, and those that grant them legitimacy by sharing a professed faith with them. That’s who I’m typically arguing with, and I tailor my arguments to fit their understanding of the force that makes them try to harm me and mine.

    I do understand this, and the irony is we are more or less on the same side in this way. I think everywhere Christians are allowed to make their faith public, atheists should be allowed to make their arguments and views public as well. Anywhere we don’t want atheists to be making their arguments and views public, Christians shouldn’t be allowed to do so, either. And while I believe in legislation allowing freedom of worship, legislation absolutely cannot favor a given religion or favor it over having no religion, nor be structured in such a way so as to provide rights to a religion that are not equally shared by all religions or no religions, and nowhere is this more applicable than moral systems that are part of these religions.

    And if your own tack is that you just use whatever the other person says the Bible means as your point of reference in any discussion, I understand that as well. But I would also offer this is reasonably atypical for atheists to do, in my own experience.

    I admit “my own experience” is not the same as “objective reality” or “the rest of the world,” but my experience is that atheists genuinely believe that the fundamentalist reading of the Bible is the accurate one to have. For some of them, it may be because this is the reading they were raised with (and probably the reading that helped drive them away from it) and they’ve never bothered to actually challenge the interpretations since they’re rejecting them anyway. I admit, I can’t really envision a fundamentalist Christian giving it up, becoming an atheist, and -then- deciding, “You know what? I should probably invest in a more scholarly and thoughtful way of interpreting biblical literature.”

    But that’s kind of the sticking point of Ben’s article. You’re saying you use whatever you’re given and make no particular claim as to which reading is the best or not. But many atheists are more than happy to declare the fundamentalist reading as the “honest” reading and decrying any other understanding as, essentially, worming your way out of the perils of the “honest” reading, usually by some kind of logo-sophistry.

    I find this phenomenon to be fascinating, sociologically. I mean, think of it. You’ve got this swath of Christianity that believes the Bible should just be read in plain, literal, uncritical, modern speech. You’ve got this swath of atheists that also believes this is how the Bible should be read. This gives neither group pause.

  • Paul

    Honestly, I think you would find that Buddha encompasses everything you seem to believe WITHOUT all the dogma surrounding christianity. In fact, an argument could be presented that Jesus Christ (not the man named Jesus) was modeled in the image of Buddha.

    Personally, I gravitated towards Buddhism when I left christianity. I still see no evidence for a higher power, but you can, in my opinion, practice Buddhism without believing some higher power exist.

  • Rizdek

    But what if the tattoo law is really God’s law and he doesn’t want folks to have tattoos? Maybe Miss Teen USA would, based on criticism…even criticism that is founded in hate (if it was) , repent for getting tattoo. God could be using someone’s criticism is God’s way of getting the message to her.

  • Anri

    Now, would I say that most Christians that you would have a discussion with would hold to the story that the Bible is about an individual believing in Jesus and then going to Heaven or Hell as a result? I would very tentatively say yes, but only because fundamentalists and evangelicals tend to be loud and pushy. There are many MANY Christians and Christian denominations that do not think this way.

    (emphasis added)
    Do Catholics accept what I have described – that mankind needs a spiritual savior, and Jesus is that savior?
    Do Catholics accept the divinity of Jesus?
    Are Catholics fundamental and evangelical?
    Among the Protestant sects, would you say that the majority of them accept mankind’s requirement of saving, and Jesus being that savior?
    Do most of them accept the divinity of Jesus?
    Do these groups represent a minority opinion among Christians?

    I understand that Christianity is not monolithic. I am making the point that the vast majority of self-identifying Christians (claim to) believe in some pretty specific things, and that these things are very, very different from what you appear to believe.

    I find this phenomenon to be fascinating, sociologically. I mean, think
    of it. You’ve got this swath of Christianity that believes the Bible
    should just be read in plain, literal, uncritical, modern speech.
    You’ve got this swath of atheists that also believes this is how the
    Bible should be read. This gives neither group pause.

    Well, I’ve explained that, per standard Christianity, god is perfect, and the bible is his message to the world. Perhaps his whole message, and perhaps not, but in either case, the assumption that a perfect being would fail to create a clear, convincing, cohesive message requires substantial explanation.

    The concept that the bible was just a book of myths authored by fallible humans is, I don’t doubt for a moment, the truth. But this is at significant variance with what most Christians claim to believe: that the bible is god’s primary (or only) document for saving humanity from eternal damnation. When parsed out this way, failings in the bible require explanation, especially when various sects claim that other people are reading the book wrong and that their interpretation should prevail.

    The simple fact is that the vast majority of Christians do not treat the bible as if it were simply another Aesop’s Fables, and grant it much more credence than other “holy” books. This is not just fundamentalists and evangelicals, it’s mainstream Christianity.

    In believing the bible to be a work inspired, either wholly or partially by an omnipotent god, typical Christians open themselves up to having to defend the imperfections in the work, and their choices to accept some parts and reject other parts. They invite analysis of why they get to ignore the parts of the bible that make them uncomfortable, and of why we should take the remainder on faith.
    I get that this doesn’t apply to you.
    And, candidly, I applaud you for it.
    But it does apply, to some extent, to most Christians, not just loudmouthed ones.

    It’s worth noting that when engaged along these lines, most Christians tend to defend the texts as written, almost always trying to explain why divinely-inspired words are somehow muddled, or not longer relevant, or the like. They wouldn’t do this if they were satisfied that the bible didn’t contain a divine message.
    Again, this is not just evangelicals and fundamentalists (although they tend to be an extreme example). The entire field of apologetics, per my understanding, is essentially trying to explain why god’s message in the bible isn’t as clear as it could be.
    That doesn’t make sense if the bible is just another sky-god myth book to the people defending it. Clearly, it’s not.

    This is not to say that atheists can’t be narrow-minded and dogmatic, of course. They certainly can, and that’s why I’m not speaking for anyone other then myself when discussing how I go about things.

    Out of sequence, but:

    I admit, I can’t really envision a fundamentalist Christian giving it
    up, becoming an atheist, and -then- deciding, “You know what? I should
    probably invest in a more scholarly and thoughtful way of interpreting
    biblical literature.”

    Well, I’ve read a few deconversion stories about someone who rejected fundamentalist teachings for purely emotional reasons (typically a family member or friend being ostracized, or having that happen to themselves), and only then digging into the literature and finding out that maybe the bible isn’t everything they were sold on.
    So I’ve seen it happen both ways – hearts amd minds.

  • Ron McPherson

    It’s seriously one of the best I’ve ever read. I’ve went thru it twice. It’s all marked up now though

  • David Hiersekorn

    While I am equally frustrated with the atheist tactic described in the article, there are some basic terminology issues here – in the article and in the comments.

    People are confusing and conflating three different terms.

    A fundamentalist is a person who believes that the Bible is the word of God and has the authority and reliability that comes with that.

    A legalist is a person who believes that Christians are required to obey the Old Testament rules.

    A literalist is a person who believes that everything in the Bible is literal, not figurative.

    Atheists commit errors of legalism and literalism. They never commit errors of fundamentalism.

    A fundamentalist recognizes that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works. The standard fundamentalist view on obedience is that it is an act of worship, not a means to salvation.

    Indeed, the most forceful preaching against legalism comes from fundamentalist circles.

    And, I’d dare say that there is no such thing as a “literalist.” Every Christian takes at least some of the Bible literally. And nobody takes it all literally. (Is there anyone who thinks that Israel was literally engaged in prostitution? Does anyone think that a literal multi-headed beast will rise from a literal sea?)

    The real question is about where to draw the line. The fundamentalist viewpoint – as explained by the guys who started the movement – is to let the text be the guide. Is the text written in a way that suggests it is literal? If so, then treat it that way. Is it written as a parable, metaphor or some other literary device? If so, then treat it that way.

    The atheists described in this article are not following that proper hermeneutical approach. So, they’re not reading it like fundamentalists. Rather, they are being disingenuous hyper-literalists and/or hyper-legalists.

  • bobnelsonfr

    I’m a “simple Christian”. I admire His message of love and tolerance. He gave us an easy criterion for defining those who follow Him: ONE commandment, “love one another”. Anyone who follows (well… seriously tries to follow) the Golden Rule may claim to be Christian. Anyone who does not, may not. All the other stuff that you list is superfluous. Dangerous, even, because it ttoo often distracts from the essential. (John told us that anything that distracts from “love one another” is a lie.)

  • Tim Burns

    I agree that the way the argument was presented in the Friendly Atheist article you linked to was a bit shallow, but I think the point it was making was not entirely unwarranted. Consider this page from GotQuestions.org, a major conservative Christian website. It is mostly agreeing with Hemant and disagreeing with you that having a tattoo is not something a good Christian should be doing, despite the fact that the injunction only appears in the Old Testament.

    The Old Testament law commanded the Israelites, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). So, even though believers today are not under the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23–25; Ephesians 2:15), the fact that there was a command against tattoos should raise some questions. The New Testament does not say anything about whether or not a believer should get a tattoo…

    Ultimately, it seems to me that arguments like the one Mehta is making come down to an accusation of inconsistency. This girl is saying that she’s going to be abstinent (from sex, alcohol, and drugs) because she believes that’s what God wants. But even if we agree that Christians are not beholden to follow all the Old Testament, the fact that such a law was given by God in the Old Testament and never specifically abrogated in the New Testament is one point in favor of not getting a tattoo being something God wants, and no points in favor of getting a tattoo being something God wants. So there is a legitimate argument to be made that she’s acting inconsistently when she abstains from those other things in the name of God, but sees no problem with having a tattoo.

  • Tim Burns

    But the problem is, literalist/fundamentalist Christians and Jews think they’re intelligent and educated too. They think you’re the one who’s reading it wrong.

  • Van Anderson

    Which begs the question, why should they be aware that there are millions of modern, liberal Christians, when you let the fundamentalists so loudly and consistently speak for you? If liberal Christians actually believe that those people are wrong, why aren’t they out in the public sphere saying that that’s not what Christianity is? Your silence is deafening, and the timidity with which you defend your religious tradition tells the rest of us that the fundies are the real Christians, and that you are not.

  • People in America have the right to engage in the political process. This is as true for conservatives as well as liberals. Congress is supposed to represent all of us, remember? How exactly do these conservatives manage to “destroy the quality” of liberals’ lives? Look around you: America is ruled by liberals. It’s hard to stop playing the victim, isn’t it?

  • Dr. Cat

    That said, there are also millions of liberal atheists, who acknowledge the existence of Liberal Christians and would agree with them on some points. But many Christians act like there are no liberal modern atheists. Are they ignorant of this fact?

    Dude, don’t make the same mistake as some of the more foolish, naive and/or loudmouthed atheists, only in reverse. Seriously.

  • Dr. Cat

    I happen to know and believe that there are extremist Christians and moderate Christians, and I’ve known that my whole life. Apparently a few other atheists are stupid and/or rude and don’t want to believe that. Are you going to stereotype ME based on THEM? Just after you got through explaining how YOU don’t want to be stereotyped based on what a few other Christians are like?

    I’m sure you can find people who DO stereotype Christians inaccurately, and people who DON’T stereotype Christians, among atheists, among Muslims, among Buddhists, among Jews – and probably even among Christians. If someone says something stupid or bad, blame and criticize that person. Not whatever group or groups he or she happens to be a part of.

    Or if you prefer to engage in stereotyping others, well, I think you’ll have a harder time talking other people out of stereotyping you. Lead by example.

  • Lark62

    Where are the liberal moderate christians?

    Where are they when Christians try to remove the right to secular marriage from people who are not harming them?

    Where are they when Christians use trans people as the punching bad du jour?

    Where are they when school employees make participation in christian prayer a requirement of attending one’s own high school graduation?

    Where are they when christians make movies that lie about atheists and other non christians?

    Where are they when christians in the pay of oil companies deny global warming?

    If you let the fundamentalist christians speak for you, what exactly do you expect? We act like there are no liberal modern christians because they are rarely heard from.

  • Karima Vargas Bushnell

    This Muslim gives you a thank you for that, and agrees.

  • Ah, interesting observation. Although the NT writings, especially Paul, free us from the Jewish observances (as Gentiles we were never under the Law in the first place), conservative Christians have been traditionally uncomfortable with the freedom following the ‘law of Christ’ brings. It seems a part of human nature to want clear cut boundaries. Hence, the general cherry picking of OT laws and artificial division of ceremonial and moral laws.

    And, yes, she is acting inconsistently by abstaining from some actions but indulging others. This is the hermeneutical problem with the Law that conservatives face. The Mosaic laws were meant to be followed in totem, not divvied up, and they were meant for the Jews, as a covenant. So, she is exhibiting a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity as a legalistic framework rather than a transformation of one’s thinking about life.

  • Fed Farmer

    “The Bible isn’t a choose your own adventure book where everyone can just make up their own meaning.”

    –Benjamin L. Corey

  • Pfruit

    If the Bible is so flawed that every human can reasonably interpret their reading of it to fit whatever worldview best suits their own personal interests, then where is the value of the Bible?

  • I disagree. It is not that fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals base their theological frameworks on whether the text is to be taken literally or not, or even letting the text be the guide. Rather, theologians such as Charles Hodge and Wayne Grudem have based their theological musings, not on the original intent of the writers, but on the assumption that scripture contains mainly propositional truths about God and creation. This forces a modernist understanding onto a pre-modern world view that is expressed in scripture. The assumption being that God would not present anything not ‘true’ from a modernist perspective.

    And this is the battleground on which atheists and Christians have traditionally battled and why Christians are so uneasy around scientific findings. The almost universal acceptance of Adam and Eve, the Flood, that God told the Israelites to slaughter women and children, that the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man accurately describes hell, and is to be taken literally, underscores that conservatives generally take most things literally in scripture, then develope doctrine based on the literal understanding.

  • “Reasonably interpret” is the key here. Forcing the Bible into a mold it was not intended for is to disrespect and misrepresent the original writers. Unfortunately, we have for centuries molded the Bible into something we can control, or use to control others. That may have been true to an extent within the Pentateuch, but was not true of the New Testament. There is much to learn about human behaviour, altruism and greed, love, hatred, war and peace in scripture, but above all, it tells the remarkable story of a man who preached something unheard of at that time…love for one’s enemies.

  • Belief list snipped

    Yes, I would say that in general the groups you described believe those things, and even though I keep pushing back, I want you to know that I take your point. I don’t think the things I’ve told you about my own perspective are commonplace in Christianity, nor do I assert that they ought to be. But I would offer a couple of caveats that are particularly notable for our discussion.

    1. There are pretty sizable chunks that only hold to part of that list or hold to them in abstract, metaphorical ways. For example, many mainstream Protestant denominations do not hold to the Bible being an infallible product written by God or Jesus being a a unique path of salvation. These aren’t tiny groups, either. This is like… mainstream Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians. Across the board, you have many Christians who do not believe in a literal Hell and some who are universalists. These are not fringe groups.

    Within Catholicism (you didn’t mention Eastern Orthdoxy, but I would point out that the EO’s are very fluid on many of these issues as well), it gets trickier because they have in principle an infallible interpretation of the Bible via the Magisterium, and you’d think that’d just end all diversity on everything. But it turns out that it doesn’t, and some very progressive biblical scholarship comes from Catholic scholars who are willing to examine the underpinnings of the text and draw conclusions that don’t have to conform to official dogma. One of my favorite books on John was written by Raymond Brown who maintains that anything with the name “John” on it was written by someone different, and they disagreed with each other.

    2. The Christianity at large you experience today did not start that way. Granted, you are highly unlikely to get into a discussion with a Cathar (the theological kind, not the Star Wars kind – scratch that, very unlikely to have a discussion with either) or a Marcionite or a 5th century Monophysite or any of the groups that, at one point in church history, represented a much broader diversity of views, some of which would certainly not be recognizable today as “standard Christianity.” But that’s because power determine who controls the story, and the vagaries of history have a lot to do with that. It’s just important to keep in mind, because “standard Christianity” looked very different three hundred years ago, six hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, etc. Maybe it will again.

    Just between you and me and the Internet, it’s my hope that the rapid whittling down of the Christian church as it is expressed today sort of clears the field. Maybe then, the people who are saying, “Hey, could we at least tell the world a story that at least makes sense?” will be able to make some progress in that regard.

    The simple fact is that the vast majority of Christians do not treat the bible as if it were simply another Aesop’s Fables, and grant it much more credence than other “holy” books.

    I know you were painting with a big brush here, but just so I can have said it to clarify my own position, I don’t believe our only two options with the Bible, or any ancient literature, is “straight up divine product perfect and true in every way” or “collection of fables.” I mean, if I have to pick, it’s closer to Tolkien than to Schlesinger, but still.

    I realize you are not necessarily advancing that dichotomy, but I see it a lot ironically both from fundamentalists defending inerrancy and atheists attacking it. The fact is that, if this dichotomy were real, we’d basically be in the position of relegating virtually every work in human history to the “collection of fables” bin.

    In believing the bible to be a work inspired, either wholly or partially by an omnipotent god, typical Christians open themselves up to having to defend the imperfections in the work, and their choices to accept some parts and reject other parts. They invite analysis of why they get to ignore the parts of the bible that make them uncomfortable, and of why we should take the remainder on faith.

    Yes, quite so.

    But I would offer that there’s two issues, here, that are related but not the same.

    One issue is: what is the Bible? The second is: what is the best way to interpret it?

    Obviously, atheists and fundamentalist disagree strongly on that first issue, and that’s where almost all the argumentation takes place: the Christian trying to defend that the Bible comes straight from the mouth of God, and the atheist pointing out all the evidence that seems to indicate the writings in the Bible are a lot like any other writing of the period and contains more than a fair share of things that the Christian probably is not consistently holding the line on.

    But on the second issue, they seem to share agreement, and that’s the part I’m curious about. The fundamentalist says, “The best way to interpret the Bible is just to read it in the plain, literal sense we’d read a newspaper, today,” and the atheist says, “Yep, that seems about right to me.” And not only is there agreement, there’s actually common defense.

    I get that if the Christian is reading it that way, you also have to address it from that standpoint. I’ve appreciated you bringing that out. But it’s just as common for an atheist to pull something like, “Look at Genesis 1. The Earth was made in less than a week. Just a bunch of superstitious lies.”

    But why is reading Genesis 1 like an astrophysical treatise the best way to read it? Rabbis themselves didn’t even maintain the Earth was made in less than a week until the middle ages. They did not read Genesis as a literal account. Were they being dishonest with their own Scriptures? Does a modern day atheist have a better grasp on Genesis than an ancient rabbi?Augustine was pretty clear that Genesis 1 was not supposed to be read as a literal account and said that people would laugh at anyone who maintained that – and that was the fifth century. Was he just trying to weasel out of the Bible’s “plain meaning?”

    It’s just that’s the part that can be frustrating and why Ben wrote his article. If we’re going to critique what someone -claims- the Bible says, that’s one thing. You’ve got to go with what they claim. But it’s another thing to make your own claims about what the Bible says, and it seems like that sort of thing should happen with a lot more care.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Bigger question. Why do Gentiles need a scapegoat?

  • Anri

    It’s just important to keep in mind, because “standard Christianity”
    looked very different three hundred years ago, six hundred years ago, a
    thousand years ago, etc

    This is very true, and all-to-often forgotten by people having discussions about Christianity – myself included.

    Just between you and me and the Internet, it’s my hope that the rapid
    whittling down of the Christian church as it is expressed today sort of
    clears the field. Maybe then, the people who are saying, “Hey, could we
    at least tell the world a story that at least makes sense?” will be
    able to make some progress in that regard.

    I’ll join you in this hope.
    It will also be interesting to see if Christianity can maybe reverse at least some of its negative trending by appealing more to those who want something more verifiable, even if it means giving up a lot of the supernatural trappings currently in force.

    It’s just that’s the part that can be frustrating and why Ben wrote his
    article. If we’re going to critique what someone -claims- the Bible
    says, that’s one thing. You’ve got to go with what they claim. But
    it’s another thing to make your own claims about what the Bible says,
    and it seems like that sort of thing should happen with a lot more care.

    And that’s the key. An atheist making claims about the bible has to be just as careful – if not morseso – than the theist they might be dealing with. You put that better than I have been or could have, and I think it’s spot on.

    In closing (as it looks like we’ve gotten to a pretty good place), let me just make a quick editorial comment, if I may.
    One of the enjoyable things about poking around the blogs I do is getting to engage with people who know a hell of a lot more about subjects than I do, and learning from them. I like challenging assumptions, and having mine challenged in return (uncomfy as it can be at the time). This conversation has very much been that for me, and I appreciate the time you’ve taken with it.

    You’ve made your point of view (I think) pretty clear to me, and I hope I’ve helped answer the question posed by the OP, at least for myself. I’ve learned things, and had fun. I hope that hasn’t been one-sided.
    Thanks!

  • Fizbanic

    I still read the bible and I still go to church.

    As it is said it is better to know your enemy, in this case it is better to know what you are up against.

    Just like any confrontation the better equipped the better you are ready for the battle.

  • Pfruit

    Why are you the authority about “how [the Bible] is disrespected or misrepresented”? Doesn’t every human have an equally valid claim on their own interpretation? If everyone has an equally valid claim on biblical interpretation, then no single interpretation has any real value.

    I happen to disagree with your claim that the Bible has much of value to teach about “human behavior, altruism and greed, love, hatred, war and peace”, but you are entitled to your own opinion. Some people like Jane Austen, while I find her works rather boring- to each their own. There are many, MANY, works of literature that can help inform humans about “human behavior, altruism and greed, love, hatred, war and peace”, many of which are imminently more suitable than the Bible.

    The problem with the Bible is that the people who believe in its claims are also making a claim that the author is still around, has the ability to communicate, and supposedly does communicate daily with many humans. When you have an author who has all of these qualities, the logical thing to do, when confronted with “disrespect and misrepresentation” of source material is to *Go Ask The Author*. Yet alas, the purported author appears to have been mute during a multi-millenial sabbatical.

    If the Bible is just the ancient parables of God, not to be taken literally, then why does it have any more value than any other book?

    If the Bible actually is the inerrant writings of the Creator of the Universe, it deserves to be taken seriously, and critically examined. This is why atheists tend to read the Bible like a Fundamentalist.

    I can think of a much better book that teaches about “altruism and greed, love, hatred, war and peace- and, most importantly, Love for One’s Enemies”. It’s the incredible tale of a hero we all could strive to emulate, and his name was Samwise Gamgee.

  • Van Anderson

    Cat, you either completely misread my post or accidentally replied to me instead of Ron. Because your reply makes absolutely no sense as a response to mine.

  • Dr. Cat

    I wasn’t intending to direct my reply to any one specific person, but to the group in general & to points that had been raised by various people. Some points mentioned by multiple people, and some by just one. Sorry if I was unclear about that & gave the impression I was speaking to or about any one person in particular.

  • Very much enjoyable and educational for me as well. Thanks for taking the time!

  • Nick

    The issue is, unless you are Catholic, the only thing which Christians have which unifies them is the Bible. There is no extra text. You say “Not all Christians” but this is a different argument than “Not all men” because there is a unifying Christian handbook, but not a unifying man handbook.

    So, what do all Christians believe? How much of the Bible is no longer applicable? How many of the stories are allegory? What of Adam & Eve, Noah, Jesus, immaculate conception, the resurrection?

    If not the text of the holy book, written and directed by your deity, then what? What you “believe” is personal but what your book teaches is very different and if your beliefs don’t align with your book, that’s something for you to discuss with your book and hash out.

  • bobnelsonfr

    Do you recite the Nicene Creed? It was elaborated three centuries after the Crucifixion. The Trinity is never mentioned, as such, in the Bible. The Virgin birth is a stretch, relying on semantics. So… much of what some “Christians” consider important is not Biblical.

    I don’t think your question, “what do all Christians believe?” is legitimate. I personally would say that “love one another” is the base-line minimum, but that’s just my opinion.

    The Bible is self-contradictory. Not surprising for a text written over many centuries by many different authors. So NECESSARILY we must select what we consider essential. I find Christ’s message of love and tolerance admirable. So I select that.

    Fortunately, Christ also told us that everything else is secondary. (And John went even farther, saying that anything that distracts from “love” is a lie.)

  • Nick

    Agreed about the Trinity, and the immaculate conception is a fun confusion between the birth of Mary and birth of Jesus per Catholic doctrine. However the insistence on Mary being virgin herself and that virgin birth is not semantics but rather straight out of Biblical story itself.

    >”love one another” is the base-line minimum

    Pretty sure you need more than that to qualify as Christian, otherwise you’d have broadened your definition to include tons of atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and most other religions into “Christian” if that’s the requirement.

    >So NECESSARILY we must select what we consider essential. I find Christ’s message of love and tolerance admirable. So I select that.

    Yes, and that’s the problem with claiming something is divine or divinely inspired… I find Aesops fables admirable as well, however, I do not claim them to be divinely inspired in any way and am thus capable of ignoring the parts which I don’t like. How can you justify such a behavior regarding the word of God in a religious text?

    >Christ also told us that everything else is secondary

    He said a lot of less nice things too regarding the requirements of following, faith, and how to treat others… If we’re going by the words of Christ then it seems the minimum is not “love one another” but the belief in the divine message of Christ… which brings us back to the starting point

  • bobnelsonfr

    The Greek word translated as “virgin” was also used for “young woman”, which IMNAAHO would be a lot more reasonable.

    Pretty sure you need more than that to qualify as Christian, otherwise you’d have broadened your definition to include tons of atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and most other religions…

    You have this backwards. A Christian must follow the Golden Rule, but has no claim of exclusivity over that Rule. Love is not necessarily Christian; it may be of any origin. I very much doubt that God splits hairs. Any path, Christian or other, is valid.

    He said a lot of less nice things…

    Really? Christ said something not nice? I am unaware of this. Could you be more precise? Chapter and verse?

  • Nick

    Mary was a virgin, was arranged to be married, and had not slept with her husband yet… If we’re being honest, the latter is likely the hole in the story however, the Biblical claim is that she was impregnated by God, not a man so the virgin piece doesn’t make sense to attribute to a translational error.

    >A Christian must follow the Golden Rule, but has no claim of exclusivity over that Rule.

    Which brings us back to the original question then of what makes one a Christian? You attempted to skirt the question by moving away from the holy text and instead toward the Golden Rule. If the Golden Rule is not exclusively Christian (to which I’d agree), then what is it which makes a person a Christian? And what subsequent aspects of the Bible does that mean all Christians must agree on at a minimum… If you state you simply like certain messages of the book, such as the Golden Rule, then are you a Christian or do you just like the reference material like Aesops fables?

    Regarding Jesus you have his questionable statements on sin Matthew 5:29 & 18:8, Mark 9:43.

    Matthew 10:35 & 11:20 seems to contradict that God doesn’t split the hairs you highlighted earlier, as well as John 3:18. There are many many more quotes similar to this regarding entering Heaven per Jesus and the punishment of those who fail to do so…

    Matthew 24:37 is not written as a Jesus quote but instead explanation of events regarding the authenticity of Noah and future genocide.

    Don’t forget Ephesians 6:5 on slavery or Jesus’s description of God as a slave owner in Luke 12:47.

    Jesus said some not nice things and directly alluded to many more. He preached a message of love and peace but he preached such love and peace as mandatory for fear of substantial punishment for failing.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    Well, I could possibly find some value in the opinions of someone who disliked either Jane Austen or the Bible, but both at once. . . .

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    And again, that question reveals that you think like a fundamentalist.
    This is how texts work. Reading a text is a dialogue. The fact that you can find a way, if you want to, to make a text say most things you want it to say does not mean that it doesn’t talk back to you. Texts are embedded in traditions. Traditions are conversations through time. Isolate the text and you can do whatever the hell you want to it, as Catholics pointed out at the time of the Reformation (they said that Scripture was a “nose of wax,” and Protestants yelled blasphemy–but 500 years on, it’s clear that the Catholics were right about that at least).

  • bobnelsonfr

    How do you know that Mary hadn’t been sleeping with Joseph? That would be so-o-o-o much simpler.

    If the Golden Rule is not exclusively Christian (to which I’d agree), then what is it which makes a person a Christian?

    Good question, which has been a problem for Christians since Day 1. My own opinion is that two elements are required:
    – an honest effort to love one’s neighbors
    – attributing that effort to Christ’s teaching

    I am not a fan of clobbertexting. The most common result is that the forest gets lost among the trees: Christ’s timeless message gets most among examples tightly tied to His epoch. I do not see how your clobbertexts, read in context, are “less nice things…”

  • Nick

    How do you know that Mary hadn’t been sleeping with Joseph? That would be so-o-o-o much simpler.

    It would however it means that Jesus would be the son of Joseph not God and is directly contradicted by 2 scriptures and no other scripture describes Jesus as Josephs son… Its really reaching to explain it in this way, and though it makes far more real world sense, we’re discussing the supernatural claims here.

    >I am not a fan of clobbertexting. The most common result is that the forest gets lost among the trees:

    And the trees here is that there are a great many not nice things said by Jesus regarding violence, slavery, and punishment for failing to believe. You asked for verses and comments from Jesus so I provided a good hand full of things He said or were attributed to him in the NT.

    So your stance is that you don’t have to have any belief in the divinity of Christ, only that it is the story which inspired you to be a good person? As noted, that’s making a religion about Aesop’s fables as well, unless you attribute some sort of historical accuracy or legitimacy to the stories of the Bible. If you do so, then you get into the hair splitting you mentioned and Jesus’s comments that the only way into Heaven and to be a good person is to believe in Him.

    For example, I would even qualify as a Christian by your description as I make an honest effort to follow the Golden Rule and the founding source of my efforts would likely be my parents and early Christian teachings. If however you asked me my opinions on all that today, I’d give some very different stances on the book as a whole or on Christ’s teachings beyond common fables…

  • AuntieDawna
  • swbarnes2

    Liberal Christians agree with the fundamentalists that the correct solutions to 21st century social and moral problems can be found in the correct interpretation of an ancient Near-Eastern text.

    If liberal Christians want to help, they need to set the example by dropping that premise, explicitly.

  • Herro

    Bill, again, you’re interpreting the gospel of Matthew like a fundamentalist. You’re trying to harmonize Matthew with ideas from other New testament books. Nowhere in that book can you find anything about the law being over by Jesus dying on the cross. There is no reason to think that when Jesus says that the law will be valid until “**all things** have happened” means that it will actually not be valid in a year when Jesus dies on a cross. Since when is Jesus dying on the cross “all things”?

    And you are not reading the text in its historical context. There were debates in early Christianity about the validity of the OT law. This text is clearly on the pro-law side and against people who were making the very same arguments you are offering here.

    And the idea that the saying condemning those who teach that you don’t need to follow the law was only applicaple for the ~1 year until the crucifixion makes no sense when you consider that the author of the gospel was writing long after that happened and clearly wanted people to hear that. I.e. why would he have Jesus teach stuff that wasn’t actually relevant to anyone anymore?

  • bobnelsonfr

    It would however it means that Jesus would be the son of Joseph not God and is directly contradicted by 2 scriptures and no other scripture describes Jesus as Josephs son… Its really reaching to explain it in this way, and though it makes far more real world sense, we’re discussing the supernatural claims here.

    I am not discussing anything supernatural. On the contrary, I have systematically given simple explanations at every turn. Jesus was God’s son in the same way that anyone who dedicates themself to loving others is a child of God.

    … so I provided a good hand full of things He said or were attributed to him…

    Without context, which is essential. As I read those verses, they are innocuous.

    As noted, that’s making a religion about Aesop’s fables as well…

    Why not, if you find Aesop inspirational?
    In fact, you make an interesting comparison, since Aesop’s stories have been around about as long as the NT. Why has one book become the reference for a religion, and the other not?

    I would even qualify as a Christian by your description as I make an honest effort to follow the Golden Rule and the founding source of my efforts would likely be my parents and early Christian teachings.

    That’s not what I said. You are a Christian if you make an honest effort to follow the Golden Rule (OK, on this point) and YOU cite Christ as your inspiration.
    It doesn’t matter if you are not a Christian, though. God knows Her children, regardless of the path they follow.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Just because you don’t see a ‘liberal Christian’ speaking up or stepping up in any of these cases doesn’t mean they aren’t. All of the ‘liberal Christians’ I know ACTIVELY are speaking out, protesting, and defending. The group I’m apart of in Nashville, TN, is extremely active in all these areas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to make the news, so you probably haven’t heard about it. But they are there.

  • Nick

    >Jesus was God’s son in the same way that anyone who dedicates themself to loving others is a child of God.

    In other words, nothing more than a prophet, as would be taught by the Muslims and directly contradictory to every Christian teaching I have ever come across. Seriously, I’ve never heard a Christian say that Jesus is not the son of God but is merely a prophet like Moses or David… And I’m pretty sure I can find Biblical verses to support that difference, including John 14:6

    >Without context

    Context is available before and after each of the verses. You say he didn’t say anything mean but those rather strongly disagree…

    >Why has one book become the reference for a religion, and the other not?

    Because one claims to be divinely inspired. You keep trying to separate Christianity and the Bible from its supernatural claims however that is what the Bible regularly and repeatedly claims.

    > and YOU cite Christ as your inspiration.

    I did, I said that Christ & his teachings were the origin of my understanding of the Golden Rule. It was the inspiration… It no longer is, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the inspiration for that path…

    > God knows Her children, regardless of the path they follow.

    Not according to the Bible which claims Yahweh to be masculine and the Father… Next, not according to the Bible & Jesus…

    In fact, I’d argue that you are not a Christian as you do not believe in the divine claims of the Bible which are paramount to the story but instead you view it as purely allegory. To you, it is nothing more than fables, which is directly contradictory to the claims of the book itself.

    This has been eye opening, seeing an individual attempt to claim Christianity while denying the basic tenets of the Bible…

  • Fred Meekins

    I am a little late to this discussion, and I can only relate anecdotal evidence of this, but in my 60+ years I have never met a Christian who has indicated to me that one can be a Christian without acknowledging the divinity of Jesus.

    This is one of the things I have struggled with. Because I recognize that many of the teachings attributed to the Biblical Jesus are good and valid instruction on how we should live in community with others, both those like us and those who are not. But these are universal truths, not Christian truths. And I don’t find the claims of his divinity persuasive in the least bit.

  • Marc B.

    Wasn’t Tolkien Catholic?

  • bobnelsonfr

    In other words, nothing more than a prophet…

    Those are your words, not mine. I said “dedicated to love”, and that’s a lot harder than prophecy.

  • Nick

    I assert the sky is red. I recognize it is in the 450nm wavelength range however I choose to call this color red. While everyone else calls this blue, I will assert the sky is red and based on my own weird and unique definition will continue asserting the accuracy of my statement throughout…

    When you claim the Bible is inspirational and nothing more… When you claim Jesus is a prophet, or “dedicated to love” or whatever, and not divine… When you redefine the term at hand to exclude the very claims expressed within the holy text itself…

    Then you cannot claim that others are exhibiting an error of holding you to the text of the book which you claim to view as not divine and simply inspirational.

    And per your claims about God, these are in direct contradiction to the holy text you claim to use as a guide for life.

    >Do YOU believe that God is an old guy with a beard?

    No, but the Bible, the book YOU are using does describe him as masculine in nature. I do not have to believe it to understand what the Christian religion preaches nor do I have to believe it to recognize that the beliefs you subscribe to are not Christian in nature.

    >You must decide what the Bible is for you.

    And you must decide if Christianity is a religion for you, divinely inspired, with Jesus as the son of God, or a series of fables and stories and nothing more.

    The logical fallacy in this article is NOT what is going on here. At this point, you are basically off the reservation in regards to Christianity. See, the article was about liberal Christians and their frustration with their views being attached to the more fundamentalist views in society, and the issue with this is in the liberal Christians inability to separate their own beliefs from the more twisted or silly claims within the Bible.

    Highlighting this was the winner of Miss USA getting a tattoo to remind her of her faith, a faith which expressly says not to get tattoos… Do I believe getting at tattoo is wrong? Not at all, and neither does Hemant, but its the inherent hypocrisy in liberal Christians which he was calling out in that post which flew over your as well as the writer of this posts head…

    But you, well, you are claiming the sky is red while using our common lexicon and then getting frustrated that people misinterpret your beliefs even though you are misusing the socially agreed upon terms in question

  • bobnelsonfr

    I assert the sky is red.

    You’re making a fallacious comparison. Colors have rigorous, measurable definitions. Your personal appreciation of the Bible, or of my faith, is neither rigorous nor measurable. Our disagreement is not simply semantic. It is fundamental.

    When you claim the Bible is inspirational and nothing more…

    That is what the Bible is… for me. If you wish to consider it the inerrant word of God… that’s your problem. I am not involved in any way.

    When you claim Jesus is a prophet, or “dedicated to love” or whatever, and not divine…

    I do not “claim” anything at all. I don’t know what “divine” means, so I certainly don’t have any opinion on whether or not the word applies to Jesus. If you give me your definition of “divine”, I’ll tell you if I think it applies… But that would be just my opinion.

    No, but the Bible, the book YOU are using does describe him as masculine in nature. I do not have to believe it to understand what the Christian religion preaches…

    I have said repeatedly that the Bible must be read in its historical context. It is you who insist on a literalist interpretation. Three thousand years ago, people perceived God as an old guy with a beard, who could throw lightning and stuff like that. We have progressed since then… some of us. You seem to be stuck in the Bronze Age.

    >You must decide what the Bible is for you.
    And you must decide if Christianity is a religion for you, divinely inspired, with Jesus as the son of God, or a series of fables and stories and nothing more.

    Do you see the difference between our two suggestions? Mine is open. I say you need to decide, but in no way limit your decision. Yours is closed. You (try to) limit my decision to only two options, as though no others are possible. If you want my thoughts, feel free to ask… but don’t try to impose your thoughts on me.

    At this point, you are basically off the reservation in regards to Christianity.

    What is your authority to declare what Christianity is? Does God speak to you directly? You cannot refer to the Bible unless you declare that you believe it to be inerrant. This is Dr Corey’s topic: the incoherence of non-believers quoting scripture. You can’t have it both ways.

    … getting frustrated that people misinterpret your beliefs…

    Neither you nor anyone else has any reason to “interpret” my beliefs. If someone wants to know what I believe, they can simply ask. If they want to discuss… anything… that’s fine. If they want to dictate what I must think… we won’t get along at all. That’s what you are doing, and the crazy thing is that you are trying to use the Bible while declaring that you don’t believe in it.

    Unless you have a different approach, we’re finished here.

  • Nick

    You stated that you view the Bible as inspirational and nothing more… That is what the Bible is FOR YOU… I don’t consider it inerrant, I consider it a rather disturbing and disgusting book to use as inspiration or morals as it is full of horrible people and evil stories, but regardless of MY opinion on it… You are asserting the sky is red as you have claimed to be a Christian while stating you do not think Jesus is the son of God and that the Bible is not the word of God but instead just an inspirational book…

    > I have said repeatedly that the Bible must be read in its historical context…

    In its historical context? So what is its literal accuracy? I assert it is a load of crap, about 95% worth… But regardless… How much of the teachings of Christ are accurate or to be taken literally because you say he’s a teacher of good but he says the only way into heaven is through him and he asserts he is the son of God… So

    >Three thousand years ago, people perceived God as an old guy with a
    beard, who could throw lightning and stuff like that. We have progressed
    since then

    And yet you still use that book as a source of inspiration and morals while excluding other parts of it and completely ignoring the divine claims made by the book. By the way, divine – of, from, or like God or a god. Supernatural

    >Do you see the difference between our two suggestions? Mine is open. I
    say you need to decide, but in no way limit your decision.

    And yet you choose to use a term to describe yourself which is in direct contradiction to its understood uses within society. You deny the divine aspects of the religion you claim to be a member of and then say we must view it in its historical context? OK, fine, the historical context is that they believed there was a god, Yahweh, who they worshipped and that Jesus is the son of that god. They had a lot of other beliefs however they believe that God also spoke through disciples and followers to write the Bible. If you deny these claims you are denying the basis of the religion you claim to be a member of. We’re not arguing over small, piddly details such as whether the bread actually turns into holy sacrement or it is metaphorical, or whether God actually had sex with Mary or artficially insemenated her… These are the core tenets which you are denying.

    >What is your authority to declare what Christianity is? Does God speak
    to you directly? You cannot refer to the Bible unless you declare that
    you believe it to be inerrant. This is Dr Corey’s topic: the incoherence
    of non-believers quoting scripture

    I am part of society which uses the terms such as Christian and you are using it in a manner directly contradictory to all others and to the positive claims made by the founders of the religion itself. You don’t have to declare it to be inerrant but to claim it as a religious text or in any way related to a god or divine you must prescribe SOME value to it beyond simple fable, which you do not. There is no incoherence on my part, there is only yourself who has cherry picked the book to a point of complete irrelevance and incoherence.

    > If someone wants to know what I believe, they can simply ask

    To which you have avoided saying anything and the LITTLE you have said has contradicted the book you view as a holy text. I don’t have to believe in the Bible to hold you accountable for the contents of a book you claim to be divinely inspired…

    And if you do not claim it to be divinely inspired, then it is not a religion in the sense of having a deity but is instead just a collection of stories which you can base your life on, like Aesop, and just as “religious.”

    You can’t have it both ways as you keep asserting and this is what you and Dr. Corey failed to grasp. When you claim the book is divinely inspired, whether it is inerrant or not, you are responsible for its contents and either accepting them or explaining them away. You have done neither and have gone even further off the reservation regarding

  • Ficino

    As others have said, I as an atheist feel more urgency to defend myself and people I love from political action of the religious right than I do from political action from progressive Christians. To the extent that a more fundamentalistic take on scripture is common to those on the religious right, yes, they are the ones whose interpretations spur them to aim at bad laws for a lot of people.

    There are atheist websites, incl. here on Patheos, where there is lively disagreement between atheists and non-literalistic Christians. Sometimes even nasty disagreement, I must admit.

  • Ficino

    Great. We need to be allies!

  • bobnelsonfr

    Incoherent rant, having nothing to do with me.

    Have a nice day.

  • Nick

    Directly addressed the claims you made regarding the incoherence of your beliefs regarding claiming to being a Christian while not believing in the divinity of Christ or the divine inspiration of the Bible. Pointed out that’s as absurd as claiming the sky is blue and that your insistence on looking at the Bible through a historical context doesn’t excuse the comments there in.

    Highlighted that you are not a Christian in any recognizable sense of the word and you view the Bible as fables, picking and choosing the parts which you find to spread love as the parts to follow.

    Benjamin Corey’s comments about separating liberal from fundamentalist beliefs in Christianity doesn’t apply to you as it deals with how does one choose which portions of the Bible are literal and which are metaphorical and yet you have asserted the whole thing is metaphorical… You can disengage if you want, it seems your own attempts to rationalize the Bible have led you to a point to where no one other than yourself would identify you as a Christian. That’s fine, you can call the sky red, but commenting about people who look at you crazy when you say it is a reflection of self, not society.

  • ThunkingMan

    St. Paul (reputedly) asks, “Who are we to judge” those OUTSIDE the Body of Christ, implying that they should ought to police within. (Rom 14)

  • There are so many different ethical and spiritual texts that offer everything good that one could glean from the bible without any of the accompanying nasty stuff – for example, the collected works of the Persian poet Rumi, many Zen texts, and even many philosophers including Marcus Aurelius, Boethius, and William James. Good advice about how to live life happily and productively isn’t hard to find, without all the smiting and genocide and slavery ripping up pregnant women and and all that baggage.

  • Fred Knight

    look, I getcha, and even agree….as do a whole helluva lot of thoughtful Christians of various stripes who don’t impose their personal choice on others…..it is a thorny issue…..it’s certainly not a badge of honor to get an abortion….it is regrettable, a sad confession (and actually totally avoidable) it should be a reluctant admission…..

  • Should a 14 year old feel ashamed for admitting they got an abortion when they were raped by their stepfather? Should an abused wife be embarrassed to admit that given the prospects of being beaten to death by her husband while she was too incapacitated to flee, she chose an abortion so as to even have the option of having children later in life? Should a person consider themselves to have committed a grievous sin because they needed to abort a ectopic pregnancy before it killed them and the foetus both?

    None of these are avoidable situations. None of them should be things a person would have to reluctantly admit — or have to admit at all. I’m firmly of the mind that the only reason a person needs to abort is “I don’t want to be pregnant anymore.” No person should be forced to give use of their body to another.

    People would like to think stories like The Handmaid’s Tale are fanciful dystopian fiction, but this is the country which has set a precedent that even corpses must be obligated to carry a pregnancy to term (and this has now happened three times) …

  • Fred Knight

    hahaha bill diaz, snark much? white supremacist, poor human intelligence, blah blah blah super boring bullshit aside, a whole helluva lot of atheists super-impose a hyper-literalism of their own making upon the text and Christianity, it’s a fair and valid point. Let’s see if you have the balls to admit it.

  • Fred Knight

    why do the hypotheticals get so crazy? do I make a basic point or not? you leap over a mountain of evidence to make a minor point, emotional though it may be. makes me wonder if you protest too much?

  • If I’d ever had an abortion, I’d say so.

    These aren’t hypothetical situations. They’ve happened to real people known either to me or to friends I trust to relay the story accurately. One of the reasons I get so vehement on this subject is because I’m sick to death of the Marks and Jeffs and Franks of the world all having an opinion about something which they will simply never have to worry about, barring the rare instance in which a transman or someone born with a condition like persistent Müllerian duct syndrome finds themselves pregnant (the latter is unlikely, but a distant possibility), and so situations which other people face on a daily basis become nothing but philosophical debate matter to them — a distraction from real world concerns at best. Again and again, I see people dehumanized in the fight for a better moral high score than the next guy. It’s a little hard not to get angry when people you know are nothing but a talking point to others who could care less about them except in the abstract.

    It’s also not a minor point to me in the slightest. I consider forcing someone to remain pregnant against their will to be a form of sexual assault, and that has been legalized too much in our history as it is. (Point in fact, it was legal to rape one’s spouse in the US right up into the 90s.)

  • Fred Knight

    “I still read the bible and I still go to church.” god bless ya – to be clear, I’m not a believer, and I don’t in any way perceive you to be my enemy (at least on that basis) …..those who hold to traditional values are my allies.

  • Fred Knight

    do you not even get the irony that I’m pro-choice and have literally nothing to gain from this argument? My point being is that you are not arguing the high ground, you are arguing for the vast minority low ground, bottom of the barrel consequences…..ie “regrettable” – I like the official position of Planned Parenthood and the non-loony Left, that actually admits it’s a horrible and regrettable consequence of some super bad real world scenarios – hence “regrettable” – this is the most positive spin you can put on it…..stop defending it as a virtue, please, or lose all credibility.

  • bobnelsonfr

    My reading of Romans 14 is exactly the opposite.

    It tells Christians to stick to the essential, “righteousness and peace and joy”, rather than get sidetracked by secondary topics like diet or the Sabbath.

    Romans 14 doesn’t mention outsiders. It is strictly about Christians; an instruction to not attempt to exclude brethren who have different ideas about peripheral topics.

  • You don’t have to be sitting opposite me to be speaking a message I condemn.
    I… have literally nothing to gain from this argument

    Exactly. It’s nothing but a debate point to you at best, and you could give less than a shit about the people it actually affects.

    *PLONK*

  • Fred Knight

    now you resort to whining and douchery…congratulations…..way to fail, big time…you lose any respect I may have had for your argument…..(you resorted to emotionalism, dude. :( )

  • Pfruit, I am somewhat confused by your statements:

    “Doesn’t every human have an equally valid claim on their own interpretation?”

    “If the Bible actually is the inerrant writings of the Creator of the Universe, it deserves to be taken seriously, and critically examined. This is why atheists tend to read the Bible like a Fundamentalist.”

    You seem to be making the point that, on the one hand, the Bible can be interpreted however one wishes too, yet then berate me for my understanding of Scripture, then turn around and present your hermeneutic as the only correct one. Seems a bit hypocritical.

    I have a small, itsy, bitsy problem with “inerrant writings of the Creator of the Universe,” God never signed his name to any of the 66 books of the Protestant canon of Scripture, people did. Nor does the word inerrant ever crop up in Scripture. If you read the Bible honestly, not building a straw man to knock down, you’ll find it is quite errant. Why, because people wrote it, not God. It’s ‘about’ God, not ‘by’ God.

    “Some people like Jane Austen”… I like period romance and have watched the movie adaptations of the books. I don’t read mystery novels, because I don’t particularly care for them. On the other hand, I don’t berate those that do read mystery novels. To each his own. Likewise, if you don’t like books about God, my suggestion…don’t read them.

  • Nick

    >Reading a text is a dialogue

    No its not. There is no back and forth. I can not say something and get the book to change its opinion or evoke a different response out of the book. A text is a hard and fast series of words. I can change my understanding, opinion, or interpretation of the text but there is no back and forth and nothing I say or do will change the next line on the page.

    If you attempt to describe reading a text as a dialogue, you’re either misusing the word “dialogue” or you’re being intellectually dishonest.

    And this is the key issue at hand… Why do atheists “read like a fundamentalist?” Because the words are there. You cannot “dialogue” them away to make the words disappear. You must either explain them away via historical context and tradition or you must ignore them. If the former, why is it part of a holy book as described as the word of God? If the latter, you’re being intellectually dishonest again.

    Atheists do not have this problem with the book. We don’t believe it. As such, we can attribute all the nasty or silly stuff to humans being human. But when you view it as divinely inspired, you add an extra standard to the book which you must be able to address when questioned on it. If you cannot, there is no penalty, but you do raise the question of why you believe at all and how you decide which parts to ignore and if your beliefs are because of the divinity or because it makes you feel good?

    The issue is liberal Christians do not like being held responsible for the stuff in their book and most cannot explain away the contents either…

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    Reading a text in light of its historical context is not explaining it away. It’s just good historical-critical exegesis–the sort of exegesis one would expect fair-minded people to engage in with regard to an ancient text they do not expect as sacred.

    Reading is a dialogue because I may find that my interpretation doesn’t fit well with the text, forcing me to adjust it. It’s also always a dialogue with other interpreters, living and dead. That’s just how everyone reads the text. The problem with fundamentalists–whether believing or unbelieving–is that they refuse to admit what they are in fact doing, pretending that they are “just taking the text at its word” and that “interpretation” is some esoteric activity that people engage in who find a “simple” reading uncomfortable for some reason, instead of a basic act required for finding any meaning in any text whatsoever.

    I don’t “ignore” any part of the Biblical text. That’s a silly, straw-man accusation.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    Um–you do know that Marcus Aurelius presided over an empire built on slavery, right? And that Boethius was a devout Christian? And Rumi was a devout Muslim who accepted the verbal inspiration of a text that had some fairly disturbing stuff of its own?

    All of the sources you cite are sources that I find personally valuable. They don’t replace the Bible for me, because the Bible gives me the narrative that shapes my life. But if we’re just talking about generic life wisdom, I actually agree that many of these sources are more valuable than many parts of the Bible.

    What the Bible gives that these other texts do not is a narrative about God creating the world out of love and redeeming it from evil by entering it in the person of Jesus. Within that narrative, the wisdom of all the excellent sources you mention finds a place.

  • Nick

    >one would expect fair-minded people to engage in with regard to an ancient text they do not expect as sacred

    And atheists do this. What we have an issue with is Christians doing this since they do view the text as sacred.

    >Reading is a dialogue because I may find that my interpretation doesn’t fit well with the text, forcing me to adjust it.

    Correct, you adjust your interpretation, not the text. Other interpreters may have a dialogue with you. But there is no dialogue with the text. The text is there, and while you may have some translational adjustments over time, the interpretation of the text is all 1-sided. In other words, its not a dialogue. Its you trying to wrap your head around what is there and make sense of what is in front of you. You may apply cultural relativism to any historical text to have a better understanding of the how and why within, and this is crucial when trying to understand the historical figures and their motivations, but you lose a lot of this ability when you state the message is divine or eternal. At that point you don’t get to state “times were different then” because the message is still the same.

    And ignore is not a straw-man accusation as that is exactly the difference between the liberal Christians and the fundamentalist… Certain attributes of the text may be discounted by stating that later portions overrule it and that is fair, but then you get into large portions of the NT and portions which have not been overwritten or which are shown not to be historically accurate and this is where you have a problem. As Corey says, while you may be in line with Christian tradition… That doesn’t mean you’re in line with the rules as prescribed by the holy book itself. And when that happens, a person is forced to either ignore it or apply a historical context to the action… which is supposed to be eternal…

    We don’t read the book as fundamentalists, we read the book for what it is and ask how you can claim to follow it without being fundamentalists like the book demands. We’re glad you are not, but we also recognize the hypocrisy in not being a fundamentalist and that is what we are calling out.

  • ThunkingMan

    You may be correct…I don’t know/care being an atheist, and all.
    Your POV could be the right one as all the lunacy that was Westboro Baptist Church didn’t bother mainstream Christianity until they started in on their moneymaking plan to picket veterans’ funerals to get the local constabulary to violate their civil rights to the tune of hundreds of thousands of Almighty Dollars.

    I’ll put it to you as simply as I can.
    Either Christianity cleans up its act or someone outside will do that duty for them.

  • I’m pretty good at history, as befits an ex-history major. And I deliberately picked samples out of many different contexts.I’m glad you find some of them valuable.

    My point is that it’s not necessary to construct a “narrative about God” in order to draw inspiration and ideas from ethical texts. In fact, it may impede the process, by requiring these texts to be fitted into a sin/redemption paradigm for which there is no evidence other than your conviction that it exists. The “places” that such ideas find in your narrative may not have much to do with their original formulation, and therefore may not actually contribute much to your narrative other than to serve as decorations.

  • bobnelsonfr

    IMNAAHO, a person’s religious label is irrelevent to either the morality or the legality of their behavior. The Westboro people are certainly condemnable morally, and perhaps legally. Whether they are “Christians” or not is beside the point. (I say “no!”)

    There is indeed a problem, though. There are people who give a pass to anyone, no matter how… evil… as long as they call themselves “Christian”. In doing so, they become accomplices. There can be no excuse for Westboro… and others…

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    Right, and beyond bragging about being “pretty good at history” you aren’t addressing my point, which was that these other texts _also_ have their contexts, which often include things just as unsavory as what you object to in the Bible.

    We all draw on wisdom from multiple traditions to fit into our narrative. How about we try to respect each other’s way of doing this instead of taking cheap potshots at it?

  • maco

    I think only looking at “what God wants” and “what God doesn’t want” is leaving out an important category: what God’s neutral about.

    I don’t think God’s got much opinion about whether my eggs are hard boiled or over easy. Surely there are plenty of things that we are neither commanded to do nor barred from doing.

  • Pfruit

    What special value does the Bible have, compared to any other book, if it’s just written by people?

  • Bigger question: why does anyone need a scapegoat? The quick answer is, no one ‘needs’ a scapegoat. But scapegoating and sacrifice to appease the anger of the gods is a big part of ancient religion, no less during the life of Christ. I am just starting to get into atonement theory, so I wish I was better prepared to give a full answer, but I think the crucifixion is a death blow to the entire sacrificial system and underscores God’s dissatisfaction with the whole ugly mess. The irony of the crucifixion is those who crucified Jesus thought they were doing God a favor.

  • Excellent! Thanks for adding a little light to this corner of the blogsphere!

  • Amen!

  • liberalinlove

    I love it when Atheists feel free to put words in my mouth and intent in my faith. It’s almost as if they have an inside understanding of all Christians and can therefore write us all off with equal measure. Fundamentalist atheists are as difficult as Fundamentalist Christians. Angry, or bitter, or something to prove, it has often been my unpleasant experience to realize they don’t listen or understand much better than the intolerant person of faith.

  • liberalinlove

    What is the battle? Faith is personal and linear and should be practiced with a reverential respect towards God, who will be the author and finisher of such faith and who will also author faith in others and finish faith in others…If others so choose. I choose not to do battle. Except for my own personal challenges. That is a full time occupation.

  • Well, I suppose if one was looking for a book on horticulture or yoga technique, it would not have a great deal to offer. If one was interested on the history of Judaism or a certain Jewish holy man named Jesus in the first century, it would be my go to book.

  • Fizbanic

    The battle is to live our lives how we want to without others trying to control it.

    Want to marry someone of the same sex…you have to battle theists to do it.

    Want to get an abortion…you have to battle theists to do it.

    Want to try to cure a child through stem cell treatment…you have to battle theists to do it.

    The fact is theists want to control others when it is none of their business. That is the battle to live our lives as long as it is not harming another…and they don’t want that.

  • Muz

    Christians can’t have it both ways.
    Jesus orders Christians to follow the Law of Moses in the Old Testament: “Do
    not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
    I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until
    heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will
    by any means disappear from the Law until everything is
    accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)” It is quite clear from these
    verses from the New Testament that Jesus did honor the Old Testament and
    did say that every single “letter” of it has to be honored, followed and
    fulfilled.

  • peabody3000

    well benjamin.. i think it boils down to this.. if any part of the bible is total bullshit, then every other part of the bible can be considered bullshit as well. if you can dismiss any part of it, it becomes dismissable in total

  • peabody3000

    christianity encourages its followers to practice their own personal brands of religion, doesn’t it? it makes the delusions all the more intimate

  • old farmer

    I read the bible because it gives me insight into the historical foundations of Christianity and how Christians & Jews think. For example, Deuteronomy 20:17 “But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, ” Sure sounds like a prescription for genocide to me.
    Sorry, I’m being facetious. When you say read the bible “like” fundamentalists do you mean, read the bible or do you mean “interpret the bible as fundamentalists do”? I read the bible because like it or not, I am still largely a product of a culture and society based on Judeo-Christian thinking and in order to gain insight into it and myself.

  • Edward Weissbard

    Muz, wouldn’t the death and supposed resurrection of Jesus constitute “everything being accomplished” which would then indicate a change in past jewish dogma?…..or is this everything being accomplished in reference to something else?

  • Leslie Smith

    Its amazing to me how religious people in general go into all sorts of verbal contortions to justify their beliefs. The modification of one’s beliefs to fit a lifestyle or an attitude simply does not speak to the truth of why have a religion at all. It seems that there are as many religions as there are people. Christian apologist will never give an inch when it comes down to their cultish behavior. No god, never was, good grief get over it.

  • Plutarch X

    But can Jesus and his mighty penis laser really stop Doktor Monstro and his Phuquebot Battalions when the Carnivortexicon opens?

  • Fizbanic

    I’m not a believer either.

  • maco

    Because we don’t get invited onto cable news to talk about Christianity? That the media has a skewed lens isn’t something we can fix.

    However, all the rainbow flags I see in front of Methodist, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches should be a hint to anyone walking by that progressive Christians exist.

  • alpinrange

    That is exactly how fundamentalists think about the Bible. It’s why they defend the veracity of the Bible strongly. Well done proving Benjamin’s point!

  • if any part of the bible is total bullshit, then every other part of the bible can be considered bullshit as well. if you can dismiss any part of it, it becomes dismissable in total

    You’re holding the Bible up to a standard we don’t apply to anything else in civilization. If one theory in science doesn’t hold water, does that mean we scrap the entire edifice of scientific inquiry? If one part of the Constitution is outdated, do we just shítcan democracy altogether?

  • peabody3000

    nope. neither science nor govt policy are based on pure faith. only religion is; it relies on the believer to fully accept it without evidence. faith by definition is the suspension of reason

  • Well, yeah, but that wasn’t the question. I’m an atheist so I’m not disputing that religion is based on faith. All I said was that you’re applying a standard to the Bible that we don’t apply to scientific theories, historical timelines, or anything else.

  • peabody3000

    its not a standard, its just logic. if religion relies totally and completely on faith, and that faith is shown to be misplaced due to parts of the dogma being demonstrably false, then faith doesn’t really work for any of it. if part of a scientific experiment is flawed then yes we can throw its results away

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    And there are millions more Christians, like myself, who are not fundamentalists and do not see ourselves as “liberal” at all, but mainstream, orthodox Christians, though of course both fundamentalists and fundamentalist-minded atheists think we are liberal.

  • nick

    …not all thiests.

  • Fizbanic

    Note the lack of the word “all” in my comment. If I meant all then I would have added all.

  • Van Anderson

    Well, the fundamentalists sure aren’t putting out “hints” about their worldview. They are advocating for it, and loudly. If those cable news shows don’t come calling, maybe it’s because liberal Christians aren’t willing to say the kinds of things that would get them invited. I guarantee that those same shows would be crawling over themselves to book liberal Christian leaders who actually put themselves and their beliefs front and center when advocating for church/state separation, reproductive freedom, or any of dozens of critical issues. The fact that they don’t suggests that those leaders don’t exist. If all your churches are willing to do is hang a flag on their doorstep, that doesn’t speak well to your convictions.

  • “The translation of “to fulfill” is lekayem in Hebrew (le-KAI-yem), which means to uphold or establish, as well as to fulfill, complete or accomplish. David Bivin has pointed out that the phrase “fulfill the Law” is often used as an idiom to mean to properly interpret the Torah so that people can obey it as God really intends.”(1)

    Paul said that love was the fulfillment of the Law:
    “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:8-10)

    Jesus was actually pretty “loose” with the interpretation and application of Jewish Law, which got him into constant trouble with the conservative religious Jewish leaders of his day. In Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, he radically reinterprets the law in his “you have heard it said, but I say unto you passages.”

    No I don’t find evidence in the NT that Jesus ordered slavish adherence to all the Mosaic Laws, in fact he broke the Sabbath rule a number of times.

    (1) http://www.egrc.net/articles/director/articles_director_1006.html

  • Pfruit

    OK.

    Why do you feel that knowing about a holy man in a piece of Jewish lore to be important to humanity?

  • Fred Knight

    cool, I’ll have to read back and see if there are serious disagreement between us, but it seems you are bringing some valid points. is unbelief an ideal and virtue unto itself? I actually loathe faith based assumptions…..but I don’t see how rejecting them makes me inherently “special” or unique.

  • Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, historically he has been kind of a big deal. I take it from your comments to date, you feel discussions about morality are unimportant? Philosophy and religion some kind of cosmic waste of time?

    So far in our discussion you’ve revealed very little about your personal reflections on morality, ground of being, the big picture, if you will. You’ve certainly been free with your criticisms of religions and religious people. Is that all your good for, criticizing?

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but this seems to be a one-sided conversation that I’m not getting much information in. I’m not quite sure what we disagree on or if we have some common ground as you’ve revealed little about your own beliefs.

  • David Weller

    You’re answering a bunch of arguments I haven’t made. Did I say conservatives don’t have the right to participate in the political process? Never in my lifetime have I said anything like that. Did I claim to somehow be a victim of something? Again, never have I made a claim like that. So it’s difficult to know what you’re talking about.

    Here are a couple of facts:

    1. Congress is more conservative than the general public. The Republican party has achieved it’s narrow majorities by gerrymandering and vote suppression–thus the consistent 20 percent approval ratings for Congress.

    2. If America is ruled by liberals, why do Republicans hold both the executive branch and the legislative branch of the federal government? Maybe you are thinking of the fact that people all over the country tend to live like liberals, not that they are ruling the country. That’s because conservatism is out of touch with how people want to live, it’s not really a conservative country, just has conservative leaders.

    Finally, Three issues around which conservatives tend to destroy freedom and culture: LBGT rights, abortion rights, health care policy.

  • Fred Knight

    btw, atheists/christians should realize that the deck is being stacked….I find almost 50% of my posts are being deleted/blocked/censored on Patheos blogs…in particular, Progressive Secular Humanist – this is the most chicken shit thing I’ve ever seen.

  • Fred Knight

    I’m absolutely blown away….I always knew folks were passionately in disagreement, but to censor and delete posts is the very Dictatorship they accuse Trump of! Leftist Dictatorship/Censorship is literally happening now…..and yet they project this upon the rational conservatives……rational people of every stripe should condemn this.

  • Muz

    Why wouldn’t it be clear? Why be obscure and left to disputable interpretation? Everything fulfilled could be the end of Revelations? Different personal interpretations result in different definitions of dogma for each person. As the Bible is the single central definition of the Christian God, via his works, and yet is expected to be subjectively interpreted is why I consider myself an ignostic atheist.

  • aL

    Neither Christians, Jews, nor Muslims can agree among themselves on what their holy books say, or the meaning they convey. Their disagreements result in dysfunctional acts that range from individual social isolation, to inter-religious squabbling, to “Holy” wars. Yet every group, and most sub groups insist that their interpretation is the one that is correct. Others claim to take a more laissez-faire attitude, avowing that other interpretations are OK (so long as its not this or that particular group’s method). In the middle stands the whip lashed Atheist, called to account for his/her faulty views. I’d laugh at the absurdity, if history and current events didn’t make clear how dangerous religions can be.

  • Marching and protesting for reform, in soup kitchens feeding the poor, preaching love in churches that embrace the LGBTQ community, voting for women’s rights, Gay rights. Over the past 100 years liberals and progressives, both religious and non have led the charge for equality, and end to poverty and global warming, all sorts of progressive agendas. Ever hear of Sojourner’s? Fundamentalism is largely a knee-jerk reaction to Liberal and Progressive religion, an attempt to halt and turn back social reforms instituted by liberals. So to answer your question, we’ve been in plain view for a long time.

  • Actually Progressive Christians like Rob Bell are starting to see a fair amount of media coverage as of late. The news media in the past has made the same mistake about Progressive Christians that atheists have, they are not seen as Christians, mainly because they don’t shove their religious beliefs down everyone’s throat. Instead, they blend in with everyone else who has liberal political views.

    If you step back from the circus caused by our present administration, and look at the historical trajectory of American politics and social reform, time is on the side of progressives. While there have always been conservative reactions, when the dust settles, the line keeps moving to the left.

    While the current situation is unhealthy, if history repeats itself, 6 years down the we’ll be in a better place then now.

  • It’s so refreshing to hear an atheist admit they might be wrong. I confess you’re the first I’ve run across. Yes, the claim that those who “hear” God are mentally ill is a bit much. But, I agree with you, humility is not a strong point among many Christians. We are taught that the Bible has “all the answers,” and that we are to be ready to give an answer to anyone who questions our faith. The result is a bunch of Christians who don’t “hear” what others are saying, because they are only thinking about pat answers or spouting off Bible verses.

    There are a growing number of Christians authors who are raising the alarm about “unquestioning faith” of evangelicals, the belief that questioning one’s religious assumptions or wrestling with disturbing aspects of the Bible is tantamount to a lack of faith. Pete Enns, ‘The Sin of Certainty;’ Derek Flood, ‘Disarming Scripture;’ Rob Bell, ‘Love Wins,’ What is the Bible?;’ Gregory Boyd, ‘Crucifixion of the Warrior God;’ Thomas Oord, ‘The Uncontrolling Love of God;’ Eric Seibert, ‘Disturbing Divine Behavior;’ and ‘A More Christlike God’ by Bradley Jersak to name a few.

  • Lark62

    There are presumably progressive Christians in Rhode Island, yet when Jessica Ahlquist politely asked that a prayer banner be removed from her public school, she received rape threats and death threats. An elected representative called her “an evil little thing” in a radio interview. She had to drop out of school. The number of Christians who publicly came to her defense? Zippobits.

    There are presumably progressive Christians who attend public schools, but when a christian principal thinks he can use the graduation ceremony to declare Jesus is necessary for a successful life, atheists stand alone when they ask to attend their own graduatuon without being preached at or led in prayer to someone elses god.

    Over and over someone will erect a monument on government land with a great big cross and declare it is intended to honor veterans. Atheists say that a monument to veterans should honor all veterans not just christian ones, and that the monument in fact is there to promote christianity. Three guesses how many Christians typically come forward to argue that monuments to honor veterans shouldn’t have a symbol associated with one religion? Guess how many will look you straight in the eye and say that the cross is just a neutral grave marker. Yeah right. Jewish and Hindu and Muslim cemetaries all over the world are chock full of christian crosses.

    I will believe progressive Christians stand for something when they actually stand for something. Stand up to fundies. Going it alone gets old.

  • Tim Burns

    That’s a fair point, but even so, tattoos being prohibited in the Old Testament is still one point in favor of the idea that God is against it. Some of the Old Testament laws are specifically and directly repealed in the New Testament. For everything else, it’s just the old subjective game of “is this one of the laws that don’t count anymore or not?” But Romans 14:23 suggests that if you’re not sure whether something is okay or not, then it is sinful to just go ahead and do it anyway.

  • apoxbeonyou

    There are many people at my church who are not convinced Jesus was divine (I am one). I still think people get too caught up in whether or not he was; his message is what is important. The divinity part is only important if you believe his death forgave humanity’s sins, which I do not.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    I should have put it in terms of a spectrum rather than sharply defined categories. But here are a few things that distinguish me from the more stereotypical ends of the spectrum:

    From liberals:
    I recently became Catholic because I am convinced that the orthodox, mainstream Christian tradition makes sense of the world, and that we need to have an authority structure to maintain orthodoxy. In doing so, I submitted myself to the Church’s teaching, though I struggle with the Church’s stance on women’s ordination. I find that liberal Christians are far too confident that contemporary secular mores, particularly on sexual morality, are correct and that the Church is just blind or evil when it fails to fall in line.
    More broadly, I don’t believe in progress, or at least I am not confident that modern secular society represents progress.
    I believe in divine revelation–that Scripture and Christian tradition are not just human efforts to understand God but are a response to God’s sovereign choice to reveal himself.
    I believe in the possibility of miracles, and that the resurrection of Jesus is the central event of human history.
    I believe that the ancient Creeds of the Church are the heart of the Christian faith–that our ethics and our vision for transforming society must be rooted in the conviction that God has truly entered the world in the person of Jesus.
    I believe in the possibility of hell–that some people may choose to cut themselves off finally from God.
    I don’t have a problem, in principle, with hierarchy. While I don’t agree with all of C. S. Lewis’ opinions on this subject by any means, I agree with him that equality is medicine, not food.

    From fundamentalists:
    I believe that the Bible should be read as a human document as well as divine revelation, and that on this human level it may often reflect mistakes about history or science, or even about religious and ethical issues, in ways that don’t prevent it from being also God’s revelation of how he desires to relate to human beings. The Catholic Church requires me to affirm a form of inerrancy, which has been one of the difficult things about becoming Catholic, because I find any kind of inerrancy very hard to swallow. But I would qualify it pretty heavily (as most educated Catholics I know do).
    I don’t believe that non-Christians are necessarily going to hell, or even that we can be sure that anyone will go to hell.
    I believe that we should be open to learning from all traditions and points of view.
    I believe that social justice is an essential part of Christian ethics.
    I believe that capital punishment and war are evil in most cases and justifiable only under very narrow circumstances.
    I believe that human intuitions about justice and beauty and truth are flawed but generally reliable, and indeed that Christian faith would be impossible and meaningless if they were not.

    These are some of the examples that come to mind :)

  • Tim Burns

    You’re holding the Bible up to a standard we don’t apply to anything else in civilization.

    Christians don’t believe that anything else in civilization is inspired by the One True God, so it is perfectly reasonable and sensible to hold this to a different standard. It should have no trouble meeting a more rigorous standard if it is what it is claimed to be.

  • peabody3000

    science and religion are opposites. science provides evidence, via repeatable experiments, and when an experiment is found to be flawed, it is modified or replaced. religious faith is not backed by any evidence, at all, and it does not generally allow for self-correction. if religion were backed by any testable evidence, it wouldn’t be called religion, it would be called scientific fact. religion has always been used to fill in for limitations in human understanding, and its canonical footprint has been shrinking as our scientific knowledge has expanded over the eons. that concept is known as the ‘god of the gaps’

  • Marc LaClear

    What is a “fundamentalist” then? Your interpretation is pretty “fundy” as far as I’m concerned.

  • Pfruit

    I understand that empathy is the bedrock of human morality.

    Philosophy certainly has a place, so long as critical analysis and empiricism are included in the calculus. Religion however is based on beliefs founded outside of empirical evidence.

    The original article was criticizing atheists (people who don’t find value in mythology) for reading the Bible (a mythological book that founds a religion) literally. All critical thinkers read their factual textbooks books literally. A functional anatomy book has no metaphors about the endocrine system- it provides a testable, functional basis for discussion. A physics textbook provides a rational, true description of gamma waves- their properties, their limitations, and their measurable characteristics. No one criticizes a psychiatrist for taking the DSM IV literally, because the DSM IV is a book based in psychosocial facts, or in the least, the latest, best-available evidence at the time of publication. The important thing is that no text book is every written as “the final word” on any subject- because empirical evidence is always growing.

    Historically, Harry Potter has been “kind of a big deal” too. This doesn’t mean that any reasonable person should center their life around Hogwarts, or the doctrine of The Ministry of Magic.

    People who treat the Harry Potter series as anything more than delightful fiction need a serious reorientation to reality- the same applies to anyone in the thrall of religion fiction. People who try to insist that their religious texts should receive the same level of respect, deference, and consideration as scientific text books are the same ones crying foul when actual serious people ignore their religious fantasies.

  • peabody3000

    you are saying that religious people can at times be reasoned and rational, and of course that is true. religious people don’t give up on reason entirely, after all. but there is no truth which pure reason can arrive at that would be called religious belief, and there is no belief which requires faith that can be called scientific fact

  • I am truly sorry that Ms. Ahlquist faced such vitriol. But, as I recall, religious leaders did hold a press conference shortly after the suit went public calling for tolerance and “love for fellow man.” Perhaps not enough however. The momentum should have continued. I’m not a particularly good judge of intentions on this particular case as I was still fairly conservative in 2012. The school had been in violation of the constitution for decades, it seems, so the eventual outcome was inevitable, but I agree, she should have had greater support from progressives.

  • Lark62

    Thanks. Christian voices in these situations would be powerful. “I’m a christian and I agree the ___ does not belong on public property.”

  • Rich Geiger

    Then why do Christians insist on having the Ten Commandments thrust upon society? Why not the laws of Hammurabi? If y’all want us to follow your rules, then first you must follow your rules.

  • Matthew

    Then how about you specify WHO exactly you have a problem with?

  • Fizbanic

    No need, my comment says exact WHO I have a problem with. If you can’t figure it out then move on. It is in the final paragraph.

  • Fizbanic

    Congratulations on missing the point. It is about control and the bible.

  • Lark62

    What? It is YOUR standard. Christians created this standard.

    “Absolute morality is found only in the Christian bible.”
    “The bible is and should be the basis for our laws.”
    “The truth of the bible should be taught in public schools.”
    “Gays cannot be allowed secular marriage because the bible said ‘Adam and Eve’ not ‘Adam and Steve’.”
    “You can’t make your own medical decisions because I think the bible says life begins at conception.” (Even tho the bible says nothing of the sort.)

    It is christians who keep planting 10 Commandment monuments on public property. It is christians who declare they hold the secret to morality and everyone else must play by the rules they say are found in their book.

    If your book is perfect – prove it. If it isn’t, shut up already put your “biblical morality” where the sun don’t shine. The double standard is past its sell by date. “The bible is perfect and must be obeyed, except for when I say it isn’t and doesn’t. But I decide, not you.”

  • “I understand that empathy is the bedrock of human morality.”

    …and I agree 100%. But that is the story of Jesus in a nutshell. The entire crucifixion narrative is about empathy. Personally I don’t care whether you view it as true, partially true or total fiction. Progressive Christians read scripture as story with spiritual, or ethical themes. Complete factuality is not necessary for an ethical reading of scripture. It is not a house of cards where one statement, as judged by science causes the entire edifice to tumble.

    Now, I do agree with you that if one reads scripture as a fundamentalist and the majority of conservative Christians do, then the edifice does indeed fall. The goal of Jesus’s ministry and teaching was to transform lives. If one’s reading of scripture does not accomplish a positive direction in the reader’s life, then, indeed, it is a waste of time.

    I don’t particularly care to quibble about your scientific nature of “truth” claims, as I don’t believe either of us is about to change. I would add that most people deal relationally and socially with each other rather than Borg-like or demanding, like Spock, that everything be observationally “true” and scientifically measurable. Our emotional component is what makes us interesting, and the Bible has that in spades. I am far more interested in social constructs and ethical living than gamma particle waves.

  • Matthew

    What part does redemption play in the biblical story, or is it (the bible) only filled with ethical themes?

  • Matthew

    Is the spiritual power of the Bible at all diminished if most of its contents are not historically accurate? I mean if the Red Sea (or Reed Sea) crossing never actually happened, does that de facto diminish the power of scripture, God, etc.?

  • Fizbanic

    My point was about battling theists as why I still read the bible. That was my point. Your reply is irrelevant.

    I didn’t mention atheists, nor agnostics. So how can you claim you address what you see when it is not there. You’re trying to make appear what is not there, if either word appears in my comment in regards to the op then quote it.

    Your reply is even off topic of the OP.

  • John Greene

    I think it’s because that’s how people, as a rule, get knowledge.

    They take the words of an authority as literal truth. They all do, atheists and theists alike. The only difference is choice of authority.

    Which is probably much the same way that people in societies have been getting their knowledge since forever.

    Maybe 0.0001% of the population gets their knowledge from firsthand experience. These are the artists, scientists, mystics and such.

    The other 99.9999% gets their knowledge from authority, ie convention, teacher, guy on tv, etc. Directly or indirectly.

    They basically live in a story.

    Embedded in society like liver cells are embedded deep within your body. Only the skin cells touch reality.

  • Fizbanic

    Atheists and agnostics were never mentioned by me at all. You can personally think all you want but as it is laid out in words it clearly isn’t.

  • Pfruit

    The crucifixion story is an abhorrent fairy tale about masochistic human sacrifice.

    At the heart of the story, the omnipotent, omnipresent creator of the universe sacrifices himself to himself to absolve his creations of a curse that he laid upon them in the first place.

    The concept of intrinsic sin is totally devoid of empathy or compassion. The notion that people are somehow inherently flawed, and need to be forgiven for their flaws is abhorrent and anti-humanist.

    There are tiny snippets of empathic lessons in the story of Jesus, but you want to read some fiction while learning a whole lot more about empathy, compassion, loyalty, and courage, I suggest delving into the Harry Potter series. It’s a more coherent story, the characters offer much more worthy of human emulation, and there is about as much evidence for the miracles describes in the Bible as in Harry Potter.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    Dear Michelle,

    Pardon me for butting in, and so late, but I would like to offer my views on the objections you presented.

    Re: the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman. I don’t see His words to her as bigotry. He wasn’t calling her, “You filthy such-and-such” — He was illustrating the fact that (for the most part) the needs of the Jewish people would come before those of the Gentiles during His ministry, using the fact that kids should be fed before pets as an allegory. This wasn’t meant to tell her that she was a pet to the Jews, or anything more than, “there’s an order to things”. Further, I don’t think He was trying to discourage this woman. He was giving her the opportunity to express her amazing faith — the quality of which I think He knew, and which He later commended.

    Re: breaking families apart. I can’t imagine Jesus would ever advocate this. Elsewhere He affirmed the commandment to honour parents, and condemned the callous mistreatment of parents by adult sons in the name of false piety. When He says that believers must “hate” members of their own families to truly follow Him, I think He’s employing hyperbole — intentional exaggeration to drive home a point. It’s a technique that He seems to have used at other times, and it makes sense to me here. Essentially, Jesus is saying that our devotion to Him must be total, and all of our natural loves must pale in comparison to that. Of course that is extreme, and I admit that, unless you accept that Jesus is who He claims to be in the Bible, you’re not likely to accept that He deserves that level of devotion.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    …unless of course god’s morality progressed as societies progressed, which completely negates the concept of “objective morality” coming from god.

    I wouldn’t say that God’s views on right and wrong have “progressed”; rather God’s righteousness remains unchanged, but human thought and society have progressed, as you say. And as we’ve progressed — as we’ve grown to value things other than strength or wealth, as we’ve learned to combat xenophobia both within ourselves and in society, as we’ve recognized the heinous evil of chattel slavery — God has been able to reveal more and more of His righteousness to us, commensurate to our ability to receive it.

    ETA: I think that accounts for much of the progression that we see in the narrative of the Bible.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    Dear Van,

    As a Christian who doesn’t subscribe to what’s called fundamentalism, I’d like to ask you something in response.

    What do you mean by “letting” fundamentalists speak for me? What exactly am I supposed to do to stop them? I’m just one man, and not a particularly famous or powerful one.

    I sign petitions against the kinds of hurtful policies you mention. I speak out against them on comment boards like these, and on Facebook. What else are you looking for? What do you want to see?

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    Because we don’t get invited onto cable news to talk about Christianity?

    There’s another aspect which Van perhaps hasn’t considered. A fellow commenter wrote about it on another board, but I find it fitting to this subject.

    Speaking from his own experience, he said: “Loud crazies have a way of defining and becoming the public face of a group. That’s because they don’t have jobs or lives to take time away from building their brand, and purging the group into their own image or fetish.”

  • Fred Knight

    To be clear, Benjanmin Corey has never done this, my venting with primarily the Progressive Secular Humanist….I’ve had similar issues with fundamentalist Christians as well as progressive atheists….not much difference, in my view….fresh reminder that people will be people.

  • Gexxr

    Because that is the style of interpretation that is most vocally used in public policy debate on issues we disagree with them on.

    We read it the way they do to point out their inconsistencies and hypocrisies on women’s and LGBT rights as opposed to how they want their lives governed.

    We do not have to underscore liberal readings of the Bible to vocally agree with liberal Christians.

    And frankly, liberal Christians do the same when arguing with their conservative brethren. Only they don’t get mad at themselves for doing so.

  • Bones

    I’m with you Larky….

    We’re fighting ignorance together….

    Though I’m probably more of a Christian agnostic.

  • Bones

    We tend to get called sjws now.

    And there were Christians defending Jessica

    Religious group defends Ahlquist

    CRANSTON, RI (WPRI) – There was plenty of support Tuesday afternoon for Jessica Ahlquist.

    The teen atheist is at the center of the prayer banner controversy.

    Local clergy came together on Tuesday at the Edgewood Congregational Church condemning what they call inappropriate language used by some to describe Ahlquist.

    “We believe that the majority of people want the hateful speech to stop,” says Rev. Dr. Don Anderson of RI State Council of Churches.

    “Must we always kill the prophets and stone to death those who sent us,” says Rev. Betsy Garland.

    Tuesday’s action comes one week after hundreds came out to ask the Cranston School Committee to appeal a federal judge’s decision that the prayer banner must come down.

    “I already won the lawsuit and the judge made the right decision obviously,” Jessica Ahlquist said.

    Tuesday’s meeting was held by the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

    Executive Minister Reverend Dr. Don Anderson says he decided to hold the meeting because of emails he has received asking them to stick up for Ahlquist.

    Several of the clergy members who came out Tuesday also say they have history in Cranston.

    Several of them even attended Cranston High School West

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120130062900/http://www.wpri.com/dpp/news/local_news/west_bay/religious-group-defends-ahlquist

  • Bones

    It’s part of the gospel writers propaganda to show that Christianity had ‘legitimally’ usurped Judaism.

  • Van Anderson

    You may just be one man, not particularly famous or powerful, but if you truly live as if you are a Christian, then you have the ear of at least one person who has a say. You may sign petitions and speak out on Facebook, but does your minister write letters to the editor? If (s)he does, then ask yourself whether the messages they send to the public espouse the worldview of the fundamentalists or not. Does your minister know how you live and believe, or are you too timid to risk a confrontation? Are they too timid to take a truly public stand for the founding principles of this country?

    You may not be particularly powerful or famous, but if you have a church state violation in your community and you convinced your minister to speak out on the side of those of us who actually defend that wall, I’m pretty sure you’d find that your voice can have a lot of power and influence. The fact that you haven’t done that is why the fundamentalists speak for you when you call yourself a Christian. If you don’t like it as much as you claim you don’t, you need to get off your butt and do something about it.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    Thanks for replying. You speak of church/state violations in “this country”. If you mean violations against the U.S. Constitution, I assure you I have very, very little clout there. I’m a citizen of Canada, and live and work in Japan (where Christians are 2% of the population at most, and have no power to strong-arm public policy). When I’ve heard pastors there offer harmful or false theology, I’ve spoken up in an effort to keep them honest. If they ever try anything to abuse their congregants or to deny others’ civil rights, I hope I’m brave enough to stand up to them.

    In the meantime, please don’t speak as though Christians in the U.S. have simply been sitting still in the face of abuse by fundamentalists. They’ve been at work, but in ways that you haven’t noticed. The Wartburg Watch is one example. For years, Dee Parsons and Deb Martin have been running this well-researched blog, detailing the abuses and questionable behaviours and teachings of leaders in American Christendom. There’s also Julie Anne Smith, whose blog Spiritual Sounding Board has been reporting on spiritual abuse since she was sued by a former pastor. While raising her kids and earning her college degree, she’s become a resource for people fleeing abusive churches, and for women fleeing bad marriages.

    I hope you’ll see the efforts of ordinary believers like these as a sincere attempt to push back at fundamentalism, and its encroachments onto the public sphere and civil rights.

  • Moxie Miscellany

    Historically, the Catholic church has been a patron of sciences [i]so long as they don’t contradict church doctrine.[/i]
    I mean… remember Galileo? And then there’s the Church’s stance (murky nowadays) on the science behind sexuality, not to mention evolution. Eventually they come around, and they’re not as bad as, say, Southern Baptists or Charismatics, but they aren’t really quick to adapt.

  • Van Anderson

    My apologies for assumptions about your nationality. But while my comments were phrased towards an American context, in many ways those same sorts of acts would be even more powerful in a country, such as Canada, where Christianity enjoys an official governmental imprimatur. If church leaders speak out against exclusionary public displays of religiosity in a country where those things aren’t patently unconstitutional, the message that liberal Christians truly do stand up against the theocratic insanity of the fundamentalists would be pretty undeniable.

    And yes, I’m sure there are many out there who do small acts that have a real effect on people’s lives, but that’s kind of the point – the fundamentalists aren’t limiting themselves to writing blogs, they are engaging in concerted attacks on secularism and the rights of non-christians to live lives according to their conscience, and they get away with it precisely because liberal Christians don’t display the courage to openly challenge them in the public sphere. Writing blogs about abusive churches is just fine, but if it’s all your faith community is doing, you’re pretty much useless to those of us who have a lot to lose if those people get their way.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    The question is why do “progressive christians” read the bible like liberals….is the answer

  • Bob Shoemaker

    And atheists, unbelievers and agnostics are no better.

  • Van Anderson

    By all means, keep making excuses for why you don’t stand up for your faith. In the end, each one of those rationalizations and justifications for your own inaction and silence is exactly why those of us outside of your faith tradition don’t believe you when you say that you speak for Christianity – you don’t act like you believe you are right when it comes to Jesus, when it comes to the bible, when it comes to god or the holy spirit. The fundies speak for you precisely because you have all these excuses for why you don’t speak for yourselves.

  • peabody3000

    me for example, i just live my life and try my very best to treat others as i wish to be treated. that’s a LOT better than the ways i usually see religion practiced. i don’t need to soothe the alleged ego of zeus, ganesha, or jesus, or whatever may or may not be out there

  • Bob Shoemaker

    But yet you atheists see fit to come here to grip about Christians and tell us how much better your belief is compared to ours. And I’ll bet you can’t see the irony. There are bully atheists and legalist Christians but you attempt to lump us all together while giving yourself a free pass.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCsNunGnqE0

  • Pfruit

    If I am interpreting your response correctly, you’re saying that the Bible has no intrinsic value, because everyone who read the Bible has their own personal dialogue.

    Thanks for agreeing with my point?

  • Pfruit

    Tom Cruise is a Scientologist.

    It doesn’t mean that we can derive moral value from the Mission Impossible series.

  • peabody3000

    i used to be christian. i used to spend my days in close quarters with christians. now i know just based on history that there is nothing to the christian folklore. i also see no good being done by the christian community on the whole. they aren’t more ethical than atheists. they aren’t more giving. they aren’t more of anything that is good. you talk of atheist “beliefs.” but as an atheist i don’t have any religious beliefs. i don’t know if anything is out there but i have no reason to believe there is. simple as that..

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    No, I’m saying reading all texts is a dialogue–without exception. In cases where the meaning of the text is narrow and technical and where we have lots of cultural context to help us, the dialogue may be simple and easy. In ancient texts and/or texts dealing with mythological or metaphysical topics, the dialogue is much more open-ended. But there’s always dialogue.

    I’m not sure, in your interpretation of my text, whom you think the dialogue is with.

  • David Hiersekorn

    I didn’t see the notification, so I apologize for the delay in responding.

    I get where you’re coming from, and I agree somewhat with your criticism of those who would impose modernism onto the scriptures. But, there is a middle ground.

    It reminds me of the debate between Calvinists and Arminians. One of my Bible mentors used to say that both sides were correct in what they affirmed and incorrect in what they denied.

    I’d say that’s true of the ancient vs. modern debate. Just because Genesis fails to mention nuclear fission, that doesn’t mean the Bible denies the existence of nuclear science. It’s just silent on the issue.

    Likewise, naturalist/atheists are being pretty silly when they argue that X didn’t happen because it’s impossible. The premise of the story is that a divine being intervened to do a miracle – something that is, by definition, impossible.

    There is a lot of fertile ground there if you want to debate the existence of God, etc. That’s fine. But, to argue that God doesn’t exist because miracles are impossible is really just a circular exercise in question begging.

    My problem with Liberal Christians is really very fundamental. Simply put, if there was no literal Adam, then there is no literal curse. If there is no curse, then there is no need for a savior. It seems rather strange to reject the premise of Christianity and then still believe in it anyway.

    They’re basically treating the Bible like it’s a big “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Yes many before you made the same claim but the fact is you were never a born again Christian to begin with otherwise you’d have understood the gravity of what Christ did for you. Apparently you’ve never had any Christian friends or attended a biblical Christian church. But then again even Christians are guilty of sin and are less than perfect. If you had no beliefs you wouldn’t be here condemning Christians….it’s as simple as that eh?

  • peabody3000

    i wouldn’t say i’m condemning anyone. but i’m saying that religious people are much more prone to intolerance, such as with gays etc, and are far more likely to support wars that politicians never fail to sell to the public using religion. they’re also far less likely to accept science and data on crucial issues, relying instead upon religious doctrines. don’t get me wrong, people can and do believe whatever they want to, but if they are free to discuss their beliefs as they indeed are, i feel quite comfortable discussing my lack thereof

  • Marc B.

    Look, I get that you are trying to come up with all the perfect logical fallacy-free arguments to devalue the Bible, but at the end of the day, you said it yourself “You are entitled to your own opinion.” If millions and millions of people think that the Bible has “more value than any other book”, then that’s their entitled opinion….so what’s the problem? You either have to come up with a more convincing argument, or wait until people eventually change their minds.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Part 1……You are still judging Christians by your unfounded standards. The facts about the homosexual behavior is it is a dangerous and destructive life choice. Christians pointing out this medical fact has nothing to do with intolerance but medical facts. And please don’t use the safe sex excuse because if that were in any way true aids/hiv wouldn’t be so prevalent in the homosexual community. Another fact is homosexuals target Christian businesses that they beat with the homosexual stick and put them out of business but you ignore that too. But just to educate you on actual facts….

    It is about Actions and Consequences, which then determines if a person’s actions (behavior in particular) are correct or incorrect… the results of the behavior.

    And homosexuality time and time again proves to be a highly detrimental behavior, which needs to be corrected, not glamorized nor rights given to it.

    Here are just a few examples of the detrimental results of the homosexual behavior.

    – Dr. Selma Dritz in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Oral and ana l inter course present physicians with surgical as well as medical problems, ranging from ana l fissures and impaction of foreign bodies in the rectum to major diagnostic dilemmas.”
    * Reference: Dritz SK. “Medical Aspects of Homosexuality.” The New England Journal of Medicine, 1980; Vol. 302 No. 8 (463-464).

    – “Study: Gay Men Are Twice as Likely to Have Cancer”, Yahoo story, By MEREDITH MELNICK Meredith Melnick– Tue May 10, 10:05 pm ET

    – Lesbian sex is linked to higher risks of bacterial vaginosis, HPV specifically genital warts—squamous intraepithelial lesions, trichomoniasis, syphilis, and Herpes simplex virus (HSV), and cervical cancer even among women who have had no prior sex with men. In addition, women who have sex with women have a higher risk of HIV/Aids due to the fact that many of identified lesbians have had sex with bisexual men much more so than a hetero woman has. Transmission also occurs through vaginal and cervical secretions between lesbian women.

    * Reference: Women Who Have Se x with Women (WSW), Centers for Disease Control, 2006 (MMWR August 4, 2006 / Vol. 55 / No. RR–11). Retrieved on January 9, 2009.
    – Frenkl, Tara Lee, Potts, Jeannette (February 2008). “Sexually Transmitted Infections”, Urologic Clinics of North America, 35 (1) p. 33–46.

    – In The Gay Report, by Jay and Young, homosexual researchers surveyed the sex habits of homosexuals, Traditional Values reported. The result shows that:

    · 99% had engaged in oral se x
    · 91% had engaged in anal intercourse
    · 83% engaged in rimmi ng (mouth to anu s contact)
    · 22% had fisted their sex partners
    · 23% admitted to golden showers (urinating on a se x partner)
    · 76% admitted to group or public se x
    · 4% admitted ingesting feces
    These behaviors are the seedbed for a whole variety of serious intestinal parasites, viruses, and bacteria known collectively as “Gay Bowel Syndrome.”

    -Dr. Stephen E. Goldstone, the medical director of Gay Health.com says that 68% of HIV-positive and 45% of HIV-negative homosexual men have abnormal or precancerous an/al cells, noted Traditional Values.

    -Medical experts and scientists believe that the increased number of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) cases is the result of an increase in risky sexual practices by a growing number of gay men. One in five gay men were found to have HIV, according to a study released by the CDC in 2010.

    Latest… STDs continue on the increase in San Francisco for the 6th year in a row!
    Reference: Article “California: San Francisco sees Spike in STDs”, from HIV/AIDS Resource for Gay Men website, U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, February 13, 2012.

    “MSM have higher HIV and other STI rates than do women and heterosexual men”, Reference: Article from HIV/AIDS Resource for Gay Men website, U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, May 29, 2012.

    “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have se x with men (MSM)1represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV”, Reference, article “ HIV Among Gay and Bisexual Men”, from website HIV/AIDS Resource for Gay Men website, U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, May 18, 2012.

    “Atlanta researchers found a high rate of HIV in gay male couples who thought both partners were HIV-negative”, Reference, article “Gay couples at Risk”, from website HIV/AIDS Resource for Gay Men website, U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, November/December 2011.

    There is a lot, lot, and lot more, but as for the result of these previous studies, it is simple.

    Gay men for example, have ana l sex as their main se x act, and the colon is NOT prepare to fight viruses as the vagin a does with all its acidity. Furthermore, the colon is designed by nature to absorb as much material as it can, so when a peni s is introduced in it with all its “wonderful” viruses and bacteria traveling on it, the colon simply does what it does best, it tries to adsorb all of it…. hence the person is more likely to get infections, viruses, cancer causing agents, etc.

    The same with Fella tio, the mouth is the beginning of the digestion process, and gay men and lesbians indulge heavily in it, so the introduction of viruses, germs and cancer causing agents into a person is more likely in these cases.

    Action and consequences… that is what the opposition against homosexuality has always been all about, the bad consequences to the individuals and society.. because yes YOU too are affected, that irresponsible reckless sexual behavior results in diseases being passes around/spread upon the population, increasing the Health Care cost for everyone! …so when your Health Coverage BILL increases come in the mail d-o n-o-t complain… with “acceptance” of homosexuality, you asked for it!

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Partt 2…..And this is directly from the CDC……..

    Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States. Read more about prevention challenges for MSM and what CDC is doing to address them in HIV Among Gay and Bisexual Men.

    Fast Facts

    1. Gay and bisexual men are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States .
    2. Among all gay and bisexual men, blacks/African Americans bear the greatest disproportionate burden of HIV.
    3. From 2008 to 2010, HIV infections among young black/African American gay and bisexual men increased 20%.

    Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)a represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, MSM accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections, and MSM with a history of injection drug use (MSM-IDU) accounted for an additional 3% of new infections. That same year, young MSM (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all MSM. At the end of 2010, an estimated 489,121 (56%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States were MSM or MSM-IDU.
    The Numbers
    New HIV Infectionsb

    In 2010, MSM accounted for 63% of estimated new HIV infections in the United States and 78% of infections among all newly infected men. Compared with other transmission groups, MSM accounted for the largest numbers of new HIV infections in 2010.
    Among all MSM, white MSM accounted for 11,400 (38%) estimated new HIV infections in 2010. The largest number of new infections among white MSM (3,300; 29%) occurred in those aged 25 to 34.
    Among all MSM, black/African American MSM accounted for 10,600 (36%) estimated new HIV infections in 2010. From 2008 to 2010, new HIV infections increased 22% among young (aged 13-24) MSM and 12% among MSM overall—an increase largely due to a 20% increase among young black/African American MSM.
    Among all MSM, Hispanic/Latino MSM accounted for 6,700 (22%) estimated new HIV infections in 2010. The largest number of new infections among Hispanic/Latino MSM (3,300; 39%) occurred in those aged 25 to 34.

    Prevention Challenges

    As a group, gay, bisexual, and other MSM have an increased chance of being exposed to HIV because of the large number of MSM living with HIV. Results of HIV testing conducted in 21 cities as part of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System indicated that 19% of MSM tested in 2008 were HIV-positive and that HIV prevalence increased with increasing age and decreased with increasing education and income. Men aged 40 years and older had higher rates of HIV infection than men aged 18 to 39.

    Further, many gay and bisexual men with HIV do not know they have HIV, especially MSM of color and young MSM. Of MSM who tested positive for HIV in 2008, 44% did not know they were infected. Among those infected, young MSM (aged 18 to 29 years; 63%) and racial/ethnic minority MSM (54%) were more likely to be unaware they had HIV. Persons who don’t know they have HIV don’t get medical care and can unknowingly infect others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all MSM get tested for HIV at least once a year. Sexually active MSM might benefit from HIV testing every 3 to 6 months.

    Sexual risk behaviors account for most HIV infections in MSM. Unprotected receptive anal sex is the sexual behavior that carries the highest risk for HIV acquisition. For sexually active MSM, the most effective ways to prevent HIV and many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are to avoid anal sex, or for MSM who do have anal sex, to always use condoms. MSM are at increased risk for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, and CDC recommends that all sexually active MSM be tested annually for these STIs.

    Alcohol and illegal drug use increases risk for HIV and other STIs. Using substances such as alcohol and methamphetamines can impair judgment and increase risky sexual behavior.

    http://www.onenewsnow.com/culture/2015/12/13/cdc-report-homosexual-lifestyle-extremely-violent?utm_source=OneNewsNow&utm_medium=email&utm_term=16782612&utm_content=842862642990&utm_campaign=22940

    http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_victimization_final-a.pdf

    Little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV),
    sexual violence (SV), and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and
    men in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)
    National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Findings on
    Victimization by Sexual Orientation is the first of its kind to present comparisons
    of victimization by sexual orientation for women and men.
    2010 Key Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation
    The Sexual Orientation Report indicates that individuals who self-identify as
    lesbian, gay, and bisexual have an equal or higher prevalence of experiencing IPV,
    SV, and stalking as compared to self-identified heterosexuals. Bisexual women
    are disproportionally impacted. They experienced a significantly higher lifetime
    prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, and
    rape and SV (other than rape) by any perpetrator, when compared to both lesbian
    and heterosexual women.
    Sexual minority respondents reported levels of intimate partner violence
    at rates equal to or higher than those of heterosexuals.

    Forty-four percent of lesbian women, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of
    heterosexual women experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an
    intimate partner in their lifetime.

    Twenty-six percent of gay men, 37% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual
    men experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner
    at some point in their lifetime.

    Approximately 1 in 5 bisexual women (22%) and nearly 1 in 10 heterosexual
    women (9%) have been raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
    Rates of some form of sexual violence were higher among lesbian
    women, gay men, and bisexual women and men compared to
    heterosexual women and men.

    Approximately 1 in 8 lesbian women (13%), nearly half of bisexual women
    (46%), and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (17%) have been raped in their lifetime.
    This translates to an estimated 214,000 lesbian women, 1.5 million bisexual women,
    and 19 million heterosexual women.

    Four in 10 gay men (40%), nearly half of bisexual men (47%), and 1 in 5
    heterosexual men (21%) have experienced SV other than rape in their lifetime.
    This translates into nearly 1.1 million gay men, 903,000 bisexual men, and 21.6
    million heterosexual men.

  • peabody3000

    yes, yes, gay sex has its health risks. we all know this. but we were talking about religion. do you consider homosexuality a sin? or unnatural? do you consider gay sex a sin? do you know any gay people well?

  • Well, that’s one way of looking at things, although, like most fundamentalists, you misunderstand the “heart of the story.” Part of the problem, as I am discovering, and the reason so many atheists read scripture as fundamentalists do, is because atheists tend to be fundamentalists themselves. Except for the God part you all seem to be made of the same cloth as fundamentalists. What I have seen here is a group of people who pride themselves rather loudly on their critical skills, yet don’t seem to have a clue about the Bible or the life of Christ.

    The atheists I have run into here on Patheos and on Facebook are one-trick ponies. They have one and only one way of looking at life and relationship. Even though humanity seems to be instinctually spiritual, and billions of people are; somehow that can’t be duplicated in a lab or seen under a microscope so it’s invalid. It is the same with fundamentalists, no nuance, just one way of looking at things.

    If you had half a clue and weren’t so full of yourself, you’d look a little deeper rather than rely on googling atheists criticisms of the Bible for your data. You’d realize that doctrine within the church developed over time, some of it following scripture, some of it not so much. You’d also find out that the Jesus you so revile actually was quite critical of religion, one of the reasons he was crucified, just so you know. That he referred to the religious leaders as vipers, whitewashed tombs full of deadman’s bones and all sorts of decay. Jesus didn’t come to start a religion but a movement.

    If you knew, even a little about church history, you’d know that the early followers of Jesus didn’t teach a doctrine of hell or eternal punishment, that the early church was pacifistic and practiced an early version of welfare. Rather than resist their enemies they loved them, showing compassion to all.

    Again, if you knew more about church history you’d know that things changed in the 4th century, and not for the better. It took 3 centuries for the followers of Christ to start an actual religion, and it was a merger of the power of the state with the leadership of the church. Catholicism was born. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Now, if you have a problem with religion and in particular the Christian version of religion, I understand. I have major problems with American Christianity, I am hesitant to even call myself one it has gotten so bad. But Jesus ain’t the problem here Bud, people in power are.

  • Why is there a need for a literal Adam? Regardless of whether theirs was a literal curse or not, humanity is in trouble is it not? Evangelicals tend to build their atonement theory on the “otherness” of God…the vast gulf between man and God’s transcendent Holiness. It is a Hebrew concept. Likewise, evangelicals tend to place greater emphasis on the classical theodicy of God’s holiness taking precedence over His love. It sunders the Godhead, creating a good cop, bad cop scenario where God is the punisher, and Jesus is the lover. God ends up looking a lot different than the man who said, “if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.”

    Ben has had some rather interesting posts on atonement theory and the problems with PSA. I also highly recommend Bradley Jersak’s, ‘A More Christlike God.’

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Are you really that ignorant to ignore the facts and know that your foolish deflection is moot? You should look up the definition of sex to know it is only between opposite genders.

    sex
    seks/
    noun
    noun: sex; plural noun: sexes
    1.
    (chiefly with reference to people) sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse.”he enjoyed talking about sex”
    synonyms:sexual intercourse, intercourse, lovemaking, making love, sex act, (sexual) relations; More
    mating, copulation;
    informalnooky, whoopee, bonking, boinking, boffing, a roll in the hay, quickie;
    formalfornication;
    technicalcoitus, coition;
    datedcarnal knowledge
    “they talked about sex”
    the facts of life, reproduction;
    informalthe birds and the bees
    “teach your children about sex”
    euphemistic
    a person’s genitals.
    2.
    either
    of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many
    other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive
    functions.”adults of both sexes”
    synonyms:gender

    So as you can see there is no such thing as homosexual sex which most certainly does make it unnatural. Obviously you need to go back to school to learn what sexual organs are and were designed for.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    BTW you bought your favored sin of homosexuality into the conversation as some sort of justification for your falling away from you faux christian faith

  • peabody3000

    welllll now you’ve become petty, bob. but if you don’t want to discuss the ugly intolerance and judgementalism of christians then so be it

  • MorganHunter

    I’ve always had a difficult time making sense of C.S. Lewis’ claim that hierarchy is in some sense more fundamental than equality. I think it’s partially that he’s conflating “equality” in the sense of ontological equality/ equality of worth and/or skepticism about worldly hierarchies of domination with “equality” in the sense of sameness or uniformity. We should definitely not pretend humans are all the same in our abilities or roles, but I don’t think these differences are more fundamental than what we have in common as beings created in God’s image. One thing Lewis said in this regard that seemed particularly weird, as I remember it, was that Christianity opposes slavery not because there aren’t natural slaves but because fallen human beings cannot be trusted to be masters–but in fact, from Gregory of Nyssa onwards, Christian opponents of slavery have argued precisely that human beings have a dignity which forbids enslaving them. I understand that you don’t agree with everything he said on this matter, and I find your perspectives very thoughtful and interesting.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    So you think I’m being petty but it’s you that doesn’t want to discuss your assumed superior beliefs when they are challenged and proven wrong.

  • Nixon is Lord

    After so many hundreds of years, if they can’t agree on their own religions, it’s a sure sign tha their religions are made up as they go along.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Because those who believe in the Bible, even “Progressives”, claim that it’s not ‘just like other books’-even if only symbolically.
    They keep trying to have it both ways.

  • peabody3000

    c’mon bob. you aren’t proving gay sex doesn’t exist with your dictionary definition or whatever the hell that was heheh.. i know several gay people, and when you know them, and their stories, you know for certain that they were born that way. so its beyond their control, and therefore natural, even if unusual statistically, even if distasteful to many. they and we all deserve to love whomever we want to love, which sex is a part of. so if you have a problem with the way they were born, go take it up with your god. then maybe ask forgiveness for your going against people who for the most part would never wish you harm, just because of some folkloric religion you fell for, conjured by primitive tribal illiterates thousands of years ago

  • OutsideLookingIn

    This is brilliant. Spot on.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    What I proved is you don’t comprehend the meaning of sex. I would have as much faith in their truthfulness as I have in your truthfulness……I don’t. There is no science to back up the lie homosexuals are born that way only those like you the propagate that lie.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    I’m not making excuses, Van. This is reality. The vast majority of those who are making attacks on your liberties in the name of God have money to burn. They either come from money, or they’re pastors or elders who’ve gained a fortune from tithes and offerings. They don’t have to look after their kids or sick relatives (they can hire people to do that), or worry about doing any actual work. Such men (and occasionally women) can devote themselves wholeheartedly to their all-important cause.

    By contrast, most Christians who oppose them are focused on living their lives, doing their jobs faithfully, and taking care of those closest to them. Julie Anne, as I mentioned, is raising her youngest kids and putting herself through college. It would not be Christlike of her to sacrifice her kids’ interests just to battle the fundies. Dee recently confided to us that she had to deal with a medical scare regarding her dad. Are you suggesting that she neglect him in order to be more active in the public sphere?

    These women (and many believers like them) are not made of money, Van, so they’re at a disadvantage against the fundamentalists. When they blog, they do so at a financial loss. It costs them money to do their research and report on it, because they accept no donations, and they don’t allow ads on their websites. And yet they do what they can, educating the public and other believers, encouraging discussion, and creating a safe place for victims of spiritual abuse to tell their stories and have a voice.

    You seem to misunderstand what Christians are supposed to be in this world — perhaps the bad example of the fundamentalists is skewing your ideas. You say of us, “you don’t act like you believe you are right when it comes to Jesus”. That’s not where our focus is supposed to be. The mission of believers is not to prove ourselves “right” about any doctrine or political persuasion or public policy. Our calling is to show love in all the ways we can, towards as many people as we can — and especially towards those who are closest to us and in need. We “speak for ourselves” and “stand up for our faith” by doing precisely that.

    If there are Christians who can be more vocal or active in the public sphere while loving their families and their neighbours, more power to them. But you cannot insist that they sacrifice their immediate duties and loved ones’ needs on the altar of “the battle against the fundies”. If they do that, then they’ve ceased to be faithful believers, and are no better than their opponents, no matter what they hope to accomplish.

  • peabody3000

    oof.. your idea of proof is as vacuous as the bible itself.. all hearsay. hehehe.. let me ask you a VERY simple question bob.. did you choose to be straight? were you not attracted to women until you made that choice? and maybe you think you could have chosen to be attracted to males and not females? that’s what you think bob, eh?

  • Van Anderson

    I guess a perverse congratulations are in order. You’ve taken the cake for the most ludicrous thing a religious believer has ever tried to convince me of. If what you claim were even remotely true – that fundamentalists somehow have the miraculous power to avoid personal setbacks, financial difficulties and family illnesses, and that liberal Christians somehow suffer under an inordinate amount of these barriers – it would not only convince me to become a believer (I’d even find some way to be straight too!) but to become a fundamentalist Christian at that. If your god so stridently favors those who espouse one particular interpretation with lives free from personal difficulties, no one paying the slightest amount of attention would have any doubt about matters of religion. But that’s not how reality works, is it? In reality, there are people with good fortune and those with bad, some are born into societies and families that will allow them to flourish, while others are born into circumstances that beat them down and will never let them experience peace, and beyond facing persecution, their particular religious and political convictions have nothing to do with the amount of suffering and strife they will have to deal with in life.

    But you have managed to actually demonstrate my point here. Anybody can come up with a thousand excuses why they won’t speak out against the evil being committed in their name, just like those committing evil can come up with a thousand excuses why they won’t go out that day and perpetuate their crimes against others. So ask yourself “Why do those who commit evil in the name of Christianity find it so much easier to get past their excuses than those Christians who would stand up to them?” Or maybe you should just ask Martin Neimöller.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    I was born a male with male genes to claim anything else would be a lie. Those that bought into your lie even though science and the dictionary say differently are living an aberration and ignoring very nature. If you are still confused of your genetic makeup see any normal Doctor and they will inform you what gender you are.

  • peabody3000

    so you admit you had no choice whether you would be attracted to women and not males. you were destined to be attracted to women by birth, you had no control over that. it is the same for gay people. they are born and they realize very early who they are attracted to, and it is not a choice they make or a change they can take. its nature. it may be an accident of nature, or of genetics, but it is still nature

  • Duane Locsin

    because there are fundamentalist Christians that read the bible like actual fundamentalists.

    Let’s not sweep these inconvenient Christians away, that I am confident wipe the floor of liberal Christians when it comes to understanding and knowing their Bibles!

    Liberal Christians can fault their fundamentalist brethren’s all they wan’t, however they don’t engage them enough on a theological level that’s considered impressive, because they get and often source their moral judgments from the very same book Liberal Christians do, and if using more secular arguments and reasons is the preferred method to engage fundamentalist Christians, why continue to use the Bible as the guild to morality?

  • Duane Locsin

    Fundamentalist Christians source and often espouse their morality from the BIBLE and the god portrayed in it!!

    Where do Liberal Christians source their morality from?

    I use secular reasons for my explanations, for better or worse.

    This is more an exercise in trying to keep the Religion LOOK palatable to outsiders, when in reality it is a house of horrors.

    Atheists intelligent or not, will not rate these mental gymnastics a high score.

  • Duane Locsin

    Liberal Christians.

    Do not fool your selves.

    many Atheists may defend with you, agree with you and are on the same side of many social issues with, but are NOT on the same side when it comes to believing your Religion like you.

  • peabody3000

    keep worshipping santa claus, you fukking dupe

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Please show me through science where anyone gets to choose their gender? Or has the choce to change that gender genetically? Please make a attempt to honestly answer the question void of your opinion. BTW pedophiles are attracted to children and also claim to love them and they also claim to be “born that way too” …..see how foolish and ridiculous your lie is? But I’m still waiting for scientific proof they were “born that way”. However until you do it’s just lie upon lie and socialist propaganda.

  • Blocked! Bye, bye Duane!

  • peabody3000

    ah but bob, we weren’t talking about genetically choosing gender. we were talking about choosing sexual orientation. we don’t get to choose either one bob. you can’t choose to be attracted to males and not women, no matter how hard ya try! no need to bring off-topic canards into this, like choosing gender..? or comparing consenting adults to victimized children..? or socialism..? hahaa.. you are a hoot, bob, i’ll give ya that

  • Bob Shoemaker

    So then you have absolutely no real science to back up your propaganda other than your unfounded opinion……thanks for being honest for once.

  • peabody3000

    that’s hilarious bob. you aren’t fooling anyone with your sidestepping. and you don’t want scientific data. you just want your make-believe adventures of zombie christ.. lol!!! say hi to the easter bunny for me ahhhahaaa

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Yes it is sad that you continue to do everything but be honest and answer the question because we both know there is no science to justify homosexuality as anything but a mental aberration. If there was concrete proof you have already posted it. BTW I have seen the many articles that claim they’re close to finding evidence but that homosexual gene is as elusive as the unicorn.

  • peabody3000

    you don’t have any scientific studies to definitively prove what gives rise to homosexuality any more than i do. in this case, that doesn’t concern me at all, because the most simple logic tells us that if we straight people cannot choose our sexual orientation, then gay people are in the exact same boat. nature determines who we are attracted to, not choice ever. this includes those who go to gay conversion therapy which has been shown to be total quackery. it never turns a man straight. it really is pretty simple bob. you should talk to some gay people, see what they say. you don’t have to believe it but at least you won’t be 100% dependent on info from the same people who told you the entire world was populated from one mating pair.. twice. bahaha..

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    My apologies for not responding earlier, Van. I’m on vacation, but time spent traveling, and with friends and family, has kept me from commenting.

    You’ve taken the cake for the most ludicrous thing a religious believer has ever tried to convince me of…that fundamentalists somehow have the miraculous power to avoid personal setbacks, financial difficulties and family illnesses…

    If your god so stridently favors those who espouse one particular interpretation with lives free from personal difficulties

    You’ve seriously misunderstood me here. I’ve said that the fundamentalist mouthpieces often have more money and a bigger soapbox from which to speak. That does not mean that their lives are somehow “charmed” or especially blessed. Personal problems and family difficulties strike them no less than anyone else in the world. The difference is, through their wealth and an all-consuming focus on their objectives, they put off those problems as long as they can, so as not to seem “weak” or “distracted” or encourage bad PR.

    But this approach is only harmful to them and their loved ones in the long run, because denying these struggles, or delaying their response to them, only causes those problems fester and worsen. Responsible believers, on the other hand, will live within their means and deal with difficulties as they come, doing deeds of kindness and mercy as their situations allow. And I imagine it’s this sense of responsibility that keeps them from spending all their time fighting for this or that public policy. They recognize that they have more immediate concerns to deal with.

    And the wealth of the more vocal fundamentalists isn’t the result of some “miracle”, nor is it evidence of God’s favour. It’s much simpler than that: They play by the world’s rules — a world of greed, power, perversity, and moral indifference — and the world rewards them. It gives them the money and power that they crave, the same way that the world has rewarded Trump (at least superficially). Those who truly care about their neighbours and loved ones might not seem so “successful”, as the world defines success, but they are the ones truly blessed.

    Again, I’m not making excuses. Believers in Jesus are speaking up against abuses and excesses by churches and their bigwigs. I am. Julie Anne is. Dee and Deb are. Tim Fall is. Tom Rich is. Dr. James Duncan is. These people — all of them Christians — are opposing the evils of child sexual abuse, and spiritual abuse, and abuse of LGBT people. Perhaps they’re not doing so as loudly as you happen to like, but that’s mainly due to being responsible for their own lives, and loving to their nearest neighbours — something that the loudmouths have forgotten to do.

    And they’re catching flak for it, too. Julie Anne was sued some years ago by a former pastor, after she had the temerity to blog publicly about his fraudulent and abusive behaviour. And just yesterday, Dee Parsons related how her pastor and others associated with her had received a letter smearing her reputation, because she had blogged about the foolish talk and behaviour of New Calvinist luminaries. (If you’re interested, the details are here: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2017/08/14/a-despicable-and-cowardly-letter-will-delay-our-post-until-tomorrow/)

    I’m don’t consider myself to be anywhere in their league. Perhaps I’m not even in yours. But I hope you’ll recognize their faithfulness and their concern for the abused, as well as the backlash that they face. I don’t know whether Martin Neimöller would be proud of them, but I don’t imagine that he’d accuse them of not speaking out.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Do you suffer from sexual dysphoria because the way you talk you sound confused on what gender you were genetically born into? As I pointed out before pedophiles are sexually attracted to children, murders are pron to murder people and some people are sexually attracted to animals and you think in some way homosexuality is normal and the rest I mentioned aren’t but yet they all make the same claim you do……So talking to them changes nothing about your mental problems.

  • peabody3000

    you are comparing crimes that victimize people with consenting adult physical relations. you really are totally off the rails bob!

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Yes homosexuals are “victims” in your eyes even though they most certainly “victimize ” people. http://www.wnd.com/2002/04/13722/, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2258616/posts, http://www.americantraditions.org/Articles/How%20Homosexualists%20Redefine%20%20Homosexual%20Child%20Molesting.htm. I have much more if you’re actually interested in facts instead of pseudo science propaganda.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Homosexuality and adultery were once crimes but since the fascist bullies infiltrated high places they are no longer crimes and pedophilia will soon not be a crime thanks to the homosexual agenda.

  • peabody3000

    you are extremely confused. when one gay adult has consensual sex with another, there is no victim. that is why it is not a crime in the US. that doesn’t mean gay people never victimize others, as you so pointlessly argued against. if you want to talk about moral code laws, the world is full of such nonsense. for example its illegal for women to drive in saudi arabia. that doesn’t make it immoral or wrong, it makes saudi arabia wrong. its odd how you need everything explained to you, as if you are some kind of infant.. oh well, that’s what religion does to people..

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Again you have proven you are having problems with sexual dysphoria which is a mental aberration that causes you to believe going against nature can in some way be normal…..it’s not and never will be. Please get help.

  • peabody3000

    again, you don’t understand the simple fact that people born to be attracted to their own gender are simply following nature. religion has turned you into an idiot. you weren’t born an idiot, religion turned you into that. i have wasted enough of my time on you. you aren’t worth talking to. not because you aren’t intelligent, but because religion has ruined you, turned you into a loser that i wouldn’t want to meet on the street, ever. so i’m signing off. go ahead and have the last word. its fine. i promise not to resond to it. or even read it. hahahaa. you fukkking loser!! byeeeeee

  • Bob Shoemaker

    You repeating the propaganda you were born that way with no scientific evidence is not helping your argument. But it most certainly is proving you have sexual dysphoria.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    BTW thank you for proving what low life you truly are with your insane rantings.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    No, there is no proof that homosexuals are born that way. Nor is there any proof that heterosexuals are born that way. To date no homosexual gene has been discovered. So what about a heterosexual gene? That remains equally elusive. In short, we still don’t know exactly what causes most people to be heterosexual or what causes a few people to be homosexual. We just know that that’s the way things are. There any number of theories, ranging from prima facie plausible to simply stupid; all of them remain unproven. It is now generally agreed, however, that if there are genetic factors they will be far more complicated than a single heterosexual gene or a single homosexual gene.

    Your repeated references to gender dysphoria, which is quite a different phenomenon, make me wonder whether you really know what you are talking about; probably not. Yes, a small minority of homosexuals do have that problem, as do a small minority of heterosexuals. The vast majority, both heterosexual and homosexual, don’t.

  • peabody3000

    alas, bob, you are denying basic logic by asserting that you, me, and everyone else had to make a choice as to who we are attracted to. religion truly is the enemy of the people, as exemplified by people such as you. well, bob, go ahead and have the last pointless word. i promise not to respond to it.. or even read it.. ciao!

  • Bob Shoemaker

    There is no logic on something that is based solely on opinion, consensus and assumption and void of any medical science. Religion is a protected right homosexuality is a sexual dysphoria. And yes there’s nothing you can do about those facts.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    We are born genetically male and female and yes science has proved that fact. Now as to you ridiculous and insane claim about choosing gender there never was a choice however sexual dysphoria is an aberration those like you use to justify a perversion of nature. Now when those with your propaganda can prove scientifically people are born homosexuals then you can argue your point but until then homosexuality is a aberration in nature and will never be anything else. Therefore your theories are moot and nonscientific built on assumptions and conjecture….nothing more or nothing less.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Yes, science has proved that we are born genetically male or female. Since I have not for one moment disputed that, nor have I made any claim whatsoever about “choosing gender”, I can’t imagine why you have raised those ridiculous straw men.

    I have not asserted that people are born homosexual, and I agree that that has never been scientifically proved. Scientific proof that people are born heterosexual is equally lacking. No matter what I might think or guess, I don’t actually know what makes most people heterosexual or what makes a minority homosexual, and neither do you or anyone else.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Well, there is certainly no logic in something that is based solely on opinion, assumption and ignorance, devoid of any scientific basis – the assertion that “homosexuality is a sexual dysphoria”, to take an instance at random.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    The problem here is you being a homosexual will never admit you’re wrong and God is right.

    John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

    1 Cor 6:9-11 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor wantons, nor buggerers, ( http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/diction.htm )
    10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

    Gal 5:16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
    19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    1 Timothy 1:8-11
    8 And we know, that the Law is good, if a man use it lawfully.
    9 Knowing this, that the Law is not given unto a righteous man, but unto the lawless and disobedient, to the ungodly, and to sinners, to the unholy, and to the profane, to murderers of fathers and mothers, to manslayers,
    10 To whoremongers, to buggerers (http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/diction.htm), to menstealers, to liars, to the perjured, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to wholesome doctrine,
    11 Which is according to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which is committed unto me.

    2 Thessalonians 2:10-12
    10 And in all deceivableness of unrighteousness, among them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
    11 And therefore God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe lies,
    12 That all they might be damned which believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Do you really have to stoop down in the cesspool with your immature gutter talk when a Christian points out your foolishness?

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    No amount of quoting from the Bible will alter the facts that:

    (1) Just as there is no proof that homosexuals are “born that way”, so there is no proof that heterosexuals are “born that way” either.

    (2) Just as no homosexual gene has been discovered, so no heterosexual gene has been discovered either.

    (3) No matter what anyone may believe, surmise, theorize or feel inclined to think, not one of the numerous theories concerning the causation of either homosexuality or heterosexuality has ever been proven. As an eminent American psychiatrist has said, “The truth of the matter is that we don’t know; nobody knows; and anybody who says that they know is lying to you.”

    (4) Homosexuality is not the same thing as gender dysphoria any more than heterosexuality is, and most homosexual people, like most heterosexual people, do not have gender dysphoria.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    So then you admit your premise is built on lies and propaganda. It’s about time you gave an honest answer.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    I’m sorry, your comment makes no sense at all. What “premise” of what argument? An honest answer to what?

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Yeah it was over your head wasn’t it. So why did you get involved in a argument you can’t control?

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    What “premise” are you talking about? What is the argument of which you claim that it is a “premise”? What is the question to which you are inviting me to give an honest answer?

    If you either can’t or won’t tell me, you don’t do yourself any favours by resorting instead to irrelevant and meaningless chuntering. You just make yourself ridiculous.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    You already know the answer to your question and have admitted to it and now here you are playing ignorant again. Don’t you liberals progressives have any other tactics besides denial and ignorance to your own arguments?

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    No, I certainly don’t know the answers to my questions. If I did, I wouldn’t be asking them. But you won’t answer them. I wonder why. I don’t know whether it’s really worth it; however, I’m prepared to have one more try:

    “So then you admit your premise is built on lies and propaganda.”

    What premise? And of what argument is it a premise?

    “It’s about time you gave an honest answer.”

    An honest answer to what question?

    I’m sure that telling me would take you far less time and energy than continuing to write the evasive and irrelevant nonsense of which you have been so liberal.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Again you questions have nothing to do with my original post which is why your argument is irrelevant and idiotic.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    My questions are about things that you have yourself written specifically to me on here within the last 24 hours. If you can’t explain them, there was no point in your writing them in the first place.

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    I agree with part of what you are saying. I once addressed a comment to my fellow atheists, skeptics, etc., warning them that fundamentalists are not the only Christians, and that one day they are bound to challenge someone with their favorite fundie folly and find that the other person doesn’t believe that either. I got no comments, so I doubt it did any good.

    Atheists have often boasted that they understand more about religious people than non-Atheists understand about us, and I am dismayed when this isn’t true.

    On the other hand, I think that your counter-example is off-base. You can certainly take the Jewish laws as a description, but despite what you say, they are written prescriptively. I will leave you to argue with Orthodox Jews about that. I know someone who might qualify as a Progressive Christian, and he is also a New Testament studies Ph.D., who kept quoting Bible verses at me as statements with moral authority. I could generally quote back an opposing verse. Finally, I told him that the Bible is so cherry-picked-over by Christians of all stripes that I failed to see how it could quoted with any authority.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    So here you are with your rhetoric again because you can address my original comment. Why is it so hard for you to address what I stated about the assumption not bieng biblical?

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Your questions have nothing to do with my original comment

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    So what? They are questions about specific comments which YOU have made directly to ME:

    “So then you admit your premise is built on lies and propaganda.”

    My premise? WHAT premise? And what argument is it allegedly part of? You still haven’t told me.

    “It’s about time you gave an honest answer.”

    An honest answer to what question? You still haven’t told me.

    It’s you who needs to start giving honest answers. I presume that you refuse to do so because you know perfectly well that your comments to me were simply stupid and irrelevant, but can’t bring yourself to admit it.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    I have addressed what you “stated about the assumption not bieng [sic] biblical”. I have explicitly acknowledged, more than once now, that the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is nowhere to be found in the Bible. What of it?

    Or are you talking about some other assumption? If so, which one?

  • Dr. Cat

    I wasn’t replying to your specific points, but to things said above.

  • Dr. Cat

    Atheists aren’t on the side of believing a religion? Well duh, didn’t everybody know that? If they believed in a religion, they wouldn’t be atheists, would they?

  • Bob Shoemaker

    What is your problem with addressing my original comment….ignorance?

  • Bob Shoemaker

    So then these people that are in the act of idolatry and not following God and are out of the will of God?

  • DrewTwoFish

    Favoured sin. Here we go….

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    I am not concerned with your original comments (whatever they were) but with your comments specifically to ME, and in particular with the following:

    “So then you admit your premise is built on lies and propaganda. It’s about time you gave an honest answer.”

    What is your problem with telling me what premise “built on lies and propaganda” you are referring to, and what argument it was part of? Merely the fact that I have enunciated no such premise, nor have I used any argument based on or implying any such premise.

    What is your problem with telling me what the question is to which it’s about time I gave an honest answer? Merely the fact that you haven’t asked any question to which I have refused to give an honest answer.

    You don’t do yourself any good by making untrue and unfounded accusations. As I’ve said, you just make yourself ridiculous.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Even if you hold the strange belief that one mustn’t believe anything that isn’t in the Bible – and I can find nothing in the Bible itself saying that one mustn’t – believing something that isn’t in the Bible is NOT idolatry (= worship of idols). I recommend that you stop this misuse of language.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    It’s not my fault you can’t follow your own comments. If you’re still confused go back and read your comments and my answers to you comments then you’ll have no reason to whine and know all your questions were answered.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    The problem here is that know little to nothing about the bible otherwise you’s KNOW that we are to pray and worship one God. But what goes on with “Our Lady of Fatima” is no doubt IDOLATRY. But then again you have a reprobate mind and wouldn’t know that.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    The worship of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the use of the term, “Mother of God”, as applied to her, originated in the Council of Ephesus 431

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    It’s not my fault that you can’t even tell the truth about your own comments, which are there for all the world to read. Anyone who is confused can easily go back and read your comments, and they will find that you wrote the following to me:

    “So then you admit your premise is built on lies and propaganda. It’s about time you gave an honest answer.”

    They will also find that, although I have repeatedly asked you to tell me what “premise” you are referring to, what argument that “premise” was supposedly part of, and what question you think it’s time I gave an honest answer to, you have refused to do so.

    They will see, furthermore, that I have stated no “premise built on lies and propaganda” and have used no argument which assumes or implies any such premise; that there is no question to which I have failed to give an honest answer; and that your assertion that “all [my] questions were answered” by you is as untrue as your foolish comment about my supposed “premise”. As the late Robert Green Ingersoll rightly observed, “A lie will fit nothing except another lie made for the express purpose of fitting it.”

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    I am not defending the questionable devotions associated with Fatima or Lourdes (or La Salette, Knock, Medjugorje etc.) or any doctrines with which those shrines are associated, but no matter how much you – or I – disagree with those doctrines, the fact that they are not in the Bible does not automatically make them idolatry.

    As for your suggestion that God will punish people who believe in those doctrines by deliberately leaving them vulnerable to terrorist attacks, well, if you have an unworthy conception of God, that is your problem. One can only hope and pray for your enlightenment. You say that you were brought up as a Roman Catholic. It seems clear to me that your last state is worse than your first.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Yes, I am well aware of the definition adopted by the Council of Ephesus. Neither that definition nor Pius XII’s 1950 definition of the Assumption of Mary, as a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, authorized worshipping Mary as a deity. Both of those doctrines are no doubt open to criticism on a number of grounds, and I am certainly not concerned to defend them, but the mere fact that something is not in the Bible does not make belief in it idolatry.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Actually as I said you know little to nothing about the bible let alone what idolatry is according to the bible .

    Here’s a start for you but I doubt you’ll even comprehend it.

    Colossians 3:5
    Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth, fornication, uncleanness, the inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry.

    1 Samuel 15: 1 Samuel
    23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and transgression is wickedness and idolatry. Because thou hast cast away the word of the Lord, therefore he hath cast away thee from being king.

    Praying to the dead….

    https://www.gotquestions.org/praying-to-the-dead.html

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Praying to anybody but God is idolatry ….now what part of that confuses you? Yes I am saying those involved in idolatry are out of God’s will and God will punish them e.g. Israel and Judea.. Read Kings and Chronicles. Thank you for proving you know little to nothing about God’s word. If I was as enlightened as you are I be bound for hell too.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    There is no truth to tell because all my comments are all still there unaltered for you to read. BTW I can’t explain things in the bible you choose to be ignorant to, that is your problem.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Yes, all your comments are still there unaltered, and so are all mine. Anyone who reads them can see for himself/herself that you refused in the first place either to say what my alleged “premise built on lies and propaganda” was – not surprisingly, since I had neither enunciated nor argued from any such premise – or to say what the question was to which you were challenging me to give “an honest answer”. He/she can also see that you have been untruthful ever since about that refusal. Since you are clearly determined to continue to be untruthful, I now regard the matter as closed.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    It is perfectly permissible to ask others to pray for you. There is therefore no reason in principle why you can’t ask the Virgin Mary to pray for you. It may be objected that to do so involves the unproven assumption that the Virgin Mary is able to hear your request. But even if that assumption is wrong, it is not idolatry.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    All very interesting, I’m sure, but it has no bearing on the fact that belief in something that is not in the Bible, e.g. the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, – even if the belief is wrong – is not ipso facto idolatry.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Perhaps next time you’ll keep yourself limited to the original comment and you won’t be so confused on keeping track of all your foolish rabbit trails.

  • Bob Shoemaker

    Please point out where in the bible heretics pray to the dead to pray for other people? BTW if you knew the bible you would know there’s only ONE MEDIATOR. Yes you preach heresy……

    Deu 8:8,1 Tim 2:5,Gal 3:19,Matt 6:6,Jer 29:12

    Galatians 3:20

    Now a Mediator is not a Mediator of one: but God is one.

    1 Timothy 2:5

    For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, which is the man Christ Jesus,

  • Bob Shoemaker

    According to who you…Bwahahahahah.

  • ElizabetB.

    Edwin Woodruff Tait, I can’t locate the post where we were discussing Abelard and what I call his “revelation” view of the cross… but I recently was told about Richard Rohr’s meditation series on “Salvation As At-One-Ment,” where I don’t think he mentions Abelard (I haven’t read carefully yet) but he does write about Duns Scotus’s conclusion “that Jesus’s death was not a substitution but a divine epiphany for all to see” — to see “God’s unconditional love for us, in spite of our failings” — and I wanted to pass the link along to you in case you’re interested but haven’t seen it. Recently I noticed someone else inspired by Duns Scotus, which surprised me — I’d never read anything interesting about him, but now think I probably need to check him out! This links to the first meditation in the series:
    https://cac.org/substitutionary-atonement-2017-07-23/

    Looking for that earlier discussion, I’m happy to discover these notes on your journey… I surely wish you well!

  • rrhersh

    I am very late to this discussion, but here goes. The image of Christianity in popular culture has, since about 1980 or so, been of a Fundamentalist. Compare this with, say, Reverend Sloan from Doonsbury. Our Atheist brethren have more often than not grown up thinking that Christian=Fundamentalist. And who has been at the forefront of this message? Fundamentalists, of course. They are only too happy to affirm, should the subject arise, that Liberal Christians aren’t really Christians. Of course “conservative” Christianity often is anything but conservative, and “liberal” Christians’ understanding of scripture is in many cases far more traditional, but the lived experience of the typical American runs the other way, hearing how “conservative” Christians are holding onto traditional religion while “liberal” Christians are making it as they go along. Most people, whether Christian, Atheist, or something else entirely, aren’t students of history. Historical discussions don’t resonate the way lived experience does.

    The irony is that the modern Atheist firmly asserts that Fundamentalists have lied to them about everything except this. Who counts as a real Christian is the one topic where Fundamentalists are utterly reliable.

  • Nanci

    He is not dismissing any part of the Bible. He is showing that Christians are free from Old Testament law–which we are! I think you need to read the New Testament.

  • peabody3000

    i studied it. its just old tribal folklore, like the old testament. its bizarre to me that anyone could take it seriously as some kind of divine work

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    Liberal Christians were much more active in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the National Council of Churches with protests about various social issues.

    One reason that I don’t discuss liberal or progressive Christians very much is that I have very little idea of what they believe. I was raised in a Methodist Church, and I could not tell you then or now if they had any communal beliefs. The liturgy was pretty traditional, but clearly a lot of the adults didn’t believe in miracles, or bible stories, or that Jesus was a savior. When I tried to talk to the youth minister, he always answered a question with a question — to this day, I sympathize with the Athenians who executed Socrates. I talked to the main minister when I was old enough for him to bother with me, and asked what it meant to be a Methodist, but there was an embarrassed silence until I took pity on him and changed the subject. This was about 45 years ago, but I often talk with two people who have belonged to the church for decades, and are very active; neither of them have been able to think of anything either. Someone argued on the internet that the Methodist Church has the Book of Discipline, which spells out their beliefs. But as the first comment said, the bishops ignore the Book of Discipline so surely no-one expects anyone else to take it seriously.

    Maybe progressive/liberal Christians need to make themselves more visible if they want people to take them more seriously.

  • johnonymous

    One reason that I don’t discuss liberal or progressive Christians very much is that I have very little idea of what they believe.

    A prominent atheist once remarked that debating a progressive Christian is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Which I think captures it perfectly; there’s so much hand-waving going on that you can never get down to the actual subject, but instead waste your time on rhetorical games and unsuccessful attempts to define terms.

    The fundamentalist, by contrast, is more than happy to state firm ideological commitments, and to vigorously defend them without resorting to obscurantism. But fundamentalists tend to be literalists, and so an atheist ends up debating on those terms (that is to say, the fundamentalist’s, not the atheist’s). Since the interesting, attention-grabbing squabbles are usually between fundamentalists and atheists, observers like Dr. Corey get the impression that atheists as a rule share the literalist views of their opponents.

    That’s my hypothesis, anyway, and I’m stickin’ to it.

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    >Frito Pendejo

    I agree with you. I read a Progressive Christian book at the request of a friend, and it struck me how important the catchy phrase is to them. So many of the Progressive Christians speaking and writing are professional wordsmiths and so I think that they often focus on technique more than content or plausibility.

    It reminds me of the artist Ad Reinhardt. He is most famous for his black paintings, that is, the surface is pretty much covered with black paint. Critics get all excited about the fact that the black is made up of individual black squares. I have never figured out, or had anyone explain, why that matters. It is all the same to me whether it is individual squares or he used a roller brush on the entire surface. But then I am focused on the painting as a whole, and they are more interested in technical details.

  • BrotherRog

    Yep. “Atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.”
    Read more at “16 Ways progressive Christians interpret the Bible” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/16-ways-progressive-christians-interpret-the-bible/#Zj7RE8uPJmXmyfXr.99

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like Christianity”

  • David Hiersekorn

    As you might have figured out, my Disqus account is connected to an email address I don’t check very often. I hope you get the notification and respond. I am interested in your take.

    I don’t agree with Ben’s take on substitutionary atonement – for two reasons. First, I think he creates a bit of a straw man in the way he describes the classical understand. More importantly, I don’t subscribe to the classical view in the first place.

    To me, the problem isn’t so much that classical atonement divides the Godhead, although I can see how someone can argue that point. Rather, I think theologians are trying to do too many things at once. They conflate a number of disparate issues into a single “atonement” – as if the only purpose in Christ’s death was to relieve man from his sin debt. That is an incomplete theology and it is prone to error.

    Before explaining my own take, I want to address Ben’s arguments. I will do so as concisely as possible. That is, Ben’s version doesn’t explain why Christ had to die. On that basis alone, I reject it.

    Let’s instead take up a different proposition. I’m sure you’re familiar with the old question, “can God create something so heavy that he cannot move it?” Well, I might offer a similar definitional paradox – i.e. “can God share something holy?”

    As you are probably aware, the word translated “holy” does not mean “exceedingly good.” It means separate. It refers to something that is dedicated and set apart for God. And, it is impossible for something to be set apart for a righteous God and yet used by unrighteous man. Those concepts are mutually exclusive. But, what if there was a way around that paradox?

    I believe the plan of salvation is intended to resolve all of those issues in favor of a new order where God and man can commune together without violating God’s holiness.

    I don’t have room or time to unpack everything here. But, here are the high points…

    (1) in the Garden of Eden, everything was given to man except for the Tree of Knowledge. God kept that holy for himself. Satan tricked Adam and Eve into defiling the tree. God no longer had any holy thing on earth. Luke 4 says that the whole earth belonged to Satan. I believe this is where that transaction took place.

    (2) Adam and Eve were themselves dedicated to the Lord. And, their sin defiled them as well. As a result, they and their offspring would belong to Satan until their deaths.

    (3) Leviticus 27 sets up the rules for redeeming things that were dedicated to the Lord. There is a provision for recovering land that was dedicated to the Lord, including a way that the property becomes God’s forever, with no chance of reversion to man or Satan. There is also a provision that allows the priest to judge an unworthy sacrifice.

    I believe that Jesus’ death resolves the problems under #1 and #2, using the rules in #3. His death redeemed the land. And, it redeemed mankind as well. While I firmly believe that there was a penal nature to the Cross, I think the bigger goal is to create a man who had already died, but lives forever. As adoptees, we share in his inheritance. As his “bride,” we become one flesh and participate in his death. Our flesh dies, but our spirit lives on. The result is a supernatural division of body and soul. Our psyche and pneumos. (Hebrews 4:12.)

    Paul wrote about being a soul that desires God, trapped in a body that cannot be obedient. Jesus’s death, and our fleshly participation, created that dichotomy.

    Romans 12:1 tells us to present ourselves as living sacrifices. And, we come back to Leviticus 27. And, the rule says that the priest has the power to determine whether a poor person’s sacrifice is acceptable, even if it is not flawless.

    Jesus is our priest, and we present our flawed sacrifice to him. He has the power to judge us worthy, even if we are not.

    The result is man and God co-owning the land. Man’s presence does not defile the land or make it unholy. And, we can live forever in communion with God and without violating his core nature.

    Lastly, I don’t pretend to claim that I, and I alone, have the right answer to God’s mysterious plan. Truthfully, I haven’t worked out all the details and I could be wrong. But, at a minimum, there is another approach to atonement that requires a literal Adam and where Jesus’ death is meaningful, but without violating God’s nature.

  • Thanks David. The trouble with atonement theories is that they are, in one manner or another, theories. They suffer the limitations of all systematic theologies. The significance of the Cross is described from a number of different angles in the NT. I like your take on redemption and the emphasis on OUR flawed sacrifice, rather than the usual emphasis on perfect sacrifice of Christ, thus diverting the theology away from a purely penal substitutionary atonement. Likewise, participating in Christ’s death and resurrection is very Pauline and describes the mystery of the Cross. I think we are in agreement here.

    In Cory’s posts he questions penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), as well as asks the question, did God require Jesus to die? These are fair questions as they touch on God’s nature. Any discussion of atonement should ask, who does Christ’s death satisfy? What does Christ’s death satisfy? What role, if any does the Cross play in relation to Biblical blood sacrifice? Does Christ fulfill the role of scapegoating, and again, is that something we require or something God requires?

    To answer these questions it’s not enough to rely solely on a Jewish understanding, as Jesus’s attitude towards the Law diverges quite a bit from Jewish teaching of the day, as did his attitudes on the Kingdom of God and the role of Messiah. Unfortunately time and space does not allow me to get too far into atonement here, but it is something I am studying and attempting to come to some conclusions on. I hope to post on it sometime in the near future on my own blog. In Gregory Boyd’s 2 vol. series, “Crucifixion of the Warrior God,” the idea of a wrathful God is crucified in Christ. Just a thought.

  • David Hiersekorn

    Good points all. They are just theories. To be honest, I’m not really too worried about atonement. God’s promises are sufficiently broad that I’m confident in my salvation. The rest is just a Sunday School lesson we’ll get in Heaven.

    My real main focus is on obedience. I won’t rekindle the conversation, but I’ll just say that my view on the imperfect sacrifice was not an effort to resolve atonement. Rather, I was trying to find a way to reconcile grace, faith, works and obedience. I can’t say I’m there yet, but that’s the path I’m on.

    Thanks for the interesting and respectful exchange. I appreciate it.

  • JG, III

    Interestingly, I thought your article was right on point. Although, raised in Pentecostalism have grown spiritually to what I call a radically inclusive philosophy and in discussions with my Atheist friend who constantly reminds me that my interpretation of Scripture isn’t a true interpretation. I call him the 1st. Atheist fundamentalist, sanctified and filled with the Holy anti-ghost and with fire. He still manages to be more fundamentalist than a fundamentalist Christian in his debates.

  • Andrew Taylor

    I don’t think it’s about they interpreting the bible literally, but rather, it’s about holding people to the standards they profess. If they claim that the entirety of the bible is literally true and infallible, then they should be held to the standard. The only real problem I can see is if they hold all Christians to a standard, even progressives who don’t maintain a literalist or inerrant view of scripture.

    So, if we look at what her church believes (and it’s fairly safe to assume that she holds these beliefs too, given she’s reported to be involved in the student ministries team there, at least until she gives us a reason to believe otherwise), they do subscribe to a literalist view of scripture “Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error.” http://www.wearecalvary.com/beliefs/. I think given this context it’s not unfair to hold her to her professed beliefs…

  • Steven Waling

    As a progressive Christian (Quaker actually) I’d say the reason for being a bit jelly like (I’m English too. So you’ll have to translate from proper English into American) is because we’re not fixed in our thinking like fundamentalists. We change our minds, we don’t think of the text as somehow pinned down like a dead butterfly in a cage. Some atheists seem to have the same way of thinking (fixed and immutable) as your average fundamentalist.

  • James Foxvog

    No, the Bible can be true and infallible, but have different standards for different people at different times.

  • James Foxvog

    The more “liberal” Christians would prefer the Beatitudes over the Ten Commandments. We believe that Jesus’ teaching is the center of our faith.

  • Michael Valentine

    The bible has many contradictory things in it. What we take out of it, atheist or fundamentalist, says more about us then the bible.

  • DogGone

    Atheists, like “Christians” vary widely in their attitudes toward the Bible , which is, like the King Arthur legend, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Gilgamesh, a foundational work in the Western tradition. It is something every educated person should read and analyze because so many other works depend on references to it. Obviously, I read it as an anthology of traditional stories, poems, genealogies, proverbs, letters, and legends, but not all atheists agree with me, just as not all “Christians” agree with you. As atheists, we have encountered many (in fact an increasing number of) “Christians” who insist that every single word in the current edition of this tome was penned by the deity”himself” and thus should be taken literally. Now I don’t agree with this, and you don’t either, but these people also think they are “Christians” and represent themselves forcefully as such. In the name of words from this book they have launched into an unprecedented attack on the human rights of people who don’t even belong to their group. If you wonder why I am putting “Christians” in quotation marks, it’s because that word now covers as wide a spectrum of philosophy and belief as atheism. As far as people being judgmental about a teen contestant, I have to wonder why in 2018 we still have meat markets (aka beauty pageants) for young women. I think it’s time for those tasteless sexist parades to die. Who watches them? This is not 1952.

  • DogGone

    Well said!

  • DogGone

    Steven, you are hilarious, and you pinned down the point when you said “some atheists.” All atheists do not believe in a “god.” That’s in the word. Apart from that, we differ on many points. We have no unifying philosophy. We have no teacher, charter, or text. We have no hierarchy to dictate our beliefs. Nor do we have beliefs to change. We are not a religion. Some atheists do try to get believers to step aside from religion. but many of us just want religious nutters to let us be.

  • DogGone

    From the outside, the view is different. Christianity is utterly fragmented and each faction claims it is the true one. We atheists think it’s kind of funny.

  • DogGone

    Television is not in the Bible, but I do believe I have one in my living room. (winks)

  • DogGone

    Scapegoating is a fascinating phenomenon. Bullying is related to it.

  • DogGone

    Fundamentalists are louder and more intrusive. Liberal Christians don’t bang on our doors. prosthelytize, or try to pass busybody laws to make our lives miserable. Most of the time, we don’t even know what religion they are, so we don’t have to argue with them. The only ones we have to argue with are fundies who claim every word in the Bible must be taken literally.

  • DogGone

    That’s fine. So what? Just because you agree with us about some things doesn’t mean we are going to return to your churches. We appreciate that you do not try to convince us to. Keep up the good work. The fact remains, we must continue to argue with the fundamentalists on their own terms, because they are trying to destroy us all–you too. If you aren’t attacking us, we don’t have to argue with you, unless you preach at us. Then you can expect pushback. Believe what you believe. that’s fine, but liberal or not, leave us alone.

  • Netizen_James

    Not sure why this is making the fb rounds again, but there you go! Jesus was not the ‘Founder’ of Christianity, Saul of Tarsus was. Jesus never even heard the word ‘Christ’, more less used that word. And Jesus never said word one about abandoning The Law. To the contrary – “not one jot nor title”, and all that. Is the Earth still here? (looks around) Yup. Thus not ‘all’ has been fulfilled, and thus The Law still applies – unless Jesus was misquoted…. Cherry picking the data to find the conclusion one wishes to reach doesn’t tend to provide reasonable conclusions. The logicians tell us that if you assume contradictory postulates to be true, you can ‘prove’ anything you’d like. Thus it is with Biblical interpretation. Anyone can ‘prove’ anything they’d like by cherry-picking Bible quotes. (It was also Saul of Tarsus who spread the idea that adhering to Jewish traditions/laws like circumcision and avoiding pork/shellfish weren’t necessary so as to be more able to market his new mystery religion to the Greeks and Romans who were his target audience.)

  • Steven Waling

    I missed this reply. “Some atheists” is right – but there are some who seem to troll progressive Christian pages just to provoke some kind of “they’re really fundies under the skin” response. We liberal religious types are often working things out as we go along though; and we’re quite ok with our own uncertainties, doubts and questions. Some atheists (again, not all) find that annoying. So be it.

  • DogGone

    Pax. I don’t care what you believe. I just would appreciate it if your brethren would respect my right to privacy and self-determination, especially as a woman. I once stumbled into one of the other sections of Patheos before I understood how the site worked and commented. No problem. They blocked me, banned me, and deleted my comments unceremoniously.