Things The Godly Say: Why Don’t You Just Read The Bible?

Things The Godly Say: Why Don’t You Just Read The Bible? May 2, 2018

I used to do magic mushrooms a lot. I know, I know what you’re thinking,

but you seem so squeaky clean, GM!

and it’s true; I revel in my own moral perfection these days, but as Miss Spears might say, I haven’t always been this innocent. I really loved magic mushrooms. I mean, how can you not? When they start to hit you, you’re awash with a warm delight – everything around you is simply enchanting. Colours become more vibrant; smells are more intense; sounds grow clearer, and the stars seem closer. If you’re under a night sky, you can feel it talking to you. Wonder and awe take up a stage in your mind and perform an interpretive dance directly connected to all of the outward stimuli around you. It’s staggeringly marvellous; there is no other way to describe it.

There was only one occasion on which I’d done magic mushrooms where the effects were not sheer joy. On that occasion, everything was going just fine until I picked up my friend’s Bible.

I don’t know why I did it, but I did. I saw it lying there in its navy jacket with gold embossed letters: Holy Bible. I was still a relatively empty-headed teenager back then and had never read a word of the Bible previously. I barely had any understanding of what god or Christianity was. I just knew it was a book that meant a great deal to a whole lot of people. So, I picked it up and poured myself into it while my mind was alit with the effects of psilocybin.

It wasn’t too long before the world around me darkened. The tingling delight that had taken up residence in my hair follicles turned to a dull ache. Terror began to swirl around me like a tattered old flag in the wind. As I turned each page and read each new passage, I began to experience a horror I’d never experienced before. I began to feel claustrophobic; caught in the tight squeeze of fear. I thought maybe if I put the book down, I could get back to the warm, joyful place I usually went to on mushrooms. Instead, the walls around me came alive as a writhing mass of snakes and as I felt them slither toward me, I had no choice but to bury my face in the book again.

I read. I read it for hours. I read until I began to feel the mushrooms wear off and I became sleepy. I ignored my friends and turned page after page of this horror story. I read until I fell asleep.

Of course, I didn’t finish the Holy Bible that night but that night was why I did finish it. I sought it out again, on my own. I could only imagine the questioning that would ensue if I asked my heathen parents for a Bible, so I asked a friend. I read it, cover to cover, and I didn’t find it any less horrifying with sobriety on my side. The only thing I’d read up until that point that came even remotely close to being as offputting as the Holy Bible, was Stephen King’s Misery. The Bible made Misery look like a Judy Blume novel, though. I gave it back to my friend and I told her it was awful.

Cut to last week. I received an email from an anonymous reader who said,

You’re afraid to read the Bible because you’re afraid it might make you believe in your Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is, of course, not the first time I’ve been accused of not reading this holiest book of all books; it’s not the first time I’d been told I was ignoring this volume of violence or dismissing their treatise of terror. I often have theists come to me and tell me that if I would just read the Bible, I would understand. This idea that I must be an atheist because I have not read the Bible is not only completely bizarre to me; it’s also profoundly dismissive of the lived experiences of many atheists.

When a Christian asserts that atheists are atheists because they’ve not given the Bible a good chance, they are dismissing this dire dread I sank to the bottom of that night when I would have otherwise been flying. They’ve simply waived my Fear And Loathing In Richmond, BC and in a question, one of the most unpleasantly memorable moments of my life is erased. It’s always floored me that theists are so willing to do this; to assume that my experience with the Bible is a big, giant, nought.

For me, it was one night, and a bit of time afterwards, though. It really wasn’t much more than a blip on the timeline that is my life. Unlike many other atheists, I could easily forget it. For some ex-religious atheists, it is, instead, a lifetime struggle being dismissed. It is years upon decades of poring over the New Testament, begging God for answers or begging God for help. For so many heathens, it was hours, days, months, years of agony and anxiety and stress and self-loathing. For some, an entire childhood had been lost to it. For others, it went well into their adulthood. Abuse, lies, shame and extreme guilt are all being glossed over with one simple question: why don’t you just read the Bible?

The answer is that most of us have. We’ve read it. I only read it once, and that was enough for me, but for some of the atheists being accosted with this question, they studied it, devoted their lives to it, anguished over it. They’ve struggled with it, lost loved ones over it, been cast out because of it. I lost a perfectly good evening on perfectly good ‘shrooms over it, but a great many atheists have lost everything over it.

So, next time you feel like telling an atheist to read the Bible, take a pause. Reflect on this post and rephrase. Instead of demanding we read your Holy Book, why don’t you just ask if we already have, instead?

Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • thompjs

    Listen to Sam Harris’ latest podcast with Bart Erhman. He read it a lot!

  • Priya Lynn

    Oh dear, what a horrific waste of mushrooms. Reminds me of the time three of us got this brilliant idea to get high before we went to the dentists to dull the pain – it only made it worse and full of paranoia. But I’m sure your experience was much worse than ours.

  • Tawreos

    “You’re afraid to read the Bible because you’re afraid it might make you believe in your Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Who says christians can’t tell a joke? Seriously though that was probably sent by someone that makes a big show of having a bible but has never actually read it. They only know what the pastor has told them is in there and that is all they need to know.

  • igotbanned999

    Reading the Bible is one of the best ways to become an atheist

  • Geek the Form

    Ask you a question? Are you on drugs now? That would mean giving up the mic for a few seconds, and then your expected to pretend you listened to the answer.. get real.

  • VMWH

    The Bible was inspired by God and interpreted and written down by male humans in patriarchal culture. Lots of blood and guts that wouldn’t be there if it had been written in a matriarchal society.

  • Oh, geez, that would be horrific!

  • Yes, that’s what I got from the rest of our conversation, too.

  • So I’m told!

  • I’ve no idea what you just tried to say, Walter, but there’s always next time.

  • Fair point. I wonder what that Bible would have read like.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    Do you mean the women would have left out the blood and guts? Or that the type of God that would demand a matriarchal society wouldn’t have been as violent?

  • E.A. Blair

    One of my best experiences with weed was getting high and sitting through a double feature of 2001: A Space Odyssey followed by Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels.

  • Raging Bee

    And if you can prove to them that you DID read the Bible, their next line will be: “But you didn’t read it in the correct way/spirit!” That was explained to me a long time ago: you can read the Bible in a “dead” way and not get anything out of it, or you can read it while “in the spirit” and every word of it will clearly prove the Bible is correct in every way!

  • Polytropos

    That’s either a tragic waste of shrooms, or a great example of enlightenment achieved by using shrooms.

  • Otto

    The Bible was inspired by God and interpreted and written down by male humans in patriarchal culture. Lots of blood and guts that wouldn’t be there if it had been written in a matriarchal society.

  • Mark Caesar

    I can understand most theists not knowing their bible, the only times they open it are in church and that is just to refer to the cherry-picked passages their preacher has directed them to. I don’t know a single person that reads their bible at home.
    I’ve never had mushies but tried LSD 3 times, supposed to be very similar. Way too enjoyable, so I decided to stop. You hear horror stories of people on LSD and I didn’t want to be one of them. I’ll always remember the jet black right angle floating in the jet black night sky, sometimes close, sometimes far, but always friendly.

  • Otto

    I have no doubt that the Bible brings comfort to some people, but even as a believer I never found comfort in it. I was raised to believe it so I did, but it was not something I wanted to be true and I was very relieved when I finally realized there was no reason to believe it.

    And as a person that has done my share of mushrooms back in the day, (and probably quite a few other people’s share too) the idea of staying away from any negativity was key, but even a bad experience could be enlightening afterwards.

  • Brian Curtis

    It’s really just more of their belief in magic. Many of them honestly, sincerely believe that the Bible has magical properties that will automatically convince anyone of its Holy Truth(TM) if they read it; therefore, anyone who disagrees with their faith must not have read the Magic Book.

  • Brian Curtis

    Exactly. Of course it’s not going to work its magic if you don’t take the common-sense step of deciding in advance that everything in it has to be true and right! I mean, come on, you have to meet Yahweh halfway! And if it still doesn’t convert you, you must have been reading it wrong, so it’s really YOUR FAULT and the magic’s still there. That’s just obvious, isn’t it?


    I’m not opposed to reading the bible as a cultural reference point. However, until such time the bible can be demonstrated to be what its supporters claim it is, I see no point in studying it. The staggering number of christian denominations is strong evidence that what the christian’s magic book says…….isn’t exactly clear.

  • Most Christians I knew never read it cover to cover – and I am talking about Christian school educated fundamentalist evangelicals. They read excerpts, devotionals carefully crafted tobteacj certain messages. Large swaths of the Bible are ignored. As a believer I read it, and it put me off mightily!

  • Nate

    That’s what did it for me….well started me on that path at least…

  • Brian Curtis

    And that doesn’t even include its dire shortcomings as literature. That book needs some serious reworking. Long stretches of dull inventories and genealogies, random nonsense that can be interpreted dozens of ways, internal contradictions, historical and scientific inaccuracies, disgusting acts of violence and depravity by the so-called ‘heroes,’ random switching of voices and perspectives. Editorially, it’s a mess.

  • Oboewan

    …and Man created god in his own image…..

  • anxionnat

    I’ve read the OT four times and the NT three times, including once in the original Hebrew. (You haven’t missed anything, believe me!) I’ve also read the Quran twice (and was discouraged from attempting it in the original Arabic by my Arabic teacher. He said that, although I was fluent in modern Arabic, reading the Quran in the original would be like reading Beowulf in the original Old English.) Also, in English translation: the Vedas, the Bhavagad Gita, Selections from Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, selections from the Talmud, and lots of other “holy” books. All this reading was done by the time I turned 13, with the exception of the OT in Hebrew. All this reading did was make me more sure that *all* religions are BS. I do enjoy mythology though.

    “There was only one occasion on which I’d done magic mushrooms where the effects were not sheer joy. On that occasion, everything was going just fine until I picked up my friend’s Bible.”

    You speak from the heart when you say “I love magic mushrooms” and you are morally perfect (paraphrasing, I understand sarcasm), in the same sentence… Your soul is desperate at best, your heart deceives itself often, I declare Christ, hope for the dead… would you hear the faith once delivered to the saints or hear your own thoughts and imagination and say, true?

    Reading the scriptures is one of the best ways, to read God’s Word. the Word became flesh (John 1:1), knew & spoke of human nature throughout all ages (Matthew 15:19), was crucified (Mark 15:13), and rose from the dead (Matthew 28:6)… you can know Him (Romans 10:13). Will you bow now or after you decay (Philippians 2:10-11)(2 Corinthians 6:2)(John 3:36)

  • TJOzzie

    It certainly helped me on MY journey to disbelief. That and going to Catholic schools until college. (Penguins still scare me.) :- (

  • NoBodE

    One of the biggest errors is tracing geneaology through the male line. Mama’s baby, Daddy’s maybe.

  • Raging Bee

    The OP explicitly said the author was already familiar with the Bible…and you talk to us like you think we’d never seen it before? You need a more flexible script.

  • Raging Bee

    …would you hear the faith once delivered to the saints or hear your own thoughts and imagination and say, true?

    Do you really think those are our only choices? How about taking in knowledge and wisdom from whatever sources we find?

  • Otto

    Haha…that’s really funny…

    oh wait…what you posted wasn’t the sarcasm…

  • KenderJ

    I have a friend who says something similar: “Motherhood is a fact, fatherhood is an opinion”.

  • Wile F. Coyote

    One long ago evening I took some ‘shrooms at a buddies place. Then we grabbed some papers and part of an oz, a .22 automatic rifle, and a box of wine, taking all of it out to the brand new 2-door Trooper I’d signed the papers for 5 hours earlier. We drove off onto the back 40 pasture behind his farmhouse as the August sun was setting.

    The next thing I can remember with any sort of clarity is walking out of his pond, fully dressed, as the sun rose the next morning. He drove us back to the yard, where I exited my new vehicle head first through the passenger side back window before walking into the kitchen, trailing mud and pond water scum. Then I pulled a wooden chair out from the table and fell over face first onto it just as his wife came into the kitchen from their bedroom, totally flattening it out and cracking a couple of ribs to boot. Man, what a night.

  • safetynet2razorwire

    Oh, the irony. After Courtney Heard went to all reasonable lengths to make it clear that she has, in fact, read the bible cover to cover – you admonish ‘read the bible’. If your attention-span and reading comprehension are so short and narrow that you can’t grasp and retain such clear terse statements as Ms Heard’s – I find it hard to give you credit for having read, critically with highlighter in hand, the +/- 1200 very convoluted pages of the bible according to Irenaeus (every version extant is some variant on the version Irenaeus edited reams of early church correspondence and some 40 gospel ‘testaments’ down to on bequest of Pope Eleutherius circa 186 CE). I suspect that you’ve not imvested a moment in going over The Apocrypha with the same critical fine-tooth comb. And all those other (mainly gnostic) gospels that Irenaeus single-handedly declared ‘heretical’? You’ve likely not sought nor read a single one. How about the Proto-evangelicum of James?

    Acquaintances who crawled through the dogma gauntlet of a Christian seminary pretty much unanimously ‘amen’ Mark Twain’s assertion that “the best cure for Christianity is reading the bible”. Intensive critical religious study – as opposed to reiterative indoctrination – is more likely to dissuade away from superstition and supernatural explanations for real world things, actions, and qualities.

    I’ve yet to meet a Christian pastor I can’t back into a corner using only his own scriptures. And I am more likely to get a book/chapter, and verse response from an atheist than a Christian – be they Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. I’d put the percentage of Christians who let a priest or pastor chew and regurgitate their spiritual food for them safely at about 99%. Few Christians have ever carefully read all the fine print in their covenant with Yahweh. I strongly suspect you may be one of that 99%. The majority of modern Christians have, maybe, just maybe, read a ‘Jesus Saves’ bumper sticker – and tossed a slip of paper emblazoned with a ‘pagan’ pyramid and ‘masonic’ eye in a plate.

  • Phil

    There would be a lot more references to shoes.

  • Raging Bee

    Given this commenter’s name, I’m thinking it’s spam.

  • Eolande Eliva

    Of course you’ve also got to hold your tongue a certain way too.

  • Kevin K

    Nope. None of that is true.

    Thanks for coming over.

  • Kevin K

    Gee, you make it sound so appealing! Wait … no … the opposite of that.

  • Raging Bee

    I thought that only applies to…um, never mind…

  • ctcss


    I was still a relatively empty-headed teenager back then and had never read a word of the Bible previously. I barely had any understanding of what god or Christianity was. I just knew it was a book that meant a great deal to a whole lot of people. So, I picked it up and poured myself into it while my mind was alit with the effects of psilocybin.

    About all I can say to this is, Wow!, not the way I would have chosen as a helpful way to introduce one’s self to the Bible or to religious concepts. (Heck, I wouldn’t recommend going into a classroom in school while under such an influence either!)

    Personally, I come from a very non-mainstream Christian sect which tries not to intrude on other people’s lives (and which also believes in universal salvation), so in the first place I would never suggest that you should just “read the Bible”. If you are happy being an atheist (or a Jew, Catholic, Methodist, Hindu, Sikh, etc.), more power to you. Religion (or lack thereof) is a very personal choice, so everyone needs to be able to come to their own conclusions about what pathway they wish to follow.

    That said (and magically erasing the history you just related), I would have recommended that if you truly had an interest in learning about this book that means so much to so many people, you should first try to find someone who is an experienced, patient, kind, and thoughtful teacher. (After all, why would anyone wish to be taught an unfamiliar subject by an impatient, unkind, unthinking, and dogmatic teacher?) Religion, when pursued seriously, is most definitely a non-trivial undertaking, at least IMO. It requires a lot of time and thought, so just reading the Bible cold (and most likely literally) is not going to be very helpful. After all, the subject of the Bible is God (conceptually speaking, an infinitely and eternally deep area of study, and being infinite and eternal in nature, one that is very likely unfamiliar to everyday, human thought), so trying to grasp the import of it without some helpful and thoughtful guidance is not likely to work out too well. (Your forced march into it while under chemical influence likely left some rather deep mental scars, thus possibly explaining your continued dark take on it even while not under the influence.)

    I also find it interesting that so many people seem to think that the Bible is something that should be trivially self-explanatory and obvious. But going against this viewpoint, Jews, who only have the OT, also have access to centuries of commentary and analysis to draw upon when studying their scriptures. They very much consider it to be something to be wrestled with and thoughtfully examined and debated with their teachers and fellow students. And Jesus, it should be noted, also only had the OT to study and ponder, yet he did not seem to regard it as something horrific, dark, and scary. Rather, he seemed to be rather inspired and encouraged by it, and tried to help his followers understand it (and God) better than they typically seemed to. His viewpoint about God and scripture was obviously rather different from theirs.

    The point being, the approach that one takes towards Bible study very much influences what one encounters within it, and a serious study of it very likely requires that one’s viewpoint be amenable to change and evolution as one proceeds forward. Just because something doesn’t appeal at first encounter, doesn’t mean that there is nothing worthwhile there to discover. And even if one has had many encounters with it, but one’s thought isn’t widening a bit during these encounters to consider viewpoints rather different from what one is comfortable or familiar with, an ongoing effort to to understand it is still not likely to feel very productive, at least IMO.

    However, as I said above, this subject area is very personal, and everyone should have the freedom to choose their own pathway. If it doesn’t appeal to you, fine. No harm, no foul. But please do consider that the difference between your negative take on it and other people’s positive take on it may very well be because they are approaching it from a very different standpoint than yours. It is very possible, after all, for different people to have well thought out reasons that vary quite a bit from one’s own well reasoned thoughts, even though each is going in a different direction.

    As I noted, IMO this is a very non-trivial area of study.

    All the best.

  • Eolande Eliva

    Lol. YOU!!

  • This question does not work on me at all, and I’m always amused when Christians ask it. I have read the Bible more times that I could ever hope to count and have vast swaths of it memorized; I always win the game Bible Trivia. I read the Bible cover-to-cover twice every year and have done so since grade school. In fact, I’m reading it right now (getting ready to start working on Joshua, after having just finished the mind-numbingly dull Pentateuch).

    I rather like the Bible, to be honest. Not for its literary merit (much of it is styleless, boring and repetitive, though there are some beautiful parts), nor for any moral lessons (there are some few good ones in there, but nothing unique, nothing that can’t be found in, well, pretty much every other mythology/religion/philosophy/culture created by the mind of humanity), and definitely not for insight into God (especially since a read-through demonstrates that the character of God is totally fictional, if only because He changes so dramatically over the course of the story).

    Nope. I read the Bible for what it says about us, for what it shows about humanity. Because in its pages, we can see our human consciousness (and conscience) grow alongside our civilizations. We can see it go from violent, savage, primitive Bronze-and-Iron Age “morality” (which chiefly means “kill everyone who’s not part of our group”) to a more peaceful philosophy that does have some rather good advice.

    And the best part? I can see that we are better now, as a global community, than our narrow-minded, often brutal ancestors.

    So I like the Bible, and I know the Bible, and I’ve studied it for most of my life.

    And I still don’t believe it. If anything, reading it made me believe it less, as I grew from a conservative, Southern Baptist youth into the progressive, atheist man that I became.

  • Mr. A

    Couldn’t we turn that question around for any holy text that the believer doesn’t subscribe to? EG: You are afraid to read the Bagavad Gita because it would require you to do a life of proper Dharma.

  • Geek the Form

    sorry, just trying to snark on the people you wish would listen to you 🙂

  • You’re afraid to read the Bible because you’re afraid it might make you believe in your Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Or maybe I’m afraid to do that because my hate of those who take it as real and attempt to impose said idea to others will increase. When the “good guys” kill far more people than the “bad guys”, there’re both so many inconsistences and an absolute lack of anything beyond the Middle East, not to mention the scientific knowledge an all-mighty God would have, parts of it look like a really bad trip, and especially archeology has debunked so many stuff that appears there and has showed that some “demons” present there were actually other deities venerate along Yahweh as Asherah,his wife, that’s to be expected.

  • I’ve seen mentioned that was it actually the work of an all-mighty deity (well, adapted for something so insignificant as us in comparison to the Universe) it would be a far more different work, there’d be not so many interpretations, and especially Christianism would not have splintered into thousands of different denominations. And I’ve to wholeheartedly agree with that.

  • Orange East Yellow

    The church knows it too. Until a few centuries ago, the church had actually banned common people from reading the bible/ NT. The reasons are interesting, and explained here.

  • I’m good, thanks for reading!

  • TheBoomer

    Or any of those other “holy” tomes. It’s all BS.

  • TheBoomer

    One of the reasons I didn’t tell my family that I didn’t believe in a god was that I’d have to explain. Why? Why is it that I have to explain that? Do they explain to me why they do believe? No, they just expect people to accept and understand. So, I think a non-believer should have the same acceptance and understanding.

  • kenofken

    Why would you read the Bible in that state? That’s like drunk dialing Sauron for a video chat!

  • The “perfect” word, my ass!

  • I’m going to go with tragic waste, because I gained nothing from reading the Bible outside of the ability to say I read it.

  • I have not tried LSD. I think I might be too scared to.

  • Yes, after that experience, I decided it was best to do shrooms in peaceful places outdoors, with nature.

  • Haha, that’s a point I hadn’t considered!

  • Yeah, this is what I’ve come to learn as well. They only read the good bits.

  • Yes, I recall being underwhelmed.

  • It’s almost robotic, isn’t it?

  • Haha, sounds like!

  • His response really was bizarre.

  • Raging Bee

    One of the earlier versions. This one didn’t get the last few upgrades that were recently pushed out.

  • Yes, I often do that when I’m told to read the Bible.

  • Agreed!

  • Yeah. My bad.

  • Mark Caesar

    Don’t. Trouble with drugs like LSD is you just don’t know what you’re getting. I’ve heard stories of people dying because they thought they were taking something safe but it was laced with some sort of poison, or the strength was way high. I was lucky enough to have a good experience, lucky enough to stop before something went wrong. It’s not worth the risk.

  • Yeah, no plans for it in the near future.

  • Penn Jilette said, nothing will make you and atheist quicker than reading the bible.

  • He’s a smart man.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    and close one eye while standing on one leg and waving your LEFT hand above your head while grabbing your right ankle with your right hand and saying the magic word “zdfypolrs” three times. Then all the magic happens.

  • I read it circa 1963-64. It guaranteed that I would never take Christianity seriously.

  • Suzy Hayes

    Mark Twain said it best in “Letters from the Earth”. Everyone should read this book. Made me an atheist & I was laughing all the way!!
    We are one silly species.

  • Haha, we are!

  • Sol III

    When I first discovered the internet, back at the dawn of civilization, I stumbled upon the old AOL chat boards, specifically the creationism versus evolution boards. A lifelong atheists, but I’d never actually met another, let alone discussed atheism versus religion before. It was eye opening. The one refrain over and over from the creationists was ‘read the bible’, ‘read the bible and you’ll understand’, ‘read the bible and it will all become clear’. Thanks, but I’d read the bible, many times. But I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a powder or chemical on the pages, and that if you read it enough, you’d have ‘blackened thumbs and blackened tongues’ like the monks from ‘Name of the Rose’, and would Stepford Wife yourself into their cult….??