Friday, November 23, 2012

If You Disagree With the Bible You Haven't Read It Enough (Or You Are Misinterpreting It)!

It's one of the most senseless, bang your head against the wall, I've lost all hope in humanity, arguments I that I hear tossed around when someone dares to disagree with the Bible, (or point out the more barbaric passages in it). I had it happen just this past week when a Catholic fundamentalist stopped by my Google + post that announced my blog post, Does Morality Come From Religion, Or Are We Born With a Sense of Morality?.

It turned into a long debate between, me, the Catholic fundamentalist, and several of my atheist followers. Here's the short version, link is above if you want to read the full discussion.

Essentially, the Catholic fundamentalist (let's call him CF for short), responded to that post saying that he felt morality is in fact something we are born with, but it can be explained by the concept, promoted by Thomas Aquinas and other philosophers, known as natural law, but Christianity takes morality "one step further". I questioned him about this, as to how Christianity could take morality one step further when it endorses slavery, death penalty for homosexuality, and women being forced to marry their rapists? His answer? Exact quote:

"If you understood how sacred scripture should be interpreted, you wouldn't think that the Bible endorses slavery, death penalty for homosexuality, or the forcing of women to marry their rapists. It doesn't endorse any of those things."

Really? How am I misinterpreting passages like this? :

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)" 

I think that's rather clear, no room for misinterpreting there.....

Most of the time, when the more barbaric passages of the Bible are brought up, both fundamentalist and liberal Christians will descend into a pattern of rationalization I like to call "mental gymnastics". You're taking those verses out of context! (Do tell, in what context could those verses not be awful?). Or there's the ever popular, "those verses/commands were only for that time".

 Wait! Don't you believe that God never changes, and is incapable of making mistakes? If so, then why is it that his commands are changing? If your God is a loving god, as you always like to say he is, then why did he at any point in history approve of such horrific evil (and yes, that's what it is).

It's one of the quandaries that was part of the major push for me in leaving Christianity, among other things.

If you wish to believe in the Bible, despite the fact that such barbaric verses exists, you have only two options. One, you can participate in complex and confusing mental gymnastics to try to rationalize such verses. Your only other option is rejecting the idea of divine inspiration altogether, and treating the Bible as a flawed book written by people who were products of their time, but that has some good truths and rules for living.

Otherwise, you have to accept the fact that the god of Christianity is or has been at some point in history, a cruel, unmerciful tyrant who approved of misogyny, slavery, homophobia (to the point of killing people for their sexual orientation) and genocide.

 It's the unfortunate conclusion I ended up coming to, and it's one that I quite honestly didn't want to come to. It runs contrary to everything that I was taught in fundamentalist circles that God is a loving, caring god, but willing to punish those he loves (to correct them, like a parent does). I spent many nights in anguish, knowing deep down I should give up Christianity, but not knowing if I should give up the faith that my entire life was built around.

 I spent much of my life sticking my head in the sand, and trying to defend the Bible. If the mental gymnastics were an Olympic sport, I could have won a gold medal.

When I finally faced the truth, it was an anguishing realization, and I didn't honestly want to believe it, but when I finally accepted it, and had the courage to admit to myself that I could no longer believe in Christianity. It was a weight lifted off of me. No longer did I have to defend the indefensible, I was finally honest with myself about who I was, and what I believed.

Another senseless argument I often get from fundamentalists, is that if you criticize the Bible, then you haven't read it enough/don't know what it actually says.They usually knock off using that line when I talk about my past, which includes a year as a Biblical studies minor at a major Southern Baptist university.

What an arrogant assumption. I understand this viewpoint because of my past, it's a feeling that the Bible is so incredible, so life changing that it is senseless not to believe in it. It reminds me of the mentality of pushy telemarketers or door to door salespeople.

For a very brief moment, I had a job in sales, it didn't work both because I wasn't cut out for it, and because the company was slimy as could be. The sales manager for that small company told me "people need our product, they just don't know it yet" and that our point was to "educate them" on our product.

It's much the same mentality that the Bible is too good for someone not to believe in, and with the right amount of debate and convincing someone will eventually succumb to it. Those who don't, no matter what, I have personally heard fundamentalists say are "deceived by the devil" or "rebelling against God".

Just today, I heard a fundamentalist relative say that a relative of a neighbor who is a atheist is offended by people trying to push their faith on her because deep down, she knows there is a god.

So then, by using that logic, my fundamentalist relative is offended by people saying there is no god, because, you know, deep down, she know's they are right? If you following that convoluted chain of logic, then it's a definite possibility.

The irony of ludicrous "logic" like that is usually lost on the people who use it, no matter what the argument is.

I guess I will just keep banging my head against the wall, and keep up the fight whenever a fundamentalist challenges me.

Why? Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment.


  1. Sheldon you went through that life and in part because of it, you have more authority to challenge these God suckers I can't even talk about the weathet with sometimes. Go Sheldon! You are a smart cookie and also have some infinite patience. :-D

    1. I have noticed that atheists/skeptics who haven't lived the life of the fundamentalist world don't understand it very well, or where many of these people are coming from.

      I usually know what they are going to say before they do, their arguments are predictable.

    2. Sheldon, I agree. I once attended an atheist meet up here in New York and felt out of my element. Most of the atheists there never were believers and when I told them that I was a former evangelist they were very interested. But when I discussed some of the experiences I had while a believer they were looking at me like deer in the headlights.

      I also agree that because of our experiences with theism we can predict what they are going to argue most of the time. There is but so much you could say about that unholy book.

  2. Talk about the weather I meant.

  3. I love it when they tell me that I haven't read it enough or I just haven't read the bible. Leaves the door wide open for my comeback of, "Yeah, I'm just a Jew that can read Ancient Hebrew. The fuck do I know right?"

    1. Love it:)

      You know the message of the Bible without all the confusion of translation.

  4. YES... I agree.

    But debating Catholic Fundies is a whole other beast. Catholicism is *not* a Bible-based religion. Many arguments that work well with other Christian groups just bounce right off many Catholics.

    1. I have noticed that.
      Since I stuck to the Bible and Christianity in general, I was good, but if he tried to steer the conversation into Catholic doctrine, yes, I would be lost.


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