Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Bible - seriously?

"The best cure for Christianity is reading The Bible." - Mark Twain

I remember when I was still on the fence regarding this whole religion thing, and I finally decided to try and read The Bible. I had visited various internet forums where the atheists would quote all kinds of awfulness that it supposedly said, but I wanted to check it out for myself. I'm pretty sure that I didn't get very far into it when I finally decided that I just couldn't believe what was in there.

I would read it while commuting to work (I was riding BART) and then get home and tell my wife about what new awfulness I had discovered. Not long after that, I would get into conversations with Christians, and I'd tell them what was in there. For many of them, they were highly skeptical that it actually said what I had told them. I remember reading from many atheists when they said that they stopped believing when they actually tried to read it, and I think that I had some delusion that if I only had told Christians what this supposedly "good book" had to say, they'd realize what a gigantic load of crap it was.

No such luck on that one though. Sure, it is true that many people stop believing when they read The Bible, but I think that for many of them, as it was for me, they were already at a point where they were willing to accept that it just might not be true - or even a good basis for morality, for that matter. The sad fact is though that many Christians actually DO read it, and they've read all the awful stuff, and yet they STILL believe it!

Okay, time for my standard "I am aware that not all Christians are the same" disclaimer. I have met plenty of Christians who have absolutely no problem tossing out the parts of The Bible that are evil and/or nonsensical. In other words, they think that its various books were written by flawed human beings, and those flaws shine through, even though there are some flashes of divine inspiration throughout. I can't honestly say that I respect this view, as it's a bit too much of having your cake and eating it too, but I'm not going to pick on them because at least they don't engage in the despicable sort of apologetics those who hold it up as being the end-product of an omnibenevolent being.

I'll be honest with you, trying to debate people like this is like trying to talk to a guy who's eating a sundae where the primary ingredient is dog crap. You can keep telling them, "Hey man! That's poo!" but they'll point out the chocolate syrup, whip cream, and cherry. "Yeah, sure...but you're eating poo, dude!" At a certain point, when you've just seen them shovel that fourth scoop of fetid feces into their faces, you just have to turn around and go, "Yeah, I can't do nothing for ya, man."


Except that doesn't quite complete the analogy, because imagine this dog-crap sundae consumer usually eschews junk like Applebee's and knows how to make a delicious homecooked meal. In other words, they're people who you'd think would know better.

What I've noticed is that it just doesn't matter what's in The Bible, they will find a way around it. Apparently it's not bad enough that The Bible says that a virgin must marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28) or that you can beat your slave as much as you want, just so long as you don't beat him to death (Exodus 21:20). They can work their way around it by either saying the completely inconsistent "that's the Old Testament!" rule (Then why even include it?) or the "out of context!" cop-out (What context justifies such things?) or they'll give some long-winded thing about how the death and resurrection of Jesus somehow fixes it - as though that's some sort of self-evident bit of reasoning. Of course, I could give you more, including Old and New Testament horribleness,

But to what end? The only people who might look it up and consider it are the fence-sitters, and I've given them enough to get started on their own. The nonbelievers either already know about all that stuff or don't care in the first place. But for the true-believing apologist, it simply doesn't matter what it says. There could be a quote where Jesus himself tells his followers to rape puppies, and they'll still find a way around it. It's funny, because I've been told that I need to read it with an "open mind" but that's the not how that works. If you're truly open-minded, you're willing to accept that it's either worthy of respect or its not. In other words, you don't start with the conclusion. Because that's the only way you can get around the horrible things it says - if you decide from the beginning that it can all be excused.

I've written so much, and I haven't even touched on the fact that if there was an all-perfect, all-loving God, then a book is the absolute WORST way to communicate with us. (That's right, Muslims! You ain't exactly off the hook with the Qu'ran, ya know.)

For starters, did you know that it wasn't originally written in English? Not only that, but English - especially as we know it today - wasn't even around when Jesus supposedly walked the Earth? That's why you have so many different translations. And anybody who's taken even a first year of a language in high school knows the problem when it comes to translating. With translation must come some interpretation, because there are entire phrases that simply do not translate, and you'll never get the same point across.

For instance, there's a scene in The Odyssey where Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his name is "Nobody". After getting a burning stick jammed in his eye, the brute calls out to his fellow Cyclops. When they ask him, from behind the wall of his cave, who's attacked him, he replies "Nobody!" and so they go on their way, thinking that nobody has done him harm. Well, in the original Ancient Greek, the word for "nobody" is "me tis" which sounds a lot like "metis", which means "cunning" - a word that best describes Odysseus. Basically what you've got in the original is a pun, and there's no way to translate that double meaning into English.

That's just one tiny example. Can't you imagine that The Bible has similar issues - and maybe even with things that aren't so trivial? Well, let's just assume that somehow the translations manage to avoid that, you're still left with some additional problems. For instance, there's the Apocrypha, those books of The Bible that didn't make the final cut - even though many early church leaders thought them to be divinely inspired. Let's assume that's not a problem either, then you still have to deal with the fact that we don't have the originals for any of these scriptures. We do have evidence though that the various scribes who went about copying them would make changes - either on purpose or due to simple human error.

Let's go ahead and overlook that as well, even though there's absolutely no reason to do so. We still have the biggest, most intractable problem there is - the people who read it.

I've gotten into long conversations with people about everything from issues of Batman comics to Hamlet, and we've debated back and forth as to what was really going on in the story. That's all good and fun though, as it's the basis of literature. It's not like the author directly transmits his or her thoughts right into the reader's brain. There will always be a certain level of interpretation. You cannot help but bring part of yourself to everything you read, and that will impact how you receive the message. And let's face it, a person living in 2013 isn't going to approach a text - especially one that's been edited and translated as much as The Bible - the same way as the original audience would.

And before you hem and haw at that point, take a moment to consider how many different denominations of Christianity there are, all of which certain that they got it right, and just keep moving right along.

Am I trying to say that The Bible is completely worthless? Absolutely not. I actually like some of it. However, to say that it's the words of an all-loving, all-knowing being is absurd at best, downright evil at worst. Let's just take it for what it is, a work of mythology that's better in some parts than others, and then we can maybe start getting some real value from it, rather than pretending that it's something that it clearly isn't.

15 comments:

Tony from Pandora said...

Okay... so you're saying it's a dog crap sundae. But neither one of you actually saw it come out of the dog's butt. Both you and the eater of said 'sundae' are basing your knowledge on what others have told you (either verbally or through books). You are listening to the guy who said it's from a dog's butt... and the other guy listened to the one who said it's from a creamery in Texas. Meanwhile, the guy who's eating the sundae is feeling better and is more healthy than he ever was before he starting eating it. So what you see as dog crap... may ACTUALLY be nourishing delicious food.

We all receive sources of information for what we believe. You gravitate towards the articles that support your views. I gravitate toward the ones that support the bible.

You say it's 'bad' for a virgin to marry her rapist.

1. What alternative do you recommend?

2. Why did you choose the translation 'rape' instead of 'have intercourse' or 'lie with'?

3. From an atheist/evolutionary perspective, rape was instrumental in helping our species survive... so why is it 'bad'? 'Out of style', maybe...

I've heard these verses about rape and slavery over and over. You argue that context doesn't matter. But from where I'm standing, it seems like someone 1,000 years from now, looking at our abortion laws and saying, "Why would they allow rape?"

The biblical rape victim didn't HAVE to marry her aggressor. But given the (dare I say) context of the culture... marrying her gave her the best chance of being supported. And back in the day, men wanted virgins, and if a woman wasn't one, she had a far less chance of getting married or being supported.

And again, that's if we use the most violent translation of 'rape' and not simply 'have intercourse' or 'lie with'

Will Asplund said...

So we should feel better about the bible because it was the norm to treat women like property when Deuteronomy was written? I'm sorry, but I am failing to understand your point, Tony. The all-loving, all-knowing, divine being said: "Well, I let her get raped and now she's a useless doorstop. Why don't you just marry her rapist, since you staked your claim!"

In all actuality there is more to that Deuteronomy verse. The father still had the final say for marriage at the time. I think it was more/less a punishment for the rapist to force him to marry his victim (poor lady). He would have to pay dowry for his wife regardless of the rape, and the father would be calling that price. I agree that the father would realize that was the only way he was going to get any dowry now that she was not a virgin. I think this is a nice way of saying, "you will get what's coming to you." What's disgusting is the complete disregard of women (by the rapist, her father, and "god").

I think its fairly obvious that this is a religion created to keep people in their place–specifically women. It also gave an excuse for any urge that man could not justify. Simply, "the bible said so." was good enough. Crusades ensue.

Even if its truth, and Jesus died for our sins, I want nothing to do with the evils that are included.

Lance Johnson said...

"So what you see as dog crap... may ACTUALLY be nourishing delicious food."

It may be, but it sure gets him to act irrationally.

" You gravitate towards the articles that support your views. I gravitate toward the ones that support the bible."

Nope. I just read what it said. I don't need anybody to tell me what's clearly there in front of my face.

As to your questions:

1. How about imprison the rapist?

2. Because if you read that passage in context with all the laws before and after it, it's pretty clear that it's talking about rape.

3. Why is it bad? See, this is what eating dog poop will do to you. You cannot see that something is bad simply because it causes harm.

And you're conflating the simple fact of biological evolution with social Darwinism (which wasn't actually advocated by Darwin, from what I understand).

" But given the (dare I say) context of the culture... marrying her gave her the best chance of being supported."

Tony, stop and ask yourself why that culture was the way it was. Either The Bible is a product of a primitive culture or it's the product of a perfect God - all evidence points to the former, even this very argument that you're using.

"And again, that's if we use the most violent translation of 'rape' and not simply 'have intercourse' or 'lie with'"

Even then it's dumb because it treats the girl as a piece of property, as her father is paid off by the rapist.

Ingrid Johnson said...

I don't like the dog poop comparising, and I think the old testament is just an account of how people lived, their laws, and how it affected them in the end. We should learn from it, not agree with it. A girl having to marry her rapist is still practised in moslem countries under the same circumstances as in biblical times, because no one else would marry the girl, so it was better that her rapist married her so she would have some standing in her community. I am not saying that this is good, but it makes sense, otherwise she would be an outcast and a burden to her family.

Lance Johnson said...

I don't have a problem with that interpretation. It's when people say that it's the product of an all-loving, all-good being that I find ridiculous.

Learn from it as an example of a primitive culture and its rules? Absolutely. But no loving god made those rules. If it was inspired by a loving god, then he'd take the time to explain that a woman's worth should not be wrapped up in her virginity.

Ingrid Johnson said...

I think He did not approve of it, people made those rules in his name. Look, even in my days, girls who got pregnant (I am not saying that they were raped, but often unwilling or ignorant participants)had to marry the boy because of societies views on "illegitimate" children. I know some of them, the girls were often not happy but had to live with it. Often the children of unwed mothers felt like outcasts. Many wives stay within loveless marriages because they are afraid of being alone, and many girls in my days gave up their illegitimate child for adoption, I know some of them too. So, my point is, we can't blame God on societies ills, people make choices, today different ones than yesterday, and then blame God. For many, praying and asking God for comfort helps, they know it wasn't God who did it to them but people.

Tony from Pandora said...

Will,
“"Well, I let her get raped and now she's a useless doorstop. Why don't you just marry her rapist, since you staked your claim!"

That’s not what’s happening here. Ingrid Johnson said it much better than I did. You say it’s a disgusting disregard for women… This law ensures that she has a future and a chance of good standing in the community. Why is that bad?

“I think it’s fairly obvious… keep people in their place.-specifically women.” For one, this does law does NOTHING to diminish the role or importance of woman. But if you think it does, there are many other passages that lift women up. Read Song of Solomon. Read Proverbs 31. Read I Corinthians 5. (and yes there’s more than 3… but you should get the point…)

Ingrid,
No more crap… my apologies…

Lance,
Concerning the answers to questions:
1. Yes imprisonment sounds fine… but that doesn’t help the woman. The law isn’t to be taken as “punishment only” but a way to a.) deter the behavior and b.) ensure the well-being and future of the woman….

also, lifelong marriage may SEEM like imprisonment to many men (followed up by a weak “haha…ha….”)

2. The literal translation means “to take and lie with” so it may or may not be rape. The reason for the stronger translation stems from verse 27 when it mentions a woman screaming. So the ‘lie with’ and screaming combined infers rape. And that could be the reason for the Father determining if he should give away his daughter to the man. If it WAS rape, he could decline and keep the money. If it was consensual premarital sex, he could say, “Make an honest woman of her.” Though I’m fine with it being translated AS rape.

3. “you cannot see something is bad…” I can see what’s bad. But there are things that ‘cause harm’ that aren’t nearly as apparent. Such as the aftermath of the rape. Putting the man in jail does nothing for the woman. But having the man marry her means that he is now responsible for all of her finances and wellbeing for life

“Ask yourself why that culture was the way it was” Because man had consistently rebelled against God due His gift of free will, and we choose to try to do things on our own, instead of following God’s will. Not following God’s will inevitably creates a culture where men rape women and enslave other men…

“if it was inspired by a living god, then he’d take the time to explain…”

In previous posts, I believe you accused me of using logical fallacies, specifically the ‘No True Scotsman’. How is this response not a variant of this? But regardless, in the section I wrote to Will, there is plenty of passages lifting women up as much more than mere property.

Lance Johnson said...

Tony, you keep on chewing that turd.

"This law ensures that she has a future and a chance of good standing in the community. Why is that bad?"

BECAUSE SHE HAS TO MARRY A MAN WHO RAPED HER!!!!!

For crap's sakes, man. What the hell is wrong with you?

"In previous posts, I believe you accused me of using logical fallacies, specifically the ‘No True Scotsman’. How is this response not a variant of this?"

Umm...'cause it's not even remotely like one? I don't think you understand the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.

"there is plenty of passages lifting women up as much more than mere property."

And there's plenty of whipped cream and chocolate sauce on that turd.

I'm in a bit of a hurry, so I'll try and get to your other points later, but your whole notion of somehow this being "best" for the woman has me so baffled that I don't know if I can bear to do so.

Lance Johnson said...

Mom, two things:

1. If God is all-powerful, then EVERYTHING is his fault.

2. If God inspired The Bible, then all that stuff is his fault as well.

Ingrid Johnson said...

It's always good for some people to have a fall guy.

Lance, you are seeing things black or white. To have to marry the man who raped her sounds terrible, but it's not like in our society. You have to take into consideration how those people thought, and still do. For some women having sex is like being raped, even today. Why are women in India willing to abort their fetus if it's a girl? Why do women in Afrika allow their daughters to be circumsized, knowing fully well the pain it causes? We will never understand how people think, but blaming everything on God is just as incomprehensible. Maybe we need to keep religion in its place and take God out of religion.


Lance Johnson said...

You seem bound and determined to miss my point, as I don't see what any of that has to do with what I said.

And again, if you have a being that is all-powerful, then by definition, EVERYTHING is his fault. Things could be different, but he doesn't want it to be so.

Which leaves us with a god who's either indifferent, sadistic, or nonexistent. I'm going with the latter.

Tony from Pandora said...

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/no-true-scotsman

"In this form of faulty reasoning one's belief is rendered unfalsifiable because no matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the goalposts so that it wouldn't apply to a supposedly 'true' example. This kind of post-rationalization is a way of avoiding valid criticisms of one's argument"

You have a supposedly 'true' example of what a loving God would do in a situation, and the fact that he doesn't do it proves that He either doesn't exist or He's bad at His job. I'm telling you that there COULD be reasons for a loving God to do a certain thing, and you come back with, "No loving God would do that". But you offer no reason why or how you know this. To me, this sounds like a variation of this Scotsman argument.

Your entire argument for this post is that you think you know better than what the bible says to do. And because you disagree with the bible... it of course HAS to be because its a primitive, bedouin-cultural superstition that's long out of date.

"Everything is His fault..." No... not His fault. But through Christ on the cross, he did take responsibility for it.

And you know... there is PLENTY of GOOD and POSITVE things in this world. If you use evil in the world as proof God doesn't exist... then shouldn't you use good to prove He does. A man raping a woman is God's fault... but the faith-based counseling center that helps her readjust and deal with the situation is just the work of some well-meaning (though misguided) people? That doesn't sound consistent.

And the fact there there IS this stuff in the bible... rape, drunken incest, only proves to me that God didn't make an effort to cover up stuff, and lends credibility to its truthfulness.

Lance Johnson said...

You've provided the definition, but you're still not getting it. I think that our problem is that we're not even agreeing on what love is. It's like if you take the "No True Scotsman" and we can't even come to an agreement as to what the definition of one is, as you're trying to tell me that Kenyans are Scotsmen.

"Your entire argument for this post is that you think you know better than what the bible says to do."

So?

" But through Christ on the cross, he did take responsibility for it."

You say this like it's axiomatic. Explain.

" If you use evil in the world as proof God doesn't exist... then shouldn't you use good to prove He does."

You realize you can flip this argument right around, right? Good thing for me though that my point wasn't to prove that he doesn't exist. It just proves that if he does exist, he's not all-good.

"And the fact there there IS this stuff in the bible... rape, drunken incest, only proves to me that God didn't make an effort to cover up stuff, and lends credibility to its truthfulness."

I don't see how you get to this conclusion based on the premise you began with.

Tony from Pandora said...

I don’t want to get into a ‘debate-within-a-debate’ concerning the definition of the Scotsman falliacy. I simply meant it sounds like a variation of the argument. The original has conflicting defintions of a Scotsman… I’d say we’re arguing over what porridge is. But if this comparison gets in the way… let’s disregard it…
“So?” (in response knowing more than the bible)
On what basis is your standard better?
“You say it like it’s axiomatic. Explain.”
I don’t mean Christ’s death is axiomatic, but I didn’t go into detail simply because I thought you’d know where I was going with that thought….
Let’s go back to what I was responding to:
You said, “1. If God is all-powerful, then EVERYTHING is his fault. 2. If God inspired The Bible, then all that stuff is his fault as well.”
Let’s start with this 1. How do you know what an all-powerful being would do? If you’re starting with the premise that an all-powerful being exists, then what basis do you have for stating that that being is making a mistake? 2. If the bible IS inspired by God (who is all-powerful, stated in point 1)… on what basis do you claim knowledge that it’s faulty? Why does your lack of understanding result in a conclusion that the bible’s wrong, and not that YOUR knowledge is faulty?
I mentioned Christ’s death/resurrection as a response to your saying it’s all God’s fault. He created us with free will, and with free will comes genuine CHOICE. If I may quote Dumbledore, “I make mistakes like the next man. In fact being—forgive me—rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” My point with this quote is that while a perfect God created us, He created us with an ability to choose. And being that He created us with such potential for wisdom/greatness… our mistakes can be as bad as our right actions are good. It’s not a fault of God’s, but a bi-product of free will. But even within that potential for evil… God made a way through Christ to be reconciled back to Him.
“You realize you can flip this argument right around, right?”
Yes, but I’m not making that argument
“It just proves that if he does exist, he’s not all-good.”
All-good based on what definition? And why is that definition the correct one?
“I don't see how you get to this conclusion based on the premise you began with.”
I’m unaware I had a premise. To what premise are you referring? I mean only that the bible doesn’t make an effort to sugar coat anything. The stories of the men God used, with all their faults, are in there…

Lance Johnson said...

"On what basis is your standard better?"

Mine acknowledges that a rape victim is a human being and it would cause harm to her to make her marry her rapist.

"I thought you’d know where I was going with that thought…"

I was referring to his death somehow being him "taking responsibility". I don't understand how you even get to that - it makes no sense to me.

" what basis do you have for stating that that being is making a mistake? Why does your lack of understanding result in a conclusion that the bible’s wrong, and not that YOUR knowledge is faulty?"

Because I have to come to a point where I'm allowed to trust my own reasoning rather than trying to shove square pegs into round holes. I wouldn't make these kinds of leaps if we were talking about The Koran or ancient Hindu texts, and I don't see your holy book as being any more special than them.

Could I be wrong? Yes. But I need a good reason to think that I am.

"He created us with free will, and with free will comes genuine CHOICE."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Christianity has the most twisted view of what a "choice" is. It's not a "choice". It's an ultimatum.

"God made a way through Christ to be reconciled back to Him."

And as I've written before, I find that story to be awful. He figures out a way for us to reconcile with him for failing to live up to an impossible standard? What an asshole.

"All-good based on what definition? And why is that definition the correct one?"

I am sooooooooooo tired of this apologetic bullshit. If you can't figure out that some things aren't good for the simple fact that they cause harm, then you just might be a sociopath.

" To what premise are you referring?"

Your premise that somehow all the nasty bits of The Bible speaks to its veracity. I guess "The Odyssey" must be real too, since it has all kinds of awful stuff. Shoot, how about The Koran? That's gotta be legit!