Saturday, December 13, 2014

Giving The Bible to kids

I have no problem identifying myself as an atheist, but there are times when I find myself disagreeing with what seems to be the majority of my fellow nonbelievers. While we all see things the same way when it comes to the God question, we don't always feel the same way regarding how to treat believers or even how to regard The Bible.

I read a story recently that was linked to an atheist Facebook group that I follow. The point of it all was that there's another affront on the part of Christians toward nonbelievers. What happened? Apparently the Gideons came to an elementary school and handed out Bibles. A mother protested, and she found that the rest of the community was against her and were all for kids getting copies of The Bible. 

Let's get a couple of things straight. First of all, I don't think it's appropriate for any religious (or even a non-religious) group to come to a public school in order to hand out anything. Secondly, I don't think that the school went about this in a very good way, as the kids who didn't want a Bible had to all stand aside for the other kids to get one, which would draw attention to them.

Aside from that though, I just can't find myself getting too upset about all of this. I remember when I was a high school student, there was a guy passing out copies of The New Testament. He didn't say much other than letting people know what it was that he was handing out. When I got home, I read it cover to cover and decided to give my life to Jesus Christ. I got down on my knees and prayed to Jesus for forgiveness.

Actually, the only part of that story that's true is the bit about the guy giving me The Bible. I took it home, probably read a little bit of it, and then I lost interest and forgot about it. This is probably more than what will happen with these elementary school kids who took a copy of The Bible home with them, unless their parents have already indoctrinated them into Christianity. And if that's the case, chances are pretty good that they already have a Bible in their home.

I guess I just don't understand what some folks seem to be afraid of. I know that some atheists bridle a bit at this scenario because they personally have bad memories from when they were believers. Also, they don't like the idea of their kids being indoctrinated into a religion. But seriously, who converts simply by picking up The Bible and reading it? If anything, I hear from people who became atheists when they tried to read it, but it's probably even safer to say that most folks give up on it when they try to read it. They probably lose interest somewhere around all the "begats".

Maybe this might sound strange, but I just don't see The Bible as a piece of religious propaganda. If it was, then there would be no need for religious tracts, preachers, and proselytizing. The Bible would do the job all on its own. Just try and put yourself in the position of somebody who was raised on a deserted island (yet could somehow still read) and never heard of Christianity. Do you think you'd convert simply by reading The Bible? Would it be the talking snake that would make you think that you were reading the word of a supreme being?

Are believers able to use The Bible to confirm their beliefs? Absolutely. But I've heard a lot of conversion stories, and they rarely involve picking up The Bible and reading it with absolutely no other outside influence (family, friends, etc.) 

If I found out that somebody gave my son a Bible at his school, then the only thing that might annoy me is the fact that we already have one, and we don't need the clutter. Either way, I would hope that my son would say either "thanks" or "no thanks".

Christians often speak about The Bible as though it's some sort of magical book that has the answers to life's problems. Nonbelievers sometimes treat it like the Necronomicon from the Evil Dead movies, and even opening it will bring all sorts of ruin. Neither extreme is justified by what it actually is - a book of myths. Some parts are great bits of mythology that reveal universal truths. Some bits tell us about the culture(s) that produced it. Much of it is tedious minutia that has little relevance to anybody who isn't specifically a Biblical scholar.
Still, it would be nice if somebody stood a little further down the block handing out free copies of The Odyssey.

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