Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
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17-02-2012, 04:09 PM
Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
To answer this question, we must first understand what the Bible is. It's a series of books written by several authors over the course of decades if not centuries that all centralize their focus on a god and it's followers. Now, this in itself is not a bad thing, but it does signify that something could be amiss. Generally, history and factual books are written by one main author within a few years.

First we must figure out whether the Bible is meant to be taken literally or figuratively. If a literal reading of the book is required, then it can be read as supposed fact to be verified later on. If it's supposed to be taken figuratively, then the book is a work of fiction that has no historical value but can still be used to convey lessons on life and such.

But the thing is Christians argue cases for one or the other, and sometimes even both. Many claim some parts are meant to be taken literally as the Word of God, while other parts are skipped over and never really focused on in sermon, save for the occasional cult gathering.

The problem for us occurs when we read what is in the Bible and make observations based on what we have read. One of the first things atheists generally notice is how disjointed and contradictory the Bible is. There are numerous instances where one chapter or verse will say one thing and the very next chapter or verse will say something different about the same subject. These occurrences range from the order in which everything was created to whether Jesus was born in a manger or a house. It is because of these contradictions and vague passages that atheists lose the ability to interpret the Bible literally. How can something be true if it contradicts itself? It's at this point that the Bible loses credibility for us, in albeit a partial way. While it's not a good record of history, humans make errors and it is understandable that a book written by humans would have errors in it. So some allowances are made for mistranslations and such.

The second thing atheists notice when reading the Bible are the instances of impossible claims. Examples including Noah being hundreds of years old and the Ark, the size of a mere football stadium, could hold all of the creatures on Earth which could range anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions, depending on who you ask. Other than the Bible, there is no record of any human living longer than ~120 years, and that's for today's society with today's medicine and technology. You were lucky if you made it to your mid 20's in the time when Moses lived, since the average lifespan was in the teens because of the high death rate for infants. As for the Ark, there is simply not enough space to house that number of species, much less allow room for navigation between them, a place to dispose of biological waste, and room for Noah and his family, which included his wife and three sons and their wives. Many of the claims of the Bible are absurd, and that's not counting the accounts of miracles. Here, the rest of the credibility is lost, because the Bible speaks of things that are not possible even today. This means the literal interpretation is left by the wayside, and we begin to see the Bible as a work of fiction meant to be taken figuratively. That's not to say that it couldn't still provide some manner of wisdom in its teachings, though.

The third thing atheists notice is the nature and behaviors of the god of the Bible. Indeed, there are some instances where God acts like this loving father who comforts people. I'm not denying that at all. But there are just as many instances where the Christian god commits acts of sheer lunacy and evil that in today's society, he would be locked up forever and the key would be thrown away, were he human. There was the time where he killed a man for spilling his seed on the ground. There was the Pharaoh in Egypt where he forced him to refuse Moses, and then punished him because he did not adhere to Moses' demands. It is this third point that drives the last nail in the coffin for atheists and the reason why we can't take the Bible seriously. It is instances like those that are why I refer to God as this petty, human-like entity that behaves no better than the rest of us. It is why atheists get angry with Christians when they try to apologetically defend such passages. It is why I do not think religion deserves to be treated with kind, unoffending words. And it is why atheists cannot take the Bible seriously.

Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told.
-George Carlin
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18-02-2012, 05:12 PM (This post was last modified: 20-02-2012 09:08 PM by Thomas.)
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
It's just a piece of shit not worth reading twice.
Read it once so that you know just how F'up it is, then throw it in the garbage.

Please recycle.

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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19-02-2012, 12:51 AM (This post was last modified: 19-02-2012 12:51 AM by houseofcantor.)
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
(17-02-2012 04:09 PM)Kale Garrison Wrote:  To answer this question, we must first understand what the Bible is.

Words of the prophets. The HoC hypothesis would be that prophecy is linked to schizophrenia; also that insanity is an evolutionary advantage. Ergo, if yer not insane, ya got no business reading or pronouncing scripture. Win/win from an atheist perspective. Wink
(18-02-2012 05:12 PM)Thomas Wrote:  It's just a piece of shit not work reading twice.
Read it once so that you know just how F'up it is, then throw it in the garbage.

Please recycle.

That works too. Wink

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19-02-2012, 08:32 AM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
(17-02-2012 04:09 PM)Kale Garrison Wrote:  First we must figure out whether the Bible is meant to be taken literally or figuratively. If a literal reading of the book is required, then it can be read as supposed fact to be verified later on. If it's supposed to be taken figuratively, then the book is a work of fiction that has no historical value but can still be used to convey lessons on life and such.

First of all, let me point out that this essay is well-written and easy to follow. I thought that your thesis was very clear and the conclusion was apt. I also thought that your points were valid (free of logical errors) and that nothing in this was objectionable. A couple critics below have dismissed your words without even explaining why, and I don't see the value in such criticism... it's not constructive or adding anything of merit.

Your points about the non-literalness of the bible are somewhat old and have already been pointed out by Seth, this site's author. This doesn't mean that you're wrong, but simply that the point doesn't need to made here --- I don't think anyone's going to argue for a literal translation here. There are still people who take the bible literally (like my parents) but they make up a smaller and smaller percentage of the Christian population over time.

I quoted the section above because I wanted to throw in my own experience on this. As I said, my parents take the bible literally. So I discussed the idea of self-mutilation with them.

Quote:Matthew 18:9 - And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

My parents, obviously, take this figuratively. Their only defense for cherry-picking such a verse for figurative reading is that "Jesus would never intend for you to hurt yourself." I pointed out (helpfully) that it is obviously exactly what he intended, because he said it. They said nobody believes this, and tried to explain its meaning (metaphorically) in that Christians should get rid of temptations. So I pointed out that they both drive over the speed limit, and that their cars are ever-present temptations that cause them to break the law (thus the scripture) on a regular basis. When I also followed this up with "so give me your car keys" they showed exactly how they feel about sinning --- not a problem, if it means they get to sin comfortably. So I totally agree that people who "take the bible literally" don't always take it literally; they play with the meaning to fit how they want to live their lives.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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19-02-2012, 08:50 AM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
I read this last year. Only 100 years after is was written... cos I like to keep up with trends.
http://www.allthebooks.net/ebook/is-the-...her-essays

I read it in one night
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19-02-2012, 09:01 AM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
(19-02-2012 08:50 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I read this last year. Only 100 years after is was written... cos I like to keep up with trends.
http://www.allthebooks.net/ebook/is-the-...her-essays

I read it in one night

reading it now Smile good stuff!
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20-02-2012, 02:27 AM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
Not to defend the Bible here, but if you showed this to Christians they would have a hey-day of nitpicking. Here are some gotchas:

1) A literal reading of the Bible does not mean taking everything to be a statement of facts. Large portions of Bible are songs and poetry, which makes them inherently vague and open to interpretation. That doesn't excuse the piss-poor cosmology of Genesis 1 and 2, but it at least explains the "contradiction" between the two chapters--Genesis 1 is the prelude song to the book, and Genesis 2 is giving the real account of what happened. I mean, it's bullshit, but when we challenge it, we ought to challenge the bullshit, not try to nit-pick easily explicable technicalities.

Additionally, there are lots of literary devices in the Bible people like to harp on. One could argue that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" might be a turn of phrase. It's an old language and translation is an art, not a science. We even have trouble with this in modern times--as I understand it, "death to X!" in arabic is basically equivalent to "damn X!" in English, which, at least for me, actually softens its meaning. And Jesus's sermons? Full of exaggerations designed to drive home his points, not to be taken at face value. I mean, he talked in parables most of the time.

2) The story of Onan (the dude who spilled his seed) is not about masturbation even though so many church people think it is. They're wrong and they didn't read the story. God actually smote the dude because he let his jealousy get in the way of doing his fraternal duty and giving his brother's widow an opportunity at something besides a life of poverty (which is what happened to childless widows). Of course, God put the poor woman in that position himself by smiting her husband for "being evil". The real fucked-uppedness of this story is God playing party to the oppression of women. You can read it for yourself.

3) I'll assume that you remembered there were only supposed to be 2 animals from every "kind" on the ark and that you were talking about the tremendous diversity of different kinds of animals that would have had to fit on the ark. The way you said it made it sound a little like you forgot, though.

Your main points are right on and everything else is solid. I think a really good attack on the Bible doesn't include the minor points that believers can niggle. You want to bring down the hammer on the cornerstones of faith that are absurd. What is the absolute basis of the Christian faith? That a Jewish dude was born from a woman who never had sex, that he performed real honest-to-goodness magic Harry-Potter-style, and that after he was executed by his political enemies and was 100% dead he came back to life and shortly thereafter flew into the sky. Those sorts of things are utterly indisputable for Christians and are foundational to their faith. And they are bullshit. So it seems to me we're better off calling them on that than on the things they can hand-wring and try to weasel around.
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20-02-2012, 09:48 AM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
(20-02-2012 02:27 AM)rook2004 Wrote:  And they are bullshit.

My research indicates faith is technology. Wink

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20-02-2012, 01:26 PM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
(19-02-2012 08:50 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I read this last year. Only 100 years after is was written... cos I like to keep up with trends.
http://www.allthebooks.net/ebook/is-the-...her-essays

I read it in one night

Interesting book. Thank you for the link.

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20-02-2012, 06:51 PM
RE: Why Atheists Can't Take the Bible Seriously
(20-02-2012 02:27 AM)rook2004 Wrote:  You want to bring down the hammer on the cornerstones of faith that are absurd. What is the absolute basis of the Christian faith? That a Jewish dude was born from a woman who never had sex, that he performed real honest-to-goodness magic Harry-Potter-style, and that after he was executed by his political enemies and was 100% dead he came back to life and shortly thereafter flew into the sky. Those sorts of things are utterly indisputable for Christians and are foundational to their faith. And they are bullshit.

Precisely. I find myself arguing this point and that point from time to time but in the end if they can't see the absolute absurdity in their beliefs then individual points won't do anything to sway them.

Me - "So you really think a book written 2,000 years ago by people who thought the earth was flat is an viable source to live your life by?"

Them - "Uh yup"

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I wasn't . . . until I was
I am . . . until I'm not
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