Why this atheist likes the Bible

50

What do Christian fundamentalists and many atheists have in common?  Both read the Bible as if it were meant to be taken literally, and both quote selected passages to buttress their case. Some atheists, for instance, cite biblical passages that justify stoning for heresy, blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, working on Sabbath, worshipping graven images, and practicing sorcery.

While atheists might attack or make fun of the Bible because of biblical literalists, it is important to distinguish between the quality of a book and the behavior of its adherents. For better or worse, the Bible and the many religions it spawned have deeply influenced our culture and the world. For that reason alone, the Bible is worth reading. Although atheists rank highest in religious knowledge, atheists should try to understand why so many love the Bible even if they haven’t actually read it.

Some atheists make the same mistake as theists, treating the Bible as either all good or all bad. While it contains many boring, anachronistic, contradictory, and repetitive sections, it also has passages with rich and diverse meanings. The same can be said for Greek mythology–fictional tales that were once considered religious texts.

As a child, I enjoyed reading Aesop’s fables and biblical stories. Both have talking animals, along with moral lessons and universal truths. Leaving aside the question of which imparts better advice (though no Bible story was as consequential for me as Aesop’s “The boy who cried wolf”), at least Aesop’s stories are recognized as fables.

One of the most productive ways to read the Bible is by identifying and discussing its fables. Here are just three examples from well-known stories in Genesis, followed by my moral lessons.

 

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

50 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that the Bible is a good read. I hardly spend any time with it these days though. It faces tough competition, so I’m glad I got so much of it in when I did.

    One of the neat things about knowing scripture -and various interpretations- is being better able to sympathize with believers. Probably my favorite thing to emphasize in conversations with them is their ability to reason with or even argue with their God. Many people of faith worth noting wrestled with God. You should too.

    • In reply to Herb Silverman:

      For better or worse, the Bible and the many religions it spawned have deeply influenced our culture and the world.

      Sorry, but as far as I can see, only “worse.”

      While it contains many boring, anachronistic, contradictory, and repetitive sections, it also has passages with rich and diverse meanings.

      No it doesn’t (have any “rich, meaningful passages.” Only everything he said before that).

  2. Atheists almost never put the character “God” in a good light, and God’s behavior is particularly egregious in Genesis. But God learns from some of his early mistakes and improves, as pointed out in Robert Wright’s book, The Evolution of God.

    If Christians want to see it that way, then fine. But isn’t that an implicit admission that God isn’t perfect? Even worse, isn’t it admission that God’s “improvement” is only very marginal considering how much time he had to do so? Many imperfect humans improve far more in only a few years, then shouldn’t God be able to improve at least as much as its “creatures” in a few thousand years?

  3. I’m confused.

    First Herb patronizingly scorns Atheists for using Christians own Bible against them, stating that by pointing out how Immoral it’s teachings that we’re failing to understand it from a non-literal perspective. (I’m not by the way, I think it’s metaphorical teachings are just as bad as any literal interpretations)

    Then he proceeds to re-interpret some of it’s fables in complete opposition to the canon interpretation, twisting them from the widely recognized aberrations that they are into lovely little fairy-tales.

    Adam and Eve, the story where we’re introduced to the Fall and the creation of ‘Sin’, where God lays down the law, the law is broken and mankind is punished for all eternity for it? No, that’s actually a story about some maverick rebels who rightfully outwitted God and won their freedom! Of course you would need to accuse God a liar and claim he was both morally and factually wrong in order to do so. So… not a Christian interpretation then?

    Abraham and Isaac? Well Craig Merks’ comment on the washing post page demonstrates that perfectly. If we’re to take from this story that God DOESN’T want everyone to follow his orders, then that’s Christianity gone in a heartbeat.

    It seems his point is to propose that IF we adjust our individual interpretations (by presenting God as the villain in the story) then it COULD be a source of good teachings. I don’t think Christians are going to go for that, and it only serves to obfuscate any issues Atheists have with the validity of it’s teachings as well.

    • In reply to #4 by McCourt:

      I tried reading the bible, honestly, but I couldn’t sustain my interest in it long enough to get through Genesis. It was mental drudgery.

      You sound like a perfectly sane and reasonable person then. :-)

      I think for me a big part of the enjoyment can come from catching a glimpse of how some people from long ago may have thought about our lives.

    • In reply to #4 by McCourt:

      I tried reading the bible, honestly, but I couldn’t sustain my interest in it long enough to get through Genesis. It was mental drudgery.

      The “begats” . It was like a Monty Python joke.

  4. Here’s my “spleen venting”. If Adam and Eve are not literal, then original sin is a symbol and not a real thing. If original sin is symbolic, then Baptism is too. If baptism is a silly ritual, then so is circumcision. The litany goes on and on and soon the whole mess falls like a house of cards. That is why the fundies have to cling to all of it. They are “all in” and they cannot have any of it challenged. That is why they “fact deny” and of course, do not want their children properly educated.

    Any single point that is knocked down shatters the whole bullshit statue!

    As for the Bible my advice to everyone is to read it. Cover to cover. Do not have it read to you and especially do not settle for the pieces of it that the mass or service decides to allow you to see. Eat the whole thing. Then talk to me about it.

    • I did read it. Ate the lot, so to speak.OK, apart from the beautiful English (King James version), the poetry,some of the lovely phrases eg ‘Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly up’,some comedy and comical exhortations like the one that stuck in Bertrand Russell’s head,’do not follow a multitude to do evil’, I found large chunks of it unpalatable, lots of it indigestible and some passages that triggered the ‘barf”reflex.’ Some passages act as a very effective sedative.All in all I’d much rather read something else.In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

      Here’s my “spleen venting”. If Adam and Eve are not literal, then original sin is a symbol and not a real thing. If original sin is symbolic, then Baptism is too. If baptism is a silly ritual, then so is circumcision. The litany goes on and on and soon the whole mess falls like a house of cards….

    • In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

      That’s true (ish) if you demand a literal interpretation. That said, the people who do so typically have a pre-existing political agenda that they’ve twisted and filtered their interpretation to fit. If you don’t make such demands, you can interpret stuff as allegory, mysterious, partially revelatory, etc.

      Child baptism is a silly ritual without original sin. Adult baptism isn’t in the same way. I’m not sure why you mentioned circumcision as it’s not that widely practiced amongst Christians.

      • I guess I mentioned circumcision because I have a Catholic view of Christianity and when I look down, I see the scars of their handiwork!!!

        I do see your point about adult baptism being a little different than child, however, I will stick to it being a nonsensical ritual if original sin is, in fact allegory.

        And, my point was directly aimed at the literalists and why they are so likely to resist education and do the fact denying thing… So, we agree there. i am not among the literalists, but my stance has always been that if you take some of it literally, it is arbitrary if you do not take it all literally. And, even those that think they do that…..don’t.

        I will defer to Leviticus and an article I read years ago in Rolling Stone (I think). It was penned by a man who attempted to chronicle and list all of the over 800 rules in the Bible, and then live by them for a whole year. His article appeared here on Dawkins, I think.

        In reply to #10 by PERSON:

        In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

        That’s true (ish) if you demand a literal interpretation. That said, the people who do so typically have a pre-existing political agenda that they’ve twisted and filtered their interpretation to fit. If you don’t make such demands, you can interpret stuff as allegory…

      • In reply to #10 by PERSON:

        In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

        I’m not sure why you mentioned circumcision as it’s not that widely practiced amongst Christians.

        I think that you’ll find it is widely practiced among Christians, although not in Europe and Latin America.

        “The practice is also common in some predomininantly Christian countries such as the United States, the Philippines, South Korea, West Africa, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as well as among Christians in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_male_circumcision

  5. I often disagree with Silverman. The ability of humans to interpret the bible is all the proof I need to know that we don’t need it. There is not a single person who takes the bible literally, not even people who believe they are biblical literalists, they fucked up before breakfast as they slipped into there tiny whities. To suggest it as reading material is an insult to reading material from the “Greek Myths” to Harry Potter.

    This atheist likes the bible because it is so bad (from any perspective).

    I definitely understand why people who have not read the bible and have been indoctrinated love the bible, it’s because they have not read the bible and have been indoctrinated. Isn’t that the correct starting point in this discussion? Read the crap before you ask me to respect it and don’t bring it up if you don’t want to hear my opinion too.

    America is deluged with christ crap and a minority needs to quieten down with their honest and easily found real criticism? How about all new money have the phrase “there are no gods – get over it” before we ask anyone to dial it down? All these fundies are scared of uber religious Iran as they blindly try to install a similar theocracy with biblical law in the US.

    I can never fathom the argument that needs to belittle other arguments on their side to survive, feels like religion. Just make your pitch Silverman, it is not improved by the weakness of other arguments on your side. Proving how sensitive you are isn’t helping sell the same message when the message is you are completely wrong with your entire world view. It’s a hard sell, good luck and don’t leave a flaming poop on the door step for the next salesperson.

  6. “Some atheists, for instance, cite biblical passages that justify stoning for heresy, blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, working on Sabbath, worshipping graven images, and practicing sorcery.” – - The reason we do that is because Christians cite their religion, and the bible (whether they have read it or not), as being the basis of morality. If they stop claiming moral superiority, we’ll stop pointing out why they are wrong.

  7. Own goal by Silverman here. I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt but when he gave one of the most oleaginous of all acommodationists Robert “religion is virtually a neutral medium it’s not good it’s not bad” Wright a plug, all bets were off.

  8. I like Herbs take on the fables of the old testament, however I fear he may be making the same mistake as the religious cheery picking. Yes you can twist these fables to give a modern sense of morality to them but read a little on and God is flooding the whole earth to kill everyone who is so wicked including all the children and unborn babies. Hard to see his take as valid considering the context.

    I am currently re-reading the Bible again after many years and I do agree there are bits that are well written and enjoyable to read but they are by orders of magnitude outweighed by rant and violence, shocking sexism and racism.

    • In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

      I am currently re-reading the Bible again after many years and I do agree there are bits that are well written and enjoyable to read but they are by orders of magnitude outweighed by rant and violence, shocking sexism and racism

      Can you think of an example of important ancient western literature that isn’t filled with those things?

      • In reply to #13 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

        I am currently re-reading the Bible again after many years and I do agree there are bits that are well written and enjoyable to read but they are by orders of magnitude outweighed by rant and violence, shocking sexism and racism

        Can you think of an example of important ancient western literature that isn’t filled with those things?

        That’s a really good question. I don’t tend to live my life by them now and it depends what you call ancient. Galileo’s The Starry Messenger although probably doesn’t count for being ancient enough though. There were apparently many a scholarly tome in Alexandria of course they were all burnt from by the Christians and their librarian Hypatia apparently flayed alive by a Christian mob. Perhaps some of them, Socrates?

  9. while atheists may attack or make fun of the bible

    It’s called exasperation. Who can resist poking a Pinata full of bible bs, especially if it is dangling in front of your nose?

    The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible was published in order to show the bible’s true colors. If it crumbles under scrutiny, well now, that’s not an atheist’s fault!

  10. Judaism is really old and we know from evolutionary theory that most parasite-host relationships eventually evolve into a more benign form of mutualistic symbiosis. I just don’t have the patience and prefer to administer vaccinations with a really large needle. Evolution works, but it is awfully slow…

    Also, viruses, especially mind-viruses, evolve very rapidly and there is always the possibility of lethal mutant throwback strains breaking out. I think you call them frummies.

  11. I don’t want to be too hard on Herb Silverman, as he’s a kind of ally, but he does seem a bit limp-brained at times. Trying to be all thing to all men sometimes means you aren’t much use to anyone. Maybe he just wants to avoid being called ‘strident’!

    • Remember the part where he thought a couple was adulterous but stoning being out of the question,he went up and touched them with a stone?!!In reply to #18 by bluebird:

      The Year of Living Biblically

      • In reply to #30 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

        Remember the part where he thought a couple was adulterous but stoning being out of the question,he went up and touched them with a stone?!!

        The Year of Living Biblically

        lol! However, he was still admonishing them, albeit symbolically, which I don’t cotton to.

        They could’ve taken what’s behind door number three – get “stoned” and engage in menage a’ trois!

        (ps) credit goes to CS post 15 for the remind of TYOLB

  12. I remember both Aesop’s fables and children’s books of Jesus stories read to me by my parents when I was young. I can see the picture now of the guy catching heck for taking some grain that had fallen from his master’s bin.

    • In reply to #23 by Katy Cordeth:

      Excellent article, Herb. I wasn’t previously much of a fan, but am now. Sorry the point you were making seems to have gone over the head of so many here at the clear-thinking oasis.

      I feel obliged to reread the article now, Katy. I think I was swept away with the mood of the comments.

      • In reply to #25 by Nitya:

        In reply to #23 by Katy Cordeth:

        Excellent article, Herb. I wasn’t previously much of a fan, but am now. Sorry the point you were making seems to have gone over the head of so many here at the clear-thinking oasis.

        I feel obliged to reread the article now, Katy. I think I was swept away with the m…

        I’m surprised that such a condescending comment would make anyone reconsider! However I am always happy when someone is thoughtful and willing to reconsider.

        Having said that one of my favourite topics is the need to use all forms of argument not just the gentle! From Jesus and Mo to Katy Cordeth, just not on each other. (see post #7)

        *NOTE: Not just piling on Katy, I was obliged given the interesting post and it proves my long standing – no one way to skin a cat argument!

    • In reply to #23 by Katy Cordeth:

      Excellent article, Herb. I wasn’t previously much of a fan, but am now. Sorry the point you were making seems to have gone over the head of so many here at the clear-thinking oasis.

      Speak for yourself, I find his accommodation transparent and pointless.

      If I was condescending, like you, I might be tempted to say you had missed the points of almost all of the preceding 22 comments but I am not. Your statement also shows (in addition to the condescension) you are in the minority “here at the clear thinking oasis”. Time to do some thinking perhaps? I would even be happy with a point…

      I know you’re better than post #23, as you point out you know what disagreeing with Herb is like, can you feel me or has time robbed you of that previously clear understanding of the asilverman position?

  13. On the whole I think the bible is awful! Grotesque in parts! Barbaric! Ludicrous! Boring! Reading the bible is like wading through treacle and my sympathies to anyone having a go. However, It does contain a couple of good passages and a well-turned phrase or two, though maybe the credit should be given to the many translators employed over the millennia.

    The messages contained are usually contrary to my own take on morality and offer me nothing in the way of guidance.

    All in all, anyone who is able to base their life on the teachings offered in this book must be performing a mental feat that is bound to shorten their life, or at least their enjoyment of it.

  14. Is this accommodation?

    “God either lied or was mistaken when he said humans would die on the day they received knowledge. So don’t blindly believe, even if you pay a price for independent thought.”

    “…we must not put our love and worship of a God above our love for human beings.”

    “It is better to do good than to have faith.”

    I take it as: don’t accept the brainwashing, read the Bible with an open mind and you may find interesting fables in the old book, regardless of what the authors’ intention was.

  15. As a child, I enjoyed reading Aesop’s fables and biblical stories. Both have talking animals, along with moral lessons and universal truths. Leaving aside the question of which imparts better advice (though no Bible story was as consequential for me as Aesop’s “The boy who cried wolf”), at least Aesop’s stories are recognized as fables.

    The Greek myths also give a good insight into the thinking of antiquity!

    While atheists might attack or make fun of the Bible because of biblical literalists, it is important to distinguish between the quality of a book and the behavior of its adherents.

    With centuries of dedicated revision and re-editing, the content may suffer from “Chinese whispers”, mistranslations and “ink-blot interpretations”, but the style and presentation should be well polished!
    In medieval hand written versions, the decoration was rather splendid too!

  16. The good parts, e.g. St. Paul on charity, Isaiah on the pruning hooks, some Ecclesiastes are about the only decent parts. You won’t stumble on gems reading it. Any good part you have heard thousands of times already.

    Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
    ~ Isaac Asimov 1920-01-02 1992-03-06

    Perhaps having audio tapes of the entire bible played in schools would immunise the kids to the cult.

  17. The Bible is not one book but a collection of books written by different authors in different times and places for different reasons. It is therefore not a good idea to read the Bible from cover to cover. Much better to select the books to read in an order that appeals to you. Perhaps start with Genesis, then cut to the Psalms, Isaiah, the Song of Songs, Amos (or one of the other prophets), Proverbs, Jeremiah, Job, Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth), Ezekiel and so on, reading introductory material on each book before reading the book, to help one put the book in context. You need not wait until you have read the whole of the Old Testament before sampling the New Testament; having read a wide-ranging selection of books like that just mentioned, you would be able to appreciate better many of the scriptural allusions and references found in the New Testament. I would recommend beginning the New Testament by reading the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to John. If you are feeling strong, you might then like to set out to read all the Pauline letters from Romans to 2 Timothy, or you might find the Letter to the Romans enough of Paul for one go. You might then go back and read other parts of the Old Testament, for example another Pentateuchal book Exodus, then a history book Joshua, then one of the prophets Daniel, then a wisdom book Ecclesiasticus, then Tobit. You might then return to the New Testament reading the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, then Hebrews, then the Letter of James (much detested by Martin Luther), along with the two letters of Peter. You could go back to the Old Testament then and tackle some of the more boring or gruesome books and then return to the rather lofty-minded letters of John. Go back again and read more of the prophets perhaps and then read Revelation (Apocalypse) to John, a book that makes one wonder what its author was smoking (but “God moves in mysterious ways”). If you use a modern Bible (e.g. the New Jerusalem Bible) that provides an introduction to each book or group of books, this will make it easier to read some sort of introductory material that will put you in mind of information relevant to historical and textual criticism and understanding what you are reading, but good introductory material on each book of the Bible is easily found in other books and on the Internet. Each book or group of books (e.g. the letters of Paul) in the Bible has its own character and purpose which the reader needs to recognize if he or she is to appreciate its contents. Mixing up the different kinds of books also makes it more varied and interesting and allows the reader some control over how much he or she must suffer at any one time, for there are many pleasant and uplifting passages in the Bible as well. It is indeed an ancient literary treasure.

  18. This is ridiculous. Face the facts, the Bible makes no sense whatsoever. Whoever wrote it is an idiot, whoever compiled it is an idiot, and whoever actually believes that it is the word of god is an even bigger idiot. Period. The whole “the Bible should not be taken literally” arguement is bulls**t. It either is the “word of god” or it isn’t. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for the same people who thought having four versions of the same story was a good idea to show some coherence.

    • In reply to #36 by Dreamweaver:

      This is ridiculous. Face the facts, the Bible makes no sense whatsoever. Whoever wrote it is an idiot, whoever compiled it is an idiot, and whoever actually believes that it is the word of god is an even bigger idiot. Period. The whole “the Bible should not be taken literally” arguement is bulls**t….

      Richard Dawkins and just about anyone who has ever said anything about the great books of Western Civilization disagrees with you:

      Richard Dawkins: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

      • In reply to #37 by Red Dog:

        Well, the article you linked to has a point. It’s an influential book to be sure. A book may tell a terrible story and still be well written (and the contrary), though that doesn’t invalidate my opinion about the whole “four versions of the same tale” business. It would be fine if the different versions just added to detail, but they contradict each other. It really doesn’t help the Bible’s case.

        • In reply to #38 by Dreamweaver:

          In reply to #37 by Red Dog:

          Well, the article you linked to has a point. It’s an influential book to be sure. A book may tell a terrible story and still be well written (and the contrary), though that doesn’t invalidate my opinion about the whole “four versions of the same tale” business. It would…

          The “four versions of the same tale” came much later. The four gospels were almost certainly written independently. In fact that it turned out to be those four as opposed to some other versions was partly just an accident of history. In the earliest days of Christianity there were many, many different versions of the story. There is a gospel of Mary (Magdalene), of Judas, of (doubting) Thomas, as well as more esoteric ones such as The Gospel of Truth which reads like someone on an acid trip.

          We only have fragments of many of these books since as the Catholic church consolidated power they decreed the four canonical versions as THE gospels and they burned all the copies of alternative gospels (and sometimes anyone who was caught reading one). Some of those alternative versions of the story were quite at odds with what came to be official Catholic dogma. In one of them there is a fragment where Jesus disciples seem to be nagging him because he had sex with Mary Magdalene and he says to them something like “why do you not love me as she does?” which one gospel scholar claimed was saying that this version of the story viewed sex as a sacrament and that Jesus was OK with gay sex as well (i.e., when the disciples said “why are you screwing Mary?” he said “why aren’t you screwing me?”)

          That’s just a speculation, we only have fragments of that Gospel and there are other possible interpretations. I completely agree with you that the idea of using the Bible — a book written by people who had no notion of modern science and who thought slavery and sexism were just fine — as a basis for modern morality is ludicrous. At the same time I think it’s undeniable that the book contains some decent prose and was incredibly influential on western art, literature, and music.

          • In reply to #39 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #38 by Dreamweaver:

            In reply to #37 by Red Dog:

            Well, the article you linked to has a point. It’s an influential book to be sure. A book may tell a terrible story and still be well written (and the contrary), though that doesn’t invalidate my opinion about the whole “four versions of t…

            All true, however none of that contends Dreamweaver’s assertion that those who wrote it or those believe it to be the inerrant word of God are idiots.

          • In reply to #40 by Seraphor:

            All true, however none of that contends Dreamweaver’s assertion that those who wrote it or those believe it to be the inerrant word of God are idiots.

            The people who wrote it were not “idiots” by an reasonable definition of the word. In fact a big part of the evidence as to why we know that the actual authors of the gospels were not really the followers of Jesus but rather people who came along decades after his death is that the actual followers of Jesus were most likely illiterate — as were the vast majority of the people of the time. For someone even to be able to read put them in at least the top 5% of people alive at the time. And the authors of the gospels were more than just literate, they were learned men in greek, latin, and hebrew.

            As to the other point, that people who believe it is the word of God are idiots I never contested that in the first place.

          • In reply to #41 by Red Dog:

            For someone even to be able to read put them in at least the top 5% of people alive at the time.

            Most of the top 5% are still quite idiotic, but I get your point…

            As to the other point, that people who believe it is the word of God are idiots I never contested that in the first place.

            Thank you for clearly stating it though! :D

          • In reply to #41 by Red Dog:

            I will say my mistake in my first rant was to shoot the messenger, when what I really wanted to shoot was the message. Yes, you are right in saying the people who wrote it weren’t idiots in that way, they (whoever they actually were) were likely quite educated compared with most people who lived at the time, like you mentioned. Also, I knew that there were many versions of the Gospels, what I was criticising was the Catholic Church’s decision to include four versions when they could’ve just chosen the one they agreed with the most and rolled with it. Or they could include some of the details they liked in the other three in an altered version of the one they preferred, which would be more dishonest, but no one would’ve been able to tell the difference at the time. The lack of coherence really hits me.

  19. In reply to #27,

    I don’t know if it was the mods who removed this comment. If it was can I say I wasn’t offended. The author of the post and I don’t always see eye to eye and have locked horns in the past, but we also frequently find ourselves in agreement.

    I’m not sure of the site rules when one wishes to reply to a removed post. Sometimes the responses are removed as well, other times they remain. I’ll go ahead and respond and leave it in the hands of the mods.

    Speak for yourself, I find his accommodation transparent and pointless.

    This would be what I meant when I said Herb’s article had gone over the head of so many who commented on it here. Permit me to explain.

    Herb said,

    What do Christian fundamentalists and many atheists have in common? Both read the Bible as if it were meant to be taken literally, and both quote selected passages to buttress their case. Some atheists, for instance, cite biblical passages that justify stoning for heresy, blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, working on Sabbath, worshipping graven images, and practicing sorcery.

    While atheists might attack or make fun of the Bible because of biblical literalists, it is important to distinguish between the quality of a book and the behavior of its adherents…

    This resonated with me because I can’t count the number of times on this site posters cite Biblical or Quranic verses (usually Quranic if I’m honest) as proof that this is what these religions’ followers think. Someone actually came back at me one time and said even if it isn’t what they think, it’s what they should think. Palmface.

    Isn’t it a bit strawmannish to criticise religious people for all the content of their holy books rather than just the bits they do adhere to?

    Next we arrive at Herb’s delineation of the three well-known biblical fables, in which the conclusions he draws are diametrically opposite to those arrived at by Abrahamists:

    The snake fable, usually interpreted by Christians et al to mean don’t ask too many questions, follow authority, chicks will ruin dudes’ lives if left to their own devices so keep ‘em on a short leash, is given an opposite spin by Herb, who says curiosity is its own reward even if like the proverbial kitty one ends up paying a heavy price; and blind servitude to a deity or ideology is a sort of prison of one’s own making.

    The Cain and Abel fable, understood by Abrahammers to mean suck up to Killy McGee and don’t give in to anger is reinterpreted by Silverman as “we must not put our love and worship of a God above our love for human beings.”

    Herb’s take on the Binding of Isaac story is that Abraham spectacularly flunked a test of basic human morality when he agreed to kill his own son; in stark contrast to how the story is viewed by followers of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

    How is any of this accommodating religious sensibilities? Rather it’s about having the knowledge to counter claims made by religious folks who think their tomes represent the last word on morality by being familiar enough ourselves with the stories they contain to offer an alternate theory of their meaning.

    You can’t do that if you are unfamiliar with these works. And it’s a mistake to assume everything they contain is by definition bad just because so much of it is. I’m about as inconversant with all the main works of religion as it’s possible to be, but I’m perfectly prepared to believe most of them contain lots of nice, even humane stuff, along with all the nasty bits.

    [Mods have removed quote of and response to part of original comment that was in breach of Terms of Use.]

    I know you’re better than post #23, as you point out you know what disagreeing with Herb is like, can you feel me or has time robbed you of that previously clear understanding of the asilverman position?

    Sorry, but apart from the bit about my being better than post #23 (what were you saying about condescension) most of this paragraph has gone over my head. The irony!

    Oh, I get it now. It was the feeling bit that threw me. I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed much with Herb’s articles; all I said was I wasn’t previously a fan of his. I’ve never adopted an a-Silverman position and can’t claim to have lost or been robbed of it.

    • Ok, to clarify:

      We remove comments that breach our Terms of Use. Whether or not we think the particular user they were addressed to will have been upset or offended by them plays no part in that decision. We do not want comments on the site that are abusive or bad-tempered or ill-mannered towards other users.

      We will nearly always remove responses to moderated posts, for the simple reason that the commonest reason for posts to be moderated is that they are off-topic or abusive to other users. Responses to off-topic posts will also be off-topic; responses to abusive posts generally contain quotes of the very comments that breached the Terms of Use in the first place.

      Hope that helps.

      The mods

      In reply to #43 by Katy Cordeth:

      In reply to #27,

      I don’t know if it was the mods who removed this comment. If it was can I say I wasn’t offended. The author of the post and I don’t always see eye to eye and have locked horns in the past, but we also frequently find ourselves in agreement.

      I’m not sure of the site rules when one…

  20. Here’s my “spleen venting”. If Adam and Eve are not literal, then original sin is a symbol and not a real thing. If original sin is symbolic, then …

    Three popes have accepted evolution as the way everything came in to being including wo/man kind .. unfortunately it didn’t make headlines .. also its not mandatory that catholic schools start teaching it, its a choice .. they know if there was no Adam & Eve there was NO Cain & Able NO talking serpent NO sin , no wonder they are keeping quiet.. once word gets out its goodbye religion.

    • In reply to #47 by crzylmy:

      Here’s my “spleen venting”. If Adam and Eve are not literal, then original sin is a symbol and not a real thing. If original sin is symbolic, then …

      Three popes have accepted evolution as the way everything came in to being including wo/man kind .. unfortunately it didn’t make headlines .. also…

      FYI, there is nothing in the bible about original sin. It was an idea that came along well after even the new testament not to mention the old. I think it was mostly developed by Augustine who wrote several centuries after the last bit of the new testament.

  21. Red Dog
    I suppose if I had read the Bible I would know that, but in my school when I was five years old I was told that Eve committed the first sin, but that was a long long time ago. :-) If I may add they are still teaching that in Christian schools even though they know better, maybe they are afraid to tell the truth about Genesis in case they have to tell the truth about everything else.

    • In reply to #49 by crzylmy:

      Red Dog
      I suppose if I had read the Bible I would know that, but in my school when I was five years old I was told that Eve committed the first sin, but that was a long long time ago. :-) If I may add they are still teaching that in Christian schools even though they know better, maybe they are afr…

      Its ironic that many atheists have a better understanding of Christianity and what is and isn’t in the bible than many Christians. I know what you mean about being taught original sin, I was told the same thing as a child. It wasn’t until I came across Augustine of Hippo (aka Saint Augustine) in college that I realized how much of what I had been taught as a Catholic was nowhere in the bible.

      What’s more if you look at Augustine he was kind of a pathetic man. He was a spoiled rich kid who spent his early life drinking and whoring and then when he got religious as a middle aged man suddenly he made up all this nonsense that essentially blamed women for all his drinking and whoring. Of course he never put it that way but there really is an amazing streak of misogyny in the way he writes about women and that hatred of women and sex in general is IMO one of the things that really makes Christianity so vile and that many people don’t really appreciate.

Leave a Reply