CNN has an interesting article this week call, Actually, That’s Not In The Bible. It’s an interesting piece about verses that people believe are from the Bible, that aren’t. Occasionally, people will even base life philosophies on these mistakes, like “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, without ever once checking to see if it is actually Biblical in origin. Interesting stuff, but the quote that leapt out at me was this:
“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro …“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says
Most people I know have never read the Bible. Yet, they have pretty firm beliefs about what it says. Where do they get these beliefs from? From the culture around them, of course. But, since the people around them haven’t read the Bible either, most of those beliefs are wrong. As far as I’ve seen, not only are most people disinterested in learning what the Bible says, most people are actually opposed to learning what the Bible says. In a recent debate I attended, Dan Barker brought up a verse from the Psalms that blesses those that bashes the heads of their enemies babies against the rocks. Pretty chilling thought, huh? But, what really grabbed me is that, in a room full of Christians, none of them seemed to really care. They sure didn’t go home and fact check it. That’s the type of thing atheists (of future atheists) do.
When I was in high school I had decided that I was going to read the Bible. Not because it was The Good Book; that would remain to be seen. But, because it was a was a book that carried a lot of cultural significance. I figured it was just part of being a well informed person to understand it. So, I grabbed a Bible, American Standard Version, and started at page one of Genesis, took on a bit everyday, and read it on through to Revelations. That pretty much sealed it for me, I wasn’t a Christian. Or a Jew. Not even in a cultural sense.
It wasn’t because it made me mad, as some Christians seem to think, even though there are some sections that are down right primitive in their moral stance. That’s not the book’s fault. The authors actually did live in those times, and are going to reflect it. People today don’t, though. So, if we are to have any moral sense, we should recognize that the Bible is not a book to look up to. So, I didn’t find it to be a moral book.
I also didn’t find it to be a book of ‘wisdom’, ancient or otherwise. When reading over the works of Plato or Aristotle, you are right to be impressed with their insight, even though most of what they said is essentially wrong. But, they investigated their world, learned what it had to offer, and tried to consolidate what they know. The Hebrews didn’t do any of that. They wrote, and wrote in a poetic manner. But, they just wrote of their own beliefs. They did not take in the beliefs of others to try to learn and expand what they knew.
I didn’t find a ‘history’ book, either. The Dueteronomic history is actually a pretty good attempts at history for the day, but it’s not to be trusted as a history by today’s standards.
No, what I found was a book that reads very much like the Iliad or the Odyssey; angry gods drowning the earth because of the din of the noise, 2 million Hebrews wandering through the desert at one time, etc. Many Christians today will admit that the Old Testament is not the book to look to, but then they will still hold up Jesus as some sort of a great role model. Well, he can’t be a role model, he’s a god! And in a very mythical sense! Healing miracles (a few select people in his geographical location), turning water into wine for one very insignificant celebration. It’s just not the way I would expect a supernatural being to act. I didn’t see Jesus as a moral teacher, either. Go ahead, read Mark. Jesus is trying to one up the Jewish scholars of the day, proving himself the superior figurehead.
The Bible can be interesting. If, what you’re interested in is reading about the religious beliefs of a people long gone. And, I’m just weird enough that I enjoy that kind of thing. Of course, I’ve read Dianetics, too. Again, as a book of knowledge, a real piece of crap. But, as a key into the mind of a lunatic, priceless. And my copy of Dianetics is right next to my copy of the Bible (which I have color coded to highlight the sources). And that’s next to Helter Skelter, another book about a religious movement. That one didn’t last as long.