I’ve got an admission to make here, one which theists will pounce on, but frankly, I don’t care.
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I have not read the Bible from front to back. In fact, I have read very little of the Bible; mainly snippets and passages here and there, when particular issues demand a look at what the Bible says.
I have, though, had major portions of the Bible read to me. I have also had large portions of the Bible taught and analyzed by religious teachers in religion classes that I was forced to participate in, and I was regularly tested on my understanding of these. Religion was a subject which I studied, like History, Math and Science, and on which I was graded. I was a Catholic, attended parochial school, at the insistence of my parents, from Kindergarten through High School, and further received my bachelors and graduate degrees from Catholic institutions of higher learning.
So my religious training is well steeped in the Bible. It permeated my upbringing. I used to know all the relevant Catholic Bible stories by heart. We’d hear them at least once a year, and the selections didn’t really change much from year to year, so I heard them repeatedly. We always had a Gospel reading and a reading from an Epistle at every Mass. While in parochial school, I attended at least two or three Masses a week (one on Sunday, and again in school whenever the religious teaching or holy days required it).
I’m not admitting ignorance of the Bible, though I can imagine every well versed Christian who has read his Bible thinking that I am. Ignorant of the Bible, that is. I comment on religion on this blog, and elsewhere, and I hold strong opinions about the subject. I believe that all Catholics are presumed experts on the subject, especially if they were brought up in the teachings of the Church, as I was. Attendance at Mass on Sundays (later changed to Saturdays or Sundays) was a strict requirement, punishable as a mortal sin with the possibility of hellfire. So we do know whereof which we speak.
When I read statements from fellow atheists that they have read the Bible from cover to cover, sometimes more than once, and that it was the actual reading of the Bible, with its glaring inconsistencies, nonsensical stories, violence, death, sadism, masochism, rape, sodomy and treatment of women, that caused them to finally arrive at a position of non-belief, I’m actually somewhat envious, because I have tried to read the Bible, a number of times, and I can’t seem to force myself to get more than a few pages in.
Perhaps it’s the archaic language and style of writing. No one writes that way anymore. It’s dense and obtuse, with all it’s genealogical begats and verilys and forsakens. But that’s not it, because Shakespeare is similar, but eminently more readable. In any event there are modern editions that are translated into a more readable, modern style, but I can’t read them either.
No, I don’t think it has anything to do with the way it is written. It’s been said that the King James Version of the Bible is the only classic of literature actually written by a committee, so it must be a good read. Rather, I think it has to do with the fact that I need to be convinced, ahead of time, that it is worth reading, that I should invest my time in it. That is something I have yet to be convinced of. I was taught that the Bible was the word of God, inspired by the big man, but written by his designates here on earth. Well, if true, that is certainly a good reason to read the book, isn’t it? I mean, if God, the omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-beneficent supreme ruler of the universe wrote, or at least dictated, a book that he wants me to read and be familiar with, then shouldn’t I want to read it?
Before I read this book, I want to know if the author actually exists. That is the ultimate question in the universe, as far as I’m concerned. Does God Exist? Because if he does, then I would make every effort, and I would indeed be enthused, to read his book. If he doesn’t, then his book is written by impostors, pretending to be god, telling me things that they made up themselves. As a result, they have no authority to tell me anything, and their book is no authority on anything, especially on how I should run my life. In short, without the existence of god, the book is fiction, and I have enough of that on my shelves to last me a lifetime.
It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Prove He exists first. Then I’ll read your book.
The Bible is supposed to be a guide to life. It deals with the hereafter (though not much) but it basically boils down to being a self help book. “How To Get Through Life and Be Happy For Ever After.” The problem with it, is that the advice is not self-evident, nor laid out in a lucid, easy to understand manner. How do I know this if I haven’t read it, you ask? Well, It seems to need a whole slew of people to interpret it for me, and tell me what it says. So this need for third party interpretation pushes me one more step away from reading it. If it needs all that interpretation, why do I need to read it? Why not simply read someone’s interpretation?
I see no reason, when life is so short, and there is so much more I really want to read, why I should waste my time reading a book written two to six thousand years ago, by people who probably had no idea about what they were talking, which purports to help me get to a place that doesn’t exist, and needs the intercession of others to interpret it in order to get me there. I see no need to purposely attempt to confuse myself with a book filled with a hodgepodge of incomprehensibilities, contradictions, and indistinction.
I’m better off reading The DaVinci Code. At least that purports to be fiction.