Have You Read Your Bible? I Haven’t.

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?

Unfortunately, no.

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.

Cart before Horse

 

 

 

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.

15 thoughts on “Have You Read Your Bible? I Haven’t.

  1. I agree!! As I have said before, we atheist spend far too much time debating the bible with christians. Forget the bible, back to basics, is there a god or not. That is the only real issue.

  2. I’m an atheist who studies the Bible from a largely scholarly perspective. It’s a fascinating text, but reading it cover to cover doesn’t work, in part because its organization is pretty arbitrary. And the early books are intriguing and contain good stories, but they also bear the burden of establishing genealogies, etc.

    But the four canonical gospels and the non-canonical gospels are fantastic reads, even from a secular perspective (ask Thomas Jefferson, if you can reincarnate him). And Ecclesiastes blows my mind–it’s basically a reaction to Proverbs. And that’s what’s so troubling about Christians who act as if the Bible is a single text with easily discernable meanings. It is, in fact, a text that thrives on contradiction and dialogue.

    Sorry to have gone on so long.

  3. Well it’s sort of like defending yourself in court. You might make a good point or two, but without solid knowledge of the law you’re going to end up in trouble.
    Xtians LOVE throwing scripture around to “prove” a point. There’s really nothing better to do when they pull that crap then to pull up two or three contrasting passages followed by something snarky like “oh really?” or “you sure about that?” or my favorite “well no, you’re wrong, and this is why”.

    I’ve read it but my memory is crap. I could never pull scripture out of my head but there’s tons of it online and a lot of it is organized by several people in ways that you could simply google something like “violence, new testament” and have passages listed for you. Gotta love the internet! It’s not just for porn. 😉

  4. As has been noted by brighter minds than mine – why is it that the omnipotent, omniscient One couldn’t write a book that it even remotely comparable in literary beauty to other more earthly authors, like Homer and Shakespeare?

    LOLCHRIST said: “But the four canonical gospels and the non-canonical gospels are fantastic reads”
    True, and I suggest you at least read the 4 start to finish, John. It won’t take up a lot of your time and since the entire Xtian faith is based on this part of the bible, it’s good to have that much under your belt. You’ll love both the contradictions and the uncanny “word for word” consistencies.

  5. Ralph notes that the only real issue is the question “Is there a god?”

    I think it’s more basic than that. “Is there evidence for a god? Any god?” Since there’s no evidence, there’s no issue. For two thousand years the christians have been debating and killing over what constitutes evidence. They haven’t come up with any, but the debating and killing go on.

    I would note that Buffy the Vampire Slayer offered solid evidence of vampires and demons, and even a slutty goddess. They had it all right there, on film, right on the TV. How you gonna argue with that? And since the cross worked to vanguish the bad vamps, that just proves that god exists. Right?

    Gotta go to the store now. Running low on stakes and garlic. Maybe get some A1 sauce for the stakes.

  6. I did force myself to read the damned thing from beginning to end, including all the begats and the even more tedious instructions on how to sacrifice animals. There’s really no better way to gain an appreciation of just how badly it fails as a unified work. After an appropriate period of recuperation (I’m not sure of the exact timeframe but it equated to two cases of very good wine) I followed up with some Apocrypha and then moved on to various other scriptures (Rig Veda, Koran, etc.). None of them are particularly outstanding as literature in and of themselves, IMHO, though they all have worthy parts (the King James translation of Ecclesiastes is one of the most moving pieces of English literature I know) and they have all produced worthy children in their respective cultures (the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is far more beautiful than the Koran and Hadith it draws from).

  7. I am a Christian who has read the Bible front to back and I live my life as best I can according to its principles. I enjoy life and am very successful at my stage in life.
    Let me pose this question to you. If I die and you are right, what have I lost? If you die and the Bible is right, what have you lost?

  8. Hi John. Last name, Pascal, right?

    So if I lie to myself, and God, and pretend to believe in him and his Bible, he’ll let me go to his heaven. Doesn’t sound like a god I want to believe in.

    What will I lose? My integrity.

    Read this.

  9. If I die and you are right, what have I lost? If you die and the Bible is right, what have you lost?

    You’ll both go to Viking Hell, since you didn’t die in battle. Valhalla is for warriors, you cowering filth!

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