"Many believers have been taught that Scripture is the ultimate measure of truth, never imagining that the bible itself might come under a higher measure of truth, under the scrutiny of reason."
Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith, page 92
The Bible is the foundation of the Christianity. It is viewed by fundamentalist Christians as the crystal pure, clear, infallible word of their god. They claim that it is absolutely the most wonderful collection of books in the history of the universe, that it is as perfect as any written document could ever be. My question is this-have they ever read the thing? I have read the Bible, and it just does not measure up to this sensational billing. In fact, it falls quite short of it. To be perfectly blunt, the books of the Bible are not materially different from other books written during the same time period. The books of the Bible merely reflect the primitive ideas and questionable morals of the ancient people who wrote them.
All Christians will claim that the Bible was inspired or created by their god in some fashion. If you ask a Christian specifically why he or she believes this, your query will likely be met with one of the following responses:
"Because it says so."
"Because it shows fulfilled prophecies."
"Because it shows remarkable consistency for a book written over the course of one thousand years by some forty different authors."
"Because it details the perfect teachings and the ultimate sacrifice of our dear Lord Jesus."
"Because it is the ultimate guidebook for life."
The "because it says so" response is surprisingly common. "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" The problem, of course, is with the first three words.
The fulfilled prophecy claim is a tired Christian refrain which just does not stand up to critical examination.
The Bible is not consistent, it is inconsistent. It is, in fact, a morass of contradictions. Even if it was somehow "consistent," this would not make it supernatural.
There is no evidence that the Jesus portrayed in the Bible existed anywhere outside of the pages of the Bible, and the moral goodness and worth of the teachings ascribed to the biblical Jesus are dubious at best. In a moment I will explain why this is so.
The Bible is a guidebook for life? This is the most asinine claim Christians make, and that is saying a lot. It is supremely asinine because the Bible glorifies war and pillaging, condones torture, promotes infanticide, advocates child abuse, belittles and degrades women, and so on. In the Old Testament, the Christian god personally murders infants and children (Exodus 12:29, II Kings 2:23,24), it supports slavery (Exodus 21:20, Duet. 15:12-17, Duet. 20:10, Joshua 16:10) and, time and again, it orders its chosen people to massacre men, women and children (Samuel 15:3, Numbers 21:31, Isaiah 13:16, Duet. 3:3-8, Joshua 8:24-16, Hosea 13:16, etc.). I am sorry, but the Bible is not a guidebook for life.
Of course Christians will explain away the cruelties and atrocities of the Bible by arguing that non-Christians take them out of context. However, if there is some "context" in which the owning of slaves, the slaughter of infants and the butchery of innocent women and children is justified, Bible believers have yet to define what it is.
Naturally Christians prefer to ignore the Old Testament's violence and instead focus their attention on the New Testament. They will confidently point to the figure of Jesus Christ as their religion's supreme example of love, mercy and kindness, as their shining beacon of divine moral perfection-and as absolute proof of the the Bible's divine origin. But do the words of Jesus Christ really support this view of him, and does the morality and example of the Jesus of the Gospels truly reveal the Bible to be divinely-inspired? Let's examine the Scriptures.
In Luke 12:47, Jesus uses a metaphor involving slavery to impress upon his followers the nature of their relationship with God: "And that servant (Greek doulos = slave) who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating." In Luke 12:37, Jesus says, "Blessed are those servants (slaves) whom the master finds awake when he comes..." In Luke 16:13, Jesus informs his disciples that "No servant (slave) can serve two masters..." Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus Christ speak out against the institution of slavery, which pervaded the world during his time. Instead, Jesus incorporates this barbaric practice into his parables.
What did Jesus have to say about the family? In Luke 14:26, Jesus explains to his followers that "If any man come to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Christian apologists claim that "hate" in this passage really means "to put into disregard" or "to love less than me." However, the New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word that was used here was miseo. (1) Miseo does not mean "to put into disregard." nor does it mean "to love less than me." Miseo does, in fact, mean hate. (2) The prefixes for misanthropy and misogyny come from miseo. So the question remains: why does Jesus Christ tell his followers to hate their families and their lives? In Matthew 10:35 this actually appears to be Jesus' mission: "For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household." Jesus' anti-family attitude even extends to his own mother. In John 2:4 he rebukes her, saying, "O woman, what have I to do with thee?"
In Matthew 19:11, Jesus encourages his disciples to castrate themselves: "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it." Does this make any sense? Evidently it did to the third century theologian Origen, who castrated himself "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus Christ continually threatens eternal torment and suffering to those who have trouble with the idea that he is the son of a god. John 15:6 reads: "If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned." In John 3:18, Jesus informs his followers that "...he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." Further on, in John 3:36, Jesus reiterates his warning: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him." In Luke 12:9, Jesus again warns his disciples that "he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God." In Luke 12:5, Jesus announces, "I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!" Jesus describes hell as a place where "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched," (Mark 9:48), where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."(Matt. 25:30). How is anyone, anywhere, supposed to find love in someone who threatens people with eternal torture simply because of what they think?
Christians may want to rationalize away these and countless other passages which reveal the Bible's fallibility and immorality. They may insist that the words of Jesus and God that support slavery, castration, torture, murder and hate are taken out of context. The problem, however, is that believers have taken the whole Bible out of context. The Bible is a confused jumble of tales and fables, geneologies, poems and proverbs which were written in a time of superstition, mythology, ignorance and savagery. The early Church compiled these writings, edited them and foisted them on the world as the "Word of God" to justify its own existence. In this respect, the Bible is little different than such other sacred books as the Koran or the Bhagavad-Gita.
It appears that most Christians do not actually read the Bible for themselves but instead have it spoon-fed to them by their ministers and priests. If Christians truly want to understand why others find their respect and awe for the Bible to be unfounded and undeserved, they must read it for themselves-all of it. Then they will discover that the books of the Bible are much like other ancient books, written by fallible, sometimes cruel people living in a harsh, superstitious, scientifically illiterate age.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)