Wednesday, June 9, 2010

'But I Don't Take The Bible Literally ... '

The Bible seems like a logical starting point for any debate against the validity of Christianity. If you're a devout Christian, then this holy book that represents the basis of your religion should be defended as if your religion depended upon it (mostly because it does).

However, I've been running into a weird counter-argument more and more often lately. When I point out the absurdities, inconsistencies, logical errors, appalling acts, or childishness within The Bible as a means to argue against the Christian religion, it has become common for me to hear this comeback: "Well, I don't take The Bible literally. I mean, come on ... "

To which I reply, "Umm ...wha?"

What this comeback amounts to is saying that you believe in Christianity so long as you take out all of the obviously unrealistic or dated stuff in the foundational book of your religion. Put yet another way, it's like saying you're OK picking and choosing which parts of The Bible God meant for you to take seriously.

Might I remind you that God is omniscient and omnipotent, so how do you justify being picky about The Bible? That's like saying God didn't care enough to make sure that the most important book in the history of the world was exactly right and perfectly clear. Also, what basis is there for Christianity aside from what's written in The Bible? If you don't base your belief in The Bible, then what are you basing it on? There's no worthwhile evidence for the Christian God with The Bible, so what shred of basis is there without it?

Still others say, "Well, the Old Testament obviously is just a bunch of fairy tales, but the New Testament, that was all real. Jesus was a real man with divine powers." Sorry, that's not allowed. Again, that's being picky, and nowhere in The Bible does it insinuate that you're allowed to do this. There isn't a little disclaimer in between the Old and New Testaments that says, "LOL, JK. But for seriously, here's the real stuff ... " The New Testament is based on the Old Testament, so if the Old Testament is false, the New Testament doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Also, think about it this way. These are the only logical conclusions I can see:
  1. God wrote or inspired the writings in The Bible and entirely approves of all its contents.
  2. God did not write or inspire the writing of The Bible -- which purports to be the foundational text of His religion -- and you'd better fucking believe that He wouldn't be cool with that shit claiming to be God-approved, and His omnipotent ass would make that fact clear right quick.
  3. God did not write or inspire The Bible, but He doesn't really care what people believe or about His creation in general.
  4. God doesn't exist.
As a moderate Christian who doesn't take The Bible literally, none of these conclusions work out well for you. If you're a Christian, you believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. The Bible being approved by God doesn't make sense -- God being all-knowing and all-loving doesn't allow for the inconsistencies, horrible morality lessons, and lack of general clarity in message. The Bible not being approved by God doesn't make sense -- God being all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful means He wouldn't have let it happen in the first place in His name for the sake of His creation.

Being a moderate Christian doesn't make any logical sense at all. It's weird to say this, but I actually disagree more strongly with moderate Christians than fundamentalist Christians on the basis of their belief. (However, from political, human rights, and civil rights standpoints, it's a lot easier to side with the moderates.)

Someone please explain to me how it makes sense to be a moderate Christian.

-- The Atheist Apologist --


  1. Actually, you are committing the same error as the literalists - thinking that mythology is supposed to be taken literally. Granted, pew potatoe idiots do this, but that is because they are unreflective clods. Some also encourage literalism because it allows them to treat the Bible as a magic book and evade responsibility for their own beliefs.
    However, Christian mythology, like Egyptian mythology, is largely symbolic and representational. One does not need to believe in a literal Ogdoad to be a Gnostic, and one does not need to believe Jesus even existed to be a Christian. Believing that religion consists primarily of superstitious beliefs about demons just makes you seem ignorant of religious psychology and literature. Spirituality, as Nietzsche has said, is not something ethereal or seperate from the body, it is an abstraction from material reality.

    I will grant you that lots of religious people make this mistake, even in their own case - for example, many Catholics participate in rituals because of its symbolic power /even though/ they pretend to believe in the magic behind it. Yet real scholars of religion and philosophy should not stoop to the level of pew potatoes and dismiss it all.

    Just as the literal Christian believes all the Iron Age barbarism in the Bible, the Village Atheist believes the Bible is all Iron Age barbarism. Both positions are comically ignorant.

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