The Bible, many claim it’s the bestselling book (it’s more of a collection of books, of which there are many different compilations) of all time. The name itself is used as a noun for any reference material that purports to be the standard for its subject. Is the Old Testament an historical collation? People certainly seem to use it in search of archaeological sites and to establish a corroborating reference for the development of ancient civilizations. Did Moses write the Pentateuch? Doubtful, unless he reincarnated five hundred to a thousand years after his death to pen his own memoir and to memorialize the world’s creation. The Documentary Hypothesis suggests that the Pentateuch is actually a blending from four different sources of material written over a five hundred year period starting about a thousand years before Christ. Many of the other books are attributed to the Minor Prophets who claimed either inspiration from God or hearing his words directly. Today, if we knew an author who claims to have written something that was told to him directly by God, he’d be branded a lunatic, so I’m curious how it is that the Bible gets a free pass?
The modern Bible has chapters and verses (something which adds to the quotability of passages), but they are only editorial additions that date back to the 13th and 16th centuries. The presentation of the Holy Scriptures is broken into subsets: law, history, wisdom, and the writings of the prophets.
But the issue which concerns me is the staunch reliance on the part of the religious community in using it as the standard by which we measure our moral code of today. Certainly, the world in general is experiencing a rapid decline in moralistic behavior, but to be guided by a series of texts that were drafted by some unknown authors three thousand years ago, is a bit too far of a stretch for credibility. More to the point, the moral fabric of our society is more complicated and diverse that it was in past millennia, and it fluctuates. There has always been homosexuality, at times it has been more accepted than others, but it’s been around. Several hundred years ago it was acceptable for an older man to marry a girl just past puberty as she was now physically able to provide heirs – also, let’s face it, he probably had the hots for a younger girl. In 2015, that same man would be recognized as a pedophile. People surely had issues with inner feelings through the ages that would ultimately become known as transgender identification, but that’s more of a recent admission. Psychology dates back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, but it didn’t become a science until the 19th century. Our greater understanding of human complexity because of it alone should antiquate the Bible as a governing source of moral reference.
The most egregious use of the Bible is the cherry-picking of quotes as a basis for an argument. I love this scene from the TV series The West Wing:
I have recently written about the LGBTQ issue of Transgenderism; this is some of what I got in response:
“No amount of glaze can hide the warts on this unnatural aberration”.
She calls transgendered people an aberration. Unnatural? By very definition, if it stems from nature, as we are all creatures of nature, then inherently it cannot be unnatural. What is unnatural is something like Donald Trump leading the Republican polls.
“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Romans 1:26 — Romans 1:27.
I’m still trying to figure out what the penalty was that they took into themselves, but I’m guaranteed an enlightening response from someone even more studied in Bible scripture. I’m sure it has something to do with the unfortunate lack of condoms back then.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortions will inherit the kingdom of God.
There you go, folks, we’re all going to hell. I guess as an atheist, I’m spared that fate since I don’t believe in hell, but I digress.
“You can’t put yourself in front of another person and just say I’m this or that and not expect repercussions. I have a deep sympathy for inner city kids who don’t stand a chance in life of digging out of the poverty and degradation their parents have bestowed upon them. But when I work with them I do it in a controlled environment, I don’t confront their parents or walk into their ghetto world as a white man. You can be whatever you want to be, but everyone will not accept that and you better have enough moxie to know the difference. I do not agree with the LGBT agenda, but I do not ostracize anyone based on that and love and respect people by who they are not what they are. My point is this: if you want to be gay or whatever, that’s your business, but you cannot expect the rest of the world to accept your ideology.”
So does that mean that I can’t introduce myself as a writer in fear that someone who hates writers will not accept me? Will the repercussion be that I’m shot because of it? And tell me, why can’t the rest of the world accept other people’s ideologies, if those beliefs are in no way harmful to the way you wish to live your life?
Then there is the New Testament, the Gospels attributed (doubtfully) to the words of the apostles, the letters from Paul (which includes the words directed at me by my detractor from above), and from James, Peter, and John. These are given divine significance because of their personal association with Jesus Christ as the Son of God (except Paul, he never met the guy). If anything from the bible should be used as the foundation for moralistic behavior, it might be the teachings credited to Christ; at least he taught acceptance and love toward ALL. In fact, if you dispense with the idea that Jesus was incarnate from God and listen to what he had to say, it makes more sense as a teaching than as a crutch we have to lean on in order to behave well.
It has gotten to the point that the moment I hear someone quoting the Bible, my ears close off because whatever argument is being waged is being launched from a faulty platform. There is one axiom that transcends all religions and all civilizations: The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself. Let’s go with that one, and forget the rest.
Something to consider for your reading enjoyment:
What we should be allowed to do if we adhere to the Bible