How the Bible Goes Wrong: History

This probably didn't happen.

This probably didn’t happen.

There are quite a few problems with using the Christian bible as a source of history. I’m going to outline some of them here and link to a few sources, but I’m not trying to write a complete educational article on the subject. As I said when I started this series, my goal is to explain some of the reasons I can’t take the bible as 100% true or inspired by a god. There are plenty of sources that go into great detail about these things if you want to take a deeper look.

The first problem is that the final version of the Torah wasn’t compiled until after the Babylonian exile, more than a thousand years after the time of Moses. In fact, most bible scholars believe it was written and edited by four different people around 900-400 BC, drawing from oral tradition and perhaps a few pre-existing written sources; I was even taught this at a Christian university. What I wasn’t taught is that various references to places and people are inconsistent with established evidence from other sources. Sometimes multiple cities are mentioned as existing at the same time, when in reality they did not. Sometimes references to population numbers are impossibly inflated, while the archaeological evidence shows much smaller populations.

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“Objective Morality” is a Contradiction

The morality of an action cannot be divorced from the consequences.

The morality of an action cannot be divorced from its consequences.

Of all the subjects that get me into trouble with theistic friends, morality is probably the most common. I’ve written about it in many previous articles, and will no doubt continue to do so. I’ve explained why the Christian god, at least viewed through a literal reading of the bible, is simply evil by his own standards. I wrote a little about how secular morality works. I examined the bible and found the Christian god commanding things that almost all modern Christians would call immoral. I showed that while not all religion leads to immorality, there is a worldwide correlation between higher crime and prevalence of theistic religion. In several cases, I even touched on the ways certain types of religion foster evil.

At this point I’ve gone so deep into the subject of morality that I’ve spent hours reading articles and watching videos by theists and atheists alike, in order to obtain as much knowledge and understanding of the whole argument as I possibly can. While reading a blog post by a theist recently I was struck with another idea, so here I am writing again.

Much of the back-and-forth argument between theists and atheists over morality could be skipped if everyone involved was was struck with this idea, preferably several times directly in the face. It’s simple: theists and non-theists approach morality with fundamentally different ideas of good, evil, objectivity, and subjectivity. That might seem anticlimactic, but it’s the way in which we differ in our understanding of those terms that is the core of the problem.

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How the Bible Goes Wrong: Morality

I get my morality from this device that tells me whether or not something is good by randomly pointing in one direction or the other.

I get my morality from this device that contains a tiny god who moves the needle in response to my questions.

The Christian perspective privileges itself over the ideas of any other belief system, and declares that if we don’t agree with it, we are the ones causing all the problems. That’s the whole point of Christianity…unbelief is the greatest of evils. It is, in fact, the only sin that will not be forgiven. Anyone who worships god, no matter what they’ve done, will receive eternal bliss. Anyone who doesn’t worship god, no matter what they’ve done, will suffer for eternity.

Is that an acceptable way to treat your children? Or more accurately, the children you abandoned at birth who have no real evidence that you even exist. If anyone truly believes it is acceptable, they have lost any real sense of morality, as they have let the definitions of right and wrong be dictated without reason through the pages of an ancient book. Their morality is nothing more than “things are good or bad because god says so”.

The idea of an eternal hell for unbelievers is an obvious scare tactic to make people fear leaving the religion. I doubt many Christians really think that the simple state of not believing in a particular god is the most serious moral offense ever, otherwise they should be quite concerned about how many different gods with equally compelling evidence demand their allegiance.

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The Case for Democratic Socialism

workers-659885_960_720The word socialism elicits negative reactions from a lot of Americans. I think the widespread misunderstanding of the term is a relic of the Cold War era, as well as historical tension between right-wing capitalists and the far left. When one type of government ends up going bad, people are quick to blame the overall method and move to the opposite extreme, rather than considering the real cause of the problems. This results in an endless cycle of reactionaries who, in their zealous drive to fix what everyone else messed up, go too far and make another mess.

That’s the current situation in America. During the Cold War, in response to the threat from an authoritarian socialist country, America turned hard to the right and ended up handing over government power to large corporations. The solution to our problems is not more of the same crony capitalism that has shifted massive amounts of wealth, as well as most economic growth, into the hands of the rich. When a government has gone too far to the right, it needs to shift back toward the left.

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How the Bible Goes Wrong: The Nature of God

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" Epicurus

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” -Epicurus

When I considered writing about the nature of the Christian god, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. The subject is a major source of contention among Christians themselves…although that could be said of just about anything deeper than “Jesus saves” (and even that might get you in trouble if you say it with the wrong tone of voice).

As in the previous article, I’m trying to address the most common literal interpretation of the bible, which is what I was raised with and what most of my friends and family believe. In this case, let’s start with the version of the Christian god who has the following attributes: 1) He is omnipotent; 2) He is omniscient; 3) He is loving and benevolent toward us; 4) He desires that all humans join him in heaven.

The first and most glaring problem I have arises directly from the combination of these four attributes with the popular version of hell, and is the reason I rejected hell long before I rejected the rest of Christianity. I know there are Christians with a very different concept of how god might deal with unbelievers in the afterlife, and I applaud them for thinking seriously about it. But the vast majority cling to the old manipulative story of eternal suffering.

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How the Bible Goes Wrong: In the Beginning

"And god said, let there be an awkward two-legged naked ape that has the most impressive brain on the planet and still believes in absolute nonsense."

“And god said, let there be an awkward two-legged naked ape that has the most impressive brain on the planet and still believes in absolute nonsense.”

This is the first of at least five articles I plan to write about the specific reasons I cannot accept the bible as fully true or inspired by a god. I put a huge amount of time over several years into studying it, and my goal all along was to reach the deepest and most objective understanding as possible. If you want to know how it feels to write about this, imagine a white Southern Baptist writing a serious article examining why they personally stopped believing in Islam.

During the entire time I studied the bible, I was a Christian and had no intention to stop believing, only to find the truth no matter what it turned out to be. Thus, most of the things I will say in these articles are not the conclusions of a nonbeliever reading a bible he’s already decided is untrue, but rather the things I learned as a Christian that ultimately led me out of the religion.

These are the reasons I stopped believing. It has taken me almost a year to reach a point where I think I can articulate them clearly. I first had to admit to myself that I was no longer a Christian. Then I had to grow a little in my new position by discussing these issues with both Christians and non-Christians, listening to what they had to say, and thinking about how exactly to put my concerns into words that hopefully most people will understand.

To kick off the series, I will start in the beginning, with the bible’s account of creation and the next several chapters of Genesis.

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On Being a Happy and Peaceful Heathen

Peace-Love-HappinessPeople keep telling me I seem so much happier than I was a year ago, or two years ago. They’re right, and here’s why…

Two years ago I was a Christian, and I was stuck with a panic disorder and severe depression. I had anxiety so bad it damaged my ability to do just about everything. I would frequently be sent spiraling into panic by a sound, a word, a smell, anything that elicited flashbacks to a handful of traumatic events.

A year ago, I was still a Christian and was recovering from depression. I finally saw a psychiatrist in February 2015 and was prescribed an antidepressant and another drug to deal with intense anxiety.

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