I was in middle-school when I first read Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in
a Strange Land." It is a very grown-up novel and has a lot of discussion of
various complex ideas. One subject tackled, almost through-out, is religion. One
discussion includes the story of a group of kids making fun of Ezekial's
bald head and God sending two bears to rip those children to shreds. My mother was very upset when I talked to her about that passage, and wanted
to know how God could justify it. I don't know if she was familiar with the
story before that, but it really bothered her that she didn't have an
answer. We discussed some other passages - all things Heinlein had
touched on in SIASL. She did know about - or couldn't explain - any of it.
The Bible is a collection of stories designed to create a tribal
identity - like the legends of Olympus. Trying to use it as a template for life
today makes no sense.
@Stormwalker – “Today, ripped out of the original cultural milieu,
the story has been turned into an indictment of homosexuality and nothing
else.”Has there ever been a book in history that can offer
confirmation of such a wide ranging and diverse set of prejudices?One of the most surprising things I come across regularly is how often in
discussions with Christians the most appropriate response to their objections
& equivocations I can offer is to simply say “read your own sacred
book.” Bible illiteracy seems rampant among people of the book
and is equaled only by the parts of the Bible Christians either ignore,
whitewash or compartmentalize such that it won’t touch their faith.There are entire sections of the OT and even some of the NT (Revelation)
that present such a barbaric and abhorrent view of God that I can think of no
other way to explain how this book is so revered other than to suggest millions
of people must have coke-bottle thick rose colored glasses when they read it.
To my experience most religious people have a relative handful of proof-texts
ripped from both textual and cultural context. The passages can then be twisted
to mean whatever it needs to mean in the new context. Sodom is a
perfect example. From Ezekiel to Jesus himself, living in the culture, the story
of the cities of the plain was a warning about treating visitors badly, a
warning about abusing strangers instead of extending hospitality and protection.
Today, ripped out of the original cultural milieu, the story has been turned
into an indictment of homosexuality and nothing else. Meanwhile, the still
relevant warnings about pride and refusing care to strangers are ignored.
Being "Scripture" savvy seems about as important as being "Lord of
the Rings" savvy.
I've heard people say, "I believe the Bible to be inerrant in every
verse. I don't pick and choose which verses to believe." To them, I
would say, with all due respect, you are either Biblically ignorant or you are
not being honest. I believe the Bible wholeheartedly, but I admit that I do not
follow the whole Bible, don't think it is inerrant, and don't think
that it is necessary that I do. That doesn't mean that I don't
believe in the God who inspired it, nor do I believe that I am not obligated to
search for the words of God in the Bible. The promptings of the Holy Ghost give
life to the Bible verses, and when I feel the flow of pure intelligence in me, I
know that I have heard the voice of the Lord and heard the Word of God. When
the scriptures and inspiration come together, the elixir becomes scripture to me
and I become accountable.
To use a scriptural phrase, "words without knowledge" comes to mind.
Many who profess the Bible to be the Word of God have no knowledge of what it
says and certainly wouldn't agree with its concepts and teachings if they
were presented as a poll, beginning with "Do you believe...?" Then look
at their faces when you say "This is a quotation from the Bible, XX Chapter
and ZZ Verses...do you want to rethink your position?" The back-peddling
will be amazing, along with all the explanations about it being true but
"not literal" etc.
Dunning Kruger effect. Google it.
The beautiful thing about the Bible is that it can say anything you want,
depending on what behaviour you need to justify.I can show in the
Bible where slavery, revenge, sexism, war, etc, are supported and encouraged,
and then call myself a fundamentalist Christian.Or, I can show, in the
same book, where those things are frowned upon, and call myself a fundamentalist
Christian.The way we interpret the Bible, or any other religious
text, is based upon who is the current, authoritative voice on the matter (e.g.
the Pope).It's the same with the Koran or any other
"official word of God".Take the good and ignore the rest,
just don't tell me the Bible is the unerring, infallible word of God. It
may be the word of God, but it certainly isn't infallible.