AS15: Do Atheists Read the Bible Too Literally?

Thomas discusses an article about how progressive Christians read the bible and whether it has any merit.  Are atheists reading the bible too literally?

4 thoughts on “AS15: Do Atheists Read the Bible Too Literally?”

  1. Hello again. I just wanted to clarify that I do not advocate for ad hominem or any form of belittlement/intimidation/inappropriate behavior for 99 percent of religious discussions/debates (the 1% is for those who just need a Hitchslap because they are being willfully ignorant and/or are using religion as a platform to gain wealth or power/etc at the expense of other human beings). I just wanted to mention that because in your response you spent a bit of time discussing how atheists shouldn’t react in kind to being insulted. I advocate learning how to calmly hear crazy beliefs, then patiently and politely use the Socratic method to remedy those illogical notions (if possible). It is a hard skill to learn, but it is very useful. It is ESPECIALLY useful when one is surrounded by very devout people with socially harmful religious beliefs (as I am. You minimize offense so they cannot mistreat you, but you still must at least attempt to reason with them to prevent future harm to your family/society). Maybe my being a therapist has resulted in unreasonable and unpractical expectations of others. I do live in several overlapping bubbles. Would you say that a calm, Socratic style response to nonsense is an unrealistic expectation for the average atheist?

    I do agree that the arguments should be the focus in a debate. I just also believe that it is important to point out (calmly) when an other person is being rude and/or offensive. I do admit that I may be placing excessive emphasis on that simply as a result of my own experiences.

    This episode was very interesting. I especially enjoyed the point you made about how many “progressive Christians” would be deemed as heretics not too long ago. It is so delightfully true. And ugh. That long paragraph you read about how the horrors in the Bible endear them to that book was just horrendous. Rape and murder and genocide being endearing; that is repulsive.

    Bible Canon is a ridiculously complex topic. You have to look at canon for Protestants vs Catholics vs Orthodox, Old Testament vs New Testament, and Jewish vs Christian (for the Old Testament. They should be the same/almost the same since Christians view the Jews as God’s Holy People prior to Jesus’ arrival). It even varies by country within the same church for centuries after Jesus’ supposed arrival. Do we accept the Apocrypha? Did the Council of Jamnia occur? Are books referenced or quoted by accepted canon also canon (because they are source material)? You can go on and on.

    In general: Marcion created a proto-Biblical canon around 140 C.E.. In 382 C.E., the Council of Rome approved a list of texts to be the New Testament. There was then some politics – people disagreed. There were debates, campaigning, etc. Eventually it settled down, and by the 4th century, a majority of Christian authorities accepted the list. Then the Reformation happened, and canon was questioned again. Final canons are as follows: Greek Orthodox = 1672 C.E. at the Synod of Jerusalem. Catholics = 1546 C.E. at the Council of Trent. Protestants = depends on denomination.
    I recommend Dr. Robert M Price as an excellent source for Biblical interpretation, early Christianity, and Old Testament. He often deals with canon too because the New Testament assumes that the gospels were written in a certain manner, and evidence does not support that notion.

    Lastly, have you ever considered adding a forum to the site? I know very, VERY few atheists (and all the atheists I know are either apatheists or agree with my views), so I have not had the chance to debate these disagreements with fellow non-believers. I find these topics fascinating and would love the opportunity to have such conversations. I always want to challenge my beliefs because that is the only way to make them more accurately reflect reality.

    Thanks for the new podcast,

  2. I guess this is what happened when progressives blended post-modernism with Christianity. I think evangelicals refer to this approach as panentheism.

    It’s the perfect “out” for progressive Christians to say whatever they want about their belief system. They can just hand-wave away anything that contradicts their faith, saying it’s all up to the individual.

    One said to me, when I explained how full of ridiculous contradictions the bible contains, “You can’t understand what the bible says, unless you have faith!”.

    Discussing the bible with a progressive Christian is almost impossible, because their counter-arguments are too slippery to hold onto. If somehow one manages to corner them, they will resort to dodges like the quote above, ending all talk about the topic.

    Fundamentalists, at least, will hear you out, even if they totally disagree with you. Progressive Christians, however, walk into a discussion about their faith with their fingers in their ears, singing as loud as they can, so they won’t hear anything you say that might cause them a moment of doubt.

    And when progressive Christians talk about their faith, they sound more like Deepak Chopra. Makes me wonder whether or not they really understand what they’re saying, because I sure don’t!

    1. Many progressive Christians embrace panentheism. Progressive Christianity is the post-modern influenced evolution of mainline liberal Christianity. Emerging or emergent Christianity is the post-modern influenced evolution of evangelical Christianity. Marcus Borg is a progressive Christian. Rob Bell is an emergent Christian. Hope that helps.

      Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

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