Friday, January 21, 2011

Lady Atheist: My Top Ten Grievances Against the Bible

Today, John Loftus linked to one of the blogs of one of his frequent commentators. I don't know this person at all excepts she is a lady and an atheist. She wrote a post on her own blog detailing 10 things she believes discounts the Bible as the Word of God. Surprise, Surprise, none of them are new. However they need to be answered whenever they are brought up. I don't know if she has searched all over for the answers to the objection she has raised and just didn't accept them, or if she doesn't know that there are answers. I don't want offend anyone by assuming that they don't know something they don't. I just can't imagine how someone can come to the conclusions she comes to given the amount of information available. I'm going to re-post her list and respond in italics. If I quote Bible text, it will be in bold text. One thing that really jumped at me was the attitude of LadyAtheist. I see it among many who follow John Loftus' blog. It's the thought that on;y stupid people believe the Bible and if you knew as much as they do you would reject it too. However I find many erroneous presuppositions and things they just don't seem to know. There is a lot of stuff just thrown out in this list as if everyone agrees with how she lays things out.

1. Authority -- NOT -- it was compiled, copied, edited, codified and translated by men. Men with agendas. Over the hundreds of years it was put together there were perhaps hundreds of "hands" tinkering with the unalterable "holy" words.

I've not heard of anyone who truly studies textual criticism  claim that we have no idea what the autographs of the New Testaments says outside of  Bart Ehrman's popular works. When he is pressed he admits that we know what the New Testament Greek texts say to a high percentage. Some say 97%. I posted a recent post from Dr. Frank Turek's blog in which Dr.Turek points out that Dr Ehrman says different things to different audiences.

You might know know Ryan Anderson who used to comment on Loftus' blog. He said I was wrong and Turek was wrong.  He wrote:

I think where you guys are getting mixed up is the word "reliable". I don't know of many people, myself included, who would argue that the gospels are unreliable in the technical sense, i.e. what we have today is reasonably close to the originals, i.e. Matthew in the NIV is probably very close to the original gospel of Matthew. But in misquoting Jesus, that was not the point at all, in general (because I doubt you've read it), he's saying who knows what Jesus actually said because the completely reliable Matthew and the completely reliable John do differ in very important ways. So, it's another question entirely if the originals "reliably" depict real events.
So Ryan Anderson, an Atheist, agrees that the Gospels are reasonably close to the originals. Dr. Bart Ehrman, "a happy agnostics", agrees. They disagree with Christians as to whether or not you should believe the text, but we should be able to agree on what the text says. This flies against what many atheists argue.

2. Inconsistency. Two Adam & Eve stories. Two genealogies for Jesus. Discrepancies amongst the Gospels. Too many inconsistencies to mention, and anyway The Skeptics Annotated Bible did it already.

Two stores would require conflict and contradiction. There is not contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. If anyone thinks so, they just throw it out and never backs it up. As for the two genealogies for Jesus, one must remember:
a. Ancient genealogies were not intended to exhaustively list every single human being in the line. There is a goal and an agenda in mind determining who is included and who excluded.
b. They don't match because Matthew's list is to show Jesus had right to the throne of Israel. Luke's is to show that Jesus was related to all of us - from a human point of view.

As for the Skeptics Annotated Bible, I wouldn't put much stock in it without looking at rebuttals and thoughts on the other side. The Skeptic's Annotated Bible: Comments is a good place to start looking at counter arguments. If you are interested in truth why wouldn't you look at counter arguments?

3. God's nature is fickle and inconsistent. He is forgiving or resentful depending on the situation. Sometimes he tinkers in the Affairs of Man and sometimes not. He wants you to follow his rules, but then there's the parable of the prodigal son. He made the world and all the animals, including people, and yet made all sorts of really horrible and stupid things. For instance, why do humans have "tail" bones if we don't have tails? Having broken mine I can tell you I'd rather not have it. If he wanted us to protect the useful parts of our spine in a fall, then why put nerve endings there?

How does having requirements and rules invalidate God's love? This objection is often raised but never validated. As for questioning the design of the universe and our bodies, how do you know it's horrible or not useful to have a "tail bone". As an engineer, I think it's silly to look at someone else's design and criticizing it without knowing what all the specifications are. Something you think is a problem may not be a bug at all but a feature to the design.

4. Miracles. They have no corroboration outside of the Bible. They could have been faked or made up as propaganda or exaggerated over time. If Jesus really did walk on water, how do we know he didn't go there in advance and put a table just under the water line? How do we know there wasn't a sandbar there? And yet he couldn't make a fig tree yield fruit out of season, which would have been a more difficult feat than appearing to be walking on water. Couldn't pop the nails out of his hands and feet and jump off the cross, either.

Excuse me? Haven't it ever occurred to people that the Sea of Galilee  would have to be fairly deep in the middle of it? Today it is about 43 meters deep at its deepest. That would have to be a table with long legs. It could not have been a sandbar in the middle of the lake, that close to the surface - in the middle of a storm. By definition, a miracle is not repeatable. A miracle is when God intervenes in nature.  Jesus was showing Himself to his disciples as God - only God can walk on water (according to the mindset of the day).  As for the Fig remark, of course Jesus could have made the fig tree yield fruit out of season. He was using the fig tree to teach his disciples and his followers today a lesson. Of course Jesus could have come down off that cross. He didn't because he was up there on that cross instead of us. He did it to save us. He paid for our sins with his blood instead of believers paying for own sins with our blood. We can't pay this debt. That is what the Gospel is: God himself paid our debt for us.

5. Revelation. Dreams, voices, visions... they are all reminiscent of what today would be considered symptoms of psychosis. If they're psychotic symptoms now, they very likely would have been then, if they even happened. Primitive people can't be faulted for believing that dreams or migraine auras or psychotic breaks came from some supernatural entity, but we shouldn't believe them now. The opposite is possession by an evil spirit. Also mental illness that was misunderstood by bronze age superstitious people.

So who had a psychotic break in the Bible? The Bible tells us how to get out of our own psychosis that comes from being a sinner. Dreams, Revelation, Voices, and Visions are indeed wrong if there isn't anything outside of what we can perceive beyond the physical world. There is so little that we understand. There is so much of reality that we cannot get outside of our five senses. How can you be so sure that the people of the Bible did not experience what they say they experience? Do you really think that we are so much smarter?

6. Scientific inaccuracy. God could have revealed the truth about the Sun revolving around the Earth, at the very least. All of God's words seem to be consistent with what humans would have known at the time, and not at all revelatory or helpful. Every human culture has a creation story. The Judeo-Christian-Muslim one is just one of many with no claim to accuracy in the least.

Where does the Bible tell us that the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa? I think she made a mistake at this point but I think she understood what her thought was. I'd like to know what makes people think that the Bible tells us about this part. The Church was the one that says the sun went around the earth, not the Bible. It's also not completely true that the Bible reveals no important information. Look at Romans 8:18-21

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 

It's clear that the creation being "subjected to frustration" is referring to its "bondage of decay". We call it the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics - entropy. There are scientists who agree that Genesis is accurate. Just go listen to the lecture from astronomer, Dr. Hugh Ross.

7. Similarity to mythologies in other Middle Eastern religions. Just a little too many similarities to dismiss. Mithras, for example.

Mithras is a bad example. There are no good examples showing what is alleged here. I've been posting and studying this issue for a while now. I've written many posts on this and have linked to other resources regarding this issue. Instead of rehashing all of that material here is a link.

8. Speaking of Paul, Paul's role is a little too important in early Christianity. He never met Jesus, yet he supposedly explains Christianity with authority. He has a completely different message from Jesus' supposed words. A lot of Biblical inconsistency right there. Why should anyone believe anything he said? None of it was of a nature that couldn't have come from psychosis, imagination, or calculation. If he was divinely inspired, he could have set people straight about the Sun, for instance.

Funny how both Muslims and Atheist tend to agree with this point. Should tell you something. The New Testament tells us that the original apostles agreed with him and what did Paul tell us. He tells us to follow Christ. One reason why I believe Paul because nothing he wrote contradicts any of the other other New Testament texts. Why do opponents of Christianity try their best to undermine Paul? Simple. His is a convert's story. He hated Christianity. He turned Christians over to die. What changed him? Here is a man who could have had anything he wanted. He had the access. The education. The intellect. The prestige. He gave it all up for being tortured, persecuted, and having many of his fellow Jews turn their back on him. Why did he adopt the religion he once sought to destroy and systematically lay out what they believed. There is only one answer. He met the risen Christ, just like he said he did.  Why try to undermine Paul? Fear.

9. The Book of John. Written much later than the other "gospels" and seems very biased. Coincidentally, "fundamentalist" Christians are fond of quoting John. They like his brand of Christianity so much that their whole theology would crumble if that "book" was taken out of the Bible.

So which is it? Paul or John? Both. No Book bearing John's name or anything of Paul contradict one another. When people make the accusation that John's gospel is so much later, I wonder what they mean by later. By the standards of the rest of ancient texts all the Gospels are close to one another. Christians like the John's gospel because it does so much heavy lifting. However the deity of Christ and everything we need is actually in the other three Gospels too.  Here is a post containing a video that carries this idea farther

10. Disturbing "morality." Over and over there are truly disgusting examples of God or his favorite people doing the most heinous things. The worst of all for me is the central tenet of Christianity: that Christ was sacrificed for the sins of mankind... all of us or some of us, depending on your denomination. This means that a "loving" God practiced scapegoating, punishing his one good child for the sinfulness of all the others. No actual sinning is required to be defined as a bad child, since sinfulness is inherited. Inheriting the "sins of the fathers" is also imoral. Other repugnant practices are portrayed without any negative judgment: war, genocide, polygamy, rape (but only of women!), and slavery to name a few. Then this "loving" God will send everyone who doesn't say they "accept" him to eternal fire and pain. What kind of "love" is that?

Obviously there is a misunderstanding. Actual sinning is already in the equation. Everyone sins in word and deed. Everyone is deserving of hell. That is what is going to happen to everyone without Christ. It's not that everyone is basically good and given the choice are saved by choosing Christ and hell bound if they reject them. We have already rejected him. We deserve hell because of war, genocide, polygamy, slavery, and rape. God isn't the problem. We are are the problem and Jesus is the solution because of love. How is it God's fault you end up in hell because you didn't want to be part of the solution? Read Ezekiel 18 to see how God handles us and our parent's sin. As for Deuteronomy where God says he punishes people for their Father's sin, look at the difference between punishment and death. Of course it's possible to have to pay for things that your parents do. If you gamble away all the money, your children will suffer. If a mother does crack, her babies will be born addicted to drugs. That is the difference being made.

10a. Cannibalism. Yech! You can say it's just metaphorical and wine doesn't really turn into blood, but still, it's a repulsive practice and extremely barbaric. Early Christians already had the practice of baptism for the cleansing of sins, so they really didn't have to have eat their god in a repulsive ritual meal. That practice is also waaaay too similar to that of other religions to be taken seriously as a true historical tale.

No where does the Bible imply that communion is any more than symbolic. People who think otherwise don't understand what Jesus was telling us to do. It's not the same as other religions at all. 

I could probably come up with more but these are the big ones for me. Much ink has been spilt explaining the problems in the Bible. People get Ph.D.s in something aptly called "apologetics." They call the Book "god-breathed" or inspired rather than taking it as the literal gods-ear-to-man's-pen truth, because they know deep down it's really a bunch of ridiculous nonsense. To believe in this book is to believe in a God that's mercurial, vengeful, narcissistic, and possibly insane.

That is a very big indictment of God that people have fallen for.  It also pre-assumes that God is like us. If one of us said the things that God says then we would be vengeful, narcissistic, and insane because we are not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. However God is and has made everything. Like it or not, and you probably don't, but God has every right to demand of us whatever he wants.

Or... you could believe that the Bible is just like all the other holy books of all the other religions, just a bunch of fairy tales with supernatural buddies and/or bullies as the main characters.

Sure would like some substantiation for this. 

Some of my smaller grievances don't get much attention, but for what they're worth:
  • If all of creation was 'good' then wouldn't Adam and Eve have been exiled to a pretty nice place?
The fall affected all of creation. Remember the ground was cursed for what Adam and Eve did.
  • Why is it an "abomination" for men to have sex with men but not for women to have sex with women? Isn't that also homosexuality?
Where does the Bible says it is okay for women to have sex with women? It doesn't.
  • Why was there no judgment against Lot's daughters after they got him drunk then got pregnant by him? His wife was turned into a pillar of salt just for looking over her shoulder at her former home. That seems a little harsh.
His wife longed for the life she had in Sodom although the city was wicked and corrupt. Homosexuality was probably the least offense they were doing in that city. Lot's daughters thought they and their father were the only people left on earth after witnessing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns. We don't know that there was no judgment on them for incest. The Bible records what happened.
  • If Jesus' conception was immaculate, then why does he have a genealogy traced through Joseph's side of the family?
Who said that both genealogies were only on Joseph's side? In ancient times its was rare to see any women on a genealogical list. Husband names were used. This is one of the things that set Matthew's genealogy apart. It lists three women.
  • And the fig tree, wtf? Why doesn't Jesus regret his temper tantrum if he's such a great guy? Come to think of it, why did he smite the tree in the first place? Is this some kind of metaphor that a woman who won't have sex during her off-cycle will be smote?
This is one of the reasons that I wonder if LadyAtheists has studied the Bible very deeply. Jesus did not throw temper tantrum. Careful reading of the text reveals that the fig tree showed outward signs of having fruit on it but it didn't have fruit of it. It does symbolize a person who has the outward signs of being a believer but does not really have any spiritual fruit. It has nothing to do with sex or menstrual cycles.

Lady Atheist: My Top Ten Grievances Against the Bible
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