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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Atheists reading the Bible

I was halfway through In Search of Lost Time, when I had to stop to study for classes. I needed a break anyway, I got to a point where I just had to step away from it for a few weeks. I'm going back at it, while at the same time still studying for an upcoming class and also trying to finish The Fountainhead. For added fun I thought I'd throw in rereading the Bible. Hey, why not, it's been awhile.

Last night I got through about chapter 16 of Genesis, making notes as I went along. I'm going to try to do some posts on my thoughts as I go along.

So, anyone else want to plow through it with me? I know a lot of us have read it already, I just thought I'd give everyone a chance to join in, as I always do when I start a new book. If so, I'm using the NIV. We could do weekly or biweekly discussions about what we've read and our reflections on it.


  1. I'm tempted, given that I've never really given it a try at a full reading. The boredom usually stopped me from getting too far. But... heck, I'll give it a try. Who knows? Maybe I'll be converted by the inerrent words of YHWH!

  2. Don't laugh, Q.

    You might have a revelation and then we'll be fucked.

  3. I'll only agree if you promise to read it with an open mind and a humble heart. In other words, you must conclude before you read it that Da Jeebus is your Lawd and Sabiour.

  4. Quasar,

    Interesting that you should say that because it ties into what Lance said in a way.

    It's always just so inane to me when xians say 'Just read the Bible and God will reveal himself to you' or 'Have you ever actually even read the Bible?' There are so many atheists, myself included who either read it on their own or were required to for some classes in college and yet we came to a completely different conclusion than these people did. So I always wonder does this not point to a god that plays favorites, revealing himself to some and not to others, yet punishing the ones he doesn't reveal himself to with hell fire?

    I think it would actually be interesting if one of the atheists here had a revelation and shared it with us.

    Lance, I am highly encouraged that your grammar in this comment closely resembles that of LOLcats. Obviously, you have come to know the Great Kitten and his Furry Powers of Wet Food and Salvation. Fur balls be with you!!!

  5. Oh, Lance, I was wondering....didn't you say something not too long ago about teaching the Bible in a lit class? Am I confused?

    If you did say that, how is it going?

  6. I'll give it a shot. I've just decided to read my way through the entire Great Books of the Western World set, but since that project is likely to take about 10 years, I'm sure I can fit in other stuff as I go along.

    And I believe that Ceiling Cat is the deity you're thinking of, NM. Fear the watchful gaze of Ceiling Cat.

    word verification = proetth

  7. didn't you say something not too long ago about teaching the Bible in a lit class? Am I confused?

    Close. I do some Bible stuff with my seniors - mainly just the Gospels and a rundown of some of the more commonly referred-to stories in The Bible.

    I finished that a while ago. We're doing The Autobiography of Malcolm X right now, so I gave them some notes on the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I like to give lots of historical and social context to the stuff that I teach.

  8. Lance, I am highly encouraged that your grammar in this comment closely resembles that of LOLcats. Obviously, you have come to know the Great Kitten and his Furry Powers of Wet Food and Salvation. Fur balls be with you!!!

    Dat duz scare me.

  9. Nonmagic said...
    "So, anyone else want to plow through it with me?"

    So, hey, you know how I love you guys and I support you and that, but, well...

    no. Seriously, you've already got further through than I ever had; I tried to read the whole thing through a few years back as an excercise in "fair hearing", but I was monumentally bored by the third chapter of Genesis.

    This is not an attack on Christians, by the way, I've also read the first three paragraphs of the book of Mormon, the first chapter of the Bagavad Ghita, none of the Koran, the first quarter of the Illiad and half a page of the first Harry Potter book. I am seriously intolerant when it comes to reading; bore me on the first few chapters and there'll be no second chances.

    I have, however, read the Lord of the Rings trilogy about fifteen times.

    Yeah, I know. Geek.

    Word ver: dentso. Sounds like soap for your teeth.

  10. Nonmagic,

    So I always wonder does this not point to a god that plays favorites, revealing himself to some and not to others, yet punishing the ones he doesn't reveal himself to with hell fire?

    Because that's not what their authority figures tell them it points to. Their authority figures tell them that it points to atheists wanting to deny God because we don't want to be accountable to Him.

    It's my opinion that nearly every fundamentalist could be also accurately described as an authoritarian. And if you think the christians are big on authority figures, try checking out the muslims sometime... yeesh!

    Regarding your enjoyment of both the bible and lolcats, I happily present you with this:

    LOLCat translation of the Bible

    My favorite part is this picture.

  11. Oh, another thing regarding Nonmagic's quote that I posted above: muslims believe that Allah has selectively blinded people to Him, meaning that there really isn't any way for them to avoid Hell-fire. The muslims I've talked to are ok with this, because hey, whaddya gonna do? It's Allah. If he says that's the way it goes, then it goes that way.

  12. Oh! And you GOTTA read the subtitle to that picture. It's displayed below the picture in the link I gave, but you can also see that picture in Genesis 3 (possibly my favorite chapter in the Bible).

  13. Has anyone else read David Plotz's "Blogging the Bible" series on Slate?

  14. A bible study at Raytractors?!!.
    Now I've seen everything.

    The end is near!!

  15. The end is near

    Which end would that be?

  16. My 22-month old daughter goes to a thing on Fridays called 'Music Time'. It takes place in the local Baptist church (UK so not as loony as a US Baptist church) though it's not religiously-oriented and is open to all. They do Disney songs and nursery rhymes and that kind of thing.

    They do, however, do the one or two song with loose religious connotations. I'm not entirely happy about it but I've decided that since my daughter is not being exposed to anything overtly religious (there's no preaching, for example), that I'll grit my teeth at the odd bit of religious crud and let it go - you know, it's not like I'll melt if I hear it, and she won't be able to pick up on the religious connotations, so...

    Had I known from the start that this was going on, I might have made an issue of it, but it was six months before I even learned it was at a church and it is pretty incidental to the general idea of kids enagaging with music.

    She'll only go for about a year anyway, and I'm genuinely not that concerned.

    One of the religiously-inspired songs is 'The House upon the Sand'. You probably know the song;

    "The wise man built his house upon the rock
    And the rain came tumbling down
    And the house on the rock stood firm."

    "The foolish man built his house upon the sand
    And the rain came tumbling down
    And the house on the sand fell down."

    (cut down for space)

    I like to think the man who built his house upon the rock, is the man who bases his worldview on empirical evidence, and the man who builds his house upon the sand is the man who bases his worldview on wishy washy nonsense for which there is no evidence. I'm not entirely sure whether the people at the Baptist Church would agree...

    There is a point to all this - hang in there.

    There's a case for saying that if the foundations are thoroughly rotten, where's the necessity in checking the fabric of the rest of the building? So, while I'm happy to read the Bible from start to end again, I'm not sure there's any great necessity to go beyond the foundations.

    Anyone up for doing the Koran in parallel?

  17. Daniel,

    You mean the end of the week, right? It is Friday!

  18. Lance,

    I finished that a while ago. We're doing The Autobiography of Malcolm X right now, so I gave them some notes on the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I like to give lots of historical and social context to the stuff that I teach.

    That's very cool that they are learning historical and social context along with what you teach.

  19. Paul,

    I've never touched a LOTR book. I know reading isn't everybody's' thing and that's fine. If you change your mind, though, let me know.

  20. Nohm,

    That was just great! I've seen the LOLcats Bible before as well as LOLtheist. There's always some very funny, irreverent stuff there.

    I knew that about Muslims. I thought of it when Scumfort said that people who don't believe in his deity aren't able to understand the Bible.

  21. Baldy,

    Good story and I like the way you interpreted that song.

    I have a copy of the Koran and the Bagavadghita, but as I'm already reading 2 other books and studying for an upcoming class in conjunction with the Bible reading, I think I'm going to have to pass on the Koran reading.

    I'd love to see you guys do it, though, and get your thoughts on it as you go along.

  22. NM: What version of the Bible are you reading? You should of course use The Evidence Bible. It's just filled with interesting facts. It was put together by you know who.

  23. I have tried to go through the whole bible in page order, but it is very boring. I have been exposed to most of the Bible piecemeal, through being a christian for around 30 years of my life. Of course a lot of the Bible is ignored in church because it doesn't fit what they picture, but that is a different story.

    I can try to read along, I have a NIV bible at home. I also have a Strongest Strong Concordance. Which is useful when trying to figure more closely what the writer was intending without learning ancient Hebrew and Greek.

    If we are going to suggest reading, can I suggest "Small Gods" by Terry Pratchett? I am a huge Pratchett fan and this is one of my favorite of his books.

  24. Oh I have tried to read the Koran, but by Atheismo's beard, I think that is even more boring than the Bible.

  25. It'd be nice to do it using loads of different versions and concordances. Maybe we need a separate blog for it though? It would take up a lot of space on here.

    Either that or a BBForum (or eqivalent).

  26. Rufus,

    I'm using the NIV, but I have a copy of the KJV that has a lot of notes, a concordance ect.


    I think it would be great to use different versions, too. We could compare and contrast how they match up to each other. Who is going to be brave enough to tackle the KJV?

    We could do it on another forum and put links here to the discussions we have. I don't know anything about BFF. I'm wayyyy open to suggestions about where to do this and how to use the forums.

  27. I have a copy of the Jerusalem bible, which is chock-full of notes and cross-references and smar-like stuff like that.

    Of course, any version other than KJV is a work of Satan and corrupt. I haven't seen that firecracker go off over at the Swamp for a while, but a common fundie belief is that KJV is the only version that preserves The True Word Of God.

    A separtate blog makes sense to me.

    word verification = noednest

  28. That would be "smart-like." As in, I am so smrt.

  29. [So I always wonder does this not point to a god that plays favorites, revealing himself to some and not to others, yet punishing the ones he doesn't reveal himself to with hell fire?]
    I'm guessing you've never met the reformed Christians.

  30. I only have a Lutheran one in German. Might be funny to see what happens if I translate parts of it into English

  31. NIV is a good version. The language is modern, they have gone back to source material nad dropped a lot of stuff that from KJ that was obviously bogus (I know, the irony)

    Reading cover to cover is a good exercise. Do it in small chunks because
    1 There is often a lot of stuff crammed into a few verses. Just look and the volumes that have been written about Genesis 1
    2 It will make the boring stuff less of a chore
    3 It will allow you to analyse the boring stuff. It would be tempting to skim the long lists of rules in Leviticus, all about twhat priests should wear, and how many doves to sacrifice for this sin, and how many sheep for that, but even inthis minutae there are insights into stuff**

    **stuff is atechnical term that incorporates the character of god/the mindset of the priest classes/what fundies believe to be true.

    I'd love to join in

    When do we start and is there a schedule

    This is the kind of thing where a forum is way better than a blog.

  32. ps I think it is important to set a schedule, otherwise you spend 3 weeks discussing original sin and then the project founders somewhere in the middle of all the "begats"

  33. MFT,

    99% of what you do here is trolling for the hell of it, so I don't expect this will reach you at all, but it helps if when you comment that you actually complete a thought.


    I'm guessing you've never met the reformed Christians.

    Explain why this would matter, not just assume a stance and blithely walk away never to be seen in the thread again when you are challenged on it.

    Or don't.

  34. Tilia,

    I only have a Lutheran one in German. Might be funny to see what happens if I translate parts of it into English

    Oh now that could get interesting !! Also, I'll help you with some English swear words. I know more than I should, trust m.

  35. Stew,

    Good points. I'm going to collect the suggestions here and make a separate thread with some guidelines and a starting date.

    We also need someone who knows how to set up a forum...or get us into a forum...I have no clue when it comes to stuff like that.

    Let me see what other suggestions are offered in this thread and when it looks like as many people have responded as want to, I'll get everything together.

  36. How about this:


    I took the liberty of starting a new blog - I hope this doesn't tread on anyone's toes! If people don't want to use it, that's entirely cool, but if we think it's a way we could go forward, just drop me a line and I can add you.

    Commments regarding the content/style etc all welcome.

  37. Adrian Hayter who posts here and also over at All Ray's Childfren hosts a forum
    We could use that in the meantime. It would mean signing up. (But I already am) Or Richard Dawkins forums.

    Also, for a schedule how about this one?

  38. Drat, I literally JUST started reading the original cut (read: the one that didn't initially get published, i.e. the flipping long one) of Stranger in a Strange Land. Or else I'd be right in there with you.

    I got all the way to the middle of Exodus the last time I tried.

  39. Funny story that relates to the comment Charles left above about how some fundies think it's KJV or nothing at all.

    When I was a kid being raised in a fundy Baptist church, my mother swallowed the 'KJV only' belief.

    Some Bible salesman sold her a copy of The Living Bible and I actually started to read the Bible all the time because I could actually understand what it was saying. I was around 7 at the time.

    My mother saw some of the references to sex, particularity incest and such and threw it out because she said those things weren't in a 'real Bible' !!

    I was reminded of this last night when I was reading about Lot, Abraham, Abimelech and Sarah. Oh yeah there's no father/daughter fucking and brother/sister fucking in the Bible! None at all!

    Of course, I've already seen apologists try to explain this away by saying she was really his cousin or niece, or that she was really only his 'spiritual sister'! And for reasons precisely like that, I do not listen to or read apologists. there function simply to make the Bible say something other than what it really says and explain away things they don't like and contradictions.

  40. Stew,

    Do you know how to set up a section in one of those forums where we could do this? I seriously know less than nothing about doing that.

    I like that schedule. It's only a little bit each day, so it should be good. Then maybe at the end of each week we could discuss?

  41. Shaggy,

    If you change your mind, let us know. We'd love to have your input!

  42. I like Baldy's blog

    It has a defined limited purpose, so it shouldn't upset anyone.

    It requires no new signups/passwords to remember.

    I don't want to hijack your project nonmagic, but I reckon go with http://smrtbible.blogspot.com/

    We can be up and running in days.

  43. I'm up for this, I'll have to dust off my trusty online version of the bible though...

    If there's a version that hasn't been picked yet, I'll go with that one just to add some flavour.

  44. Stew,

    That is a fantastic idea! And feel free to hijack away. The more good ideas the better.

    I'll go grab that blog name.

  45. Oh, Stew, thanks for grabbing the blog name and getting it set up!

  46. Actually, I set it up (see earlier post).

    I've also sent you and Stew author invites. Can anyone else who wants 'em send their email address to smrtbible@baldyslaphead.co.uk and I'll send you an author request too.

  47. Oh well, Baldy rocks !!!

    And Stew, you rock too! :)

  48. I imagined that people might want to offer to take the lead on a particular chunk and then use whichever translation happened to float their boat, and then the comments would pick up on the variants, but there's no reason we couldn't pick just one for the main posts.

  49. Sounds good to me, Baldy.

    I'm going to be AFK for a bit, but I'll be back.

  50. Me too. It's 5pm here, and I'm off drinking...

  51. @nonmagic
    The doctrine you were describing seems a lot like irresistible grace(God reveals himself only to those he has chosen to save).It's an article of faith in the Reformed Churches.

  52. "It's an article of faith in the Reformed Churches."

    I guess we'll just have to see if this has any scriptural basis then, won't we?

  53. Nonmagic,

    He's talking about predestination - the belief that God has created billions of human beings for the sole purpose of torturing them eternally, yet this doesn't make him a bad guy, because he's "sovereign". It's part of the Calvinist outlook. It's the most obscene belief system ever devised, and its influence is pervasive throughout the evangelical subculture, even among those who wouldn't consider themselves to be Calvinists.

    I have an article by John Piper, entitled "How does a Sovereign God Love?", in which he says that if God should choose to damn his three sons, he'll be fine with it, because it isn't his place to tell God what to do. This is the type of person that belief system produces. It's Altemeyer's authoritarian personality gone haywire.

  54. Ok, I'm back.

    Ahhhh...predestination! My father was raised that way. Now I know what you're talking about. He always used to tell my mother when she tried to talk to him about hell that God knew at birth that some people were going there and some people weren't, and that there is nothing that one can do about it on earth.

    I have n idea if that is the exact same thing as you guys are referring to, but isn't that just the sickest most stupid thing you ever heard of? Besides Ray Comfort, of course.

  55. I've sent in my author request too. There's something special about the juxtaposition of Atheists Reading the Bible with the Atheist Bible.

    And it seems to me that predestination is an inevitable consequence of God's omnicience. I'm enjoying watching noworlater over at the Cesspool having to squirm and twist at the thought that his deity is so free and giving with the eternal damnation.

  56. it seems to me that predestination is an inevitable consequence of God's omnicience.

    Well, you could say (and the Arminians do) that he knows ahead of time who will or will not accept him, but he doesn't influence their decisions. However, most fundies, if pressed, are Calvinists to some extent, even if they consider themselves to be Arminians.

  57. Predestination is required for Omniscience. Which is why I argue that omniscience and free will cannot coexist. This is one of the main reasons I started to reject Christianity.

    Anyway thanks for the author invite Baldy.

  58. Beamstalk, I don't see how that follows. One could say that God knows the future, but doesn't influence it.

    You could say that predestination is an outcome of omnipotence, I suppose.

  59. Sorry cipher, you are correct predestination is an outcome of omniscience.

    Omniscience is knowing everything, thus the god who has omniscience would know exactly what is going to take place in the future and every thought every person has, is, and is going to have. Thus said god if they did create someone, would know ahead of time where that person would spend eternity. So that god is creating people to torment. The person or persons that god creates would have the illusion of free will but their path is already known by the god and thus predetermined. If they do something that is not predetermined then the god didn't know they would do this and is not omniscient.

  60. Also that is assuming some sort of utopia and torment for the afterlife. I am used to using this against Christianity.

    Christians are better off pointing out that God is not omniscient as can be shown through scripture. Think Genesis chapter 3, god cannot find Adam and Eve.

  61. Omniscience is, as far as I can remember, never actually said in the bible either but is implied at hard.

  62. Right - but I still don't think that equates predestination with omniscience. It would make God a shit, certainly, and he'd certainly be responsible for creating a being he'd know would suffer for eternity, but, if that being has "free will" (a ridiculously hard concept to defend, yet they rely on little else), we could still say that knowing the future is not the same as influencing the future.

  63. Predestination doesn't imply influencing. Omniscience says he knows what is going to happen, this would include everything he is going to do, himself. This means everything has to happen that way or he is not omniscient. Thus your destiny is predetermined before you are ever born.

    There is no free will in this scenario. There is the illusion of free will but no actual free will. Free will negates omniscience. Free will means you have the right to change your mind to that of something unpredicted by god. Thus god couldnt know what you were thinking, so no omniscience. Now if everything is predetermined because god knows this will happen, then if you think you are changing your mind but are still in step with what god knows, then you are still following your predestined path but you have the illusion of free will.

  64. Couldn't he know you're going to change your mind? He's always one step ahead of you, as it were.

    Actually, I think this is what most fundies think.

  65. That is my last example. He would know that you are going to change your mind. This is still him knowing what is going to happen ahead of time and you still following the predestined path. This is what I call the illusion of free will.

  66. Okay. I didn't read the last couple of sentences.

  67. jrk83 tried to argue with me that God knows all possible outcomes from any choice you make, thus making him omniscient. He said that the person still had to make the choice, thus free will.

    I tried to point out, that to his reasoning then god doesn't know what you will choose, so he is not omniscient.

    jrk decided then to try and argue semantics.

    It was one of those he can't accept that square peg won't fit in the round hole, so argues the hammer is wrong.

  68. What we have here is an antinomy. Which is two truths, two truths that sit side-by-side, seemingly irreconcilable and yet both undeniable.
    Truth #1 God is sovereign. Truth #2 Man is responsible. That is an antinomy.
    That God, first of all, orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose; the first truth.
    And then, that God holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action that he pursues.
    Now, I'm no physicist, but I believe that there is something of an antinomy in the world of physics in relation to the question of light.
    For I believe, unless times have changed, that light is conceived of in terms of waves, but it is also conceived of in terms of particles.
    And it is both true that light is waves but that light is also particles. To try to explain it in terms of one to the detriment of the other, is to be inaccurate.
    Both are true, but it is difficult to see how both can be true side-by-side.
    Now in this matter, the preponderance of response, in an endeavor to "tidy things up," to try to get our theology all buttoned down and to make sure that there is no mystery left, we tend to be confronted by the temptation to reject one side of the equation.
    And so, you can talk to people who will tell you "I believe only in human responsibility and thereby I reject divine sovereignty" Or "We believe in the sovereignty of God, and therefore we reject human responsibility."
    The reason that you or I may still live with problems in this area may largely be due to a reluctance on our part to recognize the existence of mystery and to allow God to be wiser than us.
    A reluctance to subject ourselves to the truth of Scripture. An exalted notion of human logic which says "if I can't understand it, I won't believe it."
    - Alistair Begg


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