We know the bible is a work of fiction. Even Christians should be able to admit that by now, and it is only the stubborn, evangelical types that will insist Adam and Eve were real.
We know the bible is full of contradictions and moral ambiguity. It is up to the man who reads it to figure out which message resonates with him and accept it into his character.
We know the bible is the tool of the stubborn and ignorant to make foolish arguments and obstinate claims that can lead to prejudice, war, and even genocide.
So why shouldn’t we hate the bible? Well the bible itself isn’t responsible for how irresponsibly people use it. When many people outside of faith read it they only see it as a wretched pile of lies and contradictions that certain Christians cling to in order to make the same argument over, and over again: The bible says, the bible says, the bible says…. Ugh. Use a different book for once!
When I first read the bible I couldn’t help but get riled up at how people could actually take this literally. At all the strange, and downright wrong stuff that was in there that they never told me about in Catholic school (Lot’s daughters raped him? Why didn’t I learn than it 3rd grade?). I noticed numerous contradictions and became confused as to which message I was supposed to be listening to. I realized just how ridiculous it was to try and use this book as a source for a credible argument.
Learning all that is important.
But so is reading it without all that baggage.
I realized this when I read Isaac Asimov’s autobiography I. Asimov (yep, bringing him up again, get used to it). I was surprised when I read that he, a well-known atheist and humanist, loved the bible, but then he put it in terms I was able to understand.
There is a swing to biblical language that impresses the ear and the mind… there is no question that the Authorized Version (that is, the King James Bible) is, along with the plays of William Shakespeare, the supreme achievement of English literature.
And there it is. So obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. If you read the bible with no worries about what people use it for, or that some people take it literally, it’s a very enjoyable piece of literature. You know there’s a kid who slays a giant in there?
The Bible is just another Iliad. People once took that as fact, but were eventually able to accept that it is fiction and came to appreciate its literary merit.
I’m not going to hate the bible for what certain people use it for just like I don’t hate Catcher in the Rye because some idiot thought it was telling him to kill John Lennon.
So if you can, try to read the bible without worrying about all the stuff that might be in your skeptic head. It’s actually a pretty fun read if you read it as a piece of fiction.
Or, if possible, read Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible where he goes through the entire book and explains the numerous allusions and historical contexts for a modern audience in a completely informative and non-theological way. I’d love to get my hands on a copy of that.