Why Atheists Shouldn’t Hate the Bible

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?

I realize the tone here is supposed to be mocking, but it may very well be one of the best fictions ever told.

I realize the tone here is supposed to be mocking, but it may very well be one of the best fictions ever told.

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.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Why Atheists Shouldn’t Hate the Bible

  1. As an atheist who is absolutely enamored by the Bible, I’ll have to voice some dissent from your opinions, here. The Bible is not “a work of fiction.” The Bible is a collection of scores of different books, written by different authors, in different genres, for different purposes. Yes, the Bible contains mythology. But it also contains poetry, legalisms, history, wisdom literature, apocalyptic literature, sermons, and letters.

    Calling the Bible “a work of fiction” would be like referring to Europe as “a Scandinavian country.”

  2. It’s not the Iliad or the Mahabharata, but it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than the Quran, which has to be the most tedious and repetitive thing ever written.

    • Your comment on the Koran is spot on.
      There are passages in the bible that will bore you to death regardless of how ardent reader you are. Take the genealogies for example or the thou shalt not eat this and that.

      • In most of the texts you can skip the boring bits: lists of ships, begats, or endless repetition. Usually you’re left with some fun stories. If you do that with the Quran (take out the hell reminders and the like) and you’ve got nothing left.

  3. I don’t hate the Bible either. The Bible is a symbol, metaphor for atheists and believers.

    Sections of the Bible that I’ve read are sometimes poetic, often mythic, and usually moral storytelling. I agree with you that Western culture, at least in the U.S., holds the Bible up as a great work of literature, if not the “Word” of god.

    The Bible seems more influential today than the writings of Shakespeare, and there’s many versions and translations of the Bible.

    Some parables and stories by Jesus like the one about ‘you who are without sin may cast the first stone at the sinner’ are powerful moral and philosophical tales. But so are stories of moral heros in Star Wars, Superman, and The Killer Angels (classic Civil War novel) and millions of other works of fiction.

    Unfortunately, many people see the Bible as a sacred, special text worthy of worship and guidance for living.

    How else to get people to see the Bible as just another literary work? Objective examination of the document’s historicity and origins? Question and argue against supernatural beliefs in the deity who supposedly wrote or inspired it? All these ways seem to help and I agree that civil discourse to engage others is better than “hate” or calling them stupid, evil, or wicked (which both militant atheists and Bible literalists tend to see the Bible in black and white).

    • I wish I knew how people eventually stopped believing in Zeus and those myths. I mean there’s not a single (sane) person who still believes those stories. How did that happen?

      Unfortunately I think the answer is “someone came up with a new religion” and sadly scientific explanations don’t seem to satisfy that replacement for people.

      Thanks for the comment and excellent points.

  4. I don’t know of anybody who actually hates the bible. More we hate what people use it to do. Personally, I think it’s a series of silly stories. I just don’t understand how people can still believe them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s