Thursday, January 19, 2006

Does Anybody Really Read This Stuff?

This stuff, I mean.

I’ve been having some fun trolling over at the Dying In Christ blog for the past few weeks. The woman who blogs there, Maureen, seems to have the perfect mixture of kookiness coupled with a willingness to, at least periodically, respond to criticisms (and, since she does lots of gay-bashing, she certainly attracts a lot of that).

As a direct consequence of this trolling, along with a promise I made to a friend of a friend over a year ago, I was inspired to read the 4 main Gospels, starting with the Gospel of John. My copy of The Bible is the Red Letter Edition of the New International Version. Now, I don’t mean to be insulting to my Christian friends, as I have a couple whose intellect I do respect a lot. However, I honestly have to ask: How the hell do you read this stuff and still believe it?

Aside from becoming disgusted with the figure of Jesus almost immediately, the main thing that jumps out at me about the Bible is how poorly written it is. This is supposed to be the inspired word of God, right? As such, my expectation would be that the prose would be evocative, the plot would be riveting, the characters would be well developed and inspiring, and the polemic would be inescapably persuasive. The Bible is none of these things. A two-bit hack could write better. How do Christians explain this?

I’ll hazard a guess and opine that all the explanation required is the recognition that people have a terrible fear of death, with the corollary fear that perhaps there’s no meaning or value in the universe after all (other than what we give it). I will further conjecture that, in many—and perhaps most—people, this fear is so all-encompassing that they are willing to grasp at anything that might provide even a glimmer of hope, no matter how absurd it is (and the Bible certainly is that).

I’ve got more to say on this topic, but I’ll get to it in later posts. In the meantime, I’m hoping that my Christian friends won’t consider this one to be so judgmental that it doesn’t merit a comment or two, because I would like to inspire some sort of honest dialog about it.


Unknown said...

All kinds of people read the Bible!

Einzige said...

Hi, Craig.

What you say is, no doubt, true.

So, let me rephrase the main question of my post, to clarify:

How is it that you can read the Bible and continue to believe that it describes actual events and is the inspired word of an entity that created and continues to rule over us and the universe?

I'm sure the answer is "faith," but faith would be required even if the stories made sense and were compelling examples of heroism, etc. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't even provide that! Not only do the 4 Gospels contradict each other in important details, but even taken individually they don't make much sense.

In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus comes off looking like a charlatan who gets more and more bitter about the fact that no one important takes him seriously.

So, Craig, when you sit down and read your Bible, does it ring true to you?

steve said...

Very good points Einzige. My problem with holier-than-thou religious types is how they pick and choose what works best for them from the Bible, or from whatever book they (many times literally) subscribe to. You can be a bigot and hate those who differ from you because the good book says (very briefly) that gay folk are bad, but you can also kill a person, cheat on your spouse, or do whatever else you want (that goes against the ten commandments) then say a prayer or two and all's good. I've got no problem with people believing in some kind of higer power or force greater than them, but at least stop being simple-minded hypocrites! I've got my own theories on God, or a higher force if you will (and beieve that it is something we aren't even currently equipped to fully understand or comprehend) and wish, for at least the sake of human-kind (and any other species on this world for that matter) that we can try to THINK before so quickly subscribing to something just because someone said it's true. I think this is a case where emotion over rationalization actually becomes a real cause for concern.

Anonymous said...

Maureen isn't exactly what she claims to be, I think.

Einzige said...

Yeah, it took me a while, but I figured it out eventually.

She is brilliant!

honolulujuju said...

just as a side note on the literary merit of the bible and nothing else, is that the
1)new testament was written approximately 400 years after the proposed events; during which time a great deal of in-fighting and separation (culturally and otherwise) took place
2)the texts have been so mangled through innumerable translations and re-translations, restructuring, cultural context changes and misinterpretation..and I won't even get into the church's self-serving deletions and adaptations..that if it EVER had some congruency or flow, it was certainly lost during any or all of those changes.
If you want an adventurous telling, you might just try going to a church to hear a modern interpretation of the Gospel, which is really how it was meant to be relayed anyway.

Einzige said...

I agree wholeheartedly with what you're saying, Juju from Honolulu. The Bible's current disjointed, haphazard, and nearly indecipherable state is consistent with a fairy-story hold-over from an oral tradition among superstitious ancients.

I probably don't need to point out that if, however, we take the Christians at their word that the Bible is the inspired word of God then I don't see how your points could count as a good explanation for its current state.

...Unless it's God's intention to put us at each other's throats and confuse the hell out of us.