The Bible: the greatest book rarely read carefully

April 24, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

Part I: What’s really in the Bible?

Although I have regularly picked up my King James Bible, I haven’t had the stamina to plow all the way through.  Kudos to the authors of the “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.”   We know they really made it to the end because they left proof along the way:  They annotated the entire Bible, using sassy icons to point out its many contradictions and absurdities. 

Reviewing the SAB reminded me of the protests of one of my evangelical relatives, “You shouldn’t spend so much time finding fault with the Old Testament.  You should move on the the New Testament.”   Her approach was to ignore the embarrassing parts.  In my experience, the great majority of those who quote the Bible skip over these many embarrassing parts.  Hence, the project of the SAB:

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible attempts to remedy this imbalance. It includes the entire text of the King James Version of the Bible, but without the pro-Bible propaganda. Instead, passages are highlighted that are an embarrassment to the Bible-believer, and the parts of the Bible that are never read in any Church, Bible study group, or Sunday School class are emphasized. For it is these passages that test the claims of the Bible-believer. The contradictions and false prophecies show that the Bible is not inerrant; the cruelties, injustices, and insults to women, that it is neither good nor just.

You can find the entire Skeptic’s Annotated Bible at:  http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/index.htm
 

Part II: Americans say they read the bible, but do they actually read it?  Apparently not.  See this commentary from Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

“Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

These observations are entirely consistent with my own observations that those who bark the loudest that the Bible is the Word of God know very little about it and care very little about the meaning of the actual words of the Bible. 

This hypocrisy reminds me of one of Daniel Dennett’s many points from Breaking the Spell (2006):  Most Believers don’t really believe in God.  Rather, they believe in belief.  They feel compelled to say that they believe in God even though they don’t actually believe in God. 

How else can we explain that they need to remind each other of the Bible’s basic “truths,” week after week, in church?  Why so many reminders?  Do they keep forgetting the world’s most imporant events?  And how else can we explain that we rarely if ever see anyone carrying the world’s most important book to professional sports events, to a shopping mall or to cocktail parties?  If Believers truly believed, they would carry the Good Book everywhere and talk about it constantly, not just while in church. 

Ergo . . .

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Category: Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. John Campbell says:

    I understand your skepticism of "believers" and I by and large share your concerns, but I do think you paint "believers" with a wide brush. Like any other stereotype, the result is an under and over-inclusive characterization. You are right that many who proclaim themselves as believers are judgmental, sometimes hateful people. You are also right that many are biblically illiterate. BUT, not all are. Some are people who have found a meaningful and fulfilling way to live. I believe the real Jesus Christ could offer the world a great deal.

    Some "believers" believe very much that the whole Bible is intended to help people understand God. This does not mean it is the only way to understand God. Many believers are convinced that God is alive, listening, and concerned. They are convinced that they can and should talk to him as a friend. For those with a relationship with God, he is comfort on lonely days, and a guide when the world is confusing and frightening.

    Not all Christians are embarrassed of the Old Testament. Stories like David remaining the King of Israel after committing adultery and killing a man (at least indirectly) are to many, inspiring. They remind people that God has never exalted the "perfect," but rather has accepted us all as screw ups. I know that many Christians don't preach that message, but I think it is in the Bible to be found.

    The same is true of the "ten commandments." You reference them in many of your posts, but not all "believers" believe the ten commandments are the rule book of life. Maybe the problem is biblical illiteracy. Jesus, when asked to sum up the law in a phrase, never mentioned Moses or Mt. Sinai. Instead, he said that people should love God with their whole heart, mind and soul, and that they should love their neighbors as themselves. I assure you, there are believers who carry this as their sacred truth. You can find them all over the world, helping sick kids or risking their lives in war torn countries while trying to deliver food. What would the world be like if people made it of primary purpose to act with love towards others?

    You point out that believers remind one another of the truths of the Bible weekly and imply that this indicates they don't believe in God but rather in belief. This doesn't follow for me. I'm a Christian, and I believe the Christian life is counterintuitive to my nature. If someone treats me unkindly, my gut reaction is to respond in kind. Many Christians gather every Sunday to remind themselves that "loving your enemy" is the life Jesus preached. For some believers, church is a place to find strength and belonging. Its a place to find people that are caring and open. Although it may be a country club for some, or a way to exclude others, it isn't for everyone.

    Its sad to me, that the first thing so many think of when they think of Christ, is judgment or intolerance. It isn't what he stood for. It isn't what he preached. Jesus was a radical who would condemn many of the judgmental churches of today. I dare say he would have unkind words for the "believers" in your post. Jesus called the religious elite of his day a "den of vipers," white washed tombs that appeared clean on the outside, but on the inside were dead. When he saw people using the temple to make money, he overturned the tables. When he saw someone pick up a stone to kill an adulterous, he stepped in and asked the one without sin to cast the first stone.

    Perhaps you are right to criticize "believers," but please don't confuse that term with those who genuinely and meaningful believe in the message Jesus preached. Every group has members who are uninformed or disingenuous , but it is not fair or logical to judge that group's beliefs by its most embarrassing representatives. Islam is not evil because some Muslims are terrorist. The law is not useless because some lawyers steal. Medicine is not ineffective because some doctors commit errors, and Christianity is not false because some "believers" are confused.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's more information on Bible illiteracy among many believers. This is a well-written post by Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism. Ebonmuse sometimes posts over here at Dangerous Intersection. http://www.daylightatheism.org/2006/03/a-mile-wid

  3. shari syl says:

    The original "study" was done using public school kids so that should give you the real answer as to why 12 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. They no longer teach real history in the schools especially someone like Joan who was devoted to God. Fortunately the internet provides a better way to learn. Visit site like Joan of Arc – MaidofHeaven.com and you will find a tremendous amount of information on Joan of Arc.

  4. Erik Brewer says:

    Here are some mistakes in your skeptics Bible. It is funny to see how ignorant people can be when they try to act like they are smarter than God. Here is one example of every misquote that is represented in the skeptics annotated Bible

    Romans 4:2

    For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory.

    James 2:21

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

    If you will continue reading in James 2 (as well as the entire epistle of James) you will see that he compares 2 kinds of faiths, faith that is alive (one that causes works to happen) and faith that is dead/useless (it has no works). James uses the well known example of Abraham (the same one Paul used in Romans, although Paul had a different purpose, to show that faith saves us then the works come because his audience had it backwards, you guys really need to study the subject before making ridiculous remarks about contradictions).

    Let us see what James said

    James 2:21-26

    21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

    James makes his case, if it is just faith and then no works (ie life transforming faith) then that is not real faith, in fact it is dead faith. If it is real faith then it will be seen in action. That is why he says faith is perfected in works (ie made known to be real).

    I could do this for every so called cotradiction presented in the skeptics Bible but I do have a life and people to share the Gospel with and teach how to study the Scriptures so they will not believe every false thing they hear (like what you guys are doing).

    Please take a Bible and study it for yourselves instead of being deceived by stuff that is just not true. I was like you once so I know that you can change.

  5. Randy Kirk says:

    It is amazing that more who profess Christ do not read the Bible from cover-to-cover. However, most Christians I know are regular readers of the text, both in private as well as in Church and small groups.

    I take exception to one major premise in your posting. The reason we Christians need to be reminded week after week about the Truths in the Bible is that even those who are saved continue to have sinful desires. We are all tempted. We all sin. And as we mature in our spiritual walk with Christ, we become aware of things that we were not mature enough to get earlier. This is not an idea that is limited to spiritual maturity, but is true for all humans as we mature.

    In fact, just this week, in spite of a law degree from UCLA, 40 plus years of post graduate education through personal in depth study on dozens of topics, 6 published books and 7 readings of the Bible, I have concluded at age 62 that the older I get the less I know. I've heard the saying since I was your age. Now it makes sense. May you learn this lesson earlier than I did.

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