Right now, I’m engaged in a Bible study. Bryon likes his introspection about religion to be fairly intellectual, and I’m along for the ride. If the Bible study has done anything, it’s turned me into a more skeptical, less devout Christian. I don’t see this as a bad thing necessarily.
The Bible is always represented as the world of God inspired by God. Well, honestly, not so much. The books of the prophets read like the predictions of Nostradamus, and the prophets wrote these books according to what they wanted to say. The idea of a god who isn’t vindictive isn’t really introduced until much later in the Old Testament (Isaiah the third).
The first five books of the Bible are Jewish law, history, mythology, custom and society. Ecclesiastes is the book of doom–nothing matters but this life, so live well. And so on, and so on. Christianity isn’t in the Old Testament. I’m not sure why we feel this is an important book to read for Christianity, given that huge parts of it are directly opposite Christian philosophy
The New Testament? There’s a lot of “Jesus said” in the New Testament that contradicts the Old Testament, but there’s also a lot of writing by opinionated men. Paul shares his narrow-minded views with the rest of the world, and it turns out that his views have been used to promote slavery, sexism, and homophobia. Revelation is one big acid trip. Read it. Think about it. Discuss it. Don’t take anything as gospel, except maybe the first four books, because they are the gospel. I believe strongly that Jesus would want you to examine what he’s saying, because he is a consummate teacher.
My third problem is what isn’t in the Bible. Why am I reading excerpts from the Catholic version of the Bible for the study that are unavailable in my Bible? Who made that call? And why? And what does that say about what religious people want me to think?
So…the Bible seems to be a document that serves the purposes of man, written in large part by men to further their cultural and personal agendas. There’s room for loads of discussion here, but that’s what I’ve come to as I’ve been working through it.
One could venture opinions about how most of the “God as violent father” sections are ways to justify tragedy, especially if you believe that all things must have a cause in a pre-scientific society. For example, earthquake? God must be punishing you.
Does this mean the Bible is worthless? I don’t think so. I think it means the Bible should be read and questioned. I think that religion should be mulled over. I think that virtue can be both secular and nonsecular. I consider myself a Christian, although the divinity of Christ isn’t necessary for me to be one. I like the code. I respect other paths to spirituality deeply. Tolerance is my watch word.
Except when it’s not. Because I don’t understand fundamentalism in any religion. If I could think of a time when fundamentalism did something positive in regard to human rights and human dignity, I might have a different opinion, but I can’t find any examples. Usually, fundamentalism is a religious trench people dig when they want to fight the battle of us versus them.
Continue reading “Never Invite a Desert God to Dinner”