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Blogging the Bible
Entry 1119, on 2009-11-16 at 20:52:14 (Rating 4, Religion)
Whenever I criticise the Bible I feel a little bit unsure of myself. The Bible is supposedly the greatest book ever written and the people who should know it the best (Christians) are adamant that it has no errors. Yet I see a book which is clumsily written, self contradictory, internally and externally inconsistent, and represents a very mixed approach to morality (at best).
So there seems to be a lot of disagreement and as a true skeptic and rationalist I naturally have to consider the possibility that its me who is missing something. But maybe not. Last week I briefly debated the consistency of the Bible with a fundamentalist and he didn't even know about the problems I was mentioning and certainly didn't have any answers. I have encountered this a lot in the past - even though I'm an atheist I know more about some aspects of the Bible than the believers!
But what about Biblical experts? It seems that real Bible scholars (I don't mean religious leaders here, I mean true scholars) recognise the problems. The two descriptions of creation in Genesis, for example, clearly discredit the whole story. But believers insist they are just two variations on the same story. Apparently scholars recognise the two stories come from completely different authors and times (the first one was written last) so that fairly well disposes of the "two variations" defence.
I recently listened to a podcast where David Plotz was interviewed. He is a journalist (and Jew) who wrote an extensive blog called "Blogging the Bible" where he read and commented on the whole Bible. I was interested in his opinion as a Jew on the Old Testament in particular and I wasn't disappointed (I should say here that Plotz is a cultural Jew which means he had a Jewish upbringing and accepts the Jewish culture without necessarily literally believing all the theology.)
So reading through the blog it seems that Plotz notices the same problems as I do. For example he mentions the inconsistencies such as the two creation stories in Genesis. He notices the arbitrary morality such as God protecting Cain after he killed his brother (what's that all about?) And he notes the jealous overuse of power by God for no well documented reason when he kills almost everything on Earth with the Flood.
We can see that these stories clearly aren't true, because they are inconsistent, disagree with plain observed facts, and blatantly borrow from the myths of earlier religions. But even if they were true what would it tell us? That God is a jealous, evil bully. He applies his own laws inconsistently, is unclear about what those laws even are, and cannot even be trusted to do what he says.
An interesting point that Plotz mentioned is the difference between Jewish and Christian attitudes to theology. Because the Jewish god is so unreasonable it was common for Jews to formulate debates against him (there are examples in the Bible) but Christians don't have that need because their god is supposedly good (although that's highly debatable). Plotz jokes that this might be why there are so many good Jewish lawyers but I would suggest that maybe it goes beyond that and might partly explain why Jews are so over-represented in many areas, such as science and art, as well.
Compare the questioning, skeptical attitude of Jews with the unthinking ignorance of fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. Its no wonder those groups are so under-represented in so many areas of achievement.
So I'm going to read through the rest of "Blogging the Bible" and some of the sites which try to counter his criticisms. Next time I debate with a creationist I will know even more about their holy book and will be able to destroy them even more completely. Debating with creationists - its hardly even a challenge any more!
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