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Topic: Reading the bible if you're atheist, etc.

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Subject: Reading the bible if you're atheist, etc.
Date Posted: 5/31/2010 4:08 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2009
Posts: 287
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Just wondering how many people who are atheist, agnostic, alt. religions have read the bible and what was your impression was.

Date Posted: 5/31/2010 5:18 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Kat:  I suppose you mean "have read the Bible as sacred scripture" ?   That's a different exercise than reading the book as literature.  Biblical references are so embedded in the English language that a person HAS to know them in order to share in the anglophone culture.   That's less true of new books, but if you have reason to read stuff written in earlier centuries (but still in Modern English, as opposed to Old English or Middle English), you do need to know to whom or what the words allude.   You have to know Greek and Roman mythology, too, to read stuff from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries.  Nowadays, I think, a reader needs to have also a pretty good lexicon of scientific and technological terms in order to comprehend what is being published.   And then of course  there is the "popular culture" infusion in contemporary literature . . . . the vocabularioes of space travel, genetics, robotics, etc., from books, movies, television, advertising, and sports.

(It's kind of fun to ask your educated friends to conjugate "to be" and "to do" and "to have"  and other verbs in the second person familiar of Middle English.......most of 'em say "WHUT?????")    The "King James" translation of the Bible is chuck full of "arts" and "shalts" and "doths" and "dost"and "haths" and "hast", etc.    Other languages still have the distinction between the formal and the familiar----but gone from Modern English are the "thou, thee, thy, and thine" and the "ye". 



Last Edited on: 8/28/10 11:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/31/2010 11:32 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2009
Posts: 287
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No, I meant as literature. I haven't heard of many people reading the entire thing even if you're religious, so I'm wondering how many non or alternative religion people have read it fully.

Date Posted: 5/31/2010 11:51 PM ET
Member Since: 10/18/2009
Posts: 110
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I've read most, but not all, of it. It is good literature.

Amy
Date Posted: 6/1/2010 2:36 AM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 1,716
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Edited by Amy



Last Edited on: 8/19/10 3:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/11/2010 5:04 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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I tried reading all the way through the Bible from start to finish when I was a teenager. I got to the part in Genesis where Lot sleeps with his daughters, and that was the end of that. I can't IMAGINE why they skipped over that particular Bible story in Sunday School .....

Date Posted: 6/18/2010 1:47 AM ET
Member Since: 4/27/2006
Posts: 11,063
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I have read it even when I was young it felt like a mix of Aesop's Fables and natural disaters being thought of as signs, Then the 10 commandnents just was like a set of rules to follow to keep peace with the people like the law of the land.I couldnt get anything more from it because I m not a believer in the bible .If I was religious I must say I'd believe in it even less. I would think if God wanted us to have a book he sactioned and wanted us to follow,He would of written it himself.enlightened

Date Posted: 8/4/2010 11:28 PM ET
Member Since: 8/24/2008
Posts: 1,362
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I've tried to read the Bible in it's entirety, have read Genesis several times, and do plan on reading through it someday.  I keep a copy of it to read through when someone quotes something at me.  But then again, I also have copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Ramayana, the Essential Works of Buddhism and many other sacred texts on my bookshelf.  Some I have read and some are on my "when I get time" list. 

I've always felt that most of the 10 Commandments are just common sense.  My family and I like to argue religion (my parents are agnostic, I'm athiest, my grandmother is Methodist).  We've all agreed that there is really only one rule we should all live by:  The Golden Rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  If you look at the commandments that don't deal directly with God (the first three), which were all about convincing people to follow the remainder, the rest are all about not getting yourself into trouble.  At the time the Bible was first written, society was rather a mess, so they made some laws, aka the commandments.  Thou shalt not kill, because if you kill someone chances are someone in their family will take revenge and kill you.  Common sense.  Thou shalt not steal, because if you steal, you will probably get caught and punished, plus it is just bad form...you wouldn't want someone to steal from you, so don't steal from someone else, once again, common sense.  The fourth commandment was to give people a day of rest, a day off from work, basically it was an incentive...if you follow the rest of these, you won't have to work every day of the week...it was a bribe.

I guess what bothers me most about the Bible, even reading it as a work of literature, is how many times it has been revised.  I once had a professor tell me that "history is what the victor writes down" and I think that is probably true about the Bible as well.  I take it for a collection of stories which gave people hope in hopeless times.  A collection of stories which people believed in and which any ruler in his right mind would have been crazy not to change to his favor.  After all, in a time when people could not read and write, the masses believed what you told them, and I'm sure the temptation to turn a sacred text into a political text was one that was too much to turn down. 

Date Posted: 8/6/2010 5:41 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Melva, how 'bout the story before that where Lot gives his daughters to the townspeople of Sodom & Gomorrah to rape so they won't rape the two angels?  Really uplifting.  What I've never understood is if an omniscient god was so offended by that level of depravity in a society, would he even let it get to that point?  Why not nip the madness in the bud before sending your angels to double check the city for normal people?

Date Posted: 8/6/2010 7:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/18/2009
Posts: 110
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Vitallia, you may be interested in Old Testament history. Saying "when the Bible was first written" is a little misleading, since it was written as individual books spread over hundreds of years. As to what bothers you about the Bible, it hasn't really been revised. It does have many translations, but that is due to the fact that people want to read it in their current language, or similar reasons (language evolves).

Date Posted: 8/7/2010 12:37 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
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More than once.

eta the most shocking part of the Sodom and Gomorah story is that Lot was the only virtuous man left.



Last Edited on: 8/7/10 12:40 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/7/2010 11:23 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Consider the development of "Christianity" as a HISTORICAL event . . . . Judaism had introduced not just monotheism but an ETHICAL monotheism to the pagan world of the "B.C. E. (Before the Common Era) times.  And the "deity" was rather a stern, unforgiving, punitive patriarchal kind of deity, given to holding entire tribes to account for the misdeeds of a single member.  Then along comes a young itinerate teacher who says we should think of "God" as a LOVING parent, and feel a one-on-one relationship to that 'deity'.   That seems like a definite change for the better in the image of "God", to me.  Why Saul felt compelled to paint the bearer of that teaching as a part of the "Godhead" himself beats me.  But Saul/Saint Paul must have been an extremely persuasive guy.  For a long time I've thought that he was a great synthesizer, being a man of Hebrew lineage himself,who had received a Hellenic education  and who had been awarded Roman citizenship, which he valued.  He thus combined the three streams of intellectual ferment of his time.  From the "Epistles"  in the "New Testament" it can be seen that  he was pretty darned eloquent in putting forth his take on things, too.  But the parts that really stagger me are the doctrine of the Trinity, and then, the humongous superstructure that was erected on Saul/Paul's  thesis!   You know, liturgies, rituals, a hierarchy from parishioner to parish priest, on up through bishops, archbishops, and cardinals to a human being called  the "Pope".   And, too, there are the CATHEDRALS, the building of some of which bankrupted the population of Europe!  And the "props"  that go into the staging of "worship services"----rich robes, stained glass, gold and silver, altar cloths, incense, mighty organs  pealing out "sacred" music, and on and on. 

But how anyone can think that historical development can be arrested at some specific moment on the "calendar" just flabbergasts me!  Talk about "hubris"----believing that at one particular moment in Time and at a dusty little boondocky place on Earth  "God Almighty"" contravened natural law to send a message to the 'human' inhabitants of this particular little mudball (third one out  from a not-very-significant star in this little ol' solar system..

Sigh . . . . .Why can't physicists and metaphysicists at least try to get together?  Cosmology is an intriguing study.



Last Edited on: 8/28/10 11:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 6
Date Posted: 8/10/2010 6:16 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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Chris, Vanessa - I know, right! The most virtuous man in all the land willing to let his daughters be raped all in the name of hospitality ... I'd forgotten about that story.

Bonnie - your point about Chritianity as a historical development of ideas is spot on, IMO. It fits in with the whole Sodom & Gamorah Old Testament thing. Back then, women were treated like property, so of course it's ok to offer them up as virginal sacrifices to a mob of rapists. At least the men would be spared ... yay for human evolution over the years, is all I have to say. It's made it a better world for women, at any rate. Although we're clearly not there yet - that Time magzine story from another post gave me shudders.

Date Posted: 8/21/2010 12:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/5/2010
Posts: 13
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I grew up Catholic and have read the Bible in its entirety only once (good lord the book of Numbers is a pain) but have read portions of it several times both while I was still a Catholic, then a Christian and even after I had decided the whole thing was just not for me.

It is NOT a quality read.  It's disjointed, contradicts itself all over the place and has no discernable story arc.

The funny thing about reading the Bible now is that, honestly, it's shocking how violent it all is.  There are stories in there that I would never let children read - stories that would certainly put me off Christianity all together.  But on the rare occassions I've been pulled into arguments with Catholics / Christians it's always good to be able to discuss their religion in an educated manner.  When they say God is merciful, kind and loving I always ask if Lot's wife, Job and Issac's son would have a different opinion.

 

Date Posted: 8/21/2010 7:07 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Oh, Kelly, how true, your concluding remark especially . . .    I've sometimes thought that if a copy of the Bible were sent through the mail, hadn't it ought to have a "plain brown wrapper" ?    Or carry an "R" rating, for sex and violence?   Besides Sodom and Gomorrah, there was David and Bathsheba (and the plot against Uriah), and Onan, and the seduction of Samson, etc. etc. etc.

And it wasn't just the Old Testament that is a mish-mash . . . . . the astounding thing is how Paul synthesized all the religious notions of that time into a salvation cult that appealed to so many.

Date Posted: 8/21/2010 7:13 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Melva:  yeah, I feel sorry for those young women, but they got off with their lives, unlike Jephthah's daughter, whose father gave her as a human sacrifice when she had the ill luck to be the first one to go out and greet the warriors led by her father when they returned triumphant-------Daddy-o had vowed to sacrifice the first thing he saw upon his return, if Jehovah would grant him the victory in battle . . . . . .

Date Posted: 8/25/2010 3:23 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2010
Posts: 22
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you know what i find funny, is if you can find a 'precious moments' bible or some other childrens version and look up all the bits about rape and pillaging and bloody sacrifices and see how nicely they tried to word it.

read them side be side with the adult version and crack your self up laughing.

(there are also a LOT more references to gay sex then you would imagine, and in both the New and the Old TEST(E)aments)

hint: anything to do with "testa, teste, testi" has to do with the male reproductive organs.

Date Posted: 8/25/2010 3:56 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2010
Posts: 22
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back to the original question, Kat.

the bible is a VERY important book to read and understand for non-christians! it is VERY important. Our entire legal system is based on that book. the more you understand it, the better off you are, if you want to avoid legal proceedings.  and i'm not talking about morality! it has nothing to do with that, ...from a legal point of view.

in the old testament, slaughter and domination, war and slavery are all quite acceptable means to obtain wealth and power, . that is why bibles are used in court rooms. and that is why politicians (many start off as lawyers) seem to be able to get away with pretty much anything.  they understand this and use it to their advantage. (this also explains our foreign policy)

that is why the bible is black, black is the color of the law (highly symbolic).  that is why judges wear black. and also the executioner who wears a black hood.

there is far more to all of this then any of you would ever guess. and that's not a stab at any of you, it's just that they really don't go out of their way to tell us this stuff, they certainly don't teach it in our schools (at the bottom level anyway) and you'd never put it all together on your own, it is way complicated - very crafty.

also in the bible are the clues that there are different levels (classifications) of people. those who are special, and those who are commoners who must work to serve the special ones. (guess which camp we fall in) that is also built into our legal system, which is why some people seem to be "above the law". it's allowed for, and is a basic cornerstone of our legal system. no joke, that's why it's important to understand this stuff.

that's why you are judged by your peers - if you are nobility, you can't be judged by the commoners, only other nobility. get it? - that's not for us, it's for them.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 8/28/2010 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I was raised in a religious home, so I am very familiar with the Bible.  Maybe that's the reason I eventually decided I couldn't worship such a God.  But as has been pointed out, I think knowing it is helpful.  I was an English major, and in my opinion knowledge of the Bible is necessary to understand most of the literature in our language. 

Date Posted: 9/2/2010 10:42 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
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I understand your point Matt but I don't think you have to have actually read the Bible to get the knowledge needed. I look at it the same way I do Star Wars. Being a geek I am constantly coming across Star Wars references. I have never seen any of the movies (because according to my geekier friend the Ewok movie doesn't count.) Not seeing them doesn't hamper my understanding references though. It is so pervasive that I've got the cliff notes version down just from the constant references.

The Bible is pretty much the same way. Through constant reference most people know the cliff notes version of the Bible without ever picking it up. Some of those people also happen to be Christians crying

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 9/3/2010 8:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I really can't agree, Chris.  I'm not saying you have to read the Bible cover to cover to function in daily life, but the references in English Lit are vast and pervasive.  Sure, you might understand a "David and Goliath" reference, but do you know what "feet of clay" refers to?  It's still a phrase that pokes up in our language, but I doubt that most people realize it comes from a vision related in the book of Daniel.  If you go back to 19th century literature, that's the sort of casual reference all readers would be expected to understand. 

Date Posted: 9/6/2010 3:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2010
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I've been a life-long atheist -- and I have read the bible cover-to-cover multiple times. As has been pointed out, literarily speaking, it is a source of many literary references and inspired lots of classic works. In a non-literary way, as an atheist, it is useful and fun to be able to refute bible thumpers with an actual knowledge of the bible, including the contents and the history -- and as a citizen of America, it is nice to be able to understand the foundation such a large block of voters built their lives upon -- and what they are trying to legislate everyone else to have to follow.

Date Posted: 9/6/2010 11:20 PM ET
Member Since: 4/27/2006
Posts: 11,063
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Yes I find that very true in America right now the bible seem to carry way to much weight in our goverment,When the Taliban use Islam to run there agenda its seen for what it is.When we try and make laws that at the heart are really based on a religious agenda.Granted we aren;t stoneing people to death but alot of people would love for our goverment to have say over a womens right to choice what a marriage SHOULD be .Holding up important research by not allowing the use embryo;for cures for a host of medical condition and at the core of all these descions is religion.Laws should be based on fact and common sense not wwjd mind set.

Date Posted: 4/14/2011 9:58 AM ET
Member Since: 4/12/2011
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I'm working my way through The Bible right now. Around this time last year I was really deep into studying the scripture. I got so deep into it that it led me to become a non-believer. No wonder they say reason is the enemy of faith.

Date Posted: 4/23/2011 2:17 PM ET
Member Since: 9/6/2009
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I'm an ex-Christian who is now an atheitst and I studied the Bible in a lot of detail for the 8 or so years I was devoted to following it's teachings.  My present opinion of it is that it seems an aweful lot what one would expect to come from the minds of human beings and not some omnicient and benevolent deity.

I find it contains things that are detestible and things that are praiseworthy, just as human beings hold potential for both the great and the not so great. 

People around where I live pay a lot of lip service to the value of the Bible, but seldom do the live out its principals consistantly.  I always get a kick out of people who will begin an argument, "The Bible says" and then proceed to give me their opinion as though it now carries much more weight than without that qualifier. smiley

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