An Atheist Reads The Bible

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For some reason, I was thinking about the bible while I was in the shower this morning and I decided I was going to do one of those read-the-bible-in-a-year plans just for kicks and grins.

A common thing atheists hear from believers is “If you’d just read the bible, then you’d understand and you’d believe.” I highly doubt that, but it is true that I’ve never read it cover to cover. That doesn’t mean I’m completely ignorant of what’s in there; I actually have a pretty good idea what the bible says. I attended church 3 times a week for 18ish years wherein bible knowledge was imparted upon me. I’ve even attempted to read straight through it since becoming an atheist, but got bored and gave up by Numbers chapter 10 (78 pages in).

You know, the fact that read-the-bible-in-a-year programs are even a thing is telling of just how un-interesting Christians find the bible to be as well. According to the Christian Broadcasting Network:

  • More than 60 percent of Americans can’t name either half of the Ten Commandments or the four Gospels of the New Testament.
  • Some 80 percent including “born again” Christians believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a direct quote from the Bible.

So, it’s a bit unfair for Christians to demand that atheists read their holy book, when quite a few of them don’t even bother. But I’m going to try anyway. I figure it’ll be fun to say to Christians “Yeah, actually, I *have* read it” and it’ll be good blog fodder. I’m going to try to post a brief synopsis and/or my thoughts after my reading each day.

If you’re interested in playing along (something I highly encourage if you’re a Christian and you haven’t read the darn thing either), I’m using this schedule. It officially starts May 1st, but I figure if I start out ahead of schedule it won’t look so bad when I fall behind. I shall be reading the New King James Version, since that’s what I already have on hand.

Alrighty, here goes nothing.

Today’s reading is Genesis 1-3. Here are the things that stuck out to me:
Day 1 of creation, God made light, but didn’t create the sun and moon until day 4. Um…how does that work? I guess everything was just flooded with light until God concentrated it and “made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night.” (Gen 1:16) Because we all know the moon gives off it’s own light. Wait…

I’m in chapter 1 and the bible’s already getting things wrong! We know for a fact that the moon is just rock that reflects the sun’s light, but the bible says God made two distinct lights. Sounds more like people who didn’t understand astronomy wrote this than an all-knowing God…

1:7&8 – God divides “the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament” then “God called the firmament Heaven.”  There’s water above Heaven? Man, how cool would it be if there was water in space?!? It would certainly make space travel easier.

Moving on, there are two different accounts of creation here. Chapter 1’s basic outline is nature on days 1-5, then humans on day 6. Chapter 2, however, says “before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown,” God made man. Then he made the garden of Eden, then animals, and then finally woman. Which is it?

3:1- “The snake said to the woman…”  The snake “said”… Said? Snakes can’t talk. C’mon.

3:5- “For God knows that in the day you eat of it [the tree in the midst of the garden] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, God told these people not to eat from a specific tree without giving them any prior idea of what good and evil means. Then he punishes them for breaking his rule when they didn’t realize what they did was wrong until after they did it. And it was serious punishment too. It would be like telling a 2 year old child not to spoil their dinner with sweets, then forcing them to move out and get a job when they disobeyed. Completely disproportionate punishment.

3:16- “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  I remember reading this passage as a teenager, back when I was in the deepest throes of my Christian faith, and drawing a frowny face next this verse in my bible. It still makes me frown.

Also, children as punishment for sin? What a sad view of building a family. Also also, see my above concern about disproportionate  punishment.

And finally, 3:24- “So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”
That sounds cool! I want to meet angels, and see swords on fire move themselves! Tell me, where can I find this place? Ch 2 verses 10-14 lay out rather specifically where the garden is located. We know where the rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet (2 places, actually), so why can’t I go to the Middle East and visit the garden?

eden

Okay- feedback time. Good idea? Bad? Will you play along with me?

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About Essential Everyday Pineapple

Crazy cat lady extraordinaire, liberal, atheist, feminist, vegetarian, engineering student with an art degree. Essential Everyday Pineapple is just a phrase from a random word generator that had a nice ring to it. What? Blog names are tough.
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11 Responses to An Atheist Reads The Bible

  1. feelingblind says:

    The Bible is an extraordinary work of fiction. It contradicts itself as a whole, but what can you expect from a book that is basically an anthology? It’s mind-boggling how people use it to defend themselves and their (usually) outdated ideas about morality.

  2. I gave up on the bible long ago, and gave up on reading it even before that. Good luck in your endeavor, I hope to follow your analysis, it’s quite amusing. =)

  3. Dustin says:

    “Man, how cool would it be if there was water in space?!?”

    I have my space canoe ready to follow you during this adventure!

  4. Jacque says:

    Believe it or not, I was just talking about you in church this weekend. So, I would love to play along.

  5. Pingback: An Atheist Reads The Bible: Gen 4-7 | Essential Everyday Pineapple

  6. Pingback: Genesis 8-11 | Essential Everyday Pineapple

  7. Pingback: Genesis 22-24 | Essential Everyday Pineapple

  8. Pingback: Genesis 32-34 | Essential Everyday Pineapple

  9. Anonymous says:

    testing, testing…

  10. Anonymous says:

    No matter if reading the Bible or ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, context is essential for proper comprehension of any writing. There are several forms of context which you completely overlooked, including historical, literary, cultural, grammatical, geographical.

    Here is a good resource to study if you are sincerely trying to read and understand the Bible: http://www.theopedia.com/Interpretation_of_the_Bible

    –“Day 1 of creation, God made light, but didn’t create the sun and moon until day 4.

    This isn’t too surprising considering what we read in Revelation 21:23: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

    For clarification, ‘the Lamb’ is referring to Jesus, not a literal animal. And as for the moon, the Bible was written for humans, and it uses human language to communicate. Figures of speech and all. If it appears to the naked eye that the moon shines of itself, is it unreasonable for someone to use such terms to describe it? When we refer to a ‘full’ moon, are we implying that the moon is in reality more complete at one time of month than another?

    –“1:7&8 – God divides “the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament” then “God called the firmament Heaven.”

    http://www.present-truth.org/3-Nature/Evolution%20of%20Creationist/Chapter%2007.htm
    Dig it. ^

    –“Moving on, there are two different accounts of creation here. Chapter 1′s basic outline is nature on days 1-5, then humans on day 6. Chapter 2, however, says “before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown,” God made man. Then he made the garden of Eden, then animals, and then finally woman. Which is it?”

    Chapter 1 focuses (chronologically) on creation, and God’s relation to it.
    Chapter 2 focuses on man’s responsibilities on earth and relation to God.
    It begins with a sort of opening phrase:

    “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.”

    and then proceeds to give a retrospective account of how things fit together.
    Humans (and animals) need a certain atmosphere to exist. Chapter 1 explains that the proper living circumstances were formed, then people were formed and given life.
    In chapter 2 we get a sort of peek into God’s omniscience as we see how everything ties together, and each element was created for a purpose.

    –“3:1- “The snake said to the woman…””

    Being as ‘newborns’, I’m sure a talking snake didn’t seem too strange to Adam & Eve (as far later a talking donkey would to Balaam.)
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/09/05/feedback-satan-lucifer-serpent

    –“3:5- “For God knows that in the day you eat of it [the tree in the midst of the garden] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, God told these people not to eat from a specific tree without giving them any prior idea of what good and evil means. Then he punishes them for breaking his rule when they didn’t realize what they did was wrong until after they did it. And it was serious punishment too. It would be like telling a 2 year old child not to spoil their dinner with sweets, then forcing them to move out and get a job when they disobeyed. Completely disproportionate punishment.”

    This seriously downplays the holiness of God and the relationship man originally had with Him.
    Adam and Eve were given every good blessing. They were given food, dominion of the earth and animals, the company of each other, direct communion with God! They knew the God who created them. Had he proven Himself to be unfair? Untrustworthy? Deceitful? Malicious? Certainly not! There was no reason to doubt or disobey the one who had given them the very breath of life.
    Eve, it says, was deceived. But Adam, in full awareness of the warning of God and the consequences of his actions, disobeyed. He rebelled. Yet do we not do the same every day? We make it easy to have our way. We try to put the consequences out of mind. We say, it won’t matter all that much. We try to justify our actions and make them appear reasonable. “It wasn’t really a lie, I just didn’t tell the whole truth’…”It’s not really stealing because they’ll never miss it.”… you get the idea.

    To quote Thomas Brooks, “There is no such thing as a little sin because there is no little God to sin against.”

    As for the consequences, consider how merciful death is! God is eternal. He breathed the breathe of life into man and man was made an eternal being through that. Adam + Eve had the opportunity to live eternally, in God’s presence, in perfect communion yet when they sinned, they were separated, by necessity, from God. Pain, suffering, toil, hunger, etc. became a reality. If they lived eternally on this earth, they would eternally be tormented by the troubles, the pain, the toils of this earth and separation from God. Death was a kindness. Death allowed for an escape. But sin did not change the fact that man would live for eternity. That’s why, God in His omniscience, provided for redemption.
    http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-397

    –“3:16- “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you….Also, children as punishment for sin? What a sad view of building a family. Also also, see my above concern about disproportionate punishment.”

    ‘children as punishment for sin’?… The pain here is what is referred to, not the bearing of children. They had already been commissioned to “Be fruitful and increase in number”. Children were seen as a great blessing, given by God. Unfortunately, many nowadays do not hold this view and would rather murder (call it what you may) their baby than accept him or her as a blessing to be cherished, despite how they came into existence.

    –“..Ch 2 verses 10-14 lay out rather specifically where the garden is located. We know where the rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet (2 places, actually), so why can’t I go to the Middle East and visit the garden?”

    There was a cataclysmic flood, remember! The earth split, fountains burst into the air, the water canopy above opened up, mountains, land masses, lakes, oceans, caverns, etc. were formed and reformed and the entire earth was covered in water. Geography has certainly changed, even though names have been reused. If I drive by ‘Oak Ave’ and see no oaks, I can surmise that perhaps there once were oak trees lining the way. Manhattan is a Native American word for ‘land of many hills’, yet there are scarce any hills to be seen now, after considerable reconstruction since the day it was first named. And some American towns have names rooted in German or other languages, despite their not being in Germany.

    I commend you for actually reading the Bible and not blindly dismissing it, but proper hermeneutics and exegesis are necessary if you are to grasp what the authors intended.

    Some resources that I often look to for exposition on historical, grammatical, and other themes are:

    gty.org
    ligonier.org
    desiringgod.org
    heartcrymissionary.com

    Remember also, as you read, that the Bible is a collection of writings which document actual people, places, and events in history. Geography has changed. Our culture is quite different from the ones written about. The writers and other ‘characters’ spoke different languages than (most of us) do. And just because some of the ‘men of God’, or prophets, or God’s people did something foolish (or directly disobeyed God), that doesn’t mean that we can take those incidents as a reflection of God and His character.
    Rather, instead of seeing God through the actions of the wavering Lot, doubting Abraham, scheming Jacob, or disobedient and resentful Jonah, we see His character, His grace, His love, His patience, and His justice through His reaction and dealings with those men and those around them, despite their failings and human tendencies.

    And finally, I leave you with this: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/holiness_of_god/the-importance-of-holiness/

    and this.. I read the post where you were discussing Rahab and how she was mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. (As was King David–who committed adultery..and murder.)
    The point is this: that God will forgive us and accept us no matter who we are or how wicked we are, if we turn to him and repent. Rahab, I’m sure did not go on prostituting herself, and King David did not continue to murder innocent men. But that is not to say that they changed because they wanted to become ‘good’ people and impress God with their virtue.
    God cannot forgive a ‘holy’ man. If we declare ourselves to be without sin, then God can do nothing with us. Rahab, David, Saul, Peter, me… all of these people have one thing in common. They are all offenders of a just and holy God, who have felt the weight of their sins and cried out ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ The invitation to do so is open to all.

    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. -1John 1:8

    “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.” -Romans 3:10

    “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” -Mark 2:17

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