Best Textbook for Atheism: The Bible
Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
-- quote by Isaac Asimov
As a Christian the Bible would seem to be the last book any atheist would seek to study, understand, dissect, much less read. Contained in the pages of the Bible are miracles, mass genocide, Judeo-Christian values, commandments for the Sabbath and use of God's name, dietary law, roles of servitude for women, the Messianic Jesus, and prophecy, all of which any logically inclined atheist would recoil from in distaste.
Yet, the Bible, for all its idiosyncrasies, is the most potent force for atheism. Few (if any) religious texts are taken so literally and invoke such strong feelings as the Bible. Only the Qu'ran surpasses the Bible as a bedrock of societal law, and only in the Islamic world.
For this reason, reading the Bible critically could only lead to two very distinct conclusions: either, it is the very Word of God, must be taken as the truth, or is a load of Abrahamic dribble, with no more value than a work of fiction, such as the Iliad.
To reach either conclusion, one has to read it, and I'd argue reading it from cover to cover, starting with Genesis and reading until Revelation. Fair portions of it will be nonsense, confusing, boring, tedious, and uninteresting, but reading it gives one the fairer chance at an open-minded shot.
That said, if one comes into this arena, ready to tackle the Bible in its entirety, with an open mind and critical intent, I can see no way they could not reach the latter conclusion, and toss away the Bible as a myth.
Predisposition, brainwashing, foregone conclusions, and implanted ideas are what allow people to reach the first conclusion and devote their lives to following its pages. This is not to say pedagogues and devotees of the Bible are unintelligent, but I do see them as seriously misinformed.
I have here compiled a list of the most egregious infractions that came to my mind from every book of the Bible. I was, after all, a Christian for 17 years and studied the Bible rigorously, with passion and devotion. I've studied the ins and outs of many a passage and can easily tackle a deeply spiritual conversation with Baptist and Presbyterian alike. My logically inclined mind somewhat inoculated me from the typical haze or slack-jawed listless conformity besetting many Christians, leading me to many a struggle and intense questioning of passages and theology I found difficult. To this day some ideologies of the Bible still confuse and stagger me, which perplexes me why it is still followed without question or doubt.
I will lead this grand tour as if my audience were uninformed with regard to the Bible, with some tongue-in-cheek, literary criticism, and as much impartiality as I can muster. To get a fuller picture, read it yourself.
- Genesis holds the creation account--the story of our and our creation's origin--which has almost been completely obliterated by the Theory of Evolution (a soon future post for sure) with a side dish of Abraham, founder of Judaism and Islam, who was found righteous for almost killing his son at God's command.
- Exodus has Moses and ancient Israel, who, although practically destroyed the ancient Egyptians and spent their time wandering for forty years in the desert (they didn't have a compass), there is yet to be any archaeological evidence of it.
- Leviticus makes several ridiculous claims about what you can and cannot eat, what you have to wear, what to do to the end or your penis, and how many days you are considered unclean after having your period.
- Numbers is the ancient form of an accountant's textbook, with a special section for how to build a temple while going camping in the desert, as well as the account of the Ten Commandments. It is too bad Moses forgot the other tablet on Mt. Sinai which had the laws about rape and slavery and incest.
- Deuteronomy follows some of the exploits of Israel as they get to torture, enslave, and lay waste to ancient civilizations because the nations do not follow Yahweh.
- Joshua, new leader of Israel, is the Israeli version of Alexander the Great, leading conquest after conquest, killing tons of innocent people. And he spends the weekend with a prostitute too.
- Judges is like a recipe card: God gets mad at Israel, punishes them by letting the nations around them beat them up, then sends an imperfect prophet to tell Israel how bad they are but still save them, only to do it all over again. What's his problem?
- Ruth is kind of a cool book (minus the stereotyping of woman as only meaning something if they have a man). You have this very loyal hardworking woman, Ruth, who finds this rich guy named Boaz, and they live happily ever after?
- 1 & 2 Samuel follows Samuel (you may have noticed a trend in how these books are named by now) who, because his mom couldn't get pregnant--she promised him to god, remains a priest forever. He grows up to be a terrible dad.
- 1 & 2 Kings, if you thought Deuteronomy or Joshua was bloody, then this will surprise you. We have king after king after king, who do whatever they want, make the country suffer, and then probably get killed by the next usurping king.
- 1 & 2 Chronicles is the sequel that's worse the the prequel to 1 & 2 Kings. Yes, we have David who counts a lot of things, including he's descended from Ruth. He also messes up the counts from one book to the next I think over the same stuff. Also, he's a horrible dad and husband.
- Ezra is a boring book because, let's face it, it's written by a priest.
- Nehemiah is about a guy obsessed about rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.
- Esther follows a young maiden taken to be the wife of a foreign power (Persia) and saves the Jews from annihilation. She's brave, smart and pretty, but still mistreated.
- Job is a lesson in why you shouldn't trust God: God makes a deal with the devil and takes everything away from Job just to prove to Satan God is in charge, but is he really?
- Psalms is a very large compilation of poetry with many passages describing the wicked versus the righteous and how God is going to enact vengeance on the wicked.
- Proverbs is a book written by father to son, and has many important truths about saving for the future, etc., but again harps on this whole idea of good people versus evil people, as if the real world is composed of people who only do evil and people who try not to; very fairytale like.
- Ecclesiastes spends the first half trying everything Solomon can find to make him happy, that includes alcohol, money, sex and drugs (possibly the first rock star), only to decide none of those are worth it; possible brain damage led him to conclude that following after God was the best option?
- Song of Solomon really has little to do with worship of God and more love poetry between a woman and her lover. For the KJV only Christians out there, Song of Solomon 5:4 has got to be the best verse in the Bible:
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
- Isaiah is another long read about a prophet following God and not making much headway; there's a lot of prophecy that is confusing as can be.
- Jeremiah is also a long read; the injustice incited by the Old Testament prophets is exhausting and obscene.
- Lamentations will make you wonder whether God ever cares about anyone.
- Ezekiel is part two of God not caring about anyone; I mean, if God describes his chosen people in the fashion he does in Ezekiel, who has any hope? Ezekiel is also instructed by God to lay on his side for almost a year and then on his other side for over a month.
- Daniel follows the story of a guy who survives being eaten by lions, three guys who don't die after being cast into a fiery oven, and king Nebuchadnezzar, who would not have been king when this book suggests.
- Hosea follows a prophet who is told by the Lord to take a prostitute as another wife.
- Joel is a short prophetic book about the destruction God will cause on some nations.
- Amos is another prophet of God bemoaning the Israel nation and calling down curses on them.
- Obadiah is a short book with instructions on how God wants Israel to defeat the Edomites.
- Jonah--another favorite Sunday school story--follows the outlandish adventures of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and surviving.
- Micah is another prophet of God promising destruction on Samaria, Assyria, and Gentiles.
- Nahum is more promises by God to get even with Israel's foes.
- Habakkuk promises destruction on Babylon.
- Zephaniah adds more to God's hit list: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, the sea coast, Canaan, the Philistines, Moab, the children of Ammon, Ethiopians, Assyrians, and Nineveh.
- Haggai is short, mentions other nations God will judge, and has some sketchy history too.
- Zechariah has more judgment on nations and plans to make Jerusalem great.
- Matthew has a very sketchy genealogy ending with Jesus.
- Mark is the shortest gospel and the one for which the other gospels relied on, yet still little details are contradictory between the accounts, like "how many times and when did the rooster crow at Peter's denial," "who went to Jesus' tomb/who got there first," "did Jesus feed a multitude on a mountainside or in a plain?" There's also a section of Scripture at the end of Mark that mentions Christians will be able to handle snakes and drink poison, but the church is still undecided in this is canon or not.
- Luke is the more lengthy account of Jesus' life and work, but seems to be the only one Christians refer to as it is the one which they use for Christmas plays and for many a sermon on Jesus' parables.
- John focuses on Jesus' ministry following John the Baptist, who Jesus seems to be discourteous to and doesn't tell him that he is the Messiah.
- Acts follows the early church who suddenly have superpowers, being able to raise people from the dead, blind people, handle poisonous snakes, and escape from prison.
- The following are all written by Paul as letters to churches and is where most Christian doctrine is based. It amazes me that Christians seem to think that today's Christian church is based on Jesus or John or Peter, when all living doctrine is grounded in the writings of Paul. I think it strange to have your religion based on one guy and written by another, even if the latter was writing for the first.
- Romans, a theological text.
- 1 & 2 Corinthians, letters to Corinth
- Galatians, letter to Galatia
- Ephesians, letter to Ephesus
- Philippians, letter to Philippi
- Colossians, letter to Colossae
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians, letter to Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy, personal letter to Timothy
- Titus, personal letter to Titus
- Philemon, personal letter to Philemon to accept back his runaway slave, Onesimus, another Biblical sanction of slavery (see more here).
- Hebrews, the author is unknown, but I think it is likely it is Paul. It features a sort of "hall of Biblical heroes" that relied on faith over sight and followed God. Among them are Abraham who was willing to literally sacrifice his child to follow God. Note the emphasis on using faith over your five senses.
- James the brother of Jesus writes about how faith without works is dead. The saying, "a pair of hands at work does more good than a thousand clasped in prayer" comes to mind.
- 1 & 2 Peter is the story of Peter preaching the gospel to Gentiles--you know--the same people God was going to judge, kill, and set apart from the Covenant in the Old Testament.
- 1, 2 & 3 John feed the Christian with the victim mentality that the world is out to get them.
- Jude talks about some people that God "ordained" to deny him. Sounds fair.
- Revelation might be the best read in the Bible. You won't understand it, but it reminds me of a fantasy apocalypse novel or something. It has dragons!
All in all, the Bible might be the most divisive book one can read. Once I stepped back with a fresh face and seriously evaluated the Bible, I was more sure of atheism than prior.