Friday, January 28, 2011

I Don't Believe in Bibles: The A-Bible-ist

"I don't believe in Beatles. I just believe in me. Yoko and me."
I'm probably more of an a-Bible-ist than an Atheist.

Rejecting gods, after all, is fairly trivial. The important realization is that the Bible is not authoritative as a moral, historical, or "spiritual" work. It's not a hard realization to come to, if one is willing to explore the issues honestly, but it can be a difficult realization to accept because acceptance has implications in one's views of most everything in the world, including oneself.

Those of you not from a Jewish background need to understand that the Jewish Bible is not the Christian Bible. The Jewish Bible includes the Torah, the books of the prophets, the other writings, and the Oral Torah. Christian and Islamic traditions have a different conception of the Bible's books, their order, and their significance. These latter traditions also reject the authority of Oral Torah. For modern Jews, however, Bible and Talmud emanate from the same authoritative time and space--Mount Sinai. Some others include the mystical writings of the Zohar as a third set of instructions given directly from Sinai.

I accept none of this, as I came to recognize and accept that the Bible (whether Jewish or Christian) was inconsistent, unreliable, and often contemptible. To be fair, I find there to be much beauty and wisdom in the Bible, too. Nevertheless, we as a society are ill-served by allowing the myths surrounding the Bible to stand uncorrected. The Bible isn't from God, it's not of "divine inspiration," it's neither inerrant nor infallible, and it's not a paragon of morality.

I have written before about the impossibilities in the Bible. I have talked a bit about its moral insufficiency. I have talked about textual inconsistencies. Today, I want to provide guidance for more information on the Bible's failed prophecies, scientific inaccuracies, and historical inaccuracies.

1. Failed Prophecies
First of all, as the people at TalkOrigins explain, predictions of the future can be fulfilled in many ways:
  1. Retrodiction. The "prophecy" can be written or modified after the events fulfilling it have already occurred.
  2. Vagueness. The prophecy can be worded in such a way that people can interpret any outcome as a fulfillment. Nostradomus's prophecies are all of this type. Vagueness works particularly well when people are religiously motivated to believe the prophecies.
  3. Inevitability. The prophecy can predict something that is almost sure to happen, such as the collapse of a city. Since nothing lasts forever, the city is sure to fall someday. If it has not, it can be said that according to prophecy, it will.
  4. Denial. One can claim that the fulfilling events occurred even if they have not. Or, more commonly, one can forget that the prophecy was ever made.
  5. Self-fulfillment. A person can act deliberately to satisfy a known prophecy.
There are no prophecies in the Bible that cannot easily fit into one or more of those categories.
For much more on biblical prophecy failure, see Farrell Till's illuminating article, "Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled." Till is an interesting guy. He has more articles on the subject of prophecy here.

2. Scientific Inaccuracies
As religious apologists are wont to tell us, the Bible is not a science book. Of course, they immediately turn around and tell us it is a reliable source of scientific information.
Exhibit A: The Bible is not a science book, yet it is scientifically accurate. We are not aware of any scientific evidence that contradicts the Bible. We have listed statements on this page that are consistent with known scientific facts. Many of them were listed in the Bible hundreds or even thousands of years before being recorded elsewhere.

Exhibit B: Though the Bible is not a science book, when it touches on scientific matters it is either completely accurate or non-contradictory, and often demonstrates remarkable fore-knowledge. There are many scientific facts mentioned in the Bible that were not understood by man until centuries after the Bible was written.

Exhibit C: The Bible is not a science text-book. Nonetheless, whatever the Scriptures mention is always scientific. Notice these accurate Bible statements: "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants are as grasshoppers" (Isa.40:22). This verse clearly shows that the earth is round, even though man did not "discover" this fact by himself centuries later after this was written. "He [God]...hangeth the earth upon nothing" (Job 26:7). The earth is held in orbit around the sun by the law of gravity. but it is not fastened to anything material. Notice the truth in this biblical statement: "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen [the physical universe] were not made of things which do appear" (Heb 11:3). In plain language, this verse says that God created the physical, material, tangible, nonphysical essence--out of spirit or spirit essence.
The amazing fore-knowledge of the Bible just ain't so when examined honestly. A case in point is that "circle of the earth" bit, which refers to the horizon and not to the idea of a spherical earth. Besides, the Bible makes plenty of mistakes. For a good, albeit cursory, assessment of the Bible's scientific errors, see RationalWiki. Also see "Was the Bible's Cosmology Ahead of Its Time?"

3. Historical Inaccuracies
No one, not even me, would be surprised if we were to learn that some--many, even--named characters in the Bible corresponded to real people. In fact, I'm sure many events are based on historical happenings. Nevertheless, the Bible is inaccurate in several places. I recommend visiting The Scripture Project for a review of these.

Some notables:
  • Daniel 1:1--The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim would be 606 BCE, at which time Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king of Babylon. It was 597 BCE that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem for the first time (without actually destroying it). By that time Jehohiakim was dead and his son, Jehoiachin, was ruling. (From TSP)
  • Deuteronomy 7:1--These nations [i.e., the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites] were “greater and mightier” than the Israelites, who according to Exodus 12:37 and Numbers 1:45-46 already had numbered several million. So the region, according to the bible, must have had a population of more than twenty million! (From TSP)
  • James 5:17--Three and a half years without rain? Hmm....
  • Joshua 8:28--forever, huh?
What's the point? The point is that there are many other books out there, and many of them are more deserving of time, reflection, and commentary than the Bible. There's no need to fetishize one book or one narrative. Our lives and our minds are too precious and too short to be invested in the cultic outgrowths of Bibical interpretation.

As for me, I don't believe in any book. I just believe in my prerogative to read and love as many as I choose and as many as I am able.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:08 AM

    Stamping Out Harold Camping

    I don't care a fig for date-setters, especially those who predict when Christ will return. The current champion is 89-year-old, headline-grabbing Harold Camping of Family Radio fame.
    Is Second Coming date-setter Harold Camping worthy of death? He already has a zero batting average after his September 1994 prediction fizzle and, according to the Bible, is a false prophet.
    Nevertheless that California shaman, who should be ashamed, claims he's found out that Christ's return will be on May 21, 2011 even though Matt. 24:36 says that no one knows the "day" or "hour" of it!
    A Google article ("Obama Fulfilling the Bible") points out that "Deut. 18:20-22 in the Old Testament requires the death penalty for false prophets."
    The same article reveals that "Christians are commanded to ask God to send severe judgment on persons who commit and support the worst forms of evil (see I Cor. 5 and note 'taken away')."
    Theologically radioactive Harold Camping and his ga-ga groupies (with their billboards featuring "May 21, 2011") should worry about being "stamped out" if many persons decide to follow the I Cor. 5 command.
    The above article concludes: "False prophets in the OT were stoned to death. Today they are just stoned!"
    PS - For many years Camping was not known as a pretrib rapture teacher. But now, for $ome my$teriou$ rea$on, he seeks support from those who believe in and teach an imminent, pretrib rapture which supposedly will occur SEVERAL YEARS BEFORE the traditional SECOND COMING to earth! For a behind-the-scenes, documented look at the 181-year-old pretrib rapture belief (which was never a part of any official theology or organized church before 1830!), Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" and "Pretrib Rapture - Hidden Facts." These are from the pen of journalist/historian Dave MacPherson a.k.a the "Pretrib Rapture Answerman" & the "Rush Limbaugh of the Rapture" - author of the bestselling book "The Rapture Plot," an "encyclopedia" of pretrib rapture history (see Armageddon Books).

    (Spied above on web. Russell)


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