There is an blog I read which is written by an atheist mother. I first came to her blog to read a beautiful essay written by her eldest daughter. If you read the essay, be sure to read the comments too. That was 1.5 years ago, and I am still a reader.
Today she asked her theist readers how we could defend the Bible despite its flaws. It is certainly not the first time this question has been asked but it makes for interesting discussion nonetheless. The dialogue is here. I will update this post later based on comments there because I do not want to derail her thread.
Here is what I wrote:
I agree that there are certain passages of the Bible that are cruel, misogynistic and just plain weird. So I understand why some would find it difficult to believe in a 'flawed' book but to me, it does not mean that the entire message of the Bible is wrong.
Every Christian I know picks and chooses the passages they believe in, either consciously or subconsciously. Even the ones who say that they are literal believers.The Bible has been around more or less in its current form for about 2000 years. It has influenced our evolution as a society (especially western society) mostly for the better. I know that unspeakable atrocities have been committed in the name of the Bible but isn't that true of all religious books? When huge masses of people apply themselves to any book, be it the The Bible or Harry Potter or The Origin of Species, there will be some who simply don't *get it*.
I will not say that everyone should respect religion. What will happen if religious people have to prove that religion deserves respect? We would have examine our beliefs, we would have to think and study more and not be complacent. And that is a good thing.
One of the commenter's wrote this
'Scruples, ethics, and simple human courtesy are all attainable without referring to the bible, and no other religion/faith/superstition has any better track record.'
So I replied : I agree with this first part of this statement on principle. It can be argued that morals are mostly innate and the result of social conditioning. But are there any societies which have flourished without any sort of religion? I am not referring to individual people who are atheists in a mostly religious community. But a society as a whole which has never seen the need for religion.
ETA: Berlzebub says
Every society has had a religion. Even those with a secular government, including the U.S., has had a majority of the population that observed one religion or another. So attaining that data might be next to impossible.
The problem seems to be the neighbors. By neighbors I mean neighboring societies such as a neighboring family (or tribe), town, or government. Two groups can get along if neither feels the need to proselytize or convert, but if group A feels that group B has to be of group A's religion that's where problems arise.
I appreciate Berlzebub answering my question even though it digressed slightly from the topic at hand. I wonder if his alias is a take on Beelzebub, another name for Lucifer in the Bible. It is the name of a different God(Baal?) who was worshipped a couple of millenia ago.
Anyways, coming back to his answer, he confirmed that there were no societies that we know of who survived without any form of religion. I have often wondered why it was so. Is it because a need for God is hard-wired into peoples brains? Or is it the fear of the unknown which naturally progresses into religion.
To be fair, just because society needed religion in the past, it does not mean that purely atheist societies are not possible.
Milo Johnson said...
The society of science has flourished without religion.
Science is a discipline, not a society. Yes, scientists belong to a society but they are a part of a larger religious community. So I do not think that it is a valid example.
Every rule, practice, custom, and mandate in the bible is completely contradicted by another part of the bible.
That is an exaggeration. There are verses in the Old Testament that are contradicted by the New Testament. Some of them famously by Jesus himself.
If parts of the bible are hurtful, or just wrong, then to me this is evidence of authorship by humans instead of an almighty deity.
I believe that the Bible was authored by humans who were in turn inspired by God. Humans are not about absolutes, we are influenced by our life experiences, our prejudices.
Saint Paul is known as the apostle who had the most misogynistic views in the early church. How much of his writing was his Sadducees and Pharisee upbringing? How much of it was his own reaction to the women in his life? Is it blasphemous to wonder if he hated his mother? Did he hate the woman who spurned his marriage advances? Is the High-Priest's daughter responsible for the whole women as submissive partner aspect of some Christian marriages?
I would love to hear feedback from fellow Christians.