“It ain’t those parts of the bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Mark Twain
People have different reasons for leaving their faith. I think for me it was the concept of hell which then led me to study the Bible. The Bible itself then became the main issue. Somewhere along the way it hit me. What if the Bible isn’t a perfect book? Not only that, but what if it isn’t even trustworthy or true? What if it is no different from any other holy book – or any book for that matter? What if it was written by men who were just trying to make sense of the world around them? What if they had been struggling to make sense of the complexities in life just like I was?
My three main issues with the Bible are:
- How it was put together.
- Its contradictions.
- Its immorality.
I will cover these three areas, but first let me start with a passage from ‘50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God’ by Guy P. Harrison:
No holy book contains anything so special that it cannot be explained as the work of mere mortals. Believers have tried very hard for centuries but no one has ever found anything in any book that is clear evidence of a god. Furthermore, the impact of holy books seems to have a limited effect on people. No single collection of sacred words has ever managed to win over most people. This is odd. If one of these books really is a direct message from a god, then why has it failed so miserably to convince so many people? The Bible and Koran, for example, are by far the two most successful holy books ever, but neither one of them is impressive enough to silence the other or to convince even half of the world’s people that it is the truth. Although both books have been remarkably successful at impressing beleivers, one of them is wrong. They make important claims that are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. For example, one says Jesus is a god; the other says Jesus is not a god. This means that, at the very least, more than a billion believers have been hoodwinked by a book that is not a message from a real god. The fact that one of these books must necessarily be false, yet still manages to convince so many people that is is true, shows how people can be entranced by a book that is just a book. And if that can be the case for one book, then it could be the case for all of them. It is possible that all holy books, no matter how old or popular, are the work of people and not gods. (pg. 92)
How it was put together.
If God really wanted to communicate a message to all of mankind, wasn’t there a better method than the Bible? Both the Old and New Testaments were only given to a small group of people. They didn’t come down straight from heaven but were written by men who we have to trust had a message from God. Then we have to trust that we listened to the right people who said they had a message from God. Here is an indepth article about how the Bible was put together:
The Canon of the Bible by Larry A. Taylor
Read any of Bart D. Ehrman’s books on this topic.
When I was a Christian I saw all the different denominations and diversity within Christianity as a good thing. We can interpret the Bible differently but still be part of God’s family. Diversity is a good thing, right?
Well – sometimes. But now I see the different interpretations as a failing of the Bible itself. There are reasons Christians disagree on pretty much everything the Bible says. First of all, people all come with their own views and prejudices. Of course they will read the same verse and take something different away from it (but wouldn’t God know this would happen?). Secondly, there is no way to find out if one interpretation is correct and another one is wrong. Thirdly, the Bible is filled with contradictions so it depends which verses people want to focus on. Christians have ways of trying to unify all these difficulties within the Bible, but I got to a point where I wasn’t buying their arguments anymore.
First off, Christians can’t even agree on how a person is saved. I think this is because there are contradictory verses on the subject. Check out this link: Is The Bible Clear On How Someone Can Be ‘Saved’?
Here is a link to a long list of Biblical contradictions and then I follow with some examples.
Biblical Contradictions by Donald Morgan
These are taken from the book ‘godless’ by Dan Barker – (pgs. 222-242):
Should we kill? (Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 24:17 versus Exodus 32:37; 1 Samuel 6:19; 1 Samuel 15:2, 3, 7, 8; Numbers 15:36; Hosea 13:16; Psalm 137:9
Should we tell lies? (Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 12:22 versus 1 Kings 22:23; II Thessalonians 2:11)
Should we steal? (Exodus 20:15; Leviticus 19:13 versus Exodus 3:22)
Are we saved through works? (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16 versus James 2:24; Mathhew 19:16-21)
Does God change His mind? (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Ezekiel 24:14; James 1:17 versus Exodus 32:14; Genesis 6:6, 7; Jonah 3:10; II Kings 20:1-7; Numbers 16:20-35; Numbers 16:44-50; Genesis 18:23-33)
Are we punished for our parents’ sins? (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:6-7; I Corinthians 15:22 versus Ezekiel 18:20; Deuteronomy 24:16)
Is God good or evil? (Psalm 145:9; Deuteronomy 32:4 versus Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:38; Jeremiah 18:11; Ezekiel 20:25, 26)
Does God tempt people? (James 1:13 versus Genesis 22:1)
Is God peaceable? (Romans 15:33; Isaiah 2:4 versus Exodus 15:3; Joel 3:9-10)
Was Jesus peaceable? (John 14:27; Acts 10:36; Luke 2:14 versus Matthew 10:34; Luke 22:36)
Was Jesus trustworthy? (John 8:14 versus John 5:31)
Has anyone seen God? (John 1:18; Exodus 33:20; John 6:46; I John 4:12 versus Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Isaiah 6:1; Job 42:5)
How many gods are there? (Deuteronomy 6:4 versus Genesis 1:26)
Are we all sinners? (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:3 versus Job 1:1; Genesis 7:1; Luke 1:6)
How many animals on the ark? (Genesis 6:19; Genesis 7:8-9; Genesis 7:15 versus Genesis 7:2)
Is God omnipotent? (Jeremiah 32:27; Matthew 19:26 versus Judges 1:19)
When you look at the resurrection accounts in the gospels, they cannot agree on numerous points. These are not just different perspectives – they are contradictions. (Also from ‘godless‘ by Dan Barker pgs 284-289)
What time did the women visit the tomb? (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1)
Who were the women? (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1)
What was their purpose? (Matthew 28:1; Mark 15:47; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55; Luke 24:1; John 19:39, 40)
Was the tomb open when they arrived? (Matthew 28:2; Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1)
Who was at the tomb when they arrived? (Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12)
Where were these messengers situated? (Matthew 28:2; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12)
What did the messenger say? (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:6-7; Luke 24:5-7; John 20:13)
Did the women tell what happened? (Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:9, 22-24; John 20:18)
When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected? (Matthew 28:7-8; Mark 16:10, 11; Luke 24:6-9, 23; John 20:2)
When did Mary first see Jesus? (Matthew 28:9; Mark 16:9, 10; John 20:2, 14)
Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection? (Matthew 28:9; John 20:17; John 20:27)
After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear? (Matthew 28:16; Mark 16:12, 14; Luke 24:13, 36; John 20:19, 24; I Corinthians 15:5)
Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples? (Matthew 28:16-17; Mark 16:12, 14; Luke 24:31, 36)
Did the disciples believe the two men? ( Mark 16:13; Luke 24:34)
What happened at that first appearance? (Matthew 28:17-20; Mark 16:14-19; Luke 24:13-51; John 21:19-23)
Did Jesus stay on earth for more than a day? (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-52; John 20:26, 21:1-22; Acts 1:3)
Where did the ascension take place? (Matthew – no ascension; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; John – no ascension; Paul – no ascension; Acts 1:9-12)
I realize that posting these contradictions isn’t likely to convince any Christians that the bible isn’t trustworthy. For twenty years I had an explanation for any contradiction or problem that was presented to me. I reached a point though where I realized that if I couldn’t trust the writers of the Bible then I couldn’t trust their message. I had to step outside the Christian box and take a good hard look at the Bible itself.
This section got a little messy as I put it together, but try to stick with me 🙂
The Bible immoral? How can that be? Isn’t it a book filled with wonderful advice on how to live a wonderful life? As a Christian that’s pretty much what I thought. The Bible was written by God who is perfect so it must be good. Judging the Bible was the same as judging God which wasn’t allowed. Here is a quote from ‘godless‘ by Dan Barker:
If pressed they [Chrisitans] will have to back off from judging God, and will have to admit that God is moral by definition alone. It doesn’t really matter how God acts; God is good because God said he is good, and we should worship him not because he has earned our admiration but because he has demanded it. Morality is not a question with which mere human minds should wrestle, believers insist. It is something that should be determined by the perfect, omniscient, omnipotent mind of God.
Here is a link to a youtube video that discusses God and morality. It’s long, but worth it.
Here are couple other shorter ones:
And what about the book he has given us? Should we follow it because it is a wonderful moral guide?
From ’50 reasons people give for believing in a god,’ (p. 93):
I have made the effort to read several books that serve as the foundations of popular religions. … After years of hearing about the peace and love that is supposed to be at the core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I had not expected to find so much violence, cruelty, and hatred within books that are the foundations of those religions. Overall the Torah, Bible, and Koran read like instruction manuals for achieving a divided, angry, and violent world. They do not appear to be a recipe for peace and love, as many believers claim. Yes, I found beauty in those books but not enough to forget the disturbing content. I cannot understand how honest and well-meaning people can pretend the negative and socially destructive content is not there. How can anyone claim that these books are good and perfect? Have they read them?
Many believers strongly deny that the Torah, Bible, or Koran, for example, contain any bad advice, errors, or immoral behavior by a god – until I show them. Even then, however, some refuse to believe it, preferring to think that there must be some explanation for it that is not easily understood. Most of the world’s religious people, I suspect, do not actually read their holy books or, if they do, they avoid thinking critically about what they have read.
… Some Christians claim that the bad stuff in the Bible is limited to the Old Testament and can be excused as historical content. But according to Matthew 5:17, Jesus said that he did not come to abolish or change any of the old laws. One also can’t forget that, according to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, Jesus and God the Father are one – the same god who killed children by the thousands in the Old Testament. Even more troubling, how is the idea of Jesus sending everyone to hell who doesn’t believe in him – the majority of humankind – anything but immoral?
Here is a link to some Bible atrocities:
Bible Atrocities by Donald Morgan
Here is another one: The Bible: Evidence that God is Evil?
Here are some quotes to show where the Bible really stands: Consider Humanism
As a Christian I cringed at some of the Old Testament atrocities but I believed Christ had come to change all that so they didn’t cause me to waiver in my faith. (Never mind that Christ and God are supposed to be one so Christ was also a part of those atrocities.) But over time I came to agree with Dan Barker who says in ‘godless‘ (p. 181):
But probably the worst of all Jesus’ ideas is the teaching of hell. He did not invent the concept of eternal punishment, but the promotion of the Christian doctrine of hell originated with Jesus. In the Old Testament, hell is just death or the grave. With Jesus, hell became a place of everlasting torment. In Mark 9:43, Jesus said that hell is ‘the fire that never shall be quenched.’ In Matthew 13:41-42, Jesus gives us a graphic (and almost gleeful) description of the place he created: ‘The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ Hitlers gas ovens were horrendous and the the suffering was unspeakable, but they did not burn forever. The murdered victims of the Holocaust suffer no more, but the victims of God’s anger will scream forever and ever.
Watch this video concerning the concept of hell: My Dear Christian
Here are some thoughts from ‘Atheist Universe’ by David Mills:
Suppose, by analogy, that a stranger pulls a gun on you and says, ‘Your money or your life.’ You refuse to surrender your money, and the robber kills you. Do you believe that a jury would acquit the gunman because he had offered you a ‘free choice’?
Would this gunman deserve praise and worship if, after putting a gun to your head, he decided to spare your life? No, because he was merely removing the threat that he himself had imposed upon you unasked and unwanted. Yet the biblical God is viewed as ‘merciful’ because He ‘saves’ a minority of human beings from His own hideous tortures, imposed upon humanity unasked and unwanted.
‘But,’ Christians respond, ‘without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin. And God asks only that we accept the blood sacrifice that Jesus offered for us on the cross.’
And who, may I ask, established this rule that ‘without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin’? The answer, again, is ‘God.’ If truly omnipotent, God could have proclaimed that ‘without the drinking of apple cider, there can be no forgiveness of sin,’ or ‘without the expulsion of farts, there can be no forgiveness of sin.’ God, if omnipotent, could do anything He wanted, including forgiving all ‘sinnners’ unconditionally. The fact that God supposedly demands blood before He offers forgiveness is indicative of the bestial mindset of the primitive cultures extant when the Bible was written. The biblical God was created in man’s own vengeful, bloodletting image.
(I encourage you to read the entire chapter on hell from The Atheist Universe. It is a very indepth discussion.)
There are other moral issues in the New Testament such as its treatment of slaves (I Peter 2:18), women (Colossians 3:18), homosexuals (I Corinthians 6:9-10), and people who leave the faith (Hebrews 10:25-31; 2 John 1:9-11), but I think the concept of hell trumps them all.
“When the World is at an end, what moral or warning purpose can eternal tortures answer?” Lord Byron