Over the last few days the religion vs science debate has creeped up once again in quite a big way locally. First with the poorly named “God Particle” which was discovered and announced earlier on in the week and then with the announcement of a creationist exhibit being installed in a local natural beauty spot. I grow weary and concerned when in the middle of these debates I just see circular reasoning and general ignorance of facts. However I’m beginning to understand fully that out there exists the crazy and they are much more numerable than the sane. There really is a huge difference between most Christians and that bunch of headers I shall refer to as fundamentalists. So just to reiterate, like I have done numerous times in this blogs short history – most of what I say (especially the barbed comments) are generally aimed at the fundamentalist believers who go against the consensus of logic.
There seems to be two types of Christian these days (maybe more but we’ll deal with two). There is the follower of Christ who uses the bible and believes in it but accepts some of it is metaphorical/poetic/parable i.e. The creation was not a literal seven day event. Then there are the fundamentalist followers of Jesus who use the bible but believe every single detail of it literally i.e God created the world in six literal 24 hour days and thus created plants on the third day before he created the Sun on the fourth (photosynthesis?) May I add all major churches including the Anglicans, Lutherans and the Catholic Church believe in the former that the seven day creation is not literal but at best a poetic metaphor for the creation which took considerably longer. The Catholic Church even accepts Evolution! A far cry from the very same church that jailed Galileo for the rest of life for believing the Earth orbited the Sun.
This is the bit that gets me – the usage of the bible as divine fact and unquestionable does not make much sense. Here you have a book written by many different authors, over many different generations that were then collaborated into a book by Emperor Constantine at the court of Nicaea, were he as history says decided what books would go in it and what books would be disregarded. He effectively and according to historians created the picture of religion he saw fit to overtake Rome’s polytheism of old. The latter I must add can be of some debate but what books the New Testament would have out of the many available was decided by a council of men and reports vary between 300ad to 600ad on when the now 27 book bible was created – At least 150 years after the books were written. I have read some of the so called Lost Gospels including the gospel of Thomas and it makes for some interesting reading, especially regarding Jesus’ divinity. However I will not get into that here as my point is the validity of the bible.
Now some of what I am about to say will be brushed off and answered “It is metaphor” for which I agree but my argument today is aimed at the fundamentalists who believe every single literal word of the bible. I think we all agree the Earth is not flat, however the bible is very ambiguous at best on the matter:
“It is [God] who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in.” — Isa. 40:22
“The devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” [Matthew 4:8]
The Earth described as a circle from which on a mountain top you can see all of the kingdoms of the world? Maybe its a metaphor for the Kingdoms of Israel and the like and maybe they did not have a better suited word for sphere than circle? I admit but would a fundamentalist admit as easy?
“On the day when YHWH gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to YHWH; and he [unspecified whether Joshua or God] said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’ And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.” — Joshua 10:12-13
Here God stopped the Sun in the sky for a whole day! Now there are serious implications if this were true, not least the fact we would all fly off the face of the planet due to inertia. However it is probably metaphor and is for most Christians, however fundamentalists believe he actually did stop the Sun in the Earths sky – not even the actually more true statement being that he stopped the Earth from spinning on its axis.
“All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you [Lev. 11:20-23].”
I guess we are lucky no such insect exists.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Numbers 22:28
A talking donkey… A donkey does not have a voice box evolved enough to form words and wait.. what am I doing trying to describe this.. its a talking bloody donkey.
Deuteronomy 33:17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are likethe horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
That’s enough of that, my point is not to discredit the bible or make mockery of it just to plainly show that taken literally it can be a bit off. Hence why most major sections of Christianity take parts of it as metaphor. I have yet to meet a proper dyed in the wool fundamentalist face to face but I would be interested in knowing just how literally they take it.
For me the bible is a book that was not handed down by God but a book put together by men over centuries that may or may not have been divinely inspired. I fall on the camp of not but that is my opinion. Either way I cannot see how you can use one source from one point in history which has so many interpretations and been changed immeasurably in some ways through constant translation and retranslation through the centuries. Passed through powers that by their own admission caused great harm in the past (cough catholic church cough). I fail to see its infallibility and so do most atheists and that is why we can’t accept the use of it in a debate. It becomes circular reasoning when someone says God created the world and we ask “how do you know?” and they say “because the bible says so” and then we ask how do you know the bible is real, “Because god created it like he created the earth” and so on. It just doesn’t hold up and if the same principles were applied to anything else it would be the same.
The point of this blog is that yes, use the bible for a belief system but understand it has metaphorical stories in it and thus cannot be completely taken literally. It also is a tool that only a believer can appreciate or use – you can’t use it in an argument were the other person does not regard it for anything other than a historical book. That’s why so many of these debates are stonewalled because there can be no arguing with someone who suggests they hold a truth that the other possibly cannot know. You could try to say the same for science but all you would have to do is open a book and you have access to it, the same can’t be said for the bible.. Apparently I can only know when I come to know God.. which is a tad hard for me, because for me, there is no one to know.