The Science Behind the Hypocrisy: Biblical Hermeneutics
After a recent article I wrote on cherry-picking in the bible, which can be found here, I got a lot of backlash from Christians claiming that I needed to understand and study biblical hermeneutics in order to properly evaluate the cherry-picking situation. I got most of these complaints on Reddit Christianity from username outofpraxis. So, here I am, writing this article in answer to all those claims that my initial argument was invalid. Let's take a look, shall we?
My initial claim is that basically, Christians cherry-pick according to their own desires from the bible. I mean, they literally have to since in every single book you have at least a hundred contradictions. I get it, Christians. It's not easy being a Christian when you are forced to pick like that. My point, however, was that many Christians, in fact most if not all Christians that oppose same sex marriage, for example, will use the bible as their source--typically, Leviticus 18:22. Now, perhaps the mistake I made was to quote Deuteronomy where it states that if a woman is wed and is not a virgin, she shall be stoned to death, to illustrate the cherry-picking, when I should have quoted more form Leviticus, the very same book that they were quoting from. Like, Leviticus 19:28, where it states that you are not to get any tattoos, or Leviticus 19:27, no rounded beards (that one is silly, I know, yet I've seen many a'Christian sporting rounded beards...or tattoos.)
I used Rush Limbaugh as a perfect example of this cherry-picking, I mean, he is like the poster boy for this, especially after President Obama's recent "coming out" about his stance on same sex marriage, which I applaud, by the way. So, that was my argument.
Christians on Reddit Christianity immediately accused me of having cherry-picked, myself, because I "picked" a few biblical verses to illustrate my point. Hmm...funny that they would think that was cherry-picking, huh? Outofpraxis claimed that I needed to get acquainted with biblical hermeneutics before I could claim that Christians cherry-pick because, "there's a very long history of hermeneutics at play that you seem woefully unaware of. The texts that make up the bible span hundreds of years and many different genres and purposes."
Well, okay, but isn't hermeneutics just a fancy word for interpretation? And, isn't there at least a million ways to "interpret" the bible? Sounds like we're right back at my cherry-picking claim. It also sounds like Christians get to make up the rules as they go.
Another claim was that the bible is not one book, it is complied of several books. True, and a very good point that I overlooked in my initial article. But, I will remedy this by stating that any book in the bible will have hundreds of contradictions within the same book. Here are a few examples.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Proverbs 31: 6-7
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
I and my Father are one.
Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
Okay, so there are literally millions more, but this is an article, not a book.
Yep. It's a fancy word for the science of interpreting a text, as I have already stated. It seems like Christians get to make up rules as they go since they get to keep coming up with new terms for what essentially boils down to hypocrisy and, yes, cherry-picking.
Ultimately, the bible is entirely based on cherry-picking because it is complied of many books, spanning "hundreds of years and many different genres and purposes" that were picked. Not all books were included into what we now know as the bible. Ah, the very essence of hermeneutics. So now, the trick is to accurately interpret the books we are left with. But can a work this massive ever really be accurately interpreted and be reduced to just one strict interpretation? I think most will agree that no, it can't. And as time passes, modernity demands that certain things in the bible no longer be upheld. I call this cherry-picking only to illustrate that this so called "perfect work of god," is far from perfect. It literally demands that readers cherry-pick. Sure, you can study the different interpretations and the why behind them, but there will never be one interpretation that everyone agrees on, and agrees on for all time.
Another point is that humans will inevitably approach the bible already knowing what they want from it. That is human nature. If you are looking to find reasons to love, you will find them in the bible. If you are looking for reasons to hate, you will find those, too. It is completely subjective and anyone can manipulate the bible as they please, hermeneutics understood, or not.
Dressing Up Hypocrisy Like a Science, is Still Hypocrisy
Call it what you want, hermeneutics, theology, apologetics, it all boils down to the same thing--cherry-picking. Some might ask, though, what's wrong with mining the bible for good and pushing the evil aside. First of all, you are admitting then, that there is evil in the bible. Good, we are making progress. Second of all, there's nothing wrong with it, until you use it to justify you own personal views, like those on same sex marriage. I suggest that if you want to justify your bigotry with the bible, you had better be following it to the letter--all of it.
And why should you "need" to refer to the bible for morals, anyway? Anyone who has read Deuteronomy 22:28-29 didn't have to sit there and wonder if raping a virgin was actually okay to do. You knew immediately that no, it's absolutely not okay. You surprisingly already possessed something within you that told you, raping a virgin is wrong, and I shouldn't do it. But, most Christians don't read the bible, and I guess that is the real problem. They cherry-pick, as I have mentioned too much already. You don't need to read the whole thing to get just what you want from it. You can go to church for that.
But, arguing about this with Christians is really pointless because there is always an excuse, justification, reason, and explanation for everything in the bible. So, I'm not hoping to convince any Christians, maybe just make them doubt themselves enough to think about their convictions just a little more critically.
More on the Bible
- The Bible is not a Historical Text, it is a Hagiography
Christians are always claiming that the bible is some sort of historically accurate text. It is not historically accurate, in fact it is far from it.
- The Theologian's Disconnect with Actual History
Theologians, some of them, have such a disregard for ethical scholarship that the obvious line between myth and history becomes blurred and there is no longer a distinction between the two.
- What Does it Mean to be an Atheist?
As a response to Aguasilver's hub about his claim that he was once an atheist that converted to Christianity, this is what being an atheist really implies.
- Five Popular Argument Schemes that Christians Use Over and Over Again
Here is a quick analysis of five tired old argument schemes that Christians use when debating about the existence of their god.
- Kenneth Miller: an Unlikely Hero
Kenneth Miller is a very needed voice in advocating evolution in schools, and ironically, he is a Christian.