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We Need More Biblical Literacy
I was skimming through a hub by a hubber called emichael who is apparently a Christian. In it emichael expresses concern that kids just don't think of the Bible as relevant and they aren't learning enough in Sunday School. The overall theme is that there is a lack of religious literacy and emichael suggests there are things that can be done about this. Despite being on the opposite side of the tracks when it comes to belief in God I have to agree with the general idea emichael is espousing. People of all ages these days aren't very religiously literate about the religion they are raised into and that is a problem.
Results of Bible Study
Another place where I differ in opinion with emichael is what I perceive the result of increased Biblical literacy will be. While a believer might think that reading the Bible will lead people into a stronger faith for someone like me reading the Bible proved the death blow to my Christian faith. A great many atheists credit reading the Bible with dissolving, partially or wholly, their religious faith in whatever denominational faith they were raised into, whether it be hardcore fundamentalism or casual Christianity.
Indeed I would argue there is no quicker way to raise an army of atheists than by handing out Bibles to a bunch of teenagers. The issue here is apathy of course. The Bible, especially the old testament, is dry and boring reading, even many of the battles are merely described in dry historical terms involving only numbers of people involved in the fighting. This isn't to mention the genealogies which even adults would be prone to skip as they are of no meaning to any but the most learned of Biblical scholars.
Many kids and adults study the Bible, so why are there so many Christians? The answer is that in most church services the verses are picked out in advance with a sermon created around them that is meant to make the scriptures relevant. Sometimes this involves changing the meanings of passages, taking passages out of context or re-interpretation of scripture. Seldom are truly grisly and immoral issues talked about. Church is generally not a place where doubters get to raise their concerns about the malevolent nature of Yahweh, how quick to anger and downright evil the Old Testament makes him out to be.
I can remember being given specific passages to memorize as a kid, they were always flowery psalms or important teachings of Christ. No one ever told us to memorize the rituals on how to carve up a bull when sacrificing to Yahweh. No Sunday School sermon about Noah's Ark ever included talk about how all infants on the Earth were asphyxiated and died horrible deaths at the hands of a wicked God - instead we were given little coloring sheets with pictures of the animals assembling two-by-two. Emichael mentions this as turning the Bible into a fairy-tale and there is a key reason why this is done, to make the horrible stories into something palatable for children (the same thing was done for Grimms Fairy Tales, most of which are also grizzly in nature).
Remove the reinforcement of the ideas, remove the structure from Bible study, remove the fairy-tale elements and let people read the Bible straight-forward for themselves and I guarantee you will see people abandon Christianity in droves. I noticed this during my slow deconversion. Once I stopped getting spoon-fed the interpretation of the pastor every Sunday I began to read the Bible on my own and see it on its own merits. When viewed bare naked without the defending shield of mental gymnastics the Bible falls apart, the narrative spun by believers becomes like sand through the finger-tips.
In short if you remove apologetics you will remove the obstacles that stand in the way of critical thinking, logic, and conscience. Kids will realize that God's behavior during the ten plagues is atrocious rather than seeing the magic they might find in the story if watching the Prince of Egypt or some other film adaptation. Substitute the colorful images of Noah releasing a dove to find land with one where the surface of the water is coated with corpses of animals and humans who didn't repent and I guarantee you no one will show up the church house on Sunday unless it's out of sheer terror.
Biblical Content Warning
Of course emichael's hub is primarily about kids. I would not give the Bible to small children, anyone under thirteen really shouldn't be reading the Bible. I can remember being horrified as a teenager at some of the things I would find when I was left by myself with a Bible. Lot and his daughters springs to mind, imagine a small child coming across that story. Not only does Lot offer his daughters to be raped by the crowds outside Sodom and Gomorrah but later they get him plastered in order to preserve his seed. How would a child see this?
Christian parents think they have the right to complain when PG-13 movies have a bit of sexual content? Kindly cut the hypocrisy please. What about the story of Tamar, who is raped by her half-brother? Or the story of Elisha and the Bears, where God calls she-bears out of the woods to tear apart a bunch of kids who are merely making fun of Elisha for being bald. WHAT SORT OF MESSAGE ABOUT GOD WOULD THAT SEND TO KIDS?
What will little Timmy think when he finds the Bible verse about how rebellious children who curse their Father or Mother should be put to death? Or that atoning for sins once required cutting up animals and ritualistically sprinkling their blood around a pagan altar.
Read your Damn Bible
So at this point I'm thinking that emichael should be glad kids today aren't reading much of the Bible because if they were there would be fewer Christians. If parents want to keep their kids from rebelling or leaving Christianity behind for whatever reason they should probably keep Bible reading to a bare minimum and instead reinforce the emotional connection this imaginary friend creates. Allowing a child to try to form their own relationship with "God" separate from the group can lead to later confusion and eventually atheism or at least it did in my case.
From the perspective of a Christian keeping people in the dark about what the Bible actually says might be a good thing. Of course many Christians don't know any of what the Bible really says and even those that do can be swayed by apologetics that attempt (and fail mind you) to explain away all the contradictions and moral absurdities contained in scripture.
I Have a Dream
I suppose I can dream of a world where everyone is Biblically literate, where the world recognizes the blood-thirsty and repulsive character of Yahweh as just another fictional God like Zeus and Thor. A world where apologetics cannot override the natural curiosity, empathy and skepticism that all people possess to some degree. A world where rather than hide the dark details of the Bible Christians admit to themselves that there's very little truly GOOD in the "Good Book".
Unfortunately I think apathy will serve as a double-edged sword here. Many will be too uninterested to question what they are taught and will be equally uninterested in digging deeper and exploring the beliefs and scriptures for themselves on their own and away from the mental twists and turns of apologists. The fairy-tale presentation will also be a double-edged sword, as it will seduce a great many kids into believing something for which there is no evidence and no good reason to believe and it will present a false fluffy image of stories from a religion that has no place being taught to children.
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