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← UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible - Comments

MullyROI's Avatar Comment 1 by MullyROI

Is the Bible not too R-rated for children of such an age? Just revelations (ignoring the rest) has far more gore and sex then we would allow in childrens' books. I'm all for people reading the Bible to see how ridiculous it is but I hestitate to recommend such schemes as they are clearly attempts to enforce a christian identity, the question is whether or not it will backfire.

EDIT: I should clarify. I feel that the Bible should be available in the school libraries particularly for its historical significance but I feel uneasy about such schemes which are far from endorsing the Bible for historical reasons.

Sat, 19 May 2012 20:44:03 UTC | #942315

Lucasblack's Avatar Comment 2 by Lucasblack

I am all for the study of the Bible as a book. It's a great cultural and world changing piece of work.

Yes, it's basis is rockier that Nevada, but it's still an important text that enables people to understand what all the fuss is about - and how far from the bible teachings the majority of followers are!!

Personally, although I can't disprove God, I call myself an atheist, as an agnostic always brings to mind a fence sitter. I don't believe, and have no doubt in my disbelief.

The big worry with teaching in schools is the age...

[Link to personal blog removed by moderator]

Sat, 19 May 2012 20:56:56 UTC | #942316

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 3 by strangebrew

There is now't like the pompously dumb being dumb pompously!

But sure they want to actually display the acute dysfunctional psychopathy that their house of cards is constructed on...go ahead do the work of militant fundamentalist atheism for us...make our day!

Sat, 19 May 2012 21:01:50 UTC | #942317

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 4 by Agrajag

I have a book called "The Junior Bible", which was given me by my grandfather (a presbyterian minister, who also baptised me) on my first birthday (in 1951). It's pretty tame. I agee that much of the KJV is a bit rough for young children. Once they're older and a little hardened to brutality, let 'em read Steve Wells' "Drunk With Blood: God's killings in the Bible". That won't help their appreciation of the bible as literature, but it will help them to see that the ol' Sky Fairy is too violent to be real.

Sat, 19 May 2012 21:05:40 UTC | #942318

Spawny Rosary's Avatar Comment 5 by Spawny Rosary

Having read God is Not Great, God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation and more besides I thought I should see for myself what the Bible is like. In recent years I have taken to reading a book of the Bible during Easter. So far I have ploughed my way through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers and found much to dislike - I was really shocked at the penalty of death for collecting sticks, the valuation of women as about half that of men, bored witless with the inanity of the penalties for various trangressions - but overall it is truly fascinating. However, how long before I get onto some 'nice' stuff?

As to whether school children should read it - well possibly; but only if it is presented as literature and not as fact or moral guidance, and how likely is that? Even the biblical story that seems to be presented to children quite often - Jonah and the Whale - is decidely odd (see other thread on this). Perhsps references to works from the bible might be introduced in secondary schools, but I would prefer they stuck to secular texts for primary.

Sat, 19 May 2012 21:13:26 UTC | #942320

SvdB's Avatar Comment 6 by SvdB

As Isaac Asimov said about the Bible: "Properly read, it is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

Sat, 19 May 2012 21:32:22 UTC | #942321

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 7 by Alan4discussion

Or do they prefer one of those modern translations in which "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity" is lyrically rendered as "Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher. Everything is pointless"? That is Ecclesiastes, 1:2, as you'll find it in the Common English Bible. And you can't get much more common than that, although admittedly the God's Word translation provides stiff competition with "absolutely pointless" and the Good News Bible challenges strongly with "useless, useless".

Ah well! Further misinterpretations are nothing new as I pointed out on an earlier thread:-

These repeatedly translated, miss-translated and contradictory works are all pronounced to be THE UNERRING TROOOFF! Usually by people who have never heard of them and never read them!
Still that's fundamentalism!!

Sat, 19 May 2012 21:58:25 UTC | #942322

Odalrich's Avatar Comment 8 by Odalrich

I don’t think there's nothing wrong with reading the King James Bible, nor with reading the Scandinavian sagas, the Arabian Nights, the Persian tales and the like,as long as this will serve to expand the general and linguistic knowledge of the children. The problem arises when children are being indoctrinated in this book. In the same way that we explain children that the Scandinavian sagas, the Arabian Nights, etc. are fantasies that belong to ancient traditions, we must also tell them that the Bible is also fantasy stories that belong to our ancient culture, but has nothing to do with reality, except some passages that tell us of some ancient kingdoms in the Middle East. For subjects such as: who we are, where do we come from, etc., they ought to be introduced to reading scientific books for children, and they will gradually learn how to use their brains.

Sat, 19 May 2012 22:11:45 UTC | #942323

littletrotsky13's Avatar Comment 9 by littletrotsky13

Decent piece, but was it really necessary to break Godwin's law?:

...especially if they had the misfortune to live in the Promised Lebensraum.

Sat, 19 May 2012 22:13:44 UTC | #942324

Saganic Rites's Avatar Comment 10 by Saganic Rites

Comment 1 by MullyROI :

Is the Bible not too R-rated for children of such an age? Just revelations (ignoring the rest) has far more gore and sex then we would allow in childrens' books. .

With all of the internet at their fingertips, and with most of the little buggers having access to it, I doubt there's much in the book that will shock todays average 8 year-old.

Sat, 19 May 2012 22:33:30 UTC | #942325

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 11 by Jos Gibbons

littletrotsky13, Godwin's law doesn't prohibit references to Nazism; it predicts they're inevitable given enough time. Do some basic research. In fact, it was an apt choice of term. Whenever Judaism has a history in which it has been guilty of something horrid of which one of its many, many historical enemies has also been guilty, why not bring it up? In fact, what decent response can that question receive if "Judaism" is replaced with just about anything else? The point is not that the Jews got an especially roar deal in the Third Reich; the point is that the best word ever invented for what the Jewish god advocated just so happens to be Lebensraum.

Sat, 19 May 2012 22:39:05 UTC | #942326

HellFireFuel's Avatar Comment 12 by HellFireFuel

I thought every school had a copy of the bible.

If any do not then they should ask Gideon to visit. He's always leaving his in hotel rooms.

They could place it next to their copy of The God Delusion.

Sat, 19 May 2012 22:45:27 UTC | #942328

2ndserve's Avatar Comment 13 by 2ndserve

I enjoyed reading this article immensely. Dawkins' wit is under appreciated.

I especially enjoyed his take on original sin, "Adam's sin is perhaps mitigated by the extenuating circumstance that he didn't exist." Beverage spewed everywhere.

Sat, 19 May 2012 23:07:58 UTC | #942329

ArmaanBiggan's Avatar Comment 14 by ArmaanBiggan

I'm a hardcore fan of you Mr. Dawkins but I disagree with you on this one. The bible and Quran should be used only as toilet paper, not reading materials

Sat, 19 May 2012 23:36:30 UTC | #942330

Quine's Avatar Comment 15 by Quine

This was a very good piece by Richard, and I am glad to see it out in the public. It helps to dispel the idea that these old texts have any power over us such that we would want to suppress them being read by young people. As Richard points out, it is just the opposite.

As it turns out, it also gives me a chance to get on my old soapbox about how we talk about these deities that people have made up over these long gone thousands of years. Consider these two sentences that are in the article:

... The first two – "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" – come from a time when the Jews still believed in the existence of many gods but had sworn fealty to only one of them, their tribal "jealous" god.

Followed in the next paragraph by:

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy": this commandment is regarded as so important that (as our children will learn when they flock into the school library to read the Gove presentation copy) a man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath was summarily stoned to death by the whole community, on direct orders from God.

I wish this to only be constructive, and could not pass up the chance because the two came so close to each other as to provide the contrast. The first is directed to the beliefs in existences of deities, but gives none a presupposition or instantiation by usage, whereas, the second ends with such. Suppose the second had ended with:

... on direct orders, supposedly from that "jealous" god.

This usage does not lift their deity higher than the fairy tale status it deserves. I know that most don't care about this, but I ask that you all, at least, give it some thought before you write about these entities who deserve no greater status than do other figments of our imagination, until evidence is produced to show otherwise. Please don't grant them unearned reality before you even get started.


Sun, 20 May 2012 00:08:39 UTC | #942331

Linda Ward's Avatar Comment 16 by Linda Ward

Kudos Richard, you finessed this topic eloquently and beautifully illustrated what children can learn from Christian historical mythology and see that morality is exclusive from the narrative. It will be interesting & fun to read the expected barrage of comments that will hit the piece when the GU opens the thread in the a.m.

Sun, 20 May 2012 00:41:46 UTC | #942332

Katy Cordeth's Avatar Comment 17 by Katy Cordeth

....Adam's sin is perhaps mitigated by the extenuating circumstance that he didn't exist. In any case it never amounted to more than scrumping....

I must admit that it had never occurred to me that all the horrors that have been perpetrated on our race in the name of God over the last few thousand years: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Irish troubles; the destruction of the World Trade Center and the subsequent revenge attacks from the West; the oppression of women in the triumvirate of Abrahamic faiths; the abuse inflicted on children, whether it was done with leather belts by psychopathic, sexually frustrated nuns or with penises by inadequate, childlike priests; the shame and persecution visited on individuals who found themselves attracted to those who happened to share the same reproductive had genuinely never occurred to me that all of this horror could be directly attributed to an incident of scrumping.

What happened, did God overdose on Enid Blyton books when He was a boy? And is this why Islam has such a hair up its bottom about alcohol? The story we're all familiar with is the one which says that Eve persuaded Adam to eat the apple and God got all pissed off and banished them both from Paradise.

But what sort of parent gets annoyed when their child eats too much fruit? It's my supposition that the entire first book of the Bible is actually an allegory about the evils of liquor, specifically hard cider; and this Eve chick was an early pioneer in the field of fermentation whose success necessitated her being recast as the villain who has doomed all of humanity.

Sun, 20 May 2012 01:00:42 UTC | #942333

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 18 by ZenDruid

Eve had no choice other than to go scrumping. god endowed her with a broken genome for vitamin C production.

Sun, 20 May 2012 01:27:57 UTC | #942334

Zenozzograte's Avatar Comment 19 by Zenozzograte

Sun, 20 May 2012 02:27:26 UTC | #942336

DaisyD's Avatar Comment 20 by DaisyD

You will not believe how many Christians have not read even a modern transation of the Bible, even among the deeply religious. I suppose that when one believes in things based on revelations, he doesn't see the need of a reference book.

I was 8 when I attempted to read the whole New International Version, and through Leviticus and Deuteronomy I was shocked to find out about all the detailed restrictions on food, sex and other things, and I thought there is no way for one to remain ”clean” in this day and age. I think it is perfectly fine to let children read the Bible as long as they are constantly reminded not to take everything at face value and to always ask for the rationale behind things.

Sun, 20 May 2012 02:47:32 UTC | #942340

Ted Foureagles's Avatar Comment 21 by Ted Foureagles

I agree with Prof. Dawkins on this point. I think that familiarity with sacred texts is important for a child, or anyone, to understand how cultures came to be what they are. I’d stretch a bit and posit that a grasp of the King James Bible is almost as important to making sense of Euro/American culture as understanding Darwin is to doing biology.

An uninteresting aside: That particular King James is a direct ancestor of mine who, by marrying off a daughter, founded our family name. I’m just shamelessly name-dropping here to show that I have skin in the game, which many confuse with relevance.

I started reading the Bible around Christmas a couple of weeks before I turned 4. I had been going to Baptist church with Mom since I was an infant, and can assume that I must have been waterboarded for Christ early on. But I suddenly realized that I didn’t like church at all. I remember seeing it as a special place where adults acted crazy. That’s a heavy deal for a little kid who presumes that adults know everything and will protect us in their perfect wisdom. So church, where that wisdom seemed to break down, just scared little me shitless.

Mom, bless her heart, made a deal with me. I didn’t have to go to church as long as I read the Bible from start to finish, and was prepared to discuss it whenever she chose. She said, “You needn’t be pious but you shouldn’t be ignorant”, which I think is about the most rational thing on that subject I’ve heard. And so I read the whole painful tome from first word to last, and had nearly nightly discussions about it.

I turned 6 about at the time I finished, and have been an atheist since. I can’t take credit for changing Mom’s views with our talks, but noticed that she didn’t impose any such religious requirement on my younger siblings. I’m profoundly grateful to Mom (now several decades gone) for insisting that I see religion as important and amenable, at least in private, to rational discourse.


Sun, 20 May 2012 02:47:53 UTC | #942341

Roedy's Avatar Comment 22 by Roedy

"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

~ Isaac Asimov born: 1920-01-02 died: 1992-03-06 at age:72

I have have collected hundreds revolting verses from the bible. It makes no sense that anyone could subscribe to Christianity if they knew they were in there. I think the excuse might be something like the way Genghis Khan was tolerated. He's the king. He can squash you, so shut up and pretend to approve and love.

If there were a way to get Christians to read their bible cover to cover, they would vomit in shame and renounce it. My high school English teacher tried to get them to read it by saying you could not otherwise understand English literature. So many allusions reference it.

For a sample of what I am talking about see the Bible Study Guide

Sun, 20 May 2012 03:23:15 UTC | #942346

Sample's Avatar Comment 23 by Sample

I don't read a lot of self-described fictional works. I read even less of the fantasy genre leaving that entertainment to the movies. But I am reminded of something Tolkien once said, or perhaps a biographer of his explained, and that was regarding all the distant kingdoms, various creatures, and otherwise untold or partially told stories which were always on the margins of the author's storytelling. I believe Tolkien responded something like, to go there (to those margins) and write about that in detail would be a literary mistake. In other words, there is a mystique in the unknown, the hidden, or in a peripheral accounting. Some details are best left out if only to emphasize the power of the reader's imagination. This way the plot soldiers on while the reader is always slightly yearning for more because, he or she knows, there indeed is more as mentioned in the margins.

I completely agree. I think religious culture is much like that. Religious culture, namely every day life with people of very like minds, has in the margin of its existence yet another story, another mystery. That so-called more, I submit, is the Bible (for Christians). This piece of literature sits upon the shelves of millions yet never gets so much as gets cracked open except, perhaps, to verify a date just inside the cover of some theologically significant event like a baptism or perhaps nowadays, a divorce.

To go there, to open and read the Bible is to go to Tolkien's marginal kingdoms, races, and adventures. Once there, the mystique one once relished in has all but evaporated. One is then left with nothing but fiction and the back of a cover which, once closed, will not be looked at, ever again.

So go ahead, yes, read the Bible. Read it thoroughly and critically. You might never be the same.


Sun, 20 May 2012 04:32:32 UTC | #942349

msloane's Avatar Comment 24 by msloane

"A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian."

Then a barbarian I remain. On the couple of times I tried to read this work, my eyes glazed over and I nodded off. I don't dispute it has had a profound influence on English literature, law, government, etc. and can be considered great literature, however I can't pretend to get interested. Maybe its the character line-up I can'r warm to? or the gratuitous violence? Maybe if Readers Digest could condense the "good bits" ;o)

Well, off to polish my shield and sharpen my sword. I have a horde of corporate types to pillage next week.

Sun, 20 May 2012 05:10:53 UTC | #942350

Metamag's Avatar Comment 25 by Metamag

Comment 24 by msloane :

"A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian."

Then a barbarian I remain.

I call bullshit on that sentiment too, reading the bible is good for inoculation and demystification to see for oneself how banal, dull, primitive and silly it is but nothing else.

Sun, 20 May 2012 06:11:11 UTC | #942354

reason-first's Avatar Comment 26 by reason-first

The original article links to a trailer of the film "in god we trust?"

The full length film can be watched here:

Sun, 20 May 2012 06:59:45 UTC | #942357

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Comment 27 by JTMcDaniel

I always translated it as "futility," so I'd have to say that "vanity" is a perfectly good, if slightly archaic, translation as well. We do miss some of the nuances today, if only because the intimate form has almost completely disappeared from English (though it never actually existed in Hebrew).

The Bible has it all. You find exemplary fiction (Job, the only book no one ever really claimed to represent actual events and included for its philosophical content), a couple of romance novels (Esther, Ruth), a song book (Psalms), all sorts of adventure stories, and even some attempts at history. You also get a bit of pornish poetry (Canticles/Song of Songs). It has also been claimed to contain the basic plots used by every work of fiction written since.

I believe the Authorized Version is also the oldest work still under copyright.

You can also see the adaptation of polytheistic texts into monotheism, as in the reinterpretation of the Genesis creation story by the expedient of simply deciding that, in certain contexts, the Hebrew plural elohim (gods) would be declared to be a proper name instead. The effect was somewhat weakened by leaving too much of the "internal" dialogue in the plural form.

It truly is a vitally important literary treasure, and certainly a very powerful source of anti-religious inspiration if you're actually paying attention. The problem is that Christians generally are not paying attention, or simply block out the contradictions (such as Joseph apparently having two different fathers). It reminds me of a fellow I know who sincerely believes that Adam, Eve, and Noah were all genuine historic individuals, and at the same time constantly complains that children today are not being taught critical thinking.

Sun, 20 May 2012 07:31:21 UTC | #942359

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 28 by Michael Gray

Trivial objections to Richard's assertion that "A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian." remind me of the pride that anti-science loons take in their proud acclamations such as "I don't go for all that sciency-stuff. Too brain-boxy for me!"

Actually positively reveling in their self-imposed ignorance due to ennui-induced slackness to the point where they declare it publicly!

They possibly also baulk at reading any Shakespeare, or Milton, or The Beano.

Sun, 20 May 2012 07:44:16 UTC | #942360

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 29 by Hume's Razor

If the Biblical God is your idea of "good", then being "good" is definitely nothing to strive for. With a God like that, who needs a devil? As others have pointed out, it is ironic how fundamentalists always go on about the dangers of moral relativism, when, in fact, there are no greater moral relativists than themselves. In order to escape the conclusion that Yahweh is the antithesis of every civilized value ever conceived, your moral standards have to be infinitely flexible, unless, of course, you define "good" as "whatever God is", thereby making a sentence like "God is good" (i.e. "God is whatever God is") into an empty tautology. If you believe in a god who literally said and did everything that Yahweh is supposed to have said and done according to the Bible (such as ordering genocides, demanding rape victims to be stoned, threatening to force anyone who disobeys him to eat their children etc.), and in spite of this you still take God’s side, then there is nothing you can accuse anybody else of that is worse than what you, yourself actively favor.

Sun, 20 May 2012 07:58:36 UTC | #942362

Metamag's Avatar Comment 30 by Metamag

Comment 28 by Michael Gray :

Actually positively reveling in their self-imposed ignorance

Ignorance about what exactly?

Sun, 20 May 2012 08:12:28 UTC | #942363