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← Simply ... should I read the bible?

Simply ... should I read the bible? - Comments

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 1 by Red Dog

I think at a minimum anyone who wants to be a well rounded educated adult familiar with western literature should read through some of the best known parts of the bible. Things like Genesis, Job, the psalms, and the four gospels. If you care at all about western literature and philosophy you can't completely understand authors such as Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Melville, Dante, and many other without understanding the bible. As for why the bible vs. other religious texts, well I think trying to read the Koran and Lau Tzu's Tau Te Ching are worth the effort as well However, I think it makes sense for a western person to read at least parts of the bible first because, like it or not, the bible was so much more significant in shaping western literature and culture than any other book.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:19:35 UTC | #950817

Sample's Avatar Comment 2 by Sample

Welcome. So, you've stated that you're aware of some key biblical messages. Which ones? Do you mean the ones condoning slavery, rape, ignorance and genocide?

I don't really have enough information to decide, for you, if the bible is recommended reading. Perhaps you can elaborate about your "interest in balance" position. After all, couldn't it be argued that your interlocutors would do well to become scientifically literate?

Mike

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:44:29 UTC | #950818

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 3 by SaganTheCat

meh, full of plot holes

ending makes no sense whatsoever, like they were thinking about a sequel but decided not to

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 14:00:08 UTC | #950820

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 4 by Alan4discussion

However, that then also opens up the argument that surely I should be familiar with ALL religious books etc, as it's not like Christianity is the only option (although admittedly, the discussions/debates/arguments/fist fights I have over the matter tend to always be with Christians).

I would suggest you read sections in small doses, along with some of the mythology of the Greek, Roman and Norse gods.

If you want a critical view, read some science and history on the same topics first.

For example study the formation of the solar system from an accretion disk, Hadean Earth etc and some palaeontology before reading Genesis!

There are reference books on history and archaeology from biblical times, but the bible is not one of them.

I look at the Bible from time to time, and if you have not looked at a section for a few years, the story lines seem to be a bigger heap of drivel each time, although some aspects of human nature and theistic thinking are well illustrated.

Also the reference to "The Bible" is misleading. Not only were the KJ version and RC versions selected from a multitude of earlier texts, but they were repeatedly translated, mistranslated and "interpreted", - as I commented in this earlier discussion. - http://richarddawkins.net/comments/896125

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 15:06:47 UTC | #950824

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 5 by Tyler Durden

I'd just be interested in anyone's thoughts, is the Bible 'recommended reading'?

Yes. Read it. Read every book, chapter and verse. Even the boring ones (Matthew 1). It will certainly confirm your atheism, and help you see how sick and twisted the book actually is when it comes to advocating morality.

You may enjoy some of the literature (KJV), stories (Parable of the Talents) and analogies. But it will also equip you with more information and armoury than your Christian friends know how to deal with - as they've probably never read it.

(I've only read parts of the Qur'an, so, I would have a similar query: should I read the Qur'an?)

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:02:38 UTC | #950829

AsylumWarden's Avatar Comment 6 by AsylumWarden

Go for it. At least then no-one can call you out on not having read it and therefore can't understand it. As to why the Bible over the others... well if you're in a native English-speaking country, the King James version will also help to understand the history of your language.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:31:26 UTC | #950830

steveb0503's Avatar Comment 7 by steveb0503

Not sure what advice to give you here - but let's just say that I threw the damn book down in utter disgust at how so many people could attach so much significance to such an obvious fabrication (and a pretty unimaginative one at that) after only 5 or so pages.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:31:59 UTC | #950831

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 8 by Red Dog

Comment 5 by Tyler Durden :

(I've only read parts of the Qur'an, so, I would have a similar query: should I read the Qur'an?)

I think the Qu'ran is worth a look as well. Especially these days with Islamic fundamentalism and Islamaphobia. I really tried to make it all the way through the Qu'ran but I just couldn't do it. Perhaps because I lacked the proper context but it was just really boring and also the style of the text is IMO very repetitive and boring. There are certain conventions, e.g., you have to say something like "blessings and peace be upon him" every time you mention Mohammed and there is so much text just to essentially repeat things like God is great, God is really great, wow Go God go you totally rock, etc. (in much less interesting prose). I recall a few interesting stories but not enough to hold my interest to the end having to wade through all the repetition.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:33:07 UTC | #950832

masubi's Avatar Comment 9 by masubi

Absolutely...cover to cover. And when you finish that, read it again paying special attention to who said what to whom and tie the Old Testament to the New Testament. It WILL confirm your atheism, AND you will be better armed for your fist fights.

Reading the bible takes care of two of the three Abrahamic religions. If you want to get serious, read the Old Testament a third time with a Jewish Torah side-by-side...they do NOT say the same thing.

I am half way through the Quran...it is not an easy read.

Have fun. Live a good life,

masubi

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:40:07 UTC | #950833

Al Denelsbeck's Avatar Comment 10 by Al Denelsbeck

Well, I have to go against the flow here and say, only if you're masochistic. The 'key' passages that might provide you with some kind of knowledge are heavily interspersed with some of the most tedious and pointless drivel you've been unlucky enough to come across. And even if your attitude is such that you enjoy mixing it up with religious folk, there's actually very little that you'll get from reading it, since most religions have only a passing acquaintance with scripture anyway. They select what they like and ignore the rest, and even then, often misinterpret what they've selected.

Religion actually isn't about any particular divine communique. It's about privilege. Combating the excesses and abuses of religion isn't fostered by a knowledge of scripture, but a knowledge of how it is wielded, and by highlighting the failures, neither of which is assisted very much by a deep knowledge of the bible et al.

Moreover, for a serious understanding of far too much of it, you'd need to do more than read it, you'd need to study the languages and traits of the time periods when the passages were written. They do not translate easily into English, and the usages have changed significantly. As it is, many biblical scholars are at odds regarding the 'true' meaning of countless passages.

Finally, the primary failures of any religion are the distinct lack of provenance (proof that scripture is anything more than old fiction,) the failure to provide any explanations for historical events or match what we have figured out since their writing, and their inability to guide people towards useful attitudes and ethics. You really don't need to know any specifics to address these points, because scripture is irrelevant to them.

If you have the interest, go for it. If you think it'll be useful, you're almost certainly going to be disappointed.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 22:11:33 UTC | #950842

Roedy's Avatar Comment 11 by Roedy

Since English literature, and idioms quote heavily from the bible, it is necessary just to understand the language to read the bible.

Reading it cover to cover will make two huge points:

  1. it is mostly boring and very badly written. It is not the great masterwork of literature it is cracked up to be. There are some moments of brilliance, but most of it is appalling, hardly the work of a deity.

  2. Jehovah the god is not loving, kind, perfect. He is a peevish, petty, evil little gnome. Christians never quote the vast majority of the bible which talks about his bad behaviour.

I have composed a bible study guide of some of the stranger parts of the bible. It is on my website. Moderators have told me I may not directly link to it.

Only the Jehovah's witnesses take seriously what the bible says, though they find ways to twist the interpretation. It is very rare to find anyone but an atheist who has read the whole thing.

Most Christians have only been exposed to a minute faction of it — the greatest hits. I can't think of a more effective way to disillusion a Christian than to dare him into reading the entire bible.

Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
~ Isaac Asimov 1920-01-02 1992-03-06

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 22:22:26 UTC | #950843

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 12 by QuestioningKat

Don't bother. Why argue anyway? Just keep living life.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 23:50:45 UTC | #950846

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 13 by Sean_W

I first started reading seriously with the Bible. It is a good read. Al Denelsbeck is right that you will miss a lot if you're not a scholar in a relevant discipline. But that doesn't bother me much. I miss a lot when reading Herodotus Histories, but I still really enjoy reading it.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 02:17:49 UTC | #950848

logicophilosophicus's Avatar Comment 14 by logicophilosophicus

This topic is currently under discussion ad nauseam at Whyevolutionistrue.

Typical atheist posters there and, it seems, here, insist that Christians believe every word is the verbatim composition of God; that the KJV is poor literature (and also morally repulsive); and, therefore, that God as depicted is not omnipotent, since his writing would be more entertaining if he were (and is, in any case, evil and sadistic). Ergo, "atheism is confirmed", God does not exist.

If, on the other hand, Christians believe that the Bible was an honest attempt by dozens of Hebrew authors to

a) speculate about the nature of the universe (without the advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants like Plato and Aristotle, Galileo and Newton, Linnaeus and Darwin, Maxwell and Einstein...)

b) record their history

c) pass on "wisdom" and advice

then the phoney argument above breaks down.

Should you read it? Only if you're interested in ancient history, I would say. If you want to read it as literature, then skip most of it. Shakespeare did - most of his biblical allusions are drawn from Genesis and Matthew, the first books of the Old and New Testaments: evidence of an interrupted education he saw no special reason to complete. (He quotes the Bishop's Bible - the precursor to the KJV.)

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 06:53:42 UTC | #950855

lloydy1's Avatar Comment 15 by lloydy1

Should you read the bible? If you have nothing better to do I guess. Certainly not, as you state, to read up on 'the other side' of the argument. You are an atheist because you realise there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any god. The bible cannot offer any evidence contrary to this as it is purely a bunch of fables, myths and uneducated beliefs that were written and edited by men. I don't see how reading the bible can either confirm or question your atheism.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 07:28:48 UTC | #950856

MadEd's Avatar Comment 16 by MadEd

Start with the Epic of Gilgamesh, then read the Judaeo-Christian book and you'll see where much of it came from. Oh, and don't forget the Upanishads, they're quite fun.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 08:30:16 UTC | #950860

klauscam's Avatar Comment 17 by klauscam

If you like arguing with religious people like myself, I think you should. It's really funny when you bring examples from the bible leaving the person in front of you a bit confused and out of words. Because as it goes almost all Christians never read the bible.

And as a matter of fact I have turned to Atheism after reading the bible (or parts of it) :)

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 08:42:09 UTC | #950861

Paul Bennett's Avatar Comment 18 by Paul Bennett

Personally I haven't read the bible either, although I do feel, as you, that I should at some point.

However, I can highly recommend "New Testament History and Literature" with Dale B. Martin from Yale University

This wonderful free on-line course gives an excellent overview of the historical context in which the New Testament is said to have taken place

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL279CFA55C51E75E0&feature=plcp

Regards

Paul Bennett

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 09:18:35 UTC | #950864

HELLBOY3's Avatar Comment 19 by HELLBOY3

Wait for the film;)

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 11:35:22 UTC | #950871

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 20 by RJMoore

I'd be very interested to see if anyone, apart from a die-hard evangelical or a biblical scholar, is actually capable of reading the entire thing from cover to cover....I mean every single word like. Maybe some have, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could get thru the entire OT without skipping bits of it. I tried a few times and found that my eyes just glazed over after a few pages....maybe I'm just lazier than most!

If I had to 'recommend' just one book from the Bible, I'd say you should read Mark (text and commentary). It's short, understated, seminal, and quite puzzling. If you want to have some 'ammunition' for discussions with Christians(particularly those 'innerant' ones), reading Mark will provide you with plenty....no Virgin Births, no mention of Bethlehem, no Massacre of Innocents, no sojourns in Egypt, no flowery debates with Pilate, no mention of divinity, not even a bloomin' resurrection!! It gives a much different picture of Jesus from the one almost every Christian has in his mind.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 13:51:04 UTC | #950881

klauscam's Avatar Comment 21 by klauscam

Comment 20 by RJMoore :

I'd be very interested to see if anyone, apart from a die-hard evangelical or a biblical scholar, is actually capable of reading the entire thing from cover to cover....I mean every single word like. Maybe some have, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could get thru the entire OT without skipping bits of it. I tried a few times and found that my eyes just glazed over after a few pages....maybe I'm just lazier than most!

If I had to 'recommend' just one book from the Bible, I'd say you should read Mark (text and commentary). It's short, understated, seminal, and quite puzzling. If you want to have some 'ammunition' for discussions with Christians(particularly those 'innerant' ones), reading Mark will provide you with plenty....no Virgin Births, no mention of Bethlehem, no Massacre of Innocents, no sojourns in Egypt, no flowery debates with Pilate, no mention of divinity, not even a bloomin' resurrection!! It gives a much different picture of Jesus from the one almost every Christian has in his mind.

Well after reading a couple of books you'll end up wondering if you've been wasting time. Then you start skipping :)

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 14:13:11 UTC | #950882

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 22 by The Jersey Devil

I've never read the bible either. I never felt like I was missing anything. And I believed in a 'higher power' for many years. It just never occured to me that I should. Now a days, I just don't see the point.

Incidentally, most of what I do know about the bible comes from fellow atheists quoting all the craziness. Kind of funny if you think about it.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 14:47:50 UTC | #950885

Deako's Avatar Comment 23 by Deako

Greek mythology is way more interesting and better written.

Greg

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 22:14:52 UTC | #950904

Quine's Avatar Comment 24 by Quine

Yes, I agree with others, above, read it all. Then, read some book about who wrote it and when. Pay special attention to the redaction of the OT at the time of Esra, and all the versions and copy errors and translation errors we have in in the NT. It's a Hell of a story.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 02:48:08 UTC | #950920

logicophilosophicus's Avatar Comment 25 by logicophilosophicus

"Comment 23 by Deako: Greek mythology is way more interesting and better written. Greg."

Better written by whom? You are making a literary judgment in less than 10 words on scores of different writers from two cultures each spanning a millennium or so of literary and cultural development. Personally I am still very much a beginner in both Classical Greek and Ancient Hebrew, so I couldn't even make a fair critical comparison of even two authors. What are your credentials?

In terms of content, there are very few purely miraculous/mythological stories in the Bible. The Greek myths are far more superstitious, with multiple gods appearing in a variety of forms to perform all manner of miracles; in fact that's pretty much all they do.

"There is no version of primeval history, preceding the discoveries of modern science, that is as rational and as inspiriting as that of the Book of Genesis." Isaac Asimov.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 08:37:41 UTC | #950925

logicophilosophicus's Avatar Comment 26 by logicophilosophicus

Whoops: "inspiring"

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 09:17:48 UTC | #950931

FitzRoy's Avatar Comment 27 by FitzRoy

The Book of Ecclesiastes is actually quite good. Very different from the rest of the Bible . . . it's damned near atheistic in its worldview, except for a few, easily identified bits added by later authors to try to tone down its message.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:37:42 UTC | #950941

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 28 by Red Dog

Comment 24 by Quine :

Yes, I agree with others, above, read it all. Then, read some book about who wrote it and when. Pay special attention to the redaction of the OT at the time of Esra, and all the versions and copy errors and translation errors we have in in the NT. It's a Hell of a story.

I agree, the actual history of how the OT and NT came to be written and collected is quite interesting. An excellent author if you want to read about those things is Bart Ehrman. He was actually trained as a minister but is now an agnostic.

His book Jesus Interrupted is great reading if you want to delve into the many contradictions in the New Testament. But he doesn't just show the contradictions, he presents a compelling explanation why they are there, saying that the various gospel authors had different agendas. Some wanted to convert jews to be Christians so they went out of their way in their gospels to show that Jesus was the Messiah prophesized in the OT. Other authors wanted to convert pagans to Christians so they emphasized demigod aspects from Pagan gods such as divine parentage and virgin birth.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 13:42:10 UTC | #950946

Tendencia's Avatar Comment 29 by Tendencia

Three months ago, I borrowed the "Book" from a friend with intention to finally read it cover to cover. I am still stuck at Genezis, unable to move on. I reckon it is caused by my inability to concentrate when the readings from my BS-meter go off the chart. Read at your own peril

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:30:21 UTC | #950954

simplymartin's Avatar Comment 30 by simplymartin

It's a long, hard, often boring slog. Genesis is the only part in which creation is written about - twice, as it happens. And it contains the story of Noah. If you read only this, then you'll know what creationists believe in - if you think that's a useful pursuit. There are some (though very few) parts of the Old and New Testaments that I like, but that have nothing to do with evolution or creation - they speak only of morality. But that's beside the point.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:35:41 UTC | #950955