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Apr 08 2014

So that’s how biblical literalism works

Michael Peroutka gave a speech in which he revealed how Bible interpretation is done. He declares that evolution is anti-American, and to prove it, he says he is quoting from the Declaration [of Independence]…I’m paraphrasing. You will be surprised at what’s in that document.


There exists a creator God. He is the God of the Bible. He is not Allah, nor any of the Hindu deities, nor is he the God that is in the wind or in the trees or some other impersonal force. He created us. We did not evolve from apes or slimy, swampy things.

I looked real hard in the Declaration of Independence, and I saw a mention of “Nature’s God” and being “created equal”, but all the rest…well. I guess you have to read between the lines and use your imagination a little bit.

51 comments

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  1. 1
    cswella

    Wow, that’s fucking pathetic.

  2. 2
    peptron

    Biblical literalism is just doing a find and replace to change “I say” by “God says”.

    You can even get a few “IGod sasays” in there.

  3. 3
    Zeno

    In his handwritten draft, it appears that Thomas Jefferson wrote “nature’s god,” without capitalization. (More details here.) What would Peroutka make of that awkward detail?

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    I have actually known people who insist that the Bible is the Inerrant, Eternally And Literally True Word of God. And then use The Living Bible for worship and study. Almost as bad are the literalists who use the King James Version, one of the worst English translations to exist.

    If you really want to bunch the panties of people like Peroutka, insist that the Declaration of Independence is obviously Baal, a fertility god of nature (Nature’s God, get it?) and demand that they prove otherwise. With all the resulting head-spinning, it’s like watching a possessed owl.

  5. 5
    ekwhite

    If being anti-ignorance is anti-American, then count me as anti-American.

  6. 6
    Larry

    If you’re quoting, you can’t be paraphrasing. If you paraphrase, you can’t be quoting. Quoting… Paraphrasing… Quoti…

    Help us Landru…

  7. 7
    Raging Bee

    Almost as bad are the literalists who use the King James Version, one of the worst English translations to exist.

    Don’t forget the bumper-stickers that say “The King James Bible is the inerrant word of God!” Like the guys whom God first inspired to write it in the original Greek and Hebrew got it wrong?

  8. 8
    chimera

    You either believe in Creation by which you have rights that government is-is designed to protect or you believe that all men are slime and that you no rights at all.

    Actually it’s kind of true I believe all men are slime (they are at times, in any case, though not literally) and that I have no rights at all (except for those I’m willing to fight for). But I suppose Peroutka’s either/or does not allow for parenthetical qualifiers.

  9. 9
    Menyambal

    So nature’s god is not the god of wind and rain and stuff?

    Even if evolution were antithetical to America’s founding values, that wouldn’t mean it had to be wrong. It would mean the founders were wrong. Now what?

  10. 10
    Paul S

    I’m confused, the declaration mentions Creator, but my creators aren’t xian and their names are Pat and Jim, not Yahweh. Does that mean I’m not American or doubly American?

  11. 11
    woozy

    My brain died a little bit.

    Wow… that was just … wow.

    Slightly off topic. I found out this weekend that I have been using the term non sequitor mostly (but not entirely)incorrectly. Which is too bad because that’s a perfect example of what I would have called a non sequitor by my incorrect definition. I mean you can’t even touch that it’s so… self-isolated.

  12. 12
    Menyambal

    That guy is so far out to lunch that I can’t even …

    If you search-and-replace “king” with “god” there in the declaration, you’d get a fair atheist document. The king was, of course, ordained by god AND was head of the church. Rebelling was pretty ungodly.

  13. 13
    Sastra

    So many wrongs.

    1.) The Declaration of Independence does not trump the Constitution, which has no mention of God. If it had been so critical, religious language and laws would have been all over it.

    2.) The “Nature’s God” in the Declaration was a God as revealed through nature and reason. This theistic rationalism is consistent with humanism and functions the same in practice. There is no conflict in saying that nature created us an endowed us with rights, or that human equality evolved.

    3.) Whoa. From what I can gather, Peroutka thinks that any beliefs the Founders had regarding how the world worked forever established what all Americans must believe. Given that these gentlemen lived in the 18th century, that would mean that every single scientific theory and advance since then is “unamerican.” If the Founders didn’t believe in quantum physics, then it’s traitorous to believe.

    What an idiot.

  14. 14
    woozy

    In his handwritten draft, it appears that Thomas Jefferson wrote “nature’s god,” without capitalization.

    In the final the following words were all capitalized despite not being the first words of sentences or formal nouns:

    Course Laws Nature God Creator Rights Life Liberty Happiness Men Form Government People Government Safety Object Despotism Guards Colonies Systems King Tyranny States Facts Assent Governors Assent Representation Legislature Records Representative Houses Legislative Annihilation, Naturalization Foreigners Appropriations Land Administration Justice Judiciary Judges Will New Offices Officers Standing Armies Consent Military Civil Assent Acts Quartering Trial Murders Trade Taxes Jury Seas Province Arbitrary Boundaries Charters Protection War Coasts Mercenaries Cruelty Head Citizens Captive Arms Country Brethren Hands Indian Savages Oppressions We Petitioned Redress Petitions Prince We Separation Enemies Peace Friends General Congress Assembled Supreme Name Authority That Independent Absolved Allegiance Power Commerce Providence Fortunes and Honor.

  15. 15
    ajbjasus

    So one of the founding principles of the American constitution is now invalidated. Mayb e you’ll all disappear in a puff of magic smoke ?

  16. 16
    Alverant

    The Founding Fathers also supported slavery. So does this guy? Yes, that is close to being a Godwin but if his thought process is to be believed then why shouldn’t it be applied to other things as well?

  17. 17
    anuran

    Alverant, some of them supported slavery. Some bitterly opposed it. There was a series of compromises specifically so the new nation wouldn’t tear itself apart immediately. That whole 3/5 of a person for purposes of the census and slave States vs. free States are just two of the more prominent examples.

  18. 18
    Alverant

    anuran, yes some did support slavery and others did not. I should have clarified that or said the Constitution supported slavery.

  19. 19
    alexmcdonald

    @woozy #14

    From the ever reliable David Crystal; Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language.

    Hart recommended his readers to use a capital letter at the beginning of every sentence, proper name, and important common noun. By the 17th century, the practice had extended to titles (Sir, Lady), forms of address (Father, Mistris), and personified nouns (Nature). Emphasized words and phrases would also attract a capital. By the beginning of the 18th century, the influence of Continental books had caused this practice to be extended still further (e.g. to the names of the branches of knowledge), and it was not long before some writers began using a capital for any noun that they felt to be important. Books appeared in which all or most nouns were given an initial capital (as is done systematically in modern German) – perhaps for aesthetic reasons, or perhaps because printers were uncertain about which nouns to capitalize, and so capitalized them all.

    The fashion was at its height in the later 17th century, and continued into the 18th. The manuscripts of Butler, Traherne, Swift, and Pope are full of initial capitals. However, the later 18th-century grammarians were not amused by this apparent lack of discipline in the written language. In their view, the proliferation of capitals was unnecessary, and causing the loss of a useful potential distinction. Their rules brought a dramatic reduction in the types of noun permitted to take a capital letter.

    Hart was a spelling reformer.

  20. 20
    Gregory in Seattle

    @anuran #17 – Most of the Framers were slave owners, even those from northern states like New York and Connecticut. The 3/5 compromise was all about power in the House of Representatives. Also, please note that the compromise includes “Indians not taxed,” not just slaves.

    I think it was South Carolina that was the flash point. As I recall, in the late 18th century only 10% of the population was European; the rest were slaves and First Nations. If only free whites were counted, the state would have had one of the smallest delegations to the House of Representatives; if every person was counted, it would have had the largest. It was a similar situation in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, states where the economy was dominated by plantations and which thus had very large numbers of slaves.

    Smaller states, mostly in the north, had a much higher proportion of free whites, leading them to demand that only free whites be counted; this restriction would have greatly enhanced their own power in the House. Maryland falls in this category: while its economy was plantation based, it had a lower proportion of slaves than other southern states. The Framers from the state crunched the numbers and realized that they would have more power if slaves were not counted. New York and Pennsylvania also opposed counting slaves and First Nations for similar reasons: while these states would have large delegations regardless, their power would have been diluted if Virginia, George and South Carolina had larger delegations.

    Racism in general, and slavery in particular, certainly did figure in to the conversation. But it was not the motivation behind the 3/5 compromise.

  21. 21
    zenlike

    Funny how all those mentions of god somehow prove the US of A is a christian nation and everything that this entails, but suddenly becomes a ceremonial deistic god when a separation of state and church issue comes up.

  22. 22
    moarscienceplz

    We did not evolve from slimy, swampy things.

    Doesn’t mean some of us didn’t evolve into slimy, swampy things.

  23. 23
    kingdomoffife

    I find it interesting that the cross on the transparent podium seems to be censoring his crotch area . . .

  24. 24
    procyon

    Wait…isn’t there a Commandment that refers to not lying? Now he’s done it. Hell for you Mr. Peroutka.
    Unless there’s an exception I’m not aware of.

  25. 25
    johzek

    The most revolutionary aspect of the Declaration of Independence was the recognition that “governments are instituted among men and derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”, and not from an imagined deity. The era of the so called divine right of kings was coming to an end and with it the authoritarian mindset of the Christian religion.

  26. 26
    woozy

    @19 alexmcdonald From the ever reliable David Crystal; Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language.

    Useful and informative.

    My point being that “Nature’s God” being capitalized doesn’t actually have the significance one would think it does. In fact, I would argue that be referring to it as “Nature’s God” rather than “the Christian God” or “the Biblical God” or “our God” or eve simply “God” implies he most distinctly is *not* claiming that the creator is the God of the Bible.

  27. 27
    Dark Lesson

    I have long thought that creationists – especially the ones like this guy – WANT to have been created by a god, because they have a hugely inflated sense of self-importance, weirdly mixed with an inferiority complex. Being created by a god, rather than evolving from an ape (it’s not like most of them even acknowledge or know that apes and humans have a common ancestor, rather than one evolving from the other) or a “slimy, swampy thing” means that they’re special snowflakes. That someone or something other than their fellow humans gives a fuck about them existing.They just can’t accept the idea that they’re no more special than any other animal and are, at their core, very pathetic and insecure people.

  28. 28
    left0ver1under

    So, “bible literalism” means only the bible is taken literally, and everything else is “interpreted”…instead of vice versa, which is how each was written.

  29. 29
    twas brillig (stevem)

    If *everything* written in the Declaration is Absolute Truth; does that mean “inalienable” is an actual word (vs “unalienable”)? [or vice-verse. can never remember which is which, I only remember Madison disputing Jefferson over misspelling the one Jefferson wrote there.]

  30. 30
    alexmcdonald

    @woozy #26 (and others)

    Apologies for an overdose of google-fu here in some of what I post here, but as a non-Murrican I find the issue novel and interesting. So to one viewpoint by David J. Voelker on the intertubes (and my apologies if it’s a rehash of arguments made better elsewhere).

    In the years since I wrote this essay, I have come to recognize that Christianity played a complex role in the founding of the United States. To cite a couple of examples: even Jefferson’s deism was influenced by Christianity, and the eloquent arguments that he made on behalf of religious freedom were rooted in a concept of conscience that likely derived from Christianity. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the United States had a Christian founding — that the framers of the Constitution intended to found a specifically Christian nation. The essay that follows, though, can only be one very small part of a historical argument against the myth of the Christian founding, and it is worth noting that this analysis does not support the myth of the godless founding either.

    Having said all of this, I stand by my stated thesis: “Although he supported the moral teachings of Jesus, Jefferson believed in a creator similar to the God of deism. In the tradition of deism, Jefferson based his God on reason and rejected revealed religion.” In other words, Jefferson was deistic in his inclinations; he was not writing the Christian God into the Declaration of Independence, but he did firmly root his conception of natural rights in the existence of a creator-God.

  31. 31
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    And all I heard was “lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie…”

    Then again, I’m self-declared anti-US, so… yay!

    Oh wait! The Founding Fathers couldn’t be evolutionists because Darwin wasn’t alive when the US was founded!

    Another lie…

  32. 32
    unclefrogy

    I for one do not doubt for a second that if he had the power he would re-institute an inquisition every bit as terrible as the catholic one.
    uncle frogy

  33. 33
    playonwords

    #4 Gregory in Seattle Just having an argument with a particularly fluffy CofE follower who “tolerates” the inaccuracies in the Bible because they were a product of the times and defends how it “borrows” myths and parables from other faiths.

    It’s like fighting a marshmallow …

  34. 34
    A Masked Avenger

    The most revolutionary aspect of the Declaration of Independence was the recognition that “governments are instituted among men and derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”, and not from an imagined deity….

    Yep. It also highlights the tension between instituting governments “to secure these rights,” and “the consent of the governed.” If the governed consent to the loss of those rights, then we have ourselves a contradiction. Which is more or less the fundamental problem of governance–on par with, and somewhat related to, Douglas Adams’s observation that, “those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

  35. 35
    peterh

    Those who thump loudly for biblical literalism don’t know the bible (in its myriad incarnations) very well.

  36. 36
    raven

    Peroutka is about as kooky as they get.

    1. He is a neo-confederate sessionist.

    2. He is a xian Dominionist theocrat who hates democracy, especially the American one.

    3. He once ran for president, getting 0.09% of the vote.

  37. 37
    Alverant

    Raven, that’s still a quarter of a million people who voted for him. That’s still a bit scary.

    Of course he also goes with Pascal’s Wager in that either his religion is true or Atheism. He probably didn’t even consider the possibility that a different religion may be true.

  38. 38
    Rich Woods

    @playonwords #33:

    It’s like fighting a marshmallow …

    Yup, that’s the CofE for you. The High Church lot are damn near Catholic but a good proportion of the mainstream and liberal end appear borderline agnostic. I once heard one group describe Jesus as little more than a metaphor for good behaviour (hitting fig trees doesn’t count, naturally).

  39. 39
    Piotr Gąsiorowski

    @alexmcdonald #19

    John Hart lived in the 16th century and died 200 years before the Declaration of Independence. If you look at Jefferson’s handwritten draft, capitalisation there is practically the same as it would be today.

  40. 40
    A Masked Avenger

    peterh, #35:

    Those who thump loudly for biblical literalism don’t know the bible (in its myriad incarnations) very well.

    QFT.

    Actual biblical literalism is the best cure for biblical literalism. It might or might not lead to deconversion, but if not, it will drive an honest believer toward liberalism.

    Fundies like to say, “It’s all there in Genesis 1-3,” meaning that all the fundamentals of their belief can be drawn from there. I’m inclined to agree: if you honestly read those chapters, literally, then you find that the sky is a solid dome, the sea contains monsters, there’s water above the sun, and snakes used to be able to talk. You also find two contradictory creation accounts. If that doesn’t deconvert you completely, it will force you to conclude that the Bible isn’t supposed to be taken literally in the first place, which basically precludes the kind of dogmatism necessary to continue insisting that slavery, patriarchy, heterosexism, etc., are “God’s will.”

  41. 41
    timgueguen

    Biblical literalism only goes as far as it takes for it to not be useful. Then we suddenly have all sorts of interpreting going on, like which contemporary politician the Antichrist is, or that Jesus meant our generation when he said the End Times were imminent, not that of the apostles.

  42. 42
    violetknight

    @alexmcdonald

    I think that’s pretty clear. He literally rewrote the Bible (at least, the New Testament), taking out all the supernatural bits.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

  43. 43
    Lithified Detritus

    The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

    Charles Bukowski

  44. 44
    shadow

    It’s like fighting a marshmallow …

    or nailing jello to a wall.

    Listening to him either/or any contray views, I kept thinking “Only Sith deal in absolutes…”
    Been playing WAAAY too much SWTOR.

  45. 45
    imthegenieicandoanything

    “We did not evolve from slimy, swampy things.”

    So, he openly admits what exactly he and his kind are! Lucky for them that Libtard atheists do not judge other lifeforms based on our personal preferences – and that many of us have a little “thing” for the slimy and swamp.

  46. 46
    RickM

    All I can say is;

    #STOPSUPERSTITION and #STOPGODWORSHIP

  47. 47
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’m waiting for Ape Creationism to appear: The claim that non-human apes were created specifically and seperately by somebody who had nothing to do at all with the creation of human apes because that would be just too embarassing for the non-human apes.

  48. 48
    Anri

    Raging Bee @ 7:

    Don’t forget the bumper-stickers that say “The King James Bible is the inerrant word of God!” Like the guys whom God first inspired to write it in the original Greek and Hebrew got it wrong?

    “But of course they got it wrong! Those book are all fulla Funny Furrien Squiggle Words, not real writin’ like Jeezus used!”

  49. 49
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    “paraphrasing”

    I’m not sure that word means what he thinks it means.

  50. 50
    shadow

    he takes a paragraph and phrases into whatever twisted mess he wants — para phrasing.

  51. 51
    Crimson Clupeidae

    playonwords@33:

    It’s like fighting a marshmallow …

    Just don’t cross the streams.

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