Sunday’s episode of Atheists Talk radio may just annoy me — they’re going to be talking about a local joint Bible study between atheists and a Methodist church. There are some atheists who like to dig into the Bible, but I’m not one of them — been there, done that, found it to be worthless drivel. Maybe you’ll find it more interesting than I do.
The second half is more promising, with an interview with a board member of the UM student group, Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists. Yay students!
Also tomorrow, I’m getting rid of my daughter — we have to drive in to the Minneapolis airport to toss her on a plane to Arizona, where she’s going for a summer internship in biomedical informatics. I may find myself at Q. Cumbers restaurant to check out their intelligently designed salad bar in the morning, where the Bible-studying atheists can correct my ways. Any other local people care to join in?
As I’ve mentioned before, I really truly want to win an iPod Touch from Eric Hovind. You’ve been clicking on this link every day, haven’t you? Click a few more times if you haven’t.
The Tim Channel says
Evangelical Atheism. Holy Sh….
Somebody get me a cracker.
I’ve clicked on that goddamn link so many times… you better win that ipod, PZ.
OT, but i just had to post my favourite keyboard cat vid:
Feel the love, people.
The Tim Channel says
Reminder on Saturday!!!
Good job, thanks.
Aaron Baker says
“There are some atheists who like to dig into the Bible, but I’m not one of them — been there, done that, found it to be worthless drivel.”
Proving yet again, Myers, that you can shift dramatically from being a breath of fresh air one minute to a tiresome, half-informed twit the next.
But it takes all kinds, I suppose, to make this great big world of unbelief.
Sven DiMilo says
OT to PZ, please look over here; thanks.
Paul Lamb says
That iPod is filled with Creationist videos. Will you be able to delete them?
Nerd of Redhead, OM says
The iPod is just another HD if you treat it that way. Reformat…
Nina Shishkoff says
Atheist here. If you look at the bible the way you look at “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, why is it drivel? I remember reading Eric Auerbach’s “Mimesis” and the chapter on the bible was very interesting. Auerbach thought the old testament showed a leap in society’s ability to depict itself because it described the actions of shepherds and beggars, not just the exploits of kings. More recently I read Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God” and found the bible, as a document written by diverse people for diverse reasons, fascinating. I just don’t find the bible more fascinating than, say, “The Mabinogion”.
Lord Tristan says
…What the heck?
The video for this week makes no sense. Even if Noah’s Flood happened, the water would still need to erode the rock for millions of years.
Or the rain would have to have been falling in that _one_ place with enough force to cut through about 5000 feet of solid stone.
Or maybe the Grand Canyon developed via erosion….
I love how the video makes an implication that still doesn’t make any sense at all.
Mike Haubrich, FCD says
This will be your opportunity to scold me in person for scheduling the Secular Bible Study to be on (but you will be able to meet Hannah Heidt from CASG.
Fossil Discovery Is Heralded
What a crappy science article from the Wall Street Journal. The new owners are spreading the crazy from the editorial pages to news stories, I guess to stroke the Republican base of Creationists.
Not once did the article mention genetics which is why some people think tarsiers are more closely related to monkeys than lemurs.
They think evolution lives and dies by murky missing fossil links totally missing out on the argument of gene comparison.
“‘There are some atheists who like to dig into the Bible, but I’m not one of them — been there, done that, found it to be worthless drivel.’
Proving yet again, Myers, that you can shift dramatically from being a breath of fresh air one minute to a tiresome, half-informed twit the next.”
Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but the Bible is more or less the cornerstone of Western literature (it and Greek mythology via Virgil and Ovid, and, of course, Shakespeare). Half our cliches come from it, to say nothing of our story archetypes. For example, anybody watch the LOST season finale? Look up Esau and Jacob. And parts of it are exceptionally beautiful, for example, Job, Jonah, the Song of Songs (“Catch for us the foxes,” etc.).
Richard Dawkins makes these points infinitely more eloquently than I in his book The God Delusion.
you’d better win the ipod,
ive been clicking the shit out of that link for weeks now!
Half-informed? About what? What he offered was his opinion on a work of literature. I suppose I don’t understand how this can be half-informed, when he says quite clearly that he’s
In other words, he read it, and didn’t like it. Well, I have to agree with his sentiment there.
The Bible is perhaps the most horribly overrated book in the world. Is it the cornerstone for much of Western culture? Yes. And it was made so by a bunch of ignorant priests forcing it down the throat of the population at large for over a thousand years. So what?
If L. Ron Hubbard’s drivel(Dianetics, his corpus of Sci-fi, etc.) survives the next two thousand years, and becomes the foundation for all kinds of cultural expression, will it become any better? No. Will it become important to know, just to understand all the allusions to it? Unfortunately, yes. But this doesn’t make his work itself good.
Even the bible as literature is lacking, with long, dreary passages about who begat whom, and obsession over pointless little details. The morals are lackluster, the history is spotty. So yes, I dislike the Bible. And that doesn’t make me poorly informed. I was exposed to the same bible you were, and found it completely uninspiring. Even the supposedly amazing battles and politics were rendered pathetic when I discovered, at eight years of age, that the kingdoms of this time were just backwater villages being run over by the real powers: Rome, Persia, Babylon, etc.
Maybe if PZ had said “The Bible hasn’t been influential” then you could have mocked his ignorance. But that is because it would be a question of facts, not preference.
I concur whole-heartedly with Nusubito @15.
As a future Shakespearean, I am often amazed by the number of highly intelligent literature scholars both from the Renaissance and not who simply do not enjoy Shakespeare, or who find Shakespeare to be inferior to many other poets. It makes me cringe because I could not disagree more, but at the same time, it’s a matter of taste.
I have enjoyed certain parts of the Bible, but there are hundreds of pages in-between that bore me and others that make me outright nauseous. My opinion is definitely skewed by my knowledge of what people do with those pages–and yes, it does make a difference when you know that someone uses these pages to justify heinous acts of violence (no one can say the same about Shakespeare)–and I will never be able to separate them.
Furthermore, there is clearly a stylistic difference between poetry (Ovid, Homer, Virgil, the Song of Songs, etc.) and dogma, or passages and chapters that obviously serve legal, philosophical or other purposes. The Bible is not myth in the same way that Homer and Virgil are. The comparison simply does not obtain when you look at Leviticus.
You may want to say that PZ has bad taste–and he very well might–but calling him a “half-informed twit” or whatever else is just absurd and frankly pointless. If I did that to all of my really bright students who hate the things we are reading, then I would have found myself out of a job years ago.
I suspect you’re conflating “Western” (whatever that is) literature, the European literary culture/heritage, and English-language literature there. For instance, I doubt Shakespeare has had much influence on Français, Latin, or the Celtic languages, stories, heritage, or traditions. Dawkins is a bit more careful to limit his claim to the KJV’s influence on the English language:
More to the point, also in The God Delusion, Dawkins also makes Pee Zed’s point. For example:
I have to agree with Pee Zed and Dawkins, having (just once) attempted to read the whole bloody thing. It is weird drivel. Its historical influence and the occasional literary highlights don’t change that. It’s still drivel.
Personally, I like talking about the Bible with believers. Usually, this takes the form of me pointing out passages that are contradictory, nonsensical, or (most important) morally wrong.
One morning, I awoke to a well-dressed Jehovah’s Witness at the door. Despite not having had my coffee yet, I was game to talk scripture. I invited him in for coffee — I always do this because (while their views are nutty) I admire the courage of the cold-call (especially in the Detroit area).
Usually JW’s learn very quickly that I am a waste of time. For example, one of their talking points is to ask “Why do you think there is so much war right now?” My response, “There’s always a few dozen wars going on. What’s going on now is no comparison to WWII.” Between that and my avowed atheism, they usually make an early departure. After one such interaction in Detroit, one neighbor came over and shook my hand saying, “You’re nicer than me. I just put my dogs in the front room.”
But this one occasion with the well-dressed Witness, named Alfred, became a friendship. Alfred was surprisingly thoughtful and subtle — and a very decent person.
We agreed he would come by every other Saturday and we would talk about the Book of John. But the conversation always diverged into the real world where we could argue constructively.
When it returned to matters of faith, that’s when the barriers went up. For example, the Book of John says that devotion to Jesus is our only escape from Hellfire. This strikes me as the same kind of threats to conscience that Amnesty International fights against. My argument: It’s unjust to threaten torture for people’s beliefs — we associate that behavior with the worst totalitarian regimes.
Alfred’s response was, “That’s the way it is.”
I said such a god isn’t worthy of worship.
“That’s the way it is,” he insisted. I was very disappointed that a thoughtful person would satisfy himself with such a cheap go-to answer. But that is the same barrier I see repeatedly with believers.
He understood my point of view and he knew from the start he wasn’t going to convert me. We were both into it for the conversation. We started talking less about the Bible. We talked more about language and philosophy and politics. And he had a sense of humor that was sharp and warm.
Alfred was promoted within the JW church and transferred to another state. And I miss him.
Before he left, he tried to introduce me to another Witness I might get along with. The results were comical mismatch. I’ll call the guy Len. Len was a fresh zealot in middle-age. He was so enthusiastic to explain the meaning of the Bible — the simplicities of which even made Alfred uncomfortable.
At one point, Len said, “Our morality is based on the Bible, just like English is based on the dictionary.” Ouch. I replied (poorly holding back laughter), “Actually, the dictionary is based on English. English came first.”
At this point, Alfred knew this was a no-go. We finished our last coffee and my experiences with Witnesses are now predictably brief.
Still miss Alfred, though.
Yeah, I have to agree. I “read” the bible in sunday school, which is to say carefully selected passages almost all from the NT. My denomination was liberal and rather than overthrow the government and head on back to the Dark Ages, they were more concerned with world peace and feeding the poor.
Later on I discovered they had been lying to me with the best of intentions. The OT is filled with genocide, slavery, pointless kinky sex and atrocities and drivel that might have been important to bronze age sheep herders but had no relevance to the 20th century.
You can stone your disobedient children to death but it is better to make a few bucks and sell them as sex slaves. Shellfish eaters aren’t so lucky, just kill them. Then there are the fundamental and endless contradictions and advice and commandments that actually do make sense except xians just ignore them all.
We never paid any attention to Revelations, perhaps because it is drug induced babbling that doesn’t have much to do with the entire rest of the book..When I was 8 and bored, I started to read it thinking far out, a chapter from a magic book that foretells the future. I got a couple of pages into it, and rather than the USA sending astronauts to the moon while staring down the USSR, it was just a bunch of incomprehensible gibberish that made no sense. Big disappointment.
What is really telling. There is nothing in the bible that wasn’t known by post stone age nomads. No formula like E=MC2, no maps of the solar system, nothing about modern life, science, or physics. Those who wrote it could look into the future about as far as my kitty.
Simon Scott says
I was sooooo expecting that to end with “we married in California and are about to adopt our 3rd child” :D
Could you possibly put the link at the top of the page until the contest is over?
I keep forgetting to look for it. Particularly when I’m at work.
Wayne Robinson says
It’s probably a cunning ploy on the part of the atheists to get the True Believers to actually read their Sacred Text, and demonstrate to them what a hopeless incoherent contradictory text it actually is. I once tried to get through one version of the bible (a Luther translation dating I think from 1908), because of Richard Dawkins’ suggestion; I only made it to the Paul Epistles, and I don’t think I want to ever finish it.
Wayne Robinson says
Have obeyed your order, master, and clicked on the Eric Hovind link. Do I get any extra points for actually watching his puerile Grand Canyon video?
Richard Harris says
… the Bible, but I’m not one of them — been there, done that, found it to be worthless drivel.
Worthless drivel! It’s feckin’ poison! It’s sexist, ageist, homophobic, racist nastiness. It’s scientifically ignorant, & accepts slavery without a word against the practice. It concludes with some thoroughly vile threats against anyone who doesn’t believe in the stupid god nonsense. Nonbelievers (Revelation 22.15) – “…are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
One might think that it doesn’t affect those of us who are not superstitious. However, it clearly includes hate speech against atheists & agnostics, & the ramifications of this can do real harm if a sufficient number of dupes are taken in by it. The recent history of the USA demonstrates this, & how such a book, through the values it engenders, are inimical to a liberal, progressive democracy. The bible is a crock of shit.
Richard Harris says
PZ – Also tomorrow, I’m getting rid of my daughter
Sorry to disappoint you, but they have a habit of coming back, children in tow. (We’re moving house soon to accommodate one & her offspring.)
Richard Harris says
Jumpin’ Jeezus! That was sheer coincidence that PZ posted “God’s own war” at about the same time that I posted my comments @ # 24 – The recent history of the USA demonstrates this, & how such a book, through the values it engenders, are inimical to a liberal, progressive democracy. The bible is a crock of shit.
The wholly babble isn’t entirely worthless. After all, reading the gorram thing is quite a common route to deconversion.
Drivel I will agree with though.
“The bible is a crock of shit.”…the bible isn’t a crock of shit. afterall, it tell you not to eat nonscaled seafood lest you risk a liver fluke. and keep those pigs out of the yard and don’t eat ’em if you want to stay healthy….it’s just that the folklore of a creator leaves something to be desired.
There are some atheists who like to dig into the Bible, but I’m not one of them — been there, done that, found it to be worthless drivel.
Bible = worthless drivel. I totally agree. It’s all gibberish to me. I will never understand why anyone would enjoy reading the insane childish stories in that disgusting book.
Dag nabbit PZ! You made me click on that link again and now I’ve got some of the stupid on me.
A river couldn’t form a canyon, but a flood could? Aaarrggh!
Did listen to the broadcast.
Go a better AM radio, made the listening much easier,
but even so, was left with the big question:
“What was the point?!”
Well, I sat in nice bright sunshine,
Skitty demanded petting, so the half was not wasted.
You’ve got it all wrong.
Teh bible is the best evidence we have against the existence of teh god described therein.
After evangelizing a few particularly ghastly verses (Judges 19:22-29 and Matthew 5:29-30 are a good old-new 1-2 punch) and explaining the fact that the people who wrote the first part didn’t know you could put wheels on an axle and roll things (they knew of wheels to grind grain) and this is why the ark of the covenant was designed to be carried, I’ve had a great deal of success in engendering doubt about the veracity and worth of Teh Shit Book.
You can make people belileve any damn fool thing that book says. You just have to know what material to give them.
Aaron Baker says
The Bible is of course not a book, but an extremely diverse collection of books, produced over a period of centuries. Further complicating things: many books of the Bible are themselves of composite origin, and are the products of centuries of effort.
Given the enormous variety, then, of what we’re dealing with, most generalizations about the Bible (including favorable ones) are either ill-informed or willfully obtuse.
There’s plenty to hate there: misogyny, genocidal fables, a frequent horror of any divergence on matters religious or otherwise. But look again, and there are the prophets denouncing the rich, even rich rulers, for their callous disregard of the poor. That we have in the West a long tradition of critique of and resistance to the powers that be, one that recognizes other standards of behavior than those promoted by said powers, is due at least in part to men like Amos. By contrast, notions of civil disobedience never really got off the ground in ancient Greece. What Plato gives in the Apology of Socrates he quickly cages in the Crito.
You will often see in the Bible the primitive notion of collective guilt: that a whole group can and should be held liable for one person’s crime. You’ll also find, if you open Ezekiel, an emphatic rejection of that archaic idea. Note that Ezekiel was active in the 6th c. B.C. I’m aware of no comparable passages in Greek authors of that period.
Even in the very constrained area of speaking and reasoning about God, you’ll find some pretty respectable wrestling with the implications of the idea in Job.
As for literary merit, again generalization beyond particular books of the Bible is unwarranted. But Job doesn’t suffer by comparison with Sophocles. And the Psalms are about as good as religious poetry gets. I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks that DIANETICS can be mentioned in the same breath with Job or the Psalms is an esthetic lunkhead.
In response to one poster here: “found it to be worthless drivel,” said of the Bible, is not just some innocent expression of a subjective preference, like “Gee, at the end of the day I like Bach a little bit more than I like Mozart.” It’s taking several centuries of history-writing, ethical thinking, leglislation, and poetry and saying it merits only going into the trash. Either the speaker is ill-informed, as I said before, or knows better, but says it anyway for effect. I stand by the criticism.
Richard Harris says
Yes, Aaron, but the bible is used by some as an infallible source of morality based upon the idea that ethics are derived from a god. Of course, they have to pick & choose, because it’s got some rather nasty material in it.
It even ends with the nastiness, from the early Christian period, from which I quoted above. Hate speech, & for superstitious folks, (the type for which this was formulated), what amounts to threats if they don’t believe the nonsense, as the final words of a book that pretends to be the source of morality for all people, is an affront to any rationalist’s sense of decency.
Aaron at 33,
You are making a good point about the value of the bible as a document of historic value but I am quite amused that you seem to like Job, I use Job as an usually effective argument about the nastiness of god: In order to score brownie points in an argument with the devil god allows his faithful follower Job to be subjected to whole series of nasty mishaps lime killing off his family.
What a fink!
One question of interest to me is why did the Israelites switch from the usual worship of many gods like the golden calf to worshiping a single god?
It apparently happened when they left Egypt: Moses brought the new god down from Mt Sinai. Well, he fashioned this new all powerful god in the image of Pharaoh, “we will never have a king as powerful as your king, but our god is the master of them all!”
A propaganda coup that went completely wild!
Aaron Baker says
I’m not sure there’s any real disagreement between Richard Harris and me here. The Bible, because of its remarkably varied sources, lends itself especially well to cherry-picking. Observing that the pious have often preferred to cherry-pick the worst there doesn’t, I think, weaken any of my points; I fully agree that they have.
I also agree with Otto that God comes off as a pretty unsavory character in Job. But this should cause discomfort only to the pious (and I’m not one of them). I’m fully in agreement with those who’ve said that reading the Bible is often a good avenue to unbelief.
A Bit OT: PZ you are castigated in an article in today’s Los Angeles Times by one Charlotte Allen, who takes “Superstar atheists” to task. She thinks atheists are boring and whiny. Letters may be sent to “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Aaron @ 38,
god is of course nasty from the start, she (why should the men get all the blame!) is all knowing and all powerful and puts Adam and Eve into the garden with the apple tree and the snake. Then, when they eat the apple as he well knew they would, he punishes them. God: “Now that was jolly good fun!”
HEY PZ!!! Sorry for shouting, but you got a (nasty) mention in this idiot’s op-ed piece this morning : http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-allen17-2009may17,0,491082.story
Too bad that she’s too intellectually dishonest to admit that what atheists have a problem with is when the religious (try to or do)inject their beliefs into politics/law. I don’t give a flying rat’s behind (and I doubt that anyone else does) what someone believes, as long as it doesn’t affect my freedom…or, in the case of another story in this morning’s L.A. times: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-briefs17-2009may17,0,5976572.story , you know, some little kid’s ability to get insulin.
Stephanie Z says
The podcast is now available.
Chris Swanson says
Speaking of atheists and the Bible, over on my blog *plug, plug*, I’ve been reading the damn thing and blogging about it. I just posted up the second part of my articles on Deuteronomy. What a really terrible book. Fun to write about, though.
Well, regarding the responses to my earlier post, to each his own. I strongly disagree with the comments that say that the Bible is different from Home. Who said that, that the religious texts of one age are the literary entertainment of the next?
The facts are these. There were four authors of the Torah (or Chumash, or Pentateuch, same difference): J or Jahwist, E for Elohist, P or Priestly, D or Deuteronomy, as well as a final editor, R or redactor. The first author, J, differs from the other four authors (E, P, D, and R) in that she seems to have been writing literature, i.e. for entertainment. She wrote most of Genesis and Exodus.
A modern translation, as well as commentary, is available in “The Book of J” by Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg.
Does it count if I click on the link more than once from the same IP address? If it does, you are gonna win P.Z.