In a previous post, I said that two things lead to greater disbelief in god. In it I discussed the one where people start to take a skeptical attitude towards their most cherished beliefs.
In this post I want to discuss the other group, which consists of people who develop increased knowledge of what the Bible and other religious texts actually contain. This can be revelatory for those who grow up with just their Sunday school knowledge of a benevolent god who did a few miracles here, a few good things there, and generally told people to behave themselves in a manner he approved of if they wanted to go to heaven after they died. But as soon as one starts to examine religious holy books more closely, one cannot help but conclude that what they contain lack any solidity and are pure wind. What is more, they are not at all in keeping with the Sunday school image of god.
Take the Judeo-Christian Bible. The Old Testament reveals a god who is a truly nasty piece of work who is willing to commit genocide at the drop of a hat, orders the indiscriminate murders of innocent people, is cruel and capricious (the story of Job is a classic example of a sadist god), pretty much hates everyone, and who creates a vast number of petty rules and then demands that people be stoned for violating them. Gays, stubborn and mouthy children, adulterers, women who are not virgins when they are married, blasphemers, those who work on the Sabbath, practice wizardry, worship other gods, and even merely pick up sticks on the Sabbath are all targeted for slaughter.
Furthermore, this Bible violates the basic laws of science and even common-sense knowledge. The more you know about religion and science, the less likely you are to believe. Let alone the obvious fictions about Adam and Eve and Noah and the like which most modernistic religious people are willing to concede are not historical, there is little or no evidence for Abraham, the captivity in Egypt, Moses, the exodus, David, Solomon, and so on. In fact, pretty much the entire Old Testament until around the Babylonian captivity in 586 BCE is mythological but unlike with the creation myths, modernists are reluctant to concede that the later stories are also fictional.
The Old Testament is a library of books written between the late 6th century BCE and the early 2nd century BCE by people who were basically making it up out of whole cloth, based on the legends and myths that form the oral traditions of every group of people.
We even have evidence that the advent of monotheism, which is seen as the driving narrative of the entire Old Testament and its crown jewel, the gift of the Jewish people to posterity, is also not as portrayed in its pages. New research reveals that the ancient Israelites were not monotheistic in their beliefs for most of their early history, at least until the period of Babylonian captivity, and monotheism likely arose when some of the Judean intellectual elites encountered Persian abstract thought during their captivity. Before that they believed that Yahweh even had a wife named Asherah who was also worshipped.
But that is not all. In future posts I will look at all the other events in Biblical history which are unquestioningly believed as true but which are likely fiction. No wonder that some clergy, who are likely to learn about these disconcerting facts in their seminary studies, can become secret skeptics. Daniel Dennett says:
My colleague Linda LaScola and I are currently studying this phenomenon, and when discussing our first pilot study of closeted non-believing (or other-believing) clergy, we often heard two jokes about the seminary experience that was part of the training of most clergy: “If you emerge from seminary still believing in God, you haven’t been paying attention,” and “Seminary is where God goes to die.”
Is it any surprise that increasing levels of knowledge about the Bible, accompanied by increased awareness of science, leads to greater disbelief? The top leadership of religious institutions must know this and realize the need to keep their followers in the dark. So they promote ignorant belief by calling it faith and making it seem virtuous. As I have said before, I used to be very religious and studied the Bible formally but even I was not made aware of all the problems. I had to discover all these things on my own.
On the other hand, those who are truth seekers tend to have a skeptical attitude and quickly discover that religious holy books are mostly fiction.
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