So I've decided to read the Christian bible from cover to cover. Why? The last time I did so was quite awhile ago, well before I had read much about atheism. When I've referred to biblical passages here, Christians sometimes complain that I'm taking the passages out of context. So I picked up a parallel bible with the NIV version presented column-by-column with the King James version. I'm about mid-way through Leviticus now and ready to share some initial impressions.
This is the first time I've read the NIV translation, and it certainly makes for an easier read than the King James. Still, I like to go back and forth to compare both versions and note some of the seemingly important differences. As but one example, NIV replaces "thou shalt not kill" with "you will not murder." At least to my mind, there is a world of difference between the meaning of "kill" and that of "murder."
Genesis makes for an interesting read, and I genuinely enjoyed it. A certain beauty is evident in some of the language and imagery. Of course, one must set aside the realities of modern science to some degree or else one will experience it as little more than a list of false claims about nature.
The god described in these first three books is difficult to recommend. This god is presumably almighty and yet needs to rest while creating the universe. This god is presumably wise beyond measure but places two forbidden trees (that of knowledge and that of life) in the Garden of Eden where early humans can access them. Moreover, this god evidently botched the first attempt at creating humanity to the point where it was necessary to slaughter all except Noah and his clan. Thus, with regard to power and knowledge, this god seems to be quite flawed.
What about morality? Well, there is little question about this. This god repeatedly refers to itself as jealous and demonstrates wrath, impatience, cruelty, intolerance, and more. The god described in Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus is certainly willing to provide humanity with a number of laws, the majority of which are completely ignored by virtually all modern Christians. This god makes it clear that it is to be honored with animal blood and burnt offerings (i.e., animals sacrificed and burned on altars). However, most modern Christians would never dream of doing this, going so far as to equate such acts with Satanism when they were in fact mandated by the very god they claim to worship.
The infamous passage in Leviticus does indeed state that male homosexuality is wrong (and that men who engage in homosexual must be killed), and yet, this is embedded among so many other laws given to humanity that it hardly stands out. It is fascinating that Christians obsess about the couple brief mentions this receives while completely ignoring the call for blood sacrifices, the clear requirement of stoning for minor crimes, and the multitude of references to the evils of yeast.
Don't get me wrong - I'm glad that today's Christians ignore nearly all of the laws their biblical god hands down in these three books. And yet, I remain puzzled that anyone claiming to be a Christian can ignore all of this, selectively choosing the couple parts that make them feel good while neglecting the bulk of what is actually there. This is the sort of god who is unlikely to react favorably to such neglect. If I believed in such a god, I don't think I'd go near anything containing yeast!
Tags: bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, homosexuality, Christianity, Christian, religion, fundamentalism, atheism, god