July 2, 2019

Fundamentalist Christians Are Right

Christian Demonstrator Preaching at Bele Chere 2007
Michael Tracey from Ashevillle, NC, USA [CC BY 2.0]

That's a post title you probably thought you'd never see here at Atheist Revolution! Amidst all the discussion in Christian circles about "interpreting the bible" and how best to do it, I can't help thinking that the fundamentalist Christians are on the right track. If we want to know what the "holy" bible or any other book says, we should read it. No interpretation is necessary. No bible study is necessary. No members of clergy are necessary. A book says what it says. And what it says is there for all to read.

I suspect that much if not all of what passes for biblical interpretation involves isolating a particular passage that makes someone uncomfortable and attempting to reinterpret it in such a way that it ends up making someone less uncomfortable. When we find pervasive themes of cruelty, intolerance, violence, misogyny, etc. scattered throughout the bible, we have a hard time reconciling this with our Sunday school teachings. We then interpret away the literal meaning as something we have an easier time accepting.

The problem is that the bible is rather clear much of the time. This is a vengeful, punitive, jealous, violent sort of god. This is clear if we look at what the bible says rather than what we wish it said. Say what you will about Christian fundamentalists, but it strikes me that they are more honest in their focus on the actual words. I realize there are exceptions, but they seem more willing to point to what this book actually says. That doesn't mean we need to go along with it, but it does seem like they are at least somewhat more willing to face up to its contents.

Atheists are fond of pointing out how arrogant Christianity is with its belief in a god intimately involved in human affairs, prayer, the idea of a blood sacrifice to bring us salvation, or evangelism itself. But really, what could be more arrogant than reinterpreting a "holy" book to make it seem like it said what we wish it said instead of what it actually said? If it was supposed to say what we wish it said, wouldn't it have said that?

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2006. It was revised and expanded in 2019.