Why Are So Many Christians Ignorant About Their Bible?

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I was catching up on some atheist-related reading on a Sunday morning. My thoughts turned to how ignorant many Christians seem their own "inerrant" bibles. I realize this is not a new thought, but I can't resist sharing a couple of examples with you.

We can start with a post (update: link no longer active) by the Educated Eclectic from Pam's House Blend. It is well known that fundamentalist Christians rely on Leviticus to justify their hatred of GLBT individuals. Their argument is simple:

  1. The bible is the inerrant word of some sort of god.
  2. The bible condemns homosexuality (in Leviticus).
  3. Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

They accept the first claim uncritically as a core tenet of Christian fundamentalism. That the bible condemns homosexuality is evident to anyone reading Leviticus. So the conclusion is inevitable, at least to the fundamentalist Christian. As for the rest of us, we don't buy #1 and realize how quickly the argument falls apart without it.

And in case this isn't clear, the Educated Eclectic invites us to apply the same argument to another part of Leviticus:

Leviticus 19:19 says: ... neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.

There is nothing to suggest that this part of Leviticus is any less serious than the part about homosexuality. The inescapable conclusion is that wearing clothing made of linen-wool blends is wrong in the same way homosexuality is wrong.

I see at least two possible explanations for the fact that fundamentalist Christians ignore this passage. First, they are unaware of what the rest of Leviticus says, suggesting that they are not the "bible-believing" Christians they claim to be. They haven't bothered to read their "holy" book. Second, their objections to homosexuality have nothing to do with their bibles and are based in prejudice.

Now we turn to a some commentary by Jeff Mullin in Oklahoma's The Enid News & Eagle (update: link no longer active). What got my attention about this article was the following statement:

He [god] can’t be happy with the violence that is being, and has been throughout his history, perpetrated in His name, no matter what name that is.

In reading these words, one must wonder whether Mullin has ever read his bible. The god depicted in this book is a jealous, vengeful, and bloodthirsty monster. Based on the deeds of this god, isn't it far more likely that it would delight in the atrocities committed by humans suffering from religious delusion?

If Christians want to quote their bible at the rest of us, shouldn't they have at least bothered to read it? And yes, my use of "at" instead of "to" in the previous sentence was intentional.

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2007. It was revised in 2022 to improve clarity and eliminate broken links.