November 23, 2007

Christian Reactions To My Bible Commentary

Just because I have received precisely the reaction I expected on my first and second bible commentary posts from Christian readers does not mean that I'm not still disappointed. Maybe it was merely a case of expecting the worst while hoping I'd be pleasantly surprised. What I am talking about is the accusation, no matter how subtle it may be phrased, that I'm attacking a straw man.

Many Christians are fond of criticizing atheists for rejecting their religion because we do not fully understand it. When faced with an atheist who is actually reading their bible and still rejects it, the argument becomes one of interpreting things too literally. "You're missing the point. Christians don't read their bibles literally like you are doing." In other words, I am attacking a straw man by unfairly criticizing Christians for believing things they don't actually believe.

As I have many times before, I will remind anyone tempted by this line of criticism that the majority of Americans do in fact interpret many parts of their bibles literally, and a full third believe their bibles to be the inerrant word of a supernatural being. In fact, this is part of the definition of fundamentalism. I care about this because I am convinced that when people in power assume the Christian bible to be literal truth and act in a manner consistent with this assumption, we are all endangered.

I'll also point out that those Christians who pride themselves in their assorted non-literal interpretations have a serious problem to overcome. When a reader of the Christian bible interprets the text in a non-literal manner, the resulting interpretation reveals much about the reader but nothing about reality. That is, selective interpretation cannot possible lead us to a shared truth because it is nothing more than using the text to support what one already believes.

A literal interpretation of the Christian bible cannot be reconciled with reality. Fundamentalists embrace their bibles and reject reality. Instead of attempting to navigate the intellectual morass of claiming their non-literal bibles are simultaneously more meaningful than any other book yet too flawed to be inerrant, it is time for progressive Christians to give up their magical thinking and embrace reality. They will gain so much more after escaping the bonds of superstition.