Personally I believe the Bible has literary value. It shows us how people lived thousands of years ago. It is of historical value. A problem arises when the book is taken literally and as the actual word of God. I personally doubt the miracles that are mentioned in the Bible for many reasons. It is inconsistent, highly implausible and even if they were somehow true, I still feel very dubious about a fearsome God who goes about testing subjects in the way the scriptures allege he/she/it does.
The only stories in the Bible that really stand out as having moral value are the pardoning of the adulterous woman and the Good Samaritan, and morals similar to each of these (and more progressive and impressive ones) can also be found in other literature such as Shakespeare, Aristotle and Chaucer. We all agree there is a golden rule, to treat others as you would be treated, does this message really require a supernatural element for it to be true? Can we not see the logic in it and that it stands alone? Do we really have to put up with the sexism and patriarchal systems of thousands of years ago, for this one piece of wisdom?
There is also quite a moral problem with doing something because it says so in the Bible and not because it rings true for you. Most modern Christians reject many things that are said in the Bible because they are outdated, offensive and downright morally wrong (death to homosexuals). I have recently changed my mind about progressive Christians. While I used to view them as apologists for the horrors in the Bible, I appreciate the view that they are trying to not throw the ‘baby out with the bath water’. Fundamentalists seem to do the opposite and throw the ‘baby’ out and keep the bath water. Please note I consider the ‘baby’ in this analogy to be kindness and human compassion and the ‘bath water’ to be rigid, archaic religious laws. I also don’t think kindness is unique to religion.
Of course I prefer a Christian who rejects the offensive parts of the doctrines. However, it does leave the question, why not throw the whole thing out and start from scratch? You would think fundamentalists who believe in every word of scriptures surely can’t agree with genocide and slavery that is endorsed in there? From my point of view, I also ask how can you claim that a book that places women as lower than men as the word of God? If you are a Christian and yet reject these parts of the Bible, then you are admitting it is not actually the word of God and has to be interpreted in a different way.
A Christian and humanist, who I greatly admire, is Bishop John Shelby Spong. He also doubts the miracles in the Bible and yet holds onto his faith because he believes in the divine and sees it in Christianity, despite the rubbish. Spong has faced many death threats in pushing for equality and modernising the faith. There is much debate about religion at the moment and about what a ‘true’ believer is. Is it someone who believes the holy book to the letter? Or is it someone who picks and chooses the parts they believe to be true? If it is the latter, there is no one to police this and each side can argue the other is destroying the faith. Having respect and love for your fellow human in my opinion is logical, it is not divine. This outlook extends to respecting my fellow humans having different beliefs to me. If we can all get to accepting this point, then secularisation is vital. It does not really matter if my neighbour believes that Jesus was born of a virgin and I do not. The matters that do affect me are things like tax deductions for religious groups, scaring kids with the prospect of hell, not hiring someone because they are not the right religion and bombing abortion clinics.
There are many complaints made of religion and following are a brief list of mine (just to name a few):
- No proof. There is no scientific proof of a spirit world, nor heaven above, nor hell below, there is however an overwhelming amount of hard, scientific proof of evolution and space discovery.
- Ridiculous things in the Bible such as a baby born of a virgin, parting seas, burning bush, Sodom and Gomorrah, talking snakes, resurrection, angels appearing, water into wine and many, many more.
- Impractical – Catholic church bans contraception, despite uncontrolled population growth and AIDS and ZIKA. Many Catholics ignore this part of their faith, otherwise they would have 20 plus children.
- Tax breaks – Why should churches which run at a profit and who are legally allowed to hire people based on discriminatory factors, be given tax benefits and own prime real estate?
- Self-righteousness – I recollect a sermon where a minister was saying “I know where I will be going when I die” I believe no one knows and it is wrong to try to scare people like this.
- Wishful thinking – I will never forget another minister talking of judgement day in the Bible and how the sick will be well, the old will be young, the dead will be alive again. I mean seriously, who could honestly believe that? Will the fat be thin again? It is obviously a promise religion gives to those who wish it to be so.
- Geographically dictated – Most people just follow the religion they are born into. Despite some conversions, look at a map of countries according to their faith.
- Old fashioned – Women are worth less than men. No sex before marriage. Homosexuality seen as sin. No contraception.
- Hypocritical – Not only have we seen sexual assault at the hands of ‘celibate’ priests, it seems those who preach the loudest seem to fall the furthest. Be it corruption, sexual dalliances, fraud, holier than thou figures are very often caught out doing terrible things, no doubt they call this ‘sin’, I call it manipulating people and charlatanism.
- Nature of God – if God is able to intervene and chooses not to, doesn’t that seem cruel? if he is not able to intervene, then is prayer really pointless? Children dying of cancer cannot be part of a grand plan, it can only be random bad luck.