Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Biblical Interpretations and History

Now back to my Atheist Experience video clips. This one is on the biblical interpretations and accepting the bible as a true and accurate historical record of events.

This clip begins with the caller and the hosts debating over how one can know whether or not their interpretation of the bible is "correct". By correct, I mean the intrepretation is how God intended that to be read. Matt (guy on the right) makes a great point when he notices that the caller fitting his preconceptions of what God is before analyzing the text and deciding on his own interpretation.

I think this is a problem for many believers. If you have a preconception of what God is and you apply that when reading the bible, quite naturally you will either consciously or subconsciously try to "fit" the words of the bible to your image of God. That is not a good way to read the bible, or any book, in my opinion. For example, I could tell you that Adolf Hitler was this great guy who was trying to build this perfect society and the world just didn't understand him. If I convinced someone of that and then they went and read Mein Kampf, it would be unsurprising that the reader who is predisposed to believe that Hitler was a good person would interpret his racism and antisemitism as "oh he doesn't really mean it as harshly as he said it" or "well he's likely right that the Jewish people are conspiring against us". God murders and tortures many many people in the bible but these immoral deeds get overlooked by Christians who say "well he didn't really kill them like that" or "well they deserved it or it must have been for the greater good". Hopefully the analogy I provided here makes sense, I realize that it wasn't a great one.

What people need to do when reading any text (including divine scripture) is to approach it with an open mind and an unbiased conscious. When I read the bible recently, I was not convinced that the portrayal of the Christian God was neither good nor evil for I had never read the bible or been preached to. If anything, I was perhaps influenced a tad into believing that He was a good, just God since many of my friends and associates in life have been believers and that's what they agreed upon. But after reading it for myself and seeing God commit all these immoral acts, I just could not accept that this God was a good person. After all, this is a God who tortures, burns, mutilates, and brings misery upon countless souls over the ages for "offenses" as petty as not believing in God himself or being a homosexual. I would like to think that God is good (who wouldn't?), but my reasoning tells me that if the bible is true to the letter, then he is an evil deity not worthy of my worship.

Anyway, the discussion in the video then turns to how can one know whether or not the bible is a true historical record. The caller believes it "on faith" to be true. I really like it when Matt says the following.

The only thing that should be used to accept whether or not a claim is true is evidence to support the claim. Not a lack of evidence to prove it wrong.

This is another great point. Just because I can't disprove God doesn't mean that God exists. It is impossible to disprove a negative. I can't disprove that aliens have visited Earth. I can't disprove that Big Foot is not real. I can't disprove that every flower has a fairy that watches over it as it grows. But what I can do is examine alleged evidence to support the claim that "X is true" and use what scientific or historical means to examine the evidence. If that evidence has significant flaws or is insufficient to prove the claim, then it is correct for me to say "I reject your claim that X is true based on the insufficient/flawed evidence that you have provided me with". A lot of believers have this distorted sense of logic that "you can't disprove God, therefore He must exist" while turning around and saying "you can't disprove that evolution is false, therefore it is false". That's just ridiculous, and that kind of thought process needs to stop.

That's all for tonight.

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