The Bible through the eyes of an atheist
by Tom Brown
The Bible. No matter who you are, if you live in the west you’ve probably read some it, and if you don’t own one you probably did once.
Not many people have read all of it, though. I know I haven’t, and I doubt I ever will, for despite years of going to church religiously, I am an atheist. Perhaps the roots of my atheism lie in being bored during sermons and reading the bible instead. At first I was looking for amusing bits in Proverbs (“A nagging wife is like water going drip-drip-drip on a rainy day.” Proverbs 27:15) but the more I read of the bible, the less comfortable I became with it.
When I was a Christian I read the bits of the bible I was asked to read: the bit we were studying in the youth group, the bit the vicar based his sermon on, the bit my daily reading notes were about – but not the whole bible. Good heavens no! The idea of just sitting down and reading the bible in order was treated as a pointless and slightly crazy thing to do, at my church at least.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the bits of the bible where God has people killed are rarely selected for bible study groups. I’d love to hear a sermon on 2 Kings 2 23-24 (where God sends bears to kill children for the crime of laughing at Elisha for being bald) but I am not holding my breath. The more I read, the more bits I found that I didn’t like, and the more I struggled with those bits, the more I noticed that ‘real’ Christians had an ability to seemingly only process the ‘good’ bits of the bible. So when I read the story of the flood, I was troubled by the ethics of God drowning almost everyone, whereas Christians seemed able to ignore that bit and focus on the rainbow and God promising not to do it again…
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