Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blogging the Bible Part 1

OK OK, I know this is not new territory to be covered by an atheist blog.

I know that there is already the awesome Skeptics Annotated Bible.

I know that Tom over at Dubito Ergo Sum has already talked about interpretations, and when talking about the Bible it is all about interpretation and mine might not be entirely fair to the original intent.

But I can't help myself.

I'm going to read the Bible. From cover to cover. And you're coming with me.

I've already read large tracts of the Bible before, focusing mostly on the canonical Gospels (Catholic school will do that to you), but I've never gone cover to cover. It's going to take some time. It's going to be tedious and frustrating. But boy will it help shut believers up. In response to the question "Have you ever even read the Bible?" I'll be able to say "Yes, have you?" and swagger off into the sunset knowing my foe was suitably humbled. Or something like that.

We'll be reading the New International Version, Red Letter Edition, published 1989 by Zondervan. I won't be doing a line by line critique for the most part, but I'll pick out the bits that are of interest to me - and I'll be talking about the text as if in response to a Biblical Literalist, not some wishy-washy liberal Christian who interprets the Bible how they want in order to ignore the nasty bits (and those people will be the subject of future posts I'm sure).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)

Well if that isn't one of the most famous lines in literature then I'll eat my own scrotum. Heck, I even paraphrased it as the label for my first blog post! Taken literally of course it is the foundation of Christian creationism and its bastard child Intelligent Design. God created everything, no evolution and no Big Bang. God waved his magic wand or clicked his heels or whatever it is that God does and everything was created. By God. Everything. This we find out in the following 32 verses (Gen 1:2-2:3).

Rather than go through those 32 verses line by line I'll just pick out the highlights - and since this is one of the most picked over parts of the Bible don't expect anything startlingly new or profound.

So the first thing God creates is light (Gen 1:3-6). Now, we all know what's wrong here don't we? That's right, we know light has to have a light source but the light sources don't get made until verses 14 through 19. Light comes on the first day (God obviously needed to see what he was doing, and apparently he can create the Universe but not see in the dark - boy is that ever a strange omission from omnipotence - want to defy God? Do it in the dark). So, light on the first day but no light sources until the fourth day. Seems like a problem in the creationist version already if you ask me.

And let's not forget that in these first days there is evening and morning but no mention of afternoon. Apparently God is not, after all and much to my surprise, an Englishman.

And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky."And there was evening and there was morning - the second day. (Gen 1:6-8)

That's it for the second day? Talk about an uneven workload.

But let me get this straight - Biblical literalists think that above the sky is water. Someone should tell the crew of the ISS because they've been drinking their own pee since May 22nd. Apparently all they really have to do is open the door and collect drinking water. Maybe they actually like drinking pee. Maybe Biblical literalists also think humans have never really been into space. Next time you meet one you should ask them.

Oh, and for those believers who will counter that the writers of Genesis didn't know about space I retort in advance - but God did and isn't the Bible the word of God? What kind of literalist are you? Don't go all wishy-washy liberal on me. Of course, there is the even more obvious point that your counter would actually show that the Bible is not the word of God - yes we know the writers of Genesis didn't know about space - that's why they think it is water above the sky and not space.

Now, third day the gaffer is much busier, he's really picking up the pace. We get seas, land and vegetation on the land (seed bearing plants and trees with fruit which also have seeds in and all according to their various kinds) all of which is told to us in verses 9 through 13.

What is a little confusing here is that God gathers the water under the sky into one place (singular) to let dry ground appear (Gen 1:9) but calls the gathered waters 'seas' (Gen 1:10), which is plural. Typo? Error by the authors? Printing error? The Bible is inerrant though isn't it? If there is no error and 'seas' is used intentionally then why is dry ground referred to in the singular ('land' Gen 1:10)? Did God make Pangaea? So Biblical literalists have no problem with platetechtonics? Next time you see one you should ask them.

OK, day four. Sun, moon and stars are all created (Gen 1:14-19). Wait a minute. Anyone see anything missing here? Planets? Comets? Asteroids? Why it is almost like the writers of Genesis didn't know about these things so didn't try to explain their creation. But wait a minute. Isn't the Bible the word of God and therefore inerrant? Does that mean that Biblical literalists don't believe in planets, comets and asteroids and all those other astronomical bodies that I don't know about so can't list? Or have we actually been misled and they don't actually exist? Next time you come across a literalist you should ask them.

Day five, time for the animals. Well actually not all animals - just everything in the water and the birds. So God is responsible for waterborne diseases. Take a look at that page, diarrheal disease causes approximately 1.8 million deaths a year. That's a death every 17.5 seconds unless my maths is wrong (and admittedly there's a good chance of that, feel free to correct me). What a prick. He or she even encourages the things in the water to be fruitful and fill the seas. Seriously, what a prick.

Day six, land animals (Gen 1:24-31). All the land creatures according to their kinds. Livestock, creatures that move along the ground and wild animals. Wait, so who made bats? See bats aren't birds, they're mammals. And they don't move along the ground. Nor are they livestock. I guess the obvious literalist rejoinder is that bats come under wild animals. But then, wild animals also come under creatures that move along the ground, so why did they get a separate mention but bats didn't? Come to think of it livestock also come under creatures that move along the ground, so why are they separate to? And where exactly do animals that live in the water and on the land come in? What day were they made on?

Now, the next part of day six gets a little confusing, so pay attention.

In verses 26, 27 and 28 God creates man. Oh and woman. See it is a little confusing because it says in verse 26:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." (Gen 1:26)

Then in verse 27:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; (Gen 1:27)

But then in the next line the verse says:

male and female he created them (Gen 1:27)

All italics are mine.

See why it might be confusing? If he created man in his own image, who was he copying to create woman? Is God both man and woman? Is God a lady man lady (run with this one the reference doesn't work until 58 seconds in)? And did he just make man on day six, or woman as well? Are we talking about the generic all encompassing use of 'man'? If so, why then talk about male and female? Why, it's almost like someone was splicing together two different versions or someone came along later to try and clear up some confusion by adding a little postscript.

And then we get dominion over the animals, and humans and animals get dominion over the plants. Which was nice.

And that's it for chapter 1 of Genesis.

I mean really, people believe this stuff?


  1. I'm going to read the Bible. From cover to cover. And you're coming with me.sorry, no i'm not. see ya on the other end. :)

  2. Hey Jimmy, why ignore non-literalist interpretations? They can be just as funny as the literal ones.

    I'll try and keep up and provide a few when I can., I've had a bit of a look around.....Man there are some weirdos out there.

  3. Yakaru - I don't doubt that non-literalist interpretations could provide a wealth of material, but there's only so much time in the day!

    Someday soon though I'm sure I'll run out of blogging ideas so keep the relevant links coming as you find them!