The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review XLI

April 28, 2003 | 10 Comments

What to do about the “bad” parts of scripture is the problem the Squad confronts once again this week. You know — those inconvenient passages advocating genocide, infanticide, slavery, etc. A reader has suggested that we simply “delete” them, “because our enemies will use them to make religion look bad.” What’s the Squad’s advice?

Simple: “Part of faith is believing that the Scriptures are perfect.” The Squad explains that one must either 1) “justify[] even the most offensive parts of Scripture” or 2) “throw[] out every section that doesn’t conform to what you believe.” Although “[t]he first option makes you lose your mind” second option is even worse: it “makes you lose your faith.” So, they conclude, no matter how deranged the holy text may sound, just read it over and over until your brain has warped itself into agreement:

Our suggestion, and the way we view Scripture, is to read it with the deep conviction that God is trying to speak to us through this or that verse. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it’s very hard.

When we come across a “bad” part, what we most often say is, “I have tried to hear what God may be saying through this text and I can’t hear anything yet.” It’s the “yet” that saves us and the context for our next encounter with the text.

* * *

We’re not so blind as to say that every verse of Scripture is filled with joy, love and hope, but we’re also not so arrogant as to say that an ancient wisdom tradition must justify itself to us.

This varies somewhat from what Squad counseled last December in response to a reader who was upset that the bad parts of the Koran compared non-Muslim to apes and monkeys. They acknowledged that every religion has passages in its sacred Scripture that are “violent, prejudiced, embarrassing or maybe just plain wrong, and suggested that “[t]hey are in there only because God’s infinite wisdom was transcribed by fallible human beings.” But now, it turns out, the translation was perfect — people are just too sane to understand it.

* * *

Atheism gets a subtle slap in the Squad’s answer to a second letter, from some who’s just buried a father and has come to a “very bad conclusion” about him. The reader complains that “dad cared only about himself . . . [h]e never even bought me or my brother a toy when we were kids . . . [h]e never hugged us, either.” The Squad finds the rabbi in the following story to be the most obvious counterpart to a cold, insensitive, neglectful, selfish father:

Once there was a very great rabbi named Elisha ben Abuya who became an apostate who rejected Judaism. All his students deserted him except one, Rabbi Meir, who continued to study with his former teacher even after the rabbi renounced God and Judaism.

Asked why he did not leave his teacher, Rabbi Meir said, “Elisha ben Abuya is a great scholar and teacher. I treat him like a pomegranate now. I squeeze out all the good juice, and I leave the bitter seeds behind.” This may be the way you need to remember your dad; squeeze out the good juice and leave the bitter seeds behind.

All we’ve been told about the Rabbi is that he was a very smart man — smart enough, indeed, to reject God and Judaism. So what “bitter seeds” are they talking about? Tbe Rabbi didn’t hug his students or give them toys?

Comments

10 Responses to “God Squad Review XLI”

  1. Kafkaesqu
    April 28th, 2003 @ 4:08 pm

    Actually, if the priests in my parish had given us toys back in my youth, I might have stuck it out. Three, four weeks tops, but it’s something.

    As for the hugging – that’s kind of the problem they’re having right now, no?

  2. Kafkaesqu
    April 28th, 2003 @ 4:08 pm

    Actually, if the priests in my parish had given us toys back in my youth, I might have stuck it out. Three, four weeks tops, but it’s something.

    As for the hugging – that’s kind of the problem they’re having right now, no?

  3. Kafkaesqu
    April 28th, 2003 @ 4:08 pm

    Actually, if the priests in my parish had given us toys back in my youth, I might have stuck it out. Three, four weeks tops, but it’s something.

    As for the hugging – that’s kind of the problem they’re having right now, no?

  4. Kafkaesqu
    April 28th, 2003 @ 4:08 pm

    Actually, if the priests in my parish had given us toys back in my youth, I might have stuck it out. Three, four weeks tops, but it’s something.

    As for the hugging – that’s kind of the problem they’re having right now, no?

  5. Kafkaesqu
    April 28th, 2003 @ 4:08 pm

    Actually, if the priests in my parish had given us toys back in my youth, I might have stuck it out. Three, four weeks tops, but it’s something.

    As for the hugging – that’s kind of the problem they’re having right now, no?

  6. Kafkaesqu
    April 28th, 2003 @ 4:08 pm

    Actually, if the priests in my parish had given us toys back in my youth, I might have stuck it out. Three, four weeks tops, but it’s something.

    As for the hugging – that’s kind of the problem they’re having right now, no?

  7. MadMan
    April 29th, 2003 @ 4:52 am

    This guy really lays the smackdown on the bible.

    http://www.cygnus-study.com/pagehiero.shtml

    Send this to all your religious friends.

  8. tom
    April 29th, 2003 @ 10:09 am

    ‘Simple:

  9. The Raving Atheist
    April 29th, 2003 @ 4:33 pm

    MADMAN: I’ll forward the questions to Dr. Ntha.

  10. CowgirlPunk
    June 17th, 2003 @ 3:06 pm

    I’m reminded of the uncertain Christian who read the Bible cover to cover to try to reafirm her faith. She became an atheist.

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