I’ve been asked why I am against the Bible. I’m not. I am against neither the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, or any others of humanity’s religious antiquities.
They are products of their times, creations of ancient people trying their best to make sense of their environment, their fellows, their feelings, and their compelling thirst for knowledge. They can be interesting, enlightening, even exciting. That Jehovah created the universe in a week or that his son came to earth to die and rise again are accounts rich as any modern play. That Mohammed took dictation from an angel and rode a whirlwind to heaven are electrifying. That the Universal Cosmic Soul was god of all gods and caused the origin of all else is a powerful story.
What would it even mean to be “against” any of these? They are what they are, no less, no more. We can look at them as we look at all phenomena of our world, whether they be clouds, eclipses, seasons, pain, or fantastic tales from our less civilized and less informed past. One can appreciate them, with no more necessity to “believe in” them than it is to believe in Shakespeare, Al-Khwarizmi, Galileo, or Ptolemy. (“Believe in” is a curious construction. We never say we believe in Jefferson, though we might say we believe in a friend.) One can accept that the writers were “inspired”–as human imagination and competence often are–without inventing a supernatural stage manager to account for it.
I do object to the flawed thinking—the manner of analysis, deliberation, and deciding—that underlies the promulgation and preservation of religion. This kind of thinking is marked by three errors: (a) It acts as if the scientific method were never developed to help us separate fact from fiction. (b) It ignores modern psychological/sociological findings about how easily beliefs and emotions can fool our intellects and misinform our direct experiences. (c) It rests heavily on Tinker Bell’s conviction that “believing makes it so.”
Belief in and worship of a supernatural being or beings could not exist without these impediments to intellectual integrity. Religion requires a naive approach to determining fact. Such ignorance is excusable in ancient cultures; in the modern world it is frighteningly sophomoric. While there are other fields infected by intentionally poor thinking (politics, economics, and topics like UFOs, vaccines, astrology, homosexuality, and climate change), religion is uniquely formidable in its effects. Due to its deeply personal nature, the likelihood of being absorbed in childhood, and its claim upon the afterlife, it exerts unparalleled authoritative power over human beings, arguably even more than political partisanship, family bonds, and patriotism.
Leftover remains of earlier cultures are like children’s belief in monsters under their beds. Each legacy remnant can inform anthropology and psychology, for they are studies of us. But they’re of no help to uncover the secrets of cosmology, physics, and genetics. Yet a great part of humanity thinks otherwise, preferring instead to test scientific findings against their “holy” books. If the Bible says there are monsters under the bed, then any evidence to the contrary can be ignored as either an honest mistake or a plot against God.
Neither the Bible nor any other book, “holy” or otherwise, is a problem. But those who seek to find in them revelations of a world for which there is no evidence foist absurdities on the human race.