The man who made the above comment self-identifies as a "progressive" christian. This is also a problematic term, as it automatically defines all other believers as either conservative (moderate) or fundamentalist (extreme). Furthermore, what is so special, or even progressive, about recognizing that some parts of the bible are morally unjustifiable and have no place in modern society? We could call them "bright" christians, but still the unavoidable next question would be: how much of the christian teachings is still kept when you are "progressive"? Does one still believe in, say, the point of the crucifiction? (for obvious reasons, an apt spelling mistake) But that would mean accepting the state of affairs as described in the old testament, as the whole crucifixion only took place to connect to those events anyway. So can we at least forget about Genesis, and all those silly creation myths? The more progressive a christian becomes, the less need there is for an actual god. I know christians who could largely be defined as humanists with one god too many; I think of them as cultural christians, who were raised in the faith and somehow still can't get rid of it, like an innocent but chronic affliction. It may well be that people really get something out of it; not so much from the substantive part, as most don't believe that anyway, but more from the functional part - social meetings, charity etc. But you can do this equally well without a god; to paraphrase Laplace, things work well enough without the god hypothesis. In this regard, Thomas Jefferson's bible comes to mind: he famously excised all parts of the new testament he deemed objectionable (miracles and other nonsense) and was left with a rather slim volume of, basically, humanist teachings (if he'd done the same to the old testament, there wouldn't have been much left... my hunch is, the good stuff from the entire old testament easily fits on one page, and you don't even have to use small print).
Many people ask me why I write this blog. Fair question. The short & sweet of it is: I like it. I was planning to (re)read the bible for years, but never got around to doing it (as I explained in the preamble, it's a very tedious & tough job). When reading it, I thought it would be fun to write down my thoughts as a sort of diary. This is it. I wilfully abstain from using "expert" sources, as my opinion is that god's word should not need an accompanying instruction manual telling me how to interpret it. If it is indeed god's word, then everybody should be able to understand it, right? At least, that was my theory... as it becomes glaringly obvious indeed that the book was manmade, further reading & research is simply necessary if one is to make any kind of sense of the stories offered. Which is exactly how the church likes it: until the 17th century, they tried their very best to keep all sacerdotal outpourings in Latin, as hardly anyone understood all that hocus pocus (a mocking degeneration of "hoc est corpus"). This added to the magic & mystery. The "King James" translation I am reading was quite reactionary in its time - for the first time, people could actually hear what all the stories were about! (that must have been quite a disappointment in some cases.) And just imagine, if people would learn to read, everybody could just think independently about these stories... dangerously heretical. Not for nothing, god's worst enemy in the bible - as well as in real life - is curiosity (remember Eden and Babel). I recently read an article about mormons "discovering" the internet and reading all kinds of interesting things about their own religion's questionable and embarrassing origins... to many, this brings a crisis of faith as they feel they were lied to all their lives. Fair enough, I'd say.
Returning to those progressive christians: many hold that a literal reading of the bible doesn't make sense; but I still didn't get a satisfying answer as to how else to read it. Most people agree the old testament is "difficult" and contains some pretty strange stories (there was even an attempt some time ago to desacralise it and remove it altogether from the bible; a laudable effort but so far without success). If pressed, they say it should be read figuratively, like a parable. One person said that if the bible would state 2+2=5, then he would accept that and try to understand what could be meant with this. I find this scary, as it puts me in mind of Nineteen Eighty-four, where the exact same example is given during the torture of Winston Smith: if Big Brother says it is 5, then it IS 5. After some excessive torture, Winston can finally understand this and is even moved to tears by this epiphany. Furthermore, it's a waste of time pondering over something that is clearly mistaken. There are many mistakes, or at least extreme ambiguities, in the bible (as there are in the quran, where the highly flexible Arabic, with words having many different meanings, adds even more confusion). Another fruitless non-conversation I remember is with a guy who very righteously maintained I simply got it all wrong: "god is all about love". It didn't help that I repeatedly pointed out I was speaking of the old testament, where love is indeed a very rare commodity, and which clearly shows JHWH to be a very primitive and bloodthirsty tribal warrior god: he kept repeating I simply hadn't understood it right. This is arguably a perfect example of faith: putting your fingers in your ears and flying in the face of evidence.
And so I will plod on, trying to make sense of the stories as I encounter them. I will try to heed the progressives' advice and not take everything for literal truth, but unless we approach the speed of light, or hide with Schrödinger's cat, 2+2 to me will always equal 4.