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My Take: The danger of calling behavior ‘biblical’
The author argues that there are many meanings of the adjective 'biblical.'
November 17th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: The danger of calling behavior ‘biblical’

Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is a popular blogger from Dayton, Tennessee, and author of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”

By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

On "The Daily Show" recently, Jon Stewart grilled Mike Huckabee about a TV ad in which Huckabee urged voters to support “biblical values” at the voting box.

When Huckabee said that he supported the “biblical model of marriage,” Stewart shot back that “the biblical model of marriage is polygamy.”

And there’s a big problem, Stewart went on, with reducing “biblical values” to one or two social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring issues such as poverty and immigration reform.

It may come as some surprise that as an evangelical Christian, I cheered Stewart on from my living room couch.

As someone who loves the Bible and believes it to be the inspired word of God, I hate seeing it reduced to an adjective like Huckabee did. I hate seeing my sacred text flattened out, edited down and used as a prop to support a select few political positions and platforms.

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And yet evangelicals have grown so accustomed to talking about the Bible this way that we hardly realize we’re doing it anymore. We talk about “biblical families,” “biblical marriage,” “biblical economics,” “biblical politics,” “biblical values,” “biblical stewardship,” “biblical voting,” “biblical manhood,” “biblical womanhood,” even “biblical dating” to create the impression that the Bible has just one thing to say on each of these topics - that it offers a single prescriptive formula for how people of faith ought to respond to them.

But the Bible is not a position paper. The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own.

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.

Nowhere is this more evident than in conversations surrounding “biblical womanhood.”

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Growing up in the Bible Belt, I received a lot of mixed messages about the appropriate roles of women in the home, the church and society, each punctuated with the claim that this or that lifestyle represented true “biblical womanhood.”

In my faith community, popular women pastors such as Joyce Meyer were considered unbiblical for preaching from the pulpit in violation of the apostle Paul's restriction in 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent"), while Amish women were considered legalistic for covering their heads in compliance with his instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5 ("Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head").

Pastors told wives to submit to their husbands as the apostle Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:1, but rarely told them to avoid wearing nice jewelry as the apostle instructs them just one sentence later in 1 Peter 3:3. Despite the fact that being single was praised by both Jesus and Paul, I learned early on that marriage and motherhood were my highest callings, and that Proverbs 31 required I keep a home as tidy as June Cleaver's.

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This didn’t really trouble me until adulthood, when I found myself in a childless egalitarian marriage with a blossoming career and an interest in church leadership and biblical studies. As I wrestled with what it meant to be a woman of faith, I realized that, despite insistent claims that we don’t “pick and choose” from the Bible, any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle requires some serious selectivity.

After all, technically speaking, it is “biblical” for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt, “biblical” for a woman to be required to marry her rapist, “biblical” for her to be one of many wives.

So why are some Bible passages lifted out and declared “biblical,” while others are explained away or simply ignored? Does the Bible really present a single prescriptive lifestyle for all women?

These were the questions that inspired me to take a page from A.J. Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Biblically", and try true biblical womanhood on for size—literally, no “picking and choosing."

This meant, among other things, growing out my hair, making my own clothes, covering my head whenever I prayed, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church (unless I was “prophesying,” of course), calling my husband "master,” even camping out in my front yard during my period to observe the Levitical purity laws that rendered me unclean.

During my yearlong experiment, I interviewed a variety of women practicing biblical womanhood in different ways — an Orthodox Jew, an Amish housewife, even a polygamist family - and I combed through every commentary I could find, reexamining the stories of biblical women such as Deborah, Ruth, Hagar, Tamar, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia.

My goal was to playfully challenge this idea that the Bible prescribes a single lifestyle for how to be a woman of faith, and in so doing, playfully challenge our overuse of the term “biblical.” I did this not out of disdain for Scripture, but out of love for it, out of respect for the fact that interpreting and applying the Bible is a messy, imperfect and - at times - frustrating process that requires humility and grace as we wrestle the text together.

The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text. The better question to ask one another is why we pick and choose the way that we do, why we emphasis some passages and not others. This, I believe, will elevate the conversation so that we’re using the Bible, not as a blunt weapon, but as a starting point for dialogue.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rachel Held Evans.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (4,657 Responses)
  1. Akahn

    People need to realize that the bible is a book written by man for man. It is nothing more than fables and tales that is attempting to get everyone in the same line of thinking and setting some sort of rules for as they thought back then "humanity". The book of course is very outdated much like the blue laws around today. Many people claim to follow the bible, but yet they also know stoning their wife or neighbor and many other atrocities that is promoted in that book are simply wrong. Like all other religions, man has created their stories to try and teach of their own moral beliefs. But no religious book should ever be taken more than just a story...

    November 19, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Rebecca

      That is not true. If you ever did any research you would know that there are many scholars who have many degrees that have proven that the Bible is true and God inspired.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • colleenkelley

      No, Rebecca. Just no.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Smithsonian

      "proven that the Bible is true and God inspired."

      The stories found in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1-12, such as the flood story, the record is quite different: the time period under consideration is much more ancient. The factual bases of the stories are hidden from our view archaeologically. The stories remain a part of folk traditions and were included in the Bible to illustrate and explain theological ideas such as: Where did humans come from? If humans were created by God (who is perfect and good), how did evil among them come to be? If we are all related as children of God, why do we speak different languages? It must be remembered that the Bible is primarily a book of religion, a guide to faith. it was not a book of history, poetry, economics, or science. It contains all sorts of literary genre, which are used to teach about the relationship between God and mankind. Even biblical history is edited history: events were chosen to illustrate the central theme of the Bible. The Biblical writers did not pretend they were giving a complete history; instead they constantly refer us to other sources for full historical details, sources such as "The Annals of the Kings of Judah" (or Israel).

      It is therefore not possible to try to "prove" the Bible by means of checking its historical or scientific accuracy. The only "proof" to which it can be subjected is this: Does it correctly portray the God-human relationship? In the best analysis, the Bible is a religious book, not an historical document.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "proven that the Bible is true and God inspired." I hope you are joking, fool. No one's proven anything of the kind, nor will they. P. T. Barnum was a prophet, though.

      November 19, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  2. Sam

    The Bible is a fine example of how to live except for the fact that it is a made up bunch stories that are used to control the weak minded. And...by the way there is no GOD!

    November 19, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Rebecca

      Wait and see when you get in into trouble and who will you be calling to help you?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I did call on God for help, honey. He never responded in any way, shape, or form.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Tim

      Are you sure about that Sam

      November 19, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "when you get in into trouble and who will you be calling" 911, honey, we stopped expecting "god" to come down and help us a long, long time ago.

      November 19, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  3. My beagles

    All I have ever known is this.....to follow Christ with all of my heart by obeying and loving His words, commands, and precepts. By the relationship that is developed, we take on the person of Jesus....He will lead and guide us into ALL truth. Only those that is close in relationship to Christ will enter the KINGDOM OF GOD.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  4. Bible Clown©

    The Bible supported Hitler right down the line. The Bible was just fine with Reagan making secret deals with Iran and it was okay with Nixon burglarizing his opponent's psychiatrist's office. The Bible supports mass murder, polygamy, and war, and it is 100% behind slavery. So don't worry, whatever it is you believe, you can find plenty of Bible Truth to back you up. Amen!

    November 19, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • RSM

      You do realize that you are showing the same ignorance about the book that the Christians have correct? The Bible never supported Hitler because Hitler was not alive when it was written. Most of the accounts that you are citing had to do with specific events during the time of their writing. I find it amusing that you are going to judge a culture and its views as wrong and yet expect everyone to accept how you see the world. THEY did not see those things (such as polygamy) as wrong and they have the right as a culture to view it this way just as you have the right to say it is not for yours..

      That is what I find so amusing about people such as yourself...you will talk about the intolerance of the Bible writers using.... intolerance.

      I also find interesting how you know far less about the book then you claim...for instance you will talk about the law of slavery in Exodus but yet "miss" the part in Jeremiah where God says that he was using that law to free slaves (he calls it his law of freedom where he was trying to get rid of slavery.) So before you start to bash any book, you just might want to take a better look at what you are attacking.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  5. horf

    Thanks for a great piece. Finally I hear from a thoughtful, devout Christian not a blind extremist.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      ". Finally I hear from a thoughtful, devout Christian not a blind extremist." I will be the first to agree that they are not all crazy.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  6. Rev. Rick

    Ms. Evans said, "As I wrestled with what it meant to be a woman of faith, I realized that, despite insistent claims that we don’t “pick and choose” from the Bible, any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle requires some serious selectivity."

    Ms. Evans, good for you! As a former conservative Christian myself, it is heartening to see an evangelical actually have the nerve to write this! The "selectivity" in scripture you speak of is the reason we have Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and the dozens of other divisions within Christianity. And who is to say for sure whose version is right and whose is wrong. Not too far behind this concept of selectivity is my belief that there are truly divinely inspired scriptures from faiths other than Christianity. As a student of comparative religion, I find that ancient texts from Hindu, Buddhist traditions not only inspiring, but worthy of study, and it some cases far superior to Christianity scripture.

    Again, this scriptural "selectivity" you mention seems to me has been the cause of more division, rather than honestly supporting any particular Biblical position, much less supporting any specific theology.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  7. Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

    I hate seeing my sacred text flattened out, edited down and used as a prop to support a select few political positions and platforms.

    This is all your bible was ever intended to do. The reason you believe it to be sacred..is you were indoctrinated to believe so. Just as a Muslim.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      WELL PUT. This whole idea of ANY text being "sacred" is the foundation of the mental illness of the religious. Even the writings of Einstein or Darwin are not "sacred" to atheists, they are either proved or disproved under current scientific methods.
      The only reason we atheists can now speak out is because of the anonymity of the internet. Writing this kind of "lack of belief" and abhorrence to religion and delusional religious people would have gotten me MURDERED just a few decades ago. That's what religious people do, they MURDER to prove "god's love"

      November 19, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • CanisLupis

      Sorry, but I disagree and your accusasation of my situation is unfounded. I didn't attend every Sunday or even read to from the Bible as a child. I had minimal experience until I chose to read it for myself. I didn't allow priests, rabis, or pastures to tell me what they mean. And I truly believe that the Bible is an inspired book, written by imperfect people, but the overall message is perfect.

      I have lived my life by the life lessons given in the Bible, and never had the conflicts that everyone else has. For being a "fictional book" as I have heard it called, I seem to have far less concerns that most in USA. I don't deal with sleeping around, I have a single partner who I devote my time and energy towards and who loves me back because she does the same. All because I follow this "fictional book". I am very content with what we have. I never fear not having a job, or being without money/food/shelter.

      The Bible, if you read it, teaches you how to be content with yourself and those around you, take only what you need, and learn to understand what is truly important in life.

      How are your lives? I would bet you feel a part of you is missing and you need more, and when you get it you still are not satisfied. Well the solution is simple. Pick up the Bible, ask God outloud to help you understand what is written, and read it from front to back like I did. You will be surprised how much different your view of the world will be.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  8. Atheist

    The author states: "The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text."

    The problem is that selective interpretation of the bible renders it meaningless. If each person or religious faction has its own teachings and interpretations, then how is one to know what god intended? If the bible is inspired by god, shouldn't we have some idea as to what god actually wants or expects from us rather than each person making their interpretations to conveniently fit their own personal beliefs?

    The author seems like an intelligent person, but she just can't shake the irrationality involved if one is to believe in a god.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  9. Gary Luce

    Rachel, I'm sorry to say so in such a blunt manner, but you seriously missed the whole point. Jesus came to remove the letter of the law and replace it with the Spirit which it was intended to be lived. Of course it is absurd to sell a woman to pay off debt. Of course it is absurd to say that women should never speak in church. While you say you have "playfully" performed this role, you have taken a deadly shot at the heart of al Christian belief which is revealed to us through scripture. Without it we would simply be subject to one another's opinions about what God "meant" by whatever topic is under consideration. Let's look at what the Word says, do our best to interpret it and consider the ramifications of our actions for others and for our own relationship to God Himself. Then we will be living "Biblically" and not simply as we see fit under the guise of scriptural instruction. We are masters at justifying our own sin and shortcomings. We should do so with Gods' Word.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Atheist

      What a hypocrite (but typical of the religious). On the one hand you call the teachings of the bible absurd and then do an about face to say that without god's word the biblical is rendered meaningless. You can't have it both ways. Either the bible is the word of god or it is open to all interpretation (and thus rendered meaningless).

      The bible is as outdated and barbaric as the culture and times that it was written in. It has no place or voice in modern times.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Mark

      There are two Creation stories – in Gen 1 and in Gen 2. They don't agree as to the facts. There are two Nativity stories – in Matthew and Luke. they don't agree as to the facts. There are different narratives of the crucifixion. They don't agee as to the facts. Acts narrative of Paul's conversion and subsequent actions disagrees with what Paul wrote himself. The list goes on. Which of these do you believe?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • fretnomore

      @gary, how naive to think that by reading and applying the bible, you are doing so without interpreting it. just as you erred in your critique of the author, so do you most likely err in your biblical understanding.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • D. Calrk

      Gary Luce, your fear of God over rides your love of God. We MUST interpret. He has left us no other alternative. But we trust he will guide us into all truth (through his spirit). Pointless rigigidity, and wooden literalism are the hallmarks of false faith (as a Pharisee) not as set free in the Spirit.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • CanisLupis

      There is not 2 creation stories. The translations of the two Bibles were incorrectly done and have been misprinted over many years. Even the fact that they translated Elo-him as God when it should be gods shows the falicies of the people doing the translations. Isrealite God is always referred to Elo, not Elo-him. The first story could be the Isrealite's account of the other gods making their own humans and their parts of the world. The second story could be his account since in the second chapter he is using Elo.

      However, your logic that conflicting stories as a basis to not follow the teaching should have been applied in the elections. Neither canidate should have been followed since both clearly lied under oath.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • CanisLupis

      @Athiest. The Bible is as prevalent back then as it is today. You choose to not acknowledge it as God's word, or that God even exists, and therefore are unable to understand its teachings. But you can see for yourself what happens when people of a country begin to sway away from the teaching fo the Bible and use what you call Intellect and Reason.

      In the USA, adultry is so accepted by society that no one says anything when it is discovered. However adultry is the #1 cause of the breakdown of the family values. Adultry requires one spouse to be dishonest with another and to break their word (i.e. marriage vows). And a person who breaks their word is worthless.

      IN the USA, we support cures for STDs (including AIDS). If you didn't sleep around (i.e. commit Adulty, covet another's wife, honor the parents, etc.) as it says in the 10 commandments, we wouldn't have such a pandemic or waste millions of tax payer dollars on something that is completely preventable if we show restraint. Remember this activity is valid for your world without God's laws.

      We have a standard business practice of not honoring retirement by selling out companies before retirements are paid just to avoid paying them. We consider them good business practices. What they actually do is cause the instability of the economic and social harmony that is occuring in the USA today. People steal the money of the retirement funds, or sell the company off, or fire people before they have to pay the pension. All dishonest, all valid in your world without God's laws. And all sins (i.e. contrary to God's laws) in the eyes of God.

      I don't know about you, but I would rather live in a world governed under God's laws rather than one made by man. As man tends to be selfish, mean, and self-centered without them. They simply apply logic to justify such behavior and muddle the waters of the definition of right/wrong and good/evil so they are not held accountable for their actions (again a very selfish act).

      November 19, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  10. jp

    And there’s a big problem, Stewart went on, with reducing “biblical values” to one or two social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring issues such as poverty and immigration reform.
    =========
    Who's is this author even talking about? Does Mike Huckabee have a problem with immigration reform? Or is it christians in general? As far as I know, folks on the right are pushing for immigration reform, they just don't agree with that reform proposed on the left.

    And who is it that ignores poverty? Is it Mike Huckabee? Or is that christianity in general? Where does she get her information? Churches are large and continuous donors to those who are in poverty. At least all the places in my city, where you can buy clothes or house hold items for cheap, are christian operated. All the foot pantries where I live are christian operated. And as far as I understand it the catholic church has been the single largest giver to the poor for the past 2000 years. As far as I know the only thing that those on the right disagree with is, simply, the means by which the poor are helped, i.e., they disagree with the government being that mechanism. But the idea that christians don't wan't immigration reform or are ignoring poverty, is simply ignorance in itself. The pot calling the kettle black.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • jp

      *foot pantries should be food pantries

      November 19, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • jp

      As far as the rest of her argument about people being selective in their interpretation of the bible, she is right on, but I think she got off on the wrong foot on her opening words.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      The ACA (Atheist Community of Austin) in Texas regularly has blood drives and Feed the Hungry kitchens in Austin. Where they don't hold your sandwich hostage to a sermon...simply feed the poor. That's just one example. There isn't anything religious charity groups do that can't be done by secular ones. The biggest difference is that secular groups aren't promoting superstition as their driving force....just goodwill. Granted church groups have a long history of charity and ready "flocks" of volunteers, but that doesn't mean they can't be replaced eventually by purely altruistic ones not driven to also proselytize their religion.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  11. Bob

    'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded. This fantascial fairy tale has been debunked every which way you can imagine and no one with any bit of common sense takes it seriously anymore, yet religions still flourish. Why is that?

    November 19, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Eric

      "The grass is red... the grass is red... the grass is red...!" (analogical translation of what I read above) As a former atheist, I can attest that not all atheists see the same "facts". As CS Lewis once said, "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading." Concepts such as abiogenesis, "ex nihilo nihil fit", and "punctuated equillibrium" all SCREAM against the logical mind. And yet they are the bitter pill any athist must swallow. Be an atheist, but know that you have more faith than I!

      November 19, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  12. Me

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank those who have posted comments. The believers for giving me new insights about God's word, and providing verses to back up their statements. The atheists for opening my eyes to the sheer number of people who don't believe, and how badly they want to discredit those who do.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Smithsonian

      The stories found in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1-12, such as the flood story, the record is quite different: the time period under consideration is much more ancient. The factual bases of the stories are hidden from our view archaeologically. The stories remain a part of folk traditions and were included in the Bible to illustrate and explain theological ideas such as: Where did humans come from? If humans were created by God (who is perfect and good), how did evil among them come to be? If we are all related as children of God, why do we speak different languages? It must be remembered that the Bible is primarily a book of religion, a guide to faith. it was not a book of history, poetry, economics, or science. It contains all sorts of literary genre, which are used to teach about the relationship between God and mankind. Even biblical history is edited history: events were chosen to illustrate the central theme of the Bible. The Biblical writers did not pretend they were giving a complete history; instead they constantly refer us to other sources for full historical details, sources such as "The Annals of the Kings of Judah" (or Israel).

      It is therefore not possible to try to "prove" the Bible by means of checking its historical or scientific accuracy. The only "proof" to which it can be subjected is this: Does it correctly portray the God-human relationship? In the best analysis, the Bible is a religious book, not an historical document.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Atheists don't need to "discredit" believers, they have no credit to begin with. Our problem with "believers" is that these are adults shaping policy and society. Sure, it's annoying when children constantly make room for imaginary friends, set an extra place at the table for them, etc. Children can't vote or enact laws. Atheists are trying to save the planet for the future of humanity, "believers" could care less about the future of humanity, because they "believe" and "just know" that they are going to a "heaven" I wish all religion would just go away. People used to think tomatoes were poison, but they are not. Religion IS poison, history has proved it.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      You've got it backwards. Atheists are tired of having believers shove their worldview down our throat. Telling us we're condemned to hell and feverishly working to enact laws for everyone based on their beliefs. Atheists don't go door to door to spread our ideology. I don't personally care what others believe so long as they don't try to impose their beliefs on me. Christians feel "persecuted" simply because non-believers have finally got the freedom to express their distaste in religion without fear of reprisal. The days where questioning the church was taboo is long past. Deal with it.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Me

      As I said, thank you for opening my eyes..... ;)

      November 19, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • sam stone

      Me: I got no concern over your belief systems, until you try to evangelize or codify them into our secular laws, denying others their civil rights in the process

      November 19, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • CanisLupis

      @Smithsonian. The Bible is a book of facts as well as literary. The fact that they list the family tree of people shows it is a book of record as well. It was an oral tradition passed down generation to generation before it was finally written down. And the Bible was created by a small group of Christian Leaders on what they as a group deemed was acceptable material for it that made sense.

      November 19, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  13. andyst

    If you believe in GOD or not is irrelevent. Society needs a moral compass or it becomes irrelevent and fails. The roman empire is a prime example.
    Organized religion wether you like it or not provides that to people.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • DemFromSC

      II have a moral compass, the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. I don't need to an imaginary sky-fairy, and a book of old stories, to tell me how to act.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • DemFromSC

      I have a moral compass, the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. I don't need tan imaginary sky-fairy, and a book of old stories, to tell me how to act.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Cyndie

      Dem - Um, from exactly do you think the "Golden Rule" is derived? Its a biblical passage, one version of which can be found in Matthew 7:12: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them .... The issue with religion in politics didn't become so much of an issue until non-Christian religions became strong enough to have a voice in today's politics (primiarily Islam). Odd that now that another religion is becoming a voice, Christians across the country are just now realizing there's too much religion in our politics.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Huh?

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • wayne

      "from exactly do you think the "Golden Rule" is derived?

      It's actually older than the bible.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • On my knees for God's pleasure

      That's funny, because the Roman Empire fell only after Christianity became its official religion...

      November 19, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  14. Brandon

    Whar is new under the sun? another woman babbling 'bout bra burning!
    woman burn thy bra it is after all there for support!

    November 19, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  15. crystal

    It is apparent from reading this article that the Bible has been taken out of context, which is the real danger. God's Word is true. It doesn't matter if you believe it or not, everything in the Bible will still come to past. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • UncleM

      everything in the bible is made-up.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Primewonk

      Your god got the very first verse of the very first chapter of the very first book wrong. And it goes downhill from there. Sorry.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Tell you what – the day I see a 7 headed dragon that spewes torrents of water trying to eat pregnant women, I'll believe that everything in the bible is true.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Huh?

      "will confess that Jesus is Lord."

      No, Jesus is the false messiah! All hail Mithra the original messiah and savior.

      Mithra
      Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds
      Was considered a great traveling teacher and master
      Had 12 companions or disciples
      Promised his followers immortality
      Performed miracles
      Sacrificed himself for world peace
      Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again
      Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)
      Was called "the Good Shepherd"
      Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion
      Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
      Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day (also known as the "Lord's Day,")
      Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"

      November 19, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • My beagles

      Well said..

      November 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Cyndie

      Since the actually writing of the bible (pen to paper as it were) was done by men, and its highly unlikely that any God sat there and dictated the text to these man, that they got the words through inspiration, vision, or dream, we must therefore assume that the inspiration, vision, or dream was interpreted by these men before being recorded for all posterity. Essentially, the bible is the work of men, not God. Further those writings that got included in the bible were chosen by the politics of the day. There is much that should have been included and wasn't, if the bible is to be complete. I believe there is a higher power of some sort, but I don't think its a Santa Clause type being sitting in a golden throne. I cannot believe in some book that a bunch of men wrote over the course of thousands of years. I believe that religion picks up where rational thought leaves off. Taking no responsibility for your life and its happenings and leaving it all up to a God is just stupid. This God won't prevent tragedy, won't prevent disaster and won't help you win the game, race, or lottery. However, if you believe in 'him' he give you the strength to take care of whatever situation arrises yourself. Just be a good human and deal with whatever comes your way, you don't need a God to do that.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Eric

      Reply to Huh?: http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/Is_Jesus_Simply_a_Retelling_of_the_Mithras_Myth
      Ahh, the copy paste atheist – a clever and cunning foe...

      November 19, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • TrollAlert

      Eric you are not the blog police, many posters are copying and pasting, Interesting you're only picking on the atheists. What a hypocrite and a TROLL!

      November 19, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Eric

      I was providing a humorous, but critical, commentary on a specific post by one atheist. Should I cry foul that you generalized me by saying I am "picking on (all) atheists"? By all means, copy and paste. By a thinking person should see such lists as the vapid regurgitations that they are.

      November 19, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  16. alloy555

    Interesting we see the Bible (fake some of you say) unfold before our very eyes, (things will happen and all will see)- that was strange not to long ago, now we know how with the tech age streaming in, or the people will desire a young (inexperienced) leader and God will grant that (which will help take us to our end, the things with Israel, you can go on and on.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • Primewonk

      What, exactly, is unfolding from the bible? Be very specific.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  17. Reality

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
    One, man intelligent without religion,
    The second, religious without intellect. "

    Al-Ma'arri
    born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma'arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

    November 19, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  18. theblackchronicles

    Going in, I had different expectations for this article. The conclusion is that we all pick and choose, but I thought that was the motivation for writing it. ...And when you lived "biblically" for a year, what did you learn? Should I assume that your final statement means that the practices conflicted too much with your modern lifestyle, and so you too have chosen to live only by those scriptures that best fit that lifestyle? *confused* Well... thank you for mentioning a few biblical practices that we probably wouldn't hear about on somebody's political soapbox. It's certainly made me want to revisit how I practice my so-called beliefs.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • Martene

      I agree – my expectations were different on first read. Why does she end with discussion re: the humanity of pick and choose, I don't know. Seems good opportunity existed to point out the hyprocrisy of what pick and choose means and how "un-Christian" a behavior THAT is! What were the 7-Deadly Sins then??? (Sorry, I may be calling it incorrectly) Not sure how it stimulated you to re-examine your so-called beliefs,though. Assumed they were already synthesized.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  19. jayb18

    This conversation needs to be held in the Middle East regarding Muslim beliefs.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  20. via2

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son Jesus, that whosoever believes in him would never perish but have everlasting life. Jesus crucifixion on the cross was the greatest act of love to make possible the greatest gift that man could ever hope for....Eternal Life. To receive this great love and free gift, you call this dangerous!!!???? I don't think so.

    November 19, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • richunix

      If that was true and not what men have created out of fear of the unknown, then I would agree with your statement. But in order for me to agree, would require that a "deity" does exist. Also by the way which GOD are you referring to? The word GOD is from the 6th century German. Your deity does have a name? ZEUS, AN, HERA, RA or YAHWEH?

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      November 19, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • WASP

      @via: so he loved humans so much to make a showie offering of himself to himself to forgive humans for something WE personally never did?
      that seems kindof ass a nine to me. if your god is so loving and so powerful then why not just forgive and forget?
      guess he isn't that powerful nor that loving; thus undeserving to be worshipped.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • DiedrichKyrian

      Which God? Which Son? I mean Zues had Ares. Odhinn had Thor. The Honored Dead with the Vikings went to Valhalla, the Greeks Elysian Fields. That's living forever.

      How would you feel if you were told that Allah was the one true God and to get into the Kingdom of Heaven you had to follow Mohammed and do *ALL* what the Koran teaches you? Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, that you're wrong and their right?

      Strongly think on that. If you go back to "Well my God is the One True God." You've missed the point, which is, how is my statement any less wrong than yours about the God and Jesus save for YOU believe it?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • sam stone

      via2: seriously, you would desire ETERNAL LIFE?

      there are undoubtedly people you know who are not "saved".

      are you comfortable knowing that they will be tormented forever?

      are you comfortable with the being that would subject them to that?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • sam stone

      jesus had a bad weekend for your sins

      November 19, 2012 at 9:41 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.