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My Take: It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible
April 1st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible

Editor’s note: David Hazony is the author of "The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life," published recently by Scribner.

By David Hazony, Special to CNN

I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally. Usually this oscillation between faith and skepticism serves me well, with faith giving reason its moral bearings, and reason keeping faith, well, reasonable.

It’s a nice balancing act — except when the question of who wrote the Bible comes up. My Jewish faith tells me that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch. Reason tells me to be open to the idea that somebody else had a hand in it.

And there are definitely a few glitches in the text that back up those suspicions - notably the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, which describe Moses’ own death.

But try as I might, I just can’t believe that the Five Books of Moses were written by J, E, P and D – the four main authors whose oral traditions, biblical scholars say, were cobbled together to make the Torah. (The letters stand for the Jahwist, the Elohist, the Priestly source and the Deuteronomist. Those, we may assume, were not their real names.)

Call me an academic infidel.

I know, it’s been generations now that Bible study scholars at universities around the world have accepted as true that:

(a) the Pentateuch was composed over many centuries through these four oral traditions, which were later written down;

(b) these main texts were woven together by an editor or series of editors living around the 6th century B.C.E.; and

(c) these different traditions are detectable by scholars today, to the point where you can justify entire conferences and an arena’s worth of endowed chairs to figure out not only the source document of every scrap of biblical text, but also the gender, political inclinations, subversive intentions, height, weight and personal traumas encumbering every one of its authors.

The first two are plausible, I suppose. But the third has always struck me as pure fantasy, the point where idle speculation gives way to heavily funded hubris. Of course, if I’m right about the third, the first two lose their authority as well.

Why don’t I buy it?

It’s not just because of how stark, uninspiring and vaguely European those four letters look in a byline. Nor is it the fact that in more than a century’s worth of digging up the Middle East by archaeologists, not a single trace of any of these postulated “source texts” has ever turned up. And it’s certainly not because the scholars’ approach contradicts my faith — after all, it was the willful suspension of faith that led me to consider it in the first place.

No, faith and skepticism dwell together in my confused bosom like pudding and pie.

Rather, my rebellion against these scholars comes from experience. Specifically, my experience as an editor.

It all started a few years back when, as the senior editor of a Jerusalem-based journal of public thought, I ran into trouble on a 10,000-word, brilliantly researched essay about Israeli social policy composed by the sweetest man on earth who, unfortunately wasn’t a stellar writer.

I spent a few weeks rewriting, moving things around, adding and cutting and sweating. Finally I passed it up the chain to Dan, my editor-in-chief.

"Hey Dan," I said. "Could you take a look at this? I added a whole paragraph in the conclusion. Tell me what you think."

A few days later I got it back, marked up in red ballpoint. On the last page, in the conclusion, he had written the words “This is the paragraph you added,” and drawn a huge red arrow.

But the arrow, alas, was pointing at the wrong paragraph.

You see, it turns out that it’s not very easy to reverse-engineer an editing job. To take an edited text and figure out, in retrospect, what changes it went through — it’s about a million times harder than those tenured, tortured Bible scholars will tell you.

Language is fluid and flexible, the product of the vagaries of the human soul. When an editor has free rein, he can make anything sound like he’d written it himself, or like the author’s own voice, or something else entirely. It all depends on his aims, his training, his talent and the quality of his coffee that morning. A good editor is a ventriloquist of the written word.

That’s when I started to suspect that what Bible scholars claim they’re doing — telling you what the “original” Bible looked like — might be, in fact, impossible to do.

Think about it. My case was one in which the author, editor and reader are all known entities (in fact, they all know each other personally); the reading takes place in the exact same cultural and social context as the writing and editing; and the reader is himself a really smart guy, Ivy-league Ph.D. and all, who had spent a decade training the editor to be a certain kind of editor, with specific tools unique to the specific publication’s aims.

Not only that, but he was even told what kind of edit to look for, in which section. And still he couldn’t identify the change.

Now compare that with what Bible scholars do when they talk about J, E, P, and D. Not only do the readers not know the writers and editors personally, or even their identities or when or where they lived. The readers live thousands of years later and know nothing about the editors’ goals, whims, tastes, passions or fears — they don’t even know for sure that the whole thing really went through an editorial process at all.

(If anything, the same textual redundancies, narrative glitches, awkward word choices and so forth that the scholars claim are the telltale signs of an editing process are, in my experience, very often the opposite: the surest indicator that an author needs an editor, desperately. If the text was edited, it was done very poorly.)

As with any field of research that tries to reconstruct the distant past, biblical scholars get things wrong on a daily basis.

And that's OK: Getting things wrong is part of the nature of reconstruction. Whether you’re talking about the origins of galaxies, dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, medieval history or World War II, the conclusions of all historical research come with a big disclaimer: This is the best we’ve got so far. Stay tuned; we may revise our beliefs in a couple of years.

With biblical scholars, however, you often feel like they’re flying just a little blinder than everyone else. At what point does a scholar’s “best guess” become so foggy as to be meaningless?

The Five Books of Moses take place somewhere in the second millennium B.C.E., centuries before our earliest archeological corroborations for the biblical tales appearing in the Book of Joshua and onward. We have no other Hebrew writings of the time to compare it with. So all that scholars really have to go on is the text itself — a wild ride on a rickety, ancient, circular-reasoning roller-coaster with little external data to anchor our knowledge of anything.

This would be fine, of course, if there weren’t so much riding on it.

With other fields, we usually don’t have our own dinosaur in the fight. But with the Bible, it’s not just the scholars duking it out with the clergy. There’s all the rest of us trying to figure out what to do with this stupendously important book — either because it anchors our faith, or because it contains enduring wisdom and the foundations of our cultural identity.

Where does that leave us? Some people, sensing their most cherished beliefs are under siege, will retreat to the pillars of faith — whether that faith is religious or academic. Either it was Moses, or it was J, E, P, and D. End of discussion.

As for the rest of us, it may raise questions about whether we really ought to care that much about authorship at all, or instead just go with Mark Twain’s approach. “If the Ten Commandments were not written by Moses,” he once quipped, “then they were written by another fellow of the same name.”

Using our reason means sometimes admitting there are things we just don’t know, and maybe never will.

Maybe that’s all right. After all, isn’t it enough to know that the book is really important, that it has inspired love and hate and introspection and war for thousands of years, that it is full of interesting stories and wisdom, poetry and song, contradiction and fancy and an unparalleled belief in the importance of human endeavor - in the possibility of a better world - despite the enduring and tragic weaknesses that every biblical hero carries on his or her back? That it is an indelible part of who we are?

Isn’t that enough to make you just read the thing and hope for the best, forever grateful to Moses, or that other fellow by the same name?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Hazony.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • History • Judaism • Torah

soundoff (2,549 Responses)
  1. crucified

    Athiest Stump Test.... Prove their is No GOD?

    April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Sorry, logic foul on the play.
      The burden of proof lies with those making the claim. Claims of any gods existence is not supported by verifiable evidence. You will need to prove existence before making your challenge.

      15 yards from the spot of the foul. Repeat first down.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • crucified

      I guess you are not up for the Challenge...

      April 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • WIll III

      They can't.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Ok, how about this. I can prove that there is no God. I created everything, and I am not God. If you want proof that I am all knowing, I can provide that too.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • crucified

      Don't get mad... I just asked you to prove what you believe..You say there is No God..so Prove it....Maybe you were just not Chosen. There is Design that proves Creation. or maybe you think you came from a choatic Boom that violates 3 Laws of Science..just so you can feel better about the Choice you have made.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Eric G.
      Ok, how about this. I can prove that there is no God. I created everything, and I am not God. If you want proof that I am all knowing, I can provide that too
      -------
      If you were indeed all knowing, would you really have to ask if we wanted proof that you are all knowing? Since you asked, you have proven that you are not! Just sayin'! You have also failed in the quest the to prove there is no God! Just an observation! Not a logic foul, just something you cannot truthfully answer . That little burden thing would work well in a court of law, but this is...The belief Blog. I still think you are decent human being, you are just wrong when it comes to faith!

      April 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Steve: I am all knowing.........and I knew you were going to say that. If proof is not important to a god, then why was it necessary for your god to send his son? If faith were that infalliable, his actions were not necessary.

      The point of my post is that there is as much evidence to prove that your god exists as there is that I created everything. I would ask, based on the available evidence, why you would believe in your god but not in my claim?

      It is refreshing to have civil dialog with someone on these blogs, even if we are of different minds.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Eric G.
      @Steve: I am all knowing.........and I knew you were going to say that. If proof is not important to a god, then why was it necessary for your god to send his son? If faith were that infalliable, his actions were not necessary. The point of my post is that there is as much evidence to prove that your god exists as there is that I created everything. I would ask, based on the available evidence, why you would believe in your god but not in my claim? It is refreshing to have civil dialog with someone on these blogs, even if we are of different minds.
      ---------
      Careful Eric G, I am a recovering hatefilled arguer! Anyway to answer your question, Sir is easy. You said: I would ask, based on the available evidence, why you would believe in your god but not in my claim? My answer is simply, your age! The popular belief is the earth is a couple of millions of years old! I will take a wild hance to say you are nowhere close (I hope). In short, you cannot create what was created before you were created! Simple, huh?

      April 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Eric G.
      @Steve: I am all knowing.........and I knew you were going to say that. If proof is not important to a god, then why was it necessary for your god to send his son? If faith were that infalliable, his actions were not necessary.
      ------
      Proof is important to God but it was never for his benefit but ours! Jesus came to reveal that God was not an uncaring, deity floating in space. He came to re-establish what Adam had but forefeited due to sin, a fellowship and a relationship with a God who cares! That is why he sent his Son! That is what make Christianity and Judaism unique!

      April 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • LJ

      Erin G have you ever had the conversation about "the chair" is it really a chair? No, it's not, it's tiny bits of atoms, energy and other things made to look at what we label a chair. Is it really a solid object? No, it's not. Then I must ask you are evergreen trees really green? Or, is it the reflection of light on your iris and other chemicals making you think it is green, but it actually is not green at all, it's really black or do you really know at all? The fact that we can mold things into what we label as a chair, label things green, label it a tree doesn't mean they are truly those things at all. So can you prove to me a chair really is a chair? Can you prove to me what we label an evergreen tree is really green?

      April 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • LJ

      Something to consider Erin.

      Everything that exists has a spiritual form, a perfect template, the physical manifestation of which is an imperfect copy. Everything originates and has existence because of this. Take for example a chair. It started as an IDEA of a chair in other words, a spiritual form. This form is what makes a chair a chair. We may say a chair has four legs, a back and a seat. But take away a leg or two. is it still a chair? Yes. Remove all the legs. Is it still a chair? Yes, all be it a broken chair. In fact, at what point does it STOP being a chair? Arguably, never. Now apply this reasoning to yourself and you may glimpse your TRUE nature. You, once in existence, arguably can NEVER cease to exist. Because your true nature is spiritual. The physical you just an imperfect copy of a perfect form.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  2. Mark from Canada

    "But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally. " – This remains to be demonstrated – certainly no signs of rational thinking in this article. Amazing how the God delusion seems to spur on a whole range of delusions.

    "...it was the willful suspension of faith that led me to consider it in the first place." – Cough – sorry, I was chocking on my coffee with disbelief. This guy is as nuts as they come – willful suspension of faith – does he think he's the Budda or something?? Come on...I don't buy it.

    "it’s been generations now that Bible study scholars at universities around the world have accepted as true that [...] Why don’t I buy it?" – Pathetic argumentation. This is a ruse – a red herring. The argument Hazony puts forward is absurd and he is launching it as though this is what scholars are suggesting, which is not true. The list that Hazony put together is mythical – just re-read number 3 in that list – does is sound reasonable that any scholar would accept that notion?

    "You see, it turns out that it’s not very easy to reverse-engineer an editing job. " – This guy is giving everyone a straw man argument in here without explaining what textual scholars really do. So what if his editor is as loony as this guy. Real textual scholars are able to reconstruct the history of text using evolutionary linguistic methods – including stats, systematics, and other experimental methods that have been invaluable to science.

    Hazony end's the article without even touching on the important question – if these are just people in history who wrote the bible of a different name, then why has the writing stopped? Why is it that the bible was written several thousand years ago where it is safely encapsulated in a shroud of mystery that this is where it stopped and must remain that way? If we want to believe that there is a God speaking to people at some point in history and giving them the 'knowledge' to put words to paper, then why can we not agree to allow this today and adopt new chapters into the bible that are as contradictory as those already in place? The reason – is because it is a mythical piece that requires a suspension of a rational belief to even consider it a plausible theory. The God delusion is a busy and diffuse parasite.

    April 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Kevin

      It's because nobody writes about the modern day anymore. And you should know what happened in history after the biblical period. People nowadays are so far away from religion that there is no need to write anymore. If you want to write, take experiences and miracles encountered and write them.

      lol you're from Canada. Me too. If you deny me from being in Canada, I deny you too.

      People need to look deeper! Put yourself in the shoes of the first people on Earth! How would you have done it? The first people on Earth have nothing! Only God can lead them in this new environment! You're in an unknown place. Only God can guide you.

      And look back to the origin of the Earth. It is true that science cannot determine. There are violations.

      People nowadays are walking blindly. So sad.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      Kevin...not only are people walking blindly, but apparently there are people out there who can't string a proper thought together. I have no idea what your post is about – it is a clutter of words that is more confusing than the bible itself, which is hard to accomplish. So I congratulate you on your accidental prose.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Kevin

      Exactly, that was a test. Many people don't look deeper and understand. And everything I said is there. People do walk blindly by not understanding. And in this case, you fail to see the message and don't understand b/c you're walking blindly. Learn to look deeper and understand.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Kevin

      And I repeat myself b/c that is the only wait to carry out a message effectively.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  3. Harry Osborn

    Judaism has a rich history of four levels of interpretation known as PRDS. The highest level is simply the literal level. This means that if there was a talking donkey, it means there was a talking donkey. The Sod level is the hidden level. This method of interpretation is experiential rather than either behavioral or intellectual. I have spent years studying the Torah at a detailed sod level. The results: the entire Torah was written by a single person and is a single, integrated, incredible spiritual path. All of the elements are incredibly precise and interwoven. It is sad that Torah is usually seen as a book of history, morals (often simply used to judge others), and/or for priests. When apprehended, it is a personal spiritual journey and is mind-blowing.

    Harry Osborn

    April 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Ruth

      Thank you Harry. I am in total agreement with you. Awesome journey!

      April 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  4. Chris

    If "god" wanted people to read his words so bad, why didn't he write the damn bible himself?

    April 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  5. Ryan

    The idea that billions of people around the world are morally, psychologically and spiritually guided by a bunch of silly cartoon characters, drawn up by a by a bunch of phobes hundreds of years ago never ceases to both amaze, and disappoint me.

    April 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. JB

    Sure, it is an oral tradition, but you should also keep in mind that this was a text memorized by the entire people. I think there is little chance it was edited or changed when it's memorization was so widespread and important...

    April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Reality

      Again, the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis are way ahead of David Hazony. No mention of the "New Torah for Modern Minds" in Dave's comments. One wonders why that is? And he does not mention The Code of Hammurabi or the Egyptian Book of the Dead both of which predate the Torah as "Ancient Moral Codes".--

      To wit:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."

      Read the rest of the review at the cited web address.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  7. Edwin Jey

    Well said by Dennis Pence. The Bible was given to us as a "road map" – problem is – many don't know how to read the map or choose not to. The BIBLE is acronym for Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. It is just an Operating Manual. Follow it or not is users choice.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  8. PastDM

    I agree with the articled author – its not important who wrote it, the Bible has been a source of wisdom and inspiration for millenia (though not always inspiration that I would call godly – see "The Inquisition" and so many wars fought in the name of God). But it is very important to recognize that it was written by multiple people and that different viewpoints and origins are in it. For example, the difference between E (Elohist) and J (Yawehist) is not that there are two authors (actually probably a lot more than that) – but that two different traditions, with different names for God (Elohim and Yaweh), different origin stories (Note that Genesis starts with two different descriptions about how humans were created – their place in the sequence – a difference usually glossed over by "literal" readers, and more differences – have come together to create the ancient Jewish culture, and that the wisdom of both is represented in their stories which were eventually written down in Genesis. There are many other instances where varied stories in the actual texts have been conflated to single events in our everyday memories (for example – there are two very different Nativity stories – only one talks about traveling to Bethlehem and a stable, the other never suggests the trip; only one talks about shepherds seeing the baby, but it has not Kings, the other mentions the Kings, but no shepherds...etc.). So it is clear that many hands were involved in its creation – but it still has a lot to pass on and is worth studying. Unlike novels, the Bible is a book (or more accurately library) that one must read well, with great thought and an eye toward understanding context, original meaning, and how that translates to our modern world. If read that way – whether you are a believer or not, the bible has a lot for everyone to learn from.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  9. Eric G.

    To the believers:

    Which is more important to you, truth or faith?

    April 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • BigRed

      Neither. I believe in science.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Eric G.

      To the believers:
      Which is more important to you, truth or faith?
      -----
      Are you implying faith is not truth?

      April 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Big Red: Thanks for playing, but your statement is logically flawed.

      Science is based on verifiable evidence which supports a theory.

      Science does not require "belief".

      April 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Steve: Hello my friend! I hope all is well.

      "Truth" is verified reality supported by evidence.
      "Faith" is belief of reality without, or in some cases, in spite of verifiable evidence.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Hello Eric G,
      I am indeed well and hope you are as well!

      Your answer is almost true.

      Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen! According to the Biblical definition, Faith is indeed evidence!

      April 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Steve: Sorry my friend, one cannot use a reference to define faith that requires faith to validate. That is a circular argument.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • LJ

      Both but what is truth to you?

      Everything that exists has a spiritual form, a perfect template, the physical manifestation of which is an imperfect copy. Everything originates and has existence because of this. Take for example a chair. It started as an IDEA of a chair in other words, a spiritual form. This form is what makes a chair a chair. We may say a chair has four legs, a back and a seat. But take away a leg or two. is it still a chair? Yes. Remove all the legs. Is it still a chair? Yes, all be it a broken chair. In fact, at what point does it STOP being a chair? Arguably, never. Now apply this reasoning to yourself and you may glimpse your TRUE nature. You, once in existence, arguably can NEVER cease to exist. Because your true nature is spiritual. The physical you just an imperfect copy of a perfect form.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  10. Brian

    "new testament was written in Greek not Hebrew.".............................

    It was written in Koine Greek, which was considered bad Greek at the time. It contained four letter words which had to be paraphrased in the translation. In contemporary terms Koine Greek would be like hill billy English. It was a bad dialect – which was one reason the Romans initially rejected Christianity.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      Where did you hear that nonsense?

      April 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  11. hjimkeener

    Interesting article. However, the JEDP theory is quickly loosing ground among Biblical Scholars. From the standpoint of a Biblical Scholar, this article is at least a decade behind the trend.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • BigRed

      Biblical Scholar. Definition: One who spends an entire life trying to justify reading the same fairy tale over and over.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Ryan

      "Biblical Scholar. Definition: One who spends an entire life trying to justify reading the same fairy tale over and over." Very well said hjimkeener.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  12. Kate

    Thank God I'm an atheist

    April 1, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • crucified

      You can't because you do not believe......Sorry! You just were not Chosen.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • .

      Her and everyone else ever born apparently.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  13. John

    If I had a dollar everytime someone tried to prove that God exists, alot of people would owe me a lot of money.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Nonimus

      If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "if i had a dollar for every time..."

      April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  14. Chuck

    The Bible is just a creative work done by individuals over an extended period of time in an effort to make sense of the world, but based on historical precedents that existed in what is now called the Middle East.It is now more the The Truth that Hindu texts, Buddhist texts,the Koran or any other other religion's 'divinely inspired' stories. It is absurd to believe that God or any of his/her exemplars decided to appear on Earth, or inspired texts, two or three thousand years ago. Human beings, for too many reasons, have a need to believe that there are 'absolute' truths and that there is an afterlife. It's all a matter of faith; either you buy into the stories and their meaning or you don't. Either you accept logic and reason and your own capacity to make choices or you don't. In any case, you'll never know the truth because there is only eternal nothingness after we die.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • John

      You are aware that the non-existence of states of consciousness that transcend the human lifecycle have not been conclusively disproven?

      April 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  15. PAT CONDELL

    Religion is easily the biggest B.S. story ever in the history of mankind! The only thing it proves is the gullbility of man, and his inability to critically think, in most cases.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • BigRed

      Finally the truth. Thanks Pat.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • crucified

      give me an example of your critical thinking... because you gave no support to your rationale

      April 1, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Michael

      Critical thinking?? What, like fearing and hating something that you have no idea about? Never took the time to look into and practice? That's some awesome critical thinking!

      April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      Actually, I think the story of your birth tops it.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ryan

      Support:
      All major social and scientific progress throughout history has been fought by the church, ie: Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Copernicus, Freud, Kepler, Einstein, Darwin, Kinsey...
      The church has fought every social right and freedom everyone other than a grown white man is able to enjoy.
      People who read and believe the bible believe that the earth is 8,000 years old and that all women originated from a man's rib. That last statement alone is enough to conclude that "the believers" are completely, I mean completely, insane.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • crucified

      Still no support for rationale..

      April 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  16. HAYZEUS

    George Carlin on RELIGION (from YouTube):

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=george+carlin+religion&aq=0

    April 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  17. Daniel

    I too have wondered about who actually wrote the Bible. What it really comes down to is the fact that, at the time, humans had no idea why the things in their environment occurred, or why they were there. Today we know most of the explanations of what's going around us, though we still don't know why we're here. To that extent, the people created myths and stories to explain why things happened, just as the Greeks and Romans, the same as the Aztecs, the Ancient Chinese, etc. But at the time, there was actually no written form of communication, and therefore the stories which inevitably made it into the Bible were passed on orally generation to generation, parent to child for thousands of years before they were ever written down. That begs the question...What did the original authors, whoever they may be, actually intend? Play the game telephone with fifteen people, and the story you get at the end is nothing like what it was at the beginning. Now use the same effect on a book that was transmitted in much the same way for centuries, and on which the lives of BILLIONS have been dependant over the years for guidance and a way to live. More people have died in the name of The Bible, more wars have been fought, more people unjustly put to death, than over any cause in human history. When so much is dependent on it, I believe it really does matter who wrote The Bible, and what their intentions were. Alas, we may never know.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Roberto Gallstone

      Why even assume there must be a reason why we are here?

      April 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Daniel

      There is no reason, but plenty of people do ask why are we here. We are mamals, the same as a dog, as a tiger, as a bear. We are born, we live and grow, and we die. The difference is we have the ability to think and rationalize, and therefore a lot of people can't grasp the fact the we simply are just here. When we die nothing happens, we decompose and something will grow there, that's reincarnation. A lot of people have a problem with the idea that when we die there's nothing after that, and so religion is born, and if you are good you will have a good afterlife, and if you're bad you will not. Does the bear believe it's going to heaven? When there were no animals on land and the earth was populated by giant sea dwelling jelly fish, before man ever existed...did the jellyfish believe they were going to heaven? If humans weren't around yet to come up with the term and word "GOD" did he exist? Of course you must first accept that evolution really happens to answer this question. So...did the jellyfish go to heaven?

      April 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  18. Brian

    "Most ancient moral text" ? That's a matter of opinion.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Nonimus

      Isn't the Epic of Gilgamesh older?

      April 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  19. Ruth

    Sirena, you may have read, but lack understanding. I am not affiliated with any religion, or church. I am not a Christian nor Jew. It has taken me years to shed all the lies that were taught to me by the church pastors and rabbis. Just because they were teaching incorrectly, upholding their dogmas doctrines, that does not deny the existence of God, the Creator. The scriptures state (if you study) that Torah (the Word) is truth and is light. May you find truth and light in your journey.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • BigRed

      Science is the truth and the light. It is verifiable and real. God is a human invention, nothing more.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • HAL9THOUSAND

      Science is not the "truth and the light". It has causes just as much good as it has evil. Honestly, you people who hold your science and math so close to you are just as insane as those who believe in the heavens. Science is just Humans trying to understand the universe and we understand very little. With that little bit of information we still manage to abuse it. Infact, Science shows much more abuse than Religion ever has. I don't support either more than the other. Keep your radical ideas to yourself BigRed. You are just as bad as the Mormans who come knocking on my door. Fool.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Only1kev

      BIGRED, tell us oh great one, how does science explain how life began? Enlighten us with the "truth and the light"...thanks!

      April 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • BigRedMyButt

      Stupid people, whether believers or agnostics, all sound alike. And you my friend sound no different than a fanatical religious zealot preaching the belief of no God. Science by its own scientific method proves it is NOT TRUTH. With every generation and iteration we find so called scientific truths incorrect or warped . All that science proves is our knowledge today may only cover .000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent of the actual truth of the universe. So to put your belief in something so infinitesimal, I would call that blind faith.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  20. BigRed

    Frankly the Bible is nothing more then a fiction and collection of fairy tales forced on a gullible people by the Catholic church. In short, who really cares? It's like a James Patterson novel that once read is so worthless that it is not even considered for resale by a used book store. The Bible, The Koran, and the Talmut are three books responsible for 2000 years of wars, massacres, and torture. The writer of the editorial is misguided if he thinks that what he has written has any worth in a world torn apart by religious fanatics like himself.

    April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • BigRed

      Oh yes, let's not forget the Torah.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Michael

      Or, these holy books could be pages that have helped billions over the millennia who have sought solace, comfort, sustenance, and a moral compass from their pages. It's so easy just to say "It's all made up and ridiculous, and pushed by money-grubbing power-hungry theocracies." Isn’t it? See how easy it is to try living by their good example and stop belittling people's beliefs.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Ryan

      You're so wrong it's laughable. The Bible existed long before the Catholic Church ever did – it was written within thirty years of the Resurrection. So it couldn't exactly be forced on people by the Catholic Church, now could it? Also, there are resale stores all over the place that sell them. You are right on one count though – religion has been the cause of many wars. In recent history, it's been Atheists like Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-Tung, and Kim Jong Il trying to kill religious people.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • notyourname

      Yawn. Go home, troll.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • graciegal

      Go Big Red!

      April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • HAL9THOUSAND

      If you are truly a man of logic, reason and science then you should not be so quick to talk. For the short time that science has been around...look at the devastation it has brought to our race, society and planet. It has brought a lot of good as well. Just like Religion. The best thing to come out of religion is the beautiful music and devotional inspirations that come from within. You are a fool and ignorant to dismiss Religion over Science. Stop trying to spread your "Gospel". You are just as bad as the religious nutcases. Religion isn't just about a book and literally believing in the metaphorical fiction presented in the book. Perhaps you could learn something from how humans used Religion. Apparently not because Science is just as destructive.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Uli

      The bible was written by men trying to gain control over other men.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      "belittling people's beliefs" – I believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, Zeus, and went to the police station to report on the skinny green glowing alien that stuck a probe in my you know what. They belittled my belief!! And so I continue to pray to the tooth fairy in the hopes that someone will start to take me seriously. There is belittling belief and then there is rational discourse. What we have here is a couple thousand years of ingrained belief into something that defies the laws of nature by creating a super-hero magical megastar in the sky and it isn't belittling to point out the obvious, that the toothfairy, Santa Claus, Zeus, or God are just myths. The green alien is real – my bum hurts.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Seer

      Exactly: the latest research – by a Christian Bible scholar no less – says that the Bible was forged or written by impostors: http://www.christianpost.com/news/is-the-new-testament-forged-49605/

      April 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      So lets see, the author of this piece wrote a reasonably argued piece saying essentially two things. The first is that we should take the claim of Bible Scholars with a grain of salt and the second is that who wrote the Bible (or actually the Torah) is less important than what is in the Torah. So what is the reaction of at least one "rational" atheist? An attack on the Catholic Church as being responsible for the Bible, even though the Torah existed hundreds if not thousands of years prior to Jesus, an attack on the author being a fanatic (even though it is clear he is anything but a fanatic)...

      I wonder, is it the theists or the atheists who are more intolerant?

      April 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Oh right, something I forgot to point out; Religion has gotten plenty of blame over the years for the suffering of well... everyone. The funny thing is that when groups that claim to be secular or even atheist gain control, I see no evidence they have done any better. and it could be argued that they have done considerably worse. Perhaps it is time to face the simple truth... People are responsible for the suffering of others.

      No religion or philosophy is going to change this basic fact. In fact, the atheists who love to attack Christianity for the suffering in the world, fail to notice that a big part of the point of Christianity is that people will continue to cause suffering and will often falsely act under Christianity's name. Not using this as a claim that Christianity is correct, but it does point out that Christians, even in the first century, recognized something many militant atheists still don't recognize today.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
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About this blog

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.