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My Take: Learn about the Bible, even if you don't believe it
April 20th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Learn about the Bible, even if you don't believe it

Editor's Note: Kristin Swenson, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time.

By Kristin Swenson, Special to CNN

"True Grit's" stern little girl Mattie - shoot, the Coen Brothers’ entire movie - dramatizes a single line of biblical text. And the way the film interprets that particular text makes that biblical verse directly related to the governor of Illinois' recent decision to ban the death penalty, a decision which was reportedly informed by the Bible.

The movie’s and the Illinois governor’s conclusions - about capital punishment in this case - are exactly opposite. While Mattie's justice requires death for the man who killed her dad, the governor's has no place for such execution. Yet both have biblical precedent.

So knowing about the Bible not only makes the movies more fun and enables critique of public policy, but it also paradoxically encourages you to think for yourself.

The Bible's long history of development, reflecting many voices, and the fact that it’s usually read in translation invite our engagement with it not merely as passive recipients of a fixed meaning but as unique individuals bringing different points of view to bear.

The trick, of course, is knowing something about the Bible, even if you don’t believe in it. And the more you know, the more intriguing it gets.

If you're not biblically literate, you can get along all right, but you're missing out. It's like a cocktail party with raucous conversation. You're invited, but until you know something about the Bible, you'll be stuck talking about the weather at the punch bowl.

Yes, "True Grit" is entertaining no matter what, and you can take Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at his word that his death penalty decision has biblical basis, but each invites a deeper understanding. And together, they reflect the Bible's ambivalence - in this case about crime and punishment.

"The wicked flee when none pursueth," a line from Proverbs 28:1, hangs auspiciously on the screen at the beginning of "True Grit."

Knowing that Hebrew (the original language of Proverbs) creates its poetry out a system of parallel lines, might lead you to check out the line after the one quoted in True Grit: "but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

Linking the criminals' running to the boldness of a lion, the biblical verse suggests a world in which courageous good guys chase down the yellow-bellied bad with the same determination, cunning and strength as the king of beasts.

That's our Mattie, at 14 years old a cub, but single-minded in her quest to bring to justice the man who killed her father. Mattie is "the righteous," of course, and the justice she seeks is death.

Because the Bible is sacred scripture, authoritative and instructive for millions of people, many people believe, like Mattie, that certain criminals should be put to death because of what it says.

After all, the Torah, or "law," prescribes execution in several specific cases, including murder.

Yet Illinois Gov. Quinn is said to have consulted the Bible while wrestling with his decision to abolish the death penalty. What gives?

People looking to the Bible for a single, clear, yes-or-no answer about the death penalty will be disappointed, just as they are when seeking a simple, one-size-fits-all answer to abortion or environmental ethics.

For one thing, another translation of torah is "instruction." So maybe those "laws" shouldn't be taken so literally.

Indeed, while the Bible allows for all sorts of killing and would seem to demand criminal execution in certain cases, it also commands "thou shalt not kill/murder," identifies God as the only ultimate judge, and praises forgiveness and mercy.

I don't know Quinn, but I suspect he knows enough about the Bible to know that he also had to think for himself. He wisely considered that our human systems, justice included, are imperfect - and that the wrong person might be pegged for a capital crime.

Knowing about the Bible, no matter what you believe, enables you see not only why Quinn would settle on the ban but also why it was such a difficult decision: sometimes the Bible says different things.

"God said it, I believe it, that settles it," is available for bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs, and posters. Yet the Bible's multiplicity of voices and complex history invite you to learn more and in the process to add your own voice, thoughts, and deliberations to the conversation.

First, though, you’ve got to learn about it.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kristin Swenson.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Movies • Opinion

soundoff (1,814 Responses)
  1. joe

    I was extremely skeptical of the bible until I read it. Now it's just laughable.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  2. Drago

    Please show me one clear case of the wrong person being executed for a crime they didnt commit. You will find few, if any. Death penalty should be used for all heinous crimes.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • cyberCMDR

      The fact that many have been released from Death Row after being cleared by DNA evidence has caused many states to question the ethics of capital punishment. Given that the use of DNA evidence is relatively recent (and testing is often fought against by DAs after the conviction), it's obvious that all too many innocent people have received the death penalty.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Peter E

    If you follow the Bible literally:
    -Polygamy is normal
    -Slavery is justified. In fact, men have a right to father children from their slaves
    -The Earth is flat, has four corners, and the Sun revolves around it
    -A man can survive without oxygen for 3 days
    -Insects have four legs
    -Disobedient children must be put to death
    -You must not eat pork or shellfish
    -Women are subserviant to men and should be silent
    and many more. Yes, every single one of these statements are in the Bible, if taken literally.
    Guess what, most of us know that the Bible can be interpreted. And we are honest about it. Not like the self-righteous who cherry pick the Bible to support their narrow-minded agenda 'the Bible condems gays' while ignoring all the other teachings of the Bible.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Artist

      Peter, modern christians pretty much know what you cited is crap. It is just a matter of time before they see their bible as fiction and move on.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • joe

      Don't forget the non-stop incest, as well as people live to be hundreds of years old.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Observer

      You are completely correct. Everyone just picks and chooses from the Bible whatever suits them. That's why so many Christians choose to trash gays while pretending the Golden Rule doesn't exist.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • logankstewart

      Where do you see that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it in the bible?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Observer

      Isaiah 11:12 “And He will lift up a standard for the nations And assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.”

      Isaiah 40:22 “God sits above the circle of the earth.”

      April 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Peter, I wish I'd known about that "Disobedient children must be put to death" bit when my son was growing up. 😉

      April 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Observer

      @Lettuce Prey,

      That's nothing. What if you had known that if you saw an attractive girl you wanted to marry, all you had to do was force intercourse if she was virginal?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • CW

      @ Peter E,

      I would say we christians "cherry pick" as you say ALL the things you referenced are from the Old testament. Remember in hebrews it deals with a lot of the old rituals of worship and the old rules as well.

      In addition YOU SAID "the bible condemns G-ays"

      I say:
      We as christians NEVER co-ndemn them but the sin is wrong. There are exactly six passages that deal with this and two of them I know for a fact are in the new testament(see Romans chapter 1 and 1 Corinthians 6:9). I realize that in order to follow the bible we as believers have to live as best as we can but all of it and not just some of it BUT sin is sin...no matter what. I believe that the Bible is completely clear on this...h-om-os-e-xuality is wrong.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Observer

      @CW,
      Corinthians also says " (I Corinthians 7:36) “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.”

      So what is your point?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • CW

      @ Observer,

      Ahhhhhh....1 Corinthians 7:36....Lets take a look shall we?

      Here is the passage:
      If anyone is worried that he might not be acting h-o-norably toward the v-ir-gin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong] and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.

      Now let's exam what's being talked about here....If you read a couple of passages before it talks about how if we as christians stay unmarried then we can devote of our being to God. If we get married then we are also concerned with pleasing our spouses....notice no meantion of H-o-mo-s-e-xuality being ok b/c it was already de-alth with in the previous chapter.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Observer

      @CW,
      You couldn't find a more ridiculous source to trash gays than Paul. In the Pauline epsistles, he says men shouldn't have physical relations with other men, but he also says they shouldn't have relations with women. Pitiful example.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • CW

      @ Observer,

      I'm not bashing G-ays. What I am saying is there is a better way if anyone will take the leap of faith and follow God. Believe me...I have fleshy desires towards women just like the next guy but to constantly lu-st after women is wrong as well. As to what Paul was saying he was saying that it is right for man to be total commited to God and NOT marry. Considering that Jesus suffered beyond what any human could or would ever endure I think that is a small price to pay. Anyway Paul was saying that if a man will sin if he doesn't marry then he should marry that way he wouldn't be sinning by lu-sting after a woman.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  4. Daniel

    The bible really needs to be banned for the greater good of humanity . Just like Malleus Maleficarum, the bible needs to be banned .

    April 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Artist

      In time grasshopper. Man is not ready to be weened off of superst i tion and myth.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  5. Matt

    "After all, the Torah, or "law," prescribes execution in several specific cases, including murder."

    Can I get you to paint my fence, Dr. Swensen? Because that's about the most epic whitewash job I've ever seen – it's like saying the Third Reich murdered "several" people...

    April 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Chuck

      not any more of a whitewash of the murder and sacrifice in the Bible.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  6. CW

    I agree....such a shame at all the lost souls.

    The Bible is the book of truth.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Face

      Actually its the Quaran!

      (See.... I can do that too!)

      April 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Voodoo Idol

    I am an atheist and I agree that everyone should read the bible. The more people who actually read it, the less Christians we will have as it's full of contradictions and outright incivility.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Jason

      And yet another atheist claiming contradictions without providing any.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Artist

      Jason it would seem foolish to argue about the validity of Zues or Santa. Your god(myth) is no different. What value is there in myth other than entertainment?

      April 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Actually, reading the Bible superficially and without some knowledge of the times in which it was written and the various reinterpretations over the centuries is what makes Christians. It promises scared people a better life after this life based on the efforts of someone else. It promises simple people a means to get to heaven without having to do any heavy lifting. It is a life-raft religion. It is ultimately a religion that can be anything to any person but at root it is for the fearful and the lazy.

      When read critically, it is a grand source of myth, poetry, and history.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  8. DrMabuse

    Read the bible only to see how ridiculous it is, keeping in mind it's a work of fiction.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Vijay

    HATE – Hate is what you will have in your life if you don't believe in god, for God is Love.
    While anyone can freely publish their opinion on CNN a christian cannot.
    Stop Hating!. For those of you who have claimed to have read the bible and say it is BS. Read it again only this time put your HATE aside.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • DrMabuse

      I can read it only if I put my intelligence aside.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Observer

      Your opinion obviously was posted on CNN. So did you have a point?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Vijay, it is rude of you to assume that all atheists are filled with hate. I'm an atheist, and I don't hate anyone. You have a nice day, okay?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • QS

      Really, a Christian preaching about not hating? Tell me how you feel about gay people thanks to your successful indoctrination, then we can talk about who is truly hate-filled.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      I am an atheist and am not full of hate. The Baptists tried to make me a hater against: Women who kept their own name when they married, gays, non-whites, people who did not belong to our specific type of Baptist, and Catholics and, of course, all non believers, They told me my mother had the right to beat me when I was disobedient (i.e questioned the dogma or trying to get out of the massive amount of heavy housework I had to do). I fled in part because of the abuse of children and partly because of the hatred. I fled because I could not get a straight answer out of anyone on the important questions in life. Jesus got my A's for me but I was responsible if I failed. Nice.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • BasedInReality

      Hate, it appears, flows from the religious like gushing streams. How many atheists have condemned you to an eternity of suffering? Just because your "beliefs" are questioned or challenged, that is not hateful. What venom you spew back is what is full of hate.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Chuck

      Hate? I don't hate anyone, and I don't believe in God. On the other hand, I see signs like "God hates f*gs." Reconcile.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  10. BasedInReality

    Well I've read it cover to cover twice. Also have read many books on the history of religion. Was religious at the time but after my research, I am no longer deluded or taken in by the woo woo of religion. Just for kicks, believers, tell me why there are 2 different lineages for Jesus, both listing men down through the ages from David ending with Joseph, if your deity was his daddy? Why don't they match? Why are the 2 nativity stories so different? Who in their right mind would believe, without ANY evidence, that a magic, invisible thing could exist, nevertheless create a universe and everthing in it? Science knows so much about our world and the universe now and is adding to that knowledge hourly. Physics is on the brink of being able to explain how it all came to be with testable evidence and biology has just recently been able to artifically combine chemicals to make RNA and have it partially replicate itself, which can be tested and verified. Nearly there on how life first began. Reality is really awesome and beautiful and ultimately the most liberating state to live in. No reason for hating anyone or any group, just love of life and the lives of others. For those who cannot wrap their minds around the fact that ALL living things die and that's the end of it, I don't think you will ever be able to fully live the one and only life you have or be able to ever fully appreciate the awesome fact that you got to live it. But you can start a journey by doing your own research and see where it leads you.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Steve Luke

      On the two lineages given for the birth of Jesus Christ- one establishes that he is the rightful descendant of David through his step-father Joseph because the Jews would use a patriarchial line to establish a king's lineage. The other shows that Christ is related by blood through his Mother, Mary. Since Jesus was born of a virgin, he has no blood line through Joseph.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • CW

      @ BasedInReality,

      You can rely on "science" and your own "perception is my reality" montra but the simple fact is that there IS a God. God did create all this...I know...its hard to believe...but you have to have Faith that this is the case.

      Glad that you read the Bible cover to cover....I would say you need to pick it back up...but instead of reading with your current "science" and so called "reality" thinking...really try to clear your mind and really read it. Since you have already read it you would also know that our Lord touched upon some of the things he told us not to do when he led David to write "Lean NOT on your own understanding but put your faith in him"...see Proverbs chapter 3.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • QS

      "...really try to clear your mind and really read it."

      The zealot's way of saying "good that you read it, but since you didn't intrepret it the same way I did you need to read it again until you think the same way I do."

      April 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      How about the 2 Creation stories? Solve this conundrum: Through faith are you saved and not by works. and It is by your works that you are known? There have been huge battles in the history of Christianity since the Reformation as to how you actually get onto the Jesus team. Faith alone and works alone are both still held by different branch of Protestantism. The Bible is rife with contradictions. I got hit a lot as a child and teenager when I pointed them out and demanded an answer.

      I don't actually think reading the Bible once as if it were a novel will get you much understanding of the issues. It requires many readings and the use of exegesis to see how different kinds of Christians see it. The King James version is not worth reading as it contains many translation errors. I guess it depends on whether you are reading it to use it to beat up Christians or whether you are actually attempting to understand and make it part of how you analyse all manner of cultural artifacts.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Suzie

      QS but it also would fit the definition of brainwashing.....any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repet-ition.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • BasedInReality

      @Steve Luke – I see you are making things up out of thin air to answer the lineage question. No where is there an explanation in the book such as your weak and weary try at it. Sorry but that's a fail. The book says BOTH lineages are for Jesus, beginning with David and ending with Joseph. No lineage for Mary is in that book! You really should read it.

      @CW – Thanks for the chuckle. I can guarantee you that I have studied this subject far more than you have and it is quite evident by just reading your comment. You are very welcome to live by all the delusions you can muster, and yes indeed I will be joyful, loving and happy with my life. You religious people love to hate so much and that is so very sad and pathetic.

      When the religious cannot defend their faith with good argument, they so quickly resort to personal attacks.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  11. sDex

    Believe it or not, Richard Dawkins said as much in 'The God Delusion'. He advocates that understanding the bible is important if you want to understand literature, since there are so many references/themes/ideas that come from the bible. Of course you dont need to believe in God to appreciate the literary connections.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  12. Ryan

    I agree with the author: especially if you don't believe it, it pays to be informed. As an atheist, I always enjoy it when I know more about the bible than some of the faithful I encounter. Meanwhile, they know little to nothing about me outside of news reports. In the words of gamers, pwned.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  13. John

    Wow – a lot of atheists are here on the belief blog. I wonder why that is? What are they looking for? Perhaps an opportunity look down on others because they hold a different view on things? Maybe it makes them feel better about themselves since they know (or at least hope) that there is no God.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Or perhaps to help clear up misunderstandings.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      John, as an atheist, I read these articles because I realize I'm in the minority, and I desire to both understand believers and to be understood. It is a method of exchanging ideas.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Jason

      Lettuce Prey –

      As a Christian, I would say this is the best broad based comment yet. I say we all build off this and bring to the table our thoughts and ideas, rather than ridicule.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • EmeraldCity

      Or perhaps, John, they are simply posting here because they have the right to? You know, free speech and all. And because the subject matter interests them. Some of us see the Bible as a text there to be read as literature, as a subject to consider in the history of the text – copying, printing, formal features (how it looks). Or perhaps we are here to simply engage in discourse by responding to others' opinions.

      Either way, do you honestly hope to control the flow of conversation on a story thread? Your whining seems to imply such.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Some people think about what others think and feel. Some people are interested in broadening their knowledge and understanding. I have to wonder why the teeny bopper Christians flood into these kinds of articles when they know they will get blasted every time they tell people to take it to Jesus. They are not here to understand Atheists and the Atheist view.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Chuck

      Well, I read stories on religion to keep informed, since religious groups are constantly trying to add their faith into public schools (having my tax dollars pay for their evangelism), using their faith as a basis for bigoted government policies. And people are constantly killing themselves and each other over their faiths.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  14. Boka

    Wow. The book of lies. This book causes more pain and violence then any other. How about believing in humanity and not fantasy?

    April 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jason

      I think you really believe this based on what you've heard from other non-believers. Have you ever read it to figure out if they are true?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • highspeedCU

      I'd say the Koran could give the Bible a run for its money.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  15. Steve Luke

    "Read the Bible even if you don't Believe it"

    How can this be? You can't possibly believe something you do not know.

    I prefer to tell people to read the Bible then decide whether they believe it or not. At one point in my life, I did not believe the Bible at all. Then, On December 5, 1979, I read the Gospel of John. From then on, I believed the Bible. I've read through it many times and haven't found a reason to not believe it yet.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Marc Benarrous

      I dont have to read the comic book to know superman doesnt exist.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Face

      Rofl,
      reread deuteronomy or leviticus, then read the Quaran, and a few other "holy books" (FRONT TO BACK) THEN decide which one "sounds the most legitimate"
      Please....you are smarter than this....
      GL

      April 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Steve Luke

      Face-

      I appreciate the compliment. I do not advocate reading every book on the planet to make up your mind. Clearly, that is not possible. I've read other books from other faith systems, and found them lacking. The difference is the agency of the Holy Spirit acting on the reader of Scripture. I know too well that it is possible to read the Bible and be unconvinced. But to not even look into and make up your mind beforehand is not logical.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  16. joe

    I can't believe CNN is trying to trick people into reading the bible. Why not tell us to read the book of mormon or dienetics while you are at it?

    April 20, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  17. WMesser58

    I hope this posts cause she's an idiot to think you should read a fairy tale.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  18. blake

    Lots of thin skinned and mean spirited atheists and agnostics responding today. Perhaps they realize that they represent only about 15% of the U.S. population according to recent surveys.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Coriolana

      So true. But they are usually the loudest.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Blake, I've been reading through these comments for the last hour or so, and there are just as many mean-spirited Christians on this thread as atheists and agnostics. Belief is not a prerequisite for kindness and understanding.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • maybeagnosticmaybenot

      Interesting use of statistics, considering the Bible says the road to heaven is the "narrow" road. Thanks for pointing out yet another contradiction in the good book.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Jill

      Atheists actually think about God more than anyone. They are always talking about Him. Even if its in negative form they do it the most and therefore; they are thinking about them more than anyone realizes.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Christianity-is-a-Shadow-of-Hinduism

      Have you ever gone to college? Only 15% of the class was in the top part of the bell curve. So what if Christianity is popular? So is lady Gaga. Christianity's popularity is due to the fact that its been forced down everyone's throat over the last 2,000 years and because it is superficial and easily digested.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Chuck

      And yet, as 15% of the population, atheists are continually discounted despite being a larger group than all non-Christian religions combined in the US.

      People want to read the Bible, or any other religious book, and use it as their moral compass, fine. To try and tell me it is the indisputable word of a god is idiotic. The Earth is how old? The Ark? Jonah and the Whale?

      April 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Bryan

      That's crap. Christians have always been the loudest and most irritating of whiners. Atheists have put up with it in silence, keeping their lack of belief in god private to prevent being ostracised. Only in very recent years have we even bothered to voice our views. We're sick of people vilifying reason, logic, evidence and reality in favor of glorified fairy tales and myths as if they should be used to guide your life. I've read much of both testaments, and seldom have I ever read more vile garbage than the Abrahamic religions like Christianity espouse as virtue.

      April 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  19. Coriolana

    A sane and reasonable article about the Bible. Wow! That's a first. Of course, the comments here are practically a Hee Haw rerun but that's to be expected.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • DH

      I read the Bible. This is why I don't believe.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  20. JC Perez

    This is writer is a Phd? Amazing how much our educational standards have fallen. I guess that is what happens when you get your doctorate in mythology. I guess there are "no wrong answer" in the field of religion.

    April 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Coriolana

      And you're such an intellectual prize?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • WMesser58

      @ JCPerez Great answer!!!!

      April 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Steve Luke

      It's fun to make fun of others who do not share your views. I've got a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, which is based on hard facts. I also believe the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant and infallible word of God. I'm at a loss how anyone could disbelieve the Scriptures without at least giving them a read-through.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I've read them in their incredibly dull entirety. total garbage. The only bits that aren't completely dull are depraved.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • jan

      this is nonsense –why would I read about trolls, the devil, or any more reason than needing or wanting to understand the bible..it is all fairy tales and the time, national treasure and blood of its citizenry is always spilled and wasted when born agains get in–Right GW?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      I've read the Bible throroughly. That's why I am an atheist. The scriptures are the civil and penal codes of a bronze age people. Read Deut. 22:13-29 . If that doesn't convince you that the scriptures are NOT the word of an all knowing being, nothing will.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • @JC

      "This is writer is a PhD? Amazing how much our education standards have fallen."

      With sentences like that, you have no excuse to criticize anyone about their education.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • EmeraldCity

      Yes, the writer has a PhD. And it shows in this writer's encouragement to everyone in reading the bible as LITERATURE, and her focus on the Bible as a powerful text that exists in culture in an intertextual sense. What this means is that there are numerous allusions in culture (and in literature throughout the ages) to the Bible. And whether you are religious or not, it benefits reads to know something about it so that they are educated in terms of its influence on other literature, and societal mores and (as the Illinois case reveals) laws.

      Don't feel too badly – your philistine response is one that simply indicates an ignorance and jealousy that are symptomatic of someone who knows that their education is sketchy. You could always do something about that.

      I'm an atheist, by the way.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • QS

      "I'm at a loss how anyone could disbelieve the Scriptures without at least giving them a read-through."

      It's actually pretty simple – as a five year old I heard the story of Adam and Eve and knew even then that it was make-believe, having never read the bible at that point. All it takes is common sense to know that a very small percentage of the bible is based on actual historical events...and even those events are suspect when you consider that the people writing the bible were completely biased as to what they wanted to include.

      The rest is all metaphor, parable and conjecture. As a history book the bible leaves much to be desired.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Emily

      @JC: Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. earned his doctoral degree in theology from BU in 1955? Dissing this professor's area of expertise is not only disrespectful to her, but to all those who pursue higher degrees in theology and religious studies. We live in a world rife with political and religious turmoil...understanding world religions (and subsequently the Bible and other important religious texts) is more crucial today perhaps than ever before. Inferring that people who consider themselves religious are ignorant and poorly educated is hypocritical.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
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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.