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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. Bibletruth

    The old testament portion of the scriptures was completed about 400 years before Christ. Jesus said to the Jews that they should search those scriptures that they believed provided them with eternal life (that is, the way to eternal life, that is, the way, the truth, and the life) for they testify of Me (Jesus).

    Non-beleivers and beleivers (referencing Christianity) should not make the error that beleif in Christianity is based 100% on faith, for it is not. It is mostly based on faith but it is also based on a measure of evidence...evidence irrefutable by any mind and evidence more than sufficient for any mind, so that there is no excuse.

    I note in reading through the comments, some want to discard the resurrection of Christ. Peter (the apostle) said something we all should take to heart . Speaking of himself and the other apostles who were with Christ constantly during his earthly ministry he related what they saw and heard including the resurrected Christ..including the ascension...including the miracles of giving sight to the blind, the deaf to hear, raising the dead, etc. Here is the interesting thing....Peter said, I was personally there , I heard all of it, I saw all of it, "BUT there is a more SURE word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed...2Peter2:19.

    The unbelievers (critics, atheists, skeptics, agnostics, unbelievers, whatever an unbeliever desires to call themselves) cannot really stay an unbeliever once they are exposed to the prophecies. They can then only be a beleiver or a rejector because the "sure word" of prophecy (and Peter was referring to fullfilled prophecy) leaves absolutely no other choice. In other words the sure word of prophecy bypasses not being there personally to witness the life of Christ, ignorance, a persons testimony, everything, and puts the listener face to face with what they recognize as ultimate reality.....absolutely no choice but to believe or reject...no unbelief involved...no possible thought patterns that can be counted as unbelief rather than rejection.

    This is why God said ...you will know I am the true God because I will tell you what will happen before it happens" ...this is why Jesus told the Jews to search the scriptures (written 400-1500+ years before Christ) because they tell all about Me And this is why Peter said, even though I was there and I saw it and heard it, we have even a more sure word, the prophecies.

    Yes, one can call an eye witness, delusional, drunk, hallucinigenic, ignorant, stupid, unlearned, fairytale teller, deluded, fooled, etc. etc., but God does not allow such convenient outs, for He is trying to save everyone, despite themeselves. Therefore, God has given the more sure word of prophecy (anchored in his word and history) which cannot be not beleived, only blatantly rejected, the rejector knowing he or she is rejecting irrefutable truth.

    April 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Muneef

    3:50] "I confirm previous scripture – the Torah – and I revoke certain prohibitions imposed upon you. I come to you with sufficient proof from your Lord. Therefore, you shall observe GOD, and obey me.

    [3:51] "GOD is my Lord and your Lord; you shall worship Him alone. This is the right path."

    [3:52] When Jesus sensed their disbelief, he said, "Who are my supporters towards GOD?" The disciples said, "We are GOD's supporters; we believe in GOD, and bear witness that we are submitters."

    [3:53] "Our Lord, we have believed in what You have sent down, and we have followed the messenger; count us among the witnesses."

    The Death of Jesus*
    [3:54] They plotted and schemed, but so did GOD, and GOD is the best schemer.

    [3:55] Thus, GOD said, "O Jesus, I am terminating your life, raising you to Me, and ridding you of the disbelievers. I will exalt those who follow you above those who disbelieve, till the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is the ultimate destiny of all of you, then I will judge among you regarding your disputes.

    [3:56] "As for those who disbelieve, I will commit them to painful retribution in this world, and in the Hereafter. They will have no helpers."

    [3:57] As for those who believe and lead a righteous life, He will fully recompense them. GOD does not love the unjust.

    [3:58] These are the revelations that we recite to you, providing a message full of wisdom.

    [3:59] The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.

    [3:60] This is the truth from your Lord; do not harbor any doubts.
    ------–

    [3:77] As for those who trade away GOD's covenant, and their obligations, for a cheap price, they receive no share in the Hereafter. GOD will not speak to them, nor look at them, on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. They have incurred a painful retribution.

    [3:78] Among them are those who twist their tongues to imitate the scripture, that you may think it is from the scripture, when it is not from the scripture, and they claim that it is from GOD, when it is not from GOD. Thus, they utter lies and attribute them to GOD, knowingly.

    [3:79] Never would a human being whom GOD blessed with the scripture and prophethood say to the people, "Idolize me beside GOD." Instead, (he would say), "Devote yourselves absolutely to your Lord alone," according to the scripture you preach and the teachings you learn.

    [3:80] Nor would he command you to idolize the angels and the prophets as lords. Would he exhort you to disbelieve after becoming submitters?

    [3:81] GOD took a covenant from the prophets, saying, "I will give you the scripture and wisdom. Afterwards, a messenger will come to confirm all existing scriptures. You shall believe in him and support him." He said, "Do you agree with this, and pledge to fulfill this covenant?" They said, "We agree." He said, "You have thus borne witness, and I bear witness along with you."

    [3:82] Those who reject this (Quranic prophecy) are the evil ones.

    [3:83] Are they seeking other than GOD's religion, when everything in the heavens and the earth has submitted to Him, willingly and unwillingly, and to Him they will be returned?

    April 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Reality

      For the global religious community including Muneef:

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
      There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

      Saving 2 billion lost Christians:
      There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity

      Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
      Abraham and Moses never existed.

      Added details upon request.

      April 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Dave

    Using quotes from the Bible in order to "verify" it's existence is non-sensical to me.
    My atheism was confirmed BECAUSE I read the Bible. In fact I read two translations, the KJV and the RSV and I came away just as convinced that I am correct.

    Regardless, I do like reading the Book of Acts. It reads like a great adventurous tale.

    April 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Part of the reason I'm not an Atheist is from reading "The Origin of Species" and studying the Theory of Evolution. They're so full of holes, gaps, lies, racism, and just plain stupidity that I can't see how anyone in their right mind could ever consider them to be true once they know more than just the elementary-school-level basics.

      April 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Dumb Illiterate

      It is, Dave. It is an adventurous story. I hope that someday you allow God to show you that it is more than that.

      April 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Barry

      Dear Dave,

      If you don't mind, please tell me what you think the point or message is in the book of Acts.

      I am familiar with what some scholars have said about this book (which is often called Luke-Acts, given its obvious and close connection to Luke’s Gospel), but I would appreciate hearing what your ideas.

      Sincerely,
      Barry

      April 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  4. RightTurnClyde

    Television (unfortunately) turned the U.S. into a nation of viewers (not readers). It's too bad because they will not read (and thus not experience) Shakespeare, James Fennemore Cooper, Dickens, Twain, Michner.... the Bible. We see it now in the "texting" culture in which degreed people cannot complete a sentence. Needless to say they cannot conjugate a verb (in their own language), diagram a sentence, define a preposition or a gerund. I have recently learned (from an English professor) that most of them do not know how to use academic citation forms and have never used "Ibid" or "loc.cit." Too bad that an entire nation has so quickly embraced illiteracy. Three hundred million of us and there is no interest in learning our own language. A Bible requires special reading skills; the KJV is Elizabethan. Scholars warn us of punctuation issues in the English translations of the Bible. The Bible had been a reading primer for generations of Americans but now reading our language is a mere annoyance. Sad (but oh so obvious).

    April 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  5. nownow

    When considering a time when the Bible was the only book around to read it helps to understand why it is considered the foundation of all truth and knowledge. A prime example is the game theory involved in the question of where Jesus' authority came from ..... and the return question by Jesus of where John's authority came from. ...to which the response was if we say John's authority came from the people he'll say this, he'll answer one way...and if we say that John was God that he'll say why didn't you believe him?

    Don't think though that the Bible condones murder or killing anywhere as most of the behaviours are examples of what not to do and revolve around good things happening with those great examples of faith and not so good things happening when the people turn from God.

    As for evidence of the existence of God. He is the the Creator. Just look around.

    April 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  6. bro2044

    its a HUGE part of human history, whether one believes in its truths or not – its had an immeasurable impact on society and those who say dont read it because its not truth or "real" literature are immature and bitter people. I've read the Koran, but I am not Muslim. I've also read the Bible multiple times. Does that mean I'm stupid because I read something that I don't believe to be entirely true? no. Does that mean I wasted my time on something that isnt literature? no.

    Open your minds people, stop being arrogant and ignorant out of pride and spite.

    April 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      The essence of having acquired an education includes having read the great writings (books) and being able to understand their content. One must be able to read sufficiently well to comprehend what one reads. If we are unable to read or to comprehend then millions must rely upon someone like Ken Burns or NPR to create a brief video synopsis and trust that they will be objective. So the author (Kristen Swenson) writes that we ought to have read the original material. Naturally every individual will have unique opinions and also naturally opinions change over time as one matures. It is the process of on going self development that is important.

      April 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  7. hdghog13

    This may be the most poorly written article I have ever read. Right or wrong, it makes almost no point.

    April 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Bernie

      Much like the Bible itself

      April 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Bernie, trying desperately to get negative replies? Aww...poor troll you 🙂

      April 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Now this is an example of someone who cannot understand what he/she reads and then concludes that the writing is deficient. But notice, too, how the person writing the comment and the two responses (Bernie and Mark) are incapable of uttering more than a few words. "Much like the Bible itself" is not a complete thought (a sentence) and so that writer is incapable of reading the Bible. Reading and writing English grammar and syntax is not a skill acquired by that writer. "Bernie, trying desperately to get negative replies? Aww...poor troll yo" is also illiterate and void of meaning. Clearly, then, none of these three have acquired literacy and are incapable of reading literature or of expressing themselves. The author (Jenson) cannot reach these people. They are not of her culture.

      April 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  8. Barry

    I hope and pray that I never become cynical, as Mark Twain.

    For this reason I look to greater role models, like Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Fred Rogers, Nelson Mandela and other noble souls.

    God let me become good, decent, and kind, like them, and never let me become bitter, jaded and cynical.

    As the Psalter said: This is the day YHWH has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!

    April 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Mother Theresa was an evil beotch who denied birth control to thousands of women. If that is what you take as a hero, you are sick.

      April 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  9. Bernie

    Great book of fables, up there w/ Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood and a bunch of other non sense.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      And yet you still read them. That's the point the author's trying to make. If you don't believe in the Bible, read it for its' historical and literary value, same as you would Aesop's Fables, Shakespeare, Confucius, The Iliad, or the Brother's Grimm. It never hurts to expand your horizons.

      April 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Bernie

      No, read them, as in in the past.
      I'll watch the history channel, but thanks.

      April 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      That's what I meant – you read them at some point or another. Given your cynicism, I doubt you've read Shakespeare, the Iliad, or Confucius, though.

      April 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  10. Ryan in Michigan

    @ Eric G – I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I was spending time eating dinner and watching movies with my wife last night and didn't check CNN until this morning.
    I do have quite a bit of evidence to support Creation, but too much to write in this blog. Instead, go to Google and search for Creation Magazine, Answers in Genesis, and Doctor Ken Ham – this is where I get much of my information, but not my only source. These sources provide incredible detail into how Creation works as well as hard scientific evidence to back it up and inteviews with many top scientists, including ones that believe in Evolution, just to show that they do look at every angle. Also, if you're into reading, go to your local library and check out the book "Darwin's Black Box" by Michael Behe. It explains what's called the Theory of Irreducible Complexity, which is what DumbIlliterate is talking on in your posts with him.
    My comment about Evolutionists was in direct answer to Colin's comment about Creationists and, I admit, a generalization; I apologize if it offended you. I myself am also open to other theories. I sometimes read National Geographic and I have read some of The Origin of Species and have studied Evolutionary Theory in school, though it's been awhile. Anyway, enjoy the articles, as they're not just mindless dribble like some post on this blog (like Colin). Happy hunting!

    April 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @ Colin – You might want to check these sites and book out as well; expand your limited knowledge a little bit.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Ryan in Michigan: Thank you for the references. Is this the Ken Ham you are referencing as a viable scientific resource?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X2G2W43l44

      April 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Eric G

      I have noticed from several of your posts that you do not subscribe to Evolutionary theory because it is "so full of holes, gaps, lies, racism, and just plain stupidity that I can't see how anyone in their right mind could ever consider them to be true once they know more than just the elementary-school-level basics."

      First, can you give examples of what you do not understand? Perhaps I can help.

      Second, If you did have verifiable evidence that disproved the theory of evolution, does that prove the creation theory?

      April 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  11. Bob

    *lies" not "lives" ... cat on lap...

    April 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  12. Bob

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, it [the bible] has some noble poetry, some good morals, some clever fables, and a wealth of obscenity. And upwards of a thousand lives. What's not to read and enjoy?

    April 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  13. Barry

    Reality:

    Evolution, notwithstanding, the message stands, and has not only become established, but has flourished and has dominated and guided Civilization.

    The fact that the faith of a small, obscure group of slaves (Hebrews/Jews and later gentiles) could survive against such overwhelming odds–and that their faith and ethics have come to guide human history—is nothing short of miraculous and, to me, is further proof of God’s existence and greatness.

    One can call it an evolutionary process, for even the Bible itself makes it clear that it took centuries and great struggle for God’s people (Hebrews/Jews of the OT and Jews and Christian in the NT) to come to accept monotheism and to abandon idolatry (or paganism). (Viz., Isaiah, I and II Chronicles, Jeremiah, etc.)

    By the way not every Christian rejects evolution and other matters of science; much to the contrary, there are enlightened believers, who embrace science. This has always been the case.

    April 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Reality

      Barry,

      The Chinese and Indians of India are flourishing without Abraham and Jesus.

      April 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Reality

    "Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time." Buy a used copy on amazon.com for $3.67 or better yet read the information on p. 12 for an update on said bible

    April 21, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  15. Brad Wilson

    People are so interested in who is and is not going to Heaven that they forget about wheat they as an individual should do

    April 21, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  16. Barry

    You ask: What senses do you use to verify the absence/non-existence of God?

    I would say–all of our senses, according to the biblical texts (viz., Leviticus)—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch; not to mention the full range and capability of our emotions and thought or intellect.

    Given that the Bible has connection with and is couched in such materials as ancient Mesopotamian and Babylonian creation and flood myths; pagan psalms; Greek philosophy and influences (viz., Platonic and Aristotelian thought and logic), Greek story, the Babylonian Law Code [viz., Hammurabi], etc., it appear that God has used the full range of our own devices (viz., myth, canons of logic, literary forms, language forms, history, etc.) to speak a language that we can understand.

    Even I, with my limited understanding, can understand that.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Reality

      No Barry, it is simply the slow evolution of the human brain.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  17. CommonSense

    No, don't read it. Read real literature and learn about our human struggle from those who have lived it. Do not waste time reading badly written, and re-written nonsense created to frighten illiterate and weak minded people.
    Think for yourself. WE make laws in society to grant rights that we believe are good for society.
    There is no invisible man in the sky who wrote down laws. Grow up!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 21, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • John

      "Common Sense," unfortunately you contradict yourself. You believe that we should "read real literature" and "learn about our human struggle from those who have lived it," so are you saying that [1] the Bible is not "real" literature and [2] people in the Bible have not struggled and learned from their lives?

      Furthermore, you say "think for yourself." Shouldn't people, then, be allowed to read the Bible and choose for themselves what they feel about it? By saying "don't read it," you are not allowing people to think for themselves. You are thinking for them.

      Last, "we make laws in society." True. But are they all valid and good? Who decides? What if one group of people disagree with the current laws? Are their opinions invalid? Does majority vote determine actual morality and ethics? What really is right and wrong? Who decides? "WE" do as you said, but who's we? All of us? Some of us? The ones in government? The ones with money and power?

      April 21, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  18. Barry

    The Apostle Paul wrote:

    "Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments,
    because you know they produce quarrels.
    And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome
    but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
    Opponents must be gently instructed,
    in the hope that God will grant them repentance
    leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
    and that they will come to their senses..."

    Second Timothy 2:23-26

    April 21, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Eric G

      Interesting......

      "knowledge of the truth" and "come to their senses..."

      Truth does not require knowledge, it requires evidence.

      What senses do you use to verify the existence of your god?

      April 21, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • John

      Eric, what senses do you use to verify the absence/non-existence of God? Can our five senses detect everything that exists? Is it possible that our senses are mostly reliable but limited in what they can and cannot perceive?

      April 21, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Dumb Illiterate

      Eric, many people call themselves "christian", but have no idea what it means to be a "Christian." My emphasis. Quoting the Bible here as you can see, has just provoked quarrels and makes one seem self-righteous and sanctimonious. All I can tell you is, I believe. Not in some "invisible man in the sky", but in a Supreme being, a higher power if you will. It doesn't matter if I can't prove it to you, or if I can't prove it to others. I've proved it to myself, and that's all that matters. I don't claim to understand the bible. I don't claim to understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity, either. But I know his theory exists. As for weak minds being the fertile breeding ground for fairytale religiosity, to an extent that's true. I also know that some of the greatest minds the world has ever seen have also looked into the idea of a Creator "God" and have come to the conclusion that there is one.

      What senses do I use to very God's existence? The same ones you use to say he doesn't exist. I marvel that the world rotates on it's axis. I marvel that birds know when to fly south for the winter. I wonder why salmon, who were born upstream and then swim downriver, have this urge to swim back upstream against all odds to the place where they were spawned. I wonder why the slightest manipulation of a creature's DNA can make significant changes in the bodies of generations to come. I wonder why there are galaxies, why there are other planets, why the simple act of putting baking soda in a glass of vinegar will cause an explosive reaction. Did all this "just happen"? Why do we need taste buds?

      Trying to explain the existence of God is like trying to explain gravity. So gravity always was? DId it just happen? Rationally, what force is behind it? Scientifically, how can you prove that gravity always has been? Where did it come from? How did two molecules decide that if they joined together, they would make air, or water?

      To me, there is just too much unknow to say, well, those things just happened. Why? How?

      April 21, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Eric G

      @John: I can only use my senses to examine and verify evidence. I am not making a claim of existence. The burden of proof lies with those making a claim.

      Please, if you will, give me an example of one other aspect of your life where you make decisions and form actions without evidencial support.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Eric G

      @Dumb Illiterate: Thank you for your civil response. You reference evidence of the existence of a "higher power" because of gaps in your understanding of the natural world. This, in logical terms, is called an "argument from ignorance". Verified evidence exists to support theories which explain many of the things you claim to not understand. The fact that you do not understand them does not invalidate the verified evidence, it means you have an opportunity to discover the truth. To use a belief as a "gap filler" for holes in our understanding is not honest and cannot be an accepted claim of reality.

      April 21, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Dumb Illiterate

      @ EricG: You do realize that I can say the same thing about your "lack of faith"?

      "This, in logical terms, is called an "argument from ignorance". Verified evidence exists to support theories which explain many of the things you claim to not understand. The fact that you do not understand them does not invalidate the verified evidence, it means you have an opportunity to discover the truth. "

      Why does baking soda and vinegar provoke such a reaction? I know you can say, "well, it's the natural occurrance when you add a base to an acid." I understand that. But why? Saying that there's a logical explanation for the natural doesn't cut it. WHY does the base react with the acid? Just because? I can't buy that any more than you can buy my belief that there's something behind all this. What caused the acid to be an acid? What caused the base to be a base? You might call it "intelligent design." You see, Eric, I've grown beyond taking the Bible as "the infallible word of God". I don't worship the Bible. I believe in the thoughts behind its stories. I know there are many that don't agree with me, but the faith I have has, as the Bible says, 'set me free." So if "God" created the earth in six days or sixty million years, it doesn't matter to me. If man evolved from apes, that's ok too. Perhaps this is the "truth" that is talked about. "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. The Bible is an interesting book. Sure, there are parts that are disgusting, there are things written there that sound horrible. It tells us a lot about the workings of civilization at that time and place. In the "New Testament" Jesus really got down on the religious people of the day. He gave them a really hard time, because he wanted them to realize that their "religion" was holding them back. Religion and following the teachings of jesus are two different things. Sometimes they mesh together, and sometimes not.

      April 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Dumb Illiterate: You stated in your post "Why does baking soda and vinegar provoke such a reaction? I know you can say, "well, it's the natural occurrance when you add a base to an acid." I understand that. But why?"

      I would suggest you study chemistry. The reaction between an acid and a base is dictated by the combination of elements in a certain molecular structure and state. If you have to ask why, you do not understand. The information is available to you and is supported by verified evidence.

      April 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Dumb Illiterate

      @ Eric G: let me remind you, Eric, that I have been treating you very civilly. You even said so, and thanked me for it. Will you please do the same for me? Your tone has become condescending and sarcastic.

      You said, "I would suggest you study chemistry. The reaction between an acid and a base is dictated by the combination of elements in a certain molecular structure and state. If you have to ask why, you do not understand. The information is available to you and is supported by verified evidence."

      Why do you suggest I do not understand? I have taken chemistry, and I understand "why." But what about "how"? Not your how, but the larger "how." What caused those elements in the first place? How did they get their "certain molecular structure?"

      Why did Einstein, arguably the greatest human mind ever, say, "I'm not much with people, and I'm not a family man. I want my peace. I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomena in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details."

      We're not far apart, Eric. I understand that there has been much evil done BY MAN in the name of Christianity. Man has embellished true belief with the trappings of religion. Have you read any of C.S. Lewis' works? The ones on Christianity, I mean.

      April 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • False Reality

      "Trying to explain the existence of God is like trying to explain gravity. So gravity always was? DId it just happen? Rationally, what force is behind it? Scientifically, how can you prove that gravity always has been? Where did it come from? How did two molecules decide that if they joined together, they would make air, or water?"

      The difference between Gravity and God is the Gravity is able to be duplicated and observed. God is not and therefore there is no reason to believe one exsists. Two molecules don't "decide" to join together, they do not have brains, they are not sentient, they join together as part of a process that results in water and air. There is no intelligence in a molecule just action and reaction.

      April 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Dumb Illiterate: I am sorry if I sounded condecending. You had asked a question, I had answered and then made a suggestion as to where you could reference the material yourself.

      As you stated, you understand the chemical bonding part but then you questioned where the elements come from. All the stars in the universe, including the Sun, are nuclear furnaces fueled by fusion. Through fusion, stars are responsible for forming all the naturally occurring elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. Before stellar nucleosynthesis, only the lightest elements existed in the universe.

      I hope this helps, let me know if you would like some specific references to review.
      By the way, I am taking 3 points for using stellar nucleosynthesis so soon after Happy Hour.

      April 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Dumb Illiterate

      @Eric G–
      Three points for using "stellar nucleosynthesis?" You deserve more than that! I'd give you at least a 9.

      Perhaps I am a "dumb illiterate." I just can't fathom how you can say "only the lightest elements existed in the universe" and not question where those elements came from. Using the rationale expressed by some of your compatriots here who insist that we must "prove it" (the existence of God) how can you prove without any doubt that, before stellar nucleosynthesis, only the lightest elements existed. Were you there? Did you see it first-hand? Or was it explained to you by some scientist? If so, could not one deduce that that scientist's staement was purely conjecture on his part?

      Yes, you can prove the existence of the lightest elements, and that the reaction of those elements coming together created new matter. But you cannot prove that before your "big bang" the elements were swirling around the cosmos waiting for a star to explode and make them into something new. I say that because unless you were there, you are just taking Eddington's word for what he discovered. Now, I'm not saying it didn't happen exactly as you describe. In fact, I think it probably did. But where did the lightest elements come from? Saying they "just were" is as hard for me to believe as it is for you to believe me when I say that I feel there was some higher power involved.

      April 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Skegeeace

    The way the author wrote this article makes me think that she didn't read the Bible at all.

    The Old Testament laws regarding the death penalty were "fulfilled" when Christ came and died for us. That's why there's no more stoning, etc. needed or any more animal sacrifices. He said, "It is finished." and all of that was taken care of. There's no ambivalence in the Bible; you just have to read the WHOLE THING to get the point.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  20. Laroy

    Of course they didn't. There is a certain groupe of people who want to be blind. That is the only way they can live with their God given conscious.

    April 21, 2011 at 9:43 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.

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