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My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions
The Bible presents us with an evolving story, writes John Shelby Spong.
December 29th, 2011
09:10 AM ET

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

Editor’s note: John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is author of "Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World."

By John Shelby Spong, Special to CNN

The Bible is both a reservoir of spiritual insight and a cultural icon to which lip service is still paid in the Western world. Yet when the Bible is talked about in public by both believers and critics, it becomes clear that misconceptions abound.

To me, three misconceptions stand out and serve to make the Bible hard to comprehend.

First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.

The facts are that Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story forms the earliest content of the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

Actually, that's not in the Bible

Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today?

Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.

This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.

Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written - that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John - we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.

For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all.

My Take: Yes, the Bible really condemns homosexuality

Instead, it’s an interpretive account designed to conform the story of Jesus’ death to the messianic yearnings of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history.

The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? The book of Psalms promises happiness to the defeated and exiled Jews only when they can dash the heads of Babylonian children against the rocks! Is this “the word of God? What kind of God would that be?

The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law, just to name a few.

The Bible exhorts slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands. Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.

It was a long road for human beings and human values to travel between the tribal deity found in the book of Exodus, who orders the death of the firstborn male in every Egyptian household on the night of the Passover, until we reach an understanding of God who commands us to love our enemies.

The transition moments on this journey can be studied easily. It was the prophet named Hosea, writing in the eighth century B.C., who changed God’s name to love. It was the prophet named Amos who changed God’s name to justice. It was the prophet we call Jonah who taught us that the love of God is not bounded by the limits of our own ability to love.

It was the prophet Micah who understood that beautiful religious rituals and even lavish sacrifices were not the things that worship requires, but rather “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It was the prophet we call Malachi, writing in the fifth century B.C., who finally saw God as a universal experience, transcending all national and tribal boundaries.

One has only to look at Christian history to see why these misconceptions are dangerous. They have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia.They have fought against science and the explosion of knowledge.

The ultimate meaning of the Bible escapes human limits and calls us to a recognition that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called to be all that that life is capable of being. The Bible is, thus, not about religion at all but about becoming deeply and fully human. It issues the invitation to live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be our most complete selves.

That is why I treasure this book and why I struggle to reclaim its essential message for our increasingly non-religious world.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Shelby Spong.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (6,068 Responses)
  1. Bill

    So, fred, you lack the courage to answer the question. All you have done is try to change the subject, repeatedly. You spineless coward.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Joe

      I expect your post will be removed fairly soon as someone is bound to be offended by your name calling. Aside from that, it would be helpful to all us readers if you posted your reply as a reply to the specific post ... I can't tell what comment you were castigating 'fred' about.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  2. john paul

    in the end.....y'all will find out if your right...or not. just sayin'.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      When we die our consciousness is extinguished. So I guess y'all will die deluded, and never know how stupid you were. And BTW, in 50 years there will be man/machines, and robots trillions of times more intelligent than us. I suppose they will be "made in gods image" too. I suspect the old delusions will all be left in the scrap heap of history, very quickly.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  3. Tom

    I am shocked that CNN would publish this garbage. It is blatantly untrue that "every biblical scholar" recognizes that the Bible does not accurately reflect history. Bishop Sprong clearly does not understand the history of the Christian faith and has no business representing it.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • annie

      Put it this way....the bible contradicts itself. If a biblical scholar doesn't see that and realize that it means that history is distorted given the contradictions, then I would say that that historian is a joke.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • John-177

      I have yet to find any part of the bible that incorrectly states history. Aside from the supernatural parts, all of the historical records in the bible match any other source in world history. Archaeologists have just recently found evidence that King David was real.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Joe

      Why would you be shocked? CNN has no reason to toe your particular religion's dogmatic line. This essay or column by Spong is his opinion, and he has every right to put it out there, and CNN has no viable reason to not publish it, and your hostility towards the writer is very un-Christian.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Chad

      @Joe "your hostility towards the writer is very un-Christian."

      =>wow is that ever not true.. Jesus Christ was CONTINUALLY challenging people who misrepresented the truth.

      "“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. " – Jesus Christ (Matthew 23)

      December 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  4. Reader

    Shelby Spong,
    Looks like "ex-bishop" is about as reliable as "ex-spouse." When the agenda's pressing enough, there's no telling spin that'll be attempted.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Dwan

      I Agree

      December 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      As reported by someone much earlier he is an "ex-bishop" because he is over 80 years old and retired

      December 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  5. Steven Brooks

    Leave it to the Episcopalians to speak sense.

    Lovely piece, thank you Mr. Spong.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • annie

      I agree. And, as a catholic, I have a problem with people who take the bible literally. I've read the bible, and I've read books that show the inaccuracies/historical errors in the bible (you can read each verse and see it for yourself). Anyone that thinks the bible is completely accurate has not done this type of research and just keeps showing his ignorance.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • John-177

      @annie, there are no historical inaccuracies in the bible. In fact the bible is probably better than other sources because it has information other sources missed. The only historical inaccuracies in the bible are parts of the Apocypha, which Catholics read. Besides you are a catholic, they take EVERYTHING literal. You believe in a literal soul and a literal hell where Satan lives and rules. You can't pick and choose what to take seriously and what to pass off as nonsense. You might as well be an atheist if you study the bible that way.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Bette23

      @John-177 You are a moron

      December 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  6. Beth

    I got halfway through this article before I realised it was written by John Shelby Spong. What a waste of two minutes!

    December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  7. Paul

    I have studied Mr. Spong's works for over 15 years, and I can say without a doubt that his theories are some of the most sadly misinformed I have ever encountered in my life. Please copy this article and honestly study his ideas, you will be seriously surprised by the inaccuracies. Thank you.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      for example .....................

      December 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Michelle

      Such as? This would be a great comment that adds to discussion if you would list at least a few of your issues and back them up with sources.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Joe

      Study? Really? So you're saying that you lack the ability to simply read and understand his writing without "studying" it? That says alot about your abilities, and nothing about Spong's message.

      Simply just reading this article, I've read one of the most lucid and reasonable messages from a religious man that I've ever seen. I can't verify all of his claims about biblical messages, but I do know that the vast majority of bible-thumpers are generally more ignorant of the actual contents of the bible than me, an agnostic bordering on atheism, who was raised in a religious (Christian) household. What the bible actually says, and what most preachers claim it says are often radically different.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Dwan

      I agree, but this article should be viewed as a lesson in how far Satan is willing to go to get beleivers off track. So there is some good in this guy’s views.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  8. JN

    No way my ex-wife came from my bones or flesh because my bones and flesh aren't that evil.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  9. Marc

    I take the Bible literally, and hope to attain a good afterlife. But I was shocked to find out there will be no women there. In the book of Revelation it says there was silence in Heaven for one hour.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • John-177

      troll

      December 29, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  10. One Believer

    I feel compelled to tell you that you are very wrong sir! If you do not believe the bible is the word of God then how could you ever have called yourself a man of God? The bible may not agree with everyone's opinions or thoughts but the thoughts expressed in it are infact God's! If you believe that God is infallable and never wrong then how can you say that he would allow this to even be?

    As for your take on Christ if that is what you believe then I am sorry to say that you are tragically mis-informed! Christ is the messiah and the son of God and who are you to say any different? How dare you lead others astray with your apostasy! Shame on you for professing to be a man of God and sending people to hell in His name. The only way to heaven is through faith and repentance granted by Jesus Christ. You can never be good enough to get there you need Him. Maybe you should try reading it again and this time try praying while you do it.

    Anyone else who reads this I pray that you do not listen to the words of this man. Read the Bible and find a good church where you can learn what exactally Christ did for all of us that day. John 3:16, Rom 3:23

    December 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • J.Silva

      Yes, listen to you instead! What a option.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • WWJD

      You are tragically misguided and misinformed

      December 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Jordan N.

      II am afraid it is you who are misinformed. He is correct regarding the historical veracity of the Bible (it's not). Why would anyone believe the Bible is the word of god? Because it says so in the Bible? A better example of circular logic I cannot find.

      Frankly, I wouldn't want to believe in the god in the Bible, because he's the equivalent of a spoiled, egomaniacal 5 year old brat. I think anyone who thinks the god of the Bible is the true god does a disservice to themselves and their god.
      I
      If your faith is so fragile that it can't withstand scrutiny then you should re-evaluate why you believe what you choose to believe, because belief is a choice.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • One Believer

      Why would you think my faith is fragile? I know where I am going when I die and that security can only be given by Christ. I hope one day you will find Him and I will pray for you.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Answer

      @One Believer

      Your mind is fragile. Your kind are all like you deathly afraid of the impending death. Gotta wrap yourself up in your warm bubble of security against the harsh bad idea of dying. Isn't it so ugly? 🙂

      December 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Dwan

      In support of your comments, it is written " bewrae of wolves in sheeps clothing"

      December 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Dondo

      I beg to differ, One Believer. It is exactly your stated blind faith without any regard to historical fact or logic which has resulted in the current mass exodus from organized religion and Christianity in particular. Anyone who believes in a literal interpretation of a collection of letters, journals, and other various writings without regard to their origins and historical context, must simply be regarded as incapable of making an educated informed decision about what to believe. No doubt The Bible is a great book with a lot of great wisdom for humanity, however like any historical text, it must be taken into consideration the context of the society and time during which the various elements were written, not to mention the process of selection by which some writings were admitted into the Bible while others were not.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Tim

      I am an agnostic teenager, which is probably a fairly common thing these days. I have no problems with religion, nor do I wish to change anyone's mind. However, I do wish to ask a simple question- what do you mean when you say that the Bible is the direct word of God? Haven't imperfect humans written the Bible over thousands of years?
      Respectfully,
      Tim

      December 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • John Tucker

      Hard to believe this is even controversial. The bible is not a first hand (nor second or third hand in most cases) account of even its own history. Every scholar, every religious scholar knows this. Its always been about finding the message and your choice in how it becomes real. If you make a harsh judgmental vengeful image of good reality, thats you. Dont pull out verse after verse justifying it in condemning others as the same could be pulled out damning you and in some cases contradiction it. And especially dont confuse your voice with the "Word of God."

      Make good real.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Luvuall

      The only way people are "going to hell" is if you believe in a God who plants weeds along with his seeds. Love is the message not blind obedience. But God doesn't have an ego to bruise so he will let his children duke it out and argue as they have done for centuries to what end? Maybe by Judgement day we'll be able to experience a God who puts an end to the bickering and shares love with at least some of us but hopefully all of us.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Tom

      Go smash some babies heads against rocks. Your God will be proud !

      December 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • James PDX

      I read your post. it was foolish. Your argument for the bible being the absolute word of God is that an infallible God would not allow for any mistakes. Mistakes like being betrayed by Lucifer, Eve and Adam breaking his rules, Cain killing Abel because God played favorites, that whole Sodom and Gamorrah thing, the plague, Christianity being split into a plethora of differing forms, his favorite children not believing in his son and his entire plan for redeeming man of his sins, the complete contradiction between the Old and new testaments, many scriptures being found in caves at much later dates, people being born in parts of the world over the last 2000 years who never had the chance to even hear of Jesus who, by God's own rules, were all sent to hell because apparently location IS everything, etc...

      So either God makes mistakes all of the time, or God allows wrong things to happen as part of his whole working in mysterious ways. Even if you say it's 2nd of the two, who's to say that the bible being inaccurate isn't part of God's plan? You? Does God talk directly to you, much like most of our conservative candidates claim? Good luck in life, nutjob, because it's all you get.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • CaptainObvious

      The author does not deny Christ nor his divinity. Rather, he points out the obvious that any two year-old should recognize...the Bible is (on its face) errant. Nowhere does the author deny that the Bible is the word of God; nor does he deny that the man Jesus was divine. The author is just as Christian as you or I and his point is well taken and justified.

      It would be foolish to claim that the Bible is something that it is not. On its face, the Bible is not perfect, nor complete, nor inerrant. Inaccuracies, exagerations, misconceptions and, yes, misinterpretations and prejudices abound in its pages. Many Christians forget that the Bible was not written by God. Rather, it is a conpilation of sacred texts that were largely written by (a) known prophets or (b) followers of the prophets. The prophets and their devout followers were not gods, but were mere men (like you and I); all rely on the grace and mercy of the Lord.

      I mean really, the first known compliation of the Bible did not even appear until after the Council of Nicea, some 400 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. There were massive contentions and book burnings that took place in the early councils. Once again, only a fool would claim that the Bible (though the word of God) is complete. Once again we see imperfect and flawed men trying to dicate what is to be included and/or not included in the compliations of divine scripture. With the mass book burnings that took place in Nicea, only a fool would consider the Bible as comprehensive.

      That said, the author's point is well taken. The Bible is no less God's word nor important just because it contains inaccuracies, exagerations, and prejudices. It is no less the word of God even though (on its face) it is incomplete. The Bible is just as important today as it was 1,600 years ago.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • matt

      I think faith in Allah provides equal certainty. Suicide bombers are quite sure of where they are going as well or else they would not be actively blowing themselves up for an afterlife full of virgins. So does this not imply that no matter how adamantly we wish something to be factual, the overall reality of the matter gives little regard to our personal wish thinking?

      December 29, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • James PDX

      One Believer, I just smashed some babies' heads against rocks and trampled their bloody brains into a frothy pulp. No worries, God condones this kind of thing in his unerring holy scriptures. And even if he doesn't, I'll just accept Jesus as my savior and he's already died for my sins so I'll still be golden. Nice God you worship, you sicko cultist.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • reACTIONary

      LOL! You didn't even read, let alone think, about what he had to say. How dare you, sir!

      December 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Fool died on some sticks along with a thousand others the romans punished, so what.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  11. Human

    No god.
    Sun.
    Earth.
    Warm.
    Food.
    Stars.
    No god.
    Visitors.
    You will understand.
    Soon.
    Life.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Oy.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  12. Strategy Pony

    I can't believe that we, as an advanced society, can still hold onto these bronze aged fairy tales. This article is rambling, grasping at straws to try to make his point.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Vic Torrey

      Rambling legends or fairy tales?
      Check your local newspaper-today's issue; Find a good unbiased book of prophecies. If you can find four matches or more, I think you'll find out which people are fools believing in fairy tales.
      (Hint for One Prophecy-Israel will once again become a nation and people worldwide will return to Jerusalem.)
      One Note For ALL YOU science folks.....Pick any Branch of Science; Find out just who was famous in the starting study of said branch; Check out that Person's "Religious" Background?
      1) They Believed the Bible To Be The Word of God
      2) They believed Jesus was who He said He Was
      Hmmmmmm......"If I was to be a true scientific evolutionist: I would no doubt study the "brilliant precise engineering" of everything from a duck to an atom to us here humans.....But I would in all my "intelligence: declare; WOW, such fantastic engineering....but NO engineer???!"

      December 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      Vic,
      Please explain why it is important to me what the founders of any of the branches of science believed ?

      December 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • trace

      You clearly didn't read the article. He's pretty much saying that most of the Bible IS a fairy tale.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • John-177

      Only a fool tries to belittle religion by calling it a fairy-tale. You are just regurgitating something you heard from another atheist. You only use arguments from other atheists. Think for yourself for once. Bias anyone?

      December 29, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • John-177

      If I didn't know better, I'd say that a planet that orbits a huge ball of gas with humans who have emotions and free will, who form nations and build cities as far-fetched and a fairy tale. Life in general is incredibly weird, surreal, and ridiculous when you think about it. Doesn't mean that it isn't real. I think a supernatural God is as plausible as we are.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Vic Torrey

      WHY? WHY? WHY?
      Just a couple of comments to some of postings:
      WHY Bring up People's "Religious" Backgrounds in Major (Founding/Start) of Scientific Branches of Study=
      Many of these articles in Belief Section/Opinion there's alot of name calling and demeaning labels.
      "Religious people are ignorant, dumb, backwards, etc. etc.) The point I am making is that many Christians/Religious People are very intelligent. They/we believe that God created the world....it's our job to care for it; it's a gift...therefore-Let's explore, study, etc. Jesus Himself said He was the Truth.... (God does have a few choice comments about real ignorance , and closed mindedness. Accepting the truth by the way, doesn't make you "close minded." It means you've found the truth....Most everything else pales in comparison-
      WHY? "Yea, Mr Carlin!" You are proving God to be truthful.....
      According to God (using Scripture) as a reference here: We are all born blind....
      Different Religions--Different viewpoints felt strongly in the heart and the head about Who God Is and What He Wants/Desires Us to Do and How He Will Reward Us for our Life.....
      Ask a Blind Man (Blind from birth) To Describe A Color (Something He can only imagine or get from other people, ideas, etc)
      Again God says we are born spirtually blind...."Well sir, I think God is–(What do you think?)
      And Yes Mr Carlin, you are right;;;;"All this religion stuff is foolish and doesn't make any sense..."
      Once again, "God beat you to the punch line"
      "The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing-

      December 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  13. Thatguy

    People say religion is a test of faith. Well what if religion is actually a test of logic and most of the world is failing?

    December 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • One Believer

      Sounds to me like you are coming up short in the faith department. Read and He will help you.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Religion and logic have about as much in common as religion and science.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Answer

      @One Believer

      Sounds like you are working on your pass to heaven. How many more credits do you need for your ticket to heaven? lol

      December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • One Believer

      None my ticket was punched when Christ died on the Cross. How about yours?

      December 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Answer

      What about it? My movie ticket – ya I'm going to the theatre to enjoy a flick.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • One Believer

      Enjoy.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Answer

      Thank you.

      Hope your ticket doesn't get lost 🙂

      December 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • John-177

      Unfortunate for you, you live in a universe where human logic doesn't mean absolute truth. Study quantum physics. Its illogical to a human, but its the way the universe works.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  14. Johnny Five

    I feel dumber for reading this.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • J.Silva

      You feel or you are? You didn't tell us why.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  15. Quoc

    This article is ridiculous.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Bob

      This guy is a Bishop? Wow. You would think that a Bishop would actually understand the historicity of the Bible.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  16. Rizzo

    “Religion is just mind control. ”
    -Carlin

    December 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Vic Torrey

      "Religion=Mind Control?"
      You forgot to add "Brain Washing"
      And yes you are correct, but not in the way I think you or Mr Carlin meant it....
      Jesus taught that we are to be in control of our minds....His disciples talked alot about what we should think about...
      On a personal note: Concerning "Brain Washing"–We have ALL(Both Christian and Non-Christian) been
      Brain Washed.....It's just that Christians are the one's who've chosen WHO's Gonna Wash Their BRAINS!
      Before I met Christ, mine were dirty old brains anyway-

      December 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Bob

      No, Carlin had it exactly right. Religion is the greatest bullsh!t story ever told.
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o&w=640&h=360]

      December 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      Vic Torrey, you claim that non-Christians are brainwashed; please explain how non-Christians are brainwashed. The only non-Christians that I can imagine being brainwashed are those of other religions. I must warn you that silence means you have no evidence for your claim, and remember that there are also deists and agnostics which are different than atheists.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  17. Chad

    The most stunning error made by John Shelby Spong is his absolute and complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the Sinai covenant (Old Testament).

    Without any understanding of that and the subsequent development of the Jewish nation and the deliverance of the Messiah, he completely misunderstands the purpose of the brutality recorded in the OT.

    With that lack of understanding, he fails to understand how the Law lead us to Christ.

    just, simply, amazing. All those years and he still hasn't completed Christianity 101.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Answer

      New testament – why do you need a revision? To rework a failure.
      Old testament – just a failure.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Observer

      Chad,
      "the purpose of the brutality recorded in the OT."

      So do you think it was good that God destroyed virtually every man, woman (pregnant or not), child and fetus on the face of the earth at one time?

      December 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • One Believer

      It is not our place to judge God. What was done was His will and who are you to challenge Him?

      December 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Answer

      @One Believer

      "It is not our place to judge God. What was done was His will and who are you to challenge Him?"

      So easy to mock something that never exists. Go away you deluded fool.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Observer

      One Believer

      "It is not our place to judge God."

      So try to use as liitle of your intelligence as possible? If you are going to fully support something, why would you not even wonder if you are supporting something logical? Does blind faith have to be ignorant too?

      December 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Chad

      @Observer "So do you think it was good that God destroyed virtually every man, woman (pregnant or not), child and fetus on the face of the earth at one time?"

      =>couple points:
      1. if you do not believe in God, you do not believe in any absolute standard of right and wrong.
      2. God created this universe, this space/time, the earth, animals, humans. Our homes, our lives, our children.. all these things that you and I think are "ours" are not. Everything belongs to God.
      3. God is pure good, but His creation had become (by it's own choice) evil, and God regretted that He had made us.
      4. Rather than wipe humanity completely out, He decided to try and start again with Noah and his family.

      Do I think that was "good"?
      I think the condition of humanity with respect to God stinks. It is an impossibly difficult situation that we are born into, I do not like it one bit. I don't like having to live with the consequences of one couples sin so long ago.
      On the other hand, we have Jesus Christ. The fact that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life, gives me hope every day.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  18. Observer

    No one believes every word of the Bible. They just pick what they like and ignor the rest. That's why you see h0mophobic Christians using selected verses to trash gays and ignor the more important Golden Rule and commands to not judge others.

    Similarly, Christians like to fantasize that the Bible supports their other beliefs like condemning abortion when it doesn't. Apparently, it doesn't condemn child molesters either.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Lycidas

      That's a pretty warped opinion you have there. Plz don't make the error of as_suming you know what all Christians must think or feel. Not all Christians fear ho_mos_exuals..I would dare say it's a very small minority that fears them. Also, most Christians I know try to live by the tenets within the book to the best of their ability. They don't actively pick and choose what morality fits them and ignores the rest.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Phil

      Let's say that, tomorrow - people encounter someone who claims to be either jesus or god. These people would, without a doubt, ask for proof. This person "jesus or god" performs what many know to be miracles - but it looks more like any magic trick you'd see done by street performers.

      The people walk away, doubting the person they met was god. Said person is locked in a psych ward and labeled with a "christ complex".

      My question is - why do people blindly follow something and claim that they've witnessed "miracles" when there was never any proof left behind that god existed? It's because they were taught as very young children to believe, or burn in hell forever. Essentially, they were scared into submission.

      I'm a former Catholic. I was for 18 years. I was agnostic for 10 years after that and now have been atheist for 10 years. I'll never look back at any point in my life and say I made a mistake for abandoning faith. I've never been happier.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Phil

      @ Lycidas

      Actually, the bible does condone r_ape, i_ncest, abuse, torture - you name it.

      Read the book from beginning to end...the whole thing. Don't skip around like billions of people do. If you do, it's out of context.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Observer

      Lycidas,
      "That's a pretty warped opinion you have there. Most Christians don't actively pick and choose what morality fits them and ignores the rest."

      Reality. The Bible says that anyone remarrying commits ADULTERY, a Ten Commandments sin. There are FAR FAR MORE adulterous Christians than there are total number of gays, but you sure don't hear Christians trashing them.

      Get real.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Bill

      Pretty obvious to me that this writer, John Shelby Spong, is either an aethist or agnostic (same difference). The bible is God's instruction manual to mankind. It prepares us today for the inevitable transition into eternity. It teaches us that only through Jesus, can we go to the Father in heaven. That's it, that's the bottom line...

      December 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Bill

      Except that it and the supposed line are completely false as well as unsupported by any evidence.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Answer

      Right Bill..

      Thor nor Mythra will do! Neither will the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Phil and Observer- Seems like you are the one's not reading the entire book. Why is it that atheists or the non-religious have blinders that only show them the Tanakh?

      January 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  19. Phil

    Religion. It's like history class, without the facts.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Bob

      Brilliant line, Phil.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  20. Observer

    Felix theNavidad,

    If you have read the Bible multiple times and know what it says, you are NOT the average Christian. The poll was about the AVERAGE atheist, agnostic, and Christian.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:12 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.