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. St John Baptist


    The virgin: there are no virgins in heaven [the kingdom of life] only good souls or angels, same with the saints there are not saints in heaven only good souls or angels, and none of them is going to save or help anyone. 

    Who ever is a saint on earth, in Heaven is a FATHER'S child, but is not for humans to decide who is a saint and who is not, saints already comply with Father's will, humans are not FATHER.

    Angels are the Father helpers and messengers, the ones humanity like to reject or worship instead of accept their teachings and follow their example, Angels are ready for the harvest.

    Let me explain, if any good soul or angel in heaven come to THE FATHER and ask him to help any one's soul he is going to be told: why do you want to help this soul, you know the rules everyone is for his own soul, and if he needs help why don't he ask me for himself, is he ashamed or afraid of me? beside under my will every soul is equal, with reason, common sense and will power to come here on his own, go and keep being an angel and living happily ever after.

    So virgins and saints is a no no. Now THE SON; he is not hanging on the cross any more but closer to you than you think- someone for some reason has been keeping him hanging there all this time, the verb, the word and will of God [good, truth, light] = THE HOLY SPIRIT.

    Jesus Christ the savior, is not hanging and holding those nails any more, and if he's hanging up there why don't you give the poor guy a hand and help your soul at the same time, see what you can do to help the poor guy, remember this: is nothing someone can't do to save your soul, but what you must do to save yourself.

    He said: no everyone {meaning none} who calls me lord lord or Christ Christ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but all those who do the will of my FATHER who is in heaven.
    So virgin, saints, Christ,  = 6 6 6 the mark of the beast. I think you all know what this means, remember you have a grain of mustard inside your heart this is your soul use it or lose it.

    Every single living creature on the planet is on its own, love, wisdom and power is inside your heart and this is the only way to THE FATHER, remember only those clean at heart will see God. I will explain Jesus Christ and the cross to you.
    Jesus the messiah; is the one who was send by FATHER with the good news of repentance, forgiveness of sins and redemption, {the grace of God}, is called the gospel. Jesus is just the name that was given to this world for humanity to know he is the one, the messiah, the name Jesus means Judah making Jesus king of the tribe of Judah and king of kings, when the messiah become the messenger, teacher, savior, martyr, sacrifice and resurrection he become the Christ.

    Remember his words everything had been accomplished, he represent the son of God which is you, the Christ represent you, and you must imitate him, if you believe in the cross you are keeping your soul hanging and holding those nails, is called slavery and bondage under deceit.

    Religion had  absolutely nothing to do with faith, faith is the soul of humans looking for his origin purpose of existence and his creator, [survival] this is inside every human’s heart, religion is confusion.

    Jezebel = Babel, Babel = Babylon, Babylon = confusion, Babylon the great = the great confusion, the great confusion = the great harlot, the great harlot = the great City, the great City = Religion 

    All religions on the planet put together are called the mystery, Babylon the great = the great harlot = the great City.  
    Look for this word and use reason and common sense, the will power or free will is for you to decide heaven or hell, eternal life or eternal torment.

    January 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      God is a mother.

      January 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Travis

    This comment is for Christians. I'm not trying to argue for the existence of God for those who do not believe.
    This guy can hardly call himself a follower of Jesus. After researching some of his beliefs, he is a little off the mark to say the least. Here are a few of the things he believes:
    -he rejects the virgin birth of Jesus
    -the bodily resurrection of Jesus after he died on the cross
    -he rejects all the miracles that were performed by Jesus and all of his apostles
    -he also says the stories about Moses and Abraham aren't historically accurate. The Stories about Moses and Abraham aren't parables like the ones that Jesus told. So I'm not quite sure how to take them as anything but historically accurate. If the Bible is the word of God, how are we supposed to interpret those stories?

    This guy has some scary core values

    January 1, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • One one

      IMO, thinking that it is perfectly OK for people to be tortured in hell for all eternity because they doubt the existence of god is a pretty scary core value.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • jack

      So you believe the literal interpretations and think that killling in the name of god is justified as long as the bible states it? That my friend is scary.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      The fact that YOU sir, can only understand all the things you list, in your own little, limited view of them, is more a comment on your lack of education and understanding, than it is on his beliefs. There are countless ways to interpret the myths. They are not only authentic if they agree with YOU, and your childish literal interpretations. "Christians" have at least 22,000 different views of these things. You delusion that "Christians" all believe one set of things as their "core" belief set. only says you have not taken a comparative religion course. No one Christian agrees 100% with another today nor have they ever. Why did St. Paul and St. James fight so much ? Even back at the beginning, they couldn't agree on anything.

      January 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • One one

      How are we supposed to interpret these stories? Try this. The bible isn't the word of god and they are just stories.

      January 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • atomD21

      We have to stop this destructive course of action. Constantly fighting over whether or not the Bible is completely 100% true is a waste of time. If you believe in God, then you have to accept that the creator of the entire universe is a little bigger than your religious beliefs. It's only our arrogance that shoehorns God into working the way we want God to. It is only after reading the Bible cover to cover that I realized that there is no way to take it literally, but instead use it as a guide to a better way of living, as followers of other faiths use their various holy texts. We need to get past this pointless diatribe we constantly fall into and work together to fix this world. Stop being obsessed with being right and instead focus on doing good. That is a huge chunk of what Jesus taught in the Gospels and the first thing we discarded when he was gone. We are now the Pharisees.

      January 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Trina

      Yes, it is scary that anything this guy says might be taken as fact.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  3. sean B

    Sadly, the "true believers" who SHOULD read this and ask themselves a few hard questions about their beliefs will NOT do so.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • atomD21

      You are right on the money. There is far too much blind acceptance of religious doctrine and theology in the world right now. As a person that still considers myself largely Christian, I look for things to challenge my beliefs as I won't follow a God that can't stand up to challenges.

      January 1, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Trina

      You are right. Unfortunately, this guy is so off the mark that any Christian wouldn't bother considering anything he says. The devil does a much better job. He inserts a kernel of truth with his falsehoods!

      January 1, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  4. lastofall

    Unfortunately you as other´s suppose that somehow scholastic achievement is the mediator between God and men, therefore do you as other´s are minding the flesh, being yet carnally minded. If you knew God as a big God and not a little god, then you would have known that it is a small thing for God to be able to make His Word continue as He will, and that this worlds wisdom is foolishness with Him. As for the politicians, it is evident that they are of this world, and we which do believe need not to hear them, because they speak of the world, and it is the world that hear them, not us. But we which do actually believe hear God´s Words, and put our trust in God, not in man, lest we should be cursed.

    January 1, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • sean B

      Your post makes no sense- I tried reading it twice. You do not address one point that Spong brings up; your attempt at writing in a "biblical" style only obscures whatever it is you are trying to say. Please READ the article, and maybe respond to one of the salient points therein.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • satan

      Can you back that statement up with evidence that doesn't also open up the possibility that the universe was created by Allah? The "look at the world around you" argument does not prove that Jesus rose from the dead, any more than it proves Allah spoke to Mohammed. Your words are just words without a rational basis. Explain to me why what you said us correct.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  5. Greg Powell

    Please read http://www.FindingLifeInJesus,com

    January 1, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • Jordan04n

      What is your point?

      January 1, 2012 at 4:31 am |
  6. Greg Powell

    May you and I have our best year ever of abiding in Jesus, being filled by the Holy Spirit, and resting in Abba's arms. May we love with God's love and patience, battle with God's power and courage, and walk in His ways and will. Since His desire is that every single human on earth be saved and come to a full knowledge of the truth, may we pray and work to that end, trusting in His power, crying out for His grace and mercy. May we be more conformed to His moral likeness and less conformed to the world system than ever. May we bring more pleasure to God, more cause for celebration to the holy angels, and more frustration to the demons than ever. May this be our best year ever because God got so much glory from our broken, humbled, devoted, obedient lives; and because so many hurting, screwed up, sinful image-bearers experienced unmerited, non-judgmental, affectionate, and sacrificially practical love when they let us into their lives; and because we were more zealously focused than ever on the expansion of the Kingdom of Jesus, one heart at a time... starting with our own.

    January 1, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • sean B


      January 1, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • satan

      Greg, I really admire your will to do good, and spread a peaceful message. Your strategy of refusing to engage in any logical debate is remarkably effective. You leave posters stumped and actually make them seem childish for hitting you with some rhetorical insult.

      Greg, of all the Christian churches out there, which one offers the purest form of Christian worship?

      No rhetoric here Greg. That's a real question.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • JohnR

      @Greg Start with your own and stop there. Keep it to yourself and things are cool.

      January 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Temple

      The omnipotent, omnisious perfect God you claim to worship sounds awfuly needy with a low self esteem and hold a serious grudge. If the God were realy perfect like you claim she/he would not need us constanlty validating he/she by telling he/she how great and wonderful he/she is, I would also think a loving perfect god would also be able to forgive us for the origional sin with out all of the sacrifices and death required.

      January 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Trina


      January 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  7. Brad

    Happy New Year

    The LORD bless you
    and keep you;
    the LORD make his face shine upon you
    and be gracious to you;
    the LORD turn his face toward you
    and give you peace

    January 1, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • satan

      May Zeus preserve you. May you find peace and nirvana in the teachings of the Buddha. May the Mormon missionaries offer to shovel your driveway. May Allah preserve you against all harm. And say a special prayer for old Satan here. Maybe ill come to know Jesus too.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Learning to speak the Truth in love
    Prayer changes things
    Find peace with God
    Through Jesus Christ in 2012

    December 31, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Google "Followers of Christ church in Portland' if you are curious about how well prayer works. They have a graveyard full of children who died of easily cured health issues because their parents prayed instead of taking them to doctors.

      January 1, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • satan

      I agree completely with your name but your statement is false doctrine. It is through either the Buddha, Allah, Ganesh, or those aliens that dropped us off (scientology). It is through these sources, and these sources alone that you can find peace and eternal bliss. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus. And because I stated it in a bold and prophetic manner it is indisputable truth.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  9. ashrakay

    @BoldGeorge, God did not bring me out of Egypt anyway, as I am not Jewish.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  10. Muneef

    Happy New Year 2012 to all and my only wish from GOD is that he guides you all to the Rightous Path... 😉

    December 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Eric G

      Happy New Year to you, my friend!
      I hope this year brings peace to you and your family.

      I look forward to another year of respectful, spirited debate!

      December 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • JohnR

      Happy New Year, Muneef!

      December 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Eric G.
      Thank you dear friend and we say Insha-Allah GOD give us good health and long life to continue our respectable debates for longer life and have us among the Rightous...Amen.
      Good night friend for now and happy weekend for you.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Keith

      Happy New Year, Muneef. May the Spirit of God speak to you this year. Stay safe.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • *frank*

      Happy New Year, Muneef.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Muneef

      @JohnR @Keith @*frank*.
      Thank you dear's for that and Happy New Year to you in return wishing you all the best from my heart..
      You know what am still waiting for Reality to say some thing nice to prove he is not Brainwashed human or a Robot machine...haha 😉

      December 31, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Iqbal Khan

      Happy new Year to ALL!
      May this New Year bring the best for all of us,
      May there be no more wars
      May we don't start another War
      No matter what
      Lets end all Wars big or small
      Lets end the occupation,subjucation and undue restrictions on all
      May we Live, Love and let Live all,
      We save the seals,the whales,the Tigers and the Forests we worry for the one inthe wombs
      Yet we kill innocent, women,childern,old and young and we call colletral,pre-emptive terror -ist or for peace
      May God give us some sense to understand our actions before we do wrong!

      December 31, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • satan

      Which path? Oh, the right path. Well that clears it up.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  11. Russ

    @ ashrakay: you said there were no commands against atheism. i gave you a text that pointed out the opposite. you may not agree with the text, but you are attempting to dodge the clear intent of the text thru an appeal to semantics. do you really think that was not the author's intent?

    i think you are confusing atheism with agnosticism. "atheism" literally means "no god" or "without god." "agnosticism" literally means "no knowledge" or "i don't know for sure." many of the 'new atheists' are pretty demonstrative about this.

    in order for you to claim the God of the Bible has committed moral atrocities, you must be claiming there is an objective moral standard by which you are judging that 'deity'. a few things to consider:

    1) on what basis do you derive your moral outrage without an appeal to an objective reality (god)? For example, is what the Nazis did ALWAYS wrong? How can you claim that if there is no objective basis for morality? In other words, your absolute moral indignation is actually a sign that you believe in an objective reality – at least in practice.

    2) if there is a god out there, would your low opinion of that being's actions keep him from being real?

    3) a good literary critic always reads with an eye for the author's intent and attempts to be sure you're hearing the author in context. what do you think was the intent of these passages that have you outraged? if the same God who died on a cross for humanity did those things yet is not schizophrenic (as Christians contend), then what might these passages actually mean?

    It is a lazy scholarship to say "it doesn't have to make sense. it was all cobbled together anyway. 'God get angry. God smash people.' those people worship an angry god." that is merely constructing a self-fulfilling straw man. that's not what Christians believe nor what the Bible teaches. i hope you'll take the time to actually discover what the text says from the author's intent.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • JohnR

      Oh, hang it up, Russ. If you need god to tell you that smashing children's heads against rocks is morally repugnant, you are beyond lost.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Chad

      well reasoned Russ, thanks

      December 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • JohnR

      Btw, there are many literary critics who adamantly deny that one even can diving any author's true intent and who therefore proceed to critique the text w/o appeal to intent.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • JohnR

      I don't necessarily endorse New Criticism, but it has been an enormously influential stream within modern literary criticism and utterly rejects the notion that criticism is any way about author's intent.


      It helps to know what you are talking about, Russ.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • fred

      In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..............from the dust of the earth God made man in his image. Notice John that God made man in his image. God would not smash a childs face into a rock and that image in man is what you speak of. You continue to move from the direction of man made it which is why you think man made the moral laws. You perspective lacks the first most powerful words in the world "In the beginning God". Because of this you will always approach the things of God from the wrong perspective.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • *frank*

      Hey, pal–this is the 100-level course; the 300 section's down the hall in room 55. heh.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • *frank*

      (that was @ JR, to clarify the patently clear.)

      December 31, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Fred If god is happy to send souls to hell, why would he have problems smashing kids' heads on rocks? And of course, I'm referencing the much quoted passage in which he mandated exactly this sort of thing.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • fred

      The Bible says the opposite and is a story of God redeeming man so that they can have live eternal and was always the plan. Hell is reserved for Satan and his demons. Given this is where Satan prefers to be anyway I wonder just how bad it really is. Jesus further made it clear that God wishes none should perish but all come to the glory of God and notice the Bible shows all the ways God has provided for man. Other references to Hell are also balanced with accountability i.e. we are give gifts / talents and are only held accountable for what we were given.

      December 31, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Russ, I responded to this on the previous page... fyi.

      December 31, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Mrpersonality93

      If we spent all of our lives trying to prove everyone else in the world is in the wrong, we loose the oppurtunity to see our own wrongs and the gift of life given to correct these very things in our lives that we find in others. Happy New Year !!!!

      December 31, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      The premise that believing in a moral code implies belief in a deity, (especially YOUR deity), is a fallacy, as is your presumption that that deity is endowed with "personhood", (anthropomorhism).

      January 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  12. Bob

    Break the chains. Be free of religion and other foolish supersti-tions for 2012 and beyond.

    Break free from religion.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Bob: ask a real paralytic... not Marshall Brain...

      December 31, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Keith

      Gal 5:1 ¶ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage

      December 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Keith

      2Pe 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

      2Pe 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

      2Pe 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

      2Pe 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

      December 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Bob

      Break the chains now. Be free of religion and other foolish supersti-tions for 2012 and beyond.

      Break free from religion.

      December 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  13. Reality

    Bishop Spong follower of the wife-killer, Henry VIII, forgot to mention the Infamous Angelic Cons:

    To wit:

    Joe Smith had his Moroni.

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    Added details available for the asking.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  14. ashrakay

    @Russ, Psalm 14:1/Psalm 53:1.. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no god.", Let me educate you on what atheists (Realists) stand for. There are 2 arguements: 1) No atheist is saying with 100% certainty that there is no god—only that there is no verifiable evidence of a god, just like there is no verifiable evidence of fairies. 2) Even if the god of the bible is true, he is responsible for great atrocities and suffering and therefore does not deserve our love and worship. HOWEVER, my point still remains, there is no commandment against not having a god. In this case, I'd rather be a fool, than sink to the moral depravity of the bible. You're going to have to try harder than this.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Curious

      Realism depends on a kind of faith that I would think would be anathema to most atheists: that reality exists apart from our experience of it (or even our ability to experience it). A consequence of this is that reality can have parts that cannot be perceived or evidenced. Perhaps this is in line with the weak sort of atheism you describe: "No atheist is saying with 100% certainty that there is no god". Can you elaborate? Does embracing realism open up a place for a god so that you must reject certainty that there is no god?

      December 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Curious I suspect the vast majority of atheists believe that reality exists independent of our experience of it. This does NOT entail that reality can have parts that CANnot be perceived or evidenced. It simply means that there can be portions of reality that happen not to have been perceived,Of course, there are limits on perception and what WE can perceive, but that is where your use of the term 'evidenced' is particularly inappropriate. We can't, for instance, perceive light outside the visible spectrum, but we can build all sorts of machines that are sensitive to other wavelengths and which translate what is for us imperceptible into readily perceived data. Or consider dark matter. We don't directly perceive it and indeed we don't have any machines at this point that are sensitive to it. But it is nonetheless EVIDENCED by the discrepancy between how gravity "ought" to behave given the more or less readily visible matter and how it actually does on the largest scales. But the realist notion that dark matter either does or does not exist regardless of whether we ever "see" it even indirectly or ever posited it based on theory/data disconnects is something I suspect most atheists would be perfectly amenable to.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Curious

      JohnR : "This does NOT entail that reality can have parts that CANnot be perceived or evidenced." I would think that to a follower of realism the possibility could not be avoided. Do you hold to the idea that reality does not have parts that cannot be perceived or evidenced? That would seem to be a special sort of reality, perhaps designed to be accessible in all its parts.

      December 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Curious, What we define as reality, is that which we can currently present verifiable evidence to support its existence. This is a globally agreed upon understanding of what the concept of reality is. "The world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them."

      No christian can prove that Zeus doesn't exist with 100% certainty. Does that mean we should accept zeus as reality? If we had evidence of a god that were verifiable, then we must accept that there is a god, or zeus or whatever. That still doesn't not mean that god would deserve our worship.

      Atheism, is a term that's as useful as saying Afairiest, or Aleprechaunist. This is why I prefer the term, Realist, as we are only interested that which can be verified and built upon to a practical end.

      December 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Curious

      What you are describing is more in line with evidentialism, which is, no doubt, compatible with realism. It is common for atheists to be evidentialists – and reject the existence of a god for lack of evidence. I'm still curious. Why do you maintain point 1: "No atheist is saying with 100% certainty that there is no god"?

      December 31, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Curious, I kind of did, but I'll try to be more clear. Like a said, atheist is an external term used by theists to describe a person that does not believe in god. While it may be true that an atheist does not believe in god, they are not saying with 100% certainty that god does not exist. We do not have 100% certainty that zeus or the easter bunny doesn't exist either, but that doesn't mean we believe they exist.

      January 1, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • Peppermint Patty

      Isn't that "Idealism" ?

      January 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  15. ObserverOne

    I encourage you in your research, you have much to learn.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Jim C.

      The guy's a retired Bishop! He has spent his life on this stuff. Who are you to claim his research wrong? I'd be very interested to read your scholarly works. Where can I find them?

      January 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  16. ashrakay

    @Keith, Last time I checked, I'm not Satan... I find it amazing I have to spell even that one out for you. YOU were saying? Let me guess... "something, something.. out of context... something... have to read this with god in your heart... something, something..."

    December 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Keith

      Deu 6:13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

      December 31, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • ashrakay

      You left off the proceeding verses that begin with "Hear, O Israel:" Last time I checked, I'm not Jewish either. Try again.

      December 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Keith

      ashrakay," there is no commandment against not having a god". your words. Clearly, you are wrong.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Keith, Yeah, I guess you're right. You can't be Jewish and an atheist. Though, somehow that seems self-evident to me. Glad to know everyone else on the planet still has the freedom to not choose to worship a god...

      December 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  17. Cy

    I am not a Christian, nor a member of any religion, for that matter. But I am very well-read on the evolution of the religions of the world. I have to say that this article is one of the finest, most concise, and most succinct pieces I have read in recent memory, regarding the nature, intent, and character of the Bible. Indeed, much of the consternation people have with hard-core Christians is their literal and unyielding interpretation of the Bible. Those folks should read this article first. Non-Christians should read it. Kids should read it at a young age in school. We might just end up with a nation of positive, moderate tolerance, as a result.

    December 31, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Josh

      Agreed, the point he was trying to make is that the Bible was never intended to be interpreted literally and he was trying to boil the message down into the basic universal love, compassion and the "do onto others" idea. Anyone in anyplace can believe in these ideas and they don't require a "religion" and all that mess that comes along with that.

      I always consider the fire and brimstone type of people as a lower form and it is remarkably rare to meet a person who is truly enlightened with these universal principles of love and compassion and who walk the walk so to speak.

      January 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  18. David Johnson

    From the article:

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

    Darn! I keep reading this article and enjoying every misconception, that is pointed out.

    This is a glorious article. It should be stapled to every bible in the land.


    December 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Keith

      2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

      2Ti 4:4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
      Looks like he tickled your ears, David.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • *frank*

      fortune cookies rule my life and thought. hail fortune cookies. every knee will bow to fortune cookies. mr chin sent his one begotten fortune cookie to us. yahoo.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  19. Bob

    Break the chains. Ask some questions. Be free of all religion and other foolish supersti-tions for 2012 and beyond.

    December 31, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Break the chains!

      December 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Bob: did you read about Joni Eareckson Tada yet, or are you still just parroting Marshall Brain?

      December 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Keith

      Jhn 8:44 Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

      December 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Keith

      Bob, 2Pe 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

      2Pe 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

      2Pe 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

      2Pe 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

      December 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Bob

      Break the chains at last. Be free of religion and other foolish supersti-tions for 2012 and beyond.

      Break free from religion.

      December 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Josh

      Oh man here is Keith again, the man with no original thoughts who cobbles together some incoherent thought via a series of biblical passages, as if that is somehow going to convince me that I was wrong. OH SNAP! PSLAM, CORINTHIAN! I've been defeated.

      January 2, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  20. inTheDogHouse

    I've read in the comments that the four Gospels do not contradict, but that is because they were not writen at the same time, but had the previous Gospel(s) to use as a guide when the later Gospels were written.

    December 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • JohnR

      Actually they do contradict each other in places. But it is true that they story builds over time.

      January 1, 2012 at 2:08 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.