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BeeVomit's avatar

Why do people believe the Bible?

Asked by BeeVomit (293 points ) April 18th, 2011

I’ve read most of the Old Testament, and I’m just starting on the New for the first time. Now, as far as history goes, the New Testament was okayed and published by the Church about 300 years AD (and many other sources say that AD was different as well, that Christ lived and wasn’t a god or his true son).

Let me clarify. This question isn’t about dogma or karma, or whether people believe or disbelieve. If you look closely it is about WHY one believes. I would say I believe in God because it helps me pray for the things I wish to manifest in my life. But, I believe in Jesus Christ because he was a leader of the people, and also that Christ does not mean specifically one person in history. There have been many in history, in most countries, in much of the world we know and study that have embodied “Christ”.
So, would you please keep your answers towards WHY you believe in the bible, or WHY don’t you. I don’t really care whether you believe it’s true.

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66 Answers

BeeVomit's avatar

I know that many of my friends believe in the Bible because they grew up inundated within it. That could be the simplest answer, but for those who find it and read it and believe it devoutly in their mid-life, why did they come to it then?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Their parents told them it is the word of God. Others turned to it at some point (since they hear so much, in this culture, about how all the answers are in it) and found something that stuck. It really depends on the person. I have no idea myself because I can never take it literally or profoundly or seriously or anything other than laughable.

KateTheGreat's avatar

People still do?

erichw1504's avatar

What is “The Bible”?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t understand it, either. I believed as a child, but as soon as I was old enough to start questioning, the whole thing fell apart for me. It baffles me that people can believe it.

Blackberry's avatar

The same reason why some people ask why people believe christianity at all?

mazingerz88's avatar

They were told to do so.

SavoirFaire's avatar

You tell us that you don’t care whether we believe it’s true, but not believing it’s true is a significant factor in why many people don’t believe in the Bible. In fact, I’m not sure I understand how we are supposed to answer the question about why we do or do not believe in the Bible if the truth of its contents is not up for discussion.

Obviously, I believe that the book exists. I’ve seen it, I’ve read it, and I’ve watched people use it as a weapon. I also believe that there are bits and pieces that make sense or make for good lessons, while a whole lot of it just tells me what a group of people thought about their ancestors and the permissibility of torturing infants. Without being able to talk about what I believe to be true and false, however, I really can’t tell you any more.

Zaku's avatar

I believe that the Bible is a religious document which has been published in many forms by various mortal human church organizations. There are other religions with other similar sorts of documents but non-Christian, many but not all of which are more interesting, more internally consistent, more humane and less insufferable.

I see that some people are raised and/or trained to treat the Bible as a sacred artifact and authority, and that many of these people then act like ignorant assholes about it, often not reading it themselves, not interpreting it themselves, and/or not recognizing that it’s only one edition, and that most of their flock is being directed by clergy and/or politicians to focus on specific interpretations of specific passages, while ignoring many others that would contradict those interpretations. That behavior is disgusting to me, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

My alignment with Christianity is with the loving humanistic themes. I can only be considered Christian in the most casual of senses, yet I consider myself a better Christian in that sense than Christian “Bible-thumpers”, who seem like confused iconoclasts. If God is love, for stewardship of the planet, and against greed and nastiness, then amen. If God is about feeling guilty for being human, or about threatening hell if I don’t grovel to Jesus and the Bible, or about collecting tithes through guilt or peer pressure, or about condescending sympathy, or about punishing gays, or fighting infidels, or other nonsense, then poo on that. (I like the bumper stickers “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” and “Which Money Changers Would Jesus Bail Out?”)

crisw's avatar

i believe that the Bible is, quite frankly, a book of folk tales authored by ancient nomadic goatherders. It is no different in this respect than any other set of folk tales from the past that any other ancient culture believed in.

No doubt you don’t believe in the Norse Eddas, or Greek myths, or the Mahabharata, or the Bhagavad Gita. I see no real difference between any of these and the Bible. All are fables, all contain some information that is useful and moral and good and some information that is false and harmful and unethical.

ucme's avatar

Well that is their right of course, far be it for me to cast aspersions on the holy scriptures…..although I have to say it’s a crock a shit.

Blondesjon's avatar

For the same reason people believe in ghosts, reincarnation, and Dianetics.

We’re all fucking terrified of death and are more than willing to fool ourselves into buying any ridiculous story that promises us a loophole.

spoiler alert: when you’re dead, you are dead. there is no coming back. there is no going on. the bluntness of this fact is why we believe in a big daddy in the sky and that fucking charlatan john edward.

beckk's avatar

People believe in God and the Bible because they were told to. Religion is simply a method of control, just like the government.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Blondesjon Indeed. It was precisely for this reason that the Hellenistic philosopher Epicurus addressed both the non-existence of God and the harmlessness of death together in his work. There’s no one who’s going to punish us, and there’s no one who’s going to reward us. We die, that’s it, and here’s hoping you didn’t waste your life.

rock4ever's avatar

I believe it because I was raised to believe it and I feel like God is truly here. The old testament may seem extremly unbelievable but consider tecnology. Half of that stuff is unbelievable.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rock4ever It seems like you are equivocating on the word “unbelievable.” Technology is amazing, but I have no trouble believing in it. I see it work, and it can be explained to me how it does so. The Old Testament, however, has neither of these distinctions.

rock4ever's avatar

Do you believe in air? It’s not see-able yet almost all people believe in it. It can work vice versa. You can see technology and that it works…but does it truly make sense. Think about it. What makes sense sometimes doesn’t and what doesn’t make sense is often true.

Blackberry's avatar

@rock4ever We can measure air…...

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rock4ever First, I said “I see it work” not “I see it,” so your question about air is nonsensical. Moreover, we can see air under certain conditions, so your question is also pointless. Even if we couldn’t see it under any conditions, however, it would still be observable via other sensory modalities. And yes, technology truly does make sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to you, I recommend a few courses in science.

Blondesjon's avatar

<gasp!> i almost suffocated contemplating this . . .

rock4ever's avatar

I’m taking honors science next year…I’m actually really smart when it comes to science but no matter how much I learn about it I have about 10 new questions for every question answered. Most of my questions go unanswered. By the way how long exactly is space? When was the beginning of time? If time had a beginning it must have an ending. What happens at the end of time? Try answering a few of those questions. There is an answer somewhere out there but it has not been found and for now it baffles our brains and makes no sense. Just like most of the stuff in the old testament. It makes no sense yet people who believe in it know there is an answer.

crisw's avatar

@rock4ever

“I believe it because I was raised to believe it”

So are you stating that if you were raised to believe in the Koran that you would believe that, and if you were raised to believe in the Mahabharata you would believe that? Doesn’t that kind of prove the point that none of this is actually true?

You may not understand science, and it may baffle you, but the theories that science provides are both testable and falsifiable. Most of the “answers” in the Bible, or any other religious text, are neither. In addition, science discards theories that are shown to be false; nothing from the Bible is discarded even when it’s proven false. The two are very different.

Ladymia69's avatar

Fear or brainwashing?

rock4ever's avatar

If I was raised to believe in the Koran or in Mahabharata that’s likely what I would believe in. Let’s just put it this way my thinking is nothing makes sense but it all has an answer. We may not have an answer to all the bible’s mysteries but they’re there. And just because there are many religions doesn’t mean they’re all fake. For all we know they’re all real and maybe even intertwined in some way.
Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, aliens,and other creatures have not been proven to exist, but does that mean they don’t? No one knows for sure. They may not be proven to exist but they also haven’t been fully proven to not exist.

rock4ever's avatar

@ladymia69 In some cases your right people do believe from fear. I’ll be the first to admit I used to just believe in God because it made me behave and I feared that if I didn’t believe in God my motivation for being good would be lost and I would act out my horrible imagination.

DominicX's avatar

As others have said, many people believe in it because it is what they were raised to believe in. If that’s not the case, then it’s because it offers them something that they need or want in life (and that also applies to the people who were raised to believe in it). The Bible promises eternal life to those who live righteously and accept Jesus as their savior. For some, the promise of eternal life is very appealing, as is the idea of a God that has control over your life and the “big picture”. It’s comforting, it provides answers for things that cannot be answered otherwise, and it provides a means for living your life, a handbook as it were. There are many reasons a person might believe in what the Bible says. It’s appeaing on many levels.

I’ve often said that religion exists for three main reasons: 1) to explain what cannot be explained (to answer questions that seem unanswerable), 2) to give meaning and greater purpose to life, and 3) to control the actions and behaviors of other people.

filmfann's avatar

I am a Christian, and I do believe in the Bible, but I am hard pressed to tell you why, other than I have faith.

Ladymia69's avatar

I really do think fear is what started religion, and what maintains religion.

Ladymia69's avatar

and paganism, for that matter.

crisw's avatar

@ladymia69

I think fear is only part of it. A bigger part is the intensely human need to explain things in some manner that seems to make sense. We are creatures that look for connections and causes, and see them even when none exist (as the multitude of “I dreamed X…” questions on Fluther attests to!) So, before we had science, we had the folktales that became religions, explaining how it all came to be.

tinyfaery's avatar

They want to.

BeeVomit's avatar

Ok @SavoirFaire, fair enough. I simply meant that I don’t mind if you do or if you don’t. I just didn’t want it to turn into a heated debate. Sorry if I made it read that I didn’t care to hear what you had to say. Now, if you believe it, go ahead and say that you do, but this question wasn’t put up to pop bubbles.

My best friend is a devout Christian, and I talk with him all the time about his faith. However, I am not a Christian. It would burst my own bubble if he were to think I was hyper-judgmental of him for being one when I’m not. Do you understand? I hope so. It’s rather a touchy issue, and this question was not about dismissing the Bible or admonishing it. Just about my wonder why people gather to it.

BeeVomit's avatar

@crisw I actually do believe a lot of old myths and legends. I also believe several of the stories in the Old Testament are true to account and provide valuable morals. Several of these stories account for situations applicable even in modern life and I do take guidance from them. Why? I think they make sense. I never had anyone that I respected (my teachers hated me for not doing what I was told) put me on a strict mental diet of old knowledge, so it’s true that most old fables don’t catch my interest. But those which seem practical I’ll accept for the morals they hold. I’m always up for a new take on the Beginning.

Ever read Daniel Quinn’s books? I would highly recommend them to you, in particular, for being a myth critic.

BeeVomit's avatar

@rock4ever Time is a human concept. It doesn’t exist. Neither do numbers. Growth and decay are what we measure with illusionary ideas like time. If we didn’t use time, or calculate it by numbers, would the world cease to exist?

rock4ever's avatar

I wasn’t just talking about the world I meant the literal beginning of anything.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rock4ever I don’t doubt that science classes raise further questions for you, but that doesn’t mean they cannot illuminate how technology works at the same time. If none of your questions are being answered—even as new ones are being raised—then someone is doing something wrong (either you or your teacher). We do not need to answer your questions about space and time in order to understand that technology and the Bible are not on the same logical ground.

But to have a go at it: neither time or space have a beginning, nor do they have an ending. Thus neither can be measured in full, though each can be measured in part. As a philosopher, I love questions like this. But their difficulty does not convince me to throw up my hands and take the advice of people who believed that Earth was the stationary center of the universe. For all I know, the Bible’s various authors were trying their best and writing down the most reliable information they had at the time; but I see no reason to ignore the progress we’ve made since then.

plethora's avatar

The Bible was not forced down my throat as a child or youth. In fact, I can never recall the Bible being read in my home. I was raised in a very liberal church which neither affirmed nor cast doubt on the accuracy of the Bible. I have no recollection of anything being said in church about it. When I was about 22, just before I graduated from college, I read a book my grandmother had owned called “A Man Called Peter” about a Scottish preacher who immigrated to the US and subsequently became chaplain to the US Senate. I was very much drawn to him and the life he led. Having no background I started reading. First the church’s Sunday School lessons, which I quickly came to disbelieve. To make a long story short, I continued reading for several years, not just the Bible, but the history of the Bible, how it was written, the specific techniques that were used over the centuries to preserve all of the Jewish and Christian writings. Took a long time, but I eventually came to the conviction that the written records could be trusted.

What I did not do is read the Bible and try to make sense out of it based on my own scattered beliefs about something I knew nothing about.

crisw's avatar

@plethora

Ever read any of the works of Bart Ehrman? Very eye-opening if you think “the written records could be trusted.”

@BeeVomit

“I actually do believe a lot of old myths and legends.”

Well, I assume that the ones that you believe are the ones that are actually substantiated through some form of tangible evidence? As far as I am concerned, this goes back to my original point that there is nothing special about the Bible; that it’s no different than any other book of legends and fables. King Arthur may have existed, but he probably didn’t pull a sword out of a stone or have a wizard pal who could cast spells. Some of the characters in the Bible may have existed, but that doesn’t mean that all the stories told therein are true or reliable. Plus, if they were, given the amount of gore, misogyny, racism, violence, and abuse in the Bible, it would be a very poor source of moral guidance indeed.

AdamF's avatar

I don’t accept the claims of the bible, because I see zero justification in living one’s life based on the anecdotal camp-fire stories and primitive regional morality of long-dead authors.

The value of the bible lies in its rightful place as an extremely important part of the world’s mythological, philosophical, and literary history. The cost is that it acts as a barrier to moral and intellectual progress for so many.

mattbrowne's avatar

For the same reasons people believe in absolutism, capitalism, communism, conservatism, dualism, egalitarianism, existentialism, fascism, fatalism, feminism, hedonism, humanism, imperialism, individualism, liberalim, materialism, modernism, monarchism, monism, naturalism, nihilism, occultism, pantheism, pluralism, postmodernism, relativism, secularism, unitarianism, or utopianism.

Because it makes sense to them. Because it matches with their personal values. Because it’s about a cause worth living for (from the standpoint of the supporter).

Keep in mind that the following questions are two different questions:

Why do people believe the Bible?

Why do people believe in the Bible literally?

I’m not sure which you had in mind.

plethora's avatar

@crisw I don’t believe the question asked for half-baked rebuttals of why a person believed the Bible. In fact, the questioner very specifically asked that rebuttals any kind be withheld.

BeeVomit's avatar

I went to Good Friday service and was met with a rather gruesome film which made several children cry in the audience, and parents take them away, and themselves. I did understand I had to watch.. but what came afterward in the discussion was what awakened my issues. I’m not even going to go into them.. Just know this: Another one of my beliefs is that anyone who takes what the Bible says for the Truth, and knows no other, and accepts no other, is someone who needs a change of perspective. Take it from someone who has faith in a more broad (need I say Higher?) outlook.

BeeVomit's avatar

Easter service was not an improvement on my mind.

BeeVomit's avatar

@mattbrowne The first one.

@everyone I’m sorry to turn it personal.

mattbrowne's avatar

@BeeVomit – Multiple spiritual truths can co-exist. They are not about about facts. They are about beliefs. And it’s worthwhile to explore multiple spiritual truths and try to understand the perspective of people who have beliefs unlike your own. You seem to believe that certain people need a change of perspective. This is your belief. Is it really true?

AdamF's avatar

@mattbrowne What is a spiritual truth, and how does one distinguish one from a spiritual untruth?

An example might be helpful.

mattbrowne's avatar

Examples of spiritual truths:

Jesus is the son of God.
Muhammad is the messenger of God.

Examples of historical truths:

Apostle Paul spent about 18 months in Corinth.
Muhammad died in the year 632.

To Muslims it is spiritually untrue that Jesus is the son of God.

Spiritual truths are always subjective. Historical truths and scientific truths should be objective. Scientific facts are tested and retested, against a set of assumptions. Spiritual truths cannot be tested using scientific method. They rely on personal beliefs and experiences.

BeeVomit's avatar

In my experience, and only my experience will I guarantee, whoever goes through their lives limiting themselves to a book written centuries ago with questionable characters and morals is indeed missing out on the world. After that service I had several discussions with diehard Christians, in which I simply tried to explain how strong my own connection with God is, without ever having had to be saved by Jesus Christ. I tried explaining that I like many Christians, and that I personally would not be so moved away from believing in their faith should Jesus be proved a man, not a messiah.

It was said practically first thing by the pastor at Easter Sunday mass that if Jesus had not died on the cross to be resurrected, the entirety of Christianity would fall apart. I don’t believe so, since to me Jesus was a remarkable man who did good, great works, and still became crucified. Whether he died or was saved by his friends doesn’t change the fact that he stood on solid moral ground. I doubt he was crucified to save anyone of their sins, but that’s a matter for the church to decide.. Indeed, they already have.

Simply, my qualm with Christianity is that Christians build their ignorance higher and higher. If something new comes their way, they must look to the church to explain it to them in an evangelical understanding. It is God’s test to us. I was met with such derogatory scorn when I was trying to tell the Christians about my love for God and how I found it. I was trying to tell them that I did appreciate their love for Jesus, that he was a good example to follow, yet that highly biased account of his doings, basing the entirety of what amounts to a good work on earth on some loose facts written thousands of years ago by ignorant farmers, soldiers and fishermen, was not how I found God.

So.. there you have my opinion. God made the world, and all that is in it, no matter how long ago or whatever you believe about creation. God was called such not because he was the only god, but historically because he was considered an unnamed god. Therefor, the only name he could be given was simply, god, and it stuck. (I just now realized, what a simple name!) But in my belief, I sustain that I can find God anywhere, in all the works in and out of the world, in and out of myself. In a Christian church I am wrong for believing that, and that is why I asked the question, why?

BeeVomit's avatar

Now, I answered this to you because you asked, not because that’s what I want to hear in this topic. Please the rest of you ignore my answers, and keep telling me why you read the Bible. I would still like to know from more people. Thanks.

mattbrowne's avatar

I have a different understanding of Christianity. And limiting ourselves to knowledge of the past is actually not recommended by the Bible. On the contrary. A good example is the Book of Proverbs. And this is why Christianity continues to evolve. Some advice is still very relevant in 2011. Jesus reminded us that we make ourselves very unhappy when we hate other people. This reminder saves us from living a miserable life. That’s the most important aspect of being saved.

plethora's avatar

Believing the Bible helps you to NOT believe fools like Harold Camping

everephebe's avatar

@plethora and not believing in the bible doesn’t help you to not believe in fools like Harold Camping? ^ Non sequitur.

Blondesjon's avatar

@plethora . . . I hate to keep pointing this out but Harold Camping is worth nearly $135 million. He is a charlatan and a crook but he is no fool.

it’s fools that financed his media empire

filmfann's avatar

If he believes in the Lord, and takes all this money while misrepresenting the Bibles message, he is a fool.

Blondesjon's avatar

Do you really believe that any person worth millions of dollars truly believes in the Lord?

plethora's avatar

@Blondesjon Yes I do, and Camping is a fool no matter how much money he has. Money is not the only measure of anything.

plethora's avatar

@everephebe Say again, if you want me to follow what you’re saying.

everephebe's avatar

@plethora “Believing the Bible helps you to NOT believe fools like Harold Camping.”

So… What about not believing in the bible? Wouldn’t that “also” prevent you from believing in things like the rapture as a general concept? I’d say, yes it would prevent such things.
You’re previous statement was non sequitur.

plethora's avatar

The rapture is not a general concept. Its his personal interpretation and it has little to do with this. As a Christian, not a charlatan, I know that as soon as anyone predicts a date he is an idiot. And I know that as a result of believing the Bible and I dont believe in a rapture. General concept??? Maybe you ought to brush up on the Bible if you believe that. Or perhaps you like the media’s view better. Or maybe you’re an idiot….who knows?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@plethora That still seems like a non sequitur. Camping could be a fraud without being a fool or an idiot. As for the point that @everephebe is actually making, he’s saying that not believing anything on the basis that it is putatively said by the Bible will prevent one from believing Rapture predictions just as much as holding an interpretation of the Bible in which the Rapture is not a real event or cannot be predicted will. Atheists, for instance, would never believe in anything just because a Christian told them the Bible said it was true. It’s a very simple point, and it seems like you are going out of your way to not understand it.

everephebe's avatar

@plethora You’re right it’s not a general concept, it’s strictly a Christian concept.
OH SHIT, that was my point.

everephebe's avatar

@plethora As an atheist, not a charlatan, I know that anyone who believes in the rapture at all, is an idiot. Also, the rapture as it’s known today is not mentioned in the Bible.
Unless you get really high on the island of Patmos, and read the Bible in Greek. And by Greek I mean prolific butt sex.

everephebe's avatar

Also, Jesus must have a very long refractory period, it’s been a while since he first coming.
Please someone make him a sandwich.

plethora's avatar

@everephebe I am assuming you are an atheist. You appear to claim you are an atheist. I have no problem with that, except that you appear to be an obnoxious and rather blind atheist, and that, Sir, I must admit is annoying.

So just for you and for @SavoirFaire let me express this as simply as possible as I believe @SavoirFaire is also an atheist and you guys do get stirred up when the Bible is mentioned, even though, to my knowledge, no one is insisting you believe a word of it.

Here’s the point that neither of you want to lose sight of. Listen carefully. I have not mentioned the rapture. You mentioned that. You even ludicrously stated it was a general concept. And then you began to speculate on when He might return.

The Bible states clearly and unequivocally that NO ONE knows the date or time of Christ’s return. Now whether you believe he will return or not is another matter. If you know, as I do, that no one can possibly know the date, the time, the hour, etc, then one does not get bent out of shape as the media did about this Camping idiot. Now where is the non sequiter?

And believing that He will return does in no way invoke a belief in the rapture.

However, listening to you two does give me a headache and a fervent desire to suggest you STF up on stuff you don’t know shit about.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@plethora Camping did have textual support from the Bible for his views. Specifically, he cited 1 Thessalonians 5: 1–11 (with special emphasis on verse 4) and claimed that the verses used against him were written in present tense and so do not preclude people in the distant future (our present day) from knowing when the end will occur. You and I might agree that his interpretation is unwarranted, but it remains the case that he presented a reason for not taking the oft-quoted Matthew 24:36 as an unequivocal statement that no one will ever know the date of the Second Coming. Leaving aside whether or not Camping himself is really a believer in the Bible, I see no reason to think that none of his followers were. If you’d like to demonstrate that each individual follower was not, you are free to do so. However, it seems that one of his followers could have believed in the Bible while still being hoodwinked by Camping’s argument. One can believe in the Bible, after all, without holding the exact same beliefs about the Bible that you do.

Second, you have indeed mentioned the Rapture. You haven’t endorsed the idea, but you have certainly mentioned it (e.g., here). That aside, the reason why the Rapture came up at all is because we are discussing Mr. Camping, and his whole bit was about the Rapture. Thus it would be relevant even if you had not mentioned it. As for the Rapture as a general concept, I’m not sure what you take “general concept” to mean. My reading of @everephebe‘s original statement was that not believing in the Bible (perhaps in virtue of being non-religious) would be sufficient not only to lead one to reject any particular account of the Rapture (i.e., that it will happen in some particular way and/or at some particular time) but also to reject it in general (i.e., that it will happen at all). If you take “general concept” to mean something else, you will have to explain what that is.

Third, I do not see where anyone speculated on when Jesus might return. There was a joke about Jesus’ refractory period, but it was quite obviously not a sincere comment. Nor did anyone claim that believing in the Second Coming entailed believing in the Rapture. Saying that the Rapture is a Christian concept does not entail that all Christians believe it; what it entails is that only Christians believe it. So all that @everephebe has committed himself to is that believers in the Rapture are a subset of believers in Christianity (though there may be things similar to the Rapture to which some non-Christians are also committed).

Finally, the non sequitur that I was pointing out—independent of whatever @everephebe might be pointing out—comes from this response. You say that anyone who predicts a date is immediately revealed as an idiot. This is a non sequitur because the person could be a non-idiot making a prediction for the purposes of capitalizing on those who are gullible or vulnerable. Such a person would be unscrupulous, disreputable, and a fraud—but not necessarily an idiot (at least not in any normal sense of the term).

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