General Question

choreplay's avatar

Atheist, what are a few of your criticisms of the bible?

Asked by choreplay (6290 points ) September 27th, 2011

Only Atheist, the floor is theirs. Please give specific references and what the issue is, like: the bible promotes slavery Leviticus 25:44–46. Try not to share what has been cited yet unless you have a fresh position or point.

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34 Answers

Hibernate's avatar

There are dark corners in the Bible.
I don’t get it why you want atheists to answer this question. I mean let’s be serious. There are a few who actually know what they talk about not to mention a lot of them will just take things out of context.
And if there are Christians who actually don’t think some things in the Bible are awkward then they are blind.

Jas2:13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.

Really annoying to see mercy stands before judgment yet we don’t show mercy that often, be us Christians or not. This phenomenon can’t be explained.

Blackberry's avatar

Seriously, there’s too many to name. And it’s not only atheists that realize the bible is fallacious.

@Hibernate It can be explained: human nature.

choreplay's avatar

I’m asking in sincerity. I want to look them up for my own education and discernment. I see lots of things thrown around and honestly haven’t investigated them for myself. So @Blackberry give me the one that is most prevalent to you.

Blackberry's avatar

@choreplay There’s a thread titled “What’s wrong with the bible?” right next to where I’m typing. Lol.

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jerv's avatar

Us Agnostics also have a few things to say on this matter.

Let us start meta and go with linguistic criticism. It is already a leap of faith that any human can comprehend every concept that a higher order intelligence like an omniscient deity may wish to convey. Have you ever discussed quantum physics with an ant?

Then there were the translations. See, as flawed a the first Bible was, any errors it has are compounded by translation between human languages. There is a valid reason why all true Qurans are in the same language that the original version was written in. Look at the difference in wording between various modern English versions of the Bible.Now look at the disparity between English a it is now and as it was centuries ago; neither resemble Latin, and none of those resemble Greek.

So we have to suspend disbelief to even think that what we read in the Bible was what was penned 2000 years ago, suspend it more to believe that it was ever The Word of God in the first place, and then argue over what those words even mean.

Aethelflaed's avatar

The promotion of rape, from victim-blaming to actively encouraging it as a weapon of war.

Deuteronomy 22:28–29 If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

Deuteronomy 22:23–24 If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife.

2 Samuel 12:11–14 Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives [plural] while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan answered David: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.”

Deuteronomy 21:10–14 When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb. After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.

Exodus 21:7–11 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

Qingu's avatar

Well. I guess I’ll start on the first page.

Genesis 1 describes a creation story where the earth was formed before the sun, where “days” pass before the sun exists, and where plants and arbitrary divisions of animals emerge on day intervals. It also describes the sky as a solid dome (Hebrew “raqia,” or “that which is hammered out,”) which God makes to hold up an above-sky ocean.

Not only does every single concept here flatly contradict reality… a lot of it flatly contradicts the Bible’s story on page 2. In Genesis 1, humans are made on the last day, after animals. In Genesis 2, God makes humans first, before plants and other animals.

It’s also abundantly clear that Genesis is explicitly based on Mesopotamian mythology. Babylonian creation myths also describe the sky as a solid dome, holding up an ocean, with the sun and moon and stars set within it. Babylonian myths also describe gods creating humans out of clay to work as their servants. Yahweh/Elohim, the god of the Bible, resembles Babylonian “king” deities.

Considering the Hebrews lived right next to the Babylonians, I’m confused as to why I’m expected to interpret Genesis as something other than an example of ancient Mesopotamian mythology.

Qingu's avatar

Inaccuracy aside, I guess my biggest criticism, from a moral standpoint, is that the Bible is the only religious text I know of to command genocide.

Deuteronomy 13:12
If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in, that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’, whom you have not known, then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you, you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword. All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt-offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.

Deuteronomy 20:16
But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

And the entire book of Joshua is basically a series of victorious descriptions of these god-ordered genocides.

It’s hard to overstate how problematic this is. Other cultures, such as the Babylonians and the Romans, certainly committed their share of atrocities. But when they conquered people, they incorporated their religion into their own culture. They didn’t kill every man, woman and child (and cow and horse and plant). Hinduism has sacred texts that describe terrible wars, but even attacking civilians would have been considered an offense against the gods—let alone committing outright genocide against them.

These passages were cited by medieval popes to justify killing civilians during the Crusades. They no doubt played a role in the Christians’ treatment of the native Americans, from the Spaniards conquering the Aztec to white American settlers collecting Indian scalps during Manifest Destiny. The logic behind the Bible’s genocide—you should kill every single person in this culture so there is no chance that survivors will influence you—is the same logic that modern genocidal campaigns are based on—Rwanda, Sudan, and of course, Nazi Germany.

And it is the only religious text to command genocide. I don’t understand how anyone can say that the Bible is this great moral guidebook after reading these passages.

wundayatta's avatar

As literature, I really don’t have any criticisms, other than it can be pretty boring in spots. The translations can be a bit dicey and I’m not sure they accurately reflect the original. As science it is an utter failure, of course. As a story, it has exciting moments. As a moral prescription it is confusing and contradictory and the utility of its advice is patchy at best. It is certainly not something I’d run a society on.

As a description of the reality of the world, it is just plain errant. As a description of the spiritual world it is misleading and confusing—so much so, it is nearly impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. As poetry—well, it’s not to my taste, but I believe a lot of other people enjoy it.

As a characterization of the divine—well, again, it is confusing and I suspect it is misleading. It works if you belong to the club. It is exclusionary for others.

All in all, it is probably one of the more controversial and misunderstood documents in existence. It has to be taken seriously because it is a favorite of billions of people. But it is impossible to understand except on an individual basis, and even it’s adherents don’t show much agreement about its meaning. There is little agreement as to its meaning when you poll the understanding of most of its adherents. It’s amazing that it has supported the single most successful organization in the history of man: the Catholic Church. I don’t know if the Church owes its success so much to the document as it does to the bureaucracy.

So I will say this in it’s favor: it is probably the most powerful symbol known to man.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta The Church owes its success to the fall of Rome.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Before I knew about science, evolution, logic, the dinosaurs, and all that stuff, I knew the bible was a hoax. They say it takes one to know one, as a child I was a highly manipulative little shit, and as a highly manipulative little shit I instantly spotted all the manipulation to control people in the bible. Some things are obviously pre-emptive get out clauses and lies. So my main criticism is that it is blatantly transparent.

Then there are contradictions, things that just dont make sense at all, and things that are now known to be wrong.

here you can find over 400 contradictions in the bible if you are that interested.

everephebe's avatar

This is a classic book. I have no criticisms except it seems to have been mislabeled or something? Great work of fiction.

syz's avatar

Even as a seven year old child, I never got a satisfactory answer to my question of how we all came from Adam and Eve. Did they procreate with their children? Or did their children practice incest?

Along a similar vein, just how big a ship would be necessary to house every species on earth? All 8.7 million of them? And their food? But if there were only two, how did they not become incredibly inbred?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@syz And what about all the fish? All animals, not just humans, were evil, so a giant flood is sent to wipe them all out… But the fish, the fish are fine, they are not affected by the flood. So then either the fish weren’t evil, or we just have tons of evil fish swimming about to this day.

DominicX's avatar

DISCLAIMER: Nowhere in this post do I insult theists or Christians. I do not think they’re ignorant, delusional, etc. These are my personal issues with the Bible, which I am allowed to have and state.

My problems with the Bible are many, but I will try and outline them as basically as I can. Here is a sampling of my issues with the Bible, starting with the most general:

1) Are we to take the Bible literally or figuratively? Are we to take parts of it literally and other parts of it figuratively? If so, how do we know which parts to take literally and which parts to take figuratively?
2) The Bible is supposed to be a guide thousands of years after it was written, yet when you read the Bible, it’s pretty obvious that it was written thousands of years ago. Some messages in the Bible, such as “love one another”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are timeless and can apply very well today, but other messages are clearly outdated.
3) The Bible was written by men who were not God. The difference in writing styles between books shows this. How can we take the flawed writing of humans as the flawless word of God?
4) There is a stark contrast between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament does seem to be more wrathful and vengeful compared to the loving and forgiving God of the New Testament. This to me just shows that the two testaments were written by different peoples with different ideas and values; it doesn’t do much to support that the writing is “perfect”.
5) Leviticus. The book atheists love to hate and theists hate to love. The book that is used as the main support for homophobia. Some will claim this book no longer applies to this day. 5A) How do we know that this true? Galatians 3 seems to support that, but Matthew doesn’t so much. 5B) If it no longer applies, why do other Law portions of the Old Testament still apply? 5C) If it does still apply, does all of it apply? Or only parts? How do we know which parts? If all, how come people use Leviticus 18:22 to support homophobia but then ignore Leviticus 19:19?
6) The Bible’s creation stories do contradict or at least don’t seem to be in harmony with scientific discovery. Does this mean the Bible is simply “wrong” about this or are these stories more metaphorical and can support scientific discoveries and theories?
7) How can infinite torture be a valid punishment for a finite crime committed on Earth? Yes, I’m talking about Hell. Does Hell motivate people to act righteously? Does that mean people only do good because of fear? If not, why is Hell necessary? Why does it have to exist? Some lines in the Bible seem to indicate the souls of the wicked dying or vanishing and other lines indicate them being eternally tormented. Why this seeming contradiction?

There’s more, but that’s all I have for now.

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Neophyte's avatar

The Bible is a great piece of literature; however, it is mislabeled. A book of fairytales has no business being interpreted as a source of great truths.

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mazingerz88's avatar

There was nothing written about Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead. I suppose if someone rose from the dead, wouldn’t somebody pay more attention and do some follow up writing? And why did a Vatican council made Mary Magdalene into a prostitute when she wasn’t one at all? I think the vatican recanted from that.

Also, as I understand, and I could be wrong, another Vatican council picked and choose which books would be compiled into what we know now as the Bible. And how can anyone be sure of the accuracy of what was written when it has passed through many translations down the ages? But I think this mention in an earlier post by @jerv.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@mazingerz88 The council you’re talking about in which they picked which books would be considered cannon and which would be apocrypha is the First Council of Nicaea.

Blackberry's avatar

My pet peeve with the bible is that people are still referencing it. The bible is only “useful” when discussing the contents of the bible. There is no connection between the bible (or qu’ran, torah etc.) and the large questions concerning the universe and whatever god is or is not.

It’s a book, written by humans, that arrived way after the universe was created.

jerv's avatar

I think that this is relevant.

Basically, many people spout off about what the Bible says without actually knowing what the Bible says.

Blackberry's avatar

@jerv Would it be irrational of me to say it doesn’t even matter what the bible says? Is there really anything useful in there that pertains to life outside of organized religion?

jerv's avatar

@Blackberry Considering how many of our lawmakers use their interpretation of the Bible to at least influence decisions that affect us all, I think it does matter. Pro-life and anti-sodomy laws spring to mind immediately, and many of the anti-abortion and anti-gay crowds cite the Bible.

Blackberry's avatar

This society is nuts!

GracieT's avatar

Unfortunately the fact is that many people whom are not even Christians know the Bible VERY well. It always amuses me how well many non-Christians know the Bible. (It is not something those of us whom claim to consider Jesus Christ our savior should be proud of. If we love Christ, we need to spend time learning the word, what it says.)

GracieT's avatar

I meant to say that it amuses me when Christians do not know the Bible all that well. I think that it is interesting to think that we don’t put any time
into reading the Word of God.
Christ himself is called the
Word (Logos, I think). We
should put more time into
reading and studying it. It shouldn’t be just the source of a few “sound bites”, it should be something we come to love, to know well. I don’t, I’m sorry to say, but I’m trying to allieviate that problem.

Qingu's avatar

I imagine there’s a lot of atheists who became atheists because they started reading the Bible. It’s why I lost my faith (for what it was).

mazingerz88's avatar

@Qingu Yes. The Bible indeed won’t stand scrutiny to some people once they understand how it originated. As I always say here, I was raised Catholic yet ended up thinking that these writings were meant for Jews and Jews alone. I don’t buy that a person named Paul on his way to Damascus was spoken to by God and told gentiles could be Christians too. That seemed to be a pragmatic human decision so they could increase their numbers.

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