Scary Bible Quotes?
Where Are The Real Juicy Ones?
Eric Lopez

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "eric lopez"
Subject: Re: I'm curious about atheism:
Date: August 19, 2001 10:49 PM

As an American, I am terrified by the move to Christianize this very first of secular nations. That's all. The Tripoli bit is my two cents on the issue. Our front page gets hit twice as often as any other page, and so that many people will see the Tripoli quip, and perhaps this will push enough people into the action of shouting "No!" when these cretins come around trying to lie to us about our history.

You must have missed our new Big List of Scary Bible Quotations: This work has only recently begun, and if you wish to make some contributions to what will eventually be the main section, "Horrors of Biblical Proportions," you are welcome to submit those passages you think to be scary, with a brief write-up of what you think is scary about those passages. We will probably place the write-ups in the Letters section and link to them from the "Horrors of Biblical Proportions" work.

You also seem to have missed the point of some of the quotations you mention: The Christians' degradation of women is derived directly from the position on women displayed in both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures. While Paul (a real historical figure) is much more guilty of this than the Jesus character (whose historicity is unknown), the official position of the Christian churches is to believe Paul's claim to have been ordained directly by the risen Christ and to have spoken verbatim on Christ's behalf.

For example: the centuries-long practice of burning our forebears at the stake was inspired directly by words alleged to have been those of Jesus: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6.) Modern Christians insist that their forefathers were taking the words of Christ or Paul out of context. Newer translations of this passage go to great lengths to soften the impact of the original. All this matters naught: the Christians of yore thought they were doing the express will of Christ. For this reason, we oppose fundamentalism with more vehemence than we oppose any specific expression of religion, be it Christianity or Islam or whatever.

One way to rout fundamentalism (or at least dampen its influence) is to show it in action. What better way than to take the words of some of the more colorful fundamentalists who have walked amongst us?

Yes, in a sense you're right: we do spent a lot more energy showcasing the fundamentalists of various stripes than we do showcasing the religious figures who happen to be the objects of the various fundamentalists' obsessions. We do this as part of our attempt to show that the religious belief systems which tend to fall victim to fundamentalism actually set themselves up for fundamentalism by encouraging that style of thinking which fosters fundamentalistic behavior.

Not all fundamentalist groups obsess on an ideology that fosters a fundamentalistic thinking style. For example, some group could become a danger to the rest of us by taking the words of someone such as Mahatma Gandhi, twisting those words out of context, and using the resultant ideas to inspire large groups to commit very destructive acts. This would not reflect on Gandhi himself. In the same way, I suspect that the original Jesus in no way resembled the Jesus of the Gospels -- who in turn only vaguely resembles the Jesus of modern Christian fundamentalism. And if you want to talk about the "real" Jesus, then you must show that a "real" Jesus existed and that you have access to the accurate account of his life and teachings. (Ironically, the Christians who treat the Gospel accounts in just this manner become fundamentalists in so doing!)

But a case can be made that the Jesus of the Gospels (real or fictional) did inspire large masses toward destructive behavior wrought from the exclusivism and magical thinking encouraged by the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels. The clearest presentation of this concept is the section on "Solidification and Isolation" in our FAQ piece, Introduction To Activistic Atheism. Although some of this piece was cribbed directly from C. Dennis McKinsey's classic work The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, much of it comes from my personal study and direct experience with the more cultic aspects of the body of Christian teaching as found in the Bible.
 

Perhaps you may wish to read the book The Christ by John E. Remsberg. This is one of the more scathing critiques of the alleged founder of Christianity I have ever read, being (among other things) a simplified presentation of some of the work of Strauss and Renan. As such, it is more than just a simple collection of juicy quotes (although those do exist). We have the complete book online, but this one is worthy of dropping a few bucks for the hard-bound copy so you can curl up with it or read it on the bus (or wherever). The book is in many small sections and is very conducive to short, quick reading breaks. We have a sampling of some of my favorites (there are so many) in our Big List of Quotations under John E. Remsberg.

Another approach is not to fear the Christ figure but to understand it. For this I would check into some of the material loosely described as the Quest for the Historical Jesus. My favorite spin on this angle has been the Jewish political King-Messiah described by Hyam Maccoby in his hard-to-find book, Revolution In Judaea. I have done a Reader's Digest-type abbreviation of the highlights of this book and put this into a piece I titled, "Jesus and the Jewish Resistance."

Finally, I have long said that studies on biblical errancy (which would include finding "juicy quotes" from the Jesus character) has only limited potential in accomplishing our goal of discrediting the Christian religion, which is the philosophical basis of much of the destructive political maneuvering that is now taking place in America and elsewhere. Last year, I worked with Matthew Rupert who asked me to discuss quoting the Bible out of context, resulting in the FAQ piece, "On Quoting The Bible Out Of Context." That same month I had discussed Gospel contradictions with Kameron Shulz, and wrote the related piece, "Gospel Contradictions."

Both pieces show how finding contradictions and errors has a very limited effect because in these studies we are dealing only with biblical fundamentalists. The problem with fundamentalism is that those who are in it tend not to listen to anybody outside of the group, and those who are not in it can usually at least see that a problem exists, though we may not be able to pinpoint the problem itself. So, we aren't going to do much toward changing the fundamentalists, and the others really don't need any help in seeing that a problem exists. This does not mean we should completely ignore the problem, but it does suggest where our priorities lie.

For me, showcasing the potential dangers that could result from the political and social moves based in this (and other) fundamentalist thinking is paramount. I also spend a lot of time and energy discussing various styles of thinking, and have written an entire section of our FAQ piece, Introduction to Activistic Atheism, with this in mind: "Sophistry: Logical and Rhetorical Fallacies; Faulty Reasoning" is little more than an overview of the various ways in which hucksters and charlatans pull the wool over the eyes of the public when trying to make social and political changes.

I have showcased some of the more "juicy" Bible passages in connection with our "National Bible Week Poster." In addition, I do have plans to make this material more accessible by incorporating it into our Big List of Quotations. However, the most important material that we have, in my opinion, is that material which discusses the dangers of these political maneuverings and the material which discusses the faulty reasoning behind the rhetoric used to advocate these political changes.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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