By Herb Silverman
A few months ago, Patton Dodd highly recommended two books for Christians who are experiencing acute and painful doubt. Though I’m an atheist who experiences no such painful doubts, I do experience painless curiosity about books meant to “cure” such doubts. Eternally behind on my to-read list (if I believed in eternity), I decided to read one of these books.
Both recommended books promote liberal Christianity. I only read excerpts of My Bright Abyss, about Christian Wiman’s spiritual growth when confronted with his own mortality, coupled with suggestions on resolving faith paradoxes. I fully read the book with the more intriguing title, The Bible Tells Me So, by Peter Enns. Maybe I was inspired by childhood memories of the song by the same simplistic title.
Most atheists would agree with much of what Enns says about the Bible. I’ll first mention my points of agreement before explaining why we come to opposite conclusions.
Points of agreement
I agree with Enns that the Bible largely consists of made-up stories by unknown authors attempting to explain their views of the world and its origins. These authors sometimes modified stories from earlier cultures to shape their present needs and goals. There are countless biblical contradictions, as well as historical and scientific falsities.
Enns and I also agree that we should not accept the Bible as literal truth or attempt to make sense out of nonsense, a view that offends Christian fundamentalists. The God of the Bible is no role model. God can be a tyrant who orders the enslaving or killing of innocent people (including children) because they worship the wrong gods or live in lands that God wants his chosen people to occupy. God commands the Israelites to kill everything that breathes in Canaan.
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