In an October 2000 Gallup Poll it was determined that, out of those polled, only 37% read the Bible on a daily or weekly basis. In my own personal experience, less than half of the professing Christians I know have ever read the entire Bible from cover to cover and don’t ever intend on doing so.
These statistics are not new to me though. This information bugged me deeply when I was a Christian and even more-so now. In this post I intend to show you why.
Christians, by and large, believe that the Bible is “The Word of God”…or at least most of them will make that claim. In fact it is considered by most Christian denominations to be a cardinal doctrine of their faith, that the Bible is the infallible ‘Word of God’ and is without error. It absolutely amazes me that many people that identify as Christians who have not read the full text of the Bible or even spent a large amount of time in study of it often make this same claim. Why is that a problem? Shouldn’t this news make me, as an atheist, very happy?
It doesn’t make me happy at all for a number of reasons:
For one, it tells me that Christians are believing things without even knowing what those things are. One might believe that the Bible is 100% authoritative in all things, yet may not understand that this belief entails justifications of god’s prophets sending bears to slaughter children (2 Kings 2:23–24), mass racial genocides (Joshua 6:20–21, Deuteronomy 2:32–35, Deuteronomy 3:3–7, Numbers 31:7–18, 1 Samuel15:1–9), condoning of rape (Judges 21:1–23), and child sacrifice (Judges 11:30–39). I know that the majority of Christians have never heard of most of these stories from the Bible, yet they still hold to the idea that it is perfection and breathed from god’s lips — would knowledge of these stories and supposed “Truths” change their view of the Bible? For some it would have to.
My second reason actually has a lot more to do with how I felt as a Christian who was frustrated by his peers and their complacency in their faith. IF you claim to believe that a book is the direct word of God, it seems to me that you would want to absorb as much of it as possible. I know that I certainly felt that way, I couldn’t get enough of the Bible — even the most gruesome parts — and I studied it for hours a day for quite a few years because I believed it was God’s uncompromisable word. I learned to cherish every word of it because of that belief. If a person calls themselves a Christian and claims to believe such grandiose things about the Bible, one would think that the evidence of such a conviction would be a nearly constant study or love for it — yet this is far from the case! One must wonder if these folks truly believe in this god or his book!
In retrospect, the third reason is in reference to the first, but it has to do with the fact that a faith that requires no knowledge or understanding of what that faith entails can’t really qualify as a faith at all. Perhaps I focused on correct doctrine a bit too much as a Christian, but it seems to me that understanding the rudiments and then the more advanced intricacies of one’s faith should be a defining aspect of a faith. Instead, we often see folks that only believe that Jesus died for them on the cross, yet couldn’t for the life of them explain or discuss even the cardinal doctrines upon which the church was built on. If you don’t know whether or not you believe that Christ was deified or not, or if there is or is not a trinity, or even why there was a need for perfect human sacrifice in the first place, then I have to question whether or not you can actually count yourself among the believers. It’s one thing to blindly place one’s faith in the Bible, it’s all together another to actually KNOW what things it says and still believe in it!
My purpose for writing this was two-fold. For one, I fully believe that every Christian (or other believer) has a responsibility to themselves and to their god to seek out the Truth…if you believe that something is true then you should lather yourself up in it, soak it in, live it, study it, understand it to the best of your ability. If you refuse to do so then you should be asking yourself whether or not you truly believe in it. Secondly, I also know just how powerful the words of the Bible are and I know very well how the Bible is the number one tool used in helping believers become skeptics and atheists. I don’t believe I would have ever let go of my god had I not had such an unquenchable thirst for the Bible, so much so that I began to recognize the inconsistencies of it and later became able to reject it and it’s god.
I’d like some feedback from both Christians (devout and non) and atheists regarding this subject, so please leave comments and share this with your friends.