If the Bible is completely false, does it matter?

[Props to Mercutio - his sig line inspired this thread]

To paraphrase from Kurt Vonnegut: A useful religion can be founded on shameless lies.

Let’s posit for a second that the Bible (or, for that matter, the scripture of most any religion) is an utter myth. The OT was written by a Jewish Homer who thought he was writing a pretty good yarn, and future generations got confused. The NT was written by a bunch of JC’s apostles who were deeply embarrassed by the fact that their supposed Messiah died without accomplishing anything, and decided to salvage something from the wreckage. (I guess for purposes of this discussion, we need to assume god exists, but I’m not even sure about that).

Does that mean the religions based on these books are invalid? I mean, personally I’m an atheist, but I think living life according to the creed of “love your neighbor as yourself” is a pretty good way to go about things. And at least the final 7 of the 10 Commandments seem like sensible rules to follow.

If (a) god does exist, but the scriptures were myths created to try to explain god to the uneducated masses (either back then or now), is this an acceptable shortcut?

If (b) god doesn’t exist, but the (at least basic) rules of the religions based on the scriptures are good ones to follow, is it such a bad thing to have religions that (sincerely) try to persuade their adherents to be nice to other people?

Is Vonnegut right?


Yes, it can be, but IMO, it is better if people would n’t.

What do I mean by that. I have always said that if being a Christian (for example) makes somebody a good and decent person, helps them to sleep at night, etc, then this is a good thing. However, in my opinion, it would be much better if such a person were to harness their own personal power and be good through the application of their will and intellect (see the various “The Atheist Religion” threads last year for more details on this view of mine). This in, my opinion, is more meaningful. I can coerce somebody into doing just about anything I want with enough pressure (sometimes very little pressure at all, as with my example below), and so isn’t it wonderful when they do it out of their own good conscience (sp). To come to the decison on your own, based on evidence and intelligent thought that something is the right thing to do is better than to have somebody tell you to do it, and you simply obey, no matter what the reason, be it fear or love.

An unrelated example:

I love my wife. She says to me “Sweets, I would love to have some flowers.” So I buy her some because I love her so. This is nice.

I love my wife. I know she likes getting flowers. I buy her some. This is better still.

Good question. The ancient reputation of Christians, aside from living as morticians in the catacombs, is that they were violently anti-pagan (some say anti-women) and wantonly ordered the destruction of most art and pagan temples; that they persistently persecuted each other in early times (Antioch and Alexandria), and despised the human race in general, which helped bring about their persecution and sentiments that helped spawn their rise.


Today, we take so much of our Western Christian heritage for granted, ignoring the dark ages, that we sometimes do not stop to consider how it has dimly colored our view of ourselves as humans, and nature at large. Many feel Christianity is harmless because it teaches us to love (strum, strum). Well, the general assumptions to this view are that A. Humans are not naturally good (fallen), B. Humans need to be taught how to love artificially, and C. Humans need a human sacrifice to show ultimate love, or D. Humans should love others through self-love or self-pity, and by the example of celibate Jesus, who by some evidence may have been one of the most self-important Essenes ever to be crucified for blasphemy.

Personally, I worry that Christianity is a self-help book in reverse, from supplying its own demand for persecution (victimology), to fulfilling its own prophecies. Having come from Mormonism, I witnessed firsthand how every historical slight and every persecution, real and imagined, has been loudly published to their benefit, growth and protection. It’s called stealth. I think every religion has its camouflage, not only to survive but to some day swarm.

Having been raised Jewish, then Mormon (from which I may have been excommunicated), then Catholic, and now a pagan/hedonist, yes I think Vonnegut may have something there. Even though he is an ego-maniac, there is something to be said in his words. People can believe in something, very strongly, based on faith in a written word, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, and sometimes against what they truly believe deep inside.

But I’ve noticed something of a trend among “Christians”. In general, Christians, who are supposed to be forgiving, kind, accepting, etc… (all the good things mentioned above) are the quickest ones to persecute, judge, condemn and ostrasize other people for what they are, how they act, what they wear, etc. I tend to not hold it against people for what they believe, or their actions or conduct (within legal limits) and take them for what they are, whether I like them or not, agree with them or not… Ironically, I have to wonder: Which of us is the true “Christian”, me… or the Sunday Thumper?

(The above words, although factual in base, were general observations only. Any resemblance to a real Christian, is purely coincidental and were in no way meant to offend any Christians. No Christians were harmed during the writing of this text)

As a non-religious person who’s read the Bible (two different versions of it), I can attest that there’s some good lessons to be found in The Good Book. Even if you don’t believe the whole “Jesus is the son of God” bit, you can still do good to take lessons like “turn the other cheek” and “don’t eat lead” to heart. :smiley:

I don’t see how the Golden Rule (“treat others as you yourself would be treated”), or any other good-idea-for-living-and-cooperation rule, is the exclusive providence of any one religion.

Of course it matters. If it was fabricated by men, then it’s fallible, and, as time passes, those fallacies should be recognized and corrected. If it’s true, and it was written by G-d, then it’s not subject to human correction, because the intelligence behind it is of a higher sort than out own.

cmkeller, let’s strip religions to their cores.

As rjung points out, The Golden Rule is not exclusive to any one religion - be good to one another is a basic precept of most any religion I can think of. Unless one believes that g-d had a role in the writing of all the scriptures of various religions, fallible humans came up with this idea themselves, at least some of the time.

Humans can come up with (for all intents and purposes) “infallible” ideas. I believe that there are three universal moral precepts, shared by everyone from the most primitive tribes to the most “enlightened” nations:

don’t kill
no incest
don’t steal

I would argue that “don’t be a jerk” is a fourth, but I don’t think the anthropologists have investigated that one yet. :slight_smile:
Does it matter if g-d inspired Moses and others to write this down, or if instead Moses or others came up with these ideas themselves, and created parables and stories to explain them? They are still good rules, and ones we should all live by.

BTW, my argument doesn’t deny the existence of g-d. My argument is that it doesn’t matter if scripture is literally (or even partially) true, so long as they speak to people and inspire/cajole them to do the right thing.


There’s nothing wrong with persuading people to be nice to each other, but the problem is that most religions impose certain rules for how their members live their lives that have absolutely nothing to do with leading an ethical life.(condemnation of homosexuality, Jewish dietary law, Catholic prohibition of birth control, etc.)

And that is the true question. Who defines the term “ethical”? If it’s allowed in my religion, but not allowed in your religion, how can we both be correct (birth control, for example)? Since I was Catholic once, and now use birth control, am I screwed? And if I don’t believe in a Heaven or Hell… what is to become of me after a life of trying to be a nice person just cuz that’s how I am? Worm food? The mind can boggle:)

And in a way that’s the problem. You look at the history of religious conflict, and it’s usually not the core beliefs that cause strife. Instead it’s the side issues - “suffer not a witch to live”, those who deny the divinity of JC are condemned, etc. And, of course, there are the myriad intrareligious wars over the correct interpretation of this sentence or that.

BTW, I wouldn’t put Jewish dietary law on the same list as the others rules. As it is explicitly and exclusively for the Jewish people, they don’t create strife by trying to impose it on others.


Tequila Mockingbird wrote:

I’d say you are; after all, if you’re not getting screwed, why would you need birth control?

Damn Catholics… they get ya one way or another and just never let go!! hahaahah

As Darwin would say ’ if you believe or you don’t, you can still have kids’.

If there is 1 god then WHY so many different religions ?

To be totally honest, i think there is A god BUT he hasn’t appeared yet, we are still waiting. Perhaps its a test.

Now I need cites, huh? Had an anthro teacher who thought that was one of the cardinal rules, but he had reached Jerk Totality and was no judge.

I’ve called myself a “church-goin’ atheist” often enough to give a resounding “No, it doesn’t matter” to your OP, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I guess you never tried to put together a department lunch during Passover. :wink:

Maybe not, but if God didn’t exist, they would be going to all that trouble for nothing.

I can’t figure out whether you’re just being ironic, cmkeller, given the fact that your view of the New Testament compared to that of any Christian, whether they be a liberal Quaker or a fierce conservative Southern Baptist, (let alone the Koran, which both of you would actually be in the same boat as) would show that it’s really not as cut & dried as all that.

Because the “fallacies” should be brought up to you, a devout Jew, every time you see someone thanking their lord Jesus Christ, who fulfilled all of the prophesies that you somehow don’t see fulfilled (playing devil’s advocate here, but you know that), since they obviously see things a wee bit differently than you do.

Not saying who is right (like I could solve a millenia of bigotry and religious hatered on both sides of the fence with a post on the SDMB or something), but to say that “the answers are clear” just because they have been answered satisfactorily TO YOU is naive and doesn’t address the fact that many folks see those words you see so clear equally as clearly with different meanings.

Personally, this reminds me of something I came up with when dealing with Fundamentalist Christians who are prone to taking the entire Bible literally:

If my kid does something bad, and I sit him down and tell him a story about how another kid who did the same bad thing met a horrible fate, does it matter if this other kid I use as my example was me at his age, his older sibling at his age, or someone I just made up out of the blue* if my kid believes that it happened and corrects this bad behavior?

As long as my kid believes that the kid I used as an example was real, and that the same thing could happen to him if he didn’t straighten up, what does it MATTER if the story - or even the kid - literally happened or existed?

The power of suggestion is an amazing thing. While some people might take offense to think their faith is not based on a reality, the truth is that if something gives you comfort and happiness - whether it’s the drug or the placebo - you still feel a lot better.

I am grossly oversimplifying something which doesn’t deserve as much, but I still hope people get what I am saying and don’t quibble over any semantics…

Yer pal,

Ten months, three days, 1 hour, 31 minutes and 6 seconds.
12362 cigarettes not smoked, saving $1,545.52.
Extra life saved: 6 weeks, 22 hours, 10 minutes.

See my Sig File FAQ: http://pages.prodigy.net/briank.o/SigFAQ.htm

My people call them “parables.” Like speaking English, if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

Every Sunday my pastor gives a separate sermon for children. He often draws on his childhood experiences growing up in Minnesota for stories that illustrate his theme. A couple weeks ago, at a luncheon meeting, he told a similar, but blatantly and humorously false, story about meeting our departing parish president when they were children. A voice called out from the back, “Calls into question some of the children’s sermons, doesn’t it?” But a story doesn’t need to BE true to teach a valuable lesson. Hell, fiction allows you to cut out the crap that obscures the message.

BTW, good to have ya back, kid.


Well, sure there are certain ideas that are common to all religions, but I don’t know that I’d consider them the “core” to the exclusion of the other, uniquely religious ideas. I mean, it’s true that such Jewish sages as Hillel have said that “Love your neighbor as yourself” was the core concept of the Torah, but the list of sins for which one incurs the death penalty in Judaism include Sabbath desecration, and one is required to allow himself to be killed rather than deny the existence or unity of G-d.


I’m not trying to be ironic. Just because me and a Christian would disagree on which scriptures are or are not the word of G-d does not change the fact that we’d agree on the significance of our trusted scriptures being G-d’s word rather than man’s word, in principle.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Fair enough, cmkeller, but how does that make it an inevitability that the word of man will always given enough time fall apart while the words of G-d will always remain true?

I happen to think the faith in the words is what makes them powerful. This is exactly why so many different sects use the same exact words and get such different meanings.

Taking it to a further extreme, many people argue that it is people’s faith in God that keeps Him around and not the other way around.

The few remaining Zoroastrians might agree with the former point I am trying to make above at any rate…

Yer pal,

Ten months, three days, 4 hours, 4 minutes and 27 seconds.
12366 cigarettes not smoked, saving $1,546.06.
Extra life saved: 6 weeks, 22 hours, 30 minutes.

See my Sig File FAQ: http://pages.prodigy.net/briank.o/SigFAQ.htm