Is The Bible Reliable Text?

Date: Sun Sep 07 2003 - 23:30:51 EDT

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    Is the bible truly reliable enough to defend with science?

    Did a god inspire ancient writers with knowledge thousands of years ago?
    If so, we ignore it at our peril. If not, it will be a treacherous guide,
    leading us into dangerous error.

    The Bible stories (and religions in general) are a mishmash of history,
    morality, theology and claims about the world of nature. Time and
    distance have made the historical claims irrelevant; do you know or care
    what happened to the Amalekites? Their 'morality' is often depraved;
    women are forced to marry their rapists (Deut. 22: 28, 29), and Jesus
    ordered Christian men to hate their fathers, mothers, wives, children,
    brothers and sisters (Luke 14: 26). The theology is curiously untestable;
    miracles, we are told, were everyday occurrences thousands of years ago,
    and lots of miracles are promised in the indefinite future, but are we
    allowed to study such supernatural events, they remain mere myth and

    But what about the natural world? Since the Renaissance four centuries
    ago, the growth of science (knowledge based on physical evidence and
    reason) has been explosive. This gives us a powerful tool to see whether
    or not the ancient writers had access to knowledge unavailable except
    through divine revelation. What a harvest of souls for Christ, if the
    Bible had correctly predicted the existence of neutrons, the age of the
    universe or the size and shape of the planetary orbits! But instead, we
    find the biblical authors didn't know what they were talking about:

    "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and
    shewith him all the kingdoms of the world" Matt. 4: 8. Can any Christian
    name a mountain that would show all the kingdoms of the world at that
    time, including the kingdom of Kadphises 1 of the Kushans (Afghanistan),
    the kingdom of Kutakanna Tissa (Ceylon), and the kingdom of Kuang-wu- Ti
    (China)? The writer of this passage assumed that the Earth is flat. Do
    you believe it?

    "I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth" Rev. 7: 1.
    "The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved" 1 Chr. 16: 30. But
    the world is not flat, four cornered and motionless; the Bible is wrong.
    Belief that the Earth is a globe was a stock charge against heretics
    prepared for burning. (1)

    "And the stars of heaven fall unto the earth... And the heaven departed
    as a scroll when it is rolled together: Rev. 6: 13, 14. It is not
    surprising that ancient cultures thought that the stars were little lamps
    hanging from an inverted dome overhead, but we now know that our Milky
    Way galaxy alone contains a billion stars that are larger than the Earth,
    spread throughout billions of cubic light-years of space. Galileo spent
    the last nine years of his life under house arrest, and his student
    Giordano Bruno was tortured to death, thanks to the Inquisition's efforts
    to stop the spread of ideas we now know to be true.

    "And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he
    is unclean unto you" Lev. 11:6. Hares (rabbits) have a single stomach, so
    they cannot make cud, and they don't have hoofs; they have feet which
    divide into toes. The Bible also speaks of four-legged birds (Lev.
    11:20), unicorns (Is. 34: 7) dragons (Is. 27: 1) and other mythological

    "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed... Which indeed
    is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among
    herbs, and becometh a tree" Matt. 13:31, 32. The mustard seed is not the
    least of all seeds; many plants, such as the orchid, have smaller seeds.
    How could the Christian god fail to know basic biology?

    Fossil evidence, radioactive dating and the study of biology have shown
    beyond all doubt that life on Earth has slowly changed over the course of
    four billion years. And Darwin's theory of evolution explains how this
    happened. Astronomers have also shown that the Universe is many billions
    of years old, and we now understand how stars and planets formed in our
    galaxy, and are still being formed as interstellar matter follows the
    observed laws of nature. It would have been easy for divinely-inspired
    writers to have outlined the formation of our Solar System and life on
    Earth in a simple, comprehensible fashion. Instead the book of Genesis
    makes the preposterous claim that the entire universe was created by
    divine fiat in six days.

    Science has given us no greater benefit than our control over many of the
    loathsome diseases that have plagued humanity. We would expect that a
    loving, all-knowing god would have left simple instructions on basic
    sanitation and disease prevention that would have immeasurably eased our
    suffering. Instead we are given the tedious genealogies of Numbers, the
    pointless fantasies of Daniel and Ezekiel, and the meaningless lists of
    ritually-clean and unclean animals of Leviticus. No hint is given of the
    true cause of diseases. Instead, they are said to come from curses or
    from various demons and evil spirits, to be cured by prayer (1 Kings 13:
    6), faith (Luke 17: 19) or laying on of hands (Mark 16: 18). Many
    Christians now claim that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuals, which
    should come as a surprise to lesbians, who are less likely to get AIDS
    than heterosexuals.

    Medical advances have been actively opposed by the clergy, as
    interference with the ways of a wrathful God. When Ethan Allen, the
    Revolutionary War hero was inoculated against smallpox, he was threatened
    with persecution for violating a local ordinance against it. (2) That
    disease, which horribly disfigured and killed millions of people a year,
    has now vanished from the face of the Earth thanks to modern medicine.
    According to the World Health Organization, leprosy will be eliminated as
    a public health problem in a few years, thanks to the drugs Clofazimine
    and Rifampicin. (3) What miseries could have been avoided if Jesus had
    done as much! Louis Pasteur and Florence Nightingale did more to benefit
    humanity than all the ministers, priests, rabbis, prophets and messiahs
    put together.

    As science has advanced, religion has retreated. Our ignorant ancestors
    of long ago thought that the gods were needed to make the Sun rise and
    the rain fall, but science is making the gods unemployed. Those who say
    that there is no conflict between science and religion ignore the many
    false statements that religions make about the world around us. And if
    religion can't be trusted as a guide to nature, it certainly can't be
    trusted as a guide to the supernatural.

    1) The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin, pg. 107 (1983, Random House,
    New York, NY)
    2) A Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., pg. 91
    (1985, American Heritage Press Inc., New York NY)

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