Picking and Choosing

A friend recently posted and then deleted a Facebook status update, “You cannot pick and choose what you believe in the bible, it is all or nothing.” With a lot of help from Sam Harris let me explain the truth of this statement.

The following are true statements, like it or not:

  1. These books are either the word of an infallible and omnipotent god or they are not.
  2. If these books disagree with our modern understanding of science and morality then God is either right, wrong, or a liar.
  3. By choosing to ignore the distasteful truth of murder, ignorance, and hate these books contain, moderates tell god, he is wrong or a liar.
  4. Extremists are not extreme, they are the true believers of the word.
  5. Moderates are not members of the religions they think they practice.

In these modern times the foundations of the three major western religions that people have fought and died for for thousands of years are becoming more and more meaningless. Our societies have become more knowledgeable and tolerant, which requires we ignore things we once took as absolutes. Why doesn’t this modern necessity of ignoring the ignorance and violence inherent in these books make a mockery of the entire enterprise? How is this acceptable?

One answer is to keep telling ourselves, these passages can be interpreted any number of ways. This attempts to lay the blame for murder, slavery, and misogyny at our own feet, absolving god of all crimes. However, believing this requires we ignore large portions of scriptures. And when we ignore or explain away ancient holy scripture we chip away at the credibility upon which these religions depend, that god is omnipotent and infallible. But, unless we accept these contradictions all faith is lost.

Once we agree to ignore scripture, we must then ask how it is possible for a god to be wrong about the creation of the universe and evolution. Why is there nothing in these texts that exceeds the knowledge of the ages in which they were written? The only explanation is these books are works of fiction that reflect nothing more than the ignorance and barbarism of their respective times.

“I would challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one.”

-Sam Harris

This is why the so called radical fundamentalists and extremists are not radical or extreme at all, they are the true representatives of their respective murderous religions in all their ancient glory. They alone reveal the truth of the word of their god. They alone fully believe in god and adhere to his word. When they shout “Allahu Akbar” before slamming a plane into a building, take them at their word.

“How many more architects and mechanical engineers must hit the wall at 400 miles an hour before we admit to ourselves that jihadist violence is not merely a matter of education, poverty, or politics? The truth, astonishingly enough, is that in the year 2006 a person can have sufficient intellectual and material resources to build a nuclear bomb and still believe that he will get 72 virgins in Paradise. Western secularists, liberals, and moderates have been very slow to understand this. The cause of their confusion is simple: They don’t know what it is like to really believe in God.”

-Sam Harris

I would carry this further; moderates are not really members of the religions they pretend to practice. By picking what they choose to believe, like some smorgasbord, they gut their respective religions leaving unrecognizable, meaningless rituals. Once we cull the ancient ignorance, hatred, bigotry, vengeance, violence, and misogyny from these works of fiction, the remains pales in comparison to the works of the best writers and poets of our times. The fact that these books are still taken as the word of god is both childish and dangerous.

“I’ve got news for you—I’ve read the books. God is not a moderate…. There’s no place in the books where God says, ‘You know, when you get to the New World and you develop your three branches of government and you have a civil society, you can just jettison all the barbarism I recommended in the first books.”

-Sam Harris

Moderates like to pretend that fundamentalists are some form of extremism. Moderates read the same books, yet they refuse to admit the true believers are not extremists. they like to pretend extremists have misinterpreted scripture or have read into it their own opinions. If they were honest they would admit that when one takes the morals and ethics promoted by these books to heart the result is is not extremism; it is an uncompromising faith in the word of god.

These faithful who refuse to ignore the word of god are the only true Jews, Christians and Muslims. These faithful that find it unimaginable that god is wrong or that god has lied are not extremists. They are the ones who completely understand that once any passage is ignored, all passages can be ignored. This is true because the premise of these texts is that they are the holy word of an omnipotent, infallible god. The true believer knows that once we make any excuse for god’s ancient ignorance, jealousy, vindictiveness, genocide, and fear, god is dead.

This leaves us with only one conclusion: in truth, there is no such thing as a moderate Jew, Christian, or Muslim. You either take god at his word, all of his word, or make a mockery of thousands of years of religious faith and bloodshed. By censoring, excusing, and ignoring the word of god, moderates effectively destroy those religions, creating new religions in the process. This is why the true followers of those faiths despise moderation in any form; moderation weakens and disfigures their religions from the inside. The amount of mental trickery required of a moderate clearly illustrates the foolishness of these religions, a fact not lost on the true believers.

To accept these truths, and fear these religions, is not bigotry, it is simply recognizing a stark reality; these religions are dangerous. Even a moderate belief in these religions is dangerous. Moderates put a legitimate face on dangerous cults. Moderates are the cloth from which true believers are cut. Once children are exposed to the word, there will always be those who grow to understand the truth of my friend’s statement, “You cannot pick and choose what you believe in the bible, it is all or nothing.” They must then answer the question; is God right, wrong, or a liar? And when they accept god is right, we are all condemned.

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3 Responses to Picking and Choosing

  1. Hakuin says:

    so then: what is the cure for religion?

    • Doug says:

      I would say the cure is to admit we don’t know and enjoy living without knowing, now, without fear, and continue to explore and share this time and place, this experience we inhabit, with a child’s mind and compassion.

      My experience is religion devalues this mystery, this life.

      Thanks for reading another rant.

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