I am, for the most part, a fairly well versed ex-Christian. I know much of the Bible, but I have never read that ugly book. I tried as a kid, back in my good Christian days, and found that I simply couldn’t do it. Years later as an atheist, I am going to challenge myself to read the Bible using one of those Daily Bible Reader services. Well, this is Day 1, so let’s get at it. I hate myself right now.
Our first section today is from James 4, verses 1-17. The first ten verses are about friendship with the world, a notion you would think God would want us to partake in. But nope, that’s just not the case. In fact, we are supposed to stop laughing and be gloomy. This actually is a bit of a shock to me, as my childhood faith was one of positive and reverential joy.
It also says that when we fight and kill one another, it is because of greed. Certainly, that is often the case, but I greed is only one of many factors in violence. What about the priest who kills an abortionist? That is not a question of greed. The Bible is full to bursting with these way-too-simple comments, and it makes it that much harder for me to take it seriously.
Instead of murdering people for their possessions, James tells us that we must pray to God. And then, God won’t answer our prayers because they are selfish. But pray to him anyway. Did I just read biblical proof that prayer is useless?
The next two verses are about saying mean stuff. James assures us that if we say mean stuff about others, we are actually condemning God’s law. Only I have news for you, James, it’s human nature to do that. Human nature… that’s that thing that God gave us, right? I get that we are supposed to overcome our base natures, but to imply that saying something bad about someone in a moment of frustration is the same as condemning God’s law is just ridiculously over the top.
Our final four verses from James are about bragging. I personally think that bragging is often annoying, but once again we have this supposedly loving God holding the Sword of Damocles over our head. Instead of bragging about how we are going to make some money, we are supposed to humbly say that we will make some money if God doesn’t first kill us out of some unknowably whimsy.
The gist of this entire section of James appears to be totally at war with what we know about human nature and the neuroscience that governs it. Don’t get me wrong, these are all things we should be striving to not do. We shouldn’t kill out of greed or say mean things about people or brag about our lives. But we do. And the Bible is full of that! First off, God’s a braggy bugger the whole way through, expecting people to revere him for giving them life on this rock of ours. But what about all this “Chosen People” garbage? Is that really a matter of being humble? Throughout the Bible, we are told that God cares about whatever group happens to be telling the story at the time more than any other group of people he has created. This is vanity at its finest.
Next, we’re on to Jeremiah 27 verse 1 all the way to Jeremiah 28 verse 17. This is definitely an interesting read, and one that makes me wish I knew more about the actual recorded politics of the time. Essentially, Jeremiah is one of God’s prophets, and God tells him that the people of Judah had best just accept that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was going to be their terrible and brutal king for as long as God wished it. In fact, King Neb was going to rule the entire world: “All nations will be slaves of Nebuchadnezzar, his son, and his grandson”.
Now, I know a bit about King Neb, but I don’t remember him ruling the entire world. Hell, he didn’t (to my knowledge) rule even the known world at the time. He was the king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and if you look at Wikipedia’s handy map, you will notice that this is nowhere near the same as ruling all nations. Also, Neb’s son was king for a mere two years, and his grandson was not his successor. God’s prophecies, then as now, seem to really not stand up to the test of time.
Does this sound to you like God speaking to a man? or does it sound to you like a man trying to counsel his leaders not to war with a superior army and to bide their time until they stand a chance of being saved from their situation?
And next, we turn to Psalm 132:1-18. And the fine folks at Daily Bible are once again sending mixed messages. At the top of the page, James tells us to be sorrowful, sad, miserable people, and now we’re supposed to celebrate and shout. This whole psalm is basically one big reminder to our all-seeing, all-knowing God that he promised that someone from the line of David would always be King. Of course, as far as I’m aware, nobody from the line of David is king anywhere, least of all in Zion.
There is nothing but contradiction and confusion in today’s daily reading. We are supposed to make a joyful noise and give thanks while being miserable and sullen. You aren’t allowed to brag about the future, but you are supposed to brag about your bright future and the fact that God is in your pocket. God loves his people best, but first he wants them to suffer under the rule of a cruel non-believer.
Yeah, it’s a beautiful book with insights into the world…