1 2 > 
 
   
 

Question from Atheist about how to counter christian apologist arguments. 

 
heartscontent31
 
Avatar
 
 
heartscontent31
Total Posts:  6
Joined  12-07-2017
 
 
 
27 October 2017 18:42
 

Many moderate christian apologists will argue that the bible is supposed to be interpreted as a collection of literary metaphors and therefore it’s a harmless and useful guide to wisdom. What’s the historical validity of this claim? My understanding is that the Torah translates to ‘Law’ and was not originally viewed a work of fiction but as a literal guide to morality for the ancient hebrews.

In the early roman empire was the bible thought of as a metaphor or as a literal set of beliefs?

Is this notion of a metaphorical reading simply a dishonest attempt by christians to make their religion square with 21st century society?

 
Twissel
 
Avatar
 
 
Twissel
Total Posts:  3309
Joined  19-01-2015
 
 
 
27 October 2017 21:21
 

Hello there.

Before you even start down that rabbit hole, consider whether any attempt to discredit the bible will work with your audience. There is almost no corroboration of anything in the bible in any other historic texts of the time.
The bible is choke-full of absolutely disgusting bits, both physically and morally, which aren’t safe for children to read; whether they are based on fiction or facts isn’t really the point.

For people open to the “bible as a guide only” concept, a useful line of argumentation would be to point out that plenty of philosophers and wise historical figures have said things much better and clearer than the bible, so instead of using the confusing “original”, why not use a better, improved version of whatever they want the “good book” to say?

 
 
GAD
 
Avatar
 
 
GAD
Total Posts:  18127
Joined  15-02-2008
 
 
 
27 October 2017 22:12
 

It’s one the other and both, the history is complicated and tied to political and social movements and events. Basically whatever version of ignorance, myth, magic and superstition gets you what you want at the time is claimed to be correct version. As an atheist just know that all versions are bullshit and cannot hold up to any reason.

 
 
heartscontent31
 
Avatar
 
 
heartscontent31
Total Posts:  6
Joined  12-07-2017
 
 
 
27 October 2017 22:43
 

@Old Time Theist “For people open to the “bible as a guide only” concept, a useful line of argumentation would be to point out that plenty of philosophers and wise historical figures have said things much better and clearer than the bible, so instead of using the confusing “original”, why not use a better, improved version of whatever they want the “good book” to say?”

I think It’s sobering to point out that these superior philosophical traditions like Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, Lucretius occurred in the same general part of the world (mediterranean) and in the same general span of history 500BC-1AD. It’s a deal breaker for the argument that ‘monotheism was humanities first attempt to organize a philosophy of morals’.

Do you agree with that?

Btw what do you mean by “instead of using the confusing “original’”. what do you mean by “original”?

All the philosophies I just mentioned happen shortly after the time of the ancient hebrews, do any examples come to mind of superior traditions of thought that came long before monotheism?

 
Twissel
 
Avatar
 
 
Twissel
Total Posts:  3309
Joined  19-01-2015
 
 
 
28 October 2017 02:35
 

For Bible fanatics, The Book is the A and O, the ultimate original.
Never mind that it is a zoo of regurgitated stories of much older texts.
I’m an old time theist because I believe in the Great Old Ones.
Not a little upstart like Yahweh.

 
 
MrRon
 
Avatar
 
 
MrRon
Total Posts:  2353
Joined  14-08-2008
 
 
 
28 October 2017 05:47
 
heartscontent31 - 27 October 2017 06:42 PM

Is this notion of a metaphorical reading simply a dishonest attempt by christians to make their religion square with 21st century society?

Of course!! Steer the conversation to slavery. Apologists will have to employ some pretty intellectually dishonest tactics in order to justify what is clearly a biblical endorsement of one of the most egregious forms of immorality. And even the NT does not abolish the practice.

Ron

 
Jan_CAN
 
Avatar
 
 
Jan_CAN
Total Posts:  3724
Joined  21-10-2016
 
 
 
28 October 2017 06:32
 

To be considered an actual ‘Christian’, I would assume one would have to accept certain core beliefs:  virgin birth of Jesus, Jesus as son of God, miracles, death by crucifixion and resurrection.

In my opinion, it is not necessary or even advisable, to always “counter christian apologist arguments”.  The trend for some Christians to reject certain beliefs could be viewed as a positive rather than a negative development – a progression to a kinder and less dogmatic religion.  It does not always advance the cause of atheism to show intolerance for others’ beliefs.  What should be countered are specific bad or dangerous ideas (i.e. views regarding homosexuality, the role of women, denial of evolution, etc.) and to demand a complete separation of church-and-state.

Many of us in the West were raised on ‘Christian values’ (love thy neighbour, do unto others, importance of charity).  Although these values are not exclusively Christian, some atheists’ value systems have been affected by these teachings and philosophies in a positive way.  Although there are MANY dangerous and outdated teachings in the bible, denying that there are also positive moral (and political) teachings and stories, whether original or not, should not be completely dismissed either.

We all engage in a certain amount of cherry picking to arrive at our own personal code of ethics and set of morals.

 
 
heartscontent31
 
Avatar
 
 
heartscontent31
Total Posts:  6
Joined  12-07-2017
 
 
 
28 October 2017 14:45
 
MrRon - 28 October 2017 05:47 AM
heartscontent31 - 27 October 2017 06:42 PM

Is this notion of a metaphorical reading simply a dishonest attempt by christians to make their religion square with 21st century society?

Of course!! Steer the conversation to slavery. Apologists will have to employ some pretty intellectually dishonest tactics in order to justify what is clearly a biblical endorsement of one of the most egregious forms of immorality. And even the NT does not abolish the practice.

Ron

I’m arguing with someone whose view is that the bible is not a supernaturally divine text but rather a metaphorical fiction containing imperishable wisdom. They will likely reply that slavery was a cultural universal during that time of human history and when viewed in that context it’s forgivable.

 
heartscontent31
 
Avatar
 
 
heartscontent31
Total Posts:  6
Joined  12-07-2017
 
 
 
28 October 2017 14:53
 
Jan_CAN - 28 October 2017 06:32 AM

To be considered an actual ‘Christian’, I would assume one would have to accept certain core beliefs:  virgin birth of Jesus, Jesus as son of God, miracles, death by crucifixion and resurrection.

In my opinion, it is not necessary or even advisable, to always “counter christian apologist arguments”.  The trend for some Christians to reject certain beliefs could be viewed as a positive rather than a negative development – a progression to a kinder and less dogmatic religion.  It does not always advance the cause of atheism to show intolerance for others’ beliefs.  What should be countered are specific bad or dangerous ideas (i.e. views regarding homosexuality, the role of women, denial of evolution, etc.) and to demand a complete separation of church-and-state.

Many of us in the West were raised on ‘Christian values’ (love thy neighbour, do unto others, importance of charity).  Although these values are not exclusively Christian, some atheists’ value systems have been affected by these teachings and philosophies in a positive way.  Although there are MANY dangerous and outdated teachings in the bible, denying that there are also positive moral (and political) teachings and stories, whether original or not, should not be completely dismissed either.

We all engage in a certain amount of cherry picking to arrive at our own personal code of ethics and set of morals.

The ‘values’ you describe as being ‘Christian’ had been articulated in earlier schools of mediterranean philosophy, these traditions not only articulated them better but they did so without claiming to have divine authority. The reason the christian apologist notion of a ‘metaphorical reading’ is unacceptable is that it characterizes christianity as being generally harmless and therefore deserving a respect, this compulsory respect then goes on to hinder our conversations about larger more consequential issues.

 
MrRon
 
Avatar
 
 
MrRon
Total Posts:  2353
Joined  14-08-2008
 
 
 
28 October 2017 17:01
 
heartscontent31 - 28 October 2017 02:45 PM
MrRon - 28 October 2017 05:47 AM
heartscontent31 - 27 October 2017 06:42 PM

Is this notion of a metaphorical reading simply a dishonest attempt by christians to make their religion square with 21st century society?

Of course!! Steer the conversation to slavery. Apologists will have to employ some pretty intellectually dishonest tactics in order to justify what is clearly a biblical endorsement of one of the most egregious forms of immorality. And even the NT does not abolish the practice.

Ron

I’m arguing with someone whose view is that the bible is not a supernaturally divine text but rather a metaphorical fiction containing imperishable wisdom. They will likely reply that slavery was a cultural universal during that time of human history and when viewed in that context it’s forgivable.

I had a (tense) discussion with a very Christian coworker about slavery, and she insisted that biblical slavery was no different than being employed and having a boss to report to. I couldn’t make much headway because a) she’s doxastically closed, and b) our work environment is not conducive to an uninterrupted discussion. Now, she’s not theologically savvy at all - in fact, for someone so religious (she’s an avid churchgoer and an eager participant in any church related events), she knows surprisingly little about what’s in the bible. She just “knows” that Jesus is real and working in her life. And she gets reinforcement from her preachers and her family. Her circle, her world, since childhood, has revolved around the undeniable notion that God is real. In fact, she once told me I was the only person she ever met who was an atheist! She actually seemed dumbfounded that there could even be any atheists!!

At any rate, killing and stealing were also “cultural universals” in biblical times and God gave very specific commandments against killing and stealing. A moral God would have decreed that owning other human beings as your own personal property is immoral! Period. Worse, there are plenty of bible verses that clearly endorse this detestable practice.

The apologists only tack here is to falsely equate slavery with some sort of indentured servitude. But one does not have the right to beat their employee/servant so severely that they die in a couple days (Exodus 21:20). Only the most convoluted mental gymnastics can rescue biblical slavery from it’s obvious nefarious nature. I would ask any slave apologists if they would be MY personal slave under biblical rules (Not surprisingly, some will still defend the practice. I’m afraid those people are just beyond hope).

Ron

 
Jan_CAN
 
Avatar
 
 
Jan_CAN
Total Posts:  3724
Joined  21-10-2016
 
 
 
28 October 2017 17:56
 

And yet many people in the U.S. revere their slave-owning Founding Fathers.

 
 
heartscontent31
 
Avatar
 
 
heartscontent31
Total Posts:  6
Joined  12-07-2017
 
 
 
28 October 2017 18:55
 
Jan_CAN - 28 October 2017 05:56 PM

And yet many people in the U.S. revere their slave-owning Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson’s views about slavery are generally well known, he abhorred slavery and said so in his correspondences. My understanding is he thought it undemocratic and contrary to the American revolution to forcibly abolish it. He essentially focused on other issues and bequeathed the job of abolishing slavery to later generations. This is quite different than the flagrant endorsement of slavery found in the bible.

 
Jan_CAN
 
Avatar
 
 
Jan_CAN
Total Posts:  3724
Joined  21-10-2016
 
 
 
28 October 2017 20:02
 
heartscontent31 - 28 October 2017 06:55 PM
Jan_CAN - 28 October 2017 05:56 PM

And yet many people in the U.S. revere their slave-owning Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson’s views about slavery are generally well known, he abhorred slavery and said so in his correspondences. My understanding is he thought it undemocratic and contrary to the American revolution to forcibly abolish it. He essentially focused on other issues and bequeathed the job of abolishing slavery to later generations. This is quite different than the flagrant endorsement of slavery found in the bible.

The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
A new portrait of the founding father challenges the long-held perception of Thomas Jefferson as a benevolent slaveholder
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-dark-side-of-thomas-jefferson-35976004/

The slavery of the U.S. was based on race alone, with little to no hope of the slave to achieve freedom.  In Rome of 2,000 years ago, slaves could achieve freedom and even citizenship.  The history of slavery is long and ugly and was not invented by Jews or Christians.  All history must be read in the context of its times.

 

 
 
hannahtoo
 
Avatar
 
 
hannahtoo
Total Posts:  7176
Joined  15-05-2009
 
 
 
29 October 2017 07:51
 
heartscontent31 - 27 October 2017 06:42 PM

Many moderate christian apologists will argue that the bible is supposed to be interpreted as a collection of literary metaphors and therefore it’s a harmless and useful guide to wisdom. What’s the historical validity of this claim? My understanding is that the Torah translates to ‘Law’ and was not originally viewed a work of fiction but as a literal guide to morality for the ancient hebrews.

In the early roman empire was the bible thought of as a metaphor or as a literal set of beliefs?

Is this notion of a metaphorical reading simply a dishonest attempt by christians to make their religion square with 21st century society?

I agree with Jan that argument on this topic is usually ill-advised.  Be cheered that the number of moderates is increasing.

I suspect that even when the Bible stories were originally written down, at least some people viewed some of them as metaphorical.  After all, Jesus told parables, so obviously that literary form was understood.  However, human knowledge was very much less, and notions of plausibility were so different in those times.  The Jews firmly believed that Moses literally parted the Red Sea to walk across, and they believed Jonah could live in the belly of a whale. 

Modern theists who interpret the Bible metaphorically are struggling with finding a way to keep the writings Holy, in light of modern understandings of science and history.  So perhaps, they say, God inspired the writers, who then filtered the actual truth through their ancient lens, distorting it somewhat.  It is then our task, they say, to reinterpret according to our present comprehensions.  They may see human history as evolving toward truer and truer insights.

As for the specific arguments about slavery, believe me, they are endless.  Here is an interesting example from a current Rabbi.  The crux is this:

If G?d would simply and explicitly declare all the rules, precisely as He wants His world to look and what we need to do about it, the Torah (1st 5 books of the Old Testament, including the Laws given to Moses) would never become real to us. No matter how much we would do and how good we would be, we would remain aliens to the process.

So, too, with slavery (and there are many other examples): In the beginning, the world starts off as a place where oppressing others is a no-qualms, perfectly acceptable practice. It’s not just the practice Torah needs to deal with, it’s the attitude. So Torah involves us in arriving at that attitude. To the point that we will say, “Even though the Torah lets us, we don’t do things that way.”

Which means that we’ve really learnt something. And now, we can teach it to others. Because those things you’re just told, those you cannot teach. You can only teach that which you have discovered on your own.

 

Personally, I’ve come around to accepting that I cannot change the thinking of theists through argument.

[ Edited: 29 October 2017 07:56 by hannahtoo]
 
MrRon
 
Avatar
 
 
MrRon
Total Posts:  2353
Joined  14-08-2008
 
 
 
29 October 2017 14:19
 
hannahtoo - 29 October 2017 07:51 AM

As for the specific arguments about slavery, believe me, they are endless.  Here is an interesting example from a current Rabbi.  The crux is this:

If G?d would simply and explicitly declare all the rules, precisely as He wants His world to look and what we need to do about it, the Torah (1st 5 books of the Old Testament, including the Laws given to Moses) would never become real to us. No matter how much we would do and how good we would be, we would remain aliens to the process.

So, too, with slavery (and there are many other examples): In the beginning, the world starts off as a place where oppressing others is a no-qualms, perfectly acceptable practice. It’s not just the practice Torah needs to deal with, it’s the attitude. So Torah involves us in arriving at that attitude. To the point that we will say, “Even though the Torah lets us, we don’t do things that way.”

Which means that we’ve really learnt something. And now, we can teach it to others. Because those things you’re just told, those you cannot teach. You can only teach that which you have discovered on your own.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, this Rabbi doesn’t think that people would respect/obey an explicit commandment by God to abolish slavery. So why did God give any commandments/laws at all? By the way, the Torah doesn’t just “let” people own slaves, it gives specific instructions for obtaining, selling, and beating slaves. It’s unbelievable the lengths these people will go to to rationalize something as egregious as slavery. 

Personally, I’ve come around to accepting that I cannot change the thinking of theists through argument.

I think that asking the right questions and putting pebbles in shoes is more effective than just debating “facts”.  It’s a tough process, but it can be done. Theists can and do give up their beliefs. After all, many atheists were theists at one time.  grin

Ron

[ Edited: 29 October 2017 14:23 by MrRon]
 
hannahtoo
 
Avatar
 
 
hannahtoo
Total Posts:  7176
Joined  15-05-2009
 
 
 
29 October 2017 17:07
 
MrRon - 29 October 2017 02:19 PM
hannahtoo - 29 October 2017 07:51 AM

As for the specific arguments about slavery, believe me, they are endless.  Here is an interesting example from a current Rabbi.  The crux is this:

If G?d would simply and explicitly declare all the rules, precisely as He wants His world to look and what we need to do about it, the Torah (1st 5 books of the Old Testament, including the Laws given to Moses) would never become real to us. No matter how much we would do and how good we would be, we would remain aliens to the process.

So, too, with slavery (and there are many other examples): In the beginning, the world starts off as a place where oppressing others is a no-qualms, perfectly acceptable practice. It’s not just the practice Torah needs to deal with, it’s the attitude. So Torah involves us in arriving at that attitude. To the point that we will say, “Even though the Torah lets us, we don’t do things that way.”

Which means that we’ve really learnt something. And now, we can teach it to others. Because those things you’re just told, those you cannot teach. You can only teach that which you have discovered on your own.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, this Rabbi doesn’t think that people would respect/obey an explicit commandment by God to abolish slavery. So why did God give any commandments/laws at all? By the way, the Torah doesn’t just “let” people own slaves, it gives specific instructions for obtaining, selling, and beating slaves. It’s unbelievable the lengths these people will go to to rationalize something as egregious as slavery. 

Personally, I’ve come around to accepting that I cannot change the thinking of theists through argument.

I think that asking the right questions and putting pebbles in shoes is more effective than just debating “facts”.  It’s a tough process, but it can be done. Theists can and do give up their beliefs. After all, many atheists were theists at one time.  grin

Ron

My point is that theists have a million arguments ready at hand, that is, centuries of apologetics.  And arguing on such a hot topic often puts people in defensive mode, rather than listening mode anyway.  Probably most atheists who were theists changed because of their own curiosity to explore different views or due to their life experiences, not because they were bested in a discussion.

 
 1 2 >