Reading the Bible, Part 4

Sorry this is taking so long to write. The book of Esther was a pretty good story and the first two chapters of Job were good, but the remainder of Job, Psalms, and Proverbs have been sooooooooo boring. Maybe Job sounds wise if you pretend that God exists, but otherwise it’s just a bunch of blathering. Psalms is 150 translated songs praising a fictional character. Ugh! Proverbs is okay. It has a few good nuggets of wisdom. However, most of it supports thought-terminating clichés over any actual thinking or concern for causality. For example, take Proverbs 20:23. “The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.” It doesn’t say that dishonest scales will create distrust, hurt the economy, or cause violent retribution. God just doesn’t like it. That’s all you need to know. Don’t think too hard.

Two more topics for today:

Hell Again:

As I mentioned in part 1, it’s interesting how Christians are so sure about the existence of Hell despite there being no mention of it early in the Bible. After reading Genesis through Proverbs, there has still been no mention of Hell at all. There have been two references to Satan. Satan influenced David to take a census in Chronicles and God let Satan hurt a guy named Job. That’s it. After doing a search, I see that there is one more mention of Satan in Zechariah. The rest of Satan and all of Hell is in the New Testament. Does anyone else see how obvious it is that Hell was made up and Satan was redesigned centuries after this religion started? If Hell was real, Moses would have used it a lot. A lot! Was Hell not worth mentioning when God talked to Moses in the burning bush? (“Hey, this bush isn’t the only thing with never-ending fire!”) Was Hell not worth mentioning to Pharaoh? Was Hell not worth mentioning for some added motivation to follow the Ten Commandments? And if not Moses, why not Jacob? He literally wrestled with God. You would think that God could have taken the time to say “Jacob, have a blessing. Your bloodline is super important. Oh, and make sure your descendants do what I say, or else they go to this bad place when they die.” Or why not start at the beginning with Adam and Eve? God takes the time to tell Eve that childbirth will be painful. God takes the time to tell Adam that he has to work the land for food. Quoting the NIV: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” There’s no mention of anything but dust. It seems like that would be a good time to have said “Actually, forget the dust. If you screw up anymore, I’m going to burn you forever!”

For you to be a Christian, you have to think that God withheld the knowledge of Hell from his greatest prophets for thousands of years. Either that or Hell didn’t exist until God sent himself to sacrifice himself to himself so that he could forgive others for sinning against himself and save them from the Hell he just created. Sigh. I’ve heard historical theories that Hell was invented as a response to believers doing poorly on Earth. Like, “We have no military strength or economic ability, but at least we’re not going to Hell!” I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds plausible.

Relying On Your Own Insight:

I remember my grandmother quoting Psalm 14: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Grandma also believes that the King James Bible was written by Jesus.) A footnote in my Bible says that the Hebrew word that was translated to “fool” means “morally deficient person” rather than “stupid person”. Regardless, the Psalm is attributed to King David and I don’t need lessons on intelligence or morality from him. I would rather people quote Proverbs 14:15: “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” That’s such a lovely verse. Unfortunately, it’s contradicted by a verse that people say much more often, Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” I have written about the dangers of automatic beliefs before. I just want one point to be absolutely clear: if you do not use critical thinking skills, you cannot tell the difference between believing the wrong things and the right things. You cannot tell the difference between true and false. You cannot tell the difference between meaningful and meaningless. You cannot tell the difference between good and bad.

It doesn’t matter how much “faith” you have. Faith just means that you refuse to see the difference between believing the wrong things and the right things. It doesn’t matter how strongly you “feel” something. Your emotions can be fooled. I don’t care that a lot of people agree with you or that you were taught something by your parents or that something was written down a long time ago. They can be stupid or manipulative. If you believe something for poor reasons, you do a disservice to your own beliefs, because you could have just as easily have believed something entirely different for the same reasons. When you lack critical thinking skills, you don’t seek and find what is true or helpful. You just end up believing whatever Moses wants, whatever Joshua wants, whatever King David wants, whatever your government wants, whatever your friends want, whatever your parents want. That is what happens when you trust anybody with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe they will give you an excellent life. But maybe they will make you into something worthless or harmful. Why give up your ability to tell the difference?