It seems to me that many of the bad examples of Christianity are based on the belief that the Bible is a divine document. That it should not be questioned and can be used to provide authoritative answers to questions of morality, the meaning of life and the origins of the universe and mankind.
So here’s an idea. Why not consider the Bible like any other book – the words of humans rather than the words of a divine being?
I thought Michael Adelson, a Staff Conductor for the New York Philharmonic argued the case for this very well in a recent interview on Skepticality. He had studied with the late Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of Humanistic Judaism, a secular movement which provides atheistic and agnostic Jews around the world with a means for organization, mobilization, and a sense of community.
Adelson describes how religious Jews and Christians, for example, will find objectionable passages in the Bible and say “that’s not really what it means.” They interpret. But, he argues, secular Jews can use the Torah in their own ceremonies.:
“Secular Jews do not try to change the meaning of the old text. The book means what it says it means and its fairly clear. Now its an important book but its only one book in a long tradition of Jewish thinking. It’s an important Jewish document but it is a book like any other book. Taking that as a jumping off point we as humanist Jews acknowledge that this old tradition means what it says. That leaves us free to either agree or disagree and the Bible/Torah like many other anthologies have some wonderful things in them and some lousy things in them. You can say – I like that. That has a lot of meaning for me. Those are beautiful words, those are wonderful sentiments. Or, thats objectionable, thats reprehensible. So we’re not going to use that. And there’s a wonderful freedom in that because you treat it with integrity, You treat it with respect. And you treat yourself with respect and integrity.”
Mr Adelson’s comments on religious scripture is at the beginning of the interview which can be downloaded as an MP3 file. He also takes a critical look at music history, dispelling some false beliefs about artists — creative humans who are often painted with the brush of divine inspiration.
Considering the problems created by treating the Bible and similar religious texts as “The Word of God” there is a place for warning stickers as suggested by Darkly Dreaming David (Saturday Morning Bible Peddling).