Cherry-picking text from Bible

Regarding the recent thread of readers’ letters concerning religion, I would like to add four points.

It has been put forth that, throughout history, atheists have been responsible for more deaths than religious people. While I think this assertion is quite questionable (considering The Crusades, The Inquisition and The Holocaust — to start with just Christianity), I think an important point is that no atheist guilty of genocide was killing in the name of atheism.

On the contrary, the many millions of deaths attributable to religious people are almost without exception committed in the name of religion.

There has been an accusation of Bible cherry-picking, but I would like to point out that nearly all Christians are cherry-pickers:

Do you believe the universe is 6,000 years old?

Do you believe slavery is acceptable (Leviticus 25:44-46)?

Or that every man is free to sell his daughter into sexual slavery (Exodus 21:7-11)?

Or that wives should be submissive to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:21-32)?

I could go on and on, but if you answer “no” to any of the above, you’re a Bible cherry-picker, too.

Grant Piper, in his March 21 letter, “Honorable human destination,” mentioned Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I would like to add Sam Harris, particularly his books “End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” Both are excellent; the latter, more an essay than a book, can be read in an hour and should be read by believers and atheists alike.

I’d like to remind religious people that they, too, are atheists.

Do you believe in Zeus? Thor? Rah? Poseidon? Neptune? Of course not. You know such beliefs are ridiculous. You’re an atheist with regard to all the thousands of gods that history has rightfully relegated to the dustbin.

We atheists just take it one god further.

greg blossom

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Saroph

    “I think an important point is that no atheist guilty of genocide was killing in the name of atheism.”

    I think attributing something as “in the name of” needs properly defined to prevent equivocation. However, the Soviet Union’s genocides and massacring of church hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laity in an attempt to subdue religion (even going so far as to give them “mock communion” in the form of urine and feces) would easily constitute an atheist regime pushing an anti-theistic (which is necessarily atheistic by definition) agenda upon its populace.

    The brutality of this alone vastly outnumbers the often-debated numbers of the Inquisitions and the Crusades; in fact, it’s often shown that more Christians were murdered for their faith (primarily by atheist and communist regimes, and secondarily by others) in the 20th century than in the entire history of the religion combined. The Holocaust as being a Christian murdering in the name of Christianity is an absurd claim that fails to be substantiated. 6 million of those that died in camps were Jews, the other 5~9 million were a mixture of faiths, including Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc – hardly a Christian fighting in the name of Christianity by massacring every sect of Christian imaginable. Even if he were to have believed himself as such, how does anyone claim he had such a motivation apart from mere speculative polemics? Unless it’s by his merely being, even if nominally, Christian – which just concretes the above points regarding the numerically superior atrocities of the communist regimes.

    “I could go on and on, but if you answer “no” to any of the above, you’re a Bible cherry-picker, too.”

    In reference to this, I’m afraid it displays an obvious lack of understanding of Biblical hermenuetics. I don’t have much of a dog in this fight, but please learn how they interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament before making baseless accusations of “cherry-picking.” In other words, just because any given verse is in the Old Testament doesn’t mean it’s necessarily understood to be currently applicable, or read without understanding it through the New Testament lense.

    I think real debate can be had, but intentionally pejorative polemics and strawmen do neither side justice.

    • Mints

      Why don’t you enlighten us, then, on how to interpret the Old Testament through the “New Testament lense”?

      For example, Blossom mentions Leviticus 25:44-46, a passage in which God, himself, explains the rules on slavery in clear language. In the New Testament, Jesus took slavery for granted and did not oppose it. Paul instructed slaves to obey their masters (1 Timothy 6:1-2).

      Slavery is clearly accepted in the Bible, unless you want to outright deny what the book actually says. If you care to argue otherwise, then let the debate begin.