Tuesday, January 24, 2012

All things to all people

I just played the funnest game and got really upset with the English language!  But first the game.  Thanks to my awesome new blogging friend Ali I found an online game called Bible or Qu'ran.  Basically you are given a verse of scripture and you have to say if it's from the Bible or the Qu'ran.  It's a lot of fun to play and you can learn a lot!

Go give it a try before you read on, otherwise the rest of this post won't make that much sense.  My final score was 156 (178 correct, 22 wrong), think you can beat me?  If you're not the type who enjoys a challenge then highlight for some spoilery tips:  FUN FACT!  Verses talking about "Paradise", "Hell", "the hereafter/afterlife", "Satan" and "unbelievers" are almost always from the Qu'ran.  As I've pointed out before, these things - though popular in Christian dogma - don't play much of a role in the actual Christian Scriptures.  Islam does seem to resemble Medieval Christianity quite a bit which coincidentally was the time when Islam got started.  Not saying the Prophet did any cribbing, just saying it's interesting...

Now as soon as I finished it I knew I had to blog about it but I needed a good title.  I can write pretty much anything if I have a title I like but if I don't I just can't get started!  Hence my frustration with the English language, specifically its lack of idioms!  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

If you did the quiz (and I really hope you did it and didn't just skip ahead) you will have noticed that they didn't use any nice, happy, fluffy verses on love and peace.  No, these were the horridly hardcore verses that most believers either don't know exists or have to bend over backward (twice!) to explain why they're not actually as bad as they seem.  Apologetics exist because of verses like these.  Seems to me that if the Bible was written today then every Christian Family Watchdog group and all the self appointed morality police would tell you to stay as far away from it as possible due to all the questionable content.  But, because it was written thousands of years ago it's somehow OK to hand it out to kids in primary school!  Is it just me or is that more than just a little weird?  He-Man and the Turtles are too violent and immoral for your children but a book full of rape, slavery and genocide (and that's the mild stuff) is not only OK, it's highly recommended!  Somehow these Holy books have become famous as sources of extremely enlightened moral teaching despite their actual content.

And yet, most of the people who claim to follow and obey these books, don't look or act anything like those ugly verses.  Most people read these books and find the good while mostly ignoring the bad.  This is where English fails me.  In Afrikaans we have a saying that fits nicely:  "Vir elke ketter is daar 'n letter", which translates roughly to mean any heresy can in some way be justified with a quote from the Holy book.  That sounds about right to me.  People find what they need from their scriptures.  Doesn't seem to me your morals - or lack of them - depend on the Holy Scripture you read.  Seems more like people who are good and kind and peace loving find scriptures to support that lifestyle in their Book while people who are cruel and violent find excuses to be that way from the same Book.  Seems more like people use their Books to justify what they already believe and then retroactively claim that their beliefs are not their own but that it comes from their Book. 

I once read this interview with some of the survivors of David Koresh's cult, 18 years after the tragedy at Waco.  This one part always stuck with me:

"[Clive] Doyle says his daughter started having sex with Koresh when she was 14. Koresh fathered at least 13 children with sect followers and engaged in sexual acts with underage Davidian girls, according to the Justice Department, numerous affidavits of Davidians and interviews CNN conducted...

 Doyle knows that trying to justify Koresh having sex with underage girls incites nothing but outrage from nonbelievers. And, initially, when David began preaching a message that his holy seed must be spread to any girl he preferred, married or in pigtails, Doyle admits he was bothered by it.  "I wondered, I asked, 'Is this God or is this horny old David?'" ... But Doyle's concern didn't last long. "I couldn't argue because he'd show you where it was in the Bible." "

Scripture really can be all things to all people...


Ali said...


What struck me when I did the quiz was that I did know a lot of the verses - which really brought home to me how much I managed to ignore/explain away when I was Christian. It amazes me now that I was so content to claim any sort of authority for a book which advocates so many horrendous things.

It was exactly the cherry-picking aspect you talk about that made me reject the Bible in the end. I realised that I and the fundies I was so vehemently against were using the same text to justify utterly opposing views. I kick myself that it took me so long to realise that I was never getting my morality from the book at all, but using an external sense of morality to judge what should and shouldn't be taken seriously about the book.

Eugene said...

I have to admit, the scariest people in the world as far as I'm concerned are those (usually fundie) people who claim to actually be getting their morality from the Bible and that if that God/hell/judgement didn't exist they would be raping and murdering people all the time! Those people are terrifying!