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How to be a Fundamentalist Atheist Bible Critic

An Eight-Step Guide to's Clumsy Trip through Primitive Christian Apologetics

Step One: Treat the Bible as you would any other ancient document.

This is by far the most important step to ignore: If we can't apply the same tests for dating and authenticity that we do to, say, Tacitus' Annals, we might as well just shoot ourselves right now because this means we can't be inconsistent.

Step Two: Read the Bible like a newspaper.

When fundy atheists use the word "literature", it's not the same as when someone else uses the word "literature".

As a fundy atheist, you are allowed a certain leeway on ignoring what is "genre". For example, if Proverbs, a document in the genre of aphorisms which are never elsewhere taken as absolutes, says that sparing the rod spoils the child, this means we should expect that sparing the rod always spoils the child.

However, as a fundy atheist, you can claim that all of the Bible is a "contract" or is to be read "like a newspaper".

Head Trip
In addition to redefining "literature", you should learn to ignore explanations that rely on detailed linguistic and contextual exegeses and simply claim that the apologist is redefining any word that is causing them "problems". Thus if you are shown clear evidence that Bible "slavery" economically and historically fits the model of indentured servitude, you should ignore the historical evidence and simply claim that the apologist is playing with words.

This is the key difference, and we can't stress this enough: a literal statement can require interpretation if it's in apparent conflict with some other fact. However, and this is equally important, you should pretend that this is only applied by apologists to Bible apologetics, not to anyone else's statements, religions, ideas, or sciences, when in fact (for example, as in the main section) scholarship uses works like The Wisdom of Amenomope to contextualize the Bible, while it is fundy atheists who keep reading it like it was written yesterday and for them personally.

So, if you, as a fundy atheist, make the statement "the Bible gives a wrong value for pi" when apologists, scholars, and even mathematicians say that the Bible's given value is a viable estimate for pi, you could claim that:

a) The Bible's estimate is not "close enough to pi to still be accurate: after all, if it does not present pi to every single decimal place, it is still wrong."

b) "Pi" is a delicious and round dessert that can be cut into 3.1416...pieces, and so the Bible must be wrong.

c) A certain unit of measurement was different back then. Of course, you may ignore that this is a real possibility; for example, the ancient cubit used by common people, based on the length of their arm, naturally varied; there was an alternative standard cubit, however, throughout history units of measure have often been vague because of the inability to define a standard. And of course, things like monetary values never change.

d) A mathematician isn't a valid authority, but you are.

e) The apologist, scholars, and even the mathematician are all mistaken, lying, or just plain evil.

Of course this whole mess could have been avoided simply by not decontextualizing the text in the first place, but sometimes it's unavoidable, even for a fundy atheist.

By applying this technique to the Bible, you can easily show everything in it is completely wrong. You can make 1 Kings in error about the location of Ezion-geber because it does not accurately state what its location is now with relation to the sea. When you apply it to science, you get to your next step on your road to fundy atheist apologetics: step three.

Step Three: Read a few books to make yourself an instant expert on the last 600 years of scientific knowledge

Many of us who attack the Bible will try to use science to show that parts of the Bible aren't literally true. When you do this, you have several courses of action available. You can:

Head Trip
A good rule of thumb is use as many Ph. D's in science as possible, but when an apologist uses someone with a Ph. D. in some area of Bible scholarship, that person can be dismissed as an ignorant fundamentalist.

a) Claim science is god.

b) Claim science is god, so there too.

c) Redefine "literature" (via step two) so you can claim the Bible should be read like a newspaper.

While many fundy atheists automatically choose the first option, the second and third are equally valid. For example, when an apologist tries to validate Genesis by saying "it is possible that there was a global flood because of scientific reasons x, y, and z," you can:

a) Claim that science is god, and therefore reasons x, y, and z are just designed to trick people.

b) Claim there is no evidence of a global flood because science says so.

c) Claim that the Bible does say the flood was global, allowing you to merely dismiss without consideration any arguments on the subject.

As a fundy atheist, you are free to choose any of these, depending on how much you have had to drink. You should also be willing to accept all three of them if the situation dictates, because any port is good in a storm.

This leads us to our next step.

Step Four: Learn to ignore contextualizing scholarship.
Head Trip
Use this step to get out of
coherent explanations of the Trinity.

You, as a fundy atheist, should be able to ignore any number of contextualizing scholarly arguments. For example, you should have no problem asserting that the Old Testament does not represent the unchanging word of God, and, at the same time, believe that the New Testament does not represent the unchanging word of God, because there is no need to contextualize them both within the patterns of the ancient thoughtworld, the variable needs of history, and the contexts that show them to be ideologically identical and contiguous. This seemingly impossible feat is accomplished by staying as ignorant as possible.

As in the "science" example above, it is quite easy, for a fundy atheist, to believe that the Bible is wrong because it disagrees with his worldview, and at the same time believe that his worldview is right because science agrees with it.

Let's look at each section in detail:

The Bible is wrong because it disagrees with my worldview.

Important Note
Remember to get bread, milk and beans from the store on Friday.

This is obviously true since science says evolution has occurred and science is god.

The Bible is true because science agrees with it.

This is obviously true. Science shows us some things written in the Bible actually did happen, and that some of the miracles in the Bible are explainable by scientific means. Such as the resurrection, which we are duplicating all the time.

After all, science is god, Bible scholarship is full of yahoos and rednecks. You, as a fundy atheist, are trying to show that the Bible must be read as though it were written yesterday and for you personally, so you have to assume anything that appears to challenge your view is automatically the product of conservative, biased scholarship, and anything that appears to support your view, even if written by an 18th century alcoholic like Paine, is automatically right.

Step Five: Do not inform yourself about ancient Jewish exegetical methods.

As a fundy atheist, one of your main occupations is to locate and use the works of popular apologists who claim we should be amazed at all the wonderful and fulfilled prophecies contained in the Bible. You are best left to ignore sophisticated apologists who point out that the prophecies were not intended as "proofs" in the NT but as corroborative validations of historical fact being in accord with the OT.

Important Note
It's very important that you try to use this same technique with other religious texts, without any consideration for whether the culture of those texts also had such techniques as midrash and pesher. While it's unlikely that you may find the same kind of techniques in other religious cultures, you may find it helpful to avoid reading any books that aren't explicitly by Thomas Paine on this subject.

The prophecies you will find in the Bible, in line with the typical methods of Jewish exegesis, are seldom in the form of "Event X will happen in the future", and are never in the form of "Event X will happen at 12:30 on December 8 102 AD in the city of Jerusalem to Jacob who owns that bakery on 1st street" (which is what many fudy atheists incorrectly expect), but these facts shouldn't slow you down: you are a fundy atheist, mere contextualizing can't stop you. We'll just apply bigoted decontextualization to the prophecies.

a) Because of Thomas Paine, we already know the Bible is full of lies, so now we can use this knowledge to automatically assume all the prophecies in the Bible were lies.

b) Using step one, we can decontextualize virtually any phrase found in the Bible and continue to pretend that prophecies were used as "proofs" beforehand rather than as validations after the fact.

c) Thanks to step two, we can bend facts around to fulfill even our most decontexualized fantasies

d) And finally, step three allows us to ignore the main issue that, prophecies or no, the issue is still historicity of the event in question.

What you'll be looking for, mainly, is bigoted ways to describe Jewish exegetical methods.

So when you see a phrase like "Do not break any of the bones" in the old testament, you, as a fundy atheist, should easily be able to ignore the ancient perception of "probabilities" and literary reportage. Since none of Christ's bones were broken, we know that "Do not break any of the bones" was readable as a validation, not intended to "prove" that Christ was prophesied, but that he acted in accord with the OT in a cyclical-historical fashion.

Head Trip
Those of you with a large ego (no joke) may find the idea of Jewish exegesis strange, but because we already know that Thomas Paine is god, we can ignore scholars like Longenecker and Neusner.

The most famous of external prophecies is the prophecy of the destruction of the city of Tyre: the Bible clearly says it will be destroyed and never, ever, be rebuilt, and if we apply steps two and three like good little decontextualizers, we can certainly make this absolutely true. Of course this also means that when Ramesses III speaks of the Sherden and Washesh being "made non-existent" but then goes on to say that they were captured, he is also contradicting himself because he and the Bible both wrote on modern English using modern English literalism. See?

Step Six: Confuse statements of moral hierarchy for "moral relativism".

Moral relativism, the belief that all moral decisions are dependent on the surrounding society and culture, is simply not true. If something is wrong, it is wrong for all people at all times. However, the idea of a moral hierarchy is true and is recognized even by ethicists.

Take slavery for example: you should just say "we know slavery is wrong," not only ignoring the historical context of the Bible (see Step Two, Head Trip). It is not even open to discussion that the social, economic, and other conditions of the ancient world made indentured servitude a more moral option, as opposed to simply letting people starve to death. Make the point also that "200 years ago people thought slavery was perfectly moral," but ignore the fact that this was done via a factual error (i.e., enslaved peoples were not really "human" at all) as opposed to an effort of moral relativism. But, since we know that slavery was always wrong, there is no need to research social or other contexts; just seeing the word "slave" in an English translation (especially one from 1611) settles the issue.

Step Seven: Use the confusion to your advantage.
Head Trip
Many non-apologists will call this "stupid" or "a cop out". They sure as heck know me well.

Now while it's true that saying slavery is, and always has been, morally wrong, makes for a great emotional appeal, this doesn't mean you have made an actual valid argument against the Bible or that you have proven that it is always wrong at all times. There are many situations where the rules of the time and the culture of the society cause the absolute morality to be set in a hierarchy. The best way to avoid detailed discussion of the matter is to claim that apologists argue that slavery was simply the way things were done back then. This differs from what Biblical scholarship offers in several important ways:

a) It doesn't even glance at the social or economic context.

b) It uses emotion and outrage as an argument.

c) It uses outrage.

d) Outrage.

Following this same scheme, it is possible to create "moral conflicts" in the Bible, all without ever doing a lick of actual homework.

Head Trip
You could also say something about how the pork thing is another case in which science has shown the Bible is right because eating uncooked pork is bad for you, but it's better to appeal to scholarship on matters of
ritual purity.

So, when Bible attackers ask such mean-spirited questions as "If it was wrong for the ancient Hebrews to eat pork, and then Jesus said eating pork was no longer a sin, didn't morality change?" you can safely say "No: morality didn't change, the situation changed... in a way that doesn't involve any moral relativism of course." And you can say so accurately becase ritual purity has zero to do with morality.

All questions about the differences between the Biblical and the present morality of things like incest, adultery, racism, women's equality, child welfare, rape, murder, and genocide are also easily propped up using this method of decontexualizing.

You may want to re-read steps one, two, three, and four if you see any need to cause yourself to drool.

Step Eight: Become comfortable with your own ignorance.
Head Trip
To help combat doubts, try sticking the works of Dan Barker in your ears and saying "Ben Witherington is a fundy" repeatedly.

During the process of becoming a fundy atheist, you may find yourself becoming quite ignorant. Don't worry, this is a normal, and even necessary, step on the road to true fundy atheism.

Few people become frightened at their growing ignorance at this stage and back off, because once you pledge yourself to ignorance, it is easier to remain that way.

And, alas, they are right. It is quite possible to do these things, but you must first become comfortable with your own cognitive dissonance. You must learn to pretend that scholars with Ph. D.s are deluded, and that the world of 1400 BC was exactly like the world of 2004 AD. Your blossoming provincialism is the key to your future as a fundy atheist.

Congratulations! You are now well on your way to becoming a fundy atheist!

Though this guide doesn't try to be a comprehensive resource on fundy atheism, it would only have taken a paragraph more to make it that.

This page is provided as a public service of the