The best thing in the Bible: a story even nonbelievers can love

In my previous post I wrote about a New Testament passage in which Paul’s god displays breathtakingly diabolical inventiveness in addition to his usual jealous cruelty. I noted that skeptics make a sport of cataloging the Bible’s many atrocities and warped moral teachings.

But is it fair to dismiss the entire thing as worthless? Wouldn’t that demonstrate the same knee-jerk prejudice that many of the faithful show towards critics of religion?

Good ideas are where you find them, and recognizing one isn’t an endorsement of everything that surrounds it.

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). It is the Bible’s most profound moral statement, an idea that has appeared in numerous cultures and was stated both by religious and secular thinkers long before the time of the Jesus. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a working out of this ethic. It is a deeply radical story, one of the best teaching tales I know of from the ancient world. Continue reading


The Bible’s sickest cruelty… and it’s not in the Old Testament

Detail of “The Damned Cast into Hell” by Luca Signorelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Skeptics have long made a sport of quoting the Bible’s most hate-filled passages. Everyone has their favorites. A few of mine are Numbers 31 (in which the Israelites slaughter the Midianites, and Moses is angry because they spared the women), Deuteronomy 13 (God demands that you stone your children to death if they worship other gods), and Genesis 22 (Abraham passes a test of faith by demonstrating that he’ll sacrifice his own son when God tells him to).

There are many, many more. But a lot of people mistakenly think that God mellows out in the New Testament when Jesus starts talking about love and forgiveness. Continue reading

A dose of C.S. Lewis’s intellectual snake oil

Here’s a quote posted recently by The Armchair Apologist:

There’s a time to suggest politely, “While I don’t find Mr. Lewis’s logic entirely persuasive…,” and there’s a time to point out that this is what passes for a reasoned argument from a man who, fifty years after his death, remains one of the most respected Christian intellectuals out there. Continue reading

Jerry Coyne has an excellent post at Why Evolution is True, responding to a Christian writer who trots out the “evidence is only one way to approach the truth” meme that Christian apologists love so well, the idea that insisting upon evidence is “a philosophical picture of the world that gives science a monopoly position as the supplier and definer of truth.” Coyne’s reply is worth reading in full, but here’s a taste: “The use of science is justified because it works, not because we can justify it philosophically.”

Why Evolution Is True

Christian writer Francis Spufford sent me an email calling my attention to a post on his blog, Unapologetic, in which he belatedly answers two critiques I’d written of his pieces—one essay in the Guardian and the other his infamous “Dear Atheist” letter in New Humanist. You know what you’re in for when you see the title: “Dear Jerry Coyne [Caution: long]” And oy, is it long: 3620 words! This does not bode well for his new book.

I’m not getting into a back-and-forth with this man, who apparently wants me to help publicize his new book, but I’ll highlight just two points, neither of which is new. The real value of Spufford’s verbose post in serving as an exemplar of how a smart and literate man can justify Christianity in the complete absence of evidence for its tenets.

From his new blog post:


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