Conversations: The “Good Book”

It is probably fair to say that most Christians believe that mortals like ourselves cannot reject the morality of the Bible.

What does that mean exactly?

I think it means that human beings cannot say, to take a story out of Christian mythology, that God was wrong to drown most of humanity in the flood of Genesis, because this is merely the way it seems from our limited point of view. And yet, in other cases, people feel that they are in a position to judge that Jesus is the Son of God, that the Golden Rule is the height of moral wisdom, and that the Bible is not itself brimming with lies.

Quite. They are using their own moral intuitions to authenticate the so-called wisdom of the Bible—and then, in the next moment, they assert that we human beings cannot possibly rely upon our own intuitions to rightly guide ourselves in the world; rather, we must depend upon the prescriptions of the Bible.

I see. They are using their own moral intuitions to decide that the Bible is the appropriate guarantor of their moral intuitions. In other words, their own intuitions are still primary but they must not seem to be; this is specious reasoning isn’t it?

Indeed it is! Humans decide, for want of a better word, what is good.

Alright, but how do you know this?

Well, consider one of God’s teachings on morality: if a man discovers on his wedding night that his bride is not a virgin, he must stone her to death on her father’s doorstep (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Now, not to put too fine a point on it, but if we are civilized, we will reject this as the vilest lunacy imaginable. Doing so requires that we exercise our own moral intuitions. The belief that the Bible is the word of God is of no help to us whatsoever. Not is this case, nor any other.

The choice before us is simple: we can either have a twenty first century conversation about morality and human well-being—a conversation in which we avail ourselves of all the scientific insights and philosophical arguments that have accumulated in the last two thousand years of human discourse—or we can confine ourselves to a first century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible.

Why would anyone want to take the latter approach?

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 17)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

1 thought on “Conversations: The “Good Book”

  1. There is, unfortunately, much in ancient religious writings which depicts God as a vile creature and which encourages people to match him in this. It requires intelligent sifting. To claim these writings as simple truth and as being applicable in this day and age requires that most of the reasoning faculties be switched off.

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