2007-11-23

Offering up the Bible as a Sacrifice

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by Neil Godfrey

We know the images of primitive bloodthirsty peoples who thrill as they exalt with the highest honours a hapless child or woman or king they are about to sacrifice to their god.

Their victim is crowned and adorned with all the majestic trappings and their every sensual whim satisfied. Only by idolizing this morsel for God’s palette can these peoples make it fit and worthy for their deity.

The effect of bestowing all this devotion upon their victim is to hide from them the real nature, the simple human nature, of the one they plan to sacrifice. They are transformed from being no different from anyone else to being an object more worthy than anyone else.

Many Christians treat the Bible in the same way. Many cannot, dare not — many really do fear to treat the Bible seriously and study it to find out what its true nature really is. Their religious (narcissistic?) devotion will permit them to see it in no way other than as something sacred in its own right. They even call it “The Holy Bible”.

To make it a worthy sacrifice to their divinity they must ignore or hide its many human blemishes. This is easy. They bestow it with perfumes of god-breathed inspiration and the garlands of eternal unbreakable truths. Faults are always in the eyes of the unworthy beholders who necessarily have no part in these rituals.

It is too often futile to beg such worshippers to take their sacrificial object seriously. Idolatry, including bibliolatry, shuns reason. These worshippers share with our cultural fascist and fascist-like forebears an open denunciation of Enlightenment values. (I choose the fascist analogy carefully and after many years experience and will defend it in future posts. )

We generally only repent of our ignorant ways when the costs of ignorance become too high. But some forms of ignorance thinks not even death — of themselves and others — is too high a price.

But many of us also begin to open our eyes when we see the damage we have done, thus forcing us to confront what we have become. Militant fundamentalists and their ilk are quite capable of justifying (with Bible verses) their offensive, intolerant and arrogant attitudes and manners that divide them from normal civil society. Ironically they pride themselves on belonging to a heritage that emerged victorious by the “saintly” manner in which the first generations of converts faced martyrdom. Can their conviction of their spiritual exclusiveness and superiority be eroded by focussing a torchlight on the hurt and pain they leave in their wake? Experience informs me that many will simply shift the blame for any suffering back on to the victims.

Damn it. I had in mind a positive note to end on when I began this post, but now it’s gone. Maybe the best these thoughts can remind me of is how important it is to keep actively promoting the values of tolerance and reason and avoid the temptation to take them for granted.


Related post: 10 characteristics of fundamentalism


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Neil Godfrey

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  • Geoff Hudson
    2007-11-23 07:30:11 GMT+0000 - 07:30 | Permalink

    And many of those who can and do study it can’t agree about its meanings, partly because of their own background, predjudices, and probably vested interests. These are fair game. So I’ll reserve my tolerance for the ordinary believing folk of whatever persuasion, many of such are my friends, and one in particular is my wife.

    But you are right about the damage that can be done by a rigid or strict religious attitude, especially in raising children. I am guilty. One may set out with what one believes is right only to discover too late the opposite. It has taken years to recover my family as a family, and the job isn’t finished.

  • 2007-11-23 07:48:43 GMT+0000 - 07:48 | Permalink

    To ask what it means for today is simply a nonsense question.

    Disagreements about its meanings often arise from the irrational belief that it is written for people today. That was my mistaken assumption for many years too. Its contents were written for other times and places that no-one with any knowledge of then and there wants to return to.

    Its “wisdom”, such as it was, has been thankfully superseded by more rational enquiries into human nature and the world. Its ethics are grounded in juvenile appeals to fear and reward and have been surpassed by far more enlightened and humane cultural values in the last 250 years. Bible-believers acknowledge this whenever they cherry-pick the verses they wish to act as sign-posts for their modern ethical standards.

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