Friday, January 2, 2015

Champion Cherry-pickers

Atheists and even some more liberal theists frequently get accused of cherry-picking the Bible for the sole purpose of being contrarian jerks (often described in far worse terms). But that is complete bullshit for a variety of reasons. All theists cherry pick their favored sacred text(s). They have to, since they are all rather contradictory nonsensical crap. Not long ago Peter Enns gave an excellent example of how liberal Christians cherry pick and interpret the Bible to make it seem far more palatable then it really is. Rather than doing it to bash the Bible he does it in an attempt to justify his affection for it.

"10 Old Testament passages that shape how I think about God" demonstrates just how shallow his thinking is right from the start. Theist also love to claim that non-religious and religious critics of scripture take things out of context. Enns shows otherwise. None of his are given much context and the few that are are grossly inaccurate. Essentially he interprets the passage itself and then, when he bothers at all, makes up an excuse for anything around it that doesn't quite mesh. The very first selection is so skewed it's rather amusing.

"1. …for the Lord does not see as people see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
God is not impressed with what we call successOT Hebrew but with what is deep within us, perhaps even deeper than we ourselves can see."

Here's some context. Virtually all of 1 Samuel is about Saul. God uses and then rather brutally discards Saul. Why does God dispose of Saul? Because the previously despicable asshole grows a conscience. Saul refuses to obey God when commanded to assassinate another king and then proceed to slaughter said king's entire people and livestock. That's right, another incident where God goes all out blood-thirsty psychopath. Saul wants none of it so God gets rid of him. My interpretation, which has just as much if not more basis, is that the kind of "heart" God favors is sadistic and sycophantic. Not really what Enns was trying to establish.

Nearly every single passage is similarly spun to seem the way Enns prefers to think of them. Most can not only be interpeted differently, they have to be if you make any effort to pay attention to the actual wording and look at the passages the precede and/or follow them. I'll give just one more example since going through all 10 would be tedious and pointless.

"4. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).
More than once, at times of joy and sadness, when I didn’t know what to pray, this came out of my mouth. It’s good to have God’s face shine on us now and then."

Actually, God (of the scriptures) is both very demanding and very unforgiving. What Enns completely ignores are all the conditions that lead up to this brief passage. That "bless you and keep you" part would be nice if it were not so conditional. All the passages leading to this make it clear that you can only somewhat count on being blessed (never guaranteed or promised) if you meet all Gods rules and make all the prefered sacrifices. In other words, you pay a heavy price just to get a little acknowledgment from a being who doesn't actually need let alone deserve such devotion. Metaphorically, it is like a neglected and abused child making all sorts of excuses and going out of their way to pamper and flatter their egomaniacal volatile dead-beat dad. It isn't even an example of conditional love. The relationship outline in Numbers is more like that of a master and slave.

Though I won't bother going through all 10 of Peter Enns' favored passages there is no reason others can't take a closer look. It doesn't really take that much effort. Read the passages he quotes and then read at least a handful of the passages that surround it. So long as you actually pay attention to the wording it becomes blatantly obvious that Enns, like so many other theist, is the one doing the cherry picking and making up all kinds of nonsense.

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