Because the Bible Tells Me So

In Chapter 6, Joshua turns to his namesake book of the Bible,  The Book of Joshua, for guidance about about earthly and heavenly justice. He wonders why God singled out Joshua for His special, lethal purposes, and fantasizes that God has singled him out, too.

Is there any doubt that the disappearance of the ice cap and the ensuing weather chaos will be seen as divine judgment? The only real question is who will the hyper-religious blame for provoking God’s wrath.

Actually, there’s no question there. It’ll be the usual suspects: gays, prostitutes, nonconformists, atheists, dissenters, and anyone else whose very existence challenges their Old Testament notions of hierarchical male dominance, authority, and control. An abrupt climate collapse will open wide the door of opportunity to zealots who want to return the United States to its purported “Christian origins.”

It’s true that most colonists in the 17th Century were Christians. Some colonies were founded explicitly as havens for particular sects—Maryland for Catholics and Pennsylvania for Quakers, for example. But it perverts history to say that Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and the other negotiators of the Constitution intended any Christian church to influence the federal government. It’s the opposite. The First Amendment separates church and state precisely because the colonies conflicted in the particulars of religious belief. Above all, the founders were Enlightenment rationalists, men of science, who strove to free themselves from the tyranny of dogma. The whole point of democracy is to replace unquestionable received ideas with reason, and inherited social hierarchy with individual rights.

Funny how Christian nationalists worry about “perversion,” when the perversion of facts is the very premise of their outlook.

Have you ever read the Old Testament? It is one bizarre shaggy dog story. Until you’ve read it word for word, you can’t appreciate the shrieking dissonance between the popular notion of the “Good Book” and its actual contents.

It’s not a book anyone with an ounce of critical thinking capacity could take literally. To do that requires practiced, determined credulity, constantly reinforced. Television preachers make sure that happens, striding before the cameras, intoning its portentous language, telling the aptly named “flock” how to think.

Even so, do they really teach what is literally in the Bible? Here’s Joshua 6:20-21: “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”

How can this be read literally as anything but divinely sanctioned genocide?

I think Biblical fundamentalists know instinctively that literal belief in the Bible is not simply a belief in things unprovable. It’s a denial of things proven. A denial of facts. Biblical literalism chafes our (God-given) sense of logic and reason. It’s metamessage is: facts don’t matter.

Maybe that’s why many fundamentalists build such an edifice of denialism. Once a crack develops in that shell, they fear the entire thing would crumble, like the house of sand in the Book of Matthew.

Go to Chapter 6

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1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Denialism, Psychology, Religion

One response to “Because the Bible Tells Me So

  1. Bud Fouryou

    Saw your post in this week’s CF nation – I’ve been watching weather temps across NA for 15 years – when I see 70F in the Arctic Circle in May – I usually make a few wise cracks to friends – nobody “gets it.”

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