Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Administrative Statement

I started the Bible reading project here with an announcement on my home blog Stayin' Alive, but I realize now that I should have explained myself in the same place where I was doing the project. So here goes.

I'm going to read the Bible, the whole thing, from beginning to end, and discuss it from my point of view as a humanist with a strong interest in human society and ethics. I am on no particular schedule -- I don't plan to post every day by any means, though I will certainly try to add material more than once a week. It may take me the rest of my life. That's okay, there's no hurry.

My purpose is certainly not to debunk or attack religion. I am not religious, I'm what I would call a realist, which among other consequences means that you would probably call me an atheist. However, I definitely think the Bible is important and interesting as both an artifact of how ancient people thought and lived, and as a powerfully influential force in modern history, and of course in the present. I do want to engage with the text constructively, hoping to find much that is useful and instructive, but also critically -- I know there's plenty there I don't like.

Unfortunately, a substantial portion of the U.S. population tells pollsters they believe the Bible is literally true and inerrant. It is trivial to disprove this -- the Bible contradicts itself very often as well as contradicting very well established and irrefutable facts. It would be silly for me to invest a lot of time and effort pointing out the absurdities and contradictions in the Bible, but I feel I do have to acknowledge them as part of any honest reading. But I'll try to keep that to a minimum.

The most important issue I need to discuss here is how I intend to engage with readers. I very much want to read your comments, including comments from people who are religious and to whom the Bible represents revealed truth of some kind -- whether you believe it is literally true, or not literally true but somehow inspired by communion with God and perhaps literally true in many respects. I must tell you that I have found this sort of dialogue with believers to be difficult and often strained. For some reason, when one takes issue with religion, asserts non-belief, denies the existence of God, believers often take it as hostility or incivility.

I don't really understand that. You state your beliefs, which differ from mine, and I don't take that as hostile or rude. So why can't I state mine? The purpose of this blog is dialogue, which means I may answer a comment with a rebuttal. Feel free to rebut right back, I won't take it as hostile (assuming it isn't). We have an equal right to our beliefs, and equal right to state our beliefs, and an equal right to explain why we disagree. If I don't agree with you, it doesn't mean your beliefs aren't welcome here. On the contrary.

On the other hand, there is a vanishingly small chance you will convert me. I grew up in a Christian church, I know all about it, and I have thought long and hard about these matters. When I was 13, I wished to be confirmed and I spoke with my uncle, an Episcopal minister, about the process. Then I changed my mind. Again, just because you fail to convert me, does not mean your ideas, beliefs, and arguments are not welcome here. You have your beliefs, I have mine.

Finally, this blog is open to additional posters who can demonstrate that they are thoughtful and share our commitment to honest dialogue. That includes people of faith. I want people who do not share my perspective to have access to top-level posts on this blog. So if you are interested, let me know. My e-mail address is available in the sidebar at Stayin' Alive.

I'll get to the next few verses tonight or tomorrow.