There are arguably about as many ways to interpret the Bible as there are words in it. However, each typically falls into one of a few main ideological stances. As a quick primer for my upcoming multi-part blog post series, I’d like to take a quick look at these three basic schools of thought. I will do my best to describe each without bias, but as an atheist, I suspect my biases will percolate to the surface, regardless. At any rate, let’s take a look at how I’ll be viewing the Bible in the upcoming months.

Fundamentalists

Many Christians subscribe to the idea that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant word of God. They take the Bible at face value, with little or no interpretation of deeper meanings other than what’s written on the page. Fundamentalists are usually referred to as the “Christian Right” because, as the name implies, their views are generally very conservative.

Evangelicals

Those who hold the Bible in high regard, but consider it to be more of a moral compass or guide to ethical behavior. They generally apply their own interpretations to scriptures and consider the Bible to be a historical record of ancient oral traditions, written by (fallible) humans, and thus prone to errors or embellishment. Evangelicals are usually referred to as the “Christian Left”, as their stance on matters is typically more liberal than their fundamentalist counterparts.

Skeptics

Lastly, we’re left with the skeptics… Most skeptics agree that certain parts of the Bible hold some historical accuracy, but not in any relevant or meaningful way. To the skeptic, the Bible is little more than folklore or myth; stories made up to explain the world around ancient peoples who were struggling to understand it. Skeptics are generally outside of the bubble of religion, as agnostics, atheists, humanists, etc.


While I don’t claim to be a theologian, I sincerely hope that my explanation of each of these schools of thought was adequate. In any case, if you’re still unsure about the differences between these ideologies, feel free to take a moment to Googlecate yourself further. Meanwhile, I’ll be here…anxiously awaiting your return.

Back already? Let’s move on and discuss the basic premise on which the Bible is founded.

Introducing: The Omni-God

Most theologians agree that each of the Abrahamic religions worship the same deity. While the religions themselves differ in many ways, they all seem to agree that God possesses a group of “omni-traits”. In fact, these traits are the defining characteristics of their God, which separate him from all other gods. Therefore, if any argument is to be made for or against the existence of this God, one must understand these traits and their significance, not only in relation to the text of the Bible, but also in the context of how it applies to human civilization.

Omnipotence almighty or infinite in power and ability
Omnipresence present everywhere at the same time
Omniscience having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding
Omnibenevolence all-loving; infinitely good

I can tell you that these traits were, in fact, what first started me on the long path towards atheism. I could not reconcile the hatred, pain, suffering, and injustice which runs rampant in the world today with a God who is all knowing, all powerful, all loving, and always there. I still count this as Christianity’s greatest pitfall, and if I am to be wooed by this belief system, then that gap between the reality of today’s world and a truly loving and benevolent God needs to be bridged somehow. That is not to say, however, that I am not open to the possibility of some spiritual clarity coming over me so that I might better understand what is commonly referred to as “God’s plan”.

I’m just not holding my breath…

  • Donna Jones

    The all knowing, all seeing, all loving, all powerful God is real. The reason for illness, suffering, violence, etc is that He has given all mankind free will. You have the choice to believe, and follow Him. You also have the choice to not believe. To follow the crowd. To do what feels good. To many people, what feels good to them hurts others. God never promised it would be easy. But he gives us free will, because he doesn’t want a bunch of robots. You don’t want your wife to love you, simply because she is told she has to. It would mean nothing, if that were the case. You want her to love you because she sees something worthy of loving in you. She wants to spend time with you. Wants to talk to you, spend time with you, have a relationship with you. God wants the same.

    • Josh

      See, the free will argument has never done anything to reconcile the holes in this story for me. If God were truly omni-everything, we either wouldn’t exist, or we would live in a utopia.

      1. All powerful, must be able to change anything at a whim
      2. All knowing, must know everything that ever will come to pass
      3. All seeing, must be everywhere and see everything at all times
      4. All loving, must love everything and everyone unconditionally

      Honestly, the problem with these omni-traits doesn’t really come into its own until you add in that last one: omnibenevolence. If he truly loved everyone and everything unconditionally, why then would he allow any of his creations to suffer?

      If he knows everything about my life and eventual death before I’m even conceived, and he knows that I will deny him with my dying breath and spend an eternity in Hell being tortured, then why would he even allow that particular sperm to punch through the outer membrane of the egg? Why would he allow fertilization if he knew that it would eventually end with me suffering eternally? This sounds nothing like love to me. This sounds like sadism.

      If we were to start removing traits, however, then the story could be made to fit the situation… If he weren’t actually a “loving” god, but rather a wrathful god, then it would make more sense. If he didn’t have the power to change events in motion, then things would make far more sense. Or, if he honestly didn’t have a clue what was going on, then that too would make sense. However, the removal of any of these traits makes him that much closer to mortal, and far less like a god.