Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Orthodox religious people (sometimes known as fundamentalists or conservatives) and atheists deserve each other. They are cut from the same cloth. Both have an inhuman approach to religious texts. Atheism is just another form of conservative religion. It is the mirror image of fundamentalism. Left is right and right is left. Atheists believe and do everything the fundamentalist believes and does, but twisted around. I will explain.

Since I am making a comparison to conservative religion, I should say that I have in mind a hard-line atheism. But just as there is a more liberal religious mentality, so too there is a more flexible kind of atheism. Most of what follows applies only to the more dogmatic type.

Conservative religious people proclaim that the Bible is the pure word of God. Of course, God himself did not put pen to parchment. Some human beings had to do it. So the orthodox religious person presents these ancient authors as pure vehicles for the word of God. When they wrote the Bible, they weren’t really human at all, but perfect instruments of God. It is a highly inhuman approach to history and the Bible. No human being ever stops being human. Even if you believe these authors were inspired by God, they could not have been perfect. Some errors would have to appear. The fundamentalist approach means that these human errors will be worshipped as divine. It is a kind of blasphemy and many religious people eagerly embrace it.

One of the most extreme versions of this kind of thinking occurred in the 19th century. Over the more than two hundred years that the King James Bible had been reprinted and reprinted, the occasional typo would occur. Some liberals wanted to correct all the typos that had crept into the text and publish the King James as first produced. But conservatives were incensed by this and put a stop to it. In their perverted view, it was a sin to admit that there were any errors in the Bible that was used in their churches. Eventually, many decades later, they lost, but they were temporary winners in their day.

The atheist just flips this and achieves a very similar, inhuman conception of the original authors of the Bible. He has this demonic idea that the ancient biblical authors were not only imperfect, but perfectly imperfect. He makes them out to be perfect liars, pure fantasists living in a totally mythical world. But no human being is that perfect a fantasizer. It is an inhuman version of humanity. Atheists have a lot of trouble seeing biblical authors as human beings who tried telling the truth, perhaps even getting much of it right. The greatest fiction of all is the atheist idea that the biblical authors fabricated everything at will.

Both atheists and religious people refuse to read religious texts carefully to see what they actually say. All the orthodox of each group want to do is impose their own theology or ideology on the text. There is in a sense no such thing as a religious fundamentalist. They are certainly not fundamentalist about what is in the text. They don’t read the Bible literally. They actually avoid that with all their might. What they are fundamentalist about is their theology. They won’t allow anything or anyone to interfere with their theological beliefs. Even the Bible cannot be allowed to interfere. Exactly the same is true for the atheist who is in this to uphold his ideology, come hell or high water. Just like the fundamentalist religious person, the atheist will not allow any reading of the evidence in the Bible to get in the way of his ideological beliefs.

The atheist completely accepts the way conservatives read the Bible, only adding “but it’s all fiction,” as if that changes anything. They never challenge what conservatives see in the text. They affirm every bit of it. Conservative theology is fine with atheists. They want to engage in battle with it and propose their anti-theology. Abandoning theology altogether is as unthinkable to the atheist as to the fundamentalist. The atheist will never accuse anyone of using theology to misread the contents of the Bible. Atheists think the charge of fiction undermines the fundamentalist reading, but it doesn’t; it only reinforces conservative dogma. Conservatives are happy with the atheist claim of fiction because they know (and they are very right about this) that it can never be proven and this leaves everyone free to believe whatever they want to believe.

If I did not know any better, I would swear that atheists and religious people had joined forces to make sure the traditional, theological reading of the Bible never changes. The myths we have, for example, of Jewish leaders persecuting Jesus and Judas betraying him continue not because of the Gospels, but because neither atheists nor religious people will allow anyone to upset things with a fresh reading of the evidence. The human approach is still considered out of bounds.

© 2016 Leon Zitzer

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