*Iowa State Daily column by Ian Timberlake*
It is humorous to hear someone claim they are Christian, only to find out later through winded discussion that they really don’t believe much in the biblical text. Isn’t that what it means to be a Christian? Following the teachings of the Bible? If not, then what separates a “loose” Christian from a “loose” Muslim, or Jew, or Greek Path?
If you claim a religion because it symbolizes a way to live out your life but you don’t adhere to a majority of the unique (I stress “unique”) teachings, then you are just living a falsehood, especially if you claim only specific teachings. An atheist, agnostic, or deist that gets their morals and “teachings” from things like “the golden rule”, are no different than a “Christian” who chooses what to believe out of their religious text.
Someone who believes in a higher power, a god, if you will, but does not subscribe to a belief system or rejects the idea of a god that intervenes, would conventionally be called a “deist”. Today, those that call themselves “liberal” or “progressive” Christians, are most likely a deist or undecided/indifferent believer. They have just failed to come to terms with it or lack the care to do so.
At what point is the Bible to be taken literally or metaphorically? Everyone has a different account, unless you take the script at one hundred percent face value and you don’t boil your child in mother’s milk because it says so, a line that can be taken literally and metaphorically.
If the entire text is so metaphorical and malleable, what is the point in choosing that religion? It has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with how you were raised. Don’t tell me that humans didn’t have the capacity to restrain themselves from murder until they reached the foothills of Mount Sinai, or that you would suddenly go on a raping spree if you didn’t believe in a god. Morality can be just as easily explained with evolution as biology can.
Apologists might say that religion can be different for everyone, giving way to such malleable interpretations that literally are opposite that of the religious text. If you are against homosexual marriage, something that the bible speaks very little of and without reference to Jesus, then you most surely must be against divorce, or sex before marriage, or haircuts. And for the owning of slaves and ownership and control of women.
Which leads me to find humor when I see an online dating profile that claims “Christianity — and very serious about it”, but lists “casual sex” as to what they are looking for, has tattoos, and advocates for feminism.
At what point do you stop and say that you aren’t living Christian? Or any other religion for that matter.
I’m an atheist for many reasons. Atheist is often defined as a “freethinker”, which the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics defines as: “[A]n individual should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, freethinkers strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmas. Regarding religion, freethinkers hold that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena.”
I didn’t really call myself an atheist until the middle of high school and even then, I wasn’t so outspoken about it for fear of negative reaction. Although before then, I don’t ever recall having a reason to believe in a god like the Christian one that so many people in my demographic followed. It seemed silly to me that so many people were reading the Bible in bits and pieces. As early as elementary school I remember being confused by this.
I am an atheist, and I have read the Bible cover to cover… not many people I know, who claim Christianity, can say that. I find that a bit ironic.
What I ask of you is to question exactly what it is you believe and to be honest with yourself. If you claim Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, own up to what it instructs. If your metaphorical interpretation isn’t remotely in line with the literal, it likely isn’t the way it’s meant to be interpreted.
If your interpretation of the Bible is so loose that you “pick and choose” or take it as a broad swathing metaphor, you probably aren’t any more Christian than an agnostic or deist because the difference between that and any other broad swathing religion is zilch.