Some Reasons Why Humanists Reject the Bible, Annotated and Corrected


Hey howdy, folks. The project you see here is one we're doing "by request" of a reader. The subject is one Joseph Sommer, an attorney and seemingly mostly earnest humanist, but one with the usual shortcoming of lacking in the way of Biblical scholarship. A reader asked us to give "humanism by Joe" and a particular article of his a whirl, so here we are. Now what we plan to do here mostly is provide links without commentary which will give you answers to Joe's objections. The vast majority of his comments are old hat, so there's really little need to re-invent the wheel. Just follow a link for an answer in many cases, but I'll also have a few cents' worth of commentary here and there.

This article sets forth some reasons why Humanists reject the claim that the Bible is the word of God.  Humanists are convinced that the Bible was written solely by humans in an age that was ignorant, superstitious and cruel.  Humanists also believe that because the writers of the Bible lived in an unenlightened and barbaric era, they produced a book containing many errors and harmful teachings. In essence, humanists are acting anachronistic and bigoted, and seem proud of it. Joe tries to cover it by calling the "age" and "era" ignorant, etc. but that won't cut the mustard; and "age" can't be primitive, the people in it "are". In contrast authors like James Crenshaw (Education in Ancient Israel) and now even that pinnacle of tolerance, Karen Armstrong (Mohammed) come to the "era" on its own terms and admit that we're in no position to call names implicitly or explicitly from the position of our air-conditioned offices. If the age had been less "barbaric" humanity and society might well have degenerated into chaos. We'll have links below addressing some of the points Joe calls "barbaric," etc.

Much criticism is directed at Humanists because of their views about the Bible.  Some critics go so far as to say that Humanists should be considered evil or agents of the devil.  This article attempts to clarify the reasons that Humanists hold negative views concerning the Bible. Nah, I wouldn't go there. Satan would wash his hands of involvement in work like this stuff. In the next section Joe gets "political" for a while and explains the reasons he has for writing on this subject. It's all personal summation, so we'll go to straight to:


One reason that Humanists consider the Bible to be an unreliable authority is that it contains a multitude of contradictions.  Logically, if two statements contradict each other, at least one of them must be false.  Because numerous Bible verses flatly contradict other verses, it follows that the Bible has many false statements and is not infallible. Simple, ain't it? But from the looks of it Joe got most or all of these off some standard list. As noted above, just follow links most of the time.

Examples of Old Testament Contradictions

The contradictions start in the opening two chapters of the Bible, where inconsistent accounts of the creation are propounded.  Genesis chapter 1 states that the first man and woman were made at the same time, and after the animals.  But Genesis chapter 2 says that the order of creation was as follows: man, then the animals, and then woman.

Additionally, Genesis chapter 1 tells of six days of creation, whereas chapter 2 refers to the "day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens."  Chapter 1 asserts that the fruit trees were created before man, while chapter 2 indicates that those trees were made after man.  Genesis 1:20 states that the fowl were created out of the waters; nevertheless, Genesis 2:19 alleges that they were formed out of the ground.  Genesis 1:2-3 avers that God created light and divided it from darkness on the first day, but Genesis 1:14-19 reports that the sun, moon and stars were not made until the fourth day.

Contradictions also abound in the biblical account of a worldwide flood.  Genesis 6:19-22 says that God ordered Noah to bring "of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort . . . into the ark."  Genesis 7:2-3 states, however, that the Lord ordered Noah take into the ark the clean beasts and the birds by sevens and the unclean beasts by twos.

Genesis 7:17 relates that the flood lasted forty days, whereas Genesis 8:3 tells us it lasted one hundred and fifty days. No, 40 days is the time the Flood lasted; the 150 days is how long it took for the prevailing waters (7:24) to be "abated".   Genesis 8:4 reports that, as the waters of the flood receded, Noah's ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat in the seventh month.  But the very next verse asserts that the mountaintops could not even be seen until the tenth month. Um, it took 2 1/2 months for the water to go down to where the tops (plural) could be seen. Sommer must be a landlubber; has he ever heard of running aground on a submerged rock or sandbar?   Genesis 8:13 states that the earth was dry on the first day of the first month; contrariwise, Genesis 8:14 reports that the earth was not dry until the twenty-seventh day of the second month. Wrong. 8:13 says that the face of the ground (adamah) was dry; 8:14 says the earth (erets) was dried.

The Old Testament contains a significant contradiction in the story of the census taken by King David and God's subsequent punishment of the Israelites.  According to the tale, God was so angered by the census that he sent a plague that killed seventy thousand men.  At II Samuel 24:1, the Lord is said to be the one who caused David to take the census.  But an attempt was made later, at I Chronicles 21:1, to expunge God's record on this matter by claiming that Satan incited the census.

The Old Testament is further contradictory as to whether the Lord commanded the Israelites to sacrifice animals to him.  According to Jeremiah 7:22, God denied that he ever gave the Israelites commandments about animal sacrifices.  In contrast, Exodus 29:38-42 and many other verses in the Pentateuch clearly depict God as requiring the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices. That was it for the OT. Pretty slim, huh?

Examples of New Testament Contradictions

Turning to the New Testament, there are contradictions between the genealogy of Jesus given in the first Chapter of Matthew and the genealogy contained in the third chapter of Luke.  Both genealogies list Jesus' father as being Joseph (which is curious, given that Mary was supposedly impregnated by the Holy Ghost), but Matthew states that the name of Joseph's father was Jacob, while Luke identifies him as Heli.  Matthew reports that there were twenty-six generations between Jesus and King David, whereas Luke claims that there were forty-one.  Matthew alleges that Jesus' line of descent was through David's son Solomon, while Luke says that it was through David's son Nathan.

In the story of the birth of Jesus, Matthew 2:13-15 relates that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with the baby Jesus immediately after the wise men from the east had brought gifts.  But Luke 2:22-40 indicates that after the birth of Jesus, his parents remained in Jerusalem for the time of Mary's purification (which was forty days, under the Mosaic law), then brought Jesus to Jerusalem "to present him to the Lord," and then returned to their home in Nazareth.  Luke mentions no journey into Egypt or visit by wise men from the east.

As for the death of Judas, the disloyal disciple, Matthew 27:5 states that he took the money he had obtained by betraying Jesus, threw it down in the temple and then "went and hanged himself."  To the contrary, Acts 1:18 says that Judas used the money to purchase a field and "falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out."

Describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 maintains that Jesus carried his own cross.  In contradistinction, Mark 15:21-23 claims that a man called Simon carried Jesus' cross to the crucifixion site. Huh! If Simon picked it up halfway, then obviously Jesus did carry his own cross part of the way. Sommer is demanding complete detail-reportage from people who lived in an era when paper was expensive and there was neither room nor call for including a detail unless you had a point to make. John had that point: his picture is of Jesus as the Son of God dependent on no man. He omits the Simon episode purposely.

As for the execution itself, Matthew 27:44 tells us that Jesus was taunted by both of the criminals who were being crucified with him.  But Luke 23:39-43 relates that only one of the criminals taunted Jesus, that the other criminal rebuked the one who was doing the taunting, and that Jesus told the criminal who was defending him, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Chestnut of chestnuts! Why does Sommer think we call this guy the "penitent thief"? He can't mock first, then repent later? It's thematic again: Luke wishes to show the universal appeal of the Gospel. Beyond that Sommer needs to learn about ancient compositional constraints -- see here.

Regarding the last words of Jesus while on the cross, Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 assert that Jesus cried with a loud voice, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  Luke 23:46 says that his final words were, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."  John 19:30 alleges that the last words were, "It is finished."

There are even contradictions in the accounts of the resurrection - the supposed event that is the very foundation of the Christian religion.  Mark 16:2 says that on the day of the resurrection, certain women arrived at the tomb at the rising of the sun, but John 20:1 states that they arrived when it was yet dark.  Luke 24:2 assures us that the tomb was open when the women arrived, whereas Matthew 28:1-2 indicates it was closed.  Mark 16:5 claims that the women saw a young man at the tomb, Luke 24:4 says they saw two men, Matthew 28:2 reports that they saw an angel, and John 20:11-12 insists that they saw two angels.

Also in the resurrection stories, there are contradictions as to the identity of the women who came to the tomb,[7] whether the men or angels that the women saw were inside or outside the tomb,[8] whether the men or angels were standing or sitting,[9] and whether Mary Magdalene recognized the risen Jesus when he first appeared to her.[10] Same.

As a final example of a contradiction in the New Testament, the conflicting accounts of Paul's conversion can be cited.  Acts 9:7 states that when Jesus called Paul to preach the gospel, the men who were with Paul heard a voice but saw no man.  But Acts 22:9 asserts that when Paul received his calling, the men who were with him saw a light but did not hear the voice that spoke to him.

The foregoing examples are just a few of the hundreds of contradictions contained in the Old and New Testaments.  Each contradiction constitutes an instance where at least one of the inconsistent verses is wrong.  Thus, hundreds of contradictions mean hundreds of incorrect statements in the Bible. Sommer basically chose a few anachronistic wonders to pick on. If that's the best he can do, he ought to sue himself for malpractice! (grin)


Humanists also reject the Bible because it sanctions the most outrageous cruelty and injustice imaginable. I.e, they "argue by outrage".   In civilized legal systems, a fundamental principle is that the suffering of the innocent is the very essence of injustice.  Yet the Bible teaches that God repeatedly violated this elementary moral precept by harming numerous innocent persons. Is anyone actually "innocent"? Only in contexts, and we'll see in the links, which should be read as a collective, that Sommer is fundamentally off the beam in terms of how those "barbaric" ancients viewed the matter.

Cruelty in Basic Christian Teachings

Instances of cruel and unjust behavior by the biblical God are seen in the most basic Christian doctrines.  God's acts that harmed the innocent include the following: He damned the whole human race and cursed the entire creation because of the acts of two people (Genesis 3:16-23; Romans 5:18); he drowned pregnant women and innocent children and animals at the time of the Flood (Genesis 7:20-23); he tormented the Egyptians and their animals with hail and disease because pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11,25); he killed Egyptian babies at the time of the Passover (Exodus 12:29-30); after the Exodus he ordered the Israelites to exterminate the men, women and children of seven nations and steal their land (Deuteronomy 7:1-2); he killed King David's baby because of David's adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 12:13-18); he required the torture and murder of his own son (e.g., Romans 3:24-25) Sentiment of a weenie modern; the ancients looked upon such sacrifice as noble. ; and he promised to send non-Christians to eternal torture (e.g., Revelation 21:8).

More Slaughters Ordered by the Lord

Besides the unfairness and heartlessness contained in major teachings of Christianity, the Bible features other violent tales that are opposed to all civilized standards of morality. IOW, argument by outrage.   Among the most shocking Bible passages are those that portray God as ordering or sanctioning the killing of people, including children and the elderly.  Here are examples:

  • At I Samuel 15:3, the prophet Samuel gives King Saul this commandment from the Lord: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

  • Ezekiel 9:4-7 contains this harrowing account: "And the Lord said unto him, Go through . . . the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.  And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark. . . ." See links above on ancient values for this one and the next.

  • Hosea 13:16 describes a punishment from the Lord: "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up."

  • Deuteronomy 32:23-25 reports that after the Israelites provoked God to jealousy by worshiping other gods, he vowed: "I will spend mine arrows upon them. . . .  The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs."

  • In Numbers chapter 31, the Lord indicates approval of this order given by Moses concerning the manner in which the Israelite soldiers were to treat certain women and children captured in war: "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.  But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." 
  • Isaiah 13:9,15-18 has this message from God: "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger. . . .  Every one that is found shall be thrust through. . . .  Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes . . . and their wives ravished.  Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them. . . .  [T]hey shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children." Actually ancient trash talk -- see here. Some of the other stuff probably is, too.

These verses irrefutably expose the biblical God as having the morals of a sociopathic mass murderer. In short, delivering justice indicates you are a sociopathic mass murder.

Examples of God's Other Cruel Methods

The God of the Bible displays sadistic tendencies by employing a variety of other means to torment and kill humans. Who don't deserve any of it, right? Were they just sitting and watching TV when God decided, "What the heck, I'll kill someone."   He causes the earth to open and swallow entire families (Numbers 16:37-32); Families who incited rebellion and threatened thereby the social welfare of the nation. he uses fire to devour persons (e.g., Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 11:1-2); Persons who defied the socio-religious order and thereby threatened both the social and eternal welfare of others. [He punished the] Israelites with wars, famines and pestilence (e.g., Ezekiel:11-17) Which of course they did nothing at all to deserve, right? Check Samuel-Kings for a wakeup call. ; he sends wild animals such as bears (II Kings 2:23-24), lions (II Kings 17:24-25) and serpents (Numbers 21:6) to attack people; he sanctions slavery (e.g., Leviticus 25:44-46); he orders religious persecution (e.g., Deuteronomy 13:12-16) Um, yeah, we wouldn't want to persecute people who did child sacrifice and bestiality, now, would we?; and he causes cannibalism (Jeremiah 19:9).

Disproportionate Punishments by the Lord

Besides causing the innocent to suffer, the biblical God is guilty of inflicting punishments that are grossly disproportionate to the acts for which the punishments were administered. Sommer doesn't tell us how he determines this; he just assumes you'll agree tat it is "grossly disproportionate". But see part 2 of this.   In the American legal system, extreme disproportion between punishments administered and acts committed violates the U.S. Constitution's Eight Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Obviously, to punish persons who are completely innocent, as seen in the preceding Bible verses, constitutes punishment that is horribly disproportionate to the moral culpability of the recipients.  And there are additional instances where the biblical God requires punishments that are shockingly harsh compared to the acts committed. Note how Sommer has to repeat this three different ways, because "shock therapy" and argument by outrage is his only actual argument -- not actual data proving that these punishments were harsh, etc. in context.

For instance, the Old Testament states that the Lord prescribes execution as punishment for the "crimes" of working on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15); cursing one's parents (Leviticus 20:9); worshiping other gods (Deuteronomy 17:2-5); enticing a friend or family member to worship other gods (Deuteronomy 13:6-10); being a witch, medium or wizard (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27); engaging in homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13); and not being a virgin on one's wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). Easy to say from Sommer's air-conditioned office where acts like these do not threaten the social order and preservation of civilization. See note above.

In the New Testament, God has gotten far worse regarding his trait of imposing excessively severe punishments.  It would be hard to imagine anything more cruel and disproportionate than punishing people with eternal torture for mere disbelief that Jesus was the son of God. See "gutripper" link just above.   The inability to believe that proposition harms no one, Inability! Try "refusal". and it has been disbelieved by some of the greatest benefactors of humanity. Argument by authority? So why did they disbelieve?   Nonetheless, God promises to punish them and all other nonbelievers with the most horrible pain that can be conceived. See again link above.

God's Violence Incites Human Violence

A major problem with the violence and injustice in the Bible is that, all too often, the teachings and example set by the biblical God have incited and been used to justify cruel acts by his followers. So if Stalin was inspired by the Communist Manifesto...   Many of them reasoned that since God, who is considered just and loving, committed or approved of the most brutal acts of violence, good Christians need not have qualms about behaving similarly. In other words, they assumed themselves to be as good as God at determining when justice should be administered. Is such a person going to have been stopped without a Bible in hand, or would they just find another way to baptize their point of view?   It is likely that this logic was, at least in part, what the American patriot Thomas Paine was referring to when he said, "The belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man."[11] In the next few paragraphs Sommer lists examples of such justifications from the Middle Ages, etc. As these are all answered by the note above -- and as well by asking whether Stalin, Mao, etc. were any better off with their atheism or indifference to religion -- we skip to:

Teachings Inconsistent with the Laws of Nature

A further reason that Humanists reject the Bible is that it contains numerous claims that are inconsistent with the laws of nature.  Humanists believe that the promotion of those claims as being true has caused tremendous harm to humanity. I.e., the old "miracles can't happen" routine. As I have noted, though, we do things "inconsistent with the law of gravity" every time we pick something up. I'm still waiting for a Skeptic to tell me why miracles of God can't be viewed in this light. Sommer's next few sections merely re-iterate this same point over and over, listing miracles as though by merely making the list they have been proven ridiculous, and then on about people misusing beliefs in the miraculous (as hmm, Stalin misused...?); we just have this comments to offer:

Science Bests Supernaturalism

White reports that despite all the prayers, rituals and other religious activities performed throughout the centuries to influence the actions of supernatural beings, the frequency and severity of plagues did not diminish until scientific hygiene began to make its appearance.  Regarding the hygienic improvements that occurred during the second half of the nineteenth century, White explains: "[T]he sanitary authorities have in half a century done far more to reduce the rate of disease and death than has been done in fifteen hundred years by all the fetiches which theological reasoning could devise or ecclesiastical power enforce."[26] Um, men like Pasteur and Lister were firm much for that one.

Teachings Inconsistent with the Structure of the Physical World

Humanists also repudiate the Bible because it contains many teachings that are inconsistent with the structure of the physical world.  As is the case with the Bible's statements that are irreconcilable with the laws of nature, the Bible's views on this subject are similar to the beliefs held by primitive and illiterate people throughout history. But not of course by moderns who can read stuff like the National Enquirer....

Stationary Earth as the Center of the Universe

A classic example of an incorrect Bible teaching is seen in the opposition that Christian theologians mounted against Galileo's proof of the theory, which was expounded by Copernicus in the sixteenth century, that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun.  In the seventeenth century, Galileo's telescope proved that Copernicus had been right.  In opposing the Copernican doctrine and attempting to show that the earth remains stationary while the sun moves around it, the Catholic Church pointed to the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua. [27]  There we are told that Joshua, in order to have a longer period of daylight in which to carry out the Lord's command to slaughter the Amorites, told the sun to stand still - not the earth.

Other passages demonstrating that the earth remains stationary include Psalm 93:1 ("The world is [e]stablished, that it cannot be moved."), I Chronicles 16:30 ("[T]he world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.") and Psalm 104:5 (The Lord "laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.").

Because of Galileo's advocacy of the unbiblical Copernican doctrine, the Inquisition threatened him with torture, forced him to recant his support for that theory and sentenced him to imprisonment.[28]  Moreover, for nearly two hundred years the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books condemned all writings that affirmed the idea of the double motion of the earth.[29]  And for generations the major branches of Protestantism - Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican - denounced the Copernican doctrine as contrary to scripture. See links above.[30]

A Flat Earth Resting on Pillars

The Bible supports the primitive idea that the earth is flat. See link above.  In the sixth century, a Christian monk named Cosmas wrote a book titled Topographia Christiana that describes the structure of the physical world.  Basing his views on the Bible, Cosmas held that the earth is flat and surrounded by four seas.[31]

One of the reasons for Cosmas' belief in a flat earth was the statement, at Revelation 1:7, that when Christ returns, "every eye shall see him."  Cosmas reasoned that if the earth were round, people on the other side would not see Christ's second coming.[32]

Further support for the idea of a flat earth is contained in the verses that speak of the "four corners of the earth" (e.g., Isaiah 11:12; Revelation 7:1) and the "ends of the earth" (e.g., Jeremiah 16:19; Acts 13:47).

Because of such Bible teachings, most of the early church fathers believed that the earth is flat.[33] "Because of Marx's teachings, Stalin and Mao slaughtered millions..."   In fact, the view of the world contained in Cosmas' book was accepted for several centuries as orthodox Christian doctrine.[34]  Even in the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus proposed to sail west from Spain to reach the East Indies, the biblical notion of a flat earth was a major source of opposition to him.[35] Note below Sommer's outdated source for this information.

As to what holds the flat earth in place, the Bible indicates that it is "pillars." See link above, again.   The pillars of the earth are mentioned in several verses in the Old Testament (I Samuel 2:8; Psalm 75:3; Job 9:6), but no explanation is given as to what the pillars themselves rest upon.  These verses are a reflection of the belief of the ancient Hebrews that the earth sits upon pillars.[36]

Sky a Solid Dome Containing Windows

The Bible supports the idea that the sky is a solid dome that covers the earth.  In the creation account given in the first chapter of Genesis, verse 17 states that the Lord set the sun and moon "in the firmament" to provide light for the earth.  The Hebrew word translated as "firmament" is "raqia," which means "hammered metal."[37] Yet again, see link above.

More support for the notion of a domed earth is found at Job 37:18 (where the sky is described as like a "molten lookingglass"), Isaiah 40:22 (God "stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in") and Revelation 6:14 ("And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.").

The idea that the sky is a dome was a common conception in the ancient Near East and was taken for granted by the Bible writers.[38]  Based on the Bible, most of the early church fathers accepted the notion of the firmament.[39]  This view was also supported by Cosmas and thus was part of orthodox Christian doctrine for several centuries.[40] Yet again, see link above.

Included in that orthodox doctrine was the related idea that the firmament has windows that are opened by angels when God wants to send rain upon the earth.  Cosmas believed that when the windows were opened, a portion of the waters contained above the firmament, which are mentioned at Genesis 1:17, would fall to the earth.  Cosmas' basis for this view was the statement, at Genesis 7:11-12, that at the time of the Noachian flood the "windows of heaven were opened" and the rain fell.[41] Yet again, see link above.

Supernatural Signs in the Heavens

For centuries, Bible stories led the Christian world to believe that God sends comets to warn humankind of divine anger and imminent punishment;[42] that the appearance of stars and meteors presages beneficial events such as the birth of heroes and great men;[43] that eclipses signify divine distress in response to events on earth;[44] and that storms and destructive meteorological phenomena result from the anger of God or the ill will of Satan.[45] And what exactly keeps God from doing so? Not that we can presume it in any case, but how far people take such ideas is their own problem. Because of Marx...

Other Incorrect Ideas about the Physical World

The Bible has verses that mention dragons (Jeremiah 51:34) Um, yeah, as a figure of speech: "Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out." , unicorns (Isaiah 34:7) It has the "aurochs" as even Isaac Asimov figured out. and cockatrices (Isaiah 11:8). It has an adder, not the cockatrice the KJV translators believed in.   These passages led many naturalists in the Middle Ages to believe that such mythical creatures actually exist.[46] No, "naturalists" in the Middle Ages influenced translators to pigeonhole most of these beasts into the Hebrew. The same was done for the ash tree (Is. 44:14).

Furthermore, the Bible is scientifically incorrect in stating that the bat is a bird (Leviticus 11:13,19), that the hare and rock badger chew the cud (Leviticus 11:5-6) and that the mustard seed "is the smallest of all seeds" (Matthew 13:32).  It is also inconsistent with science - and absurd - to believe that God confounded the language of humans because he was afraid they would build a tower high enough to reach heaven (Genesis 11:1-9). Picking up a box is "inconsistent" with the law of gravity, too. It's only "absurd" if we assume it is.

The Overall Effect of Bible Science

Andrew White aptly summarizes the results of looking to the Bible for answers about the physical world.  He states: "[T]here were developed, in every field, theological views of science which have never led to a single truth - which, without exception, have forced mankind away from the truth, and have caused Christendom to stumble for centuries into abysses of error and sorrow."[47] Considering that many of the great scientists of the past were Christians, or theists, this is a pretty sorrowful evaluation. The next parahgraph has Sommer's summation of the matter; we skip to:

False Prophecies

Prophecies contained in the Bible provide further support for the Humanist position that the book is not the word of God.  Because many of the prophecies turned out to be false, they are clear proof that the Bible is not inerrant. Let's see what Sommer picks from the hat on this one...

The Bible itself contains a test for determining whether a prophecy was inspired by God.  Deuteronomy 18:22 states: "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him."  Applying this test to the Bible leads to the conclusion that the book contains many statements that were not inspired by God.

Old Testament Prophecies

Genesis 2:17 relates that the Lord warned Adam and Eve about the fruit contained on the tree of knowledge: "[I]n the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."  In Genesis chapter 3, however, we see that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and did not die on that day.

Genesis 35:10 states that God told Jacob: "[T]hy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name. . . ."  But eleven chapters later, the Lord's own action proved that prediction to be wrong.  Genesis 46:2 says: "God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob.  And he said, Here am I." Eh? This is a negation idiom and it's not even a prophecy. See the link above for this principle.

At II Chronicles 1:12, God promised Solomon: "Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like."  This prognostication was false because, as Robert Ingersoll pointed out in the nineteenth century, there were several kings in Solomon's day who could have thrown away the value of Palestine without missing the amount.[48]   And the wealth of Solomon has been exceeded by many subsequent kings and is small by today's standards.[49] As Ingersoll pointed out, having no knowledge of ANE economics or of ANE hyperbolic excess. Sol was in pretty comfortable straits, as it happens, because he controlled the main trade route for the ANE oikoumene. Lots of tolls to collect.

Isaiah 17:1-2 prophesies that Damascus would cease to be a city, will be reduced to a heap of ruins, and shall be forever desolate.  Yet some 27 centuries after the prophecy was made, Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world and is still going strong.

Jeremiah 25:11 predicts that the Jews would be captives in Babylon for 70 years, and II Chronicles 36:20-21 claims that this prophecy was fulfilled.   But the Jews were taken into captivity by the Chaldeans when Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C.E.  And they were permitted to return from Babylon to Judah when Cyrus of Persia issued an order in 538 B.C.E. allowing them to do so.  Thus, the Babylonian captivity lasted about 48 years. 

Examples of other unfulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament include the following: the Jews will occupy the land from the Nile to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18); A "prophecy" contingent on obedience; see here. they shall never lose their land and shall be disturbed no more (II Samuel 7:10); King David's throne and kingdom shall be established forever (II Samuel 7:16) Ditto on last two, though the latter is fulfilled in Jesus enthroned in heaven; no uncircumcised person will ever enter Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:1); This one is regarded as fulfilled in the future by most of us, but I see it fulfilled in the church and the "Jerusalem" it represents. and the waters of Egypt will dry up (Isaiah 19:5-7). More hyperbolic excess; see here.

New Testament Prophecies

In applying the Bible's test for identifying false prophets, the conclusion is inescapable that Jesus was one of them.  He clearly was wrong in predicting that the world would end within the lifetime of his followers.  At Matthew 16:28, he tells his disciples: "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."  The persons who were standing there all died eventually, and they never saw Jesus return to establish a kingdom.

Similarly, Jesus is depicted at Mark 13:24-30 as listing signs that shall accompany the end of the world.  These include the sun becoming darkened, the moon not giving any light, the stars of heaven falling, the son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and angels gathering the elect.  Then Jesus announces: "Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done."  That generation passed away long ago without the predicted events occurring.

Jesus was also incorrect in his prediction about the amount of time he would be in the tomb.  At Matthew 12:40, he states: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."  But Mark 15:42-45 shows that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon, and Mark 16:9 and Matthew 28:1 tell us that he left the tomb sometime on Saturday night or Sunday morning.  These accounts reveal that Jesus erred in saying he would be in the tomb three nights.

Another significant false prophecy in the New Testament is at John 14:13-14.  There Jesus promises: "[W]hatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye ask any thing in my name, I will do it."  Everyone knows that there have been millions of instances where Jesus failed to respond to Christians who asked for things in his name.  As someone once noted, the graveyards are full of people who prayed for health.

The same as other incorrect statements in the Bible, false prophecies cast doubt on all biblical claims.  If one verse in the Bible is wrong, it is possible for many verses to be wrong. Guilt by association? Let Sommer try that in court and see if the judge is the same time, if the Bible is merely a human product, you sure can't use as mistake in Ezekiel to tar 1 Timothy.

Inaccurate Statements about History

Another reason that Humanists view the Bible as untrustworthy is that it has erroneous statements about history.  The findings of historians and other scholars show that many assertions in the Bible are historically inaccurate. Check the outdated source plus the liberal source Sommer uses at the end.

History and the Old Testament

Historians have long known that the biblical story of a worldwide flood is a myth.  For instance, Andrew White reports that nineteenth-century Egyptologists found that Egypt had a flourishing civilization long before Noah and that no flood had ever interrupted it.[50] Outside my scope, but what of the other Flood stories worldwide?

The book of Exodus claims to contain a historical record of the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  But historians and archaeologists have been unable to verify any of the events described in that book.  No known Egyptian records refer to the biblical Moses, the devastating plagues that God supposedly inflicted on the country, the escape of the Hebrew slaves or the drowning of the Egyptian army.[51]  Further, Andrew White says that records contained on Egyptian monuments show that the pharaoh ruling at the time of the alleged escape of the Jews was certainly not overwhelmed in the Red Sea.[52] Andrew White writing in 1910! Try the "5felled" link above, plus Pharaohs and Kings.

The book of Esther purports to describe how a young Jewish girl named Esther was chosen by the Persian king Xerxes I to be queen after he had divorced Vashti.  Although historians know a great deal about Xerxes I, there is no record that he had a Jewish queen named Esther or was married to Vashti.[53]

Additionally, the book of Esther states that the Persian empire was divided into 127 provinces, but historians tell us there was no such division of the empire.[54]  Also contrary to what the book of Esther claims, historians assure us that Xerxes I did not order Jews in his territories to attack his Persian subjects.[55]

The book of Daniel contains an account of certain events that supposedly transpired during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.  The fifth chapter asserts that Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, was succeeded on the throne by his son Belshazzar.  But historians know that Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar and was never king.[56]

The book of Daniel also claims that one "Darius the Mede" captured Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E.  In contrast, historians inform us that it was actually Cyrus of Persia who took Babylon.[57]

New Testament History

In the New Testament, the second chapter of the book of Luke states that, shortly before the birth of Jesus, the emperor Augustus ordered a census throughout the Roman world.  Luke explains that every person had to travel to the town of his ancestors for the census to be taken.  He identifies the census as the reason that Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus is said to have been born.

In his book Gospel Fictions, Randall Helms says that this type of census was never taken in the history of the Roman Empire.  He points out that it is ridiculous to think that the practical Romans would require millions of people to travel enormous distances to towns of long-deceased ancestors merely to sign a tax form.[58]  Likewise, in Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov affirms that the Romans certainly would arrange no such census.[59] Helms and Asimov! Two strident authorities on Greco-Roman census procedures...the next few paragraphs have to do with creationist issues beyond my scope; we go to:

Matthew chapter 2 avers that, shortly after the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered the massacre of all male children two years of age or under in Bethlehem and its vicinity.  In the book of Luke, which contains the only other New Testament story of Jesus' birth, there is no mention of this horribly cruel order.  It is also not recorded in any secular histories from that time - not even by writers who carefully described many far less wicked deeds of Herod.[64]  Certainly, this lack of corroboration is compelling evidence that Matthew's account was fabricated.

Matthew 27:45 maintains that while Jesus was on the cross, there fell over the whole land a darkness lasting from midday until three in the afternoon.  Andrew White reports that although Romans such as Seneca and Pliny carefully described much less striking occurrences of the same sort in more remote regions, they failed to note any such darkness occurring even in Judea.[65]

Robert Ingersoll wondered why it was that the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, "the best historian the Hebrews produced, said nothing about the life or death of Christ; nothing about the massacre of the infants by Herod; not one word about the wonderful star that visited the sky at the birth of Christ; nothing about the darkness that fell upon the world for several hours in the midst of day; and failed entirely to mention that hundreds of graves were opened, and that multitudes of Jews rose from the dead, and visited the Holy City?"  Ingersoll also asked, "Is it not wonderful that no historian ever mentioned any of these prodigies?"[66] It is "wonderful" that Ingersoll was so unknowing of ancient historical reportage. He assumed that these were "major" events noticed by all in the first place.

Ingersoll's questions are particularly cogent when one considers that there still exist at least some of the works of more than sixty historians or chroniclers who lived in the period from 10 C.E. to 100 C.E.[67]  Those writers were contemporaries of Jesus, if in fact he ever lived. That Sommer uses this tells us he's not doing his homework. Sommer sums his case, and then we get to:

Other Problems with the Bible

There are a number of other reasons that the Bible should not be considered the word of God.  Those include, but are not limited to, the fact that we do not know who wrote most of it,[68] Sommer doesn't even tell us how to determine document authorship, and why we can't accept the current attributions. the fact that much of it was written many years - and in some cases many centuries - after the events it purports to describe,[69] The same can be said of secular documents. its obscene passages, and its promises of eternal rewards for the ignorant and credulous and everlasting punishment for skeptics and investigators. Ah. Why not, "Rewards for the faithful and humble, and punishment for the bigoted and rebellious"? Paging Dr. Spin!

Harm that the Bible causes to personal lives should also be mentioned as a reason to reject the book.  Few persons seem surprised when the media carry reports about the Bible inciting believers to commit bizarre and harmful acts. If they didn't have the Bible, they'd baptize it with something else.  Some people use Bible verses to justify beating children, withholding medical treatment, handling snakes, drinking poison, chopping off body parts, plucking out eyes, driving out demons, withdrawing from the affairs of this world, renouncing the pleasures of life, and expecting the imminent end of the world.  Some people use Marx or Darwin to justify slaughtering millions, torturing others, imprisoning others... These actions would occur much less often if the Bible were not viewed as the word of God. As noted, people will baptize whatever they need into their fold to support their point of view. Sommer closes with a speech for a conclusion; I'd like to close by noting a couple of his sources in the footnotes.

11  Ingersoll, Robert G., "Vindication of Thomas Paine," The Works of Ingersoll, Vol. V, (New York: Dresden, 1901) p. 483. Two of the most uninformed bigots in the Skeptical fold.

16  White, Andrew D., A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Vol. II, (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1910), pp. 67, 68. 1910!! Has Sommer thought about getting some updated material? If he went into court with a state law code from 1910, what would his clients think?

51  Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible, 2d ed., (Palo Alto and London: Mayfield Publishing, 1985) p. 61.

58  Helms, Randal, Gospel Fictions, (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989) pp. 59, 60.

59  Asimov, Isaac, Asimov's Guide to the Bible, (New York: Avenel Books, 1981) p. 929.