A Thousand Words

When I was a Christian (many, many years ago), I was told (more than once) that “Scripture has Power!” It was “my sword and my shield” against a depraved world.

In essence (and briefly put), all I had to do was use words from the bible and sinners (those folk who don’t believe in supernatural beings) would acknowledge their evil ways, fall to their knees, and worship god.

Imagine my disappointment when it didn’t work. 😮!!

But of course it didn’t work! Like the old saying goes … “Sticks and stones may break my bones; but words will never hurt me.” (And especially not in the blogging world!)

Add to that the fact that “scripture” is taken from a book that came about simply because ancient people needed a way to understand the world. As such, its contents are based on events and beliefs that are several thousand years old and have long since been replaced by, oh what do they call it? Ahhh yes … Increased Knowledge and Understanding.

In other words, life has moved on and for many of us, it’s a bit difficult to get upset and concerned about myths and legends that were used many centuries ago to explain how the world worked. Especially when they have been usurped by modern knowledge related to the world we live in today (e.g., science, mathematics, cosmology, medicine, engineering, etc.).

Yet, there are those who continue to rely on the contents of this book, believing that it contains eternal truths. Especially about death — and a potential afterlife.

What’s interesting about this “truth,” however, is that even the good book offers alternate stories on what happens at death. The Hebrew Bible talks about the afterlife as a shadowy place known as sheol (grave, pit, abyss) and all who died went there. There was no segregation between the righteous and the unrighteous. Over the centuries, however, this perspective changed little by little until the hereafter became a place of fire and brimstone for the bad guys … or a “heavenly abode” for the good guys. Hmmm. Wonder how that happened?

In any event, there will most likely always be a subset of humans who are certain there’s a “guy in the sky” who created this world and is watching over them as they go about their daily lives. And they will also remain convinced that the”holy words” of the bible have magic powers to convince the aforementioned sinners to change their evil ways.

What they fail to recognize/accept is not everyone believes in magic.

In my opinion, it’s (past) time for Christians to recognize that their literary and verbal wranglings are not going to accomplish what they desire. As Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright of the late 19th century, once said: A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.     

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Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

24 thoughts on “A Thousand Words

  1. I’ve run into this. I remember once having a conversation with a Christian who, even after I’d told him emphatically that I didn’t believe in the Bible and its words carried no weight with me, kept falling back on “but the Baaaable say-yuz…..” (he had a really thick Southern accent). I suspect his knowledge was so limited he had nothing much else to fall back on.

    Christians are not the only sacred-text-based faith group that shares this odd belief in the power of holy words. I’ve also occasionally dealt with Ayn-Randroid libertarian types who kept quoting aphorisms from Atlas Shrugged at me and seemed baffled that they had no effect.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I do see a positive trend in the Western World of people leaving the Christian Faith because of science and reason. I’m concerned how long it will take for people of another Abrahamic Religion to follow this trend. Your thoughts ?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Infidel: The latest over at DEBUNKING is a small infestation of Miesians babbling about their Solo Warrior Entrepeneurness and the evils of ZOSHAKLIIIIIIZZZZZZUM. 🙂

    They are island of freedom in the horrible communal world, you see!!! /sarc

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  4. I don’t mind so much if they want to live in a fantasy world where someday they’ll find themselves happily sitting on a cloud in white billowy robes, munching on Tostitos and looking down on us mere mortals. But what I DO mind is when they try to shove their beliefs and rituals on us, like telling women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies, telling us who we are allowed to love, and forcing laws that discriminate against those of us who woke long ago to the reality that their bloody bible is naught but a compilation of fairy tales. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “Imagine my disappointment when it didn’t work. 😮!!”

    I would be very interrested to hear, what happened. Was it a single event, when you realized this, or did you have to have several attempts, before you became convinced, that it simply does not work?

    I do not have the same cultural experience, as I have never believed, but naturally I have run into all sorts of Bible and other qoutes of ancient, or not so ancient “wisdom”. Some people are indoctrinated to be very much impressed by some particular piece of text and especially to Christians I have tried to use their own language to open the subject up by quoting Thomas of Aquinas: “Hominem unius libri timeo.” Because naturally I am going to lose an argument about Harry Potter to a dedicated fan, but they would first need to establish why the inner meaning of Harry Potter quotes makes any difference to my life or to reality outside the book anyway. In this they do fail, because to them the importance of the book is not dependant on the importance the book has, but it is personal and taken as given.

    I have not read the Harry Potter books, but I have read the Bible, and what I have learned is, that almost no Christian has ever read it from cover to cover and those who have, or frequently do read it (from here and there), have no clue about the cultural context it was written in. They have learned, or make up, the most elaborate symbolical meaning to the text, but fail completely to read what the ancient text actually tells us. Why some dude all those centuries past wrote what they did and what they actually thought about the supernatural.

    The Christians read the Old Testament through the lenses of the New Testament and the New Testament through the lenses of centuries of Christianity and the centuries of Christianity they read through the lenses of their (fairly) modern perspective of their particular cultural experience. Yet, the Roman Catholics in the US are culturally closer to the US protestants and even the Muslims of the Middle-East have more similar set of values to them than the Roman Catholics in France and Italy. The book behind all this plays a very small role in any of it. It is just the foundation on wich they claim to build, while they have not read it, or understand it, even if they ever did read it. The Christians often demand that the Bible stories should be taken in context, but they absolutely fail to see what the context is.

    Liked by 2 people

    • rautakyy, in answer to your questions on the actual effectiveness of scripture …

      In the church I attended, members were strongly urged to use scripture in their attempts to “win the lost.” The leaders didn’t come right out and say the words from the bible had “special powers,” but this was the impression they wanted to convey.

      And this is why — especially in so many online discussions related to Christianity — believers will often fill a comment section with bible quotes. Ark has asked again and again for evidence and 9 times out of 10, he’ll get scripture references as a response.

      Let me add … much of the information related to Christianity that I share in my blog postings is drawn from my personal experiences as a member of a fundamentalist church. Certainly other faiths (especially Catholicism) have different teachings.

      Liked by 1 person

    • rautakyy: I was a committed Evangelical Christian in college (and for a few decades after that). I took evangelism and apologetics classes and carefully studied what Christians told me unbelievers believed, and practiced answers to their arguments/questions. I was a leader in my local Campus Crusade for Christ chapter (they’ve rebranded themselves “Cru” now; “crusade” doesn’t play well with the Muslims they’re trying to witness to). We regularly went out evangelizing strangers.

      And in all the years I did it, I never “led anyone to Christ”. Not one of those conversations resulted in a conversion, or anything even close to one. We used Cru’s “Four Laws” tract in those days; I can’t remember a single instance of actually getting to open my Bible and share a verse with them, it might have happened, but it would have been really rare.

      Most often people would just say they were too busy to talk. Sometimes I got amused little smiles and a simple, polite declaration that they didn’t believe and weren’t interested in hearing it (I understand these folks a lot better now). Partly I think the low success rate is that America has heard the Christian story before; it’s nothing new. There are probably a lot of factors that play into your question.

      But I would say the biggest revelation I had, post-deconversion, is that most Christians have no idea what unbelievers actually believe. Christians are comforted by their pastors’ sermons about how hopeless and empty all non-Christians feel inside (they just won’t admit it, to themselves or others), and their apologetics books which do not engage with the best arguments of the other side. They are confidently reassured that if they just start the conversation winsomely, all those people who lead empty meaningless hedonistic lives will be eager to see and hear what’s so different about them, and will want what they’re selling. It’s no wonder it doesn’t work when that fantasy collides with the reality.

      My experience was in the late 1980s at the height of the so-called “Moral Majority” and Evangelical use of political power. Fast forward to today, and we have a very different story. The “nones” and “dones” continue to rise, and the Evangelical church continues to hemorrhage young people, notably over their stance on LGBTQ issues. Yes, they got Trump elected and he is sadly tilting the courts rightward, but in the main, their task of “evangelizing the lost in America” is way, way harder now than it was then, and it’s going to keep getting harder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your comment about “post-deconversion” is interesting. It’s impossible to be “deconverted.” If you don’t stay a Christian, you were never really a Christian at all.

        Second, just because you never personally saw someone be brought to faith in Christ doesn’t mean the Scripture is void of power. There are people being saved every day because of people sharing the gospel.

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  6. Re “Add to that the fact that “scripture” is taken from a book that came about simply because ancient people needed a way to understand the world.” I have been reading a lot about why the Bible books were written and I don’t think this motivation was involved at all. It was the target of some of the writing, but the motivation was political. The initial writings seemed to be about rules to obey, so the motivation was controlling the populous. The major writing efforts of the sixth century or so were written to provide support for a “returnee” King (“Just back from Babylon, don’t you know and we are your rulers.”) The initial writing was to create talking points for elite to elite discussions/disputes, only later was it considered a good idea to distribute those writings to the masses (maybe second century BCE). (Genesis was written or a core story rewritten in the sixth century BCE under the influence of Babylonian and Zoroastrian contact.)

    The NT has a strange history. It is quite possible that Paul’s letters and various other testimonial works were in circulation fairly early (mid-first C CE) and then disputes arose regarding the various flavors of Jesus worship being grown. (Christianity was very small then) All of the gospels were generated in response to the first and all had agendas, so are not ‘original’ in the actual sense of the world. Just as a novel becomes popular, then all of a sudden similar novels start showing up on bookstore shelves (We have a trend, here!).

    People keep slicing these documents up into smaller and smaller pieces trying to understand them. Instead we should be focusing on why they were written, that is the motivations involved. In most cases, the motivation was power to shape events and behaviors of the flock, or to command obedience by using their god’s name. I am astonished at the hubris of people perfectly willing to “quote” Jesus or Yahweh. This is a literary technique that supports a literal belief in the characters quoted. (How can you quote somebody who isn’t real? Who would tempt destruction by putting false words in God’s mouth?) So, the OT was clearly written by scribes (who else had the ability and time and money to do so). The only collection of scribes with the time and ability were temple scribes (others were doing accounting and other mundane tasks). And they were writing this stuff out on a lark, someone directed them to do these things. Are you seeing the picture more clearly now?

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    • Steve, I’m in no position to enter a debate with you on why the bible was written. While I would tend to agree that politics played a role in the New Testament writings, I am hard-pressed to use this as a motivation for the Hebrew Bible. At least the early stories.

      Sometimes I think we in the modern world try (too often) to put our spin on things that happened thousands of years ago …

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  7. Ah yes, this is right in line with the “conversation” with WTAT over at Club Schadenfreude happening right now. Just the latest in a long line of preachers who have convinced themselves that their magical thinking isn’t magic, but still actually works.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Im waiting for the Gathering of the Holy at the first prayer meeting after the CoronaVirus hits us head on–you know, the virus that is a) not gonna happen here, b) is contained and/or c) will be contained as soon as the drugs are ready in a week/month/year/whenver–and everyone will pray themselves spitless to lift this plague from the land, hallelujah.
    Pence will be leading the prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “what I have learned is, that almost no Christian has ever read it from cover to cover and those who have, or frequently do read it (from here and there), have no clue about the cultural context it was written in.”

    rautakyy’s remark is absolutely true, and what’s more, it gives Christian preachers, pastors, ministers, priests, whatever you wish to call them, a free license to “tell” their non-reading lambs what to believe, e.g., “God is love.” Without mentioning the story (just one of them) in Genesis where God commands a man to be stoned to death–because he gathered wood for a small cooking fire.

    And what preacher tells his followers to go read Karen Armstrong or Bart Ehrman in order to understand the cultural and political world of ancient Israel. The answer: NONE.

    Great post, Nan. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is my first visit to your blog, as I just discovered it by following a link from FairandUnbalanced. I’m very impressed and just added you to my blogroll at Atheist Revolution. Keep up the good work!

    Like

    • Hi Jack! Thank you so much for stopping by, for adding me to your blogroll, and for being “impressed.” 🙂

      I hope you will visit again … and often … and will share your thoughts. Another “voice” is always welcome.

      Like

  11. The world has allowed the physical becloud the spiritual. I feel sad reading what is posted here .
    When you take God out, you become restless and lost. May Christ’s mercy return all lost sheep, Amen!

    Like

    • Spencer, thank you stopping by and taking the time to read and comment on my post.

      I understand your perspective, although I most definitely do not agree with it. I lived under the artificial world of Christianity for many years. Then, as circumstances would have it, I left that world and have since discovered that reality is far more exciting. Oh … and I never once felt “restless and lost.”

      May one day you discover the joy of living as a whole individual, free of man-made restrictions.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I wrote my post (above) before reading Spencer53’s comment — but it’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. This is what Christians think unbelievers’ lives are like: “restless and lost”. If they would do what I did, actually start reading and hearing what unbelievers say for themselves, rather than only the distorted perspective they get within the Christian bubble, it would do them good. And some of them would deconvert, as I did.

      Liked by 2 people

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