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Bible's U.S. popularity steady, but scripture skeptics number rises

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  • Stormwalker Cleveland , OH
    April 12, 2014 8:44 a.m.

    In the US we have founding stories about the Columbus and the Pilgrims, George Washington and Daniel Boone, about people and events. The fact is that many of the stories are not factual - some are embroidered, some are outright fiction. They don't tell history, they define us as a people, they tell us how Americans are supposed to act and the things that are socially unacceptable.

    The Bible is a collection of stories to help a Bronze Age nation-tribe define itself as a distinct people seperate from its neighbors. The recurring theme "we're better than they are, if you act like them God will punish you" consolidates their worldview.

    The New Testament repackages that paradigm and sells it to a new audience: "God loves you, but only if you don't act like Them..."

    The rise of the Information Age is finally moving a generation of people out of the Bronze Age religious worldview. Biblical illiteracy is no more damaging than ignorance about the gods of Olympus. The real killer is the lack of solid science, math, reading, and reasoning skills.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    April 12, 2014 8:48 a.m.

    It's tough to see a 'troubling trend' in a group of people who question the validity of a cryptic collection of versed stories that today is twisted and lawyered and used to justify all kinds of things. Many of them very harmful and negative. We should question anyone who claims authority or superior knowledge of such a vague tome.

  • Piper Scio, OR
    April 12, 2014 9:20 a.m.

    This is empirical evidence of the downward spiral of America's ethics and morals. Certainly when the Bible and Book of Mormon are used as a tutelage for right and wrong, societal standards are established for the benefit of all. Rather than love your neighbor as thyself, we're now facing the facet of a lot of people believing that it's alright to dig a pit for thy neighbor. And we're worse off for this mentality.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    April 12, 2014 9:43 a.m.

    I think we're at the start of a whirlwind we'll be reaping for quite a while after sowing seeds of disregard for marriage, family and the spiritual source that sustains those institutions and the nation.

    In the early 80's video tape and VCRs started becoming ubiquitous sources of in-home entertainment. I remember being increasingly disturbed as I witnessed the rising number of parents who, neglectfully I thought, seemed unconcerned by the rising number of movies with graphic violence and sexual content. I saw more and more of those kinds of movies becoming more and more commonly viewed by a broader range of ages in people's homes. The trend continued in the increasingly prevalent cable TV content.

    Predictably, the coarsening effect on more and more children and families became more pronounced. We are simply farther down that same downward path. The causes are the same. The remedies are the same.

    Unfortunately, as we've seen so often, societal transformations from a downward trajectory to an upward one seem to only happen after a dramatic and very traumatic upheaval. Ironically, this is all predicted in the Bible. Apparently, fewer and fewer people know that....or care.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    April 12, 2014 10:07 a.m.

    Ancient writings are valid if you believe there is a bigger purpose to this life than merely being a participant in a long chain of evolutionary events. The Being that put our lives into motion would have us know how to live to become something more than the evolved version of an animal and communicated that through the generations of people who lived on this earth.

    In regards to the "us and them" idea, the fact that humans have free will, unlike other living creatures, allows us to consciously choose our beliefs and actions regarding ourselves and our interactions with others. In that light we become "us and them" because of our own choices. We can choose to follow the instruction book of God, twist it to suit our purposes, or choose to brush it aside as irrelevant.

    Science and sound reasoning do not contradict the choice to believe because they cannot prove or disprove the truthfulness of the Bible or the existence of God - making the choice completely ours to make.

    For those of us who choose to believe the current trend is troubling.

  • Stalwart Sentinel San Jose, CA
    April 12, 2014 11:07 a.m.

    Recently, there have been other studies that actually explain why younger generations are averse to organized religion and reluctant to view the Bible as their parents and grandparents did. The reason: conservatism.

    Indeed, conservatives incessantly tout their judeo-christian values while simultaneously marginalizing entire groups of Americans, disparaging the poor, fighting against equality, and undermining anyone different from them. If that is what religion turns you into, why would you want any part of it?

    I myself am LDS but I don't blame people when they look at the despicable acts of my fellow mormons who justify their own efforts to literally destroy families simply because that family doesn't meet our personal standards. It's actually saddening to admit but I see more christlike attributes in a rally for SSM or raising the minimum wage or equal pay for equal work than I do when I attend my Church services on Sunday morning.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    April 12, 2014 1:29 p.m.

    I've read the Bible many times, and read it almost every day. The previous two comments greatly undervalue this precious book. Jesus summarized the old testament with the first two commandments to love God and your fellow man. He summarized the new testament with the commandment to be cleansed and reborn of the Spirit. Both testaments, as well as The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, bear powerful witness of the Son of God, His atonement and resurrection.

    If you want to learn how to love God and your fellow man, and to be reborn of the Spirit, read the scriptures. There apply to any age, not just the Bronze one.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    April 12, 2014 4:25 p.m.

    I agree with Stalwart here. The aversion felt by many is not for the Bible itself but for the right-wing hypocrites (particularly in Congress) who wave a bible in one hand while their actions are anything but Christian and loving.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    April 14, 2014 8:02 a.m.

    Religion does not own the Bible. But it does effectively exploit it for its own ends.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    April 14, 2014 8:22 a.m.

    To appreciate the Bible’s place in human experience, you don’t have to regard it as sacred writ. It’s not infallible or inerrant. But it is a priceless pillar of our legacy of who we are and how we got there.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    April 15, 2014 9:41 a.m.

    I think it takes a painful lack of insight to suppose we are more skilled at handling internal and interpersonal conflict, at wrestling with eternal questions related to the human condition, than were our Bronze Age cousins.

    @Stromwalker ... "The real killer is the lack of solid science, math, reading, and reasoning skills." Welcome to the Information Age, eh?

    Fast forward but a few minutes from the Bronze ... If art is the outer expression of the inner state of the soul, I'll take Michelangelo's era over Andres Serrano's era any day of the week. Humankind is progressing spiritually? Only in dreams and nightmares.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    April 15, 2014 11:54 a.m.

    Moontan,

    "I think it takes a painful lack of insight to suppose we are more skilled at handling internal and interpersonal conflict, at wrestling with eternal questions related to the human condition, than were our Bronze Age cousins."
    ______________________________

    The Garden of Eden set the stage for Charles Darwin a few millennia down the road. Civilization builds from the ground up through successive generations. Aristotle, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Einstein. None of these hallowed greats were as original as popular ignorance suggests. All did their work standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before. Some were even humble enough to admit the debt they owed to those long dead.

    In our time, we’re now so smart that we have smart phones for everybody. Not one in a thousand may actually understand how the technology works. But through the power of monkey see, monkey do, any man can be an absolute whiz at operating one.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    April 15, 2014 2:14 p.m.

    Craig Clark,

    A perfect illustration of what I'm saying. In the Garden of Eden, Adam had to confess his transgression to God face-to-face. Many millennia later, we are still struggling with the same sin, the same disobedience, the same impulse to blame the wife ... only now we can text God our confession.

    That's not progress.

    Sure, we live longer than our Bronze Age brothers; they'd love our dental care, and our food storage capabilities. But when the Landowner returns to take account of the talents left us, we both will be wrestling over the very same excuses.

    Scripture is every bit as relevant today as it was when written. We've no moral superiority over the ancients; no new insights which exempt us from the human condition, or which elevate us over them in His eyes.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    April 15, 2014 2:48 p.m.

    @1aggie ... "right-wing hypocrites (particularly in Congress) who wave a bible in one hand..." Who? What Bible-based legislation is coming out of Congress these days? Any examples?

    @Stalwart Sentinel ... what Mormons do you know who are trying to 'destroy families'? Which conservative has been disparaging the poor? Name, please. And has a representative truly said recently that not all men are created equal? Lastly, if religion truly does as you suggest, I wonder if you might answer your own question ...."why would you want any part of it?"

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    April 16, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    "This is empirical evidence of the downward spiral of America's ethics and morals."

    Sorry, you're wrong. Civilization_actually_ started to decline when we stopped worshipping Zeus. What's my proof? I have a strong personal testimony of it.

  • Stormwalker Cleveland , OH
    April 16, 2014 11:07 a.m.

    @Blue

    You are totally wrong. It happened when we stopped worshiping Thor.

    And I will not photograph your offensive Zeus-blessed wedding or bake you a cake for it. I am so offended, in fact, I am going to pass a law to keep you from offending me or anybody else with your un-Thorical Zeus teachings.

    Okay?

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    April 16, 2014 11:26 a.m.

    If I had evidence that Zeus or Thor were real deities I would feel duty-bound to publish my proof so that society could examine the evidence and respond accordingly. You know, like Christians have. I'd also sound the alarm if I had proof that Mormons are trying to 'destroy families' or conservatives want to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to erase that nasty 'all men are created equal' idea.

    But I get it. We live in an era of 'accusations are enough to establish proof' and 'let me do what I want or its proof you Christians hate me.'

    I am reminded of a domestic abuser I handcuffed long ago. He could not believe I was not interested in his reasons why he had beaten his wife. Thought my refusal to listen to his explanation was proof I was a member of a repressive establishment.

  • Stormwalker Cleveland , OH
    April 16, 2014 12:10 p.m.

    @Moontan: "If I had evidence that Zeus or Thor were real deities I would feel duty-bound to publish my proof so that society could examine the evidence and respond accordingly. You know, like Christians have."

    Umm... maybe I missed it. Evidence? Proof? The Bible saying the Bible is true is not evidence, let alone proof. A burning in your bosom is not evidence, let alone proof. A stack of commercially successful books saying the Bible is true is not proof or evidence. A bunch of men in suits claiming they have personally spoken to God is not proof unless God is on camera with them.

    In fact, the only difference between the worship of Zeus, Thor and a jumped up tribal deity named Jehovah is that the marketing of the Jehovah brand lead to a lot of success.

    But marketing is only good for so long. Look at Microsoft - still huge but losing market share like mad. Just like the Christian brand. Still big, but the market share is slipping fast.

    By the way, people disagreeing with your truth is not proof, either. It is just disagreement.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    April 17, 2014 9:43 a.m.

    "....the only difference between the worship of Zeus, Thor and a jumped up tribal deity named Jehovah is that the marketing of the Jehovah brand lead to a lot of success...."
    ______________________________

    It's true that Jehovah had meager beginnings as the god of a tribe of Semitic nomads who wandered in off the desert. The ascendancy of Christianity was improbable and might never have happened had it not been for finding new blood in advocates like Saul of Tarsus who understood the Mediterranean world and shared a larger world view.

    It required packaging. Cultural assimilation always does.

  • Cheesecake Salt Lake City, UT
    April 18, 2014 11:14 a.m.

    What's worse: not reading the bible, or just not reading? ...

  • IQ92 hi, UT
    April 18, 2014 1:02 p.m.

    A strong belief is God is possible, even when one thinks many parts ot the bible are outright goofy.

  • Shelama SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    April 21, 2014 8:23 a.m.

    Since leaving first Mormonism and then Christianity altogether – and precisely because I finally actually read and studied the Bible more honestly & carefully – the Bible has become far, far more interesting and challenging than it ever was when I was a believer.

    One of the first things that became apparent was that if I could believe that Hebrew scripture – the Jewish Bible, Tanakh or Old Testament – was "the word of God" then I would have to reject the New Testament and Christianity and "the Atonement" and Jesus as a fulfillment of Hebrew scripture and messianic prophecy. And the Gospels as reliable history.

    For a long time the Synagogue became my spiritual home and to the degree I still have one, it still is. As I continue to read and study the Bible one thing that often jumps from the pages is that Judaism was right about Jesus and the NT all along. And in an increasingly Christianized world – politically, culturally and polemically – they paid for it harshly through the centuries, often with their lives.

    The Bible and Bible archaeology continues to fascinate even as it has long since been clear that it's purely a man-made, human invention.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    April 22, 2014 2:36 p.m.

    I agree with the poster who stated, in effect, that we are about to reap the whirlwind. That upcoming generation we keep hearing about most of whom now have their children out of wedlock, many of whom have an std and seem busy spreading it around, and a majority of whom, according to this article, apparentlyhave a negative view of holy writ, is not a comforting thought.

    I think it was Brigham Young who stated that when more than half of the people, more than fifty percent, choose evil over good, then look for the judgments of God to expedite. I think that we "aint seen nothing yet"! Batten down the hatches!

  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    April 24, 2014 1:24 p.m.

    This isn’t necessarily bad. There's plenty reason to be skeptical of the Bible: a lot of it is either incomplete or untrue. If someone asked me if "the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life,” I too would have to unequivocally answer “no”: the Book of Mormon alone has taught me far, far more than the Bible ever could. It was never meant to be used to the exclusion of other sources of truth and light.

    Also,

    "I love the Bible as much as anyone, but when we use it as weapon sometimes, and expect conformity to it from people who don't value it, we're using it for purposes other than what it was intended for, to find (Jesus), and to point to Him.” —Truer words cannot be found even within the Bible itself, but this statement is nevertheless heresy in the minds of the “Christian” right in America.

    And…

    "apparently 10 percent of people surveyed believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.” —This just shows that Americans are just as illiterate about history as they are about religion, and everything else for that matter.

  • Hemlockroid Kailua-Kona, HI
    April 26, 2014 8:46 a.m.

    The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury and Evangelical
    Support for a Jewish Homeland

    Donald M. Lewis:

    The Balfour Declaration operated enshrouded in secrecy, gave no reasons for the Declaration, outlined
    no conditions – other than those in the Declaration itself – and expected no
    accountability. The Declaration was not debated in either of the Houses of
    Parliament and like most foreign policy issues, was never approved by the
    British legislature.

    Many leading Christian Zionists were Jewish converts to evangelical
    Christianity who did much to shape the development of popular evangelical thinking in these matters. It was this Protestant religious discourse that
    marked the family backgrounds of many of the key members of the British
    political elite responsible for formulating the Balfour Declaration.