From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
For a great many the bible itself has become a object of worship, an idol. Perhaps the most malignant disease in the Christian church today, I believe, is biblical literalism: believing that every word is to be read as the divine, without error, word of God.
The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines Christian fundamentalism in these words; “…strict adherence to a literal inerrancy of the Bible.” Inerrancy means “without error.”
The irony of all this is that anyone with exposure to church history knows that a great many of our more eminent church fathers, theologians and biblical scholars have either thrown out, or ignored, various sections of the bible as not being authentic or worthy of canonization.
Martin Luther, the father of our Protestant Reformation, called the book of Esther a ringing tale of sex and slaughter. His loathing of the Jews was an extension of his view of the Old Testament, which he did not regard as divine. He called the Book of James in the New Testament a “book of straw,” and he would have nothing to do with the Book of Revelation, viewing it as beyond human reason or comprehension.
I could continue through church history with similar illustration. The stupidities of Biblical literalism defy the imagination. Example: if I wrote a column stating that we, as human beings, are nothing but animals, like all other animals, and nothing more, I would be excoriated as a “secular humanist,” a blasphemer, an atheist and one who did not believe in the bible.
And yet God’s “without error” word tells me just that. In Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, God tells us: “…the sons of men may see that they are but as beasts. For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same: as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; all go to one place; all are from the dust and all turn to dust again.” I believe the fundamentalist view of the bible is not only infantile, but worse, it is religious blasphemy that condones ignorance and superstition and violates the sacred soul of human beings. Biblical verses are tortured out of context to support fundamentalist doctrines.
An example, recounted to me recently, was of a bible school teacher telling a young child that “she killed Jesus and because of her sins the Son of God had to die.”
What evil! What a dastardly thing to do to a child. This type of biblical presentation is a nightmare, a hideous and horrible fantasy. The brilliant founding fathers of this nation despised such clergy, and “despised” is their word, not mine. They despised those doctrines and everything they represented.
Thomas Jefferson referred to their bible as a “dunghill.” The columnist H. L. Mencken of the Baltimore Evening Sun wrote in 1928: “Millions of Americans, far from being free human beings, are the slaves of the ignorant, impudent and unconscionable clergy. They have dredged up theological ideas so preposterous that they would make an intelligent Zulu laugh. It has been made plain that this theology is not merely a harmless aberration, but rather the foundations of a way of life, bellicose, domineering, brutal and malignant.”
Don’t miss the most tragic irony: that a Jew named Jesus spoke, taught and reacted with anger, against all that biblical, legalistic fundamentalism represented in his own time with the literalistic Pharisees.
The untold misery that has been heaped upon the human race by biblical literalists is one of the great crimes of human history.