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Tag: Errors in the Bible

Questions: What Can We Do to Hasten the Demise of Fundamentalism?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Steven asked:

I don’t care that the latest survey on American religion shows the ranks of Fundies and Evangelicals decreasing – I consider them the biggest threat to my livelihood, this country, and to the world.


What, if anything, do you believe we can do as individuals to hasten their religion’s decline and demise? Without violating anyone’s human rights, of course!

Let me focus on fundamentalism, in general, instead of Evangelicalism. While Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalist (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?), fundamentalism can be found in numerous religious sects, including Islam and the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). We also see fundamentalism in political, economic, and social ideologies and, yes, atheism.

Wikipedia defines fundamentalism this way:

Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs. However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups – mainly, although not exclusively, in religion – that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established “fundamentals” and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.

When I use the word Fundamentalism with a capital F, I am referring to a specific subset of Protestant Christianity, namely Evangelicalism. When I use the word fundamentalism with a lower case f, I am referring to Wikipedia’s definition above. Far too often, we tend to focus on religious fundamentalism, ignoring the fundamentalist tendencies within our own groups, ideologies, and worldviews.

Thus, it is small f fundamentalism that is an existential threat to our wellness, livelihood, and future. Ideologues who say their truth is big T Truth and demand everyone bow to their beliefs are fundamentalists. We see this thinking among Qanon supporters, Trumpists, capitalists, socialists, vegans, vegetarians, essential oil practitioners, etc., ad nauseum. I am not suggesting that people who hold these beliefs (I am, after all, a socialist) are necessarily fundamentalists, but anyone who is so pigheaded and resolute about their beliefs that they turn their minds off from skepticism, reason, science, and common sense is prone to fundamentalism. One need only look at Trumpism, the “big steal” belief, and the 1/6/21 attempt to overthrow our government to see the terrifying fruit of fundamentalist thinking. This blog primarily focuses on Evangelicalism. Is there any doubt that fundamentalism causes psychological and social harm (and, at times, physical harm)? Evangelicalism is not a painful sliver in your finger that can be quickly removed with tweezers — problem solved. Evangelicalism infects every aspect of our lives, and if left unchallenged and unchecked, like an incurable disease, it will metaphorically kill us. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But consider this: without Evangelicals, Donald Trump would never have been elected, and the U.S. Supreme Court would not be overturning much of the social progress of the past sixty years. Here in Ohio, right-wing, anti-science Republicans control virtually every aspect of state government. Ohio is now a laughingstock, derision typically reserved for the backwaters of America.

How can we combat fundamentalism? Good question. The dystopian side of me says, “it’s too late, we are big F FUCKED!” I am not convinced our democracy will survive Qanon, Trumpism, and the increasing dysfunction in every aspect of our society. Times are bad and are getting worse. Anyone who thinks Santa Joe and his elves will “deliver” America (and the world) ain’t paying attention. I’m depressed by what I see, and I see nothing on the horizon that leads me to conclude that better days lie ahead.

There are some things, however, we can do, even if our actions are doomed to fail. We have two choices in life: do nothing or fight. I may be cynical and pessimistic, but I choose to fight. I cannot sit by while fundamentalists rape our land like a swarm of locusts, destroying everything they touch. None of us has the power to affect systemic change by ourselves, but each of us can do “something.” We can write books, blog posts, articles, and letters to the editor; produce videos and podcasts; challenge fundamentalist worldviews on social media; financially support advocacy groups; join local groups opposed to fundamentalist ideologies; use our buying power to force corporate change; vote for political candidates who truly understand the existential danger of fundamentalist thinking. Most importantly, we can do things that will materially make the world a better place to live. Bruce shouts, DO SOMETHING! If we don’t fight, we are guaranteeing our demise. This is no time to be indifferent or passive. We may not win the war, but we can bloody the fundamentalist horde marching against all we hold dear.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Questions: Bruce, Which Bible Translations Did You Use?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

This is a follow-up question from the post Questions: Bruce, What Bible Do Evangelicals in Non-English- Speaking Countries Use?

I grew in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the 1960s and 1970s. I attended an IFB college in the mid-1970s. I married an IFB pastor’s daughter. After leaving college in the spring of 1979, we moved to Bryan, Ohio. I became the assistant pastor of an IFB church in nearby Montpelier. I later helped my father-in-law start an IFB church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. From there, I spent eleven years pastoring an IFB church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. It was six years into my tenure at Somerset Baptist Church before I used any other Bible but the King James Version (KJV). For thirty-two years, I believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I read the KJV, studied the KJV, and preached from the KJV. Only the KJV was used in the churches I pastored. No sermon from other than the KJV was preached from the pulpits of the churches I pastored.

I believed that there were no errors, mistakes, or contradictions in the KJV. I also believed the 1611 and 1769 editions of KJV were virtually identical; that the only differences between the two were corrections of typographical errors. Then, in 1989, I stumbled upon a list of word differences between 1611 and 1769. These differences were far more than typographical error corrections. OMG, there were word changes, meaning that my belief that the 1611 KJV was inerrant was untrue. Further study led me to conclude that the KJV was not inspired, inerrant, or infallible, and neither was any other Bible translation. For the next eight or so years, I believed the KJV was faithful and reliable; that it was the preferred Bible for English-speaking people.

In the late 1990s, I preached my first sermon from a non-KJV Bible, the New American Standard Bible (NASB). In 2001, I started exclusively preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still using the ESV when I preached my last sermon in 2005. I believed the ESV was a reliable translation, but not inspired, inerrant, or infallible. God inspired the original manuscripts, but not any Bible translation.

After I left the ministry in 2008, I started reading THE MESSAGE for my daily devotionals. For the first time in my life, the Bible spoke to me in my own language — the everyday language of commoners. I still used the KJV and ESV (and other translations) in my studies, but I found THE MESSAGE a delight to read.

Today, the only Bible in our home is my KJV preaching Bible — an artifact from a life lived long ago. I also use the E-Sword software program to look up specific verses when writing posts for this blog. Every atheist should have E-Sword installed on their computers, smartphones, or tablets.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: Are Evangelicals Wrong About Inerrancy?

bart ehrman quote

If there are contradictions in a book found in the Bible that means that the common fundamentalist understanding that the text is inerrant is almost certainly wrong.  I have tried to word that statement carefully.  I’ve noticed that often in these kinds of discussions, people don’t listen carefully to wording that is careful.  So let me stress what I am saying, by highlighting the key words:  The common fundamentalist understanding that the text is inerrant is almost certainly wrong.

Contradictions would show that ONE way of understanding the inspiration of the Bible is probably wrong – the common fundamentalist understanding of the inspiration of Scripture is probably (not certainly; though I would say almost certainly) wrong.   That does NOT necessarily mean that the Bible is not inspired.  It means that the common fundamentalist understanding of inspiration is probably wrong.

This common fundamentalist understanding is that the Bible has no mistakes of any kind.  No scientific mistakes (the earth was created in six days; there really was an Adam and Eve; God really did make the sun stand still in the Book of Joshua; and so on); no historical mistakes (there really was a Tower of Babel, Moses really did lead millions of Israelites out of Egypt at the Exodus; there really was a census of the entire Roman world for which everyone had to register in the ancestral home during the reigns of Caesar Augustus in Rome and Quirinius in Syria; and so on) — no actual contradictions or discrepancies of any kind.

In this view, anything that seems like a mistake or a contradiction only seems to be.  It’s not really a mistake.  There is an explanation for everything, because God made sure that the Bible would be completely without error, a perfect revelation of the past and of his will to his people.

There are different ways various fundamentalists have gotten to this understanding of things over the years.  For example, to pick just two options: some think that God actually dictated the words of Scripture to the various authors; others think that God dictated the thoughts of the authors and made sure that even if they wrote things down in their own words none of the words were in error or contradiction.   There are a number of ways to explain inerrancy, but the basic point, in this common fundamentalist understanding is that the words – however they got on the page – are without error.

— Bart Ehrman, Are Contradictions the Real Point, June 27, 2017

If you want to read the entire article on Dr. Ehrman’s blog, you will need to have a membership. Cost? $24.95 per year, with all proceeds going to charity. I am a member, and I find the regular blog entries by Dr. Ehrman to be enlightening and helpful.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

Bruce Gerencser