'National Bible Week'
Poster
Dirk-Jan van Vliet

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Dirk-Jan van Vliet"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Friday, June 16, 2000 11:22 AM

I apologize for just getting around to answering your letter.

1. The Bible does not qualify the commandment for women to be silent, it simply commands it and leaves it at that. Paul was an apostle (or so he claimed; many ancient Jewish-Christian writings dispute this and call him a heretic and a sorcerer); his word was law among those Christian circles over which he ruled. I don't understand what it is about women that they should be treated any differently from men. Its attitude toward women -- which is consistent throughout the Bible -- is one of the many reasons why I think the Bible is evil.

2. The point is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his child. This very idea is patently evil, and any god who would even bring this thought to mind would be a demon -- even if He were only kidding!

3. The Bible endorses human slavery throughout. We Americans are still paying for our predecessors' Bible-inspired and Bible-endorsed experiment with human slavery -- which ended almost 150 years ago! That some slaves were set free doesn't stop slavery and the endorsement of it from being despicable, and unworthy of our honor. Thus, I refuse to honor the Bible.

There are some good things in "Mein Kampf" just as there are some good things in the Bible. This does not make either book good in and of itself. Minister Louis Farrakhan peppers his hateful tirades with many noble and very healthy sentiments -- that is how he hooks followers. This does not make him worthy of note, much less honor, because his main point is to foster divisiveness, not to promote personal or cultural growth. Similarly, most Christian preachers tout the Bible as a good book, but recite only select passages from the pulpit. If I were to select those Bible passages that I'd be willing to defend against criticism, that I'd be willing to teach to my kids as healthy and worthwhile values, the whole collection would easily fit into one of my ten-page magazines. I bet you couldn't find enough to fit onto a half-year's subscription that you'd be willing to defend as good -- that you would, after scrutinizing them yourself, teach to your teen-aged offspring as important values.

So, I must disagree with you, and must say that the Bible is a very destructive book which has caused much misery in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere. It is one of our goals to point out why we think this, and to show the Bible to be the great evil that we think it is.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Dirk-Jan van Vliet"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 17:11:03 -0700

Many did, particularly the Ebionites. It was the Marcionites who heralded Paul's claim to being an apostle; very few others accepted him. They were very strong at the time of the cannonization, and so Marcion's interpretation of Paul (but not Marcion's Christology) was assimilated heavily into what eventually became the Roman Catholic history and doctrine.
 

They were law among those churches he led. And they are (allegedly) law among the sects which place the Bible as the supreme arbiter of truth (over here, the Evangelicals, the Fundamentalists, and "fringe" sects such as the Jehovah's Witnesses). Ah, but I promise you that very few sects practice this particular law. My point is that (1) it's in the Bible, and (2) every year the American government tells her citizens to read the Bible because it is good. We think it is wrong for our government to do this, and would be wrong even if the Bible were universally accepted by all as being the most enriching reading experience known to humankind. But it is not only wrong for government to endorse the texts and scriptures, the Bible is, for the most part, barbarically outdated. We respond by saying, "Read the Bible and see for yourselves the evil that it teaches!" We turn their own game against them.
 

Those who support "National Bible Week" in America are Fundamentalists -- that is, they believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. They are the minority among Christians, to be sure, but they wield a lot of political power in America. They want us all to obey the Christian Bible's dictates, and many who have never read the Bible for themselves simply go along with the idea -- or at least see no reason to resist it.

Our point in making the "National Bible Week" Poster is that many Americans simply assume that the Bible is innocuous. Others have not thought this matter through. Meanwhile, our elected representatives are pronouncing to the people that we should read the Bible (which is against the law for them to do, as stated in the First Amendment of our Constitution). So, with tongue in cheek (as they say), we say, "Go ahead! Read the Bible! See what it really says!" We hope that a enough of the non-Fundamentalists (such as yourself) will see that it is not what it's cracked up to be, and will join us in opposing this patently illegal practice.
 

To us, the end of the story is irrelevant to the fact that we are dealing with the very idea of child sacrifice, and that a zealous believer is lauded simply for being willing to sacrifice his own child (never mind that he was eventually prevented from pulling it off).

This story is barbaric beyond all understanding, the very notion of child sacrifice making it thus -- the end of the story notwithstanding. That Abraham is praised for being willing to do this is what makes it so utterly evil. The government would have no business promoting such a tale even if it were not a religious text (and thereby illegal for the government to promote).
 

I look at slavery and the reasons early Americans justified it, and they all pointed to the Bible to justify it. The Inquisition was entirely Bible inspired, as were the wars between the Catholics and the Protestants and the Crusades.
 

What is good about the Ten Commandments is the humanistic interpretations that have lately been put into them. If you read Joseph Lewis' "The Ten Commandments," you will see that they did not originally mean what they commonly mean today. Coveting was a superstitious "evil eye" and had nothing to do with greed. Your neighbor was your fellow-Jew only: all others were fair game for almost any form of trechery. Adultery could only be committed via a man's wife: the seduction or rape of a single woman was okay, as was the accumulation of multiple lovers by married men. This is because the woman was considered the man's property. Murder was the ritualistic pollution of the land by blood: Yahweh, meanwhile, ordered and condoned (and committed) wholesale slaughter of human life. The only real theft was the moving of a landmark totem (which had a "spiritual" value of some sort). You will also see that there are many different listings according to Hebrew, Catholic, and Protestant, and also, that (according to the Bible) the two sets of tablets (the one that Moses destroyed and the one that Yahweh replaced) have two completely different sets of instructions (such as "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk"). See all this in our "Which Ten Commandments" Poster.

I still have no use for the first four (Protestant-Hebrew) Commandments, because I'm not religious. This is why I oppose the government posting them in the public schools and in the courtrooms.
 

I agree. But the brutality of Yahweh's bloodshed is nothing compared to the Hell which Jesus invented. If that story were true, we'd all in big trouble -- not because our fate would be "Extra-Crispy" because of our religious views, but because of what an utterly brutal god we'd be dealing with!
 

You live in the Netherlands, where things are vastly different from the situations in America. Here, the religions have grabbed up many of the opportunities and vehicles for charity, so that when atheists want to give, we must give to the religious organizations, who, in turn, use their giving (of the atheist's money) to point out to all just how good religion is and how much good it does.

Meanwhile, I think helping the poor is everybody's responsibility. This is why I support the notion of a neutral, tax-fed system that is simply there and does not need to be lauded for any heroic efforts on anyone's part. It's our responsibility, and we should never congratulate ourselves for doing what is our obligation.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Dirk-Jan van Vliet"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 3:48 PM

Well, then, if you're not a fundamentalist, then why are you defending the very Bible which, because of other peoples' fundamentalism throughout history, has caused untold misery with admittedly absurd concepts such as "women must remain silent in church" being taken way too seriously at various times throughout history? Why not join us in our effort to alert people to the fact that such passages exist and ought to be denounced? that the Bible is not what the fundamentalists say it is?

It will matter if, because of our inattention, the fundamentalists gain another foothold, another opportunity to use their Bible to exploit the people and to commit great evil in the name of the Bible. At least now we have the opportunity to further remove the chance that they will use the BIble to do this. They will have to try to find some other justification -- or perhaps the people will object (such as what happened during the Vietnam War and during the years following Perestroika) and eventually won't let them do it at all.
 

Many over here not only believe it without question, some even stand before congress and make policy based upon those beliefs. They hold it up along with other concepts such as the Flag and Mom and Apple Pie and Baseball as one of those things that makes an American an American. Even people who have never given it much thought are known to go along with this mentality.

The notion that the Bible might teach some very questionable values (such as "women must remain silent in church") is only catching on in small numbers and in certain parts of the country. It certainly is not common knowledge, but efforts such as our spoof of the National Bible Week proclamations are making some headway. At least more and more atheistic groups are making a more and more visible stand each year. We are beginning to see anti-Bible letters -- and even columns -- in our papers and magazines.

Our National Bible Week Poster may not have been very widely distributed yet (it's less than a year old), but it is a highly refined presentation that I have been working on for years. The examples I used (such as "women are to remain silent in church") are so far beyond reproach as to make any criticism of my use of them appear like so much whining about nothing. You really cannot build more than a superficial case against my poster, although I did give you plenty of leeway to give it a good try.

The good thing about this poster is that it is simple and its examples are virtually airtight. It won't effect any fundamentalists, but it will get a few non-fundamentalists who are only vaguely familiar with the Bible to consider that the Bible might not be all that its cracked up to be. You see, the fundamentalists and Evangelicals (the Religious Right) gain much of their power because most people have only read those passages which their pastors and Sunday School teachers have read to them. Any Bible-defending pastor who knows where his paycheck comes from will either downplay or explain away such passages as "women must remain silent in church."

The most important thing I can do is be vigilant and remind the atheistic activists over here that National Bible Week exists, that political leaders across the country are pushing it onto the agendas of cities and states across the country, and that we do well to hold up some of the Bible's more obviously absurd teachings (such as "women must remain silent in church"). These atheistic activists, in turn, get letters published in the papers and stage counter-rallies, and (perhaps) distribute a few copies of our poster to those passersby who are willing to listen.
 

This is true, but they used the Bible to justify it in both cases. Without this angle, it would have been that much harder to justify it. Without this angle in the future (if efforts like our National Bible Week Poster do their job) it will be that much harder for them to justify these particular concepts. The Women's Suffrage movements in America and elsewhere relied heavily on exposing the Bible message as the fraud that it is. Since efforts to "keep women in their place" continue in some parts of America, we will keep up our counter-efforts to put the Bible in its place -- so to speak.

If it weren't for fundamentalism, and if it weren't for the fundamentalists' efforts to use people's ignorance of the Bible to enact draconian policy, we would have nothing to say: the Bible would be nothing more than an ancient collection of inconsequential myths.

Again, perhaps enough people will see through the entire evil so as to prevent it from happening. At least (we hope) they will stop using the Bible to justify it.
 

I disagree. What is truly wrong is obvious to all who are not influenced by loyalistic and fundamentalistic sentiments. All cultures forbid murder and theft, and all cultures punish such culprits swiftly and surely. They don't need any allegedly divine "Commandments" to know this.

What is not obvious to all men, such as "Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image," are not important in any but a few loyalistic tribes. Even most Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, downplay this Commandment or reinterpret it so as to take away its obvious meaning (and the Catholics and Lutherans even omit this one from their lists of Commandments).
 

Ideally, this should be the responsibility of all healthy citizens, distributed evenly in the form of a tax and distributed fairly through neutral government agencies. This way, nobody can play favorites and nobody can pat themselves on the back.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Dirk-Jan van Vliet"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2000 2:31 PM

My goal is to clear up the nonsense. The biggest nonsense is the notion that this book has any value toward teaching morals.
 

You can and should stand at a distance when making your observations. However, when it comes to changing things, you must make a clear decision, and powerfully move toward a specific, simply and lucidly stated goal. This is the only way change takes place.

As for the Bible, many Americans (particularly those stumping for National Bible Week) are telling the public that the Bible (which most haven't read) is worth reading because of its moral value. My counterpoint is to point out that not only are many of its teachings despicable, but many of the more innocuous teachings are only beneficial when given a superficial examination: when you look deeper, and compare the Bible's teachings with the modern, post-Enlightenment humanistic ethical systems and trends, you see that in many cases, the "biblical" teachings are not biblical at all, but have been given a humanistic interpretation. Many even blatantly oppose the humanistic spin, and become very consistent in their Christian fundamentalism, bringing sexism, racism, war-mongering, and many other evils that an uncolored reading of the Bible will show.
 

I worked on this off and on for two years, and considered all the questionable passages. I went for ease of presentation (which ones would be understood by the widest audience) and greatest impact (which ones would upset the most people -- naturally, the women and children passages and the Fig Tree Enigma passage).
 

This was up there, but lost out because most are familiar with the similar story of Lot and his daughters. I was also going for some new stuff that many haven't encountered. The donkey dicks and horse hockey passage in Ezekiel is so shocking that people have actually bet me that I'm pulling their leg (and I've won every bet).
 

To me, the main mark of fundamentalism is that the question is settled and no longer subject to the person's own scrutiny (or anybody else's, in their minds). Thus, there are fundamentalist atheists who know for a fact that there cannot possibly be a god of any kind. While I live my life as if there are no gods, I am always open to the possibility that someone may come along and show me something that may overthrow my current position on the matter. That's what distinguishes me from a fundamentalist -- who otherwise holds similar opinions, but holds those opinions differently from the way I do.
 

Sometimes the Bible actually inspired the acts (such as the auto da fe -- see John 15:6) and more often the Bible was successfully used to justify the evil in the eyes of the public, giving them opportunities to commit evil that they might not otherwise have had: the Bible made the difference.
 

Why does it have to be a "bible"? Why can't we simply put our heads together and agree that we, the people, will do certain things in specific ways (such as punishing all murder)? I have more faith in the great majority of the human race (the criminal element notwithstanding) than to think that we need a "bible" of some sort in order to put together a peaceful society.
 

The modern Calvinists are strictly biblical -- fundamentalists of the most vicious variety. They will derive their list of Commandments straight from the Bible. I am rather certain that the modern Lutherans still use the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments. I know they once did, but may have changed. My sources for this information is almost 100 years old, but I don't see churches changing very fast.
 
 

They can and do arrest people for tax evasion.

The non-Christians organize government agencies to take care of these things the proper way. Many of the great help and educational agencies (The American Red Cross; The Carnegie Institute; The Smithsonian) were started by atheists. Henry Ford was an atheist and did some wonderful things toward eliminating poverty in our country (and our world). Ditto for Edison.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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