Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Big Question - Is the Bible still relevant?

source: (7 days left to view this 1 hour debate, from 8 May 2011) - Series 4, Episode 15.

Big Question MessageBoard

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, the programme debates just one topic: is the Bible still relevant? Contributing their views from the panel are: the Right Reverend Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester; the scientist and atheist campaigner, Professor Richard Dawkins; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner from the North Western Reform Synagogue; and the Bible scholar Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who presented the BBC Two series, The Bible's Buried Secrets.

My highly selective summary of the debate:-

Nicky Campbell (NC) (Presenter): Is anything in the bible historical fact?
Francesca Stavrakopoulou (FS), Bible Scholar, Exeter University: Very little probably is fact in the bible. Ancient writers had a different understanding of what a fact or what fiction was, compared to us today. It wasn't written to be a factual account of the past. As a historian of the bible I think there was very little that was factual. (2:25) David and Moses were not factual but most scholars would agree that Jesus existed. A sophisticated collection (not a hodgepodge) of ancient literature, creative writers, brilliant stuff. How do you know when to read something as history or something as not history? (7:15)

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner (LJK) (North Western Reform Synagogue)

NC: There are Greek myths. They don't need to be true to derive truths from them.
Richard Dawkins (RD): Richard Dawkins (Evolutionary Biologist & Humanist / Atheist): The world is full of creation myths and myths of all kinds. Many of these myths are very beautiful. Everybody knows something about the Greek and Valhalla myths and Aboriginal myths -  they are interesting. I don't think there are many truths in any of the myths. (9:20) But the Bible myths today are given a privileged position over other myths (which are not very much use anyway). If you looking for god, why not Zeus or Jupiter or Thor? Sophisticated theologians and historians don't think the bible is true but 45% of USA people literally believe in Adam and Eve and that world is only 6000 years old.

RD: About the New Testament, why didn't god just forgive mankinds sins, why did god have to sacrifice his son? Isn't that the most disgusting idea you've ever heard? The criterion we choose to pick the good stories in the bible are that we are all decent human beings. We reject those aspects of the bible which are horrible

We cherry-pick the bible! "Why bother with the bible? How do you know what are the good ideas and the bad ideas in the Bible? So don't live by the book. Why not bypass the bible altogether as a source of moral authority (34:47) - you can get it from Dickens, Milton, Shakespeare, anybody in literature!, moral philosophers, science today etc etc; We should not just be discussing the bible, we should be discussing whether all literature is relevant to decide what todays morals should be. Those that wrote the bible, were ignorant (lacking knowledge- knowledge that was plain wrong, not pejorative), desert dwelling scribes (48:00) Nothing special about the bible - could listen to Confuscious or modern philosophers or scientists.

Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Theology & Religion Senior Lecturer): You don't need a book of any description to help you have some moral awareness (44:28); Most of the monotheistic religions advocate treat people fairly and decently - but that's what humanists would say - you don't need religion here.

Guy Otten (Greater Manchester Humanists) recommends AC Grayling - The Good Book as todays Humanist / Secular updated version of the bible. Morals have NOT developed from the bible, it comes from our evolutionary background and we've been developing it. (39:25) The Human Rights Convention developed in the last 60 years is a much more advanced moral document than anything you find in the bible.

Right Reverend Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, the bible is the moral guide that has led to, god implanted the moral sense in every human.

Rt Rev. Stephen Lowe (Anglican Bishop): Look at the bible a fresh today in 2011 not as it was written 2011 years ago.

The Good Book: A Secular Bible, AC Grayling, The 10 injunctions


The 10 atheist commandments

Philosopher AC Grayling has put together an alternative, secular Good Book for atheists to use in place of the Christian Bible. Peter Donaldson reads an extract from the book, a kind of atheists' 10 Commandments.
Shall we ask by what commandments shall we live, or might we better ask, each of ourselves, what kind of person should I be. The first question assumes there is one right answer, the second assumes that there are many right answers. If we ask how to answer the second question, we are answered in yet other questions. What should you do when you see another suffering, afraid or hungry? What causes are worthy? What world do you dream of where your child plays safely in the street? There are many such questions, some already are there own answers, some are unanswerable. But when all the answers to all the questions are summed together, no one hears less than this:-
  1. love well
  2. seek the good in all things
  3. harm no others
  4. think for yourself
  5. take responsibility
  6. respect nature
  7. do your utmost
  8. be informed
  9. be kind
  10. be courageous
At least, sincerely try. 

Add to these 10 injunctions, this:- Oh! friends, let us always be true to ourselves and to the best in things, so we can always be true to one another.