Yes, A Christian actually told me that atheists take the Bible too literally. I burst out laughing because as an atheist, I don’t take the Bible literally at all; I take the Bible factitious!
With that being said, I do think that when a book purports to be the inspired word of the Creator of the Universe, one should expect the words on the page to mean what they appear to mean except when it is obvious that it is meant to be taken metaphorically. But then again, maybe the claim of holiness is itself a metaphor. In which case, the Bible would be no different than other fictional books.
My point here is that any person with at least average intelligence should be able to understand the meaning plainly. For example, one would be hard pressed to find someone of reasonable intelligence who upon reading Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” concluded that the book supports libertarian style mass industrialization. Sure the Once-Ler is seen in much of the book as someone who supports this political ideology, but it is also clear from the context of the book that he changed his position and that the book actually supports environmental conservation or at the very least sensible industrialization in which we replant and replenish tree as we cut down older trees.
The point of the book is that the Once-Ler was wrong. However, in the Bible, God and Jesus are supposed to be the good guys. So when God commands the rape of women and children, it isn’t supposed to be a lesson in what not to do. It also doesn’t appear to be a metaphor for something else. It actually seems pretty straight forward. God is instructing people in how to deal with their property and the violation of their property. In this case the property is women.
Here, some Christians might argue that the Bible was written by people and so we have to take the time period into account. Clearly back then raping women and children was common place, so the fact that God commands it and provides rules for dealing with it in this ancient book is merely a reflection on the time and not on God. Except that God is supposed to be outside of time and that the Bible is supposed to be a moral guide book for humanity not just for the ancient world, but for today also. Can’t someone come along and simply claim that anything in the Bible is merely a reflection on the time? What’s to stop someone from claiming that one of the few good rules like “turn the other cheek,” was merely a metaphor? Besides, if times have changed, why hasn’t God written an updated edition?
I hate to break it to the liberal Christians, but no amount of metaphors will make the Bible anything less than horrific. It really is just an excuse to move the goal post. Any time modernity and secularism show that something in the Bible is immoral or grossly immoral the liberal Christian quickly claims that that particular verse in the Bible was merely a metaphor. As humans learn more and more about how best to treat each other, the Bible becomes more and more metaphoric. It’s a miracle!
The facts are clear. The Bible is fictional. Sure there are some metaphorical stories in the Bible which modern readers can still find meaning in, but let’s not pretend that the Bible is any different than any other book of antiquity. Let’s not pretend that the character of God is real either because as our understanding of the universe grows, the gaps for God are closing. In 50 years, Christians will no doubt be claiming that God himself is a metaphor.