Many more progressive religious believers and a few misguided atheists insist that religion isn’t really the problem; the problem is merely how some extremists interpret religion. They claim that atheists like me want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I disagree. I just don’t want to drown the baby in baptism.
Let me put it sarcastically this way:
The problem isn’t religion. It is the interpretation of religion that is the problem. The Bible says “suffer not a woman to teach.” Some people will interpret that to mean suffer not a woman to teach but other people will interpret that to mean the exact opposite of what it actually says!!!
You can do this with any number of fun Bible verses including but certainly not limited to rape, slavery, murder, genocide, beating children, etc. Sure someone can try to pretend that these things are mere metaphors, but what are they metaphors for exactly? The fact is that the writers of the Bible didn’t think these were immoral things. They were primitive sheep herders that really didn’t know squat about morality. Man wasn’t created in God’s image, but rather God was created in their image and that is why their deity was a vain, jealous, feudal lord who only cared about conquest and obedience.
Republicans can read the Lorax and interpret it to support their view of unfettered capitalism (okay, not all Republicans can actually read the Lorax, but you know what I mean), but that isn’t what the book is actually about – not even metaphorically. The Bible is not a very moral book and no matter how hard a religious believer may wish that it promotes peace and love, the book isn’t about that. It is about a jealous, genocidal dictator and his illegitimate son from a married woman he raped with his “holy spirit.”
Yeah, I called Jesus evil. The dude preached about torturing people for all eternity. Maybe when he said that his followers should hate their entire families, he really meant that they should love their entire families and form “family value” organizations or something, but that really just seems like the exact opposite of what it says in the Bible. Such a claim goes beyond verbal gymnastics and falls into the category of verbal nuclear obliteration. We aren’t talking about Michael Jackson’s use of the word “bad” here.
When Jesus talked about plucking out your eyes and cutting off your hands to avoid sin, he clearly didn’t mean it metaphorically. He spelled out his reasoning. It is better to lose a temporary body part than it is to lose one’s immortal soul in Hell. He meant that shit.
It really isn’t that religious fundamentalists are interpreting the Bible wrong; it’s that the Bible actually is wrong! I think progressive religious believers really need to be honest with themselves and admit this. They need to own up to the fact that the Bible was wrong about a lot of things (most things really). They can still find some small glimmer of wisdom from a few of the stories if they like, but they do a dis-service to themselves and humanity by trying to explain away the awfulness that is the Bible.
It’s okay to admit that the Bible was written by primitive people who really had no clue about anything, but that a few of the stories can be great conversation pieces to discuss contemporary issues. Of course then they would have to dismiss the notion that the Bible is in any way “holy” and that an all-powerful, all-knowing, being with superior morality had any hand at all in its writing even as some sort of divine inspirer. Oh well.