Monday, May 23, 2011

A Very Long Reading Assignment

Nick Kristof of the New York Times comes at you today with a quiz, regarding the position of the Bible on various social issues. (It's seven questions and isn't automated, so grab a pen and paper.)

The gist Kristof is getting at- aside from promoting the book Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire by Jennifer Wright Knust- is that what the Bible says, and what you think it says, are often two very different things.

So in addition to the seven questions Kristof provides, I'm going to add something: have you ever, at any point in your life, read the entire Bible front-to-back? The whole thing, from Let There Be Light to Jesus at the end of Revelation saying "Surely I am coming soon". Everything. Every word.

The number's uncertain- one unsourced statistic claims 10% of Christians have, a Rasmussen poll claims 31% but it must be taken with a fair amount of salt because it's Rasmussen. Most places that quote a number seem to prefer the unsourced 10% without ever giving a hint as to where that number came from. The number is probably in that ballpark, though. As much as I read, I know I can't count myself in that group.

If you're part of some other religion, substitute the appropriate piece of scripture and ask the same question of yourself. If you're atheist, don't know what to ask of you.

That established to the meager extent we can establish it, here's the next question to consider.

For all the bickering in the world about how Religious Sect X is more true than Religious Sect Y, fill in however you like... never mind your piece of scripture. Have you ever read theirs, back to front? If you're Christian, have you ever cracked open a Koran? If you're Muslim, have you ever cracked open a Bible? Have either of you read a Talmud? Or one of the Eastern texts? I'm willing to bet not.

In fact, have you ever read any of the competing piece of scripture at all? And, though the adherents' actions are one thing, how can you judge their faith if you haven't?

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