The Atheist Academic

The Atheist Academic: Watch their eyes open…

We read out of the King James Bible instead of the Scott Foresman Bible As/In Literature now. Why? Because, as we started going through Genesis together in the Foresman version, specifically reading God’s reasons for placing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil on the earth, or relating the genealogy of the world both pre- and post- the Flood, I had kids stopping and running back to the box of  Bibles at the back of my class, double-checking that these odd words were really part of the book that they had been worshiping for all of their life. So, in order to wipe away all doubt from their minds, we’ve started to read straight from the source.

As straight from the source as you can get, of course. I taught them all about the different translations and versions that the Bible has gone through. My one Jewish student explained the Torah and how it was both the same and different from their Old Testament text. I can see little seeds of doubt popping up in their heads; I can almost feel them questioning the validity of the book that guides their lives.

I like to listen for the little gasps that my little Christian students make. We read about how Lot offered up his virgin daughters to be gang raped so that the men would not rape his visitors. We talked about how Abraham was about to kill his only son, about to sacrifice him since God told him to, except that, at the last minute, God was like, “Nah, you’re good. Kill a calf instead. It’s cool.”

And the wheels turn in their head.

This all leads me to wonder: how many Christians have actually read the Bible? Sure, they hear bits and pieces, and many love to quote the happy and pretty parts, but if the Bible is the Word of God, then the ENTIRE Bible is the Word of God– and that includes the parts that say it’s okay to kill your kid, or the parts that say that God just wiped out every person that he supposedly created and loved upon the earth and was like, “Yeah, I’m starting over, but I won’t do that again.” What if a person did that? What if a person killed his entire family, and then was like, “No, I made these kids, but I screwed up and they’re kind of being jerks, so I’m just going to start over. But it won’t happen again. And I saved some of my goats and horses, too.” What would we think of him? We’d think he was CRAZY. We’d think he was an ASSHOLE and that he should be killed.

This is one reason why I’m absolutely happy to be teaching Bible as Literature. We read it, we discuss it, we look at how it’s been used and alluded to in other kinds of writing. I never once make fun of it or question its validity. But I teach it as it’s written, and I don’t interpret, and I don’t sugar-coat. If someone’s preacher wants to use a whole pile of logical fallacies to explain away a deed by an angry deity, that’s great. I’m not. So when a kid is like, “Wait. You mean he just GAVE THEM HIS DAUGHTERS?!” I’m like, “Well, that’s what it says. How would you interpret it?” and they’re like, “I guess he gave his virgin daughters to this mob…” and I’m like, “Yup. That’s what it says.”

I don’t even give them spoilers that it gets worse.

Maybe it’s time that people get to read what the Bible says without actually getting everything explained away by someone with an agenda. And if that makes someone angry, then they’ll just have to deal with it.

Maybe they can take that up with their God.


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Tori Parker

Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.

1 Comment

  1. September 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm —

    What a great class. I’m not at surprised. My English students are the same way, I know many of them are Christian and attend church often because they talk about it in their reflections and journals, but whatever they’re learning doesn’t involve much Bible instruction. There are a few exceptions. I find that some very conservative Evangelical kids are very knowledgeable, and Mormons tend to be as well, but most mainstream Christians don’t know much about the Bible.

    When Biblical allusions come up, hardly anybody even recognizes them, let alone can explain the context. Earlier this week when we were reading Thomas Paine, not a single kid recognized the ‘betrayed by a kiss’ allusion. I am frequently amused that the most Bible-literate person in the room is an atheist.

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