Drinking The Koolaid

Galileo: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended to forgo their use.”

Galileo was condemened by the church and sentenced to confinement within his residence for putting forth and holding to the idea that the earth was not at the center of the solar system. It was essentially a universal idea believed to be rock solid from the bible itself that the sun was the center. Not the earth. Galileo challenged said belief and would not back down. He trusted his observation instead of drinking the koolaid. He paid a high price. But he was right. And he knew it.

I don’t know that I all out chugged the koolaid. But I certainly took hesitant sips for a lot of years. There was something always nagging inside me that what I was being told just didn’t add up in some ways. It didn’t all fit together. And it didn’t make sense that God would either intentionally deceive mankind with certain elements of creation or, as Galileo puts it, expect us to forgo part of who we are as humans. It just didn’t sit well within me. So I kept sipping until I found the courage to spit it out.

I am thinking of things like this: God must have created dinosaur fossils and an apparent very old age into the earth. Or this: the laws of physics were altered by and “The Flood.” And even this:  the current state of mankind (good/evil or upright/fallen) is the result of an interaction over an apple between two people and a talking snake.  In the end, I think it all comes down to how literally the bible is to be taken.

I eventually realized something. NO ONE, no matter who they are or what they say, takes the entire bible literally. NO ONE. A simple example would be cutting off your arm if it causes you to sin. Who does that? NO ONE, at least no one who is not locked up in a rubber room for their own protection. There are plenty of people walking around saying that they do. But they don’t.

So why the big battle over the first few chapters of Genesis. To hold literally to that is to build one’s entire faith on a very flimsy house of cards, subject to the slightest whisper. And what kind of faith is that? A weak kind.

It makes much more sense to me to understand that we do not yet understand all there is to know about how to interpret nature. And we do not yet understand all there is to understand about how to interpret scripture. And we will never understand all there is to understand about either of those. And in that is God’s genius, really. Nature is always changing and the bible is a very dynamic book. They complement each other. They don’t threaten each other. When we discover something new about the one, we should use it to help us better understand how to look at the other. That is a much better way to live than to force feed koolaid.

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16 responses to “Drinking The Koolaid

  1. “I don’t know that I all out chugged the koolaid. But I certainly took hesitant sips for a lot of years. There was something always nagging inside me that what I was being told just didn’t add up in some ways. It didn’t all fit together. And it didn’t make sense that God would either intentionally deceive mankind with certain elements of creation or, as Galileo puts it, expect us to forgo part of who we are as humans. It just didn’t sit well within me. So I kept sipping until I found the courage to spit it out.

    Wow, that is so much my experience, though it wasn’t evolution for me, but the same principle applies to the whole bible, how we read it, how we believe what we believe.

    I chugged the kool aid for a while, and then my sips got smaller and smaller over the years until I got to the point where I found myself no longer drinking, and realizing I didn’t need it.

  2. Thank you for the Galileo quote. I agree with most of your post, and certainly think you have you right to your opinion regarding the Bible, but I’ll give you mine.

    The Bible was written by humans:
    http://exfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2007/11/biblical-prophecy-hindsight-is-2020.html

    Like with any other book, what’s in the Bible is of human inspiration, not unlike novel or self-help books. The Bible reflects what people thought and knew back in the day.

    Why would I waste my time studying such an outdated book, as literal truth or not, when there is so much more out there to read and learn?

    Sticking to the Bible would be akin to current medical doctors only studying Hyppocrates.

    Hey, but if you like it and want to read it, that’s your choice.

  3. Good post Doug

    I really like the Gallileo quote.

  4. I like this one. Good thinking.

  5. It was the most interesting Shabbat a month ago when Rabbi and a man with a Ph.D in Physics alternated giving the d’var (sort of like a sermon). Science and religion do not attempt to answer the same questions. It was fascinating to hear their questions and answers side by side like that, to see how they each relate to our lives. We loved it!

    Great post. I never like kool-aid, even as a kid…

  6. Lorena

    I wonder, maybe if you hadn’t drank so much Kool Aid before, you might still like the occasional sip of it. ;)

  7. T4T,

    It’s quite possible. When people tell me that there is good stuff in the Bible, I tell them that whatever good is in it I already learned by reading it multiple times. Now, I need to learn from other sources. Even Jane Austen is better than the Bible for me these days.

  8. “Like with any other book, what’s in the Bible is of human inspiration, not unlike novel or self-help books. The Bible reflects what people thought and knew back in the day.

    Why would I waste my time studying such an outdated book, as literal truth or not, when there is so much more out there to read and learn?

    Sticking to the Bible would be akin to current medical doctors only studying Hyppocrates.” (Lorena)

    Agree with your first paragraph. The bible certainly is filled with human bias, human influence, and what humans understood at the time. I believe a good way to describe it in a single idea is that the bible is a description of how people then and there experienced God.

    I don’t really agree with your stance on why to even consider it. It is worth something because of what I have already said. It is how a group of people experienced God. And there is truth in it. I don’t believe that it is the ultimate source of truth in that it contains all truth because it is fairly obvious that there is truth that lies outside the bible. But I do believe that it says some important things about belief in God. Now if you are an atheist, then I agree that the truth there may seem like it is of minimal value, but I also think that is deceptive because all truth is worth knowing something about.

    And I never have claimed that one should only stick to the bible. I believe that there is truth about God all over the place (nature, literature, art, people, etc). I can learn a ton about God without ever even looking in the bible. That being said, I admit that for several years I have not read it much. I was tired of the mandatory belief in the “fairy tale” side of the bible. It kind of destroyed my interest in it. But I am in recent months finding more of an interest and reading in a different way, from a different stance than ever before, and finding it more meaningful as a result.

  9. “That being said, I admit that for several years I have not read it much. I was tired of the mandatory belief in the “fairy tale” side of the bible. It kind of destroyed my interest in it.”

    That is my experience exactly. What enjoyment I get from reading the bible right now is more in reading it as a historic and cultural artifact. Something like a brick wall seems to go up when leaving the “fairy tale” understanding of the way to read the bible. I wonder if I feel a need to protect myself from people who would insist I read it that way. It is easier to just say, “No thanks.” at that point.

    You are not the first person I have read who went through an experience of coming back to a more spiritual (if you will) reading of the bible after leaving it for a while. To me, it is a completely different religion than the original fundamentalist (or conservative, or whatever) faith, so it seems natural to me that a person would take time before choosing to adopt it. People from the conservative faith though see it as essential that one return to their version of truth, so they feel it is urgent for me to quickly resolve the difficulties I have with the bible, stop reading it to study what it is, and come on, “just trust God and have faith in it.” Not so helpful!

  10. absolutely brilliant!

    i always scoff at people who say they read the bible literally.. i’m in the midst of reading “A Year of Living Biblically” and it shows how impossible that claim really is.

    i also scoff at people who put way too much stock in or don’t believe in miracles. the group that says “Jesus could walk on water but no one else can and it can’t be repeated” and the group that says “Walking on water is impossible and so are all the rest of the ‘supernatural’ stuff in the Bible.” as if the laws of physics, dogs and cats, and the sheer fact of existence aren’t miracle enough for them.

    rawk out!

  11. You have to remember the Bible’s purpose. It is written to tell us how to know God, how to be reconciled to him, and how to live in harmony with him and the life he created. The Bible states that it is not of human inspiration but divine inspiration. However, it was written within the times and understanding of the writers at the time. It’s a writing about spirit and life.

  12. Luke. Thanks for the “absolutely brilliant.” First time, I believe, I have had that word “brilliant” used to describe me.

    Larry (Dad). I agree with you that the bible has divine inspiration. But that does not mean that it has divine dictation. I don’t believe that God just told the writers what to write. If that’s what God did then why didn’t God just write it himself. And if God didn’t just dictate it, then it has human bias and influence all over it.

    It also seems to me that any reference within scripture itself that refers to it being divinely inspired only refers to that particular piece within that statement is found. Since the bible as we know it was not compiled until 300 AD or so, any reference in scripture to divine inspiration can’t refer to the entire bible. The writers didn’t even know of what we now call the bible. The problem that I have found within myself is that the bible gets treated like it is God itself. And it’s not. But when it is treated like that and when that is coupled with the idea that God is out there just waiting for you to screw up so God can pin you to the wall, that really destroys any value the bible has. Why would someone want to read a book like that? This is the process that was at work within me for 20 years. It has taken getting away from looking at the bible like that for me to be able to consider it differently.

    I am coming to see the bible as a description of how people then and there experienced God, how they came to know God, how the related to him. That has value for me here and now which is my job to disover. And God is all around me. In nature. In relationships. In situations. So I can know God in more ways than just by reading the bible. God didn’t quit speaking when the last book of the bible was written.

  13. freestyleroadtrip

    Doug,
    Really like this last response. I’m on board and agree 100 %.

    -Karmen

  14. God didn’t quit speaking when the last book of the bible was written.(Doug)

    I think this was the time when many stopped listening.

  15. societyvs

    “The Bible states that it is not of human inspiration but divine inspiration.” (Larry)

    I will claim – of the NT anways – there is no such claim made. Inspired is the term used – and how we depict that depends on how we define ‘being inspired to write’. Maybe their experience with God was inspiration enough for them to write a letter or a book.

  16. “The Bible states that it is not of human inspiration but divine inspiration. ”

    well the bible doesn’t “state” anything. it sits there. we state things for it. it’s all up to interp.

    however, i think i get your meaning. being “divinely inspired” can mean that some dude was sitting around and God came and said “WRITE THIS DOWN!” i think that’s a faulty assumption and a problematic scenario.

    i understand “divinely inspired” the same way Hemmingway was inspired. if one ponders or meditates on something long enough, there is an inspiration there, and what is then written is inspired by whatever the author was thinking about. Hemmingway thought a lot about the ocean in Cuba, and then you get “Old Man and the Sea.” or thinking about WWI you get “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” same with the NT. 4 dudes meditated on the stories they heard about Christ and then wrote the 4 gospels. they are inspired works, however there are some vast differences within the accounts.

    this view of inspiration allows for the synoptic problem, the poetry of John, and maintain’s humanity’s freewill as well as our ability to make mistakes. it also allows for the limitation of the written word and thus doesn’t make an idol out of the bible.

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