Last week, the AHA launched an ad campaign aimed at those in our society who don't associate with any religion. The ad is intended to reinforce to these people that religious affiliation is not needed in order to live a good life. It's also intended to create a little stir that will hopefully lead to irrational defenses of the religions criticized in the campaign...
BINGO! The Boston Globe and USA Today have come to the defense of the "good" book already.
Jeff Jacoby, an op-ed columnist whose twice-weekly essays grace the pages and bits of the Boston Globe, claims that it will take more than this campaign to prove that "God and the Judeo-Christian tradition are not necessary for the preservation of moral values and that human reason is a better guide to goodness than Bible-based religion." Jacoby basically argues that we can only be good without god now because our cultural morals have already been established on Christian influence, and therefore we now have the luxury of being able to take god for granted. It's nothing short of mind boggling how anybody can accept the idea that morality and things like "you shouldn't kill people for no good reason" have to be divinely inspired. We are capable of comprehending the idea that it's not good to kill people, are we not? We are capable of understanding the idea that we should not rape people, are we not? Yet we aren't capable of originating those ideas in our own minds without help from the bible? That's basically the same logic that leads idiots to believe that aliens must have taught complicated mathematics to the Egyptians so that they could build the pyramids. The aliens and Egyptians idea actually makes more sense to me, since I can't wrap my head around a lot of complicated math, yet it's very easy for me to understand why I shouldn't just go killing people.
Like an over-confident rookie pitcher, Jacoby then hangs a big, meaty, dick-high curveball for everyone to pulverize with the whole "Lennin, Stalin, and Mao were atheists" argument. He provides a contradiction immediately when he says that human reason led these communist leaders to conclude that "there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause." He's right about the Marxist cause. Those murders weren't done in the name of humanist reasoning, they were done in the name of a flawed political ideology which suppressed human reasoning and severely punished people who reasoned against them. Their reasoning for genocide was based on the predetermined conclusion that everything they decree must be right for their greater cause. These murders were done in order to suppress free and critical thought, not to spread it.
Kathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today compares the campaign to "the kind of irrational annoyance of a Westboro Baptist Church demonstration," which is definitely unfair. Aside from both Westboro and AHA reminding us that the bible is wretched, I don't see a similarity. Both Grossman and Jacoby suggest that the AHA is hand picking scripture that makes the bible sound hateful in an attempt to discredit it. They are both correct. What better way to discredit a source than to quote it directly? But their suggestion that the scripture is being taken out of context is really quite ridiculous, because it doesn't get any better when you understand the intended context. For example, Hosea 13:16 (the quote from the ad that both writers reference) states "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground; their pregnant women ripped open." Samaria is basically ancient Israel, and according to the story, Israel has become complacent and turned its backs on God and its people are worshiping molten idols. God offers help to the people of Israel, but they have forgotten him in their satisfaction. In Hosea 13:16, Hosea basically condemns the people of Israel and predicts their violent fall to god's righteous wrath. Understanding of the context of this passage, combined with the acceptance of the bible as true, can easily lead people with underdeveloped reasoning skills like Pat Roberson to conclude that the earthquake in Haiti is God's way of punishing them for godlessness. Taking it out of context does not make the verse seem any worse, when you consider the message that the verse is intended to emphasize.
My human reasoning has led me to conclude that the most erroneous way to take the bible out of context is to follow it literally today, 1,600 years after it was assembled.