Cherry-picking religion

cherries cherry

Cherry fruit (Photo by Nova)

Thomas Jefferson, questioning the miracles of the New Testament while approving of some of Jesus’s moral sentiments, produced a thin volume called The Jefferson Bible, edited literally with a razor and paste. Jefferson removed many of the contradictions, atrocities and absurdities from the Bible and, in the end, there weren’t many pages left.

In Evidence that Demands a Verdict, biblical apologist Josh McDowell cites the derivation of “canon” as coming from the root word meaning “reed,” coming to mean some sort of standard. With regard to the Bible, a canon is an officially accepted list of books:

This is important is important with regard to the fundamentalist’s attitude towards the Bible. If the Word of God is inerrant, or something close to it, then deciding that a book is a member of the canon is to proclaim it infallible. The true believer now regards a canonical book as no mere human creation, but God-breathed and incapable of error. It now has magical powers. It has been observed by some Christians that fundamentalists do not so much worship Jesus as worship a book; thus they are bibliolaters.

–Larry A. Taylor, The Canon of the Bible

Many modern clergy and their “flocks” consider the infallible word of their god to be allegory and not to be taken literally. This excuse is a way of getting around all of the contradictions, rapes, murders, genocide and other nonsense with which the Bible is filled. Large segments of the Christian faithful select only those passages that support the morality they deem worthy. This behavior is called “cherry-picking.” The obvious question is, “If you already know which morality stories you wish to accept, then why do you need the Bible at all?”

Cherry-picking can be easily understood when one considers the stories of Moses. The “noble” Moses ascends Mount Sinai and returns with a book of laws. The part of the story that follows is often ignored or considered to not be taken literally. Moses proceeds to read the commandments, one of which is “Thou shalt not kill.” Moses notices that his followers have been worshiping a golden calf. In anger he forces his followers to grind up the golden calf and then consume the powder. Next he tells them to draw their swords and kill everyone ’till none are left. Thus the first to break one of the Ten Commandments was Moses.

EX 32:27: And he said unto them, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.

EX 32:28: And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men

Then there is this lovely story from Numbers:

NM 31:7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

NM 31:9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones…

NM 31:10 And they burnt all their cities wherin they dwelt…

Not satisfied with this, Moses continues his depraved rampage as follows:

NM 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

NM 31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

That’s right, you read correctly. Moses ordered all the male children murdered. He orders all the women who are not virgins murdered. He then gives all the virgin women to his soldiers to do with as they desire. Why don’t Christians teach this story in Sunday school?

The average Christian accepts that the Bible is flawed. This point is where they must find a way to rectify their intellect with their desire for an afterlife in heaven. This is the end goal: To not piss off the Almighty Sky-Fairy, in hopes of receiving the most coveted and holiest of all R.S.V.P. invitations – a ticket to heaven. This is where the cherry-picking begins: Acceptance of the “nice stuff” and dismissal of the murders, rapes, incest and even genocide committed by such heroic characters as Moses or Abraham. Certainly God would not be pleased if they were to take note of those little indiscretions.

Many Christians I know don’t accept the Adam and Eve story but then accept the resurrection story. Not only is this a contradiction but it is the most ridiculous of all cherry-picks. Without the Adam-and-Eve story there is no need for redemption. Therefore no reason at all for the Christ fable.

Unshaken by this simple reasoning that even a child can understand, the faithful cling even tighter to their book. Intellect reeling, they hold their hands over their ears muttering “I can’t hear you.” Such explanations fall on willfully deaf ears as the huddled masses quake in fear of the great grab-bag that is eternity. Not realizing their repeated errors, as their knowledge of the real world grows they continue to retreat using even more ridiculous explanations “just in case,” they say, “just in case.”

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  1. cherry-picking
    This is far more comprehensive than what he states here, and in no way can be explained on one side of a piece of paper; As students of the Old and New Covenants we learn all through elementary, jr high and up to phd. Seminary student have a minimum of 12 years for a priest, for pastor is at least six, when I was entering for Chaplain it was 6 yrs total including summers–after my 4 yr degree, so 10 yrs and then when one is “formally” done, it is ever-increasing study-life-time learning. This person who wrote does not have any idea of what is involved in learning this compilation of 66 books, in the field of Apologetics or Exegesis, let alone the massive history, and in his lack-of-defense he is also arrogant , making targeted-snipe remarks, which discredit him. When one believe they are correct in what they know, they do not have to resort to such imbecilic tirades and snuffing-wordy diatribes. This he has stated, is his personal “take” on the little he knows. He is a cherry-picker–that which he abhors. He has none of this in the fuller context of the Law as it relates to the totality of YHWY’s mandates and love for the ancient nation of Israel. Christians are the NEW Israel and are far more studied then the Jews in their silly Judaism. The Jews actually discount the Mosaic Law and the Talmud is placed before the Torah–they believe it is not from God, the God of the Hebrews.. We however do recognize it as being from the Holy One of Israel. It is too much to go into here and is so all-encompassing that it takes years of Theology for a true student of the Bible. And if one thinks it can be explained in a long paragraph, they make fools of themselves.

    1. A typical excuse
      Does the Bible mean what it says, or not? You are trying to excuse the thousands of vicious commands in the OT. It takes no genius to see that the Bible is a primitive book of superstition which, apart from its historical importance, is almost worthless.

      1. The veracity of the Bible
        First who are the Jews? All past civilizations had had desertification, so Egypt too had that problem. Then the people revolted against the god who was not able to bring back rains. But a fraction kept their pharaoh, the Jews. So Moses is a pharaoh. Pharaoh= king of the kings. Hence Genesis when it had been read to the Jews was the book of the Pharaohs. But they added subdivisions to the text, so you have another story completely different. Reading only the phrases, when Adam is created the men were already present on Earth.
        So the Bible is a book for the believers. A book with which the Priests will be able to control the population.
        A believer would not believe that someone writing in the name of God can lie. Does not Genesis affirm that Caïn killed Abel because God preferred Abel’s sacrifice. God compared meat to herb, he never accepted that meat is better than the seeds of the plants and trees.
        So for me the Bible is a formidable tool of lies.

  2. Kill = Murder
    An excellent article and I could not agree more. However, I have heard and read that the “kill” in the ten commandments translates more directly to “murder” than to “take a life”, so that Christians would explain those passages are not contradictory as it is not “Murder” to carry out god’s will in eradicating rule-breakers and heathens.

    From the “forewarned is forearmed” dept…

    1. re: Kill = Murder
      [quote name=”jeff”]An excellent article and I could not agree more. However, I have heard and read that the "kill" in the ten commandments translates more directly to "murder" than to "take a life", so that Christians would explain those passages are not contradictory as it is not "Murder" to carry out god’s will in eradicating rule-breakers and heathens.

      From the "forewarned is forearmed" dept…[/quote]

      The WORD OF GOD must naturally be infallible – uncontrovertible. Logically, if inconsistent components exist in the WORD OF GOD, one or the other, or both of the statements must be false. If the BIBLE is not subject to unauthorized changes (meaning, not authorized by GOD), then there is no reason for the following statement to be included therein:

      “[18] For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
      [19] And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
      [20] He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelations, chapter 22)

      But, those words are in the BIBLE, placed strategically at the very end. And, we have proof that the BIBLE has been changed. The King James Bible commands “thou shalt not kill” whereas the New American Standard changed it to “thou shalt no murder”. There is a substantive distinction between the two terms – kill vs. murder. To “kill” carries a common “natural” understanding (“natural law”), meaning, to take away life. It has no other meaning. It is simple, clear, concise and not subject to interpretation. To “murder” is fundamentally contorted and deceptive. “Murder” is a man-made concept. “Murder” is defined by societal laws. For instance, California Penal Code section 187 defined “murder” as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. That definition has within it other words that need defining – clearly there are those killings which are lawful and those which are unlawful. Also, murder by that definition requires some mental component relating to the time in planning a murder. The statute also provides for exceptions that are not murder, such as “abortion”.

      States (governments) are free to create their own laws that dictate what is – and is not murder. In Oregon, assisted suicide may be legal; and by a governor’s edict, in Florida, comatose individuals may have their feeding tubes removed all without it being “murder”. The concept in all of this is that to “kill” takes no initiative to figure it out, whereas “murder” is defined by man’s laws and is subject to change. The New American Standard Bible subjugates God’s law for man’s law. Man’s law is subject to change, which is inconsistent with God’s law. Rush Limbaugh used to say he showed absurdity with absurdity. There is truth to that statement. In World War II, Germany made it legal to kill Jewish people – AND THEY DID – to the tune of millions of them. Under the New American Standard Bible, that is not a violations of the commandment to not murder because it was not murder as defined by the law of Germany. The typical argument in response is that was not a God sponsored government and so their actions were in violation of the commandment. That argument is specious as the Bible speaks that God empowers governments and puts them in charge of us.

      Ultimately, it all comes down to shades of grey. The New American Standard uses man’s law to define a commandment. Man’s law is subject to change according to the whims of the government. Man’s law of “murder” can be viewed as on a line – with lawful killings at one extreme and unlawful killings at the other end. Proponents of the murder commandment point to one place on the line and say that’s where murder begins/ends. God’s original commandment not to kill, however, is not on the line. It is separate and distinct and not subject to man’s laws.

      Now this does not defeat one’s ability to defend oneself or another. Merely look into your genome and you will find that God built in many self-protecting features to preserve your life. When your life is threatened from outside, it will defend and that is natural – law.

      However, Biblical proponents of the New American Standard version want their death and eat it too – they want the death penalty to be reserved for those situations that they feel most appropriate. The change to the bible was not unintended. It occurred at a time of great social turmoil in the U.S. by a group of baptists who were disturbed by the growing number of conscientious objectors to the Vietnam war. Those objectors were basing their objections on a religious creed that they were not permitted to kill. So in order to remedy that political conundrum, they merely changed one word in the Bible – from kill to murder.

      When you define God’s law by man’s law, and man’s law rests someplace on a linear scale, you cannot then insulate a basis of life from one of death. For if you say that this man – the hopelessly depressed, should die then how can you ever justify that the unborn too should not have the value of their life measured by that same scale? In short, if you want death, you cannot expect life. If you believe the commandment says “murder” then you cannot on the other hand argue logically that abortion is wrong as they are both on the same line and part and parcel of the same cloth. The death penalty applies equally in all situations – assisted suicide, abortion, state sponsored genocide, euthanasia, etc. – it is legal when a government says it’s legal, and then, by it’s legality, it complies with the commandment not to commit murder.

      If God does believe in the death penalty – then he should have told us it was ok for us to kill and defined all the circumstances by which it would be ok to kill. And, he should have made that a commandment so that we wouldn’t ever be confused by some lesser law that a man would some day make.

      If you want to prohibit abortion and these other kinds of death, you can’t ride the line.

      George Gingo.

  3. [code]It is too much to go into here and is so all-encompassing that it takes years of Theology for a true student of the Bible. And if one thinks it can be explained in a long paragraph, they make fools of themselves.[/code]

    No need. One can just read those YHWH-inspired words for oneself. They’re actually pretty straight forward & direct. Its the apologist’s convoluted sophistry about why the Bible doesn’t mean what it says that takes years of study.

  4. Response to carol-cherry picking
    Thanks Carol for taking a simple straight-forward point, stirring it around vigorously in that vacuous space between your ears, and then regurgitating something that, for you, passes for reason. All you have done is display your propensity for logical fallacy and spewing hate and venom. Your points are rambling and non-sequitor and therefore not admissible in this discussion. As any rational person would understand, the space available does not lend itself to a doctoral thesis on the psychological aberration that is religious cherry picking. I clearly chose only a few examples directly from the KJV of the Bible. That is obvious. This is not cherry picking; this is economy of space. How long should I have continued? In my next book I present a much more comprehensive discussion on the many contradictions, absurdities, anachronisms, geographical errors, and nonsense that you spent such a long time using to wash your brain. I’m tinkering with a name…hmm let’s see…how about “Let’s all Cherry Pick like Carol”. You have shown that 10 years of education in nothingness leads to some rather advanced form of cherry picking as well as dementia. Back to the drawing board for you. Try to come up with a counter argument without using any logical fallacies. Cogent statements will also lend credence to your post. I’ll bet you can’t do it. In addition I will thank you to leave the name calling out of it. Why don’t you write an article showing everyone how Moses was really a great guy, or genocide in the Bible is misunderstood, or rape was good for those biblical women, or how the Bible is a good guide for slave owners. Unless of course you’ve cherry picked around those parts. By the way, there are 81 books in the RC canon. So, to them, you are a heretic and blasphemer for cherry picking around those additional fifteen, for you have rejected the holy word of THE LORD.

  5. Carol Rambles On
    Say again Carol?. You might want to address the issues and not ramble on about how “unqualified” the author is to write on the subject.

    I am curious as to what the “New Israel’s ” take is on the Palestinian genocide.


  6. Carol wrote: “Seminary student have a minimum of 12 years for a priest, for pastor is at least six, when I was entering for Chaplain it was 6 yrs total including summers–after my 4 yr degree, so 10 yrs and then when one is “formally” done, it is ever-increasing study-life-time learning.”

    One should not need 20-30 years of expensive schooling to figure out what the Bible says. Anyone with a 6th-grade education can read it and understand it. It’s not a book about nuclear physics, it’s just a book full of stories based on ancient myths, not hard to comprehend at all. When we read that Moses commands the slaughter of men, pregnant women, older women, and male children, and allows only the virgin girls to live so that they can be taken as wives and concubines, it does not take a college education to realize that this is barbaric and inexcusable. Maybe that is the way people did things back then, but we should have reached a more enlightened age by now. Such butchery of women and rape of girls continues in many parts of the world, and we condemn it in the West as barbarism and cruelty; yet when it is in the Bible, suddenly it becomes acceptable because God said to do it. Is that really what you went to seminary to learn? Your money would have been better spent on slot machines.

    And let’s not forget about Abraham offering up his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God (even though human sacrifices supposedly were against God’s will). Nowadays, when some parent kills their child and says God told them to do it, we lock them away in a room with rubber walls. Abraham would be, too, were he alive today, but because you can only read about him in the Bible, he is regarded as a great hero and a wonderful guy that everyone should emulate. Do you really want people emulating an insane man who heard voices in his head?

    How about God, himself, who kills people by the hundreds and thousands throughout the Old Testament, often for trivial reasons, and usually killing the innocent along with the guilty? What did the babies and children of Sodom and Gomorrah do to deserve being burned alive? Did your seminary teachers answer that question, or did you not bother to ask?

    One does not need much education to see that there is a lot that is evil about the Bible, that its heroes are the last people on Earth you would want your children to look up to, and that its God is a sadistic, homicidal killer. Telling us to put in the context of the entire Bible does not lessen the horrors contained therein, or magically cause them all to go away. You have wasted your life on an education that has done you no good.

  7. Picking Cherry’s of Truth out of confusion.
    A priest may be required 12 years of diligent study…but has this demarked them as paragons of virtue ? The study of Truth…. is I suppose the most fundamental study. I respect Carol’s appreciation for giving an effort to be thorough in this subject… yet…” A tree is known by its fruit” and a “Good tree cannot produce bad fruit” Are we to say the purposeful destruction of what was called Pagan Philosopy… by the early christians as well as killing these pagan practitioners… was Good Fruit ? FREEDOM to realize our potential…has been the ideal that stole fire from the gods and through social evolution created ever more enhanced human conditions. The culture we live in…can be traced to the early genius of Egypt and the other cultures of the Crescent valley…. on through Greece and Rome and then spreading through the world. As with the evolution of the most primitive nerve centers in simple life forms to the developement of modern man… to his creation of his own mental image in this computor…evolution is evident and not requiring belief that requires breaches in logic. To believe in God or Divinity…is something all peoples have invested in…yet something to remember…is posterity has edified the {heretics condemned} by religious “authorities”..such as Jesus or Socrates…over these “authorities”. It may be true that human intellect will never fully apprehend Truth…this may be what keeps us evolving…Either way, I cannot imagine any reason to demand people abandon reason… in the pursuit of Truth. 💡 Thanks Acharya

  8. out of context
    Jesus cures man of his genocidal tendancies. When folks tell you that the pre-Christian world was so wonderful, just read the pentetauch stories of pre-Christian barbarians and their obsessive drive to enslave the raciallly inferior. Non-fundamentalist Christian Churches use the old testament to establish how non-functional a world traditional religions whether they be animist or talamudic cults create. The trouble with Christian fundamentalists is that they take the example of the failed belief and cultural system from the old testament and try to recreate it in modern times. I don’t know if those that use the failures of ancient times to create brand new failures in 2010 will go to hell, but they certainly will make many people’s lives quite miserable.

  9. Belief obsures inspection
    Any belief imposed on one by others or oneself obscures one’s ability to inspect.

  10. TheSempiternalSoul

    Cherry-Picking Religion: Exposing The Bible’s Ugl
    I give you two thumbs up and five gold sticky-stars for such an excellent post.

    I was born and raised in the bible belt and everyone in my family is a Christian who accepts the bible and it’s teachings without question because, according to them, it’s the WORD OF GOD. Of course, I doubt that a single person in my family has ever read the bible in it’s entirety, because that takes discipline and it’s far easier for most ppl to just follow along with the pastor’s sermon (which will never tell the all the gory facts.) I doubt that most Christians have taken the time to read the entire book and research all the contradictions & acts of murder, rape, and evil brutality. In fact, most of them truly believe the outlandish fairy tales, such as, Jonah & the whale.

    Of course, my family thinks I’m going to hell because I refuse to blindly accept Christianity, as they have. Unlike most of the Christians I know, I have read the bible in it’s entirety….TWICE. I have also read many of the gnostic gospels. I have thoroughly researched enough to know that there are hundreds of contradictions, the bible is full of hatred and killing in the name of some deity in the sky. I have taken the time to compare certain events that were said to have take place, with scientific evidence that proves otherwise.

    Do ya know what’s more absurd than the absurd fairy tale that states that some guy was swallowed by a whale, and lived in it’s belly three days before being puked back out, unharmed? It’s the fact that there are people alive at this very moment, who are otherwise rational, and have seemingly average intelligence that actually believe it happened. One day I brought up the fact that Jonah would not only suffocate or drown in stomach acid, but after three days his flesh would be completely deteriorated. After three days, Jonah would be nothing more than a stinky whale turd. The guy listening to me looked shocked that I would doubt the miracles of God, and exclaimed that (his exact words) miracles don’t happen in these days like they did back in bible days. God performed all those miracles so there would be an account of his power, and it was because we were all so bad nowadays that God hasn’t turned away from us.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that you can show the facts until the cows come home, but trying to convince a brain-washed bible thumper that what they’ve been taught is flawed, is like trying to fit an elephant’s dick in a midget’s ass….it ain’t gonna happen. Hell, just look at Carol’s reaction to the truth, lol.

  11. ….And to think God never showed himself to anyone but a tribe of backwards, illiterate, brutally ignorant,superstitious and savage people who worshiped a cow and sacrificed their infants.
    Not to the Chinese who already had an advanced civilization, you know…reading, writing, math, astronomy, poetry.Not to mention unexcelled artistry. Nor the people of India who knew a few things.
    No….he chose a savagely ignorant tribe of people wandering the desert, drinking bad water and eating toxic plants.
    For 250 thousand years or so that humanity has existed on this planet, heaven never showed itself until 2500 years ago. What were they doing in the meantime? Looking down on earth…..”oh dear, there they go again…”
    If that’s what people want to believe then, let them. Just remember the difficulty encountered when attempting to deprogram an individual from a religious cult.
    “Men never do evil so gleefully and completely as when they do it in the name of their religion.” Pascal.

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