Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant quoted Rochelle Weiss of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who wrote about whether Jesus was righteous, and finds he comes up short.
Needless to say, apologists came in (and as usual, saying different things). This post is based on a comment I made there.
As always, when the bible say uncomfortable things, the apologists come right in with “this doesn’t mean what it says”.
Which is fine, I could accept that - unless, unless they also say about other parts “this means what it says”. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t declare the parts you don’t like to be “figures of speech” unless you accept that the same will be true of parts you would like to be literal; conversely, you can’t say “I think this is literally true” unless you’re prepared to accept that some of the parts you don’t like are also literally true.
It’s astoundingly convenient the way that it’s apparently almost universally only the most inconvenient parts of the bible that are held to be figures of speech (or in some other way should not be taken to mean what they plainly say).
“Okay, here, hate doesn’t mean hate. Actually, it means love, just not quite so much as someone else. But over there, well, it means hate.”
Even George Orwell didn’t imagine wordplay quite as sinister as that.
The problem with the “figure of speech” argument is that people of the time (as with people now) sometimes said similar things literally. There’s nothing in the bible to clearly say that the claim of “figure of speech” is in fact so. And it gets worse, because if some part isn't literal, you have the further problem of guessing exactly what it's supposed to mean.
It’s guesswork. Sometimes it’s educated guesswork, but much of the time it’s just a hopeful guess. Where does this supreme authority come from to know with certainty what is literal and what is not?
If nothing was at stake but academic pride, I wouldn't care.
What if you guess wrong about what’s literal and what’s not? What could loving Jesus have in store for you? Well, he tells us - get the wrong things wrong, and it's infinite torture. For guessing wrong, or believing someone else who claims their guess is right. So before you start casually declaring one bit not literal, and another bit literal, you better be damn sure you’ve got it right. You better have a lot more evidence than is on display in the comment thread there.
Now if Jesus really did mean that bit about hating parents literally, and you don't, or you tell others not to hate theirs, you could be totally screwed, depending on which other bits are literally true (the problem is, if some is literal and some is figurative, there is no solid foundation for any claim). But then again maybe even Jesus’ tender Hell is also just a figure of speech. So maybe nothing's at stake. For the sake of all the apologists, we better hope so, eh?
I see lots of opinion on display from the religious, and precious little fact. Yet, they’ve got the unmitigated arrogance to be happily playing around with their apologetics, apparently putting others in danger of infinite torture.
Fingers crossed, eh? Good luck with that.