I recently read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and listened to Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God. I've been an atheist for ten years, however I've rarely read or listened to works regarding atheism. I was surprised (and elated) when they both mentioned some (disgusting) bible passages. Even when I identified as a Catholic, I had never really read the bible. Sure, I'd heard the different readings in mass for however many years. I'd even made a point to read the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Once I tried to read the whole bible, from start to finish. I think I got through the first five books. My understanding of Catholicism was manifested by the various priests in the churches we went to and my Sunday School teachers. I am pretty certain that this was true for my whole family. I would not be surprised if this is true for most Catholics and other religious adherents.
Recently, I came across Nate Phelps' site and read his account of growing up in the Phelps' family (of Westboro Baptist fame). I found it interesting the manner in which his father would interpret and instruct based on what he felt the bible said ("There's bible for that"). Of course, this is no different from what other priests, preachers and reverends do, however Fred Phelps' "understanding" of the bible tends to be more intolerant and bigoted than others. The bible lends itself to multiple interpretations because of the desire of many to have it reflect their own beliefs. Individuals pick and choose what to believe as "the word of god" and what passages are metaphorical. The first chapters alone allow for an opportunity for different individuals to choose from these two viewpoints.
Genesis begins by introducing the hero of the tale, god, and how he miraculously created the Earth.
Genesis Chapter 1
1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
This seems to imply that there was nothing until "the beginning" when God decided to do some creating. What was God doing before? Was this the beginning of God as well? How did God come into existence? Also, I believe in this context "heaven" is meant to be more like "sky" than "the afterlife".
2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
OK, I'm taking "without form" to mean with life and land masses. So basically, he initially created a ball of water. And dark space surrounding it.
3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
So here we learn that the ball of water came first, then the ball of light we now call the Sun. This posits that the sun is younger than the Earth (just barely). A Wikipedia search leads us to this lovely gem:
"The age of the Earth is around 4.54 billion years... This age has been determined by radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples. The Sun, in comparison, is about 4.57 billion years old, about 30 million years older." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Earth, 06/07/10)
5And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.
8And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
OK, I thought this was done already. I guess now we have a more distinct sky and earth, or space and earth. Except, where is this water above the firmament? Wikipedia notes that there is trace amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere (less than 1%)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth, 06/07/10). Water is a prevalent molecule in the universe, however Genesis would have us believe that above the firmament named heaven there is something like another ocean. Not quite.
To be continued.