Talk to most atheists or agnostics, and they have likely read the Bible through at least once. It is no wonder that most who study the Bible at any depth will wonder why in the world they are associating themselves with its scriptures. Even if one were to excuse the Old Testament scriptures as a guideline rather than God-inspired instruction, there are enough damaging verses in the New Testament that show how harmful Christianity is at the core (By the way, anyone who thinks that stoning a woman to death or murdering an entire village including children and infants is holy or justified… well, you have serious issues and should get professional help).
All it takes is some distance from the guilt-tripping sermons and fear-mongering passages, along with research on the Bible`s history and acceptance of basic scientific principles. A thoughtful person should be able to piece everything together if they take a step back from the religious deluge and be honest with themselves.
It is not surprising to me at all when I speak to people who are Christians and they tell me that they have not read the Bible through even once. Of course, most of them have read the Psalms and the Gospels, which are relatively safe. Relatively being the key word. Even the poetic books such as Psalms and Proverbs contain a lot of vengeful and prejudiced content. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of some pretty profound principles for that era – including loving your neighbour, treating others with kindness, doing good to your enemies, and he even spoke to women as equals in a time that opposite genders rarely conversed. That said, he still fully supported the Old Testament teachings. Just read a little further on to Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians and onward… and there is a whole feast of cruel and suppressive passages to read from.
What I find most disturbing are the people who have read the Bible through once or more and still accept it as God`s word despite the violence, cruelty, hatred, sexism, prejudice, patriarchy, etc. etc. etc. Then, some preachers and pastors go the extra mile and will preach entire sermons on a woman`s role in life (i.e. Getting married preferably in her early 20`s, having kids, staying in the home, etc.) or why homosexuality is wrong (I.e. “Oh my God, gays are ruining society because they are threatening our families!”). Oh, I have even heard one man of the cloth stand up and preach why we should not be concerned with global warming and pollution because Jesus will be returning before the world could ever get that bad.
What is scary is that the pews are still full in the churches led by these delusional (or, is it shrewd, money hungry…) men.
A common misconception about atheists is that they are that way because they are actually angry with God, or something terrible happened to them so they no longer trust in God. Actually, most people who have “de-converted” did not grow tired of living “righteously” or have a personal bone to pick with God. On the contrary, most come to their senses after considering the very messy history of the Bible`s composition – along with the fact that if there were a God, it would not have written such ridiculous and often childish rules for people to follow.
I think the bottom line is that fear and manipulation are what keep people from debating and challenging the scriptures from one of the most highly regarded religious books in the world. The idea of burning in hell fire, alone and in darkness, for eternity is enough to keep some people from making use of their critical thinking skills.
I think there are also a lot of traditionalists out there that just prefer things to stay at their white male privileged state. These people are generally pro-life, against feminism, in opposition to gay marriage, and think that the ultimate goal for everyone is to settle down and have a family. They are also probably pro-oil companies and think that environmentalists are a bunch of brazen hippies. Basically, they would subscribe to any system that catered to their obsession to keeping everything from progressing beyond the 1950`s.
It is not so surprising to me that many “Christians” have not read the Bible through. Hey, it`s a long book in the opinion of most people. They would rather spend money on those Christian self-help books and sit under a preacher than do any of their own searching.
What is more bemusing is when those who have read the Bible through refuse to do even minute research on who authored the various books within the Bible and who decided which books should be added. Let us not forget how many times these books have been edited and re-written.
If enough attention were given to all of that, any reasonable person could see it for what it is.
Atheists do not believe in God because they understand that it was fear and the need to control others that created the first gods. There would be far less religious people if they actually read through the scriptures that they claim to believe so deeply in.