One thing an atheist must understand if they wish to engage religious people in discussion is that there is no uniformity, despite how it is presented by the religious.
Often I see the argument, “X% of the world believes in God, why don’t you?” Usually X is some unusually high and inaccurate number, often over 90%.
In reality, only three broad forms of religion believe in “God,” a.k.a. YHWH, Jesus/The Father/The Holy Spirit, or Allah. What’s more, there is a great amount of inconsistency not only between these three groups (and Jews are so tiny as to be nearly insignificant), but also within.
While there is diversity within Islam, it can’t touch the shocking amount of division within Christianity. There are more Christian sects created within the last 200 years in America than there are different sects in Islam. When it comes to Christianity, you have to get the person to clearly define their beliefs, because saying “I’m Christian” is utterly ambiguous.
Outside of Catholics, those who venerate the King James Bible as the absolute and unquestioning word of God are one of the largest groups (especially in English-speaking nations like the US, Canada, Britain, and Australia). What is up with the KJV of the Bible?
To date, I have not personally met anyone else who has completely read the KJV from Genesis to Revelation, just me. I am sure I cannot be the only person, I just don’t hang out in the appropriate circles which would put me in contact with people who have. So, for those of you who haven’t… I can honestly say it was the most laborious and pained read I ever undertook.
To be fair, though, I was unable to even finish reading Atlas Shrugged. Can a Russian writer ever just get to the point in under 2000 pages? Honestly… how hard is it to tell the tale of an immature child who owns most of the toys getting fed up with his friends telling him he has to play fair, saying “Screw you guys, I’m leaving,” and going to play by himself?
There is nothing really special about the King James Bible. It is not a particularly accurate translation (though it is not remarkably inaccurate). The language is awkward and largely archaic, reading like a Shakespearean play (but without the compelling plot or scandalous intrigue). However, this is part of the appeal.
Many Protestant sects demand that their followers only read the KJV of the Bible, and I find it to be a blatant attempt to keep what is actually written in the Bible from being understood by the layperson. This is ironic, because this goes counter to the original intent of the translation: to provide an easily accessible English translation for people who are not versed in Latin. Centuries of lingual evolution has resulted in this late 16th/early 17th century language being inaccessible and obscure to the average English reader.
I have come to the firm belief that the KJV is favored by certain groups because it is so unwieldy to read. Just as Muslims demand that the Quran be read in Arabic, despite most Muslims having little (if any) real working knowledge of Arabic, a Christian minister demanding his followers only read the KJV can ensure ignorance among the congregation regarding what the Bible actually says.
One thing which I continually perplexes me when dealing with these King Jamesians is that some actually refuse to defer any Biblical authority to any non-KJV Bible… including the original Hebrew and Greek. Not all, but some Christians who adhere to the KJV as being the ultimate Word of God refuse to be engaged in any discussion of the original material.
If that weren’t strange enough, their understanding of the Bible as a historical document is also highly suspect. Those who view the KJV as the pinnacle of Christian theology are nearly all opposed to the Catholic Church… despite the fact that it was the Catholic Church (or what would become called “the Catholic Church”) which compiled the Bible from hundreds of available books. Centuries later, Luther decided to drop some books on a whim, and nearly all Protestants have decided to do the same… despite any evidence that doing so made any sense.
Saying “they are of the devil” seems to be good enough, and the world’s Protestants took the violently anti-Semitic 16th century German monk, Martin Luther, at his word…
The truth is, the compilation of the Bible (the New Testament in particular) was politically and theologically calculated, with extreme prejudice. The Bible was constructed from numerous available writings with the express goal of presenting a very specific ideology, at the exclusion of other texts, which ended up being largely destroyed in order to maintain uniformity.
Removing a few books and translating the texts into a now-obsolete English dialect is not an accomplishment worthy of being worshipped as a miracle by modern Protestants. I think it would be a miracle if a Christian ever actually read the Bible in its entirety and still believed it. There is some unbelievable bullshit in there… and I’m not even counting the talking ass. That part I find plausible; just look at Rush Limbaugh.