Why Christians Need to Stop Telling Atheists to Read the Bible


I know these types of posts get written fairly regularly, but I think the message needs to keep getting repeated because I still get told to read the bible fairly regularly. 

Telling an atheist to read the bible is not going to convince us that it is true. Many atheists, myself included, were raised in christian homes. We went to church, where the bible was read to us, we went to bible camps and bible study, where we were told what passages to read, and we read the bible because we were told to. 

Many atheists even read the bible as atheists. Some do it to understand where the christians are coming form, others read it to better debate christians. I read it as part of a religious studies class. Reading the bible is not an unusual activity for atheists, so telling us to read the bible is not going to get you anywhere.

It may seem odd to you that an atheist might have read the bible and not been convinced, but it is fairly common. You can’t assume that what you find convincing is convincing for everyone. It’s not. 

When I was in that aforementioned religious studies class, it felt like I as reading a completely different book than everybody else. We were all reading the same passages at the same time, but, where my classmates interpreted a passage as loving or good, I read it and thought “what is wrong with these people?” I do not think that what the bible says is good, loving, or convincing. To me, it reads like a fairy tale more gruesome than a Grimm fairy tale. We interpret it differently. I do not see the same things in the bible that christians see. So, if I do not interpret it the same way you do, how can you expect ‘read the bible” to convince me?

If you want to convince an atheist that you’re right, don’t just tell us to read a book and leave it at that. If you want to convince us, share a passage with us, tell us what it means to you, and then listen to us when we tell you why we disagree. After that, we can have a meaningful conversation where we are not merely talking over each others heads. You will probably not convince me, and I will probably not convince you, but at least we will have created a situation where we can better understand each other and create respect between us. 

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24 responses to “Why Christians Need to Stop Telling Atheists to Read the Bible

  • caelesti

    Unfortunately a lot of people take it upon themselves to “spread the Gospel” while not knowing much about the Bible beyond what their church/minister/parents tell them- which usually means *certain parts of the Bible, *certain interpretations etc. Even if they converted (or were “born again) they probably didn’t just decide by reading the Bible, pick a random page of Deuteronomy and have an “aha” moment.
    People who just do what they are socially programmed to do without question are going to make the worst evangelists.
    I actually went to a Lutheran college (a moderate to liberal one) where we studied the Bible more systematically- as an academic requirement. I was already a Pagan when I went to college, and I think this was a good experience, because I ended up understanding it a lot better than I did growing up as a kid, where I just learned bits and pieces of it, as the ministers or Sunday School teachers choose to talk about it.

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  • siriusbizinus

    I’ve lucked out and had a few productive conversations. However, I’ve also had to deal with the circular argument verses getting thrown at me too (i.e., spiritual knowledge seems unreasonable, the wicked will deny the teachings of the disciples, etc.). Is it just me or does their use effectively close off any attempt at a productive discussion? It’s quite frustrating at times.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      I think that, to the most fundamentalist believers, that’s the point. They don’t really want a productive conversation. They don’t want to hear anyone else’s POV, they just want to preach their piece and demand that everyone accept their own position. Luckily most believers are more honest. Sadly, I think most fundamentalists think they’re being honest, but they were trained to act dishonestly.

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  • Arkenaten

    I’ve read it twice and still read it for study purposes from time to time.

    I could never understand how any normal person could ever take it seriously.
    But that’s the power of indoctrination, I suppose.
    I was never subject to it, thank the gods!

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  • scmike2

    You said: “”Again, I don’t care what your Bible says. It can say whatever it wants about my beliefs, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

    Nope, not even a smidget of hostile bias there, HWT. ; )

    You said: “”I don’t believe in the existence of any gods.””

    Then you should have no problem clearing this up right now. As a professing atheist, tell me how you know for certain that the Bible is wrong about you knowing that God exists.

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  • scmike2

    Hello again! Regarding your remarks:

    You said: “”Being an atheist means I don’t believe there is a god. How can I be an atheist if I believe there is a god?””

    That’s just it, there are no true atheists, just those who PROFESS atheism as a means of suppressing the truth about God’s existence and their ultimate accountability to Him. Atheism is the ultimate exercise in self-deception, as you live in God’s universe, are bound by His rules, yet you deny His existence with your words. Try as you may, you cannot live that way, though.

    You said: “”Can you read minds? Unless you can, you have no idea what the person next to you “knows.””

    Unless of course it is something that has been revealed to me by One who knows everything—via an objective, internally consistent revelation that comports with reality and makes sense of human intelligibility (which in this case, it is!

    You said: “”In that case, assuming that you both have the same knowledge base will only lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding. If you want to communicate effectively, you must first understand where they’re coming from.””

    I already know where you’re ‘coming from’ and have been up front with you about where I am ‘coming from’. You have a presuppositional bias against the God of the Bible, which causes you to arbitrarily reject the truth of Scripture and the God who created you. Again, HTW, one either submits to God as their ultimate authority, or they don’t.

    You said: “”Nothing absolutely forbids anything.””

    Is that absolutely true?

    You said: “”But I don’t agree with your Bible. Why should I accept anything you say if your only defense is “the Bible says”? If you want to convince an atheist, then you need something better than that.””

    Again, truth does not equal persuasion, as it is impossible to convince someone of something that they do not wish to be convinced of. Of course, you are free to arbitrarily reject the Bible. However, it is important to remember that arbitrarily dismissing something, simply because you don’t LIKE it, is but one form of irrationality.

    You said: “”At what point did I assume that you know I’m right?””

    When you simply asserted that you were without providing a logical justification for doing so. Unless, of course, you don’t believe that you were right about your statement? Either way, you’re busted. : )

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    • hessianwithteeth

      My assuming I’m right doesn’t mean I assume that you know I’m right. That’s the thing about humans: we don’t all believe the same things.
      Again, I don’t care what your Bible says. It can say whatever it wants about my beliefs, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. I don’t believe in the existence of any gods. Rather than saying that I know something that I’m (the person in question) is saying I don’t, show me evidence that you are correct. You aren’t convincing me. You’re just being lazy and telling me that it is up to me to prove something that I’m unconvinced of to myself. That’s not going to happen.

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  • scmike2

    Greetings and thank you for following my blog! After reading this article, I think that it would be helpful to clarify two things:

    1) The Bible clearly teaches that EVERYONE already knows that God exists, but some people choose to suppress that truth in order to continue in unrighteousness and in attempt to avoid accountability to Him (see Romans 1:18-23). As a Christian who holds God and His Word as my ultimate authority, I argue from this position when I engage professed atheists or those who hold other non-Christian worldviews.

    2) In your article, you said this: “”I do not see the same things in the bible that christians see.”””

    This is really the crux of the issue here. You and I have different starting points from which we evaluate and interpret the world around us (including all evidence and the Bible itself). I begin with the assumption that God exists and the Bible is His infallible, inspired Word, while you do not (as is evidenced by your most recent posts here) and then we draw our conclusions accordingly. The question then becomes: which of our positions has a logical foundation and can be rationally defended? I submit to you that atheism cannot be rationally defended, while Christianity alone can be (and is). For a recent demonstration of this fact, see here:

    http://christianammunition.com/2014/06/25/how-to-be-an-atheist/#comments

    I hope this at least helps guide you in thinking through this issue of eternal importance and that you too will come to know the Truth which is in Jesus Christ. Take care.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      It is incredibly problematic to assume people “know” what you “know.” Even if the Bible says I “know” that god exists, you can’t simply assume that. If I had that knowledge, then I wouldn’t call myself an atheist. If you want to convince someone that you’re right, telling them that they know you’re right comes off as arrogant. Why not just have an honest discussion with them about why you believe the Bible is true and let them tell you why they disagree?

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      • scmike2

        Thanks for the response! Regrding your comments:

        You said: “”It is incredibly problematic to assume people “know” what you “know.””

        Sounds very arbitrary to me. Why is this a problem and says who?

        You said: “”Even if the Bible says I “know” that god exists, you can’t simply assume that.””

        Why not? What absolutely forbids this from a purely atheistic standpoint?

        You said: “”If I had that knowledge, then I wouldn’t call myself an atheist.””

        That’s like someone arguing that if people knew murder was wrong, then no one would commit murder. Knowledge of the truth does not equal submission to it. It has been rightly stated that atheists can’t find God for the same reason a criminal can’t find a policeman. Some people would rather be their own god and continue in their sinful behavior (be it sexual sin or otherwise) than submit to the God they know exists.

        You said: “”If you want to convince someone that you’re right, telling them that they know you’re right comes off as arrogant.””

        You mean like that? Pot meet kettle, kettle pot (not that I agree with your accusation of arrogance, of course). : D

        You said: “”Why not just have an honest discussion with them about why you believe the Bible is true and let them tell you why they disagree?””

        By ‘honest discussion’ I presume you mean a neutral/ unbiased one? The truth is, bias is unavoidable when it comes to this topic. One either assumes that God exists and is the foundation of their (and all) reasoning or they don’t. There are only two types of people in the world, HWT—those who profess the truth about God and those who suppress it. I trust I don’t have to tell you which camp you are in right now? I do hope that will change, though, and soon as you give some serious thought to this matter and your specific reasons for denying the Lord. Take care.

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        • hessianwithteeth

          Being an atheist means I don’t believe there is a god. How can I be an atheist if I believe there is a god?
          Can you read minds? Unless you can, you have no idea what the person next to you “knows.” In that case, assuming that you both have the same knowledge base will only lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding. If you want to communicate effectively, you must first understand where they’re coming from.
          Nothing absolutely forbids anything. But I don’t agree with your Bible. Why should I accept anything you say if your only defense is “the Bible says”? If you want to convince an atheist, then you need something better than that.
          At what point did I assume that you know I’m right?

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  • fictionfitz

    Reblogged this on Good Morning and commented:
    I think the hessian offers a good message, what do you think?

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  • Godless Cranium

    I agree. I’ve read the bible 7 times. I’m still an atheist.

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      • magiccurio

        I was an atheist but am now an agnostic.  My opinion of the Bible, Christianity and all of the other religion has not changed. But there COULD be a Creator, which would be God to me, even though I feel quite sure He or She would be completely indifferent. But that wouldn’t change the fact there would be a “superior being,” Einstein was a “superior being,” but I don’t worship him, either, although I certainly respect and admire the man greatly.

        Don’t worry about what others may think of your atheism. After all, such beliefs I believe are supposed to be “personal and private.”  What you don’t want to do is make a hypocrite out of yourself by broadcasting it– exactly like the Christians, et al. are wont to do.

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    • bornfromabove7

      I’m not trying to argue you, but I would like to point out that Yeshua the Messiah never said that the bible will guide you into all the truth, Yeshua the Messiah said, “the Holy Spirit will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13), the bible is not the Holy Spirit,

      everything in the New Testament was written for the church that existed during the time of the Apostles, no one that is born from above also known as born of God needs the bible to obey God,

      I’m born of God, I do not need the bible to obey God, the Holy Spirit that dwells in me is what makes me obey God (Phil 2:13)

      In the world today there are many people that use the bible to teach false, if someone that claims to be from God says something that does not agree with what is written in the bible, then I know that that person is not speaking the truth,

      for example if someone tells me that the gospel has to be preached to every creature, I know that that is false because Col 1:23 says that the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven,

      the bible is a book that I use to compare with the words of those that claim to be from God, if their words do not agree with what the bible says, then I know that that person is not speaking the truth & I turn away from them, just as the bible tells me to do, the bible was not written for the world, the bible was written for the church

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  • magiccurio

    Something to keep in mind: the main edict of the Christian religion is to “…go and spread the word.” So, for them, it’s part of “being” a Christian and their duty.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Yes, but “spread the word” is more than simply “read my holy book.” I’m fine with them trying to convince me, but telling me to read the bible is kind of dismissive and disrespectful. Though mostly it’s just annoying.

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      • magiccurio

        Not many people over 30 haven’t been “assailed” by a Christian zealot at one time or another, in one fashion or another, in one venue or another, but what else can they do? If you’re trying to sell a car, you’ll want the potential buyer to see it, touch it and take it for a test ride. It’s annoying, I know, and “telling” someone to do something isn’t the most persuasive way to get anything done that should otherwise be voluntary.

        My answer anymore goes something like this: “I have but it’s really for kids, like the rest of the fairy tales.” That usually sends them on their way looking for another scalp to coup.

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    • bornfromabove7

      The main edict for the Christians during the time of the Apostles was to spread the word, that edict is not for Christians that live in the world today

      The gospel had already been preached to every creature under heaven by the time that Col 1:23 had been written, that means that everything in the New Testament has already happened

      Matt 24:14 & this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth & then the end shall come

      Mark 16:15 Go into all the world & preach the gospel to every creature

      Col 1:23 be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you have heard & which was preached to every creature under heaven

      The whole purpose of preaching the gospel was so that God’s chosen people would be saved from the coming destruction that was going to happen to Jerusalem

      The end of the age in Matt 24:3, is the end of the Mosaic age, that age ended when the temple was destroyed, the gospel had to be preached before the end of the age happened, the temple was destroyed in AD70

      The letters in the New Testament were written to teach the church the truth about Yeshua the Messiah, to warn the church about the Lord’s coming judgment upon Jerusalem & to teach the church about what it means to be led by the Spirit

      Everything in the New Testament has already happened, the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23), Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 & those who have been predestined by God to be born of the Spirit are born of the Spirit (Eph 1:11), those who believe Yeshua is the Messiah that don’t practice sin are born of the Spirit A.K.A. born of God

      Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to God’s purpose who works all things after the counsel of His own will

      1 John 3:9 No one born of God practices sin

      1 John 5:1 Whosoever believes Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God

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    • bornfromabove7

      The letter “J”didn’t exist during the time of the Apostles, therefore they never said Jesus is the name of God’s Son, they never said you have to say a prayer to be born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8) & they never said you choose the Messiah by freewill (Jn 1:12-13 & Jn 6:65), that means that the gospel that is preached in the world today isn’t the same gospel that the Apostles preached

      Gal 1:8 though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than that which we preached to you, let him be accursed

      Like

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