On reading the bible

What use is the bible?

There are two contradictory facts about how Americans read the Bible.  According to a 2011 Gallup poll, nearly 80% of all Americans believe the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of god.  The other fact, most Americans have no idea what’s in the Bible.  In his presentation at TNP 2013, Yale University Professor Joel Baden, takes a look at an utterly familiar text and has us think about what the Bible says and just as importantly, how it says it.

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9 thoughts on “On reading the bible

  1. I very much enjoyed Prof. Baden’s interesting talk. I would be curious to know his ideas about very religious vs least religious people and how that relates to biblical interpretations. The U.S. has an obvious divide between very religious and least religious states (is Canada similar?).

    A Gallup poll finds that people who live in certain U.S. states happen to be “very religious.” Those states are MS, UT, AL, LA, AR, SC, TN, NC, GA, and OK. The states that are the “least religious” are VT, NH, ME, MA, RI, OR, D.C., NV, HI, AK, CT, and WA. Interestingly, the very religious states tend to be Republicans, while the least religious states are Democrats. Studies (not polls) show similar state divides when analyzing IQ scores.

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    • The key seems to be in the introductory paragraph: There are two contradictory facts about how Americans read the Bible. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, nearly 80% of all Americans believe the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of god. The other fact, most Americans have no idea what’s in the Bible.

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  2. As I watch this video I consider the possibility of a bible study group here on Gabriola, but the people who might come, like any study group, would not be the people who are sure their beliefs are right, but who are comfortable with complexity. Reaching the people who use the prop to support their sense of superiority is the challenge.

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    • You are right, nebulaflash! When I used the bible as a text in a philosophy class I found a mixed bunch of students: some open and curious, some in the class to straighten me out. If you get a chance listen to the CBC interview (link in the right column).

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  3. Maybe “conservative” equals “very religious” – those who follow the bible word for word and believe Earth is 6000 years old. And maybe “liberal” or “progressive” equals “least religious,” those who take a broader look at the bible and it’s various stories, as Prof. Baden mentions, and are “able” to acknowledge evolution. Very religious people almost never miss going to church and, in fact, believe that god commands them to be in church no matter what, unless they’re sick. They also tend to set aside times when they read the bible almost daily, so I ask, don’t the conflicting stories presented in the bible confuse them? I don’t remember if Baden talked about that.

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  4. “A right brutal bastard he has been, and will be again in spite of all his sucking up and reading the Bible.” – Chief Guard Barnes in _A Clockwork Orange_

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