Some while back, I happened to mention to some friends, that I personally find the “snake-handler” variants of “Fundie” Protestantism to be outright creepy.
Interestingly, the friend in question admitted something which I would frankly never have expected him to admit (or even know):
He made two statements which, at face-value, flatly contradict one another:
- He stated that the practice of snake-handling derives from a “misunderstanding” of some particular verses in the biblical book of Mark.
- He then also acknowledge the fact that Biblical scholars have found that the particular verse(s) being “misunderstood” are absent from early versions of “Mark. In other words, they were inserted into the text, at some point.
Now, the reason I found this (rather trivial) admission to be surprising: many (most?) christians implicitly — or explicitly — operate on the premise of “inerrency”. Implicitly (or explicitly), they treat “The Bible” the way they would treat most other books: as a monolithic, unified “whole”, which was “written” by a specific set of (known) authors. (Some “Fundies” go even further, and claim that the putative “authors” of the Bible were nothing more than “Pens of God”).
I understand where this tendency comes from: to many, the fact that a document they have been trained to view as “Sacred scripture” has been altered over time (IE: books added, removed, “verses” added, etc.) would probably be shattering. The text itself is supposed to be “timeless”, and (implicitly) the only genuinely important document in human history — to the point where the more “literalist” types go to extreme lengths of self-inflicted stupidity trying to “rationalize” whether or not hares do/do not “chew the cud”, and/or whether the “days” mentioned in the Genesis narrative were “really” 7, 24-hour periods, or billions of years. (“Young Earth” Creationists vs. geology).
Quite frankly, the fact that their “Sacred Scriptures” have been tampered with over time (for a myriad of exceedingly “worldly” reasons), should give anyone claiming to “believe” in those texts at least a moment of trepidation.
For instance: pretty much every form of Christianity from before the Protestant “Reformation” includes something like 11 additional “books”, in their biblical canon. For some reason(s), the Protestant “reformers” trimmed “the Bible”.
Of course, given the fact that pretty much every variant of “Christianity” considers every other variant at least somewhat “heretical” (and — at best — conceals that uncomfortable fact under a thin veneer of “ecumenical” unity), these kind of discussions don’t come up, very often — except possibly among the more intellectual clergy. The “simple faith”-type “Believers” are usually blissfully ignorant of such issues. (A great example of this: any sort of “KJV-only” psychosis. 🙂
This is also why I regard certain questions as innately idiotic, and unworthy of any response save bemused laughter:
One such question is whether or not we can “trust” the Bible. (This is typically only asked by Fundie/Literalist protestants, as far as I can determine.)
Quite frankly, that’s a stupid question. The real issue is:
Can you “trust” the “Council of Trent?” The “Second Council of Constantinople?” The “translation team” behind any number of post-KJV English “Translations” (any/all of which your particular Denomination probably hates with the white-hot passion reserved for a “Satanic counterfeit”), etc.?
So, yeah. I totally “get” the attraction of “Simple Faith” (IE: ignorance/apathy/lack of “critical thinking” skills), etc. “Simple Faith” allows for the comforting delusion that your fellow “Christians” actually “believe” whatever it is you claim to “believe”. It also allows the “believer” to ignore the fact that 99% of “Christians” are — in some fashion — “heretical”, with respect to your prefferred Denominational subculture.
(Of course, this is where “creeds” come in handy, in that they stipulate a more-or-less cohesive set of “bullet-points” upon which “believers” can then claim to “agree” — even if they may or may not be talking “past” one another, as mentioned in an earlier post.)
(Also note: when I use the term “ignorance”, I do not — always — mean anything “pejorative”. I am (almost) entirely “ignorant” in regard to the language of Esperanto. I could “correct” this (by attempting to learn more about it) — if I saw any merit in doing so.
There is only one sense in which “ignorance” pisses me off: when the ignorant become arrogant. (For example: the KJV-only “fundie” scumbags affiliated with Westboro “Baptist” church.) Wannabe theocrats are bad enough. Wannabe-theocrats who are almost totally ignorant of the historical development of the “belief”-system they want to impose on the rest of humankind AT GUNPOINT are genuinely horrifying.
“Sectarian” slaughter really pisses me off.