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Bible Verses That Atheists Love

We asked prominent atheists what parts of the Bible they find inspiring and beautiful.
 
 
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A few years back, a cheeky Christian website named Ship Of Fools asked readers to vote on the worst verse in the Bible. The solicitation went out—“It could be a verse which is irredeemably naff, mind-numbingly boring, or a verse which you find offensive or cruel. Please send us your nomination.”—And contenders flowed in.

Ship of Fools is the brainchild of two Brits, Simon Jenkens and Stephen Goddard, who met in theology school and who hold among their sacred values a belief in self-examination. "Our aim is to help Christians be self-critical and honest about the failings of Christianity, as we believe honesty can only strengthen faith," says Jenkens. Their list of top 10 worst verses would cause many believers to flinch or to dive headfirst down a rabbit hole of rationalizations, but at “The Ship” it found a comfortable place nestled between quirky church reviews (“How long was the sermon? How hard the pew? How cold was the coffee? How warm the welcome?) and irreverent “ gadgets for God.”

Bible believers are on shaky ground these days, which is growing ever shakier thanks to science (think Cosmos), biblical scholarship, and the internet. Church attendance and belief itself are eroding, at least among young people, at least where people are free and educated, and secularism is on the rise. So, if clear-eyed Christians can take the risk of exposing the Bible’s nasty bits, the converse should also be true—atheists should be able to acknowledge the parts that are timeless and wise.

To that end, I asked some outspoken anti-theists and other champions of secularism what they think are the best verses in the Bible, and why. Here are their responses.

My favorite verse is the same one my Catholic Dad quoted more often than any other, by far: “Do not judge lest you be judged." (See Matthew 7:1-5). When he quoted it his point was always the same, don't judge others harshly or you can and will be judged by those same standards. His stood against any double standards.

     —John W. Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist and The Outsider Test for Faith.

Social justice and community activism are central themes of the Bible. It is imperative that we not forget those who are in need and are voiceless. We live amongst those who are in need, it is in our best interest to ensure that their needs are met. Two of my favorite verses are Jeremiah 22:3 "This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." Proverbs 29:7 "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."

    —Kim Veal, Black FreeThinkers & People of Color Beyond Faith

There are a couple from Proverbs I can share: “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” 4:13 “The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.” 10:14  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”18:15

    —Leighann Lord, stand-up comedian

I actually have an entire favorite book: Ecclesiastes. There's lots of beautiful stuff in it about nature, human nature, and good ways to live life. It has plenty of stuff I have serious problems with, too -- the God stuff, obviously, and some other stuff as well -- but much of the philosophy and poetry is quite lovely and moving. And much of it is oddly humanist, with an awareness of how small humans really are in the scheme of things, and how fragile our lives are, and the absurdity of how important we think we are ("all is vanity"), and how much our lives are shaped by chance, and the repeated reminders of our mortality.

 
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