Cherry-Picking and A bible Lesson For Atheists

realityI was stumbling around the intertoobs and found a blog post at dmiessler titled The Jesus Quote You'll Never Hear In Church. The quote is as follows:
Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Now, this is actually the end of the parable of the talents that jesus is telling. Basically the lesson that jesus seems to imply is that god takes what is not rightly his and reaps what he didn't sow. Of course, jesus freely admits that he tells parables to confuse people so they will go to hell:
Mark 4:10-12 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Not very nice, is it? Then again the bible is full of amoral cruelty and malice. Most people talk about the old testament, which is rife with stories of god slaughtering and maiming just about everything because he's so angry and jealous. But the new testament is full of nastiness as well. The Skeptic's Annotated Bible has compiled a nice list to make it easy: Cruelty In The New Testament, so I won't go over each one.

Anyway, regarding the first quote above from the book of Luke, christians will retort that it was a parable, not a quote. But right after the story, he tells his disciples to go steal a colt so that he can ride it into Jerusalem (Luke 19:30). So if he's willing to have his disciples steal for him and take what wasn't his, it really isn't out of context, now is it?

I really must point out one other new testament quote by jesus, because it shows that he is just as petty and cruel as his dad:
Luke 14:26, 33 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

What kind of kindly, peace-loving godlike person would say such a stupid thing? Then again, just read all the heinous things that god did in the old testament to see that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Anyway, this all reminded me about cherry-picking, which is a logical fallacy. I've found that it's quite natural for people to cherry-pick information to suit their needs. You remember the bad times with your ex and happen to forget how many happy times you had together. Or, the most famous and irritating of all, christians take the bible and filter out the parts that support whatever message they are trying to find there and simply ignore the rest. When you call them on it, they say you have to take the icky bits in context, because then they show that they really aren't amoral and cruel or malicious, just misunderstood.

What they are really doing is using their flawed logic and ability to cherry-pick to interpret the bible any way that suits them, for whatever personal purpose or gain they may be advancing.

I don't think you need to read the bible in context. And you don't need to cherry-pick at all. Why? Because supposedly this ancient collection of stories from the bronze and iron ages in Mesopotamia is the infallible word of yahweh. So, I contend you are in one of 2 camps: the bible is the infallible word of your god and you should follow it completely (which is completely insane and I'm not recommending it), or the bible is a collection of stories written by goat herders in the Middle East a long time ago and holds some historical relevance, and that's it.

Why on earth would I say such a thing? Because cherry-picking shows that your argument is weak and flawed. So if you distill the bible to just the bits that you like and throw the rest away, you're basically saying that you are superior to your god. Yeah, that would be the same god that enjoyed the smell of burning goat flesh and killed innocent babies and whole cities on a whim. That would also be the same jesus that says that you have to hate your family to be his disciple. You can't subject yourself to this barbaric god while only choosing to follow 15% of what he demands. How is that going to get you into his good graces? Wait, he doesn't have good graces.

Also, if the bible was the true word of god, it would be crystal clear, don't you think? It certainly wouldn't be vague and contradictory, and it wouldn't lose its meaning if it were taken out of context. If I were a god and I wanted people to love me and respect me, and I wanted to have a book for them to read, I'd make sure it was simple, clear and well written. But yahweh went to a whole bunch of half literate men over a long period of time and continually contradicted himself. Then he supposedly let a bunch of power hungry guys in Nicea cherry-pick the books that would be called the official bible and throw the rest away. Why would yahweh let himself be edited like that if he's god?

There were people all over the world at this point. But he only went to Mesopotamia. Why is that? Why didn't yahweh have the exact same book written in Chinese, Aboriginal, Latin, Nordic, American Indian, and Hindi, just to name a few? Each book should have been dictated in every language, all over the world, because otherwise yahweh is only saving the barbaric goat herders in one small area. That means that millions upon millions of people were supposedly condemned to die because they never heard about the local god of Abraham? It makes no sense, especially if yahweh wants to be worshiped and loved. If he really wanted people to worship him then he'd have shown up in other cultures and would have clearly given them the rules and information he gave to the Fertile Crescent.

Hey, if I am smart enough to realize that, don't you think an all powerful god would figure it out too? Maybe it's because he was just all made up and not really there. That would be the simplest and most logical explanation. Especially since there is zero evidence of yahweh or any other god ever having existed in any fashion.

Just because you choose to believe it, doesn't make it real or true. And just because your parents told you jesus was watching over you, doesn't make that true any more than the easter bunny. Use your mind. Think for yourself.


  1. Christians make a big deal to atheists about context but ignore context all the time - especially when it comes to bible prophecies.

  2. Oh yeah they do. Don't even get me started on prophecy. Eeesh.

  3. There are so many ways to approach the fallacies of the NT, but here is the one that is most convincing to me. If Jesus was so smart, why did he pick such dummies and backsliders for apostles? And even if they were misrepresented, why did a former Jew, admitted liar and poseur, and arrogant bully like Paul have to write so much of the NT instead of the disciples hand-picked by the man himself? There are many more questions like these (like if homosexuality is such a big deal, why didn't JC say anything himself?), but when studying the bible closely, "all roads lead to Rome" in more ways than one.

  4. Well, most of the disciples couldn't read or write. I can imagine Paul, scuttling around in the desert saying "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

  5. Yeah, if I had a dollar for every time a christian said or did something hypocritical, I'd be rich!

  6. I have visions of Paul scuttling around like a dung beetle, all grumpy and hateful, saying that now. That's too funny, Steve! LOL!

  7. Good points, Jeshua! Thanks for commenting. :)

  8. Actually, I'm pretty sure that Luke 19:27 *was* Jesus talking. If you look at the parable (verses 11-27: ), you notice a pattern: every time someone says something, it is immediately preceded by "And he/they said unto them/him..."
    The last 4 verses are as follows:

    19:24 And [the king] said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
    19:25 (And [the servants] said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
    19:26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
    19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

    Notice that the comment by the servants is parenthetical, indicating that 26 & 27 have the same speaker as verse 24. However, all the oldest manuscripts are completely lacking in punctuation, which means that the parentheses were added by a later scribe who thought they should go there. If the end were to follow the format of the rest of the parable, there should be a "And he said unto them..." at the beginning of verse 26. Since it doesn't follow that pattern, it seems much more likely that we've stepped back out of the parable, and that's Jesus talking.

    Secondly, notice that every time the king says something, it's phrased as "...he said unto them..." Verse 26 breaks this pattern too, starting "For I say unto you..."

    Third, so what if it's part of the parable? The king represents god, and having the king say "I want to watch you kill those who don't want me to rule them" isn't just a leeeeetle odd for a benevolent deity?

  9. Thanks Roi des Foux, I see what you're saying about who said what, but in the end you're also right that it really doesn't matter whether he said it directly or as a parable. It's still hateful, like so much of the bible.

  10. Indeed; I also stumbled across a page recently which quoted from the bible that 'public worship' was bad and only done by people to display their piety and that 'recorded, set-in-stone prayers' were the wrong way to do it. But on the whole I'm an atheist even though my mother did send myself and 3 older siblings each to 12 years of catholic school. I recognize the fact that religion = control and I've freed myself from those chains. I refuse to believe in childish fairy tales about 'eternal life' after death because they are nothing more than whimsical fancies of people who cannot accept the fact that we are mortal. I however can accept that fact.

  11. Hi Phil. You sound like my atheist husband. He calls himself a "recovering catholic". :P
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you! :D