The first thing Pastor Paul Prather has going for him is that he’s apparently NOT a biblical literalist.
Were there a theological evolutionary scale, that fact alone would advance him quite a bit further toward the heretical-hominid end of its spectrum than, say, his brethren fundamentalist eukaryotes, who seem not only intent on never leaving their primordial pond of piety, but on dragging us all back down into it with them.
The Pastor’s pragmatic apologetics seem to limit the import of the gospels’ authors to that of any other ancient scribes and, not only am I okay with that, it’s how I’ve taught my own kid to approach all literature, religious and otherwise. If you can find valid inspiration in the subtext of anybody’s lexicon, well then, bravo.
Aesopean Literalists Aren’t a Problem
One does not have to believe that the bugs of ancient Greece ACTUALLY spoke to one another in order to appreciate the message put forth in ‘the Ant and the Grasshopper’. Likewise, we needn’t pledge ourselves to an imagined “personal relationship” with any everlasting, living, breathing, loving, and caring Aesop to attest to how important his fables might be to us.
For that matter, we don’t even need to argue about whether that author ever really walked the Earth. The messenger wasn’t the point; the message was.
I’m reminded of an incident more than half a lifetime ago, when I heard a Catholic priest offer an eye-opening secular take on the canonical “Loaves and Fishes” story that I’m confident will stay with me for as long as I can remember my own name.
In as briefly as I can synopsize it: the Reverend suggested that the crowds of families who’d fled to Bethsaida might not have been forthcoming when asked about how much food they had smuggled along, out of the very understandable instinct of self-preservation. But perhaps they were moved to share their own hidden reserves with one another once shamed by a hungry child who’d selflessly offered every morsel he had. Yeshua might well have made certain the boy’s sacrifice for his fellow humans was known to all and, “miraculously”, enough food was subsequently produced by what amounted to an emotional shakedown of the guilt-laden hoarders.
I can’t presume that Pastor Prather takes THAT humanistic of an approach to his own biblical interpretations. But the fact that he’s willing to entertain the notion that Paul’s misogyny might have been attributable to the apostle “having a bad day” certainly gave me hope. And a good chuckle.
The “Feeding the Multitudes” homily above moved me to a critical re-examination the Bible in its entirety and was, as the good Pastor warns in his essay, the first step on my path toward solidifying my atheism. Not so much because I came away with no use for some of the Good Book’s positive messages, but instead because the tome itself is clumsy, inconsistent, and often ridiculous enough to serve as its own compelling rebuttal to any notion that it was divinely inspired.
But whatever. I still enjoy a good fish story.
In any event, the Pastor is, I think, correct. There seems to be some Newtonian “equal and opposite reaction” to fundamentalist literalism that results in a sort of atheistic rebound effect when we’re demanded to accept the “truth” of talking snakes and the historicity of unicorns. Ironically, the devout and infidel alike might be able to agree that each found the book inspirational, albeit for entirely different reasons.
We’re thus left with an esteemed pastor who asks you not to read the Bible literally and this rabid atheist who implores that you DO consider the book in all manner of interpretation: from a god’s verbatim decree down to simple bronze-age poetry.
I don’t think I risk misrepresenting the Preacher in this sentiment at least, and if I have, I trust he’ll let me know:
On behalf of Pastor Prather and this Stupid Atheist, please, read your bible… 😉