Sunday, March 25, 2012

Random Bible verse of the Day: John 3:16

John 3:16 - Fuck doing good things; just believe!
Ok, I'll admit it, this isn't random at all.  No, I googled the most popular Bible verses and has a list of its top 100.  How could I resist?

And what verse sits atop this mountain of filth?  John 3:16 of course.

The verse, is short and sweet and christians seem to like it:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Aside from the fact that this is a completely evidence-free assertion, it strikes me as propaganda with a shallow message - believe and you'll live forever.  What about being a good person?

Well, perhaps Isaiah 64:6 can shed some insight:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags...
And just to make sure I've read the inspired work of God correctly, let's cross-reference Ephesians 2:8-9, which seems to shed some light on the issue of what gets you into heaven:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Oh ok so I guess Christianity isn't really about being moral or adding value to society.  That must explain why Christians are always talking about how you can't be moral without god.  Oh wait, no that doesn't even make sense.

But wait, Ephesians 2:8-9 says "not by works"...yet Ephesians 2:10 [yes, the very next sentence] says:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So now I'm all confused.  You are not saved by your "works", but god has created you to do predetermined "good works".  So no free will?  If not, then are we really free to meet the condition that John 3:16 lays out that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"?

If yes (we are free to believe and thus live forever), then is our free will constrained to our ability to have "faith", while our "good works" have been predetermined?

If no (we don't have free will), why does Jesus even bother lecturing us in John 3?  God has set the path for us to follow and we are incapable of deviation.  And if this is the case, why then does this supposedly benevolent god bother to create people who have been predetermined to not believe?  If the unbelievers are not free to choose whether to believe or not, yet they still get sent to hell, hat seems pretty sadistic to me.

The beatings will continue until morale improves!

Yet again, it seems, I have come to the conclusion that the bible is utterly worthless as a guide as to how to live one's life.  The contradictions and obfuscations are so thick, the only way to make sense of it is to invoke tortuously twisted logic, or accept that the Bible isn't the word of an omniscient being, but that of Bronze age politicians manipulating the masses for their own gain.


  1. Something being popular doesn't necessarily mean it's the key points that are the information important to look at. More like, the mortar supporting a wall of bricks. And on the wall, every now and then, there are some pictures. And in the pictures there is a stereogram.

    Mortar is important for a good wall, though.

  2. I agree with your analysis of John 3:16 and how these verses encourage people not to be good people, but just bank on the fact that it's good enough to believe in God.

    But your last point about Ephesians 2:10 feels a bit lazy, like you're actively looking to find a contraction with your last point, rather than really trying to understand its intent.

    Let's look at the King James version:

    (8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    I'm not a biblical scholar, but to me this is if Lance Armstrong were to say to his kids:

    "(8) Listen, I'm badass and you're lucky to have me as your dad, so you better do what I fucking say. You're own awesomeness is 100% because of me, so don't start thinking you're hot shit or anything. (9) Oh you hit a winning homerun in your little league game? Yea, that's because *I* gave you good genes, so let's not get a big head about it or anything, champ. (10) Anyway, the reason I decided to have kids in the first place was because I was watching American Ninja Warrior one lazy Saturday and got bored and so I created a pretty sweet challenge course of my own in the backyard. *That* is why you are here. Doing this challenge course that I built before you were born - *that* is your sole purpose in life. And now is your time to run through it. It's pretty hard, so good luck and don't fail, because gawwwd would that be embarrassing."

    Anyway, it's still a crazy way to look at life, but those verses aren't necessarily contradictory. I feel like if we want to have an honest discourse about the wild messages in the Bible, we should start by giving it the benefit of the doubt and assume logical consistency. If something seems contradictory, we should first try our best to figure out how things *might* fit together in a consistent way before jumping on declaring it wonky.

    But if you just go straight to misinterpreting passages for the sake of proving your point, then you're doing the same thing as climate deniers or world-is-flat conspiracy theorists.

    (For what it's worth I love your blog and agree with everything else you've said here - I'm just trying to challenge you to make your already sharp arguments even sharper.)