Fool’s gold is a brassy, yellow mineral that can be mistaken for gold. That is the bible in a nutshell. It is mere pyrite being passed off as something of value. Nothing about it is praiseworthy or honorable. Far from being respectable, the bible is a fraud, masquerading as words of wisdom from a higher power. It should be treated like all other frauds, with indignity and scorn.
I can’t say exactly why they call it fool’s gold. It is either that you have been fooled into mistaking pyrite for gold. Or you would have to be a fool to mistake pyrite for gold. It could be that your are using pyrite to fool others into thinking it was gold. Either way, if you have invested your fortune into pyrite thinking it was gold, you have been fooled. And you were a fool with your money.
How much more so is that true for one who invests their life in the bible: a book even less valuable than a pocket full of pyrite? The Bible is not wisdom, evidence, or assurance of anything. Even if the god spoken of by the bible were real, the bible itself would be a poor representation of the hidden reality. Over the next few paragraphs, I will briefly make the case for why the bible is profitable for nothing:
Profitable for nothing
You have known the Holy Scriptures ever since you were a little child. They are able to teach you how to be saved by believing in Christ Jesus. God has breathed life into all Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, the servant of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing. 2 Tim. 3:15-17
In this passage, Paul is encouraging Timothy: his protege, to stick with the bible. Paul reminds Timothy of his biblical indoctrination as a child. In this, I feel some kinship to Timothy. I was also indoctrinated into the bible from my earliest memories. I was able to read the bible before many kids were able to read.
Paul acknowledges something that many progressives attempt to deny. You can’t get to the fundamentals of Christianity without the bible. Without the bible, Christianity falls. While this is not the overt message of verse 15, the implication is there. The bible is there to teach you how to be saved by believing in Jesus.
Paul doubles down on the bible by listing all of the things for which it is profitable. In summary, the bible is useful for everything that is important. It can teach you everything worth knowing. It can prepare you for doing everything worth doing. For a well-rounded life, the bible is all you need. On another occasion, Paul said this same thing in a different way:
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2
It was enough for Paul: an educated man, to only know the message about Jesus. This is the message of the bible. All else is considered dross. Paul was all in and double or nothing on the bible. Paul did not talk about a human Jesus who lived, taught, and ministered to real people as a matter of history. Paul talked about the Jesus of prophesy.
During Paul’s lifetime, there were no written gospels as we have them today. When Paul refers to the Jesus of the bible, he is not talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He is talking about the first 39. He didn’t refer to the miracles of Jesus, or the teachings from Jesus, but to the prophesies about Jesus. Paul wants believers to get their Jesus from the bible, not from history.
Therefore, Paul has to sell the bible as gold rather than pyrite. Christians have to be convinced that the bible is an infallible, almost magical book. It is profitable for everything. And the only way to go wrong is to stray from its teachings. But in the real world, we know better.
No one but the most unfortunate would open the bible to learn history, or science, or math. Those who’s science literacy begins with, In the beginning, god created the heavens and the earth, have a disadvantage in the world that is hard to overcome. Even the true things they learn from science will be colored by the false things serving as their foundation.
While Paul insists that the bible is useful for everything that a believer needs, I will continue to lay out the case for why it is useful for nothing:
Anecdote is not the plural of data
If Christians are to be believed, the most powerful and convincing aspects of the bible are its many anecdotes, stories, parables, and claims. Just as an example, they know there is a god because the bible says that you must be a fool if you don’t believe in a god. While it is an interesting claim, there is nothing persuasive about it.
How powerful a force is faith on the universe? According to the bible, it can move mountains. Never mind that no one has ever seen a mountain being moved due to faith. It is enough that the bible says so. Can we establish that there even is something called the kingdom of god? Well, the bible tells us stories about Jesus presenting stories about what the kingdom of god is like. Therefore, there is obviously a kingdom of god.
I could go on this way for a long time. But I think you get the point. Christians talk about the bible as if they believed that anecdote really is the plural of data. In no other aspect of their lives do they apply this kind of epistemology. To be as fair to the believer as possible, let us assume that the bible contains absolutely true facts about what actually happened.
To assume this about the bible does not make it a useful tool for discovering truth. A broken clock is correct twice a day. If you only look at that clock when it is correct, you might mistakenly believe that it is an accurate timepiece. But even when it is correct, it is a bad timepiece.
The bible says that god created the heavens and the earth. Let’s say he did. How do we know he did? We have an anecdotal story that says he did. We could further speculate that the anecdote came directly from the one who did the creating. That still doesn’t make it reliable as data.
My diary is not evidence of what I did yesterday. It cannot tell you who actually started the argument, or what was said or done, or in what order the events took place. I may be fabricating all the stories in my diary to make myself look good. Reading my diary will not tell you about my calorie intake, or my exercise regimen. Some of what I wrote may be true. But the fact that I wrote it doesn’t make it true.
The best the bible can ever do is point to something that is independently true. A math book is only reliable insofar as it points you to formulas that work. The formulas in the book have to be independently verified as true. A claim in the bible is only true because it is independently true. The biblical claim does not make it true.
The bible supports every truth claim
Not only does the Christian try to elevate storytelling to the level of evidence, they use the bible to support every truth claim, even the contradictory ones.
Did Jesus ascend to heaven on the same day of his resurrection, or was it as much as 40 days later? According to the bible, the answer is yes to both. Was David the 7th of 7 children? The answer is both yes and no. The bible is very clear about both answers. Did the bible support the kind of slavery we are against today? The answer is a definitive yes or no, depending on which passages you prefer at the time.
Despite the fact that the bible says that homosexuality is an abomination to god, and that they should be put to death by a mob, there seems to be some confusion over whether or not they are to be welcomed as full members of the church with all the rights and privileges of leaders.
It is more like Schrödinger’s bible. The truth is held in superposition until opened and observed. The truth on any matter is wholly dependent on who is observing it at the time. As long as the bible can be used to support all positions, even contradictory ones, then it cannot be trusted as a reliable source of any truth.
There is no consensus on the bible
If I did want to rely on the bible to learn the truth about faith healing, where would I turn? Even after I read all the scriptures you tell me to read, I will still not know the answer. Do I accept your opinion, or the opinion of the person next to you? Perhaps I should accept the opinion of the denominations who practice faith healing. Then again, I don’t want to ignore the opinions of those Churches that are convinced faith healing has ceased. Oh, bother…
The issue doesn’t matter. Is the bible the word of god or the word of humans? There is no consensus even among Christians.
Conclusion: Dead to me
I have a lifetime of knowledge and experience invested in the bible. Even as an unbeliever, I have been loathed to let it go. I’m now letting it go. The bible is officially dead to me. I do not wish to be rude to the people I debate with on forums. But from now on, quoting the bible to make your case immediately marginalizes any point you are trying to make.
I will no longer waste my time trying to respect your magic book as any sort of viable point in a debate. It is not. Claims and stories are not multiple data points. A book that supports all claims is verification of none. And if there is no consensus on what it means, then it is useless as a source. If you cannot understand these basic principles, then we have no basis for discussion on the matter.