Atheists Opinionated on Theology and Hermeneutics

What I find so interesting about you @John_Harshman is that you are so opinionated about theology and hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture). Yet you are an atheist. That is unusual. Why is that? Why do you like theology and hermeneutics so much? How did you form your opinions? To what traditions have you been exposed?

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Is it that unusual? It seems that a fair number of atheists are interested in religion, for entertainment purposes if for no other. I was raised in the Congregational Church. I went to Sunday school. I’ve made considerable study of creationism, and I’ve read the bible. While I haven’t read much sophisticated theology, I’ve read C.S. Lewis, who seems unaccountably in good repute. If I’m naive and uninformed, I will gladly take arguments intended to show me that my ideas are wrong.

Anyway, it isn’t that I’m opinionated on theology and hermeneutics. It’s that I’m opinionated on all manner of things.


Sure, many are intersted in religion. Perhaps for entertainment, though for some it might be returning to the scene of a crime committed against them.

However you are clearly the most opinionated on theology. @keiths was more opinionated about hermeneutics, but I think it is just because he wanted to win an argument and lost sight of how to stop himself.

You don’t believe in God. Great. Tell me, what do you make of Jesus?

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This seems seriously digressive. I don’t know how much truth there is in the Jesus story. I tend to believe that there are a few bits that are easier to explain if the legends were based on a real preacher who lived around 2000 years ago. But only a few things, most notably the fact that he comes from Nazareth and it’s necessary for the story to jump through implausible hoops to make him born in Bethlehem. Why do you ask?


Perhaps it it. As I said, I find your interesting theology interesting, and wanted to know more…which means knowing more about you to some extent.

Well, Jesus is a fairly important part of Christian theology. So I imagined you might have some opinions about him.

In your experience, what are Congregational Church’s like?

In my experience of one (1) Congregational church, it seems fairly undogmatic about theology, a big tent sort of church. I know of at least one highly involved person in the local church who rejected the virgin birth. I make no claims about the Church as a whole. Of course all church governance is local, hence the “Congregational” bit.

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Some of the theological and interpretive arguments get too deep for me (the stuff about Adam being a good example) but I’m interested in the more historical side, such as the context in which various books were written etc.

The first time I ever found my Catholic-school “Religion” class interesting was in my second year high school class when our teacher introduced the Documentary Hypothesis, and we had to read through and analyze various chapters. I always wanted to read more about it, but never got around to it until this Internet Era.

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I can vouch for that! :slight_smile: And I appreciate it.

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Embellishments like this seem so unnecessary to central Christian (in the sense of Jesus’ teaching as portrayed in the four gospels) dogma. If Jesus makes sense, what does it matter if he turned water into wine and rose from the dead?


I too have become more interested in theology, originally inspired by dissecting YEC arguments. I won’t claim any expertise, but it helps me better understand what some people are trying to say.

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Maybe they were not embellishments.

I’m not sure it is correct to reduce Christianity down to merely Jesus’ teaching in the four Gospels. That reduction appears to deviate too much from the historical context and textual claims.

What about Thomas Jefferson? He wrote:

We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.

Now, he was a slave owner, admittedly. But the paring down to essentials seems reasonable to me.


Assuming the premise that God exists, do you have a problem with the idea god controled every aspect of the evolution of Primates, including humans?

Jefferson, like many of the founding fathers, was deviating far from orthodox Christianity in this. The US are not actually a Christian country.

A good contrast point would be Wilberforce in England who much more courageously attacked slavery as an evil institution, and was also reccognizably Christian.


I have no problem with the idea. I have a problem with believing that it’s true. Do you have a problem with the idea that angels push the planets around their orbits?

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I didnt give you the premise of angels… so this is not apples-to-apples.

You dont believe in God so you dont believe God governs human evolution.

But i said GIVEN THE PREMISE of God… etc etc.

What is your over-arching goal here? To understand a newly opened up nook in Christianity? Or to oppose any and all nooks in Christianity?

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That was not addressed to me, but I’ll answer it anyway.

Assuming that premise, then I do not have a problem with the idea that God controlled every aspect of evolution of primates.

I do, however, have a problem seeing that as a useful conclusion. It does not tell me anything that is of value to me. And that’s why I normally do not assume the premise and instead adopt an agnostic or apatheist viewpoint.


Oh, there I can absolutely agree.

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Indeed! I’m much more impressed by example than exhortation.

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The value this idea provides is to put Christian faith IN SYNC with the vast preponderance of evidence that humans EVOLVED.

While at the same time making it possible for God to have created just 2 humans by means of Special Creation - - namely the historical Adam and Eve!

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