Fundamentalist Christians view the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. They therefore say people should live according to biblical teachings. Modern analysis of the Bible, however, provides many reasons why the book cannot be considered a reliable guide.
In the first place, the contradictions contained in the Bible prove that numerous assertions in it are false, because two contradictory statements cannot both be true. Examples of the hundreds of biblical contradictions are the conflicting genealogies of Jesus (Mt. 1:1-16 vs. Lk. 3:23-38), the inconsistent stories of Judas’ death (Mt. 27:5 vs. Acts 1:18), and the contradictory accounts of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:7 vs. Acts 22:9).
Moreover, the cruelties that the Bible says God ordered, approved, or committed make the book totally unacceptable to persons applying modern standards of justice and humaneness. Examples of biblical atrocities include Moses telling his soldiers to kill women and children (Num. 31:15-18), God sending two bears that killed 42 children because they were making fun of a prophet’s bald head (2 Kgs. 2:23-24), and the promise that non-Christians will be sent to the eternal fires of hell (e.g., Mt. 25:41; Rev. 21:8).
Additionally, the Bible’s stories of events violating the laws of nature cannot be accepted by scientific persons today. They know it’s much more likely the writers of the Bible either lied or were mistaken than that incidents occurred such as sticks turning into snakes (Exod. 7:10-12), a donkey talking (Num. 22:28), a dead man reviving when his corpse came in contact with the bones of a prophet (2 Kgs. 13:21), and a man living for three days and nights in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17).
Other reasons the Bible is not the word of God include its false ideas about the structure of the physical world (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:8, where the earth is said to rest on pillars); its prophecies that have proved to be false (e.g., Mk. 13:24-30, where the prediction is made that the world would end within the lifetime of persons living in the first century C.E.); and its historical inaccuracies (e.g., Dan. 5:31, where one “Darius the Mede” is said to have captured Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E., whereas historians know it was Cyrus of Persia who did so).
Furthermore, the Bible is an unreliable authority because of its harmful teachings (e.g., Mk. 16:18, where believers are taught to handle snakes, drink poison, and rely on faith healing instead of medical science); its obscene passages; the fact that parts of it were written many years – and in some cases many centuries – after the events it purports to describe; and the fact that we have no idea who wrote most of it.
Findings of modern biblical scholarship support Thomas Paine’s position. The American patriot and proponent of common sense wrote in his book The Age of Reason: “People in general know not what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good. . . . Good heavens! It is quite another thing: it is a book of lies, wickedness and blasphemy.”
The application of reason, observation, and experience – what the great nineteenth-century agnostic Robert Ingersoll called “the holy trinity of science” – reveals that the Bible was written solely by humans who lived in a barbaric and superstitious age.
Those same methods of science, and not a reliance on religious dogma, are needed to expose falsehood and discover truth in all other fields as well.
[For a more detailed discussion of this subject, please see the article titled “Some Reasons Why Humanists Reject the Bible.”]