Today's New York Times has an article entitled "More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops" about the growing number of people in the U. S. who are willing to admit that they are atheists. Based on a recent poll, the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.
Before we go any farther, let me state, for the record I Am Not An Atheist.
not even an agnostic. Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there's
anything wrong with that. I just have no question that there's a
higher power out
there. I can't look at a mountain range or ocean, or consider photosynthesis without uttering a
silent "thank you" to God for making this great wonderful world.
But back to that article. Rather than the rising numbers of agnostics and atheists coming out of the closet, what caught my attention were comments from some young non-believers:
Josh Streetman, said he knew the Bible too well to be sure that Scripture is true. Like Mr. Streetman, many of the other students at the meeting were highly literate in the Bible and religious history.
Like these folks, the longer I've studied the Bible, the more discrepancies I've found that I can't reconcile. The more I've learned about the way the Bible came to be and the more I've learned about the ancient documents that are the basis of the Bible, the more I doubt everything that I know.
Since we've just recently celebrated Easter, let's consider that the Bible contains three different accounts of the Resurrection of Christ (if you'd like to check it out, Matthew 28:1-8, Mark 16:1-7, Luke 24:1-9 and John 20:1-18).
Had the stone already been rolled away from the tomb (as in Mark 16:4) or was it rolled away by an angel while the women were there (Matthew 28:2)?
Whom or what did they see there? An angel (Matthew 28:5)? A young man (Mark 16:5)? Two men (Luke 24:4)? Or nothing and no one (John)?
And what were they told? To tell the disciples to “go to Galilee,” where Jesus will meet them (Mark 16:7)? Or to remember what Jesus had told them “while he was in Galilee,” that he had to die and rise again (Luke 24:7)?
Then, do the women tell the disciples what they saw and heard (Matthew 28:8), or do they not tell anyone (Mark 16:8)? If they tell someone, whom do they tell? The eleven disciples (Matthew 28:8)? The eleven disciples and other people (Luke 24:8)? Simon Peter and another unnamed disciple (John 20:2)?
What do the disciples do in response? Do they have no response because Jesus himself immediately appears to them (Matthew 20:9)? Do they not believe the women because it seems to be “an idle tale” (Luke 24:11)? Or do they go to the tomb to see for themselves (John 20:3)?
He continues, but I think that you get the point. The Four Gospels have irreconcilable differences about this event, the event central to the entire Christian faith, but we're to believe without question that it actually happened. It's little wonder that so many (me) who were raised to believe in an Inspired Word of God find it hard to maintain the faith after rigorous Bible study.
I just wish my grandfather were around so I can ask him how he did it. I suspect his answer would involve the Holy Spirit and truly being born again..... but that's material for another post at another time.