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I love the Bible. I really do. I read it all the time, and many things in real life remind me of things that I’ve read in there. Like whenever I think of making a good decision under pressure (Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28) or when I think about denouncing religious hypocrisy and shameful manipulation (like Jesus and the Pharisees in Matt 23), or when my friend mails me the body parts of a prostitute just to say how much they care (file that under, “Oh yeah, really.” Judges 19:29.)

This fact doesn’t really surprise me, but it sure does surprise others.

When people express surprise that an atheist like me (who takes such grand pleasure in speaking out against the establishment of religion most of the time) actually enjoys reading the Bible, it makes me laugh. I’ll tell you why.

  1. No, you don’t have to torch your identity to be an atheist.

For some reason, it’s like people expect you to stop being a person when you become an atheist. They are all too willing to remind you that you can still be an asshole while being an atheist, but don’t pay attention to the fact that I can like jamming to Kirk Franklin or Josh Groan in my car, too. Like, do you even know what the fuck music is? It’s sounds and beats mixed together in a pleasing way…not that complicated.

2. No, I don’t think and have never stated anything close to “religion is the root of all evil.”

Just because you’re outspoken about the harm religion does and continues to do in the world, it doesn’t mean you think it’s the root of all evil. You can oppose police brutality and still not have a problem with law enforcement. You can say kiddy-fucking isn’t okay, and not have a problem with priests. I apologize that you are seemingly unable to hold two ideas in your brain at one time, but that is a limitation I do not share.

3. You know I don’t actually think it’s real, right?

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with what literature is as well. I like reading the Bible because I like stories. I enjoy seeing other cultures express themselves and their values. I like understanding the feelings and caprices of ancient people from ancient times, I like to see God blow shit up, and I enjoy John’s Revelation rumination on the end of the world while clearly on shrooms.

You already know I’m an atheist, and you know that means that I don’t believe these stories are factually true, but why can’t I enjoy them? Like all of a sudden, Harry Potter is disappointing because I don’t ACTUALLY BELIEVE Harry rode a dragon out of Gringotts (or for starters, ever existed?) I’m writing a fucking novel, meaning I spend plenty good time in the company of those who don’t exist. It’s very fine for me.

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Here’s the point: I didn’t make these rules, you did. Who told you you owned one of our best collections of classical literature, that you could decide who could enjoy it?

The strangest rule that Christians have devised is that the Bible means nothing if you don’t believe it’s true. I call bullshit.

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