Bible Verses That Atheists Love

Valerie Tarico has an interesting piece up on AlterNet: Bible Verses That Atheists Love. It’s sort of a response to the Ship of Fools project, which asked Christians to honestly cite their least favorite verses from the Bible. Tarico decided that if Christians can acknowledge the horrible parts of the Bible, we atheists can acknowledge the good parts. (Plus it makes a strong counter to the notion that atheists lump all Christianity together, and that we only ever focus on the horrible stuff in religion.)

I contributed to the project, along with Hemant Mehta, Kim Veal, Leighann Lord, Dale McGowan, Adam Lee, David Silverman, Dan Barker, Vyckie Garrison, August E. Brunsman IV, David Fitzgerald, and more. It’s interesting to see which verses inspire whom, and why. (I was struck by how many other people picked something from Ecclesiastes.) Enjoy!

Bible Verses That Atheists Love

16 thoughts on “Bible Verses That Atheists Love

  1. 1

    I like a lot of those quotes, but I’ve always disliked the first one: “Do not judge lest you be judged.”

    Yes, I think it’s important as a matter of character to not be a hypocrite but I also think that you needn’t have to earn the right to point out injustice, else in many cases no one will be talking about it.

  2. 2

    If there’s one that I wish Christians would pay more attention to, it’s in Matthew 6:5, during the Sermon on the Mount. Before Jesus gives them the Lord’s Prayer, he instructs his followers:

    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


  3. 4

    I like Bart Ehrman’s take on Ecclesiastes in God’s Problem, and I’m not all surprised at how many other atheists like the book.

    My person favorite passage comes from Matthew 25 – a call to work for the alleviation of suffering that I’ve heard many Christians actively preach against in favor of a Pauline salvation by faith alone.

    For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

    Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

  4. 6

    August E. Brunsman IV managed to pick my least favorite verse, that “love is always [this]; love is never [that]” crap from Corinthians that gets read at way too many weddings. It’s both cloyingly nauseating and just plain wrong in my opinion: love isn’t always smooth and kind and sunshine and puppy dogs, and suggesting otherwise is terrible advice to a just-about-to-be-married couple.

    Well, ok, I’m actually more offended by the passages about slavery and condemning people to hell and so forth, but I don’t encounter those very often.

  5. 7

    Ezekiel 25:17 (King Jules Version)

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

  6. Erp

    The Ship of Fools is an interesting site. I can’t think of any other Christian site with such a broad range of members (Evangelical to Orthodox [though most are in a church of the Anglican Communion], liberal to conservative [both culturally and theologically], devout Christian to atheist) who talk to each other. No regular blinks an eye when a new host or admin is not Christian and almost everyone uses a ship name not a real name. The rules are strict but applied equitably though newcomers get more warnings than regulars so lurk first.

    Their voted upon list of worst verses is at
    Winner was “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

  7. 11

    I like John 8:32

    Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

    The truth doesn’t always make you happy, but if you don’t run away from it, it will set you free.

  8. 12

    @6 screechymonkey — I like Bender’s take on 1 Corinthians featured on Futurama episode “The Beast with a Billion Backs”:

    “Bender knows love, and love doesn’t share itself with the world. Love is suspicious, love is needy. Love is fearful, love is greedy. My friends, there is no great love without great jealousy!”

  9. 13

    Perhaps a bit cheeky of me, but I’ve always been fond of Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returneth to its vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.”

    I often cite it when people ask me why I will not debate a particular settled point of modern secular ethics for the thousandth time, or why I won’t watch another Michael Bay film.

  10. 14

    I always liked the passage about Thomas the Doubter (“If I do not see his wounds and put my hands into them I will not believe it”), and how Jesus actually answers his question. It’s ruined in context by him immediately saying that those who believe without seeing are more blessed, but I still appreciate the sentiment and the fact that the passage is there. If there were a patron saint of scientists, Thomas the Apostle would have to be it.

  11. 15

    I’m not sure I understand the point of this exercise. The ‘good’ (as atheists, humanists would define it) bits in the bible are all about pretty much self-evident basic human decency, whereas the ‘bad’ parts are *monstrous* and far outnumber the good. I see no reason to point out that some bits of the bible say you should be nice to people (‘people’ generally appearing to mean men of a particular race and religion) when so much of it is so determinedly awful.

    It’s the bad parts of the bible atheists *should* be talking about. We shouldn’t be giving fuzzies because once every couple of hundred pages the thing says something that could possibly be interpreted as nice by what seems like accident.

  12. 16

    Valerie Tarico is a name that sounds familiar. I had the chance to see her speak at the first Freethought Festival in Madison, Wisconsin; the year before you came.

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