By Richard Lyda
A textbook is given a new edition when new information about the subject matter is understood. Yet the bible, perceived as the ultimate source of sociopolitical guidance
by Christian politicians and lawmakers, basically has not had a new edition in a hundred generations. The danger of such an archaic text is its literal interpretation and attempted enforcement in the modern world. Hundreds of years of science, politics and philosophy have dramatically improved our understanding of the world and the people around us. Clinging to stories that might have been meaningful 500 years or more ago is irresponsible and dangerous in the modern world.
The first glaring danger of bibliolatry is the inevitable culture of hypocrisy that such a practice will breed. Choosing to take the bible literally is choosing to take literally such verses as prohibiting the eating of lobster (Leviticus 11:10), or wearing polyester, or breeding cattle (Leviticus 19:19), or divorce (Mark 10:11-12). I could go on ad nauseum with a list of morally detestable practices (sexism, homophobia, xenophobia presented as law, vicious instructions on how to execute specific criminals, how to price slaves, including your daughters, etc.).
Since obviously, or at least hopefully, no one would literally live according to the bible, believers are likely to pick and choose which verses promote their agenda and pursue those ends with righteous indignation. The greatest danger to hypocrites is someone drawing awareness to their internal and unresolved conflict, therefor the ultimate comfort for a hypocrite is to surround themselves with people who share their unresolved internal conflict. One might call a large group of people with a shared moral ideal a voter base.
With a voter base which finds itself morally salient, and rhetoric supported by almighty indignation, a politician can be nearly unstoppable in promoting legislation regulating healthcare, social mobility and the personal liberty of people not represented in their bibliocentric reality. The bible was written well before modern gynecology, and has no place being referenced when discussing reproductive healthcare. When introducing abhorrent legislation, such as South Carolina’s recent Personhood Bill, politicians will cite the bible for moral grounding in their attempt to strip funding from women’s health clinics.
The literalists also use the bible to assault sex education in public schools and oppose distribution of contraception and prophylactics at government-funded facilities. These assaults continue despite common knowledge that abortion regulation does nothing to reduce the number of abortions, abstinence-only education is neither safe nor effective, and the distribution of contraceptives and prophylactics does not increase sexual activity.
Although these dangers are perilous on their o
wn, they are symptomatic of a much larger threat. With the rise of biblical literalism is the rise of anti-intellectualism, disregard for science in lieu of outdated text. Bibliolatry in public policy is a direct attack on years of progress moving humanity from a time of superstition and misinformation to the modern age, governed by reason and research. Years of progress for women, gays, people of color, persons with mental and physical disabilities, trans individuals and others could be struck down by a salvo of bills and proposals cut and pasted from relic of a time when haircuts could be considered a punishable offense.
Richard, 30, from Rock Hill, S.C., attends Winthrop University, where he is working toward a political science degree. His goal is to obtain a master’s degree in peace and conflict resolution. Richard hopes to work as a researcher on either the UN’s education or environmental policy panels.