A reader writes:
I think that the paragraph most deserving of repeating in Kramer's little talk after the one that you posted is this:
"The abundance of rebarbative passages in the Bible is another reason for atheists to familiarize themselves with it. Although my commentary seldom gives voice to the atheistic repugnance that I feel toward God, my systematic study of the Bible has made me thoroughly familiar with the numerous discreditable aspects of the Biblical texts. Thus, I can retort knowledgeably to believers who suggest that moral principles are in need of God and the Bible as their foundations. Even if the correct basic principles of morality were somehow in need of foundations, the Bible would be too nefarious for the purpose. Those principles would not be strengthened by being associated with the genocidal directives of the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, or with the scurrilous fulminations of Christ against his opponents, or with the Stalin-like gloating of the God of the New Testament at the thought that everyone who has not been sufficiently deferential toward Him will suffer torture for all eternity."
(My italics.) The point he is making (as Hitchens always does but perhaps with too fervent explication) is that since human moral structure has existed before, after, and without the Bible and the Koran, the only contribution to human behavior by the 'holy word' is an elevated endorsement (even a goading) of our retributive inclinations. Thus, the Bible and the Koran may actually function as obstacles to the better angels of our nature.
For me, the Bible is not ultimately about providing the only moral underpinning for human behavior. I think there are many possible philosophical, evolutionary or existential answers to that question that exist independently of God's existence, let alone any single human being's claim to know God. The reason Jesus of Nazareth's message resonates with me is because I believe, in its essentials, that it is true; and that Jesus was indeed the Incarnation in a way no other human being has been. I find his morality humanly impossible - which renders it still so compelling. And for someone to read the New Testament and see it, when taken as a whole, as a vehicle for expressing God's vengeance and Jesus' anger is, in a word, perverse.
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