How Should 21st-Century Readers Approach the Bible?

Faith and Reasons

To the Editor:

In his review of Karen Armstrong’s “The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts” (Dec. 1), Nicholas Kristof includes a quote from Armstrong: “Because its creation myths do not concur with recent scientific discoveries, militant atheists have condemned the Bible as a pack of lies, while Christian fundamentalists have developed a ‘Creation science’ claiming that the Book of Genesis is scientifically sound.”

As an atheist who dealt repeatedly with creationists as they attempted to force their myth into the science curriculum, I can attest that I have never viewed Genesis as “a pack of lies.” Rather, I view it as ancient fiction.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a lie as “a false statement made with intent to deceive.” Those who constructed the Genesis account of creation could not have known that their story was false by the scientific standards we now hold. Modern religious zealots who still promulgate scriptural creation myths as true when they know better are, however, a different matter. They, indeed, are guilty of lying.

Joseph D. McInerney
Lutherville, Md.

The writer is a past president of the National Association of Biology Teachers and a former director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study.

To the Editor:

Assuming (whether that’s valid or not) the literal meaning of the Scriptures, Christianity is incompatible with existing class-structured societies — and capitalism. In the Acts of the Apostles, God favored the poor and socialism. But with the rise of capitalism and Calvinism in the 16th century, he changed his mind and decided it was the wealthy he favored. Try to reconcile “Blessed are the poor” with capitalism. Or “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor.”

Roger Carasso
Santa Fe, N.M.

To the Editor:

Elaine Pagels’s review of Jack Miles’s “Religion as We Know It: An Origin Story” (Dec. 1) cites Miles’s praise of Mark C. Taylor’s contention that “what is often termed the disappearance of God, or the disappearance of the sacred, in modernity, is actually the integration of that aspect of human experience with the rest of modern experience.”

Taylor’s argument reminds me of a contention Nicholas Wade made in “Before the Dawn.” He wrote that “modern states now accomplish by other means many of the early roles performed by religion, which is why religion has become of less relevance in some societies. But because the propensity for religious belief is still wired into the human mind, religion continues to be a potent force in societies that still struggle for cohesion.”

Charlotte Adelman
Wilmette, Ill.


To the Editor:

Ferdinand Mount’s review of Fintan O’Toole’s “The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of Nationalism” (Dec. 1) assumes that those who wish to leave the European Union “have become a bunch of hysterical, self-pitying paranoiacs.”

I support Brexit not out of nostalgia for our past glory. Instead, I doubt the exaggerated claims of the Remainers that we will lack vital foods and drugs when we leave the E.U. Won’t we be able to get them from Australia, New Zealand and the United States? The undemocratic structure of the E.U. and the drive for a United States of Europe with its own army also make me uneasy. Can we get away from this psychobabble and discuss the matter rationally?

Christopher Hewitt
Glen Echo, Md.


The Shortlist feature on Dec. 1 misstated the surname of the author of “Leonardo da Vinci: The 100 Milestones” and “Leonardo by Leonardo” in several instances. He is Martin Kemp, not Kent.

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