Less bible, more tolerance, please – By Raysa Everett

I was raised in Brazil in a Christian family and was taught to trust the bible, “the word of God,” most of my life. I went to church, participated in girls’ bible study groups and even went on mission trips to “share the Gospel.” 

“Trust in the Lord. He has a purpose for everything in life. His word is perfect.” I heard that all the time growing up, and I really believed it. Anytime I was struggling or things got difficult, I was able to tell myself that God knew what he was doing.

Then I began the “horrible” practice of questioning everything. Initially I was scared — questioning such an integral part of one’s identity is scary and disorienting. But afterward I felt liberated.

Many people think of nonbelievers as sad, lonely people. On the contrary, we feel free knowing we can think logically and don’t need to judge people because they are different. We certainly don’t claim to be better than anyone else. We just base our decisions on reason and evidence, not holy books.

We try to live our only life to the fullest. After all, we just get one chance, so why waste it by following restrictions based on unsubstantiated opinions?

Contrary to what I was led to believe for most of my life, the bible is not perfect and is filled with both minor and major contradictions. I used to find excuses for every contradiction, such as “it was different in the past,” “that was for a specific group at the time,” or “God has a plan and knows better” (a Christian’s last resort for rationalizing the irrational and illogical). 

The bible contains some beautiful stories that teach truths, just like many fables, parables and myths teach truths. However, we can also find a lot of stories that teach bad lessons or condone bad things. 

Unfortunately, the bible has frequently been used to justify some of the hate we have seen and still see in our society. In the Civil War, many men of faith used it to defend their “right” to have slaves: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5), or “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9). How difficult could it have been for God to simply say, “Slavery is wrong?”

Many Christians today rely solely on the bible to justify their opposition to marriage equality (all other “evidence” for this prejudice has long since been discredited). José Martí, a poet, said, “He who has rights does not have the right to violate those of others in order to maintain his own.”

The bible should not be used as an excuse or justification for anyone’s prejudice against other groups, including homosexuals, nor as the basis for any argument against giving human beings their basic rights or for denying equal rights. Can we really justify discrimination and prejudice by relying on what amounts to nothing more than literary interpretations of a contradictory and, at times, ethically questionable book? 

Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death.” But Leviticus 19:19 says, “Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of materials.”

How many of those who preach Leviticus 20:13 also practice or preach Leviticus 19:19? Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-20 that he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it, and that not the smallest letter would disappear from it. Why is one sin regarded as an abomination and others as forgettable? Because one sin is supported by prejudice while the others are not.

In a civilized, free society, we cannot force people to agree with us or do what we think is best for them, especially if it does not harm anyone (evidence proves homosexuality to be harmless). We have to respect every human being independently of gender, race, religion (or lack thereof), or sexual orientation, not judge or discriminate against them. 

Marriage is defined as “the state of being united to a person by love, recognized by law.” Even if you believe that people should not be allowed to marry someone of the same sex, you do not have the right to prevent them from having the same right to be united to the person they love.

The many, many rights granted to myself and my husband simply because we are two committed, consenting, heterosexual adults should not be denied to two committed, consenting adults merely because they are of a different sexual orientation.

This is the definition of discrimination, and I hope that reason and logic will prevail rather than outdated prejudices. 

Raysa Everett is a member of the La Crosse [Wis.] Area Freethought Society. Her husband, Joshua, is a former ordained evangelical pastor who left the ministry and is a member of the Clergy Project, a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.

Freedom From Religion Foundation