David Plotz, an Agnostic and a Writer for Slate.com, Read the Whole Bible, and Tells Us What He Thought of It

David Plotz is an agnostic, and he gave the Bible a careful reading.

His experience is recounted at Slate here.

Money quote:

I came to the Bible hoping to be inspired and awed. I have been, sometimes. But mostly I’ve ended up in a yearlong argument with God. Why would He kill the innocent Egyptian children? And why would He delight in it? What wrong did we do Him that He should send the flood? Which of His Ten Commandments do we actually need? Yet the argument itself represents a kind of belief, because it commits me to engage with God.

As I read the book, I realized that the Bible’s greatest heroes—or, at least, my greatest heroes—are not those who are most faithful, but those who are most contentious and doubtful: Moses negotiating with God at the burning bush, Gideon demanding divine proof before going to war, Job questioning God’s own justice, Abraham demanding that God be merciful to the innocent of Sodom. They challenge God for his capriciousness, and demand justice, order, and morality, even when God refuses to provide them. Reading the Bible has given me a chance to start an argument with God about the most important questions there are, an argument that can last a lifetime.

In spite of his JACOB WRESTLING THE ANGEL ambivalence towards the Bible, Plotz nevertheless offers this opinion concerning its “cultural literacy” value:

Not to sound like a theocratic crank, but I’m actually shocked that students aren’t compelled to read huge chunks of the Bible in high school and college, the way they must read Shakespeare or the Constitution or Mark Twain.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to David Plotz, an Agnostic and a Writer for Slate.com, Read the Whole Bible, and Tells Us What He Thought of It

  1. pochp says:

    ‘I’m actually shocked that students aren’t compelled to read huge chunks of the Bible in high school and college, the way they must read Shakespeare or the Constitution or Mark Twain.’

    You’ve just made me wonder about this too. Maybe the inter-faith of most schools prevents this.

  2. santitafarella says:

    POCHP:

    Well, yes, the different religious traditions make it difficult to speak in a mixed group about the Bible. It’s a shame because the Bible is part of the Western canon of literature, and should be known by everybody.

    It’s not, however, entirely in the interest of religious groups that its members read the Bible’s books too thoroughly, and in a doctrinally untutored fashion (for the simple reason that it might provoke doubt and confusion, and if read in a secular context, may expose people to scholarly interpretations of the texts).

    Contemporary academic understandings of the Bible are frequently at sharp variance from archaic clerical readings.

    —Santi

  3. aunty dawkins says:

    Uncritical reading of the Bible and being told what it means not thinking for one’s self is dangerous(see the Voltaire quote discussion). However it should be read more widely as should other religious texts. Humans all have different ways of experiencing God, a window of hope in a confusing existence.

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