I had a few beers with my pastor friend, Tom, last night. Tom is by far the most enlightened religious person I know. He is not at all threatened by atheism or even fundamentalism. His focus is on the good that people of faith can do and the richness of the lives they can lead. He is not in any way judgmental, he is extremely compassionate and caring and he takes no issue with science, humanism or rationale being applied to matters of faith. He thinks, in fact, that doubt, discussion and seeking are vital to an honest faith. He makes you Christians look good.
We talked a bit about my discussion with the young earth creationist. He said that he reads the historical parts of the Bible as history, the poetry as poetry, the metaphor as metaphor, etc. The Bible has all of these things. If you want to treat the Bible as absolutely literal you miss most of its teaching. He used an example that Jesus (or God or whatever) said “I am the rock”. So, is God made of granite? Is that the literal interpretation? Of course not, it’s a metaphor. Another example was that after God created Adam and Eve, the very first people, the serpent spoke to them. How is it that a serpent and these brand new people spoke the same language? A literal interpretation of the fall from grace is retarded — a metaphoric interpretation is rich in meaning and in teaching.
A little Googling led me to this article on biblical literalism and he makes some good points about the topic as well.
My point? It is literally impossible to interpret the Bible literally. Such attempts strip the teachings of their true meaning. The ass-backwards attempts of religious fundamentalists to interpret the creation of the universe, the creation of humans, the flood, etc. as literal, scientific truth are turning their backs on the Word.
The fact that I’m an atheist does not likely cause these people to agree with me, I’m sure!