Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re painfully wrong, but it’s refreshing to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t use mental gymnastics to get around what a holy book actually says.
I don’t have to listen to a believer spout about allegory or context or metaphors. They read their holy book and defend it the way it was written.
Take for example this post by Wally, who wrote (EDIT: the post was written by James but Wally says he agrees with the content so the point remains the same) a post telling us what he believes:
1. I am a Young Earth Creationist, I am not afraid to admit it, and I don’t care what other people think about that.
I have tried for many years to temper this belief with the possibility that the six days in the Genesis account may not be six literal days and could actually be millions of years but have come to the belief that this is unbiblical.
5. I believe the Bible is the inspired, error, and contradiction free Word of God.
Modern intellectuals (as they call themselves) who strive to find fault with the Bible are no different from the proud Greeks of Paul’s day who lived in the futility of their thinking. They too were darkened in their understanding… because of the blindness of their hearts (Ephesians 4:17–18).
Long story short here, people don’t have a problem with the Bible; they have a problem with the author.
When having a discussion with someone like Wally, I can freely use the bible and not have to worry about sorry excuses for its content. I’m not sure what Wally might say about things like the problem of evil, the mass genocides in the bible, the apparent blood-thirstiness of Yahweh or how he might explain the magical bits, but I can be reasonably sure he wouldn’t try to hide behind pretending that these stories weren’t meant to be taken at face value. At the very least, Wally (and people like him) would admit that’s what the bible says and try to defend their beliefs from that angle.
I can freely, unabashedly disagree with their dogma and with their belief system, and they can do the same to me. Often, we can have a good back and forth without resorting to mental gymnastics.
Let’s face it, the bible isn’t color coded. Except for a few parables by Jesus, nothing is clearly marked as a parable or allegory. There’s no warning that says, ‘don’t take this part seriously. Instead try to find some hidden meaning’. There really is no allegory (that I can see) to be made between infanticide, rape and a good lesson.
Isaiah 13:15-18 (NIV)
15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. 16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives violated.
A non-literalist would probably find some way to bark about this passage being taken out of context or say that it’s a cultural thing or pretend that it’s an allegory for something good, but there it is in all its ugliness, and at least with a literal fundamentalist, you can honestly, unapologetically tackle a verse like this with them.
They might admit that their God condoned or inspired such a thing. They might have a reason for why their God might have done so. And they might even throw up the metaphysical flag and wave surrender by saying something like, ‘God is unknowable and we can’t expect to understand Him’, but at least they won’t deny the passage or try to weasel around it.
The reasons they give can be challenged and debunked fairly easily and other people will be able to judge for themselves, without having to untwist the mental string of deliberate obfuscation.
So while I overwhelmingly, emphatically disagree with literalism and fundamentalism, that’s why I appreciate them.
You also help make the job of refutation so much easier, in my opinion.