The Bible is Useless

I routinely see liberals and progressives quoting the bible at conservative Christians to make the point that the conservatives are hypocrites for not adhering to the passage in question.

This is pointless, for at least two reasons.

First, the conservatives don’t listen. Our politics are so polarized, and conservatives think refusing to listen to others is a virtue (liberals and progressives are guilty of not listening very carefully sometimes, but at least for them that is an error, not a goal). Just as conservatives often declare their refusal to listen to “the liberal media” because they consider it “biased” for not confirming their narrow world views, so they think they should refuse to listen to any liberal person.

This is not a prescription for peaceable coexistence, but conservatives believe they are right and everyone else is wrong, so refusing to listen is the right thing to do. The Puritans, the first organized group of English to settle in North America, took this position. It’s what prompted them to move to America. Once they were here and running their own colonies, they had zero tolerance for dissent. They hanged Quakers by the neck until dead for proselytizing in their colonies.

Liberals are not going to make any progress that way. All we can do is to insist on the legal and political traditions of the Republic to demand our right to our opinions and to participate in government.

Secondly, the bible is a huge, floppy text with multiple authors that a committee assembled two thousand years ago and that has undergone multiple translations from languages no one speaks any more. Trying to derive concrete meaning from it that will compel the behavior of others is a fool’s errand. We pay nine intelligent, well educated, highly trained persons to interpret our Constitution for us, a document that is in the language we still speak and which dates to a mere 230 years ago. And they often disagree among themselves what it means. The idea that any modern person is going to whip out a definitive interpretation of the bible without the coercive power of some formal position in a church is pure fantasy.

An important concrete implication of this point is that the conservatives will always have their own passages they can point to as justification for their position. Slave owners used the bible to justify slavery. Christians have used the bible to justify persecuting Jews for 2,000 years. No one is going to deter any conservative with a bible passage. There is virtually zero historical evidence that the bible has ever much stopped any group of people from committing atrocity once they have set their minds to it. Germans were well familiar with the bible as they tried to exterminate Jews. This is not a winning strategy.

So I recommend not wasting your breath trying to prove to conservatives wrong by reference to the bible. That’s not going to get you anywhere.


  1. There are none so blind as those who will not see
    (Ironically from the bible attributed to Jesus) and Christians refuse to see many truths. And are the most judgemental people I’ve ever met. And their bible says ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ Pathetic!

    1. Yep. I see no evidence that the bible serves in any important sense as a moral constraint. That I can tell, the nice Christians are just nice people who happen to be Christian. Their religious beliefs have nothing to do with it.

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