By: Davis Cope, Fargo
A recent letter (“Sad to see Forum give space to fairy tales, myths, bigotry,” May 21) criticized The Forum for printing letters of religious bigots “trying to explain the workings of the world by citing the fairy tales found in the Bible.” It would be more accurate to say The Forum does a good job of printing bigotry of all kinds, religious and otherwise, and the Opinion Page rightly includes the contribution of the bigots of our community.
The term “fairy tales” is harsh but not inaccurate, at least for fundamentalist contributions. Here’s why:
The literal truth of the Bible is a defining aspect of fundamentalist, or “Bible Christian,” belief.
The Bible, taken literally, says that all humankind, except for the single family of Noah, was destroyed by a flood in 2350 B.C., according to biblical genealogies (Genesis 6-11). Noah’s descendents (all speaking the same language) attempted building a tower “unto heaven.” God was offended and punished them by confusing their language and scattering them, thus explaining the world’s different languages and peoples.
The Encyclopedia Britannica (“Egypt”) says the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt began about 2925 B.C. with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. It was an advanced society that kept astronomical and bureaucratic records and used hieroglyphic writing for inscriptions.
Ancient Egypt had a continuous existence through some 30 dynasties, nominally ending in 332 B.C. after conquest by Alexander the Great. The encyclopedia also explains how we know this.
The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 led, by 1822, to the decipherment of hieroglyphic writing and the ability to read the inscriptions from archeological discoveries.
These historical records were fragmentary, but references to astronomical events fill in a timeline. The First Dynasty date of 2925 B.C. is a convergence of different analyses, which agree to within a century. An independent check of the timeline was provided by radiocarbon dating, introduced in 1948.
Consequently, the Bible’s story of the flood and subsequent creation of languages, taken literally, is wrong. It is a “tale.”
We could continue with other biblical accounts, assuming them to be literally true, then comparing with the encyclopedia. Some accounts would appear correct, but we would find further examples (in the areas of anthropology, archeology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, linguistics, paleontology and physics) where the literal interpretation is wrong.
The many fundamentalist congregations in Fargo-Moorhead preach the literal truth of the Bible and are aided by creation science ministries interpreting science, “Christian nation” ministries interpreting history, “End Times” ministries interpreting international relations, spiritual warfare ministries identifying demonic influences, marriage and parenting ministries, and, of course, financial planning ministries.
These efforts prop up a belief system so thin that an encyclopedia is a minefield of threats.
Belief in the literal truth of the Bible runs through all branches of Christianity. Fundamentalist Christianity is just a notable example.
The lesson for all literalists is this: If literal interpretation of the Bible fails in some instances where it can be checked, why should a literal interpretation be used where it cannot be checked, as in ethics or values?
Opinion letters often write about standing up for the Bible. Count me as standing up for encyclopedias.