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Atheist Author: ‘Conservatives are Biblically Illiterate’

Best-selling atheist author CJ Werleman has taken aim at the religious right’s reliance on scripture to support their political views.  Focusing on their recent coverage of food stamps cuts, Werleman said in a recent op-ed that the ‘what would Jesus do’ politics of the Republican party is not only an inaccurate reading of scripture, but it also relies on the vast majority of Americans not knowing how wrong it is.

“Why do talking heads on the right get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support?”  Werleman demanded. “The answer is simple: Conservatives have not read the Bible.”

Werleman pointed to a recent comment by Fox News’ Bill O’ Reilly  in which the host declared that Jesus would not support food stamps to feed the poor because most of the beneficiaries are drug addicts.

Yet, according to Werleman, not only is O’Reilly’s interpretation of Jesus’ views inaccurate to the ‘liberal, feed the poor attitude’ displayed in the New Testament by Jesus (as is O’ Reilly’s spurious claim about food stamps since 46 percent receiving support are children and most beneficiaries are working families, disabled or elderly), but is presumptuous given the amount of indisputable facts about Jesus that exist.

“It’s almost absurd to speculate what Jesus’ positions would be on any single issue, given we know so little about Jesus was,” Werleman said. “Knowing the New Testament is not simply a matter of reading the Bible cover to cover, or memorizing a handful of verses. Knowing the Bible requires a scholarly contextual understanding of authorship, history and interpretation.”

Most Americans, however, have only a passing knowledge of the Christian scriptures.  One-half of all Americans cannot name the first book of the bible (It is Genesis) and a whopping 82 percent believe that “God helps those that help themselves” is a scriptural text. (In fact it is commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but may date back to ancient Greece).

Werleman stressed in his op-ed that the Republican party prey on this lack of even basic biblical knowledge to convince Americans that their actions are Christian and inspired by Jesus.  In the case of food stamps, this meant quoting 2 Thessalonians which reads, “Anyone unwilling to work will not eat.”

Yet this quote, as Werleman notes, is not in fact said by Jesus, as the majority of Americans believe, but instead thought to be written as instruction by Paul. Further, according to recent scholarship was in all likelihood a forgery, meaning it was said by neither Jesus nor the Apostle Paul but by an anonymous pseudo-author using Paul’s name.

“Biblical illiteracy is what has allowed the Republican Party to get away with shaping Jesus their image,” Werleman explained, pointing out that most Americans take the pundits statements of biblical veracity as fact. “That’s why politicians on the right can get away with saying the Lord commands that our healthcare, prisons, schools, retirement, transport, and all the rest should be run by corporations for profit.”

He further said that ironically the Republican Jesus constructed by the religious right sounds very much like an atheist. “When the Christian Right believes it’s channeling Jesus when they say it’s immoral for government to tax billionaires to help pay for healthcare, education and the poor,” Werleman said, “they’re actually channeling [atheist author] Ayn Rand.”

Photo Credit: Darren Foreman via Creative Commons

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.