When Richard Dawkins said that the Bible should be taught in schools, the religious groups jumped all over his apparent reversal of his views on god… but failed to pass on the whole story.
Dawkins was referring to The Bible as a literary source, much like Shakespeare, and not implying that the contents should be believed.
He came out with this article HERE.
He’s correct, of course. Not only about how it’s not only a source of some great writing (phrases, rather than plot…) and immensely quotable, but important for children to read so they get to see the whole story, rather than just the happy bait that they are told to get them into religion. I’m not on about young children, as the Bible is pretty horrific in places. I’m talking about 9 to 12 years old at the youngest (old enough to understand that Santa is make believe, and that adults aren’t always right…).
An example Dawson gives (for the full story, follow the link…), is this:
Do you advocate the Ten Commandments as a guide to the good life? Then I can only presume that you don’t know the Ten Commandments. The first two – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” – come from a time when the Jews still believed in the existence of many gods but had sworn fealty to only one of them, their tribal “jealous” god.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”: this commandment is regarded as so important that (as our children will learn when they flock into the school library to read the Gove presentation copy) a man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath was summarily stoned to death by the whole community, on direct orders from God.
“Honour thy father and thy mother.” Well and good. But honour thy children? Not if God tells you, as he did Abraham in a test of his loyalty, to kill your beloved son for a burnt offering. The lesson is clear: when push comes to shove, obedience to God trumps human decency, to say nothing of obedience to the next commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”. This is the only one of the commandments that many devotees actually know. Its obviousness was appropriately mocked by Christopher Hitchens, but my imagination hears the response of the Israelites to Moses in the voice of Basil Fawlty: “Oh I SEE. Thou shalt not KILL. Oh how silly of me. You see, before you came down from the mountain with the tablets, we all thought it was perfectly fine to kill. But now that we’ve seen it written on a TABLET, well that makes all the difference. Thou shalt not kill, well, who would have thought it? Oh silly me … etc etc.”
In any case, the commandment meant only “Thou shalt not kill members of thine own tribe”. It was perfectly fine – indeed strongly encouraged throughout the Pentateuch – to kill Canaanites, Midianites, Jebusites, Hivites etc, especially if they had the misfortune to live in the Promised Lebensraum. Kill all the men and boys and most of the women. “But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” (Numbers 31:18). Such wonderful moral lessons: all children should be exposed to them.
He finishes his article with:
Whatever else the Bible might be – and it really is a great work of literature – it is not a moral book and young people need to learn that important fact because they are very frequently told the opposite.