Quite a few non-Christians think that the Bible a thoroughly evil book. I’m one of them. And even Christians know that quite a bit of it is not suitable for children. But they keep trying to make it so. Someone’s just tried that again, and it’s reminded me of what happened when I ran across the not-safe-for-work, sanity, or even life bits of the Bible. Today, let me show you how I brushed up against those bits, how the adults in my life completely mismanaged the situation, and what it means when Christian adults can’t show children the full monstrosities in their own holy book.
This is Captain Cassidy of Roll to Disbelieve! It’s March 3, 2022, and today we’ve got a fun story to talk about. Some guy wrote a book of Bible stories for teens that he thinks will help indoctrinate them — and keep them Christian for life. It’s going to backfire so, so, so hard. For real, this book tells us everything we need to know about why Christianity is in decline, and why it’s going to be that way for the foreseeable future.
Before we get into that, though, I want to thank my patrons and supporters! Your support matters a great deal to me. It makes my work — and these posts — possible! If you’re not a supporter yet or you’d like to do more, I’ll include some links at the bottom of today’s writeup for you. Thank you for whatever you choose to do!
(Note for readers of the writeup: This post draws upon earlier posts I wrote for Roll to Disbelieve. You can find them here: Stop defending slavery; Bible verses I wished I’d seen before deconversion; Other weird stuff I wish I’d noticed; Atrocity apologetics needs to stop.
And now, let’s check out this interview about the book The Bible: Enter Here.
The Bible: Enter Here
We’re talking about a story from Religion News from last autumn. It’s not brand-new news, but it’s definitely news to me. And it’s absolutely hilarious. The story concerns a book called The Bible: Enter Here, written by Spencer C. Demetros. It’s got 26 ratings on Amazon, with 85% of those being 5 stars. I didn’t see any reviews by actual teens. Instead, we see adults — mostly parents — raving about the book.
The book consists of Old and New Testament stories retold in a more modern, easy-to-read style. It’s not really a Bible, and the author’s very up-front about that in his interview with Religion News:
There’s a lot of really great teen Bibles out there that provide good commentary. But my book doesn’t transcribe the Bible and isn’t designed to replace it. It retells the key stories and teachings of the Bible as an entryway to access the Bible. I use a bunch of different techniques, including interjecting dialogue and writing some of the chapters as Peter’s diaries, and they bring the stories and lessons to life so that they’re memorable.
Demetros avoided really difficult stories. He also sterilized and sanitized what he did choose to go into the book.
For some reason, he also cut out almost all of the women in the Bible. I’m sure that’s not male privilege speaking or anything. (/s)
Just… why, though?
Of course, Religion News asked Demetros why he wrote the book.
Firstly, he replied, his goal was to move teens from the kiddie stories in picture books to stories that were more age-appropriate for them. Ultimately, he said, he wants to give teens “hope” by keeping them in church:
People are looking for hope. I believe that the true source of hope and joy is God, and Jesus’ message. We have to get back to that. Our old ways of getting kids to church isn’t working, so we have to do things differently. This book is one tool to head in that direction.
Secondly, though, he had another reason for writing the book. He wants teens to see Christianity as cool. That’s the “one takeaway” he wants teens to have after reading his book. As he puts it:
You can be quirky, funny and a little edgy and still be a good Christian.
I’m having flashbacks of that David A.R. White movie Second Glance. Very little is as cringey as Christians trying hard to be the cool kids in school.
Now, I’ve not read his book. What I want to do instead is offer a short selection of the very worst and most evil stories in the Bible — and what happened when Teen Cas ran into them.
Cuz the Bible contains a lot of very evil and monstrous stories
All believers admit that the bible contains some stomach-churning tales, but these examples reveal the LORD himself commanding, committing, or condoning the brutality. Dawkins was not exaggerating when he called God a capriciously malevolent bully.
And that is most definitely so. When I was a teen myself, I converted to the Southern Baptist Convention. The night I got dunked, their minister gave me a humongous white leatherette-covered Bible. This thing was huge. You could easily have put a plate on it and used it as a table. It contained a bunch of color plates and all kinds of commentary that I’d never seen before as a Catholic. And oh, it fascinated me.
I mean, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the Bible. But I hadn’t ever had one of my own. Catholics get their Bible readings at church from these booklets they call Missals. Every Catholic church uses the same ones, so everyone gets the same Bible reading every Sunday. But I’d never had a Bible to read. It was amazing, y’all. I could open it and read the words of the almighty god of the universe! He’d put it all there for humans to have! We could know what he thought about stuff and what he wanted from us!
Little did I realize it was boring beyond comprehension. Mostly.
The parts that weren’t boring, though, that’s where things got tricky.
See, there was a tiny bit of non-boring stuff that was beautiful and uplifting.
But there was a lot more non-boring stuff that was absolutely fucking horrifying.
It was kinda like this except I wasn’t high
In a way, the whole situation now reminds me of this song by Trevor Moore, “High in Church.”
I’ve never done any of the drugs mentioned in the video, but there’s this one scene in it that spoke to me. In it, Trevor’s a college kid who gets high. He and his equally high friends gets carted off to church by his very Christian mom. At one point, one of his friends is laughing uncontrollably about a story in the Bible (this one about the talking donkey). It says at one point that “the LORD opened the mouth of the ass,” and the friend is really immature so he took it as one would expect. Trevor takes the Bible away from him, and this happens:
I take the book from Brian
The choir begins to sing
It dawns on me that I’ve never actually read this thing
I open up the pages, and then start flipping through
I find it calms me down and gives my mind something to do
It says some beautiful things about forgiveness and love
Till I get to the end when God comes back
Wilds out, and straight up fucks Earth up!
In the video, Trevor freaks out and leaves the sanctuary to calm himself down. It’s very clear that reading the Bible did not give him “hope” of any kind.
And I kinda had the same reaction.
When I found the Bible story about the rape of Tamar
One day, I think I was in church or something. I’d gotten a smaller Bible by then, and I tried hard to make a habit out of reading it. The pastor — this is still with the Southern Baptists — had us looking in the Old Testament for something. And as I leafed to the right page, I saw something subtitled “The Rape of Tamar.”
The what of who now?!?
It’s in 2 Samuel 13. In it, King David’s son Amnon fakes being sick so his half-sister Tamar will come to his home to care for him. Once she’s there, he sends the servants away and tells her to get into bed with him.
She protests, of course. She even asks him to talk to their father, King David, about letting them get married. Just that idea is just horrifying in and of itself. But she’s trying to avoid being shamed and dishonored here.
Amnon doesn’t care. He rapes her. Then, he gets mad at her and throws her out. A couple of years later, Tamar’s full brother Absalom murders Amnon and flees the country. And a few years after that, David reconciles with him.
It’s just such a pointless and brutal story. Amnon doesn’t get in any trouble for raping Tamar — until Absalom finally kills him.
To say this story consumed my imagination would be an understatement.
There’s no way to sanitize this shit
Since then, I’ve learned that the story might exist to draw a comparison between David and Bathsheba and his son Absalom, who avenged a woman wronged. So Tamar’s rape, in this theory, represents a kind of man-pain for her brother, who then must act against Amnon to somewhat right this injustice.
Alternately, it might be in the Bible to make a point about David’s children amplifying his own shortcomings. Another explanation I’ve seen is that Tamar’s misfortune might be part of Yahweh’s curse on David for taking Bathsheba, with the first victim of the curse, of course, being David’s infant son, conceived with Bathsheba.
Regardless, it’s a downright shocking, evil story. It does not make David look good, nor Yahweh himself. It reminds us that the Old Testament has rules requiring rapists to marry their victims — as long as the victims screamed, of course. If the victims didn’t scream, then all bets are off — those women might well be stoned to death for adultery.
What a loving, benevolent god!
See why I was in such turmoil? Why didn’t Yahweh do anything here? Or at least demand that Tamar get justice?
This was my first brush with the sheer evil contained within the Bible, but it wasn’t the last.
Glossing over the hard parts
I mean, by now there are tons of listicles about the most evil passages in the Bible. It’s so easy to find them and to discuss them with others.
But back then, none of these resources even existed. As an evangelical and then fundamentalist, I believed the Bible was the pure, authoritative word of a real live god. What, then, was I to make of Tamar’s brutal rape? Why did my religious leaders never talk about it?
Here’s the wild thing, though.
Sometimes, preachers did tackle some of these stories. And that was perhaps even worse than them just pretending that none of that stuff was in the Bible at all.
Tip-toeing around some of the bad parts of the Bible
For instance, I heard sermons about the near-rape of Lot’s daughters in Genesis 19. If you’ve missed it, there’s a very similar story in Judges 19, with a mob gathering outside a godly man’s house demanding a male guest come out for them to rape. In Judges, the host offers his own daughter plus the guest’s concubine, though the concubine is the only one who goes in the end to the howling mob. In Genesis, the men in the mob want to rape Lot’s angelic guests. So the host, Lot, offers them his daughters instead. This time, the mob refuses, because they want those gorgeous angels. I guess one story is meant to be a counterpoint to the other.
But those preachers only wanted to talk about the mob itself, about its great wickedness that proved that Yahweh was in the right to blast their city to smithereens. Nobody really addressed this horrific thing Lot had done.
(Now, just as an aside, I hadn’t seen the story about the Midianites’ young daughters in Numbers 31. Yahweh commanded Israelite men to take those girls as slaves after conquering their tribe and murdering all the adults. For some weird reason, pastors skipped right over that one! And my eyes just glossed right over it when I read the whole Bible. It’s like I saw these atrocity stories, and yet did not perceive them. I had Jesus goggles on!)
Christian leaders sanitize those stories very well. They do it so well, in fact, that it wasn’t till I deconverted that I really thought about and grasped exactly what was going on in them.
A Bible storybook for teens that sanitizes way too much
So in Spencer Demetros’ book The Bible: Enter Here, he says he wrote it to keep teens in church. He says he’s worried about how many teens opt out of church the moment they can. Hilariously, he thinks church is wonderful for teens and gives them what he calls “hope.” Thus, he wrote this book so they could see that being Christian is cool, quirky, edgy, and hip –and so they could hear Bible stories that are a bit more relatable and understandable.
But he’s clearly minimized the evil within these stories, when he presents the worst stories at all. Want a sample? In the Religion News interview, he says his favorite chapter title is “Why Is Mom Being So Salty?” It’s about Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. Of this story, Demetros says:
The idea of this lady being turned into a pillar of salt is so upsetting, but the title just cracks me up every time.
LOL! The laffs never stop coming in Christianity, do they? HAW HAW! SALTY! GEDDIT? She’s turned into salt, Yahweh straight up murdered her for doing something perfectly normal and understandable, but salt reminded this guy of the slang term “salty” for acting irritated and petty! L-O-fuckin-L! SALTY! Kids love this stuff!
But really, Demetros didn’t want to present teens with stuff that’s way beyond their understanding. So I’m guessing Tamar didn’t make an appearance at all. It sure didn’t look like it from the Amazon preview, which includes his chapter titles. I didn’t see anything called “That’s Not What Brotherly Love is SUPPOSED to Look Like!”
When reality meets false beliefs about the Bible
I don’t think it serves these Christian adults’ interests to sanitize the Bible like this. It’s a monstrous book, with a lot of monstrous parts.
Eventually, inevitably even, those teens are going to run into friends and people online who know about all those bad parts. And they’re going to wonder, as I did, why the adult Christians in their lives aren’t talking about those parts. They’re definitely not going to be happy with whatever non-explanation the adults offer about how those parts fit into an omnipotent, all-loving, all-justice-oriented god who really and truly cares about his human ant farm.
Instead, they’re going to read about a god who commands his people to rape little girls and genocide other tribes. They’re going to see a god who doesn’t care at all about rape victims and isn’t in the least anti-abortion, who approves completely of slavery, who approves of consent-violating behavior, and who offers detailed rules about exactly how to sexually enslave a woman captured in war and exactly how hard a slave-master may beat slaves. They’re going to realize that Noah’s Ark isn’t a cute picture-book about cuddly animals on a boat, but rather the story of a god genociding almost every single person, animal, and plant on Earth because he was pissed off at being disobeyed.
Heck, maybe those teens will even find the listicles and realize how normies see their holy book. That jarred the hell out of me as a college student, when I realized that not all students saw my then-husband’s Christian group, PRAYER WARRIORS FOR JESUS, as a good thing.
And I think the reality of those stories is going to hit Christian kids like a tidal wave, once they start noticing it.
I mean, for me, every new bit of information I learn about the Bible just reinforces the very earthly and human truth about it. Knowledge destroys false beliefs.
False claims destroy faith
So if I could give Christian adults and leaders any advice at all, if I thought they’d even listen to me, then I’d tell them not to gloss over the hard parts of the Bible.
It’s worth noting that even after I left Pentecostalism that first time, at 16, I still considered myself fully Christian. I wasn’t questioning the claims I’d heard in Catholicism, because mostly they didn’t seem really out-there. It was the add-on module of the Endtimes that broke my faith in Pentecostalism. I didn’t question Christianity as a whole until I was in my mid-20s, and only because I was looking for any reason to believe in any of it.
Now, obviously, many of the Bible’s hard parts involve stuff that isn’t age-appropriate at all for small children. But teens can handle a lot more than children can. And chances are, those teens have already noticed some of the stories I’ve talked about today–and others besides.
If those teens got raised with this image of a loving, wise, all-powerful god who loves human beings and gives them rules that are meant for the best for them, and they run across these stories, that’s going to tell them very quickly that the image is wrong.
And if this one claim is wrong, then what else is wrong?
That’s the exact question that led to my own deconversion.
But I know better
So yes, the fewer false claims a group’s leaders make, the less opportunity there is for group members to notice anything is wrong. If Christian teens’ parents and religious leaders avoid telling them anything that’s easily proven false, then they probably won’t go hunting much for anything else that might be wrong. Everything’ll look fine on the surface.
If kids get raised with the idea that the Bible describes a religion and a conceptualization of Yahweh that changed significantly in the lead-up to Jesus’ supposed birth, then they won’t have a problem with a god who sets forth rules about sexually enslaving women. If they’re aware that the New Testament has such a weird and contradictory take on Jesus because several factions were fighting bitterly for control of the new religion, and they were all evolving that new religion’s beliefs on the fly and then fighting in committees to get their ideas made canon, then they probably won’t be fazed much by contradictions in the Gospels.
But I know that Christians won’t listen to any of this. For one, many of their adults haven’t thought through what these stories mean, or their compassion’s so badly scorched out of them that they won’t see the problem. For another, many of them actually do believe their claims, and so they actually accept all the bad apologetics and hand-waving that tries in vain to sanitize those stories.
So y’all, we won’t be seeing any declines anytime soon in the number of teens who deconvert and/or walk away from church. If this is how their leaders and parents respond to the existing decline, then we have nothing to worry about. The kids are all right.
And this has been Captain Cassidy for Roll to Disbelieve, signing out! Thanks for listening.
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