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A Rewrite Too Far

By Suzi LeVeaux - Posted on 21 March 2011

I have something I need to get off my chest. I usually enjoy "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell, but he said something this past week that went all over me....

In responding to whack-a-doodle Glenn Beck, who was implying the Japanese earthquake and other things happening now signal the end of the world, O'Donnell said..."The book of Revelation is a work of fiction describing how a truly vicious God would bring about the end of the world. No half-smart religious person actually believes the book of Revelation. They are certain that their God would never turn into a malicious torturer and mass murderer beyond Hitler’s wildest dreams. Glenn Beck, of course, does believe the book of Revelation."  He also stated "The Bible, in its not believed by any sane person"

I consider myself a strong Christian, who believes the Bible is the inspired word of God, as opposed to the literal word.  I try very hard to live my life daily according to the teachings of Jesus. But no matter where we stand on that issue, or on spiritual things in general, I found O'Donnell's way of going after Beck to be rather shocking. I would NEVER say the religious writings of any faith are "works of fiction", and for O'Donnell to do so is frankly insulting. There are many, many, many liberal Christians who watch his show who were deeply disturbed by this. (As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself would be considered a radical liberal today.)

Whether or not Revelations is meant to be taken literally or not is beyond my pay grade, and is not the issue.  For O'Donnell to demean people of faith and their beliefs IS the issue. He offended a lot of people with that rewrite. His words show a total disregard for the religious tolerance he claims to believe in.   O'Donnell lost a lot of my respect with that segment.  ALL faiths, beliefs systems, (or none at all) should be respected and not demeaned or dismissed as fiction. Our Creator (be it God or the Big Gang) gave us all free will, and we need to respect the choices each person makes for themselves. O'Donnell showed a total lack of respect for Christians and the Bible with that piece.

There's a huge difference in an individual fighting back with one who tries to shove their beliefs down your throat (Beck), and a public put down of any faith. Don't we criticize the far right for doing just that with Muslims?  Would O'Donnel ever publicly condemn the Quran as a "work of fiction" and question the sanity of the Muslim people?  No, and he shouldn't.  But O'Donnell needs to learn that tolerance is a two way street, not just his way. He is, after all, a public person.

Lawrence O'Donnell may be an atheist or agnostic...I don't know, and I really don't care.   His beliefs are personal, and I respect that.  What I don't respect, and am disgusted by, is his lack of tolerance for those who believe differently.

Intolerance, in all of it's forms is ugly.  I call "Hypocrite" on this rewrite.

It seems that O'Donnell is defining sanity solely on the issue of belief.  As an atheist I think he is absolutely wrong.

I know many many people far more intellegent and as sane as I who have deep faith in Christ as the son of God.  Some of these acquaintances believe the Bible is, as you say, the inspired word of God, others believe that the Bible is the literal word of God (though I do have problems parsing that).

Though I would be surprised if he didn't believe that Muslims or Jews or Hindus and possibly Buddhists are just as "insane" as Christians.

Though I would be surprised if he didn't believe that Muslims or Jews or Hindus and possibly Buddhists are just as "insane" as Christians.

In a way, that sums up my point, 16.  It isn't, nor should it be, acceptable to say would show a lack of religious tolerance.  IMO, the same tolerance should be shown to all.   My point wasn't about O'Donnell's faith or Christianity per se.  It was about the insensitive lack of religious tolerance.

As an individual Christian, I think Glenn Becks version of the faith is nutters. ;-)  But as long as those who believe as he does keeps it out of the political arena, that's fine with me.

I you will allow me to, I'll parse the differences for you.  I'm not trying to turn this into a who believes what, and who is or isn't right.  Just explain, as simply as possible, the differences between those of us who believe the Bible is the inspired word vs those who believe it's the literal word.  Simply put, people like me believe the men who wrote the Bible were inspired by God to give us a guide for our lives, often using parables, stories, etc  to teach spiritual lessons.  We also accept the fact that much of the Bible was written hundreds of years after the facts, and are thus subject to change in the and retelling of the stories, not to mention the many translations.  Those who believe it is the literal word of God believe just that...That the Bible means exactly what it says, word for word.

If religious texts are "inspired" or if they use parables in order to teach some moral lesson then those parts are, by definition, "fictional" if they are not "literal".

As an atheist, I do believe that religious texts are mostly fictional and have little problem saying so. However, I also believe that many said texts are also composed of much historical fact at the same time and that it can be difficult to separate the two.

I mean, a lot of the bible is intentionally fictional in order to teach certain lessons, is it not? And not just Jesus' parables, either? 

Even an online orthodox Jewish friend of mine is dismayed by Christian's literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. 

I, too, was surprised by O'Donnel.  Once before (can't recall issue) he also went too far.

It did seem that he was ignorant of how Christians look at Revelations....although the way I choose to look at it (I'm Lutheran) is my understanding of  the Seventh Day Adventist way; that John wrote in a sort of code, speaking of the persecution Christians were facing in a way that didn't look like he was pointing at the head of the Roman empire while encouraging them to hold on. 

(Getting off track, but as Revelations gets some really wierd reactions (IMO) from Christians re. final days go to It Is Written website & look for pastoral talks on Armageddon.)



Hi Marci, and welcome to RFO.  I really appreciate your input, and look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

I wasn't familiar with that way of looking at Revelations, but it makes sense.  I'll look around to find more information on it.   I think the interpretations of Revelations can be scary and are often used to control people, but for those who believe it, it's their right.  Personally, I don't attempt to understand what it means.

As a Christian, and as one who is very tolerant of the belief systems of others, it was the insulting intolerance which bothered me the most.

I get it.    Is it becoming more prevalent,  at least by media, I wonder?

Chris Matthews gave a rather unsettling "What I would ask candidates" which included

-do you believe every word in the Bible?

-do you believe the world is only 6000-7000 years old?

-do you believe in evolution? (or similar)

Many years ago when it became evident (such as seeing the Grand Canyon, & dinosaur bones in the southwest) that the earth is older than Biblical math would calculate, I asked my brother, a pastor.

His response: "It doesn't matter how long it took; it's still a miracle."  Looking forward to Heaven, and, besides the joy, the "aha" moments. 


Your brother is on the right track.  A literal interpretation of scripture misses the deeper meaning.  That may explain why too many Christians cling to rigid dogma about dates while ignoring the many passages instructing us to care for the works of God's hand. (i.e. ALL of God's children and God's earth.) They abhor abortion but would deny life saving treatment to those babies born with serious defects. (I call this late, late term abortion.)

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