A couple of days ago, Valerie Tarico posted an article online in which she compiled a (serious) list of several atheists’ favorite Bible verses.
Bible Gateway’s Andy Rau was surprised by what made the list:
… it’s interesting to compare the “atheist favorites” list with the 100 most popular verses on Bible Gateway, which we compile and share from time to time. While the atheist list and our top-100 list don’t claim to be representative of all atheists or all Bible readers, the differences between the lists are noteworthy. Specifically, few of the atheist choices appear near the top of the top-100 verses list. Most of the verses on the top-100 list make spiritual claims or assurances that assume the reader is a believer; most of the atheist choices understandably represent verses that speak more to the general human condition, or that promote positive values without explicitly linking them to belief in God or Jesus Christ. While the atheist-chosen verses aren’t (for the most part) exactly obscure, they aren’t verses you see cited or discussed frequently by Christians. The atheist-chosen verses also tend to be calls to some kind of moral action, whereas many of the top-100 verses are promises or messages of comfort. It makes me think that as Christians, it might be useful to expand our selection of go-to Bible verses beyond the familiar favorites.
Rau also took note of how often atheists (myself included) quoted verses from Ecclesiastes, a book that he says “rarely crops up in Christian sermons.”
His assessment is spot on. For me, it’s just another reminder at how easy it is to cherry pick verses from a lengthy book to support your already-held values.
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