Does the Bible Inspire Hate and Intolerance?

07/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

So Fred Phelps, Sr. is continuing his tireless efforts by promulgating hate and intolerance toward anyone who does not obey God's word -- at least in the way Phelps interprets God's word, according to the Bible. I've written about this extremist in the past, but since I just finished reading Bart D. Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them) it was confirmed for me once more how misguided and dangerous Phelps and those like him are. As a former believer in the Bible's inerrancy, I found Ehrman's book to be invaluable and helpful in understanding how that book came to be and if Phelps grasped this, quite likely he and his followers would behave more humane toward their fellowman.

Years ago, the deeper I got into studying the Bible, the more difficulty I had accepting it as gospel. However, not being equipped to sort it out in depth, unlike Ehrman, who is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a leading authority on the Bible, I was left with more questions than answers. After reading Jesus, Interrupted, I still have questions, but they deal more with those who do not bother to understand just how the Bible was collated, while lacking knowledge of its contents, save for a few verses they rely upon to justify their misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic attitude, not to mention their lack of humility.

There's often the belief by fundamentalists that those who don't believe in the Bible are doing so out of blatant disobedience or arrogance. Naturally, I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I believe the Bible offers great historical material, but is not and cannot be credited with any Supreme Being as its author, and after reading Erhman's book, I feel even more confident by that conclusion. Yet, Phelps and others like him use the Bible as their right not only to be God's spokesperson, but to dole out judgment, which sometimes includes murder.

Without a doubt, the Bible is going to remain on people's shelves and be quoted from for centuries to come. Sadly and tragically, put in the wrong hands, it will also be the tool implemented to defend extremism.