How I Typically Study Bible Passages



  How I typically go about reading and studying a passage from the Bible.  


Read the verse 
  
I know this step is, pretty much, implied.  However, in my dialogues with many, many, many people who claim to worship the main character(s)... this step is my passive-aggressive jab at you Christians who mostly base your theological script off of what your preachers or apologists/devotionals tell you about Bible passages and evidences concerning them.  Hint: if you've ever repeated "chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea", "found Noah's Ark", "five thousand witnesses", or anything Ray Comfort has published then you are probably one of those people.  
  My default flavor is NASB, but I also read the passage in ESV, KJV, and NIV.  Study Bibles in many various versions are cozy on my shelves, but a lot of my Bible reading takes place on my phone and computer (mainly because research and commentary are more easily accessible that way.)  



Read the entire chapter 

  While not always necessary, I think it's a good idea to be aware of the chapter housing the verse(s).  I've read the Bible multiple times and am typically aware of the situational context of passages being quoted.  Even if you're familiar with the verse(s) being discussed, doesn't hurt to at least give the chapter a skim.  You have the Internet in your pocket, don't be lazy if you have any questions about the context of the chapter you read.  
  What I mean by the "situational context" of a passage:
  Characters and groups involved. 
  Timeline: OT? NT? Pre-Israel? Post-Jesus? 
  Usually considered literal, metaphorical, poetic?  Is there an explicit audience?


Consider how the different denominations interpret this passage.  

  What is their particular theological stance per the philosophical/literal implications of the verse(s)?  Do the professed congregants seem to be in general agreement?  While some denominations and branches of Christianity may have stances that are more difficult to nail down, resources like these can be good places to start: 
  Wikipedia: List of Christian Denominations 
  HIRR: Official Denominational Websites 
  
  However, don't be above visitin' a church you're curious about.  Try to chat with the pastor (or priest or whatever they go by) and some of the congregants who are willing to discuss their reasons for affiliation.  If you think you have theological justification for thinking [X] while they think [Y], ask them why you both look at the same words and reach different conclusions.  

"Theists, please stop _____"



  Dear theists of the Internet,
below are several uninformed things many theists have said to me when the topics of a/theism, religiosity, or secularism are discussed online.  I realize that many of these things are said with good intentions or out of ignorance, but they in fact are quite douchey and don't inspire useful conversation. Such words only serve to reinforce an image of immaturity and an extreme absence of understanding concerning the philosophy of theology and a/theism. While these are all primarily things the less educated and/or less confident theists parrot from their ministers and friends, I figured I'd throw out a few personal responses.  (that was me admitting that this is mostly low-hanging fruit) 
  I write these as my responses, not as anything representative of atheism or the stance of other atheists. My responses aren't meant to be expansive or thorough, just condensed sentiments that also hopefully portray my willingness to not be as insulting as the actual sentiments I'm sentimenting about. 
  In short: I'm about to complain about some accusations and mentalities that are harmful or just plain insulting. 
                                    ~Nimbus


"You hate God."

  I hate Yahweh like I hate ___________.

a) Count Dracula
b) Emperor Palpatine
c) Joffrey Baratheon
d) Jar Jar Binks
e) [other deplorable fictional character]




"There are no atheists in foxholes/plane troubles/hospital beds."

  You think a near-death experience will "wake me up"...  If I was likely desperate, not thinking straight, and/or fearful I'd consider your supernatural claims?  Disparaging the integrity of others in such a manner comes across as insecure and pretentious.  This is the same manner of insecurity expressed in the "you were never a true Muslim/Christian" accusation.  

  'There are no actual Christians on hospital beds, they'll also pray to the gods of other religions out of desperation and fear because they secretly doubt what they claim to believe.'  ^See how nasty and ignorant that sounds?



"Atheists, please stop _____"



  Dear atheists of the Internet,
the following are things I think don't help your arguments and only serve to derail or degrade conversations with theists (or other atheists.)  This post isn't necessarily suggesting that these are common among the atheists of the Internet........... but some of them kinda are.  However, the spirit of these complaints apply towards theists as well, but I'll write the theist crowd specifically another time.  I understand that the topic of theology can evoke much passion from some individuals, but everyone should should put forth their arguments as honestly and consistently as possible.  
  This list isn't written in any particular order, just the practices themselves with no indication as to their perceived severity in comparison to one another.  I am also not writing any in-depth, nuanced expoundings here, just a few of my thoughts on things. 
  Some of these things are essentially "apply sound skepticism" but the main message is really to stop saying some of these things that just propogate progress-impeeding biases and/or make you sound doofy.  
                                    ~Nimbus


Claiming the atheist presence in the prison population is only around [crazy-low %]
"Who keeps bookmarking Ezekiel 23:20?"
  The American prison system is bonkers and filled with plenty of people who probably shouldn't be there.  It's a broken system employing broken methods pumping out broken people- not an ideal place for insight concerning such philosophical issues.  That's not to say that we can't learn interesting things about prisoners and the population as a whole, but many people who are incarcerated would rather not be and there's a lot of motivation to say/profess things that may potentially alleviate or reduce your time behind bars.
  There are many interesting metrics to gather about the world we live in, but getting them from prisoners inside awful environments is not the kind of data one should argue a point from.



Debating whether babies are/n't atheists
Now this baby is ready to draw some truth tables!
  What babies may or may not believe is irrelevant- they just started making use of their squishy brains.  Babies didn't make any informed decisions concerning religion/theism, they just want someone to keep them alive and comfy. 
  To the "if babies are atheists, are rocks atheists too?" folks (who think they're being clever) this isn't about the literal application of a label insomuch as it is about the useful application of a label.  I don't qualify "bachelor" with the dictionary description, I just say "bachelor" and you know I'm talking about people, not furniture (or *in annoying voice* rocks.)
  Are babies atheists?  Are babies theists?
  They aren't requiring either label, they're just dumb babies. 

"What If You're Wrong?"



  A question that virtually every atheist has heard: "What if you're wrong?"  
  It seems to me this question is hardly ever actually an honest question but usually a death-rattle of someone who can't think of any good justification or argumentation to support their stance.  When the evidence or reasons are lacking, out come the fear tactics, the insincere concern, the frustration, and/or the emotional pleading.  I'm not accusing anyone of intentional insincerity; I remember my Christian days and the very real fear I felt concerning Hell and the salvation status of others.  
  The "what if you're wrong?" question is so entirely devoid of actual follow-through it's honestly a little frustrating when I'm presented with it when my atheism is being discussed.  So, instead of me waxing on about how most theists don't seem to even sincerely consider such a question themselves, I'm going to borrow the more eloquent language of other atheists/skeptics.  


  Betting on Infinity (TheraminTrees & QualiaSoup) 
(for mobile browsers: http://youtu.be/fZpJ7yUPwdU)

My Religious History



  I've lived in Alaska, Nevada, Arkansas, Colorado, and have spent a lot of time in Arizona with my family.  Before college, I faithfully attended eight churches across the dozen+ homes I've lived in prior to my advanced schooling. Myself and my family were very involved in those churches and had an, overall, immensely positive experience at each of them.  My church history, in chronological order, is as follows: Methodist, Baptist, Baptist, Christian Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal, nondenominational, Pentecostal, nondenominational.  I've also attended services and events at many, many other churches throughout my life.
  All that to showcase that when it comes to Christianity, I have experience.  I was an officially recognized member at several of those churches.  I spent several hours a week (outside of Sunday) at several of those churches to help out, clean, assist in organizing events, ect..  I was involved.  So for this Out Loud I'm going to reflect on my religious history (like the title says.)  
Yes, those two in the corner are Alaska, not Canada.