(Photo: Smithsonian National Museum of American History)
An Orange County, Calif. atheist group plans to put on a demonstration Saturday afternoon in which they will rip up sections of the Bible that they deem “immoral.”
Though they won't be tearing pages straight out of a book, members of Backyard Skeptics, OC's largest atheist organization, plans to rip up photocopies of the Scriptures on the Huntington Beach pier.
Bruce Gleason, the founder of the organization, shared several examples of what he perceives to be immoral biblical practices to The Christian Post on Friday.
One Old Testament example he gave was Deuteronomy 22:14-31, which says that a woman who is not found to be a virgin on her wedding night should be stoned to death. From the New Testament, he pointed to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, which tells how women should be dressed. There are a number of other passages the group will be targeting as well.
"It's really a public education program...we're not trying to desecrate the Bible, we're just trying to let others know that there are certain portions of the Bible that they would probably agree with that they don't live by,” he said.
"We're not trying to offend people, though I will acknowledge that people will be upset simply because we're taking passages out of the Bible.”
Ray Comfort, an evangelist who does open-air preaching in Huntington Beach and has his own television show with actor Kirk Cameron, says that Gleason's organization is ignoring some very important issues.
"I think we need to take the log out of our own eye before we look at a culture 3,000 years ago, and take portions of their civil law and try to apply them to America somehow, and blame Christians for Jewish Scriptures,” he said in an interview with The Christian Post.
Backyard Skeptics is also known in the OC region for passing out information and posting billboards that promote atheistic ideas, but Comfort says that their signs are welcomed because they actually get people to think about God.
"Atheists are a very, very tiny minority, but very loud. They're like chihuahuas. They're yappy little creatures because they've got an inferiority complex," he said.
All jokes aside, Comfort and Gleason are actually acquaintances who occasionally meet to have dinner and discuss their opposing ideals.
“We get along really well,” said Comfort.
“He's (Comfort) a really good guy,” echoed Gleason in a separate interview.
Gleason got the idea for Saturday's demonstration from what has become known as the Jefferson Bible.
The Jefferson Bible was created by Thomas Jefferson after he had already served his two terms as president. It's actual title is The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, and is a book in which he took the four Gospels, omitted Jesus' miracles and the resurrection, and pieced back together the story of the Christ focusing solely on his life and philosophies.
The book, which consists of passages in Greek, Latin, French and English, is currently going through a conservation treatment at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
“There are a lot of good portions of the Bible,” says Gleason, though he finds value in some of the Scriptures because of the principles they share, not because he believes it is the revealed Word of God.
"I'm doing this to make this a better world. I feel that reason, science, and critical thinking will do much more than prayer and belief," Gleason said of this weekend's event.
He expects 20 to 30 people from his organization to participate Saturday, but says that if too many Christians also show up, he won't hold the demonstration.
“There's just going to be a mob scene and it's too risky to do,” he said.
Gleason says they are targeting the Bible because there are more Christians in America than there are people of other religions, but Comfort says that his thinking isn't fair.
"If he wants to make a point he needs to go after all religion, not just Christianity,” said Comfort.
He also said that his hope was that, ultimately, atheists would turn toward God.
"Many atheists don't realize this, but we love them. We're concerned for them. We want to see them come to know God and his forgiveness."