Is the bible magic?

"Magic" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Magic” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

The bible plays a significant role in the cycle of confirmation bias. We believe something to be true, we find confirmation for it in the bible, and it buttresses our belief.

Where we step into this cycle differs on each and every issue. In other words, did the bible create the belief in us? Or does the bible confirm something we already hold true because of the cultural conditioning of our beliefs?

Being honest about this phenomenon is crucially important if we want to be free.



23 Replies to “Is the bible magic?”

  1. A better trick, to paraphrase an incident in Now You See Me 2, would be pulling the bible out of a rabbit.

  2. This may be true with some people about some things, but overall, the Bible has grown organically, is very close to human experiences of people over centuries and millennia, speaks the truth about our frailty, draws characters that are complex, raw, and authentic, warts and all. It clearly shows our need for love and redemption. It is not like a magic trick at all, actually. In a sense, it counteracts our confirmation bias.

  3. I heard Brad Cummings chatting with Wayne Jacobsen on TheGodJourney podcast about a conference he had attended for church leaders focusing on how to address declining numbers, how to make the Magic Show aka the Sunday Service more attractive

    I have also heard Pete Rollins compare the resurrection & communion as pulling a rabbit out of a hat, not in a bad way btw

    Finally John O’Donohue referred to performing last rites as “doing the magic” , how I miss him

    Those are the resonances that come to mind when I see this cartoon as well as your points



  4. If it were only rabbits coming out of the pulpit’s bible, I would be quite content. The pastors and congregants could have their show, and worship, and enjoy communion. That is all fine by me.

    Instead, it is anger that comes out of that Biblical Hat. People that feel insulted by culture. People that are bound and determine to keep the homeless out of their back yard (NIMBY). People that believe their denomination is ‘best’ for ‘everyone’. People that want to return the US to a Levitical Nation.

    I see church people with estranged children. People with spouses that dread ‘church’ and will not attend. Broken families that the church breaks even further. People that share platitudes as answers for comfort.

    I have seen good come out of the attending the show, for those that are within the box. And, I am glad that they find support for their philosophical journey.

    But the churches in the US are dying in numbers. Their membership is shrinking every year.

    The global church membership appears to be growing in the reports I read – but why?

  5. Brigitte M, I feel the need to politely contest that notion of yours with some remarks –

    Clobber verses used in Jewish and Christian scripture to denigrate the LGB+ and transgender communities
    The long history of using the Bible to condone slavery
    The almost Christianity-long campaign of harassing, attacking, and killing Jews over various things that ultimately have their root in the Gospel writers wanting to avoid criticizing the very patrons that let them freely practice

    I could go on but needless to say that the Bible can be used to confirm our biases as well. It’s not a pretty truth but it’s something that needs to be understood. The Bible can challenge us, but it can also be misused by us.

  6. I don’t know Jordan. Just read this little thread, here, and see who is clobbering whom. Just look around the world and see who is enslaving whom. Look around the world and see who is killing LGBT. Maybe that will put some of your talking points into perspective…

  7. That quite honestly proved my own point, Brigitte. Not intending anything malicious but … you really did.

  8. Confirmation bias, all around. How do we get out of it? Certainly not by saying, my point has been obviously made and that is that. Jordan, you have not shown, yet that you are deeply familiar with any subject from the Bible to slavery.

  9. I don’t mean to be impolite either, Jordan, but you are treating major subjects in a facile way.

  10. Honestly, I was about to get into a pissing match over complexity but really it’s not worth it. My own view and understanding is that there is so much white space around and between the printed letter that interpretations and confirmation biases are inevitable. We can make it do what we want or forcibly reinterpret something to fit our views – as has happened in some cases.

    The bible out of the rabbit.

  11. Jordan, why don’t you say something with substance, so it can be talked about? Even with saying how you don’t want to be impolite, you just seem to like to throw mud. What, for example, do you think is wrong with the article?

  12. Because you haven’t been, Brigitte. If anything, the circular logic you’ve employed can be detected from a different perspective, but you’re taking quite the long path to justify your beliefs that the Bible has no way to be used to confirm a confirmation bias.

    Your definition of “challenging” a person is very much based on this idea of the Bible not at all being wrong, but the READER somehow being wrong. Your definition is also based on this idea that the Bible can’t be interfered with, that it lives on its own and is divinely developed. And I’m sorry but that approach just doesn’t work with people who have taken the time to study the various interpretations that exist.


    I’ll help you out with some of that, in fact. Go to a site called Sefaria and read some of the stuff they have. (For your benefit and others, Sefaria is an Orthodox Jewish host site for the Jewish scriptures and many uploaded commentaries on not only scripture, but commentaries on commentaries.) There’s not total agreement even with hundreds of years of discussion and bickering. Rashi and Rambam won’t agree with each other. The MYSTICS don’t even agree with each other.

    There’s not even agreement in Rabbinic Judaism even up to the 1800s whether the Torah was written by Moses or G!d or if it was actually written after the first Exile. Sure, scholarly thought has advanced leaps and bounds in the past 200 years but, like you, there are still camps that treat the Torah as divine and growing on its own rather than its being a human document that has matured as we matured our own skills of reasoning and interpretation.

    And I won’t dignify the article because you threw that as a red herring. The whole matter of this is that you’re intentionally being a contrarian because it doesn’t fit into your world view. David, myself, and others view the Bible to be a human document on many levels that matter, and that we humans have manipulated the text. You don’t. And your whole argument is a glorified “it’s divine and anyone who says otherwise is a heretic.”

    I mean, you threw a far-right-wing paper at my direction to justify a hyperconservative view of Christian scriptures. Do you expect me at this point to actually respect such a tactic when it was immature?

  13. This has been brought to my attention but a couple further points need to be made –

    First, to bring up the Arab Slave Trade at all in a discussion regarding white individuals and groups condoning crimes against fellow humans with, of all things, Christian scriptures is itself a diversion tactic and probably the first sign that a weak argument was presented. The fact remains that people have and still justify horrible acts, from slavery to beating children who aren’t heterosexual, with scripture. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it untrue.

    Second, in whole, the discussion addresses circular logic and confirmation bias within Christian culture. Unfortunately, there’s a long cycle of self-justification – it can even be echoed in a translation of Aquinas’s “Adoro te devote,” specifically Gerard Manley Hopkins’s translation which says “I believe, for God the Son hath said it.” The problem is that even with more conservative circles there’s the question of whether Jesus might have said some of the things “recorded” at all.

    Word of God or not, we put the pen to scroll. What beliefs we have come through in the texts we right or read. Bias is inevitable. Confirmation bias especially so.

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