Should the Bible ever be studied like a work of literature?

I originally posted this as an answer to the question “The Bible: Should the Bible ever be studied like a work of literature rather than the literal word of God?” on Quora.

The Bible is studied as literature in many high schools and universities. I studied it in high school as literature. It has many profound and beautiful passages. If you focus on the Bible as a historical document of the way people thought and lived two to three thousand years ago, it’s very valuable and enlightening. 

The Bible is only dangerous when people try to cast it as the actual instructions of a god for humans to live by. We’ve seen, and continue to see, how poorly groups and civilizations fare when they treat the Bible as “The Word of God”. The saddest part is that these groups and civilizations cause massive suffering to others, humans and non-humans, when they take the Bible as literally true. 

To conclude, I support reading the Bible and other scriptures as part of a full education. This literature has formed the basis for, or influenced, much of modern civilization, and we should read it just as we read the secular literature that helped create the world we have today. My immediate family, including my wife and children are all atheists, and I encourage my children to read it and I discuss the Bible and other foundational religious books and ideas with them, to help them understand why people think and act the way they do.

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