The Bible Belting of America

By Sloan, Gary | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

The Bible Belting of America

Sloan, Gary, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

THOUGHTFUL SKEPTICS distrust stereotypes. Besides being superficial, they are often vicious. I had long assumed that the stereotype of Bible Belt Christians was remote from reality. As north Louisiana's resident atheist, I changed my mind after publicly dueling with religious denizens of the region. I have concluded that the Bible Belt mentality is a provincial manifestation of the American mentality.

In 1996 I wrote a letter to a large newspaper in north Louisiana, the buckle (as the cliche has it) of the Bible Belt. In the letter I suggested that Jesus Christ might be a fabrication of late first-century minds, a theory espoused by scholar George A. Wells in such books as Did Jesus Exist?, The Historical Evidence for Jesus, and The Jesus Legend. The letter precipitated an avalanche of demurrals, to which I responded with further missives. My responses evoked responses, the battle escalated, the scope of my letters widened, and I was soon penning outright apologias for agnosticism, the letters now going to three newspapers--the Shreveport Times, the Monroe News-Star, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. The responses kept pouring in, about 300 in all.

On the basis of those letters, I have concluded that a Bible Belt mind does indeed exist. It is a mind resistant to evidence, logic, and scholarship that threaten religious belief With few exceptions, my respondents pertinaciously skirted the substantive issues I raised. Confronted with arguments against the existence of supernatural beings, the plenary inspiration of Scripture, or the historicity of Jesus Christ, the respondents habitually recurred to a predictable ensemble of evasionary tactics. Most of the diversionary maneuvers appeared in the responses to the following letter, one of my last:

To many atheists and agnostics, the Western conception of God is unintelligible. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnific being seems an impossible contradiction, like a square circle.

How can one be both omniscient and omnipotent? Since what an all-knowing being foresees must occur, God could not, even if "he" wished, alter the events he foresees. So his power would be limited. Conversely, an omnipotent being cannot be omniscient because omnipotence would enable him to surprise himself and do something other than what he foresaw.

For believers in free will or hell, divine omniscience raises additional problems. The will cannot be truly free if God foresees all future events. If God knows you will be asleep at noon tomorrow, you cannot at that time be awake. Your subjective sense that you can becomes an illusion.

If, as some believe, many go to hell, an omniscient God would be remarkably sadistic. He creates millions of people who he knows beforehand will eternally suffer.

How can an omnific being be wholly good? How could he make beings capable of evil deeds unless evil pre-existed in his own nature? If he is omnific, he must be the ultimate source of evil as well as good. If you say evil is necessary for good, then evil isn't really evil.

Even if a supernatural Creator existed, he wouldn't necessarily be interested in our little backwash orb. The universe, some 15 billion light years across, must have trillions of planets, many more engaging than ours.

Nor must a Creator be kind. As John Stuart Mill observed, whoever or whatever created the animal world must be fond of violence. If God has the whole world in his hands, they are saturated with blood.

Instead of addressing my comments about the attributes of God, free will, and evil, my respondents did the following:

Adduced the benefits of belief. "I wonder if Mr. Sloan has ever considered that belief in God instills morality and lack of religion results in a lack of morality. Maybe he should open his eyes and look around. I know God is real because he took a policeman (my husband) with a hardened heart and made him the most gentle and loving person I know. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Bible Belting of America


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.