Read the Bible goes the mantra. I've heard it from my youth. For whatever is wrong in your life, you can find answers and help in the Bible, they said. Sometimes, in church services, I heard people describe in graphic detail what horrible persons they were and how they changed into being nice persons after reading the Bible.
Football players and other athletes write Bible verses on their faces, as if such a godly "tattoo" will give them greater skills or soften the blows they must endure or somehow call the ungodly to repentance and faith.
Religious people, especially Christian fundamentalists, love to quote specific verses or passages to bolster their beliefs or supercharge their endeavors to convert family and friends. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," [Philippians 4:13] is a favorite! "You must be born again," [John 3:16] is another.
But there is a problem. Reading the Bible can have often have a negative effect. A lot of it doesn't make sense. Much of it is untrue. There are many stories which deal in sex and violence. Some passages are just plain depressing. One might come quickly to the conclusion that the Bible is severely overrated and best be left alone.
Furthermore, for the past 300 years, biblical scholars have probed the Bible's depth; they have mined it's innermost secrets. They have studied not only the text itself, but the environment out of which it came and the authors who gave it life. Said scholars have concluded, among other things, that for the most part it is not an historical document. It is a compendium of modified legends and mythologies which were common in the Ancient Near East. The major characters and their stories as described in the Hebrew Bible are legendary in character and not to be taken literally.
The creation stories are fiction. The Noah story is fiction, cobbled together from an old Mesopotamian story. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob - all fiction. Joseph and the multi-colored coat and the trip to Egypt and all that ensued: fiction. Moses is fiction. The Exodus is fiction. The conquest of the land of Canaan - fiction. King Solomon, fiction. King David, fiction.
None of that is unexpected nor bad in and of itself. However, if you take seriously many of Yahweh's commands, you can get mired in a bog of misery. You would have to stone your children to death if they failed to observe the Sabbath. You must continue to mutilate the penises of little babies. You can justify keeping slaves and having multiple wives (the latter if you're a man).
But, how can one continue to believe in a God that is so jealous and so filled with wrath that he counsels the destruction of entire civilizations and such atrocities as murdering one's male enemies, raping their women and smashing their children against rocks?
The story of Abraham's almost sacrifice of his son on the mountain indicates that child sacrifice was not unusual in Israel. The story explains why child sacrifice is no longer practiced and that Yahweh no longer requires such an atrocity to satisfy his blood lust.
Valerie Talerico, in an article at Alternet, describes in further detail, stories of sex and violence in the Hebrew Bible, all of which might discourage the suggestion that you should "read the Bible." What follows is her retelling of the tale of Abraham's cousin Lot - a gruesome and disgusting person!
The entire article is here.