The "Illiterate Goat-Herders" Insult

08 Mar

This is one of those insults that gets repeated over and over when atheists discuss the beliefs of theists. It’s been repeated so many times that atheists accept it without thinking critically about it.

The thing is, a book (collection of books) like the Bible — any book produced in antiquity really — was created and maintained by the intellectual elite. All of the books in the Bible were created by the “1%” so to say, since reading and writing were something that the vast majority of normal people in antiquity did not know how to do. They didn’t know how to do it because they couldn’t afford the education.

In ancient Israel and Judah, it was the intellectual elite who wrote down, redacted, and promulgated the narratives from Genesis to 2 Kings because the illiterate goat-herders were, well, illiterate. The common people at this time, before the Exile, were polytheists. The intellectual elite, however, were the heno/monotheists. So the condemnation of the illiterate goat-herders, their beliefs really, is rampant throughout the elitist first few books of the Bible. And even in the Prophets and Writings, these books were also produced by the elite.

The same thing happened with the New Testament. The gospel of Mark was not written by an illiterate goat-herder. It was written by someone who was probably among the most educated 10 – 15% of the entire Roman Empire. Matthew and Luke were written by people who were probably more educated than Mark, and John was probably written by that elitist intellectually snobby 1%.

So then, as history goes, religion will always be controlled by the 1%. The beliefs of the intellectual elite will always trickle down to the unwashed masses. It happened in ancient Israel & Judah with the intellectual elites’ views (monotheism) winning out over the plebes (polytheists), it happened with Rabbinic Judaism, it happened with Christianity, and it will happen with atheism. So no, the religions of the book were not created by illiterate goat herders. They were created by intellectuals; at least, the intellectuals of yesteryear.


Posted by on March 8, 2012 in historiography, history


2 responses to “The "Illiterate Goat-Herders" Insult

  1. Timothy

    March 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Good post! I actually did have a “waitaminute, let's think about this moment” a while back. If there's one thing that writer's weren't back then, it was goatherders.

    Another thing that bothers me is the Bronze Age references. The NT was Iron Age, if I'm not mistaken.

  2. J. Quinton

    March 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Wiki says that the Iron Age began roughly around the time modern alphabets like Greek and Hebrew came around. So both would be a product of the Iron Age!

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