The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories

The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories

Throughout contemporary life, references from the Bible, its stories, and characters surround us. As a result, nonbelievers may be at a loss when they encounter them in conversation, art, or literature. 

Modern-day controversies such as separation of church and state, posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings, nativity displays, and other issues may not be fully understood. This represents a gap in nonbelievers’ knowledge base. 

My first book was written for my daughter as a guide to successful living. Trust Your Radar: Honest Advice for Teens and Young Adults from a Surgeon, Firefighter, Police Officer, Scuba Divemaster, Golfer, and Amateur Comedian combines life lessons with fun stories from my varied careers. A second book, Trust Your Radar, Slackers’ Edition, is a streamlined version.

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Both works identify organized religion as “jammers” of our clear-thinking “brain radars.” My new book, The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories, fills the information gap about the Bible for my daughter and lucky readers. 

It’s a secular sprint from Genesis to Revelation, hitting the characters, stories, occasional highlights, numerous lowlights, and famous quotes (featured in italics). 

Nonbelievers should have some concept of the religious fairy tales being foisted upon their believing peers. At a minimum, just to get all the jokes. 

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 2, The Book of Exodus. 


Our story begins around 1200 B.C. in Egypt, where the Hebrew people are slaves of the Egyptians. The Egyptian ruler, the Pharaoh, decided to exercise some population control and so decreed that all Hebrew newborn boys shall be thrown into the Nile River. 

(The girls can live because nobody really cares about girls anyway, which is a recurrent Bible theme.) 

Instead of throwing her baby boy in the river, one Jewish mother decides to hide her son in a basket down by the river bank. The Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby, adopts him, and names him Moses. When Moses grows up, he kills an Egyptian who was beating up a Hebrew. Word gets around, and Moses flees Egypt and eventually marries into a good family with livestock. 

One day, Moses is out tending his flock when God appears to him in the form of a burning bush. They chat a little and God suggests Moses lead the oppressed Hebrews out of Egypt and deliver them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses was a little skeptical. 

He questioned, “In case anyone asks, who should I say sent me?” And God said, “Just call me ‘I am who am.’” This riddle did not make Moses feel any more confident. 

So God gave him three miracle tricks to perform if needed, the most famous being turning a snake into a stick! This stick is the rod of God or walking staff that Moses is usually pictured holding in paintings.

Plagues of Egypt

Moses, along with his brother Aaron, goes back to Egypt and meets with the Pharaoh. They say, “Mr. Pharaoh, let my people go.” 

And the Pharaoh responds, “Ahh, no.” Then he increases the workload and beatings of the Hebrews, just for asking. Moses reports back to God, “Excuse me, I am who am, that did not go well.” God says, “Go do the tricks I showed you earlier.” 

So Moses and his brother Aaron go back to the Pharaoh and throw the stick down, and it turns into a snake! Ho-hum, the Egyptian magicians can do that too. Okay, Moses then turns the water of the Nile River into blood. Shazam! Still no movement from the Pharaoh, “Big deal, we can do that too.” 

Moses tells the Pharaoh to think it over. Seven days later and still nothing. So God gets serious and has Moses unleash a series of plagues on Egypt. Frogs come up out of the river and into people’s beds. Swarms of gnats and flies infest everybody’s houses. 

The Pharaoh is temporarily impressed. After each plague, he says, “Okay, you can lead your people away.” But when the plagues recede, he changes his mind and keeps the Hebrews enslaved. 

So then come plagues of selective Egyptian livestock slaughter, hailstorms, locusts, and darkness. Every time the same response from the Pharaoh: “Okay, you win, make it stop.” Followed by, “No, the Hebrews really have to stay.” 


God has one more plague up his sleeve. He tells Moses to instruct the Hebrews to get ready on the tenth day of a certain month because there’s going to be a massive beatdown of the Egyptians. God’s going to show up at midnight and kill every firstborn son and animal, including the Pharaoh’s! 

To protect the Jewish firstborns, each family is told to slaughter an unblemished lamb and smear some of its blood above their doorway. Then cook and eat the lamb along with some unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Lots of specific instructions follow. 

At the appointed hour, God shows up and smites every firstborn in Egypt, but he passes over the Hebrew houses that have the secret blood-smear sign over the doorways. This catastrophe works, the Pharaoh gives in, and Moses and Aaron successfully lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Modern-day Jews commemorate this ritual every year with the feast of Passover.

Parting the Red Sea

God helps lead the group along by a pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire by night. He brought them over the scenic route to the Red Sea and had them camp there. God and Moses schemed together because God still had some wrong sauce to lay on the Pharaoh. 

Before long, the Pharaoh and Egyptians started to miss having all those Hebrew slaves around. So they mobilized the army and 600 chariots to go reclaim their slaves. 

The Hebrews saw them coming and were terrified. God put the pillar of cloud in the way to provide cover while Moses raised his rod, and God sent a strong wind to actually separate the waters of the Red Sea. 

Moses led the Hebrews through the pathway created between the two halves of the sea, while God watched from the pillar of fire. When the Pharaoh and his army followed them, their chariot wheels got stuck in the mud and they were trapped. 

Moses raised his rod again, and the two halves of the Red Sea slammed back together, drowning all the Egyptians and their horses. Splash!

Desert Happenings

Moses and Aaron continued to lead the Jews throughout the desert and wilderness, sojourning around for forty years. As you can imagine, there was a lot of grousing and moaning, “Are we there yet?” “I’m thirsty.” “There are no restaurants anywhere.” 

People also started slacking off on the rules, like not resting on the Sabbath. Moses kept relaying these complaints to God saying, “Hey, the people are crabby; some of these complainers are going to stone me to death down here.” 

God intervenes multiple times by sending quail birds over to be barbecued, raining down special bread, manna from heaven, just about daily, and the big crowd-pleaser: letting Moses get some street cred by striking a rock with his rod and water flowing out like a fire hydrant! This one went over well and restored calm to the masses. 

The Sacred Covenant

God and Moses were now on a hot streak. So God commanded Moses to come up to the top of Mount Sinai to talk strategy. Moses went to the mountaintop and met with God, while the people of Israel waited below. Moses stayed up there forty days and forty nights. 

All the people down below could see were clouds and flashes of lightning, interspersed with rolls of thunder and the occasional startling trumpet blast. Negotiations went well, and a deal was struck between God and Moses. 

It was called the sacred covenant and sealed with blood. In the covenant, God again promised the Hebrews all the land from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness all the way to the Euphrates River. 

God would occasionally send hornets to drive out the local tribes so the Hebrews could slowly take over all the land.

Ten Commandments

In return for this promised land, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which the people agree to live by, and also pages and pages of “ordinances” detailing lots and lots of rules. 

The Ten Commandments are: 

  1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make a graven image or likeness of other gods. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not kill.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything of your neighbor’s. 

The ordinances give common-sense rules for all kinds of things like: You shall not permit a sorceress to live. Whoever sacrifices to any god, save to the Lord only, shall be utterly destroyed. You shall not boil a kid (baby goat) in its mother’s milk. 

Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. Whoever lies with a beast shall be put to death. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh, he shall go free. If an ox gores a slave, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. 

When a man strikes a slave, male or female, with a rock and the slave dies, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished. 

Okay, got that? It’s the word of the Lord. Then God gave Moses excruciatingly detailed instructions on how to build an ark (box) to keep a copy of the signed deal in. 

The special box is called the Ark of the Covenant. Plus, specifications for a mobile tabernacle to keep the ark in, tent poles, veils, garments, jewels, gold and silver decorations, tables, altars, lamps and furnishings, curtains with loops and clasps, screens, pillars, turbans, girdles, priestly uniforms with insignia, robes, gold chains, caps, measurements, a bronze sink for washing, and directions for sacrifices. 

Oh, and also take a census. And collect atonement money. “Whoa,” Moses said, “How am I going remember all that?” So God scrawled notes on some stone tablets using his own finger, the finger of God. Powerful. Okay, we’re all good here. Moses came down from the mountain.

The Golden Calf and Broken Tablets

Well, wouldn’t you know, Aaron and the people of Israel couldn’t even behave for forty days, even with those unpredictable trumpet blasts. 

While Moses was gone, they melted down their gold jewelry, used their graving tools, and formed a golden calf to worship. Yes, a graven image! 

Complete with sacrifices and dancing! When Moses saw this, he went ballistic. He threw the stone tablets down, breaking them into smithereens; called Aaron an unprintable name; ordered 3,000 men killed, ground up the calf, mixed it with water, and made all the idiots drink it. 

Plus, the next day he had to tell God about it! God reacted in his usual way and sent a plague. Then he summoned Moses back up Mount Sinai.


For the next forty days and forty nights, they went over every stinking detail again. They rewrote the covenant and Ten Commandments on two more stone tablets and Moses came down again from the mountaintop. 

This time, the people of Israel accepted the deal and started building the ark, tent, tabernacle, and all the uniforms and stuff, just how God wanted it, in excruciating detail. When everything was done, God enjoyed hanging out in the tabernacle. 

He’d show his presence by covering the tabernacle with a cloud whenever he was in there during the day, and fire by night. Then he’d lift the cloud when it was time to move the chosen people onward again, toward the promised land. 

And there you have it, the story of Moses, Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Ten Commandments. 

It’s mind-boggling to me that such a bloody and brutal book is still used, in the twenty-first century, to deny scientifically proven facts, condones discrimination, swears in our government leaders, and inform our policies. 

But yet it is. My guess is that most people who rely on its teachings haven’t actually read the whole thing. And those who have, probably ignore vast sections and cherry-pick what they find useful. 

And those who insist on its literal belief have serious flaws in their mental functioning and judgment. So, I hope you now have a perspective and background knowledge of what all the fuss is about!


by C.B. Brooks, M.D.

The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories, Trust Your Radar and Trust Your Radar Slackers’ Edition are all available in paperback and ebook through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online outlets.

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