A common tactic among those who try to preach religion, is applying the phrase ‘out of context’ to many quotations taken from religious texts by secular people – quotations which demonstrate the bad things in religion.
Wikipedia explains ‘out of context’ as “a passage removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning”. It goes further to give an example of “someone misinterprets the meaning and omits something essential to clarifying it, thinking it non-essential”.
Here is a most simple example of quoting someone out of context:
Person A: “I’d rather be dead than a slave.”
Person B: “Person A said he’d rather be dead.”
A good example of quoting things out of context comes, in fact, from religious preachers who “sort of” quote Charles Darwin. The latter is often quoted to say “It’s absurd in the highest degree that something as complex as the eye could be formed by natural selection.” In fact, the point Darwin’s making is whether or not something *seems* absurd is not a valid guide in science.
So, let’s take the opposite example – one out of many: The Bible, as well as several later Jewish religious verdicts (not to mention Muslim ones), explicitly allow and encourage the killing of other Jews who are occupied with heresy:
“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying: ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers … thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him; but thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die …” (Deuteronomy, chapter 13, verses 7-11)
Many times the above quoting is followed by hinting that those who lack religious education are not qualified to properly understand the text, and furthermore quote it “out of context”. Is ‘thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death’ so difficult to understand? Which word specifically is difficult to understand? What surrounding text is missing that allegedly reverses the meaning?