Modern Christians can easily take it as metaphor. It describes the basic situation of guilt and sin entering into the world, but the snake doesn't have to be literal. This also goes for Adam and Eve themselves. Some Christians believe they were literal people, others think they're archetypes for early humans.
Is Christianity contingent on belief in a talking snake?
My favorite JW sparing partner would say something like, "If Jesus believed in it, that's good enough for me!"
You can apply that to the Flood, the Snake, the account of Creation, etc. . . . . Doc
Modern Christians can easily take it as metaphor. It describes the basic situation of guilt and sin entering into the world, but the snake doesn't have to be literal.
What is sin in your view? Is it particular actions that a person takes? The Christian view is that all people are born sinners by virtue of decending from Adam and Eve, rather from any action taken. It is the specific actions that they took that tainted all following generations. This is what required Jesus's ransom sacrifice.
Take Adam and Eve away - how is it now that i am born a sinner. I might say, I am a good person, not sinful. I don't need Jesus sacrifice. What is a Christian to say to that without referring to the Garden of Eden?
Growing numbers of Christians no longer believe in original sin. Paul used the sacrifice of Jesus simply as a tool to get people off of the Mosaic law.
If if you're a child afraid of the boogeyman in the closet and I set up a teddy bear next to the closet saying, "don't worry, teddy will protect you", the bear is just a tool to get the child's focus off his fear. But the bear has no real power.
Similarly, Jesus' sacrifice was simply a talking point to tell people, "see! You don't have to follow all these laws and sacrifices anymore. Jesus was your sacrifice once and for all".
Jesus never taught forgiveness of sins through sacrifice. He taught forgiveness of sins to the extent that you forgive others. There is no concept of inherited or original sin in the Hebrew Scriptures. That is a later Christian development.
If all scripture is inspired, and doesn't say "this is just a fable" then anything that isn't true means god is a liar.
Christians have to own it, every stupid dumb tale in the OT, if they want to claim it's the word of god. No picking and choosing. Own it all, be embarrassed to defend it but try anyway because it's funny when they do..
So tens of thousands of troops being killed by one man with some donkey-dentures and then, when they discover his super-power-strength secret, chop it off and then laughably let it grow back ... it's real. Go on, tell us it's real.
Or admit that the bible is just a bunch of crappy tales.
You don't get to say it's both crappy tales AND inspired.
Just to follow up on what Simon said; growing numbers of Christians no longer take the bible as the "word of God" so it's not always as simple as an either/or.
I personally know many people who identify, not as "Christians", but as followers of Jesus. That is to simply love God and love your neighbor. Jesus never taught doctrine. Doctrine is simply man's attempt to socialize a belief system. Us against them.
What is sin in your view? Is it particular actions that a person takes? - cobweb
Well, I'm an atheist so I'm probably the the person to ask. I don't think sin exists except as a religious fiction. But I don't think it's impossible for theists to reconcile their concept of sin with a metaphorical understanding of the Adam and Eve story.
It has big problems in that Jesus and Paul seemed to speak of them as real persons, but consider this hypothetical: Suppose the Adam and Eve story was always known to be a metaphor, such that nobody thought to specify it when the story was told orally, as it was for hundreds of years before it was recorded in writing. Maybe the names Adam and Eve carry some connotation such that hearers always understood them to be archetypes, but that connotation has been lost to history.
I'm grasping at straws here, but religions adapt, and the majority of Christians today now believe much of the OT to be methaphor.
Yes, Hisclarkness has stated the contingency of Christianity. Within the two central laws of Christ lies the foundation: Love God and love your neighbor. NOT a talking snake. Yes, Jesus also talked about that, but in the context of archetypal mythology, as Aha suggests, the Law of Love was understood in the worldview of Hebrew understanding 2000 years ago.
While the archetype of serpent and savior are difficult to nail down, we understand the next chapter of Genesis explains the fall from grace for mankind is somehow tied to the shift in human worldview as pastoral hunter-gatherers were supplanted by a rising agrarian civilization. Abel was considered still close to perfection for offering his prized sheep, but Cain was considered inferior for his offering from the farm.
Zaccheus, that seems a bit of a stretch, considering the agricultural revolution was about 13,000 years ago. Also, taming animals (pastoralism) is generally considered part of the agricultural revolution.
Is Christianity contingent on belief in a talking snake?
Definitely not. Most Christian denominations do not think the talking snake story should be taken literally. Virtually the only exceptions are the relatively recent fundamentalist Christian religions that have come out of USA.
As to what the ransom sacrifice was about, most Christian religions follow a logic and a theology proposed by either Thomas Aquinas (for Catholics), or St Anslem of Canterbury, or John Calvin (for many protestant denominations). None are based on a talking snake, a literal Adam, or even a literal Satan. I am not going to spell it out, because I think it is all a load of rubbish. However, there is plenty to read on the internet, if one is interested.