Most religious people don’t need to accept the Bible literally – only fundamentalists are so obliged. Moreover, and somewhat ironically, even a literal reading of the Bible argues against reading the Bible literally (!), since biblical stories often show their protagonists arguing with Yahweh, challenging him, even accusing him of breaking his own covenant, wrestling with him in angelic form… and even casting doubt on the inerrancy of scripture itself – as Jeremiah (8:8) does: “How can you say, ‘We are wise, we have the Lord’s Law,’ when scribes with their lying pens have falsified it?”
How do educated Christians know what to take/not to take literally? That can be a relatively concise task for the non-fundamentalists: they utilize the fruits of critical biblical scholarship, which analyses the texts into their respective formats. It determines which are folkloric, which are expanded or shortened texts, which are secondary editions, which are interpolations, which are derived from surrounding cultures, which are prescientific attempts at recording history, which are consciously constructed myth, which are parabolic, which represent various parties (such as Genesis’ multiple authors: Priestly, Elohist, Yahwist, etc.), which are products of the prophetic tradition, which are derived from the royal house traditions, which are more or less individual statements, which are more or less communal statements, etc.
Many sincerely-seeking, educated non-literalist Christians realize that there is no literary test for “Godness” and they realize that scripture is not the “Word of God,” but rather the word(s) of people about god. They maintain that, to the extent a particular scripture preserves an accurate description of human communion with God, that particular scripture can be said to be “inspired” – but not an “inspiration” viewed as the inerrant word of God. Rather, this means that something of the ineffable Deity is disclosed in parts of scripture. In fact, something called “the emerging paradigm” is currently developing in progressive churches, which is a model of renewal that views the Bible as a disclosure, a lens, and a sacrament that conveys truth about God’s nature – without being a literal communication from God.
If anyone wishes to imbibe of enlightened, critical, non-literalist Christianity, s/he might (enjoyably) explore Marcus J. Borg’s The God We Never Knew, Jesus: A New Vision, and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Non-believers who make blanket statements about Christianity’s purported irrationality will find their assumptions challenged by Borg’s work and the work of many other emerging-paradigm authors. The aim is not to make converts but rather to factually set out what a renewing, educated, critically-enlightened Christianity really has to say – as opposed to the frequently mistaken claims of fundamentalists and unbelievers alike.