Another Perspective

January 2, 2012

Awhile back I offered up a quote from Ayn Rand that described an alternate perspective on Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. I realized I promised to add more “outside” ideas as they came up and I’m actually going to follow through! This time I thought it would be beneficial and fair to give a quote from the other side of my pre-disposition towards religion and the Bible. The quote comes from a book by John Irving called A Prayer for Owen Meany. The character Owen Meany, who this quote comes from, is a religious kid who is considerably smarter than his peers and continually offers unique perspectives on religion and his place in the world.

“Just because a bunch of atheists are better writers than the guys who wrote the Bible doesn’t necessarily make them right!”

Owen’s statement resonates in several areas. It helps keep cynical people humble at times as well as remind us that modern writers have significantly more resources at their disposal. I have also noticed after reflecting on this quote that the text of the Bible does not have a persuasive tone to it. Many authors that I have read who are against religion in some form or another often take a persuasive stance and attempt to convince the audience of his or her point of view. Ironically, I don’t feel like I’m being converted when I read the Bible, but I do when I read anti-religious sentiments.

Then again, I’ve got a lot more book to cover.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I re-discovered a quote that pertains to the whole Adam and Eve business. It may come as a surprise, but the Bible isn’t the only thing I read or have read.

Whenever I read something I find interesting for some reason or another I write it down in what has become a book of quotes. What is surprising is that I found the following quote interesting before I even contemplated this Bible reading adventure. The quote below is from Ayn Rand’s epic Atlas Shrugged:

“What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they considered perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge – he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil – he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor – he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire – he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness and joy – all of the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but his essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was – that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love – he was not man.”

Rand focuses on the way religious circles describe the story of Adam and Eve as a detrimental fall of mankind. She has an ability far superior to my own, and her insight is a welcome change of tone from my own prose. I don’t want to spoil her intriguing analysis with lesser discussion on my part, so I want to just leave this quote for your own reflection.

I know there are many authors with opinions about religion and the Bible, so I’ll keep an eye out and add their ideas when they come up.

Reflecting on The Book of Eli

February 20, 2010

Although I’ve just begun my reading of the Bible, I have had another experience in the religious realm. Last month, in the company of several friends, I went to see The Book of Eli. I was initially intrigued by the trailers for the movie because I couldn’t really tell what the movie was about; that, and Denzel Washington was kicking some serious ass with that machete-sword. My overall impressions of the movie were good and I was surprised at the correlations between it and the Biblical undertaking I have begun.

I don’t think there are any real spoilers in this review, but apologies to those who think otherwise.

Denzel plays Eli, a wanderer in a post apocalyptic America with a single goal; to get to the west coast. He carries with him a book that Gary Oldman, the film’s villain, believes to hold the key to power over the destitute and rebellious citizens of his shanty town. We soon find out that Eli’s book is indeed the Bible (King James Version).

Oldman’s character, Carnegie, is old enough to remember the time before the apocalyptic events when vast amounts of people were held together under the roof of one faith or another. However, the young people in the apocalyptic, American wasteland cannot read and have no idea what religion is. Carnegie recognizes this as an opportunity to unite people under his leadership if only he had the right words to gain their faith, trust and hope. The words he searches for are the words of the Bible in Eli’s hands.

What I found interesting and entertaining about The Book of Eli is that the villain of the movie aims to use the Bible for power and control. Carnegie would spread the word of the Lord via the Bible as a pseudo-prophet to gain power over the anarchistic world. Although we are led to believe the people would be united, Carnegie would be a ruler throne-bound by greed, and in my mind this would be bad. In a time before the film’s apocalypse (our modern day) to spread the gospel would be seen as a righteous and laudable act, but Eli creates a scenario where such actions have evil undertones. I am impressed at the film’s ability to show the extremely slight change in intentions that can turn the Bible from something inspiring to something controlling.

The movie seems to suggest that the Bible itself is neither good nor evil, and that human interpretation determines how it is accepted. It is for this reason that I would recommend the movie to those hesitant due to the religious sub-plot. There is no blatant pro-Bible or anti-religious theme in the movie as it is clear the true goal of the film was to create an action movie with a new story instead of the tried and true Hollywood methods. That being said, the movie does provide great actions sequences and an eerily cool soundtrack.

I know this partial review is a little late, but if any theatres around you are still playing The Book of Eli I recommend you go see it.

Whether or not interpretation is really all that keeps the Bible from being good or evil, I will have to keep reading to find out.

First: Many apologies for the long delay in posts. I have been distracted these last few weeks with moving back to college and my girlfriend coming home from the Middle East. That being said I have had some religious experiences that I am eager to share in the coming days…

When we last parted ways I had just brought my new bible home from the bookstore and since then it has taken to the other books quite nicely. It has been several weeks now since I started reading the book but I can say that it sat on my shelf for several days before I could actually start reading. I had toyed around with the first few pages but the thought of going all the way with this idea unnerved me. Up until that point I had been sure that the whole religion thing was a load of crock and that I was right, but now I had to face the fact that I might be wrong, or at least something about my ideas could be wrong. I don’t know everything in the Bible and it was time for me to know for sure. I wish I could say there was a more dramatic revelation or intellectual intervention that drove me off the proverbial cliff into this endeavor, but, there isn’t. I just slapped myself in the face and went on with it.

In an effort to experience all the Bible has to offer I decided to start with page one.


Alright, that was easy. Next page.

There we go. After the title page there is a forward regarding the Second Edition of the book that I have and why the powers that be felt it necessary for a second version, then an explanation on the books of the Bible. This part was very helpful. For those of you who are not familiar with the Bible (like I am), the entire text is broken up into many smaller “books” with familiar names like “Genesis”, “Exodus”, “Lamentations”, etc. and a plethora of others bearing the names of those I assume to be the subject of the book. Apparently how these books are arranged in the Bible is also a big deal. The fact I have been provided with is that in Roman Catholic editions the order of their 46 books of the Old Testament has had over 200 arrangements over the years.

Another interesting fact provided by this second introduction comes out of the examination of the many faiths that use the texts found in the Bible. Because the Bible has many of these smaller “books” it is easy to see how some could be left out of other groups’ Bibles, and they are. Apparently there are councils that determine what goes in a Bible and what doesn’t. Makes sense to me, because, obviously, putting The Da Vinci Code in at the end of this thing would just make it way too big. I have heard people talk about lost gospels and conspiracies of intentional exemption of potentially incriminating documents, and it will be interesting to see where additional information could be helpful. I wonder what has been left out of my Bible…

After the aforementioned explanation there is another title page for the “Holy Bible” itself followed by an editor’s preface and a preface to the revised edition. I hope I don’t have to point out the irony of a “revised” edition of a Bible. This second preface provides some good insight though on the history of the Bible and how I have the version I have today. A guy named William Tyndale translated the first English Bible from Greek and Hebrew back around 1530. To thank Tyndale for all his great work the church had his efforts burned as “untrue translations”, executed him, and then burned him too (at the stake though). Eventually the church came around and the King James Bible (most famous) was created based on Tyndale’s work and the work that he inspired. With the addition of some more old manuscripts the King James Bible was revised into a form that is most common today. Hey, maybe if my blog is met with “bitter opposition” now, then in a few decades I’ll be made into a reformer of religion…disregard. I’m not down with the whole “execution” thing.

After an introduction to the Old Testament, where we learn that the Pentateuch is the first five books of the Bible and known by Jewish persons as the “Torah”, I arrive at the first book of the Bible. Genesis. About time too. This thing has more beginnings than Return of the King has endings.

Why are we here?

November 30, 2009

I bet it has been said somewhere at some point by a profound thinker that to know “where you are” you must first know “who you are”. If not, consider me the first. I am but a simple college student with nothing to my name but, potentially, a sweet quote about “knowing where you are is knowing who you are”, or something like that. I am twenty years old and I have recently started reading the Bible. I have intended this blog to be the chronology of my exploits in the world of religion. I don’t know who you are, but I can only hope that in being here you will find some amusement in the absurdities that will come to pass as I delve deeper into the sacred text.

I am not religious. In my youth I was ordered to church on a regular basis, but somewhere along the way I wandered from the path. Now, I kind of wish I hadn’t….ah, who am I fooling? The freedom that came with releasing my religious ties was cool as a kid, but I never got the opportunity to discover what made so many people give up their Sunday morning and part of their lives. Nowadays, with friends and relations still subscribing to one faith or another, I have a desire to see for myself what makes religion so attractive. And that is how I came to the Bible…

The church I was lead to as a kid was a Catholic one. Today I have friends who are Catholic, or at least some branch of Catholicism (I can’t keep them all straight). If there is one thing that ties all religions it is its ubiquitous and commanding presence amongst the lives of its followers. As a result I am fascinated with not just Catholicism, but with all religion. I have chosen to start with the Bible only because it is noticeably relevant in my community and country.

I have found in my experience debating with religious folk that the conversation ends up with a bible being pulled out of thin air (miracle?) and pages being turned in a fury to find scripture to prove a point. I have never been satisfied with what the living room prophets give me, but I willingly give them the benefit of the doubt. I too find it difficult to supply evidence to support my opinions in the heat of argument. To save them time and energy, and to bolster my own argumentative capabilities, I will be searching for their evidence and several other things as I read:

In my reading I aim to find the answers so many accept to the world’s most difficult and debated questions such as those regarding abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment and evolution to name a few. I want to discover all of the things that make me the outcast and damned person I am. I want to see what it is about God that people like so much, and why Jesus is such a cool guy that strangers in the grocery store feel compelled to tell me so. I want to see if the Bible is persuasive to the point that its followers will consider it history while denouncing history books. I want to find the confidence to be able to point to written words as fact and stand tall while reason and evidence batter my position. I want to find a way to convey cynicism and sarcasm in text better than I can already.

With all of these goals in mind I hope that the religious community can withhold my eternal damnation but temporarily while I pursue the answers they assure me will promise an eternity of happiness. Despite what others may think of the coming documents, I hope that you can find some entertainment in the misinterpretations and cynical bastardizing that comes with a frustrated, young adult’s hopeless attempt at finding the meaning of it all.