Who knew?

July 11, 2010

Banished from the eternal play-place that is the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did the only conceivable thing two humans in their predicament would do to entertain themselves: sex. Wow, the first thing to result from the fall of mankind is recreational copulation. I hear being the last man on Earth doesn’t guarantee any purchase in your sex life, but apparently being the first man has its perks. To be honest, I can’t say Adam and Eve just hooked up out of boredom, but it makes more sense considering the last thing I’d want after being banished to a foreign land is a kid or two. Unfortunately, the Bible isn’t even as descriptive as I am in telling of the carnal escapades of Adam and Eve.

“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain,” (Gen 4:1)

This is a potent time in the history of mankind. Apparently just knowing someone can get you pregnant. Fortunately that’s not the case now. I’ve known a lot of women in my life but I guess I never really knew them…

Adam and Eve learn a little bit about each other and the result is two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain, the oldest, is a farmer while Abel raises sheep.

“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock…” (Gen 4:3-4)

Several aspects of this passage drew my attention. The relationship between Cain, Abel and God seems very primitive. Offerings to a god or gods have always been portrayed by history and the media as the acts of a savage culture. Although I have never heard such a portrayal from a religious representative, I feel their sentiments would be similar in regards to offerings to deities. Also, no special mention is given to the fact that the sons of Adam and Eve are giving offerings to the God that banished their parents. If, back in the time of Genesis, kids were brought up in any way like they are now, then Cain and Abel would have heard plenty of rants and raves about God over the dinner table. Eve would try to explain for the “like millionth” time how a snake talked her into things, then Adam would start mumbling his regret at having listened to mom in the first place. Eventually, dad would go on about how they apologized and God just totally over reacted…or something like that. Regardless, coming out of their parent’s house, Cain and Abel probably wouldn’t have the highest esteem for God. Why then do they feel compelled to give God an offering? I surmise, as does Oxford, albeit subtly, that the brothers do it to gain their own acceptance from God. A logical idea if God didn’t take out his anger for Adam and Eve on their kids.

“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry,” (Gen 4:4-5)

No kidding! Of course Cain was very angry. The guy just toiled for a season to give God this offering and He doesn’t even say two words to Cain about it. Oxford pointedly remarks, “[n]o reason is given for the acceptance of Abel’s offering”. I’m glad I’m not the only one to read this passage this way. God gives no reason for his acceptance of Abel’s offering, but it also means there is no reason why God does not accept Cain’s offering. Adding insult to injury, God goes and plays dumb:

“the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?’” (Gen 4:6)

I’ll tell you why his countenance has fallen. You cut him real deep God.

After pretending like He did nothing wrong, God either plays with Cain’s mind or reveals an element of his powerlessness. If we assume God to be the ultimate judgment in the universe then He would be the one to accept or not accept offerings. So by phrasing this fact as a question to Cain, God confuses the poor guy and subtly states Cain didn’t “do well”. Either that or God doesn’t have the power to determine if Cain has done “well”. Whoever does have that power, the Bible gives me no hints.

Jealous and frustrated, Cain lures his brother out into a field where he kills him. When God comes calling after his favorite grandson, Cain doles out an awesome retort:

“’Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Gen 4:9)

I would phrase Cain’s comment as the snide, “It wasn’t my turn to look after him” remark of today’s cynical youth. My mom would call this “giving lip” or “back talking” and who knew it’s practice goes all the way back to the beginning of mankind? Now I haven’t known Cain very long, but I consider him a reasonable man despite being prone to over-reacting from time to time. Cain asks God a question they both know the answer to, just like God did to Cain earlier. The spiteful remark towards God leads me to believe Cain knows He was giving him a load of crock earlier about doing “well”.

As a punishment for Cain’s actions, God puts a curse on Cain and his ability to harvest from the Earth. Cain decides he can’t live a farm-less life and chooses exile in hopes that someone someday will end his torture via death. But God doesn’t want Cain to have the easy escape from his punishment should someone kill him, so He puts a mark on Cain to remind everyone of Cain’s actions. Should anyone kill Cain heedless of the mark, then the punishment on the killer would be “sevenfold” (Gen 4:15).  Seven? Really? Okay, seems like a random number, but I’ll go with it.

“Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Gen 4:16)

I didn’t mention the following in the previous posts about the creation of man and Adam and Eve, because I didn’t find it that interesting at the time. The Bible says there are four rivers that flow out of Eden, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euprhates. The latter two rivers should sound familiar as the two waterways surrounding the prehistoric Mesopotamia, a land archeologically revered for its abundant natural resources. The ancient area of Mesopotamia has since been replaced by many cities, most recognizable of which is Baghdad, Iraq. Although I don’t know anything about the Gihon and Pishon rivers mentioned in the Bible, I can’t imagine a better place to have the fabled Garden of Eden than Mesopotamia. The water that must have been far more abundant in ancient times would have made the Iraq area a haven in the middle of the desert. If Eden did exist somewhere around Iraq, then I can guess Cain settled near what is today Iran. As an aside, I wonder how deeply Catholic people feel about the potential of Eden being in the Middle East…

“Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch;” (Gen 4:17)

Woah. Where did this chick come from? If this is the Bible’s way of being nonchalant, then I am not impressed. I was under the impression Adam, Eve, Cain and the late Abel were the only people on Earth. There has been no mention of extra people having been made and placed on Earth by God unless it has been done in a supremely subtle fashion uncharacteristic of anything I’ve read so far. I think it is only reasonable to expect in the beginning of mankind that the narrative would account for everyone and everything. The very literal appearance of Cain’s wife doesn’t serve to increase my faith in the text. With the woman’s arrival, a pattern begins to emerge in the book; a pattern of shoddy writing that will only lead to more unsupported and unreasonable events down the road. I don’t expect the Bible to iron out every little aspect, but when it comes to the origins of the human race, I expect the argument (if not considered outright “fact”) to be a little more foolproof.

After all, this fool can get through it.

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Be you religious or not, odds are you have heard the story of Adam and Eve in some form or another. I know I had heard it many times before reading it for myself. There’s a tree with some fruit that you’re not supposed to eat, Adam and Eve eat said fruit, God gets pissed, Adam and Eve are banished, the end. That is the story I was familiar with and I’m sure many of my peers are familiar with still to this moment. I was delighted to find out that the story in itself has a few more nuances to keep me engaged…if only to question it…

So Man was left alone hanging out with all the creatures on an unpopulated Earth. Since none of the creatures were a good enough fit for man, God decided to create him a “helper”.

“but for the man there was not a helper fit for him…and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman.”(Gen 2:20-22)

I’m sorry ladies but I feel this is the first in a long line of events that are about to unfold where you get the short end of the stick. From the get-go woman was only a helper to man. Some radicals might go as far as to say slave, but fortunately this Bible doesn’t go that far. The most I can gather about this excerpt is, at the moment of female conception, God, and subsequently man, did not consider woman his or His equal. Instead, woman is just a “helper” to man; lower, but still better than the creatures and creeping things.

Soon after the creation of woman we are introduce to the fabled serpent. As far as I can tell from my text, the serpent is never labeled as Satan or a satanic figure. The only information I am given to separate the serpent from the other creatures is that it is “more subtle than any other creature.” (Gen 3:1) The story of Adam and Eve I was always told painted the snake as a definitive embodiment of the devil. I can see how the metaphorical jump can be easily made, but I find it interesting that the devilishness is not explicitly mentioned in the holy text itself.

No special mention is given to the fact the serpent intelligently communicates with the woman. Even taking into account the evolution of cultures over the millennia I feel ancient peoples would still consider talking creatures strange. Nonetheless, the serpent convinces the woman to eat the fruit from the tree of wisdom/good and evil. When she does, she shares with her husband and they get caught by God. What follows is a tri-fecta of curses:

“cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go…all the days of your life.” (Gen 3:14)

I interpret this passage to say the snake becomes the least considered creature of them all. I think it’s interesting God condemns the snake to travel on its stomach as if before the snake did not slither in the way we are most familiar with. I like to think it was a dragon or Trogdor-like creature before its transformation.

“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing, in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire will be for you husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16)

As suggested in a previous post, Genesis most likely serves to explain why many things in the world are the way they are. God’s curse on the woman explains why childbirth is so painful to women. God seems to suggest that childbirth was no big deal before this fruit conundrum. Now, I have never given birth and I don’t want to challenge God’s judgment, but I can’t imagine a world where passing a cantaloupe wouldn’t be painful.

“And to Adam he said;” (Gen 3:17)

Before I go on to describe the final punishment for mankind, I want to point out that this is the first time a name has been given to the male character. Until this point our characters have just been referred to as the man and the woman, like a deleted scene from “The Road”. Anyway:

“cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life:” (Gen 3:17)

Here the text provides yet another explanation for the reasons behind why things are the way they are. Apparently mankind cannot partake in foliage as a source of food per the damnation that God has put on men and women. I find this punishment clever on behalf of God; you eat His plant and He’ll make it so you can’t eat plants anymore.

The most startling piece of information comes at the conclusion of Adam and Eve’s story when God says:

“Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gen 3:22)

Not only does God again mention the mysterious “us”, but He recognizes man as similar to Himself. God shows a concern that man will also eat from a “tree of life” to become immortal and therefore godly. It was always my impression there was only one tree in the fall of mankind. The word “also” tips me off to the fact there are two trees in this story: one tree of knowledge between good and evil and another tree of life. It seems all people have to do is eat the fruit of said trees to become like God. I can see now why God wouldn’t want people eating his trees. He doesn’t like to share. I can’t help wondering: if God is so awesomely powerful then why did he put the trees in the Garden of Eden in the first place? It couldn’t be to tempt Adam and Eve, because I was under the impression temptation was Satan’s job. Perhaps God is compelled to put the trees there by an even higher power, dare I say. The presence of these questions leads me to wonder if good and evil, morality, and immortality exist outside of God.

Having a tree that bestows the knowledge of good and evil suggests there is a definitive line between the two. If physics has taught me anything it’s that there are few things that can be considered absolute. The story of the fall of man seems to insinuate good and evil are two of those absolutes. Banished from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are forced to make their way in the world outside passing their ill-gotten knowledge on to their descendants. At this time I cannot say that humans still possess this knowledge over good and evil. If humans supposedly had this knowledge, why are there so many debates over ethics and morals today? At the expense of sounding cheesy and emotionally optimistic I will say humans have the knowledge of good and evil if only we can find it in ourselves (what a cuddly thought).

Although Genesis explains why things are the way they are I am upset that humanity has to endure the consequences of Adam and Eve’s actions a long time ago. Since when has the actions of one’s ancestors been reason to punish a new generation? So Adam and Eve screwed up. Punish them. If you asked me not to eat your fruit I wouldn’t eat your fruit, even if a snake started talking me into it. Especially if a snake started talking me into it. Perhaps it is my bestowed knowledge between good and evil and right and wrong that allows me to decide not to eat the fruit. Either way I would have appreciated some say in this decision.

At the end of the day, towards Adam and Eve, I am indifferent. Thanks for the knowledge. No thanks for the damnation.

The Creation of Man

April 3, 2010

It is a little difficult for me to begin this post because the Bible is already eluding me. Three pages in and I’m already confused. Who thought Genesis could be that confusing? Not this guy.

Let me set the stage…

When we left off last, God had just created Earth and everything on it. He opens a whole can of creeping worms when he goes about describing His, what I assume to be, best creation.

“’Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;’” (Gen 1:26)

I have always had the impression that Catholicism, its branches, and even Judaism and Islam, are monotheistic religions with only a sole, head honcho. This excerpt challenges my previous notions when it depicts God talking to some other conscious being or object up in the heavens. I can only think of two explanations for who God is talking to in this passage. First is that God is up in the heavenly realm chilling with some other godly fellows. Whether or not the others that compose the “us” have powers similar to the God is unclear, but it only seems reasonable to think if there are other figures pre-dating mankind then they would have some kind of divine power as well, even if not on the same scale as God. Oxford seems to agree when suggesting in the footnotes the “us” and “our” are in reference to a “heavenly court” of God’s which resembles a sort of “royal theology” of ancient religions. My second guess is that God has developed some serious multiple personalities. Think about it. The guy has been just hanging around for eternity. I would have started talking to myself after about a millennia.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27)

If we take this passage with the previous excerpt then we can see that not only do humans bear a resemblance to God, but a resemblance to the other(s) around God as well.

Chapter 2

After God creates man, he rests, and very appropriately enough. I imagine it is like the peaceful time right before a couple is about to have a baby. They get the most sleep and quiet time they can because there won’t be much of it for at least the next 15 years. Except for God it’s more like…well, I’ll get back to you on that one.

This is where things get fishy for me. Let’s walk through my thought process as I read these next few lines…

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” (Gen 2:4)

Me: Yes, I got that, this is like the seventh time you’ve mentioned that.

“In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,” (Gen 2:4)

Okay, let’s see…that’s day two. Alright, now that we’re on the same page…

“when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground-“ (Gen 2:5)

Yes. I get it. There’s just the heavens and the earth, you literally just said that. I swear. You’d have to lack the slightest mental capacity to miss anything here.

“then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground,” (Gen 2:7)

Wait…what?

“So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air,” (Gen 2:19)

“the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman” (Gen 2:22)

Okay, okay. I take it back. I’m confused.

Even after reading through the passage several times it seems this is another account of the creation of man and Earth. In the second chapter God creates the Earth itself, then he creates man, then animals, and finally woman. This is in disconnect with the first chapter. Oxford offers no insights to clarify this for me and I have only one possible explanation:

Due to the Bible’s length and age it has been suggested to me by others that the whole text itself is a collection of not just separate books but of separate writings from different authors over a period of years. If I accept this understanding, then the beginning of Chapter 2 of Genesis makes more sense. However, how can I account for the resolution of God’s first week in the beginning of Chapter 2? If Chapter 2 is indeed written by another author, how could this author know to sum up the end of Chapter 1 before offering his own account? I surmise that he couldn’t, and therefore suggest this alternate account is somewhat of an error. As I discovered in the many prefaces to the holy text, the Bible is very much edited over time. Either I am missing an obvious explanation or this section has yet to be addressed by those with the power to fix things.

It is frustrating to come upon a portion of the text that I cannot reason out through wit or perversion. I didn’t think the Bible would be as difficult as the lady in the bookstore suggested to me, at least not this early on. I cannot disregard this quandary when determining my judgment (if you will permit me the word) of the Bible, but for the sake of moving on I will let it be for now. Regardless of how they came to be, or in what order, mankind finds its way onto Earth, and two of the most famous characters from the Bible emerge: Adam and Eve.

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.

In the beginning

February 17, 2010

In the beginning of Genesis God creates everything that we know of Earth today. Here’s the short version:

Day 0: Heaven and Earth are created

Day 1: Light is created, day and night are distinguished

Day 2: Boundaries between Heaven and Earth are established

Day 3: The waters of Earth are gathered together into seas and land masses are formed, God puts plants on the land and realizes that it’s all “good”

Day 4: Sun, Moon and stars are created and all is “good”

Day 5: Ocean and bird life are created and all is still “good”

Day 6: Land creatures are created: cattle, beasts and “creeping things”, man makes an entrance. All is “good”

Day 7: God relaxes

I have to hand it to Him. I can’t make a post in one week and He goes and makes a whole planet complete with landscapes and life forms and still has time to rest. Apparently “time management” was created somewhere in there too. But after it all, I get the feeling that God is a little too apathetic towards the whole creation thing. All of his creations are just “good” to him. I can understand being a little bit humble, but if I made a planet, I’d at least think it was great.

It would be easy for the Bible to say “God created all the animals in the oceans, on the land and in the sky” and be done with it. Instead, the text singles out specific creatures or smaller classifications of creatures from the rest of the herd (bad pun I’m sorry). For instance:

“Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” (Gen 1:24)

Why “cattle” specifically I am not sure. I know the Indians revere cows as part of their religion so maybe it is something like that. Or maybe God thought they were as delicious as I find them. Regardless, the emphasis on “cattle” leads me to believe they were important for the first peoples and therefore deserve special attention in the beginning. The “creeping things” must be insects and the like. Their description later on is as riveting as it is revealing: “every creeping thing that creeps” (Gen 8:17). I’m not sure what other people have been taught, but I was under the impression you aren’t supposed to use the word you are defining in your definition. Alas, times were different back in the day, but I’ve apparently already stumbled on something God did not conceive of: creative writing.

Before the beasts of the land took shape, God filled the seas with a peculiarly defined sect of animals:

“So God created the great sea monsters” (Gen 1:21)

Although I have not personally met those deeply religious folks that believe the earth to be only 6000 years old or that dinosaurs are a myth, I have spoken with people who have. The short excerpt above seems to me like a perfectly good source to support the existence of dinosaurs from a religious point of view. Although it does nothing for the “6000 year Earth” crowd, the writing of the “great sea monsters” could help bridge the gap between archaeologists and biblicalists (I made that word up, but you get the idea).

When reflecting on “Big Week” I wonder why God chose to make Earth in the order He did. Regardless of His reasoning, it is interesting that He chose to make sea creatures before land creatures. I’m no expert on evolution, but I am under the impression that it says land creatures evolved from water creatures. In other words, land creatures came after sea creatures. In biblical words, God creates ocean life and then land life. It may be a stretch to use this as common ground between creationists and evolutionists, but sometimes a stretch is all people need.

Last but not least God creates man. Actually, let me take that back.

Lastly, God creates man. Everyone isn’t perfect and there are some stellar people out there, but, let’s face it, cows haven’t given God as much shit as mankind has.

Hey, maybe that’s why he singled them 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.

Blank

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.

In the beginning…beginning

December 12, 2009

Now, I didn’t own my own Bible when I decided I was going to embark on this adventure, so I had to go out and buy one. Reaching the bookstore I soon found that there are a ton of bibles. I’m not talking Bibles for every religion, I mean, there were shelves upon shelves for the Catholic/Christian/“that side of religion” Bible. I read the spine of every one hoping for some enlightenment, but soon gave up on that notion given the already mentioned state of my soul. I eventually solicited the help of a fellow shopper who, I came to find, was purchasing a second Bible for herself.

Hold the phone: a second Bible?

Why, I asked myself, would someone need another Bible? I had begun to formulate the question upon seeing the shelves of Bibles and pondering the need for such variety, but this religious shopper hit home. As an example she proceeded in describing to me the tome she had unearthed had two variations/interpretations of the Bible side by side on each page for easy comparison. On top of this, the books in front of us were similar to hers, in that they were all interpretations of the Bible. Well, I was looking for the Bible, and after a short dialogue I narrowed in on what I believe to be the original text. Practically a textbook, I chose: “The New Oxford Annotated Bible” with all the fixin’s. (There’s the link if you want to pick one up yourself and read along, because apparently there are different versions)

My new friend in religion cautioned me upon our separation, with an air of condescension I should add: “The original is difficult!” she said, and I laughed the short and awkward “just-met-a-stranger” laugh despite the fact she was completely serious. Apparently I even give off the sense that I have a weak mind and soul…

My interaction in the bookstore was interesting, more so upon reflection, and here’s why. I don’t know much about the Bible, this much is true, but it seems to me that if I am going to live my life by the written words of an ancient document, I might want to actually read that document myself. I may put faith and trust in my parent or pastor that he or she is indeed telling me the word of the scripture, but if I plan on living my life under such a strict code, it seems only reasonable that I would do some investigation of my own. After all, in the rest of our lives we do make sure of our actions before we check both ways and dive in to something new. Now, I may be too harsh on my Bible informant. As far as I know, she’s read the original, the first edition, the King James Bible, and she’s ready to hear what other people say about it. Unfortunately for her, and for her fellow churchgoers, experience has not given me the ability to grant such logic and worldly aspirations to religion.

I was excited to bring my new book home and introduce it to all the rest, but I was apprehensive as well. I was concerned in between readings that due to its proximity to works of literature, Ayn Rand and general science fiction, that one or the other might explode (which in hind sight wouldn’t have been a bad thing; after the dust settled I would have known which was greater). Alas, my Bible made friends with its new bunk mates and I’m sure they share stories at night. Ha! “stories”…clever.

For any of you interested in purchasing a Bible let me tell you that it is a good investment. Despite its humble width of about 2 inches this thing has close to 2000 pages! I’d probably feel like I was getting a better deal if it was printed on actual paper. I know I’m not the first person to call it “Bible paper” but what the hell is that all about? Maybe that’s why that lady needed another Bible. Her first one probably got destroyed when she opened a window. Needless to say, I find myself taking more care of this book than others I care more about. Irony point to God. Anyway, I did spend a pretty penny on my Bible, but hopefully God will see the selfless opening of my pocketbook as a true sign of my genuine pursuit of Him.

Nah. He’s probably smarter than that.

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.