#30daysofreading My final words on the Bible (for now)

To clarify, I did not read the ENTIRE Bible for this month. I read the books I previously had not, in the standard Protestant Bible, which leaves out the following books common to Catholic (secondary) canon, called collectively “The Apocrypha“. The books marked by strikethrough are also no longer regarded as sacred texts in Catholic tradition.
1 Esdras
2 Esdras
Additions to Esther
1 Macabees
2 Macabees
Epistle of Jeremiah
Prayer of Azariah
Prayer of Manasseh
Bel and the Dragon

I still plan to read these books, but as far as honoring my cultural heritage goes, I’ve done my duty. By age 20, I read the entire New Testament and the Old Testament through Proverbs. I kind of stopped and started with the book of Jeremiah, but after dating a guy with that name and wanting to drop his ass in a well after the poor way he treated me, I lost interest in Bible reading for awhile. I had continued to read through my religious conversion, so ceasing to read the Bible was not directly related, and I still sometimes refer to Christian/Abrahamic texts in magical work. This is because the Bible has inherent power created through collective belief energy. This is also because the Bible is equaled only by Shakespeare in its influence on speech, thought and symbol in the West.

Now, at age 35, I can say I’ve read the entire Bible, and the majority of the US population would consider the Bible I read “complete.” It isn’t particularly world-changing to me; when you practice a religion “not of the book” you rapidly abandon scores of assumptions that are Bible based, starting with religious/moral discussions that refer to the Bible as an authority on how you should act. I still find it disturbing that so many who self-identity as atheist or agnostic and who actively resent what some Western interpretations of Christianity has done to their inner lives will, upon either telling me why I should NOT believe in God (which by itself is a violating activity) or why there’s a problem with my own theism will refer to the Bible. I know I repeat it a lot here, but I have to say it again: if you want to have a religious discussion with me, you can’t use the Bible.

If you want to discuss Christianity with me, of COURSE we’ll have to bring up the Bible. Just don’t expect me to defer to it. Especially now that I’ve read the whole thing.

One thing that I think even some Christians need to know about the Bible: all churches pick and choose the parts of the Bible/lessons to focus on. There are practical reasons for this:

The Bible isn’t one book, even though it’s packaged that way. The reason there is such a thing as Bible paper is to make paper thin enough to cram ALL those books between one binding without requiring a bookshelf of its own. The core of consistency errors comes from inconsistencies across books; within the books concepts remain consistent, but this makes the “it’s all literal/true/an indisputable fact!” an extremely fallible viewpoint, not to mention heavily laced with Western win/lose mentality that just makes an entire religion look bad when it’s really just a small group of crazy but deceptively loud individuals confusing what they’re given of evolution’s competitive instincts for faith and fervor.

The Bible may come from dead documents, but as you can see from the list above, even though thousands of years have passed, there is still an editorial and translation process. That means the Bible, like it or not, is a living document that changes. I have also heard it said that the Q’ran is actually meant to be a spoken-word only tradition with the book as backup so as to prevent change. I for one think the approach guarantees manipulation, but even in print, the Bible has had and still has manipulation aplenty. I am not questioning “God’s” integrity here; I’m questioning man’s.

Above all, if all Christian churches used those books packed after Proverbs and behind Matthew, no thinking, compassionate person who genuinely sees women as human beings would ever retain membership. The churches I went to either skipped the books altogether -we did NOT discuss Ezekiel, chose selectively from Daniel and Jonah, and more or less ignored Obeah, Obadiah, Micah, Jeremiah and the rest. There’s a good reason for it: the books drip with misogyny, and while no one invoked Eve’s sin, any bad behavior was female, even Israel was a “whore” and somehow all things saintly were the provence of men. Men in these books never experienced accountability, and were not punished for practicing the very things women are repeatedly (and I suspect in large numbers falsely) vilified for in these books. I do think, given that these are marked as “prophetic” books from prophets, that there was a certain self-fulfilling prophecy involved: if a man spoke of me like that, I might damn well take up the actions of a slattern, even while facing the very real possibility of getting stoned to death for adultery. At least that way I’d have some joy on my way out, and suicide by sex when surrounded with a culture apparently trained to be so abusive sounds about right.

Then again, I also sense that some of these rants are essentially works of fiction, or the ancient equivalent of bitching about your ex-girlfriend on your blog. Nowadays it would be utterly inexcusable, and I think it may be one of the greatest tragedies of our culture that we took these outright abusive books as holy writ. There are lots of self-important males (and some females, but still more males) carrying on about how the whole world is going to hell because people aren’t doing and acting exactly as the complainer dictates. Now such carrying on receives the scorn it deserves from those who are healthy enough to recognize that such behavior/carrying on merits scorn.

Apparently a few someones were clever enough to scribble their misogynist political rants on a scroll: I guess being literate automatically elevated these carryings-on past criticism or critical thought at the time it was written.

I feel like the prophetic books negate the value of the Bible as any kind of historical document (I don’t believe that it is not the “source work” or “historical record” it is painted to be, no matter how many begats Exodus lists)  and confirms my suspicions that while some divine wisdom may appear, the book comes from a human hand and is no more the word of God than is a billboard rant about the world ending tomorrow. If I am wrong in this, and there is actual fact to what lays buried in the books I read, then there’s the huge problem of an outright abusive deity, no longer concerned with the survival of a tribe and seemingly more concerned with behavior attributed wife abusers on PCP and crack cocaine. It definitely lends merit to the whole idea that other gods in that universe had to be factual – just because of the creepy, possessive, “if I can’t have you, I’ll kill you all!” competitive behavior. This, paired with the “I’m going to beat you and make you miserable, and save you while telling you you all suck!” is classic abusive behavior. Apparently this character especially fixated on Baal.

On the other hand, if there is historical record to this (cringe) there is something of value to Pagans, if you can stand the vitriol: it refers to Pagan traditions. Not only does Jeremiah speak of cakes for the Queen of Heaven, there is reference in other books to wearing armbands as a magical tradition, New Moon festivals, the value of astrologers and fortune tellers (we kind of knew that) and unique power held by women in the “Pagan” tribes denied to women in the Abrahamic tribes. Hosea’s condemnation of Pagan worship coughs up a few juicy details about the practice of pluralism.

Also, the non-vitriolic prophets, such as Jonah, actually expressed that they were NOT onboard with the crazy. This Biblical God responded abusively, as is to be expected, but two or three of these guys at least seemed to have a sense of perspective. Props to the good prophets.  Joel, Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Amos seemed more concerned with humanity, rather than with the “God is going to beat you all up for not being just like how I think you should be!” mentality dotting the other prophets. It seems Amos had the most complex relationship with this deity, often talking back in a way the other prophets did not seem to, and at one point after reporting harsh threats of destruction, going so far as to say “You’re better than this.” (It stuck with me, though the specific verse does not.) There were consequences for the backtalk – but it meant that the character of Amos did not just blindly accept the Word of God when the content of the Word threatened absolute death.

Most of this reading just confirms my belief that the best screen for a divinity is to ask questions. Every artists likes to answer questions about its creation; if a body insists on NOT being questioned then that being has no legitimate claim on Godhood.

Now I’m on to reading the Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, and then back into my review stack.