The New and Improved Old Testament: Let’s Amend the “Stupid” Out of the “Good Book”

 

Moses in Venice Beach

Hello and happy summer to all my loyal blog followers, new comers, and anyone who may have stumbled here by accident. I am about to take on a chore that few sane individuals would attempt:

 

I’ve decided to update the Bible.

 

Before you click on the “back arrow”, or hit “x”, or the “little red dot”, if you are of the Apple persuasion, please understand that I am absolutely NOT saying that I have any intention whatsoever of rewriting the Bible; I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so. As far as “updating” this ungainly tome, allow me to explain.

 

As those who have been following my haphazard posts by now know, my query of “Why is America so stupid?” has brought me to the solid belief that the blame for our country’s unique brand of Stupid can be laid at the feet of the following institutions: The American Educational System, Mainstream Mass Media, Politico-Corporate Greed and Religious Fundamentalism. In today’s post I turn to the most delicate of these “Four Horsemen of the Bamboozle”: Religious Fundamentalism.

 

First, let me state for the record that, although raised in a nominal Methodist household, I do not have any serious religious leanings toward Christianity in any of its numerous forms. I celebrate the idea of Christmas, as a time of peace, kindness and goodwill toward all men, I went along with the whole Santa Claus shtick for my children’s entertainment, and at Easter I allow that freaking bunny to bring my blood sugar level up to over 300. I do not, however, depend on any religious teachings to direct my moral actions; instead I simply endeavor not to be a nasty, selfish asshole for the entire year. I do this not for any reward in some hitherto unknown afterlife, but simply because that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

 

However, I must also state that neither am I card-carrying Atheist. I am one of those people who are amazed by everything from a hummingbird to the seemingly infinite Universe.  I am, as well, totally gob-smacked when I ponder the incredible things that the human species has already figured out and will, in no doubt, continue figuring out. (If you want a good example of my feelings about this click here to read the monologue in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “What a piece of work is a man”, but stop when you get to that “quintessence of dust“ part. That’s the point where Hamlet gets to be a real downer.) I do personally believe there are many more truths yet to be discovered and much more refining to be done on what we have already come to understand.

 

That being said, my focus in this introductory article, and the self-described “updating” of the bible that I propose, is aimed not upon spiritual beliefs in general, but upon religion in its Fundamentalist form. I can sum up the meaning of “Fundamentalism” with this succinct dictionary definition: Religious movements characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of their avowed holy texts.

 

This book-driven belief system, prevalent within Fundamentalist sects in American Protestantism and in Islam, concerns itself with primarily:

·      Ideas concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe as disposed by an all-powerful supernatural entity.

·      Ways in which devotional and ritual observances should be carried out. (Wear a hat, take off your hat, don’t eat pork, eat fish on Fridays, don’t wear a pork chop on your head on every Tuesday with an odd-numbered date.)

·      The specifics of a moral code that governs all human affairs.  (Thou shalt not do this, that or the other thing.)

 

Due to the relatively small minority of Americans who follow the teachings of Islam, when we speak of contributions to the proliferation of stupidity in the United States, we need to turn our vitriolic attention specifically to Christian Fundamentalism. The Religious Right predominantly accomplishes this dumbing-down by dismissing the accepted scientific paradigms that explain the world around us. Any time information from the world of science counters the “written word of God”, the movers and shakers of Fundamentalist thought declare it to be “an abomination” and tell their adherents to squint their eyes shut, put their fingers in their ears and yell “La-La-La-La-La-La-La-La.” in as loud a voice as possible until the nasty, unholy scientific idea goes away.

 

The Bible, in it’s long-time perch on the New York Times Best seller list, must be acknowledged as a book that was written by a plethora of ostensibly well-meaning authors, prophets, and lunatics, as well as their subsequent editors.  Although I certainly lay no claim to being the recipient of any deistic mutterings of late and the only accurate prophesy of mine has been my predicted coming of a pumpernickel bagel with my Sunday morning breakfast, I do consider myself an author. As such, I have taken it upon myself to try and reinterpret various passages of the Bible so that they do not contribute, any more than they have already, to the tsunami of Stupid that has been increasingly drowning America. Its not that I’m trying to take the fun out of fundamentalism, but… if you want a bible that you can take literally, let’s just fix it folks!

 

Since, Fundamentalism, as we mentioned, emphasizes a total unswerving devotion to the “literal words of God”, (as they interpret it) then I think its time for us to simply update the “literal word of God”. If, in doing so, the Fundamentalists and the “thinking world” can come to an intellectual agreement on the true meanings just a few dozen paltry words of the Biblical lexicon, then the Christian Bible, in its swirling literary chaos of myths, inferences, metaphors, implied history, miracles, laws, commandments, etc. could be read with a Fundamentalist eye and preached in such a way that it would no longer contribute to the plunge of their parishioner’s IQ to the level of Lennie in Steinbeck’s  “Of Mice and Men”.

“Tell me about the Exodus, George.”

 

Please note that the corrections and comments that I plan on making in this series of articles concentrate only on science, or the lack thereof in the Bible. By the addition of the knowledge attained about the natural world based on accepted facts learned through experiments and observation, I will attempt to reach a less alienating consensus between the hard-core, word-for-word believers and those who would feel their intelligences were less insulted by seeing the stories of the Old Testament, in particular, taken as a figurative narration based on a scientific foundation. It is by adding information to the Bible, as well as editing and interpreting certain stories and passages, that I hope to allow those who want a book that they can take literally as Holy Scripture become proud functioning members of the Twenty-First Century.

 

The last thing that I mean to do is to shake my head with a sardonic smirk and say “Silly Prophets. You’ve got it all wrong.” The “original” Bible and most of its pre-industrial age re-writes should indeed be forgiven for their scientific inaccuracies as we would any other written works from the antiquity. We don’t read a Greek myth like that of Icarus and Daedalus, and tear apart the story by spouting scientific evidence of why it’s not real. Nobody since ancient Greece has looked at this tale of a guy with wings of wax and feathers, who flew too close to the sun and ended up plummeting to his untimely demise, with anything more than the mildly amused thought of “Wow! What an idiot!”. In the eyes of Fundamentalists, however the entire Bible, as is, must be taken as literal fact. Nonetheless, like any other publication that claims to be non-fiction, the Bible is a book that absolutely screams to be updated every so often.

 

In science, new paradigms constantly replace the old. During the Renaissance men like Copernicus and Galileo proved that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Thus this new scientific paradigm replaces the Ptolemaic vision of a geo-centric universe. Therefore all the lines in the Bible and there are many (Job 9:7 and Psalm 19:4-6 to name just a few) that infer or even specifically mention that the Sun revolves around the Earth, should be updated. After all it’s been over 500 years since Copernicus set things straight and even the Vatican admitted that Galileo was right. I suppose we should say “its better late than never.” I guess.

 

Before signing off I should state that there are many inaccuracies in the Bible that I will avoid addressing.  Things such as figures of speech and obvious metaphors need to be taken as such, and there are, as well, a multitude of historical inaccuracies throughout the Bible. I will not devote any time to dealing these non-scientific issues. As someone who has spent half a lifetime studying and writing about history I am quite aware that any ancient texts need to be taken with a grain of salt the size of Job’s wife (of which there is no scientific evidence by the way.) Maybe in some future series of articles I will consider taking on the more obvious historical fallacies evident in the Bible, but for now let’s just concentrate on correcting the science and re-writing a passage here and there to make this book a trifle more realistic and less apt to stupefy that part of the population who read the Bible for inspiration and the solace-imparting effect of its words.

 

NEXT WEEK:

THE NEW GENESIS

(And no, I don’t mean the one that featured Phil Collins rather than Peter Gabriel!)

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