We Lack Discipline Preaches: The Bible – Introduction

The first ever printed Bible – the Gutenberg Bible of the 15th Century. The advent of the printing press would later lead to an ability to mass produce bibles so that every home could have one. I would still bet an awful lot of people never read them. (Credit: NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) CC-BY-SA 2.0)

So I asked about this idea on twitter and got literally one response. It was a relatively positive interchange and, frankly, one person encouraging me is all I need.

Now I know I am going to upset a lot of people by doing this. I know that there are some who are going to find my coverage of what they perceive as the ‘literal word of God’ offensive. I can’t apologise. If Christ had not been critical of the manner in which the Jewish faith was being practiced and preached we’d have no Christianity. As far as I am concerned Christianity is a religion of rebellion and standing up to power.

I am going to read and give responses and reactions to the bible based upon my thoughts, my ideas, and my understanding of it not as an actual ‘Holy Book’ but as a work of literature. That is not to say I won’t be commenting on any notable hypocrisies! I will. Few works of world literature have shaped the world and the actions of human beings as much as the Christian holy texts and where I perceive their God to be wrong, their lessons to be wrong, and their messiah to be wrong I will say so. Who am I to question such things? Just a man, so God strike me down or Jesus come and preach to me directly should I be mistaken in my criticism. I would welcome their intervention.

You might be asking “Well why don’t you pick on other ‘Holy Books’?” Chances are high that, failing some disruption to the We Lack Discipline schedule, I might.

The fact is I was raised under the ideas, doctrines and morality of the Christian faith. Though I was not raised ‘religious’, the vicar of our local church would visit our Primary School and give assemblies, there were a couple of other god-botherers as teachers who would also give assemblies based upon Christian stories, when I first started attending my secondary school it was run by a Christian man under Christian morals and, to this day, Christianity is still the dominant religion of the Western world.

A map of the world, coloured to show dominant religions by nations. The key is to the bottom left, but Blue=Jesus – The darker the blue, the more Jesus! As you can see, blue dominates Europe, the Americas, Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa. (Credit: Pharexia CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I believe it is hard to separate a religious morality, particularly one that has been so dominant and become so culturally and ritualistically rooted, from the overall behavioural foundation of members of its particular community. I think that belief helps shape behaviour which helps shape further belief. I think it is impossible to separate the actions of faith, the psychology of faith and the practice of faith.

Effectively, you can argue for secularism in Britain, or your own country, as much as you want, when you have such a historical rooting in religious morality it will take hundreds of years of deliberately undoing that behaviour to become truly secularised. This is as true of Buddhist, Islamic or Hindu communities as it is of Christianity in Britain and a lot of the West.

This is why I think studying religious texts is important! Pragmatically, I’m an agnostic atheist. I do not believe there is currently any compelling evidence presented that there is a Divine Being who is responsible for the creation of the universe and its course as time goes on. I have to remain agnostic because I am a man of evidence. My philosophies are rooted in scientific methods. If any evidence comes along to show there might be a God, I may have to reconsider.

However I’m also an anti-theist, that’s not necessarily to say I am against faiths, so much as I am against Gods. I seldom find myself delving into ideas of a religion where the deity or deities are not permissive of significant injustice and cruelty, and the creation of devils, demons, Satan and temptation does not lead me to feel any different. Where evil is, it must be defeated and where it isn’t I can only believe that any omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God permits it that way. Plus I’ve played way too many JRPGs, so killing Gods is something I get a nice dopamine hit from.

Kratos, from the God of War videogame series, in his Dad of War guise from God of War (2018) on Playstation 4. Like me he often had disagreements with Gods. Unlike me he killed many of them. I’m fairly certain by the time of the 2018 game he has slain almost all of the Greek pantheon, including some Titans. (Credit: Hannaford CC-BY-SA 2.0)

To some extent the Gnostic Christian faith was an attempt to counter this, by arguing the validity of duality. A part of Gnosticism was acceptance of the bad, of the devil, of the negative, as being vital to the balance of all things. This is, of course, why it was ruthlessly persecuted and basically eradicated as heretical – because it attempted to make the world make sense…

So what is ‘The Bible’? Well the name is from the koine Greek root ‘tà biblía’, Or the Greek ‘Biblos’ or books. It is a collection of various religious texts from different time-periods relating to the Abrahamic faith (the same God as Judaism, Islam, Yezidi, Rastafarianism etc.) as it evolves, via the story of the supposed Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Is there just one Bible? Absolutely not.

Nor is there just one version, the Bible has been adapted, altered and changed multiple times by many different groups.

The fundamentals of the Bible consist of translations or interpretations of some Jewish holy books, and this is where Christianity decides to complicate matters with the various splits in belief and church deciding different books make up their own biblical canon.

A simple diagram explaining how the books of the Old Testament are derived from their Jewish originals. I’m sure, like the religions themselves, it makes total sense. (Credit: ZanderSchubert CC-BY-SA 3.0)

I’m not going to get into much discussion about that besides saying if it’s supposedly the literal word of God, what makes humans on Earth so entitled as to feel important enough to be separating the ‘genuine’ word of God from the words of men pretending to be the word of God and how do we not know it’s all just the words of men? (It most likely is…)

So the half of the compilation that is old books, mainly from the Jewish faith is called the ‘Old Testament’ and the other half is newer stuff called the ‘New Testament’. Through the years there have been many different versions and translations and again, I won’t get into the differences or merits between them I will just let you know that for the purposes of this series I will be reading from the English Standard Version (ESV) because it was free on the Tax-Dodging Female Warrior’s Electronic Book Device.

My prior experience of reading the bible is the King James Version, which is probably the version most embedded in English popular culture, with all of its ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s but, unfortunately that archaic language, applied to a multiple-times translated ancient religious text makes it often dense and dull reading. My hope is the ESV can at least allow me to breeze through those bits.

Saint Paul writing his letters, or Epistles – A solid portion of the New Testament is just this dickhead telling everyone else what they’re doing wrong. If you want to know who is to blame for Christianity, it’s mainly him! (Oil-on-canvas, by Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618-1620, Public Domain)

What, then, of Christianity? What is this religion that this book is so important for?

I’m sure we all ‘know of’ Christianity. Many of you may consider yourselves Christians, or have been raised in a Christian tradition. Our holidays in the UK are still mainly based around Christian festivals, except summer which is when we all turn into intoxicated pagan sun worshippers.

To give it a summary, God made the universe, the heavens and the Earth, but he kind of cocked it up when it came to people. First of all Adam and Eve ate God’s lunch from the work fridge, and God didn’t appreciate that, so he kicked them out of their own little slice of paradise, the Garden of Eden. Then people became so horrible he had to drown them all, save a few on the ark.

Either way, this sin had tainted humanity. God decided the only effective way to have humanity atone for this sin was for him to have a son, and then kill him.

It makes perfect sense if you try not to think about it in any way shape or form.

This son would be the salvation of humanity, and from that point forward only people who believe in the divinity, and practice the teachings of, this son, will be saved by God when the ‘End Times’ come.

Another Gustave Doré – If you want to see more of his work go here. I don’t think anyone did Christian imagery with quite the flair he did. This is Christ on the Cross – God, apparently, so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son up to torture, abuse and inevitable death to save us all.

I’d rather he not bothered, that’s fucking grim.
(Credit: Gustave Doré, Public Domain)

Historically speaking, there’s no evidence any of that is true.

If a man named ‘Jesus’ – a translation of Yeshua, or Joshua – did exist, did practice as a preacher, did give sermons, did upset the Romans and was crucified, it is likely he did so as a real boy, and not the incarnation of God on Earth.

Around about the time of Jesus’ supposed existence it is my understanding that opposition of the Romans, belief in a Jewish messiah, and a coming of a change of times, an end of the current rule and the beginning of a new one, was a very politico-religious thing. Indeed the very notion of the ‘Kingdom of God to Come’ or the ‘Kingdom Come’ was not necessarily a heavenly notion at all, but a political one. It was supposed to be a real Kingdom of Jews in the Holy Land.

As I explained in my Celestial Classics about Pluto, to me Christianity is a politically motivated, eschatological (centred on a belief in ‘the end’, usually the ‘end of the world’) Jewish cult.

The Apocalyptic figure of Death riding his pale horse – from the Book of Revelation, the description of the ‘End Times’ – a huge part of the eschatological tradition of Christianity. (credit: Gustave Doré, Public Domain)

Again, it is complicated to pin down exactly, and often considered controversial to try to do so. There are fragments, little bits and pieces, stories in the bible that line up with historical accounts. There is an awful lot that doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but the stories of it may be exaggerated, altered, changed, pulled from different sources, areas and times, to suit a narrative of either political opposition to Roman rule, or, once Christianity started to become established, to promote and encourage membership of the cult.

I’ll level with you, this is the most difficult introduction I have ever had to write because ‘The Bible’, the book alone, how it has been formed, edited, translated and changed over the years, how different churches pick different books, how things have been removed, how scholarship, both historical and theological, constantly shifts our perspectives of things; It’s effectively a mindfuck before you even get to the words of the book itself, and what they mean.

I guess I wanted that confusion to come across, because it is that confusion I like to encourage. The only thing we truly know at We Lack Discipline is that we don’t know everything! It’s part of the Curious Idiot’s™ pledge!

I don’t want people to not read The Bible, if this turns into a multi-part trashing of the Christian religious text I want that to be because I oppose what is written, not the reading of it.

Definitely nothing morally wrong with a gilded silver, gem-encrusted, beautifully ornate bible like this one from Vienna’s Imperial Treasury – Made in Aachen, Germany. (Credit: Hans von Reutlingen, Public Domain)

I think religious texts represent some of the most important and influential works of world literature and an opposition to the acts committed in their name should not be an excuse for ignorance on the very causes of those acts. Indeed, in order to begin to unravel the worlds of zealotry, bigotry and religious hatred we must engage with the texts, the practitioners and the traditions so that we can challenge them on their own terms, or at the very least with an understanding of the root causes of their arguments.

What is more, these texts are enduring. Clearly, whether you agree with it or not, a significant number of people find enough value in the lessons of religions to allow them to endure. Like with any book there may be characters you like or dislike, lessons you disagree with and lessons you agree with, and you might just find some value in it yourself, regardless of how much you’re an anti-theist, atheist or opposed to Christianity and what it may or may not have done in the past.  

The Christian Holy Books, those presented in The Bible, have had a profound effect on human society for nearly 2,000 years. The three main Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, (mainly through Christianity and Islam) make up the bulk of the world’s religious population. The stories that make up the Old Testament are believed to have first been written down around the 9th century BCE, but based upon much older, oral traditions. The Jewish faith itself is believed to date back to around 2,000-1,800 BCE.

I have to admit, as much as I may be agnostic atheist, I have a certain love for Christian imagery and The Whore of Babylon, presented here in an illustration from a 1534 Martin Luther translation of the Bible is incredible. It’s another of Christian eschatology’s enduring images, of this ‘whore’ or idolatress, who will meet her apocalyptic end at the hands of a seven headed, ten horned beast. (Credit: From the Workshop of Lucas Cranach, Public Domain)

Christianity is part of a legacy dating back around 4,000 years!

Whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not, that certainly makes it interesting!

My intention is to break it down book by book, but some books are so dense they may require a two-parter.

I will also not be doing this regularly, like when I do ‘Top Ten’s and try to release one daily. This will be a series akin to ‘Bad History’, ‘Celestial Classics’ or ‘My Life and…’ – I will use it to fill gaps in my schedule and as and when I get around to actually reading the actual bible itself.

As mentioned, I am reading the English Standard Version. You can find out about that specific version here. I did want to use the New Standard Revised Edition but couldn’t find one available for free and I’ll be fucked if I’m paying for a fucking bible, I know enough about Christ to know he would not approve!

So, let us get ready…

For the book of Genesis. Or as we call it in the UK, the book of MegaDrive.

The Sega Genesis (mega-drive) mark II. Not knowingly named after the biblical book. Known for its ‘blast processing’, part truthfully different processing architecture, mostly marketing bullshit, the Sega Genesis was released to compete with Nintendo’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Certainly in Europe, Sega dominated the market – However ‘Nintendo’ had become a household name for videogaming in the United States, like Hoover or Selotape. There are still grannies to this day who probably say to their 40 year old grandkids “Are you playing Nintendo?” when they’re on a PS5. …Yes, I’d…I’d rather talk about games consoles than Christianity. The devil has truly taken me. (Credit: Evan-Amos CC-BY-SA 3.0)

…In the beginning We Lack Discipline was without form, Genesis chapters 1-5 here.

Or skip straight to the flood! Genesis chapters 6-11 here.

Published by Karl Anthony Mercer

Like a dark-chocolate fountain at a weight loss party, Karl Anthony Mercer is an under-utilised river of bittersweetness. When not busy researching or writing about any and all non-fiction topics for 'We Lack Discipline' Karl can often be found walking, staring at wildlife or writing poetry.

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