I felt guilty as a kid, reading novels but never getting all the way through the best-selling book in history – the Bible.
It’s not like I lacked the opportunity. My parents weren’t very religious, but my mother’s brother, my Uncle Forest, was a Nazarene minister. My parents went to church rarely, partly because she and my dad hand-milked a dozen cows twice a day, even on Sundays.
My mother believed religion could be beneficial to most people and that her children should have a taste.
Our family did owe the Nazarenes our gratitude. It was during the Great Depression. Uncle Forest sent my parents a letter from Idaho to North Dakota, where our family had lived for years. The letter said nobody was getting rich out in Idaho, but nobody was starving either. So off they went to Idaho.
I am grateful to the Nazarene Church. If it wasn’t for them, I would have been born in North Dakota and I would have had frost-bitten appendages.
I never was much of a church guy, except for a few younger years. I went to several different churches. To this day, I recognize that religious people get a lot of comfort from attending services. And people who believe in God are never lonely.
In my churchgoing years, I enjoyed the friendship of my fellow pew jockeys. I appreciated some of the verbally clever preachers as well as preachers who assisted me in my constant search for insomnia cures.
I didn’t escape the surprising intensity of deep believers. They would insist I read the Bible – all of the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, so help me God.
A couple of years ago, I had an epiphany that posed a pertinent question:
Have all those people who demanded I read the entire Bible ever done that themselves?
I had always assumed they had. But now I’m not so sure. Sometimes the Bible can be a scary and downright naughty book. Whether it’s a television series or movies or the Bible, I don’t like to wallow in blood.
On the other hand, the Song of Soloman in the Bible is a racy, poetic song of sex.
Then there is Leviticus that overdoes crazy punishments. It advocates killing people left and right if they lived in wild ways, especially having sex with close relatives.
One of the most terrible punishments is the Bible’s order to kill a person who has sex with an animal and to kill the animal as well – an unnatural edict that puts the rape victim to death right along with the pervert.
Worst of all in Leviticus are orders from headquarters to put disrespectful children to death – one of the worst child-rearing techniques in the history of religious excess.
On another occasion, I read an Old Testament passage in which God ordered one tribe to reclaim a patch of land by killing all the adults, children and animals on it.
How can decent people study the Bible at length without noticing all that mayhem? And they want me to read every word even though you would think that they wouldn’t have the gall to go anywhere near some of those surprises in the Bible.
Maybe they themselves never read the ghastly parts. Or maybe they did read it all once or twice, then wiped the noxious knowledge from their shaken memories.
At the very least, a calmer Bible should be printed and cleansed of Leviticus. It’ s time to throw out the trash and show more respect to people who are asked to read the old version cover to cover. Don’t be like the movies, rubbing everybody’s nose in gore and slime.
Contact Bill Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.