Holy Bible, King James Version (Meridian)

The Holy Bible (King James Version) - Anonymous I'm an atheist, but I emphatically believe everyone of every kind of belief should read the Bible from cover to cover for three reasons. First, because to not know it means you're handicapped in understanding the world around you. About two billion out of almost seven billion on Earth today are Christians, more than any other faith. Followed by followers of Islam who number one-and-a-half billion--and Judeo-Christian beliefs were a major influence on their founder Muhammad. Muslims consider themselves, Christians and Jews as "People of the Book" with many stories and beliefs in common. Five of the seven continents are by and large Christian and a sixth, Africa, is about half Christian and the other half Muslim. And Asia? Well, given the legacy of imperialism and colonialism, Christianity certainly made its mark on its history. You're also going to be culturally impoverished if you don't read the Bible--the allusions and influences on literature, music, and art are profound. The second reason I think everyone should read it is that parts of it can claim to be among the oldest of surviving human texts, dating to perhaps the second millennium BCE and making those portions over 3,000 years old. Few works--some Sanskrit, Sumerian and Egyptian works, such as the Pyramid Texts and the Epic of Gilgamesh--can claim to be older. There's something compelling about reading something so close to the very start of civilization. Finally, there is intrinsic worth in many of the works in the Bible. From my secular point of view, of varied value, with each book almost certainly written by very different authors over centuries--and very possibly not by whom the book is ascribed. But yes, parts are beautiful. I especially loved several of the Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes--and my favorites are Ruth and the erotic poem (yes, you read that right) the Song of Songs. If there's the Good, there's also from my perch the Bad and the Ugly. I think what gets to the heart of my problem with the Bible and its believers is the story in Genesis of how God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac--and is pleased when he proceeds to do so. As far as I'm concerned, if I was testing someone to be the chosen one, and they actually proceeded to sacrifice a child, I'd say, you most certainly DID NOT PASS THE TEST. The whole idea of obedience to God and "His Word" in the Bible as an ultimate good simply strikes me as repugnant. Furthermore, one of my more unpleasant surprises reading the Bible from cover to cover was the story of Jepthe's daughter in Judges. There a father makes a rash vow to sacrifice the first living thing to greet him when he comes home--who happens to be his young daughter. And this time God does not intervene. I think the story was such a shock to me because it's not a story that is emphasized in our culture. I may be an atheist, but I was raised a Catholic, attended catechism classes, and was required to take mandatory classes on Religion in my Catholic high school and college. I can't ever recall having heard of that story before coming upon it for myself. Leviticus also makes for unsettling reading. There is of course the much discussed passage condemning homosexuals to death. That's not the only Biblical law calling for the death penalty--it also falls on anyone taking the Lord's name in vain, breaking the sabbath, and of course "you shall not suffer a witch to live." About translations. Well, they make a big difference. I chose the Revised King James Version because it's the most widely used and influential among English-speaking Christians. However, seeking out other translations of the various books can really be illuminating. I remember in my high school religion class what we learned about Jesus' aphorism that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." Well, according to our teacher, that's a mistranslation that allowed the church to interpret it as meaning it's hard for a loaded camel to make it through a narrow passage--so you must unload those money bags to the church! But as it turns out, "camel" is just the idiom for "camel hair rope." So the proper aphorism should be "it is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven." That's a lot harsher and bleaker--but also a much more elegant image. Finally, you're going to get more out of the Bible if you read through some guides and commentaries first or along with it. I read Asimov's Guide to the Bible--which was very readable and thorough in giving the historical and archeological context, but I'm sure is very dated now.