This is a story someone told me once, but don’t take it as gospel…
One afternoon, in the late 1960’s, L. Ron Hubbard and Anton LaVey were out day drinking in some bar in San Francisco. when inspiration struck. Hubbard had just had another one of his science fiction stories rejected from a prestigious literary magazine and his old army buddy LaVey was taking him out to drown his sorrows. Hubbard was laying on the usual self-pity trip most writers do when faced with adversity, when Anton LaVey, forever the straight forward pragmatist, cut to the heart of the matter…
“Ronny, man, listen, artistic freedom and financial freedom aren’t always the same thing. I always wanted to be a musician, and they got me playing the piano in strip clubs down in LA. It ain’t Top of the Pops. but at least I’m paying my rent with my fingers. “
“I’d take a writing gig for the paycheck, I swear I would! No one wants me though!”
“Then you gotta do it yourself old boy! Find your nitch and work your fingers bloody digging into it!” Anton said, downing the rest of this Tequilla Sunrise while simultaneously ordering three more from the bartender “Let me ask you something, what is the best selling book of all time?”
L. Ron Hubbard thought for a minute and then said quite simply…”The Bible”
A silence fell over the two of them. Anton was the first to speak…
”Really? I figured it would have been The Tale of Two Cities, or something”
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s The Bible. Not that that does me much help.”
“Because there’s already a Bible, Anton. You can’t write another one. There’s only one.”
And that that afternoon, with tequila in their bellies and the sun upon their backs, two old friends sketched outlines on cocktail napkins for the two books that would usher the New Age movement into the modern era. L. Ron Hubbard, would rehash several of this rejected short story ideas to write Dianetics, a religion of the future, chalk full of beings from outer space and invisible particles shooting from the sun. Anton LaVey would go the easier route, ret conning an already established bestselling text, to tell the story from the antagonist’s perspective. Before they left that night for their respective dwellings they shook hands, each proud of the work they had done and made a gentlemen’s bet – to see whose crackpot religion idea would sell the most books in twenty years. I’m too lazy to Google who won.
For reasons even I am not entirely sure of, I started reading the Bible this year on New Year’s Day. It had been sitting on my phone in app form for a while now, tucked away in the sub folder marked EMERGENCY next to the police scanner, Morse code translator, and US Army field manual for survival. It’s entirely possible I downloaded it in case I came across a demon possession in my travels, that’s legitimately how my mind works. But, for whatever reason that cold January morn I started a function of the app that put me on track to read the entire Bible in one year’s time. Provided I set aside roughly ten minutes a day to read a bit from the Old, a bit from the New, some Proverbs and Psalms. Strangely, here we are at the ass end of November and I’m still reading it. This is looking to be the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve even come close to keeping.
Reading it every day became habit, albeit something that felt like a positive one. I had gone through 12 years of Catholic school growing up, (in Chicago that’s due more to personal safety than spirituality) so religion wasn’t a topic I was known to shy away from. Plus, this is the Bible, man. Everyone talks about the Bible, but how many people you know have actually READ the Bible? And why not…Is it the length? If any single page document was responsible for this much culture, this many wars, wouldn’t we all read it at least once? The Bible may be the bestselling book in the world, but statistically speaking it’s also gotta be one of the least read, and probably the most misunderstood. All the more reason we should strive to understand it.
So, without further ado here we are, my impressions on the 87% of the Bible I’ve read so far, this year. I’m taking a page from the Cracked style of journalism here and doing this next part in bullet point format. My God have mercy on my soul…
– There are vast portions of the Bible that are nothing, but names and dates. Such and such a person had these many sons and they were named whatever, this king ruled for so many years and then that king ruled for so many years. The instructions on the exact specifications for building the Arc of the Covenant aren’t much easier of a read. Not only is it long and rambling and nonsensical, but it absolutely boggles my mind as to why someone would make that up. So, does that mean God isn’t real? Frankly…I don’t know. Hey, look, if you thought at some point during the body of this blog post I was going to even attempt to sway your opinion on the matter, one way or another, you’re fucking goofy. I’m going to offer that people that speak definitively on either the existence or non-existence of God, should be treated with equal mistrust. We simply don’t fucking know. Super devout hardcore religious fanatics are just as wrong as card carrying atheists. Both make assumptions based on something that can’t really prove one way or another. That kind 100% infallible self-confidence should only be reserved for drunk people on the dance floor.
– The epistles get salty from time to time. You kind of have to understand the historical context there, what was going on in the area politically (it’s a lot of arguing about circumcision actually). Proverbs are a good read, lots of fortune cookie-esque advice. The Gospels: Four different stories about the same events, all different. Are you sure these guys aren’t Irish? Exodus: Moses has the best superhero origin story of all time. Basically Superman in a nutshell. The Book of Job…man where do you even begin? Since there’s still 13% left to read I still haven’t gotten to the fan favorite, Revelations! What a pop culture icon that book turned out to be. I’ll get to it when I get to it, part of me wants to skip ahead, but I never was one of those neurotic people that read the last chapter first just so how they know how it all ends.
– There’s a ton of anti-Semitism in the Old Testament. The Jews are like the Jenny to God’s Forest Gump, perpetually fucking off and getting into trouble, but always (more or less) welcomed back with open arms. Frankly, there’s a lot of shit talking about a lot of different people. Women, gays, Babylonians, the Syrians…I don’t know who the fuck the Moabites are but they’re written as bigger heels then Patrick Bateman, Mr. Kurtz, and Moby Dick combined. God’s shit talking narrative also includes several mentions of other gods, which is interesting. I’m stealing a bit from Louis CK here, but it’s interesting to consider the fact that the #1 rule of the Ten Commandments is not to worship other gods, while rape doesn’t even make the list. It never says that other gods DON’T exist, just not to hold them in higher regard. Which brings us to…
– Moloch, Dagon, Baal and a host of other Gods that appear in there. You might recognize those names from their later use in Watchmen, HP Lovecraft, and Diablo 2, respectively. Who are these guys? How did I spend 12 years in Catholic school and never heard more than an utterance of their existence!? If fundamental Christians take the bible literally and think that all the other weird shit is real, then you can’t just pick and toss these guys (and possibly gals) aside.
– And much has been written about the inclusion of giants, watchers, fallen angles having sex with women, and potential extraterrestrials into the standard Biblical narrative. There are also several references to leviathans and dragons and all kinds of other crazy shit. Yeah, that stuff is kind of weird. Anyone that follows the fortean mindset understands the implications these make. But, then again, we have to ask ourselves…Is this all real? If we know the flood is real, and we believe the giants are real, then what makes us draw the line at Jesus? This is part of the reason I eventually had to give up on the show Ancient Aliens. The show’s internal logic gets fuzzy here.
– Most of what’s in the Bible can be divvied up into two categories; Religion vs. Spirituality. Religion is how you keep 40,000 people from killing each other while wandering around the desert. “Hey, quit stealing each other’s cows and fucking each other’s wives! We’re trying to read this map!” Dietary laws keep people from eating bad shellfish or undercooked pork. Spirituality, on the other hand, is all about making connections with the world and the people around you. The greatest schism I felt between the Old and New Testaments was the message of Love God vs. Love Man. The Bible today works as a seriously outdated code of laws, but as a spiritual text I think it still has some merit.
Look. I get why a lot of people thumb their noses at organized religion. Religion, is like fandom. You ever like a band, totally dig them and they mean the world to you. You’re the only one of your friends that’s really into them but these fuckers like mean the WORLD to you. Then you find out that band is coming to town and you get super fucking excited and you get your ticket and get a buddy. or the chick you’re seeing to go with you, if you buy the ticket, so you don’t have to go alone. Then the night of the concert comes and you’re so stoked you want to like fucking piss yourself and you go to the concert and you get there and buy your t-shirt and special tour edition 7″, or whatever and your girlfriend sticks them in her purse and you have a couple beers and this is the moment you’ve been waiting for…
And then the band comes out and not only do they kind of suck, but you start to notice everyone else in the crowd are complete and total douchebags? That shit happened to be with: The Hold Steady and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I think that happens a lot with people and religion too. We build it up, we expect too much, it doesn’t deliver like we expected, and the other fans are fucking annoying…
Some folks will criticize the Bible (and by extension the God contained within) as being responsible for much of the misery we see in today’s world. The separation of church and state is a novel one. Most nations align themselves with a religion that at least sprung forth from what we consider the Old Testament. Look, with all this stuff going on, all these characters and narratives and laws and exposition, it’s easy to pick out little details here and there and construct any narrative you want. Back in film school, we were given an editing project once, where we got a bunch of footage of a couple playing hide and seek. The assignment was to take the footage, and assemble the movie as you saw it unfold. Every student started with the same footage, but every student turned in a completely different edited film. People see the details they want to see, draw the conclusions that want to draw. That’s how one text can spawn so many different religions (not to mention sect, cults, ect). But, I cannot believe there is no value in this text. There are things in here worth saving, if only we took the time to read them and open our minds enough to understand them.
Because ultimately, mankind will look for spiritual salvation anywhere he can find it. The Bible is one of the bestselling books of all time? I wonder where all that money is going to…
It’s the early 80’s in upstate New York, and a down on his luck horror novelist by the name of Whitley Strieber has taken to hosting writer workshops in the basement of a VFW hall. Joel Olsteen and that Long Island Medium chick are both in attendance and the topic of discussion is, HP Lovecraft, and how his short stories spawned cults of fanatics that believe them to be the literal truth. Strieber, rubs his temples and Olsteen rambles on about the time he spent down in Lousiana with the mud people, who worship ancient gods, whose names don’t sound like words the human tongue was meant to pronounce when spoken aloud. The Long Island Medium chick, jumps in with an anecdote about a small fishing town on the coast of Maine she vaguely remembers visiting as a child.
Whitley Strieber sits back in his chair and thinks to himself, “There’s gotta be a better way to make a living…”