Saturday, October 23, 2010
Books in Review- The Bible
There are very few books that can rival the historical and cultural importance of the Bible so I thought I might read it from cover to cover and see what all the fuss is about.
Honestly aside from the literal inconsistencies and the need for a deep seeded suspension of disbelief I thought the Bible was a quality supernatural thriller to the core and a fantastic allegory for mans ability to inflict suffering on himself.
The main character in the book (God) is cleverly disguised as the all knowing, all loving maker of man to the protagonist, but he is clearly established as villain to the reader within a few short pages.
His Machiavellian scheme to create man as an Orwellian plaything for his own cruel purpose is sheer genius of story writing. It is a tale akin to Frankenstein's monster, where the monster is man as he attempts to live up to the cruel dictates of a master who created him to be unable to do so. This is evident from the very beginning as the author shows us that man is created with no understanding of right and wrong (genesis) but is still punished for disobeying the edicts of his nefarious creator.
You can almost hear Gods villainous laughter over the manipulation of man whom he created to fall for these evil traps and you can't help but wonder how he will escape such tyranny with the odds stacked so heavily against him. It is in this portion of the story that Gods complex cohort, and double agent Lucifer, is introduced seemingly to help man in his plight. He is presented to the reader as the scheming villain while he reveals Gods adroit lie regarding the tree of knowledge but quickly we can see how he is Gods accomplice in his scheme to manipulate and humiliate man for own sick pleasure. Lucifer's right hand man, the snake, helps nudge Adam through Eve (the first members of our protagonist group, “mankind” that we meet) into the trap set for them by convincing them to defy the rules and eat from the forbidden tree. He persuades them to eat the fruit so that they too can be Gods, and not knowing right from wrong, they do it.
God’s cruel plan is fulfilled and they both settle back for a good laugh at mans expense.
We are left to chuckle to ourselves as we see the humour injected in the story of our creation as he punishes them for breaking a law that they never understood was wrong. Man is sentenced to hard labour for eternity, women are sentenced to have painful childbirth woven into their design, and for the agent of Lucifer a symbolic punishment was needed to maintain the illusion of opposition to god, so the snake was cursed to crawl on its belly for all its days. Clearly this is not really much of a punishment for a snake but it is the first good humour in the book to see the snake penalized in such an overtly favourable way. This humourous irony in consequence seems to show the collusion between the antagonists against man.
The double veneer and genius in manipulation continues without much subtlety for hundreds of pages. If you are squeamish in reading about murder, selling daughters into the sex trade, human sacrifice, war, plunder, genocide, rape, infant killings, and slavery then this book may not be for you as the bible can't seem get enough of it. The masterwork of this manipulation of man comes with the fact that he now knows what good is (the forbidden tree of knowledge gave him that skill), but God still is able to convince him to partake in these terrible, immoral and sometimes nonsensical things (do not wear clothes of many fabrics?!?) in the name of love and goodness. He is like a used car salesman in that he seems to be able to cover his motives for evil so well as to bring all of mankind to his cause and convince us to buy Kia for the same price as a Mercedes. This gives the antagonist much pleasure and helps to build our sympathy for a protagonist who is doomed to play the part as marionette to a wicked puppeteer in this tragic tale.
When Gods schemes become too great and bring the world to a state of toiling in its own filth, god kills them all to wipe all evidence of his crimes with a flood and starts all over with only a very naive Noah and his family to repopulate. (With clearly no knowledge of what "incest" means)
The book slows down from time to time with a bit of drudgery as the author seems to enjoy his genealogy, but it picks back up again with the story and all its violence and unprecedented lust (the song of Solomon is NOT for the prudish!) very shortly after.
I don't want to give away the whole story of manipulation and deception, but suffice to say that in the second book God tries a new and far more subtle tactic. The genius in this new approach is that when the reader begins to find the burden of suspension of disbelief too heavy to carry, and just when he feels like Gods immorality and violence is too much for man to continue believing that God is motivated by good, he changes his approach and sends his son with his message of “peace”. Jesus takes an outwardly gentler hand that has us falling right back in line alongside man for a while. Jesus’ motivation is given away to the reader only when, after selling his message of peace, he surprises you by reinforcing all of God's old rules. Now with the message of peace and the continued violence from the old laws, confusion begins to grow for man.
At the end of this tragedy all of the people that remain loyal to the cruel joke in hope of the reward that God promises are guerdoned with the "rapture". This is the ultimate realization of the tragedy as the raptured are not rewarded at all for their loyalty to their tyrant god but instead sent to an alternate dimension to continue to toil in the ego of their tormentor's selfish entertainment for all time. Those who choose not to accept his conditional, “unconditional” love find themselves in a sadistic torture pit of his making. This is the terrible secret of the book that, with God in the picture, we lose either way.
It is certainly an epic in terror and genius in character development in its portrayal of man as the eternal victim of his own making. My only real issue are the constant inconsistencies. Dates are not the same from one chapter to another, numbers of generations counted are wrong from page to page, laws and rules contraindicate, and accounts of story vary greatly depending on the author of a given chapter (The apostles). I can forgive much of this in the name of poetic license but a greater hand could have been taken in the editing process.
In the end if you are looking for a book that will bring you to the edge of your seat with terror, lust to your loins for the unbridled sexuality, rage to the fore of your emotions for the injustice and to bring tears of sympathy for mans plight to your heart, this is the book for you.
Quite simply it has all the makings of a great Roman Polanski film. Murder, conniving schemes, a powerful villain, lust, sex, sacrifice, betrayal and the hope of redemption that never comes fill this book from beginning to end.
If you can see into the allegory for our own existence and our tendency as man to work against our own best interests and past the blood and gore, then this book is a great cautionary tale. A tale that warns us of our own self destructive tendencies (represented by god) and our ability to follow without thought the edicts of an absolute morality that we seem to crave.
I give it 3 out of 5 stars with a bonus star for historical significance for a total of 4 /5.
Now back to the reading and my next project, Dianetics!
Jesus dies on page 681......
(Published in American Atheist magazine's Aug 2010 Edition)