by Dee Newman
Recently, I was contacted by woman who expressed an interest in me. In the ensuing conversation she disclosed that her favorite book was the Bible. For those of you who know me well, I’m quite sure that you can easily surmise what the conversation was like and its ultimate outcome.
Though I knew (somewhere in the recesses of my brain) the possibility was slim to none, I mistakenly imagined that her interest in the Bible may be similar to mine, that is – a quest for knowledge and a desire to try and understand why so many seemingly intelligent and rational human beings in this day and time still are stuck in the "cave" with the Neanderthals, emotionally and morally unable to free themselves from fear and ignorance, unable to accept and take responsibility for being the evolved moral creatures we are, hanging on to a mythology that may, perhaps, have been appropriate during the “Dark Ages” when the mind of man remained limited in knowledge and understanding of the universe, but a mythology totally unacceptable today.
“Tell me,” I asked, “which books of the Bible are your favorites . . . the ones that describe our so-called creator as a manipulative and sadistic God with a serious personality disorder, demonstrating a pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior, using physical cruelty and violence for the purpose of establishing dominance, seeming to be amused by and taking pleasure in both the psychological and physical abuse and suffering of all living sentient creatures, frightening us humans with torture, intimidation, and terror in order to get us to do whatever "He" wants us to do, often for the expressed purpose of harming and inflicting pain on others (His and our imagined enemies), while at the same time directing us to live by a set of commandments that demand the opposite . . . Or, the ones that generally portray a loving God who sent "His" only begotten son to die on a cross and save us from our mortal sins, allowing us (as long as we believe and accept him as our savior) to disregard our responsibilities as evolved moral creatures?”
As you can well imagine, her response was rather defensive, offering a few lines of scripture to support her opinion that the God of her favorite book “is ready to pardon, is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.” Nehemiah 9:17
In addition, she suggested I read Hebrews 13:5 and Deuteronomy 31:6: where the God of her favorite book had promised that “He” would never leave her or forsake her.
I, of course, had to reply. I told her that I recognize that no one can form an honorable and accurate opinion about anything without first thoroughly examining it. I assured her that, yes, I had read her favorite book from cover to cover.
I went on to say, as someone who has existed on this planet nearly 66 years, I recognize through experience that many, if not most, folks, for whatever reasons, continue to develop their opinions (attitudes, beliefs, and judgments) about much of what they believe to be true through fear and ignorance. But, not me! Fear and ignorance sustain bigotry, I told her, which is an intolerable mind set that has caused much pain and suffering throughout the ages and will, perhaps, ultimately lead to the same fate for our species experienced by the pterodactyls.
Years ago, I told her, back in the 1950's in the little town of Norris, Tennessee where I was raised, I use to stay up with my mother late into the night and listen to WOR out of New York City and Long John Nebel's radio talk show. A frequent guest of his was a man by the name of Khigh Dheigh (pronounced "Kye Dee"). If you ever saw the original Manchurian Candidate, he was Dr. Yen Lo or if you ever watch Hawaii Five-O, he was Chinese agent Wo Fat.
Khigh Dheigh was not just an actor. He had a doctorate in theology and in his later years was the Rector for a Taoist Sanctuary in Tempe, Arizona called "Inner Truth Looking Place." Though there were many, the one phrase I heard him speak back in 1958 when I was only 14 years old that I have never forgotten was, "If you only know one religion you know none." From that point on I began a life quest to learn as much as I possibly could about all of the world’s religions.
So, as someone who is not unfamiliar with the Bible, I too, like Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) have found that "it ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."
For example, I asked her, (except for Noah and his family) why in Genesis 6-8 would a loving and compassionate God drown the entire population of the world (an estimated 200 million men, women and innocent children), along with millions and millions of other innocent creatures and make them suffer when a much less sadistic method of extermination was at “His” command? After all, an omnipotent God could have easily just snapped “His” fingers and made them all disappear.
Why, I asked, throughout the history of the world, has the “Omnipotent One” (if he truly exists outside the mind of man) chosen time and time again to not only exterminate millions of innocent men, women and children, but to do it in such a way that they must, before they die, endure unimaginable pain and suffering?
Why would an omnipotent God torture people, physically and emotionally, when “He” could easily change things to the way they should be in the blink of an eye? That is, unless, “He” really enjoys watching innocent men, women, and children (and other innocent creatures) suffer unspeakable agony.
Offering to her another example, I recounted the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 2:1-2, 6, 9, 10-12) where God orders Abraham to kill his son, Isaac, and present him as a "Burnt Offering." Though, I was sure she would be familiar with the story as any avid reader of the Bible would be, I continued with the narrative, describing how after Abraham ties Isaac to an alter (as he was instructed to do by God) with knife in hand, ready to kill his son, suddenly an angel appears and stops Abraham just in the nick of time, allowing Abraham to kill an innocent ram instead. I then asked her if she thought this story was about love and mercy, or about a very sadistic God trying to manipulate Abraham through fear . . . since in verse 12 the angel says, "now I know that thou fearest God"?
Speculating a loud, I wondered . . . how many people who believe in the God of her favorite book, The Holy Bible, would kill one of their children if God told them to? And, for that matter, what God, worthy of our respect and admiration, would ask anyone to do such a thing?
I asked her if she had ever read Romans 13: 2, Psalms 2: 8, or Deuteronomy 7: 1-2 and 20: 10-17 where the God of her favorite Book ordered and authorized genocide and the pillaging of others?
Or, if she had ever read the entire book of Jerimiah where the God of her favorite book ordered and authorized torture, dismemberment, pestilence, and cannibalism? If not, she should read it and then tell me with a straight face that the God of her favorite book is a kind, merciful, and loving deity.
By now, it should be obvious to anyone reading this account that, though this woman and I may have had much in common, any attempt to establish a meaningful relationship with her would have been for naught.