It amazes me as an Atheist how much of my life still gets entangled in the church and all things religious. I had a rather fascinating adventure a month ago in the form of going bible shopping with a uber-Christian friend. She wanted to purchase a bible as a gift and I thought it would be interesting so I trotted along for the ride.

First, let me tell you there are few things scarier in life than Christian book stores. Brothels, strip clubs, and a dark alley on Detroit’s 8 Mile Road at 1am ain’t got nothin’ in the fear factor department over a Bible Beater Depot. I had less panic during a car wreck when the fire department had to use the jaws-of-life to extract me from the carnage (which didn’t work, another story for another time) than I did during my visit to the Wonderland of the Word.

In case you haven’t been to one before, let me set the scene: Strip mall. Florescent lighting. Potpouri wafting through the air to greet you as you enter the door which jingles ever so lightly with little sparkly chimes, which coincides nicely with the orf instrument serenade of Amy Grant’s Greatest Christian Hits that is playing over the store speakers. Prominent angel display (aaahh!) at 9 o’clock. Children’s Christian literature lurks at 2 o’clock. And at 7:15, sneaky buggers, the Heroes of the Bible action figures hide in your blind spot. Actually, add some crystals, faeries and herbs and it would’ve looked a lot like this hippy bookstore I know of in Traverse City, MI.

The store clerks are terribly pleasant. They all possess the same standard issue pants, turtleneck, flowered vest, and badly permed hair topped off with a delicate silver cross at their throat. And no, I didn’t burst into flames at the sight of it…I just wished I did, so to hurry things along I inquired where I could find a bible.

“Which one, dear?”

“Which one? This is a Christian book store right? I’m not looking for a copy of the Torah.”

“No, dear, I meant what kind of bible are you looking for? King James and New King James are second row on the right, followed by Study Bibles in the third row, followed by New American Standard, New American Bible, then the Living Bible in the last row. On the left you’ll find the NLV’s, followed by the Chronological, the Red Letter, Giant Print, and Interlinear. Self Pronouncing and Verse are along the wall to the left, the RSV’s, NRSV’s and the New Jerusalem bible are along the back wall, and the mix of other bibles are along the right wall. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, just let one of us know.”

By this time, I was having a strange flashback to 11 years ago when I was lost driving in East Texas along a road where I saw no less than 7 different Baptist Churches in three miles. Literally, they were all different kinds of Baptist Churches and they all had their own radio station. I hadn’t realized that Baptists were that divided.

Makes you think if maybe the Muslims aren’t on to something insisting that the Qu’ran never be altered, but then you still have Shi’a and Sunni, fundamentalists and others. I can see going bat-crap crazy over all this business. I went to Ask.com and typed in “How many types of bibles are there?” and the first response was a website that read: “There is an overwhelming number of bible types and translations”. A visit to Amazon.com and I stopped counting at 30.

My friend ended up purchasing a lovely leather bound NLV edition as the present. I asked her why she preferred that interpretation over others and she responded “It’s easier to read, to follow, I don’t know, the language is more…what would be the word for ‘common’?”

“Colloquial?”

“Yeah, that’s it. I don’t feel like I have to work as hard.”

This, I find interesting. As much as I disbelieve in any religion, I am often awe struck by the simple presence of faith in some persons. On hand, I appreciate people who study religion because I think if you’re going to live your life that way, you need to earn the knowledge, earn the wisdom. On the other hand, however, I think religion would be much more palatable if such ridiculous and elaborate belief systems weren’t built around them. Hence, this categorization of “God’s Word” diced up and autopsied among all these different types of bibles only serves to confuse and embattle people of this nature.

As a former Catholic school girl of 13 very long years, I could never figure out why all these Christian sects couldn’t get their shit together when so very little separates them at heart. Now it makes perfect sense: when any yahoo with a printing press can publish their own version of the bible, it muddies the waters and makes it scary to swim.

“I proclaim Jesus brushed his teeth with his left hand!”

“Dash, fool! No he didn’t! He brushed with his right!”

“Well, Holy War on you then!”

e e cummings wrote a simple and lovely verse once that I think ought be taught to persons of all faith: “who ever pays any attention to the syntax of things, will never wholly kiss you”

God is in the details? I doubt it. I live without God or any idea of God, so my belief system centers around some basic principals: don’t lie, cheat, or steal and treat people how you yourself would like to be treated. Can any religion really improve upon that? Do you really need a bible of 774,000 words, 66 books, 1189 chapters, and 31,173 versus to explain it to you?

Advertisements