I have been baptized a Catholic, and I grew up among Lutheran country folk. My social situation, though, was not such that any upright Christian, or any righteous Philistine, for that matter, would have approved of my existence at that time. My mother did have to leave home and had trouble finding a flat thanks to that unaccounted-for belly of hers. According to the doctrines, I was… I am the product of sin, and no matter what the New Testament says about forgiveness or first stones — Jesus, basically, was a funny-dressed guy sharing space with some sheep on a cheesy picture above the sofa — the Old Man In The Clouds wasn’t as merciful as the Bible, according to the priests, propagates. What it takes denominations for, I couldn’t tell anyway. As a result, I came to a similar view like Jeremy Taylor, an Anglican cleric, who wrote in his “Polemical discourses” in 1674,
“That the Scriptures do not contain in them all the necessary to salvation, is the fountain of many great and capital errors; I instance in the whole doctrine of the Libertines, Familists, Quakers, and other enthusiasts, which issue from this corrupted fountain.”
At a later point, I guess it was around 7th grade, I heard, through a Catholic teacher, of the idea that the scriptures were not to be taken literally, and that God was not some remote person, but he was present in everything, and even later, that he WAS everything. I neither realized that I had been introduced to the concepts of Animism and Spirituality, nor what was the difference between the two. I mean, it DOES make a difference whether it is about the wine in the bottle, and the bottle, as every environmentalist grievingly must accept, does not seize to exist after the wine starts to animate a human being instead, or if we are talking about the bottle as such and it vanishes with the spirit.
Words, I gradually found out, are a tricky thing describing a no-less-tricky reality, whatever that is. I guess that was when I began to understand how sarcasm works. Though I took some of its products way too literally. The cynical mind of the rational person makes religious texts sound pretty weird, like:
“CHRISTIANITY — the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.” (taken from Urban dictionary)
As we are almost completely disconnected from the culture and conditions that created the Bible, it is hard to tell what the source actually said when it talked about Trinity, Heaven and stuff. Words, what do they mean anyway? Tyranny, racism, sexism, war, slavery, depletion, exploitation — name anything that has not been justified by God’s supposed will as stated in the Bible.
What is needed to have truth speak from any text, of course, is, to approach the text with the right mind, a mind that is open to the kind of experience, or insight, which a source is talking about. A spiritual mind alone can make proper use of a religious text, like a rational mind alone can fully understand a scientific paper.
So readers got to be willing to go through the inquiring exercise themselves. Sam Coleridge, in a marginal note to Taylor’s above statement, put it aptly so in 1811:
“As I cannot think that it detracts from a dial that in order to tell the time the sun must shine upon it, so neither does it detract from the scriptures, that tho’ the best and holiest, they are yet scripture – & require a pure heart & the consequent assistances of God’s entlightening Grace in order to understand them to edification. And what more does the Quaker say? He will not call the written words of God the Divine WORD: & he does rightly.”–A book I value; sel. marginalia by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; ed. by H. J. Jackson, 2003
While different, “foreign”, angles of attack can produce interesting insights, the core message only reveals itself with a matching key to its interpretation and an understanding of the diversity of truth’s expression.
Therefore, if you approach the Bible text from a Hindu or Buddhist point of view, it begins to make way more sense than when following Western de-spirited, exclusivist trains of thought — including theology. There are less contradictions and more points one can relate to as a modern person. The text would only indicate a truth (‘metaphorical‘ doesn’t fully describe its functioning) which can be verified by anybody anywhere through exercises of introspective contemplation, rather than stating the truth in and by itself.
Whereas, to me, the Dalai Lama makes for a better Bible interpreter than the Pope himself, the rationalistic worldview completely fails to grasp the inner meaning of the texts (because, in science, there exists no meaning). The analysis in terms of mere historicity and function opens the gate for cynical reading. At best it results in puzzlement, or in sarcastic rephrasings like the one above. And hey, they can be quite funny. I did laugh hard on reading it for the first time, though I liked the following even better:
“God is dead.” –Nietzsche“Nietzsche is dead.” –God