Sunday, 21 August 2011

A history of Neil in 100 objects - Object 6 - Bible


The Good book, God's Word, Holy Bible... the best selling book of all time. This book (or collection of books) has had more influence on western culture than all the other books in Waterstones put together.

I am estimating that I have owned about 15 copies of this book in my lifetime, I spent years in a shop selling it (who knows how many copies I helped sell, thousands maybe?), I have read it cover to cover twice, and read selected bits of it more than I have read anything else (And I include Roald Dahl in that).

This may well be the single most important book of my life, and yet it now resides gathering dust on the shelf, only being used for occasional reference purposes, much as I use the Official Scrabble Words book, or the Atlas.

As a child I had a simple Bible, a colourful rainbow on the cover made it look fun. I was taught the supposedly fun stories in Sunday school (although looking back some of them seem gruesome now), I moved on and in my teens found my own faith, joining an Evangelical Anglican church which stressed reading the Bible as the most important way to enhance your faith, I moved into charismatic circles where 'experience' of God was stressed, but still with the caveat that this experience had to be consistent with the Bible, otherwise it was probably fake, or maybe evil. I spent a year studying the Bible in a formal way with Moorlands Bible College while doing a year of youth work, and then, as I mentioned, I worked in a shop that sold a dizzying variety of Bibles.

It is hard to say when I first started to doubt the contents of the Bible, and I cannot do justice to the many factors that influenced me in a short blog post, but it was probably when I was reading the Bible the most, and trying to explain my beliefs and faith to other people that I started doubting it the most.

I remember saying to someone that I thought the letters of Paul in the New Testament were not as important than the Gospels, and that I did not like what he had to say, or his attitude, and this person got quite angry with me for saying this.

Bit by bit I started to either take a very liberal interpretation of bits of the Bible (helped along by the splendid community at the Ship of Fools website, but that is another post), or rejected them altogether.

At some point, and I don't know where this point came, I stopped believing. The Bible was confined to the shelf and my world view started to become shaped by other things - rational thought, common sense and critical thinking to name but three.

It is still there on the shelf, alongside my Guide to Urban Legends and the Oxford English Dictionary. Other than looking up a quote I can't imagine I will read much of it again, but it is there if I need it.

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