When I told my friends that I was reading the Bible cover-to-cover, an expression of worried nausea inevitably crossed their faces. It was as if I'd said, "Fellas, I'm gay, and damnit I'm not ashamed to tell you!"... only much worse. A homosexual you can beat to death with a baseball bat and the problem's solved. But a Christian is impossible to kill, like George Romero's zombies. The whole point of a Christian's existence is to get martyred, so killing one only makes it grow stronger, sprouts another hundred zombies in its place; on the other hand, if you don't kill a Christian, then they don't shut up about the Book of Revelations and how everything that's happening today has been foretold. Everyone's sat next to a Christian at least once in their lives and had to listen to their drivel. Once, on a flight to Las Vegas, I had a Christian sit next to me and tell me that the European Union was foretold as a sign of the Apocalypse, something about fifteen members as each horn on the devil or stars in some constellation or something... You know that the EU expansion will have been foretold in the Bible too, as was the WTC attack, the war in Iraq, Putin's rise to power, the Slavneft auction, the price of whores at Night Flight and so on. The Book of Revelations is just Nostradamus for wage earners- meaning the majority of idiots, as opposed to the minority.
Secular humanists tend to believe that the Bible has some kind of viral-infection power. That the very act of reading the Bible almost ensures that you'll be infected by Christianity, and you'll never be the same again-or that the act of reading the Bible is the last symptom of decay and mental illness.
Folks, reading the Bible is not in the least bit dangerous to a healthy nihilist, trust me. The Bible is aesthetically primitive, mostly boring with a few great chapters, but compared to the truly sublime culture and literature of that time - the ancient Greeks - the Jews were just hicks with a lot of energy, nothing like the Jews of today.
At times the Bible makes for decent toilet reading - The Iliad is too complex, the Greek gods too interwoven and profound to resonate during a five minute shit, whereas the Bible is so simple, its tales so easy to follow, that a Bible-reading-shit-a-day is reasonably satisfying. The bummer about the Bible is that it is much more interesting interpreted through others - Dostoevsky, Philip K Dick - than in the original.
In the interests of disclosure, I should note that I am a Jew with Catholic blood. I spent more time as a child in various houses of worship than most people. As a Jew I went first to a Reform synagogue, then forced my parents to move me to an Orthodox synagogue because I hated all the guitar-strumming hippies in the Reform one; I attended an Episcopalian chapel every morning for four years, ages 6-9; I spent at least one Sunday a month at a Catholic church since all of my childhood friends were either Irish, Mexican or Sicilian; and one grandmother who was born half-Catholic later converted to Bahai, a Persian sect, which makes me I guess one-fourth Bahai. Even within my Jewish family I'm part Sephardic and part Ashkenazi, which inspired violent storms of cross-family intra-ethnic anti-Semitism on a scale you mere European anti-Semites couldn't possibly imagine. You're all a bunch of fuckin amateurs.
I first got interested in the Bible when I lived in Kentucky and my friend Allie passed on an expensive Bible as a gift, the type with gold-trim pages and soft-leather covers and all kinds of illustrations. Allie told me that it cost 70 dollars. I've read it now cover-to-cover, and now I'm going to review it just in time for Jesus's birthday. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of space due to the glut of ads this issue, so I'll just keep my review down to a few salient points.
If you were to boil down the Bible to one theme, it would be Jewish self-hatred. All the problems that befall the Jews in the Old Testament are due to the Jews' ingratitude, deceitfulness and unfaithfulness. The New Testament is little more than Jewish self-hatred apotheosized: oh, we've finally done it now! We done gone 'n killed God hi'self! Now we REALLY have a reason to hate ourselves! Yippee!
The main difference between Old and New is that the Old Testament is racism raised to a level unimaginable in our time, whereas the New Testament reserves all its racism for Jews. The Old T's racism is a primitive, tribal racism, a racism common to its time but so dangerous today. Over and over and over, Yahweh tells the Jews to exterminate all the non-Jewish people in the land of Israel. When the Jews don't exterminate every last Chaldean or Moabite or whatever, Yahweh gets pissed off and strikes them down with a massive military defeat, or expulsion, or a venal king or a famine or something horrible. Then the Jews wail and crawl back to Yahweh, who says, "Didn't I tell you to exterminate the [name of neighboring desert tribe]." Jews: [shame-faced] "Yes, sorry Yahweh." Yahweh: "Okay, this time I'll let you off the hook, but promise me you'll exterminate your neighbors!" Jews: "Well, okay, we swear." Naturally the Jews don't exterminate all of them, they even inter-marry some, or turn to worship Baal or some other tribe's god, and then, well, look what happens: another round of misery and misfortune. If you want to understand why the Israeli religious right (and the American religious right for that matter) is so hell-bent on exterminating the Palestinians, look no further than the Old Testament. It's all there, clear as day: all Jewish misfortune and pain comes from not exterminating their neighbors. Yahweh is the first great genocide-cheerleader.
There are really two great sins that the Jews commit over and over and over in the Old Testament: not exterminating their neighbors, and backstabbing Yahweh. In fact, Jews-as-backstabbers is an entirely Jewish invention. The Old Testament is the ultimate expression of Jewish self-hatred as well as Jewish self-love. If you don't understand this about Jews, their obsession with self-hatred and self-love, then you won't understand the Bible, you'll misread it as some kind of metaphysical enigma. As poet Robert Pinsky once said, "Every Jew thinks every other Jew is either too Jewish or not Jewish enough."
Is it a good book? The Old Testament has some interesting moments, especially as it approaches something of a Kafka voice and narrative. Genesis has the spare, creepy nihilism of Kafka, while Job is the closest thing to modern literature. Judges, Samuel and Kings are clearly the height of the book's aesthetic, coinciding with the height of Jewish national power. In those three books there are real, memorable stories there that evoke a strange half-familiar world with a common thread of brutality, frailty, heroism, betrayal and stupidity. The stories of King Saul and David are about as close to a second-rate competitor with ancient Greek literature as you'll find. Ecclesiastes (not to be confused with Ecclesiasticus, which sucksius assius) is the funniest, most eXile-ish book. It starts out like this: "Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile! What profit can we show for all our toil, toiling under the sun?" And from there, it doesn't come to some kind of religious epiphany or happy ending, but rather sticks with the theme that all is useless so you may as well drink, fuck and give up hope: "One dead fly/can spoil the scent-maker's oil:/a grain of stupidity/outweighs wisdom and glory."
And this is where the Old Testament starts getting crazy. As the Jews' fortunes go from bad to worse in the last couple hundred years before Christ, the volume of loony self-hatred ratchets up to ear-piercing pitch. Pages and pages of horrible verse (Psalms) and incredibly primitive proverbs (Proverbs, Wisdom, etc) finally devolve into sheer torrents of anger and self-hatred, nay, anti-Semitism at its shrillest. Remember Samuel Jackson's line about the shepherd and the valley of darkness and his furious anger before plugging those skate rats? That's Ezekiel, when Yahweh has had enough of Jews and rants and raves and screams about how he's gonna fuck the Jews up big-time! He's gonna git medieval on the Jews' asses! Yeah! And they's gonna be a savior comin' too to set y'all's straight.
This is when the apotheosis of Jewish self-hatred arrives: The New Testament.
When it comes to a book that makes you really hate Jews, the New Testament has no equal. I cannot understand, reading it now, how anyone can pretend that the Jews don't come off as the greatest villains in the history of mankind, and that the New Testament isn't the source and the end-all in Jew-hatred propaganda. The Koran has nothing of the sort of Jew-hatred that the New Testament has-which might explain why Jews were always much better off under Islamic rule than under Christian rule until recently. Then again, Jews wrote the New Testament, and like I said, there's no anti-Semitism like Jewish self-hatred, which is what lies at the heart of the New Testament.
I want to repeat this: In terms of sheer anti-Semitism-inspiring power, the New Testament makes Mein Kampf look like The Nanny. I've read Mein Kampf, and I gotta tell ya, I was expecting that book to be a lot more evil than it was. Hitler comes off as just a whiny fag; if he were born today, he'd have a Robert Smith hairdo and a stack of Depeche Mode records. The case Hitler makes against the Jews pales in comparison to the case that Jews make against themselves in the New Testament. Hitler would be booed off the stage of a Jewish self-hating convention; he'd get beaned with pomegranates and hooked with a shepherd's crook in the middle of his act. Hitler whines about the Jews being rich, manipulative backstabbers. Well boo-fucking-hoo, Adolf! You sound like a fucking taxi driver! After a few chapters of Mein Kampf, instead of getting some kind of evil rush, I wanted to say, like Hans and Franz, "Oo, listen to ze little girlie-girl Hitler who cahn't even handle ze juden beekahz zey haff ze mah-nee. Vhat's za matter, afraid aff a few juden, huh, girlie-girl?"
Mein Kampf is Sesame Street anti-Semitism, which is why it didn't last more than a generation. But accuse Jews over and over of killing God's own son, as the Jews do in the New Testament, and then you've got an anti-Semitism that lasts thousands of years - which is really what the Jews of that time dreamed of. You can almost see them leaping in their sandals and giving each other high-fives for finally having found the ultimate expression of Jewish self-hatred. What Christian wouldn't run amok through the Jewish ghetto burning everyone alive after reading the Gospels? Any sane man would kill the murderers of his own son. But the murderers of God's son... you'd do more than just kill them! You'd... you'd... well, just look at history and you know what you'd do: just what the Christians have done.
Given the New Testament's driving force, why is it that we pretend that Christianity isn't dangerous and evil, but Nazism is? It's not as though Christians don't have a comparable Jew-kill record to match Hitler's. Beats me... but all I know is that I'm probably setting myself and millions of other Jews up for a helluva pogrom just by a talking about this. (Which means I'm just dabbling in good ol' Jewish self-hatred of the sort that produced Christianity.)
A few other comments about the New Testament: before reading it I seemed to remember, from all my years in churches, that Jesus was a pretty nice guy and I really felt sorry for him, especially the massive Jesus on the cross that I'd stare at in Sacred Heart Church. Not after reading the Gospels. Jesus is...scary. He makes the world out to be a horrible place and says things like "To him who has much he will have everything; to him who has little he will have nothing." He's pissed off in that quiet, elliptical way that makes you worried and keeps things tense. I'd like to stay out of his way, but according to him, you can't. Each and every one of us is standing in the headlights of Jesus's Peterbilt. And each of us is like Dennis Weaver from that first Spielberg movie - except that Jesus's truck would reappear even after crashing over the cliff. And that scares me. And billions of people before me.
Other observations: the Gospels are kind of an interesting read. There's a point in the first three gospels where Jesus, dying on the cross, suddenly takes back everything he's said about being the son of god and cries: "Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?" Which means, "Okay, forget what I said! I got a little carried away! Now someone get a ladder and a pair of pliers and get me offa this fucking thing! I don't wanna die!!!"
Then there's Acts, the tale of how the first proselytizers spread Christianity. In fact Acts is mankind's first door-to-door sales handbook. Ever wonder why Middle American Christians are both so devout and such tireless salesmen? It's all here: Peter and Paul going door-to-door hawking their Amway religion to any sucker they can. The more you sell, the more sub-salesmen you get working underneath you in your pyramid scheme, the closer you get to heaven. Acts is also where expressions like "brother" and "the Way" [ie Christianity] get introduced, just in case you're wondering.
All in all you'd be better off reading the ancient Greeks than this lumbering miserable book. Judeo-Christianity is the invention of such a primitive, third-rate imagination compared to what the ancient Greeks had cooked up that it absolutely boggles the mind to think that the Bible won out over Plato and Sophocles. While Paul was running around using logic to "prove" that Jesus was the son of God, the Greeks had already postulated the existence of atoms, the circumference of earth, medicine, Rhetoric, and had already written the greatest books, plays, poems and gross-out humor [Aristophanes as the eXile's first prophet] of all time. The Greeks made you think, stimulated the imagination, gave color to the world and form to what was inchoate; the Bible edits out nearly everything in life and presents a primitive, simple, bitter version of existence that makes you want to murder and die.
If you really want to understand the Bible, see The Life of Brian and buy Sam Kinison's "Louder Than Hell" album. If you read the Bible, you will come no closer to understanding human stupidity, but you'll feel much worse about mankind than ever before. Perhaps an apocalypse wouldn't be such a bad thing.
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