Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Little About Me

Who am I and why do I want to read the King James Bible?
My name is Bruce and I'm 49, married, and live in Chicago.  I was raised Catholic but am now an Atheist.

When I was young, I went to Catholic elementary school and served as an altar boy for several years before heading into public high school, a local community college, and finally, graduating from a Catholic university.  My family was very involved in the church.  My mother was the first female to read from the gospel at our church back in the early 1970's.  It was very controversial  at the time but seems very benign now.  After mass on Sundays, my family, along with others, would gather at the church rectory for a pot luck lunch.  I was amazed that the priests would smoke, drink scotch and watch football with the other men at lunch.  Work one hour a week, then party.  I wanted to be part of this outfit!

When I was a child I was very curious about anything supernatural.  Ghosts, UFOs,  Bigfoot.  If there was a blurry photo of it, I believed in it.  My mother wanted me to be an oceanographer or work for NASA.  She tried to explain to me that my belief in these things was silly because there was absolutely no evidence that they existed.  A blurry photo or witness testimony was not evidence.  I resisted for many years but eventually saw her point of view.  My mom was happy when I gave up my silly beliefs, until I started asking questions about god.

To be continued...
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  1. Great idea, Bruce! I've added your blog to my feeds and hope to follow along.

    Both of my parents were Christian (one roman catholic, one methodist), but they were awesome enough to not push their beliefs on me. I dabbled in paganism before giving up the ghost and calling myself an atheist. However, because of my background, I never had much exposure to any bible version. I'm excited to have an excuse to become more bible literate.

    Hopefully the discussions here will stay constructive and I hope you stick with it!

  2. I'm curious, how much do you know about the bible going in to this? How much of it have you read before? Do you know anything about its history? Have you read any christian apologetics or other interpretations of scripture?

    I'm an atheist and I've never managed to get through the whole book, to my shame, so I think this is an interesting idea.

  3. cmalachi, I read up to Numbers last year before burning out. I've read a fair amount of the Bible over my lifetime. I took several classes on religion when I attended a Catholic university so I feel I'm very well versed on the dogma.
    Thanks for posting and I hope we can learn something from this project!

  4. TempestBrewer, I hope we stick with it also!
    My parents were the same as yours, they encouraged their kids to explore the world and never really tried to stifle our beliefs. My mom was not very happy when I first started questioning our faith, but she accepted it and encouraged my education, no matter where it led.

  5. I'm so in!

    I love the Bible! I grew up Catholic as well and, as most Catholics, didn't have much of a relationship with the Bible. I became a devout Evangelical Christian as a teenager. I did a lot of Bible study and knew the Bible was supposed to be the guide for my life but it took a lot of mental gymnastics to square the words with what I knew as Christianity. It was mostly a producer of cognitive dissonance.

    Now, as an atheist, I think the Bible is a fascinating collection of literature. It is far more interesting to read it in its proper historical and cultural context than to try and warp and mangle it in order to make it seem as though it was written for a modern American Christian.

    I have several lecture series on The Old and New Testaments by professors that teach them from a non-religious perspective. I'd be more than happy to share if someone can suggest a good way to share files for free. They are a huge help in understanding what the authors of the Bible really mean, who they are writing for, why they are writing, what is the context. It makes a great contrast with the traditional Christian interpretations and illuminates misconceptions and contradictions.

  6. Great idea, I'll be tagging along. I'm an atheist and have been as long as I can remember - my patents left me to make up my own mind on these matters and my father's scientific, inquisitive approach to the world rubbed off on me a lot more strongly than my mother's mild Christian leanings. I studied a great deal of religion during my philosophy degree and have read more of the Bible than most, but still not cover to cover so this will be a great revision exercise. Looking forward to it :-)

  7. I'm an atheist as well, also raised Catholic. I've never actually read the bible, but attended church regularly as a kid. So I've probably heard the gospels recited often enough for those 4 books to count, at least. I haven't had any exposure to the KJV, though. I didn't enjoy what I heard of it while under the assumption that it was nonfiction. As a morality tale wrapped up in a fantasy epic, though, it should be a great read.

  8. This sounds like a fun project. Since this seems to be the introduction thread: I'm an atheist dating a nice Catholic boy. I blog about our philosophical and theological disagreements at

  9. I'm another atheist with a keen interest in the Bible. I am actually big on the Documentary Hypothesis and general textual criticism- trying to figure out the individual sources that happened to be placed together to become the block of texts we call The Bible.

    I was never Christian (I was raised secularly but have Catholic heritage) and my original knowledge of the Bible was limited to what filters into the American public conciousness. Having read the first 8 books (and a few gospels), I get the feeling that the general public has an incredibly distorted view of the text.

    For starters, Christians focus very narrowly on the weird myths that make up the 1st half of Genesis. The rest of the OT is quite different. Within the Bible, the Exodus story is far more important than Adam and Eve.

    Christianity promotes a very distorted view of the Hebrew Bible (it's all a prequel to Jesus!) and this is unfortunately (but inevitably) reflected in the opinions most Atheist hold about it. It's not the Bible's fault Christian's bastardized it!

  10. Looking forward to this project. I'm not sure I have the chops for the King James Version, but will be following along with the English Standard Version.

  11. Very interesting idea. I was raised Southern Baptist but have always held a fondness for science and reason. Looking back, the dogma never really sat right with me though I tried endlessly to compartmentalize and square the circle. Eventually after getting married and moving out, having the outside pressures and expectation distanced allowed me to finally be myself and see it for what it really is.

  12. just answering to roll call. i'm another formerly religious person turned atheist. i have read the bible twice, and studied religions extensively in college but more from a psychological / anthropomorphic lens since by that time i already considered myself an agnostic.

    i am especially looking forward to moving through this time as part of a community instead of an individual as i have in the past. i look forward to seeing all the comments and points of view the subscribers have to offer.

  13. @Barbara: the ancient cosmology here is that there is a huge inverted bowl (the "firmament") over a disc-shaped earth. The stars are thought of as fixed in the bowl and the bowl rotates about an axis through the North Star. The word "firmament" will occur a lot, so I thought the question worth answering. (Can I put Hebrew Unicode in the combox?)

  14. @Adam: the word "and" (which will also occur a lot) is the KJB way of translating a construction called "vav-consecutive."

    Classical Hebrew has two aspects (like Russian) called perfective and imperfective. In general, verbs in the perfective aspect denote action in the past and verbs in the imperfective aspect denote action in the future. But if you want to describe action that took place in the past but in an imperfective manner or perfective action in the future, you use the pseudo-conjunction vav-consecutive.

  15. Darn, wrong thread. The two previous comments are answers to questions posed on thread #3.

  16. I'm in! I read through most of the Bible as a Christian. I feel like the parts that I've read again recently I've seen with 'new eyes'. It's pretty amazing what a little change in perspective will do.

  17. Okay, I'll introduce. I'm the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister (you know those PKs are always trouble!) but we didn't actually have much religion in our house when I was growing up. Oddly, I guess. I mean, we said grace and obviously went to church, but when we had problems we didn't pray about them or anything.

    My mother really raised me to be a free-thinker (about everything but religion) and it was only a matter of time before I applied the skepticism I had about other things to religion. It was a slow process, starting when I was 6 and a church member told me there were no dinosaurs because they're not in the Bible, and ending during a college class on apocalyptic tradition in which the professor very matter-of-factly presented both the books of Daniel and Revelation as purely propaganda literature written for a certain population at a certain time. Seeing someone simply and unapologetically present the bible as a work of fiction and literature was the final eye-opening moment for me.

    But I agree with Brian, I absolutely love the Bible for it's insight into the people who wrote it. The ideas these people came up with changed the world and have had long-lasting significance and I'm fascinated by that.

  18. Thought I'd hop on the introduction wagon. I'm 34 (I just outlived Jesus!) and an Atheist, married to an "Atheist fundamentalist." I was raised without any religion--the closest thing to what I was taught is the movie Defending Your Life. That and a handful of Americanized Buddhist ideas. I somehow acquired a veneer of Christianity from somewhere--possibly my grandmother, who I vaguely remember took me to church once or twice, or from the vacation bible school I attended with the neighbors kids (all the other kids went and I desperately wanted to do whatever they were doing). I ended up spending two years in a private Seventh day Adventist school as it seemed a better option than the public middle school at the time.

    I spent most of my life searching--I went through dozens of varieties of Christianity, did a stint in the Neo-Pagan/Wiccan areas, and even ended up in what was practically a secular cult. Finally was able to kick the habit in my 30s, and am much happier. I've always wanted to read the Bible cover to cover, but gah, it's so weighty and stupid. I've never gotten past...well, as far as we've gotten so far.

    Very excited to read along! I will probably lurk more than I comment because I have a new baby and thus do most of my surfing on my iphone while feeding him--and it's hard to comment on that thing!

  19. Until I was 9, I was raised in some moderate (??) form of Christianity in the Pacific Northwest. I can remember a Baptist church, and the last one we attended was an Assembly of God. (Yes, they spoke in tongues, but only during prayer, and no "holy rolling". I didn't know what "holy rolling" was until a few years ago.) I mostly attended because most of my friends went there--we lived in a really small town--and we got candy for memorizing scripture.

    Unrelated to my non-belief, but totally related to our lack of attending church, my father died in December of 1989, and after that we never really attended again. My now ex-step-father (the man I call my dad) didn't attend church, and a few years ago I found out he's really something of a Deist. Thanks to our non-attendance of church, we have a myriad of views within our family: my younger two siblings are atheist (don't know that it really means much to them one way or another), my older sister is a Pagan, my mom is still a Christian (though still doesn't attend church or pray or anything; after my atheist revelation, she started saying, "Thank God" more frequently, though), and I am an atheist. I'm pretty sure my older brother is a Christian, but like our dad, he doesn't really have anything to do with it one way or another.

    In high school, I addressed the idea a little. I attended my then-boyfriend/now-husband's Methodist church and also my best friend's LDS church. I came to the conclusion that believing for the reason of "What if it's true?" made no sense and wasn't true belief; I had never heard of Pascal's Wager. By that time, I was really a non-believer, but I didn't really push it further.

    Almost a decade later, my husband and I started reading different blogs, articles, and the like, and we decided to firmly state our atheism. At that time, he was really into Buddhism of the non-mystical variety, but now he's even more fervent in his non-belief than I am.

    I've never been able to read the Bible all the way through, mostly because it's so damn boring. And all those "begats"? Really? We recently studied Genesis in my Humanities class, and when reading it as literature, I think it's an excellent window into the people of the time, just like the Epic of Gilgamesh is. I'm going to try to keep up with this, but I make no promises. Life is as it is, and mine tends to be ridiculously crazy. But I will definitely try. :)

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  21. fwiw, i've been reading at the annotations are very interesting. between that and the threads here, this should be a very insightful read through.

  22. Great idea putting this together Bruce, thanks! I'm jumping in on the comments and readings a bit late, but will try to keep up as much as possible.

    I was a Catholic catechist for a few years with teenagers preparing for their sacrament of confirmation and learned so much that I love about Catholicism. I'll be following along with The New American Bible.

    Like many of the other participants I was raised Catholic, but unlike many here I am still practicing, so I'm excited to hear what others have to say.

  23. Bruce i am getting to this late. I learned about your reading goal yesterday and thought this is awesome. I am a Christian and have, unlike many other Christians, read the entire Bible cover to cover. It's become a regular part of my day to read it. For those that have not read it cover-to-cover before and are not a Christian don't feel bad. Trust me when i say not many people that go to church regularly have read it cover to cover, and what i hear is not many ministers even use it that much any more.

    I have been wanting to get perspectives from people that don't believe there is a God (as in the God of Abraham, Jacob, Moses) to understand what they really think, and hopefully why.

    My plan is to follow your reading outline and collating the responses and presenting back my own response and hopefully some clarification.

    I had done a 2 year study on the KJV and am happy to see you have decided to use it. I would encourage others to use it as well. There will be verses that will not be the same. So that will add to more of the confusion. Maybe next year we can do a different version a day... there are just about that many.

    I am going to go read over the comments on the first day reading assignment. I hopefully can catch up and only be maybe 2 days behind. That way i can get to a good amount of responses. I don't know how this will work out, but i am willing to see it to the end. I just may get behind because i will want to give a good response.

  24. Another Christian here. I see we're greatly in the minority, which makes sense. I'm looking forward to reading this blog and the comments as the year progresses. :)

    I was raised Christian in several different Protestant denominations. My parents actually got burned out on religion and no longer identify as Christian. Oddly enough, their oldest four children, who were all raised going to church every Sunday, independently managed to keep on going to church as teenagers, mostly with outside help (though my parents would provide rides to church if asked).

    I recently graduated from a Catholic college, at which many of the students are devout, practicing Catholics of some variety or another. I find the Catholic Church very appealing in various aspects, but I haven't brought myself to convert yet.

    I have read the entire Bible through and through - the OT once, the NT four or five times. This is based on dates written in Bibles I've read, so I know it's actually true! My current aim is to finish the OT again.

    I went through a period of questioning about religion in general in my early to mid teens, something along the lines of "is there a God?" I came out of it still Christian. I didn't have many super serious questions at the time. Now, I look at the various conflicts people have mentioned in this comment thread, and with some of them I know that I've already reconciled the circumstances of x with God's character, even though on the surface it can look as if God is not who he says he is. I have very few memories of active struggling with such questions, though, for whatever reason, so I'm not sure how I got to that point. Heh.

    In short, it feels to me as if my faith journey may not have been that different from some of you - but the conclusions were quite different. It will be very enlightening and enjoyable, I think, to read the Bible with you all.