Yesterday I wrote an entry that was meant to be a general commentary on the books I read and enjoy. It was fun to write, and I hoped that it might encourage some visitors to check out a few of my favorite authors and titles.
Instead, the entire (lengthy) response in the comment section has focused on one short item from the entry: the fact that I listed the Bible as a book I wish had never been written. This response was not my intention, and, whether or not I should have seen it coming, it’s taken me entirely by surprise.
I freely admit to not knowing enough about the Bible. For a while I was doing some editing for the Presbyterian Publishing Company, including a lot of Biblical interpretation and commentary by distinguished theologians, and I always felt Biblically illiterate because I didn’t know, for instance, which order the books come in (something I assume the average 7-year-old Christian child can rattle off).
I was raised in a Unitarian Universalist church in the 1960s and 70s when there was a backlash against all things theological and a huge trend toward Humanism. Among other things, UU parents at the time didn’t want their children learning about religious texts (thus my Biblical illiteracy). Today, our religious education programs encompass all the major world religions, in addition to Humanism, paganism, and Native American spirituality, in an effort to educate our children about the many religious doctrines they’ll encounter and to help them seek their own Truth. We recognize that the Bible is part of our culture, and that being familiar with it at some level is important because this single book informs the thoughts and actions of the large majority of Americans and many other people around the globe.
With that background, I’ll continue with the fact that I was surprised by the response to my entry. Why? Because although the Bible exists, and we have to take it as a given in our world society, I don’t understand the need for it (or any other religious text). I don’t understand the need for belief in a higher power. I don’t understand why people need to think there’s Something Bigger watching over them, instead of living life on their own terms. I don’t understand why people need a god to call on to help them make decisions, or to threaten them with punishment so they behave.
Belief in a god is incomprehensible to me.
In the comments, Tim points out people do good works in the name of their faith. Sure, people from the megachurch he mentions building houses for those in need is a wonderful thing. But clergy and individuals from that same church have made so many intolerant and even hateful statements on various topics that any good they do in the name of God is, in my opinion, more than cancelled out. And why do they require faith in order to help other people?
I like to think that people can and will do good works without a promised reward in Heaven. That’s why I’m a Humanist and a Unitarian Universalist. Each week at my church, we recite the following covenant:
Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law.
This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.
That works for me as a guideline for life. I don’t need the Bible or a theistic, dogmatic belief structure to tell me who I am, what I should believe, or how I should live.