In a comment below, Tom G. asks a fine question: How’s my Bible reading coming? It’s a good question, since I’m questing a great deal about religion and thus far, my blog has explored several Christian churches. At the moment, I’m not reading the Bible, although I have been reading a lot about all religions.
This actually leads me to another reason that traditional religion has never worked for me. This may seem personal to Christianity, but don’t worry, it applies to Judaism too. That reason has to do with the Bible. Before I explain, though, everyone should keep in mind that nothing I say is intended to denigrate or question others’ beliefs in said Bible. For others, it’s a sacred text and my comments should be read as my own take on that text, not the sacredness of that text for others. I should have a special font for these disclaimers I spill out from time to time.
Anyhoo, the Bible. Here’s the thing. I haven’t read all of it, so feel free to whip several grains of salt at what I say. I have, however, read other ancient texts as well as the Bible. In an ancient Near East history class with Professor Eva Von Dossow at the University of Minnesota, I read “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” a story that predated the Bible but contains a story that’s remarkably similar to the story of the Flood. It is significantly different in several details, but it is definitely the same story.
Similarly, there are Sumerian texts I remember reading, in which one king or another (I took this class in 2001) claimed to have been found in a basket that had drifted down the river. I don’t know whether these texts predated the Bible or assumed written form at the same time as the Bible, but the point was that these were very similar stories that showed up in different forms with significant differences.
Is that the whole of my point? Why, no, I’ve gotta go on a smidgen more. The remainder of my point is that I saw numerous examples of this, where similar stories showed up over and over in different cultures and at different ties in history, with shifts in names, details, and even meaning. To me, this suggests that stories are recycled and reinterpreted according to the needs of the culture that encounters it. (This happened with Greek myths, Sumerian tales, Egyptian texts, and other cultures whose names I can’t remember because the final for this class is long over.)
For this reason, I have trouble treating the Bible as truly different from other texts that existed at the same time or other stories that circulated prior to written records. I don’t deny it as a source of wisdom, but when the same processes affected the Bible as other texts and stories I have a hard time accepting it as sacred above those texts and stories. Why, when one story is so similar to another, is one sacred while the other is just an old tale?