I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and now that I have a few days off work I finally have the chance. I decided that it might be interesting to look at the Bible I used growing up. Looking at the Bible now is a completely different experience. I used to somehow be able to skim over the nasty parts and pick out the nice stuff, but that’s no longer the case. My personal Bible is full of highlighted portions and the occasional note, so I think it will be fun to have a look at what I used to find worthy of highlighting.
Here is my Bible (you can see it’s very worn and used…it’s been through a lot with me!):
I added the scare quotes to “Good News” after I realized that it was all a bunch of bull.
This Bible is quite a bit different than the more popular translations, and although I had those two around my house I always preferred this one because it was very easy to read. I often have to refer back to the King James though because the differences in the narrative are sometimes quite significant.
Here’s what the forward of this Bible says this about its translation:
The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) is a translation which seeks to state clearly and accurately the meaning of the original texts in words and forms that are widely accepted by people who use English as a means of communication. This translation does not follow the traditional vocabulary and style found in the historic English Bible versions. Instead it attempts to present the biblical content and message in a standard, everyday, natural English.
I got the Bible in Sunday school when I was 9. I remember being so excited. It smelled awesome and it was my first grown-up book. I hated Sunday school (I always had to rush from art class to get there), but I loved my Bible. I guess they chose such an easy to read translation because they were giving it to young children.
One of the best parts of this Bible is the pictures. I’ll probably be posting a lot of them here. Although I think if my parents would have seen some of the images they wouldn’t have been too happy with me having access to them as a 9-year-old. They were very careful to shelter us from violence. We never had video games in my house, and my parents pre-watched movies and TV shows to make sure they didn’t have violence or sexuality. But this Bible is certainly packed full of images depicting very violent scenes…here are a few of them:
All of these images are taken from the first 150 pages of my Bible.
Since the people who put this Bible together obviously had no problem depicting violence, I was curious how they would translate some of the more sexually explicit stories into plain English. An obvious one to look at is the story of Lot and his daughters in Sodom & Gemorrah. In the King James Version, the words for “have sex with” are “to know”, so it’s pretty vague and easy to gloss over. But I was shocked to see that in this kid-reading-comprehension version this is how the story is told:
Before the guests went to bed, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.
Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don’t do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don’t do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”
Wow, what a wonderful story to put into the hands of young children.
Most of the highlighting that I did was from the New Testament, but I found this highlighted in the Old:
The writing in blue says “prayer of worship.” I did this after listening to a series of tapes by Pastor Leon Fontaine of Springs Church in Winnipeg. The tapes were basically a workshop on how to pray. He went over different types of prayers and what the Bible says about them. What a bunch of useless nonsense…but I sure prayed a lot more after listening to those tapes. I also started directing my prayers through Jesus…I guess that was supposed to make them work better, who knows.
Before I get on with other sections that I highlighted, I want to post a few of the more entertaining images from this Bible.
I love this picture. This is how they decided to depict, in God’s own words, “the most amazing of all [His] creatures!” What a lame-looking monster. The translation notes say that some identify Behemoth with hippos, others with a legendary creature. Lame! C’mon, God, what about Gorillas or Lions or Cephalopods? There are plenty of way cooler creatures than some cow/hippo that eats grass.
I’m not sure why I found this picture so funny, but if God appeared to us like some giant guarding his flock, then I would find him a lot easier to believe in!
That doesn’t look like a Christian Side Hug to me!
Okay on to some of the highlighted sections…
The notes in black pen on this page are from after I lost my faith, but perhaps one of the most important passages that led to my loss of faith is highlighted on this page. Matthew 6:6, which tells you not to pray so that people will see how faithful you are, but rather to pray in private so it’s only between you and God. This passage was important to me because I couldn’t stand it when people bragged about their Christianity. I used to pray silently when I was in public, and also every night before bed I would pray as if I was having a conversation with God. I would talk about my day, about the things I was thankful for, about the things I hoped he would forgive me for, and about the people who I wanted him to bless. It was a nice way to gather my thoughts at the end of every day.
But one fateful day at Bible study, the leader of the study decided that he was going to start having different people say the prayer at the end of the discussion. That first time he decided I ought to do it, so he asked me if I would say it. I said no, that I wasn’t comfortable…he kept encouraging me, but since Matthew 6:6 was so important to me I argued with him and said I really didn’t want to. But in the end he talked me into it. The prayer I said made me feel so uncomfortable. I tried to mimic the ritualistic way that others prayed out loud, but it felt so wrong to me. It was completely opposite of the way that I pray, and it was meaningless to me. After that I started going to the study less and less, until I stopped going altogether. I became disillusioned with the faith as I felt that this prayer was blatantly ignoring that passage. I think that that experience at Bible study was what emboldened me to start questioning my faith and to allow myself to lighten up, and have doubts.
When looking through my Bible to write this post I had a laugh when I saw this highlighted:
I can just picture my smug, Christian, teenage self highlighting this and thinking “see? Only idiots don’t believe in God!”
Blech I’m glad that self is long gone.
Here’s another passage that troubled me a lot growing up, and that made having faith harder for me even when it was at its strongest:
This idea that all you needed to do was to have enough faith and you would get whatever you prayed for is awful, in that it puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of people who believe that this is true. This caused me a lot of stress because I felt that if I prayed for something and the opposite happened, then it was my fault and that made me feel guilty for something that I had no control over. It even made me afraid to pray for some things, because I didn’t want to be made to feel that my faith wasn’t strong enough.
This post has gotten really long, so I’m going to finish up with the first passage that I ever highlighted in my Bible. It was also the passage that puzzled me most, and probably the one that’s the most familiar to people who don’t read the Bible:
What John 3:16 said to me was that all I needed to do was believe, and I would have my spot in heaven. This confused me because I wondered why there were so many other rules in the Bible if belief is all you really need to be a good enough person to get into heaven. This passage also made me afraid to doubt. What if my faith waffled for a second, and I got hit by a bus? Would I be punished eternally for that? I first highlighted it because I thought that it was a beautiful message that showed how Jesus saved us, but the more I thought about it the more issues it brought up:
-What about people who were never told about Jesus?
-If someone is told about Jesus but doesn’t believe it and is the most charitable person in the world, do they not get to go to heaven?
-Could evil people like Hitler be in heaven if they believe in Jesus?
-Why should I bother being a good person?
-Why shouldn’t I just live how I want to now, and then start believing in Jesus in my old age?
John 3:16 is one of the many examples in the Bible that shows how many holes there are in the whole doctrine. It just doesn’t make sense, and if this is inspired by a just, loving, omnipotent god, it certainly doesn’t show.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Bible. I’d love to see other former Christian atheists do similar posts about their Bibles, if you do, please post a link to your blog here, I’d love to check it out!