Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Skeptic's Annotated Bible And The Horror At The Heart Of Scripture

The Bible is a giant triple fudge sundae of murder, rape, and destruction, and the love of a hippy carpenter is the cherry on top. This is - and I'm choosing my words carefully - the only decent way to describe the Bible. The book is soaked in blood, and a large portion of western cultural history has been a story of people scurrying to bleach down the crime scene before the CSI guys get here.

We know this. We've been told before. We ignore it, because it's in our nature. People are afraid of death, meaninglessness, and sometimes vaginas. Religion helps us deal. Visit the gift shop on your way out.

One of the most famous tales in the book is about how God drowned the whole world about five seconds after He made it, and we turned that into a cuddly word picture of two giraffes sticking their heads out of a goddamn boat. We covered up a genocide with a crayon rainbow. If you can't grasp how wrong that is, you don't have a functioning nervous system. But then again, many of us seem to get by without one.

All of this is why The Skeptic's Annotated Bible is an important public service. The website (run by one very pissed-off guy named Steve Wells) catalogs every awful item you can find throughout what is perhaps the most influential text in our society. You can read the entire thing straight through, or you can use the tags to browse through each kind of terrible verse - like violence, misogyny, logical contradictions, or intolerance. He also has annotated versions of the Quran and the Book of Mormon. I read large portions of it as I was preparing my novel. (I'll describe the process in greater detail later.)

I think Wells's biggest contribution is to put all this hideousness in one place. The reason is that the meaning behind the Bible is always a matter of argument. Because it's a collection of dozens of books in multiple languages over thousands of years, you can always make the case that the terrible thing you think you just read isn't really terrible at all. This is one of the more common tasks of the apologist. Elisha seems to have used his holy powers to have two bears rip a crowd of children to shreds. God seems to have planned a slaughter of innocents in Egypt. The Israelites seem to have committed atrocity after atrocity under the direction of the Almighty. But wait! If you translate the words differently and make a series of inferences and squint just right... Presto! The bad stories become "difficult" or "problematic." Or my favorite - they become "starting points for a conversation." The Skeptics Annotated Bible eloquently shows how this is nonsense. Because there is simply too much monstrous crap in that book for the horror to go away with a few arguments. For the book to be holy. The genocidal insanity really is the Bible's most salient feature. I know there's some good stuff too. Believe me. But if you stuck a chord progression for Charles Manson's favorite Monkees tune at the end of Helter Skelter, that wouldn't make it a music book.

Christians often say they don't believe in the Bible's infallibility - that they know it's the product of ignorant men in an ignorant time. And then there's always the question of how they define their God if they can't agree on what parts of the book describe Him. (And this is ultimately why I'm a nonbeliever.) But it's important to say that even though this attitude makes for a less coherent faith, it's really the only moral option. We start there. We can agree on that. It's immoral to believe in an infallible Bible. Believing that means you make excuses for the inexcusable.

And again, we all know this. The story of our society has always been about ignoring the obvious. We bring the horror on ourselves, and I wish we'd stop.

NOTE: I am the author of a novel about the dark side of Scripture. It is called The Black Book Of Children’s Bible Stories, and you can find it Amazon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"God Never Sends You More Than You Can Handle," By A Drone Operator

You look like crud, Trev. You really do. This thing with Karen's getting to you. You don't talk about it, but I can tell, man. I can just - wait...

Hotel Three-Five. Geronimo. Still loitering at the target. No action. Copy that, Hotel? No action.

Look, you love her, and she loves you. And the Big Guy's got a plan for you both. You're going through something that might look really awful now, but it's going to make you stronger in the end, okay?

I know you've got mixed feelings on religion. But just... just hear me out on this. I believe when bad things happen to us it's like a kind of test. It's not always clear. But that doubt you feel - that's part of the test, you know? Just like...

I see it, Hotel Three-Five. I got two SUVs moving south toward the target. About 700 meters and closing. Standing by. Repeat. We are standing by.

...Just like when I went through all that school stuff with my daughter. I mean, how many weeks did that last, right? It seemed as if Mackenzie was going to end up at some horrible community college or something. Judy and I didn't know what to do. We prayed and prayed about it. It tore us apart. And then one day, I remember...

The first SUV stopped, and I got three, uh, three militants getting out and entering the target. Waiting on the second.

I remember just getting this feeling, this voice in my head. "I care about you." That's what the voice said. "Whatever happens, I will be here." It gave me chills, man.

There's the second. Repeat, the second SUV is parked, and I've got... I've got four more militants entering the building. Someone's meeting them at the door. A person holding a small... it's a small dog, Hotel Three-Five. A dog. Permission to engage target.

Someone's up there, Trev. Someone is looking out for you. Believe it.

Missile off the rail. And... target hit. Target hit, Hotel Three-Five. Waiting to see... yeah, we took it out. We destroyed the target, Hotel. 

Don't start, Trev. It was a dog. You heard the briefing. A dog, okay?

We're going to loiter another ten and then head back. Good job everybody. Over.

Why don't you come to church with Judy and me this Sunday? You don't have to join or anything... I'm not asking that. Just think about it.

It really helped me find some answers.

NOTE: 
I am the author of a novel about the dark side of Scripture. It is called The Black Book Of Children’s Bible Stories, and you can find it on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Dracula Can Teach You About The Bible

One of the creepiest elements of Stoker’s vampire novel doesn't bite or turn into a bat. It’s a collection of wax cylinders. Dr. Seward dictates his notes onto them through a phonograph, telling his part of the story while at his job. They’re scary because of what they hint at.

“You’ve got to imagine the sounds that are behind his voice,” the scholar Bryan Alexander points out. Seward worked at an asylum. One would hear the screams and sounds of crying drifting through the halls, the tones indecipherable, barely audible.

Alexander is a writer and an academic who published Dracula as a series of blog posts. The novel was told through the notes and journal entries of the characters, and Alexander uploaded each of them on the date it was written so readers could experience the tale unfolding in “real time.” 

Dracula, a tale in fragments, was the ancestor of the found footage horror movie. These kinds of stories are disturbing because the media within them – the cylinders, film cans, and videotape – suggest an entire dark world just outside the borders of what you can see and know. Which brings us, of course, to the Bible.

The Bible is the original Western tale of fragments isn’t it? It’s a library of different genres and styles by an army of authors, some of them hidden from history. And it sits embedded in centuries of commentary and dogma about where each word came from and what it really means. But you have to pay attention to the borders of this book. The borders are where the victims are. 

Every divine plague and every righteous massacre suggests a world of small horrors just beyond the edges of the story:

The mother smothers her baby just after the walls of Jericho fall and the Israelite army spills in.

The little boy clings to the wreckage of his home as the flood waters sweep his family away.

To the extent the Bible is true these stories are true as well. There are no unimportant characters in an account like this – even if the truth is of a metaphorical or metaphysical kind. If you’re supposed to read this book for answers then the obscenity of Scripture – obvious and undeniable – is part of the narrative. It runs through every passage, and it turns each happy tale of survival and faith into a record of loss and despair. And so the Book’s real message, the answer to all those easy Sunday school lessons, becomes apparent:

You must open your eyes to horror, or you will shut your heart to suffering.

Yes. It's clear now. Remember it.

NOTE: 
I am the author of a novel about the dark side of Scripture. It is called The Black Book Of Children’s Bible Stories, and you can find it on Amazon.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Fuck This Whale. Right In His Blowhole." One Star Reviews Of Classic Literature

These single-star reviews are from Goodreads, and yes, I admit this is therapy. I've included each work's average star rating (out of five), and I cleaned up some misspellings. I wanted to make fun of these people, but many of the reviews are actually sort of wonderful. I may post more soon.

Some of you know I've written a bizarre, dark horror story about the Bible. I've just released it, reviews are only beginning to accumulate, and I am anxiously waiting for my trip through the industrial shredder that is social media. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and no, not all opinions are equal. But who gets to judge?

I have to get back to work. Enjoy the post, and check out The Black Book Of Children's Bible Stories. I'm excited to discover what the internet thinks of me.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (3.78 stars)

One of the reasons why I hate this book because its confusing just everything, coming all at once. I have to stop and be like "Wait, what's happening here"? Also because of the hill billy like language too. Another reason why I hate it, is because its sad, I don't like that a lot of people die, to me its just slightly annoying about [how] people keep dying, cause you can get also bored with it. The last reason why I hate this book is because its in a different time period, which is not that interesting to me. - Marina Cohen

This author clearly doesn't know how to write. I understand that slavery was a huge issue at the time, but I didn't like reading such a racist book. This was the worst book I've ever read, and I've read Twilight, so that's saying something. - Holly


Hamlet by William Shakespeare (3.98 stars)

After reading this and Romeo and Juliet, I strongly believe that Shakespeare is one overrated playwright. I will only read another play of his if I'm assigned one in other English classes down the road. - Jacob

This book/play is stupid and full of suck. SPOILER ALERT* Hamlet makes out with his mom then everyone dies the end. - Jaimee Michael

Hamlet faces many challenges throughout the play, as well as many deaths and murders. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone because I didn't exactly enjoy the book I guess if I had to, I would recommend this book to people who like Shakespeare plays. - Heather Scheer


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (3.7 stars)

Dickens is a jerk. Nobody likes his stuff, they're just afraid to say it because he's supposed to be classy. - Robert

I read this book not once, not twice, but THREE F*CKING TIMES. I wanted so badly to like it just because Dickens wrote it. So, I say this in the most loving way possible: I wouldn't even wipe my ass with this. - T.Y.

WORST BOOK EVER! - Anthony


Moby Dick by Herman Melville (3.4 stars)

It's just that any enjoyment or satisfaction I got out of the book was overshadowed by the tedious, largely pointless stretches of encyclopedic descriptions about the whaling industry. Melville strikes me as one of those people who would corner you at a party and talk incessantly about whaling, whaling ships, whales, whale diet, whale etymology, whale zoology, whale blubber, whale delicacies, whale migration, whale oil, whale biology, whale ecology, whale meat, whale skinning, and every other possible topic about whales so that you'd finally have to pretend to have to go to the bathroom just to get away from the crazy old man. Only he'd FOLLOW YOU INTO THE BATHROOM and keep talking to you about whales while peering over the side of the stall and trying to make eye contact with you the whole time. - Jamie

Fuck this whale. Right in his blowhole. - Jay Kristoff


The Stranger by Albert Camus (3.92 stars)

“The Stranger” is some seriously weak shit. I’ve gotten more enjoyment from looking [at] a map of Kentucky. - Chris

I thought this book was a waste of time about a guy who was wasting his existence. I guess I wouldn't make a very good existentialist. - Danielle The Book Huntress

That awkward moment when you don't seem to be able to like something that everybody likes. Well not just everybody, but people whose opinion you value. This is what I feel now. - Maryam

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Good Reviews Are Coming In For My Horror Novel


Thanks to everyone who has read this. I'm going to be posting about my sources and influences in the next few days. We'll talk about severed heads, true crime TV shows, ghosts, and the devil. It will be fun. Promise.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pat Robertson Finds A Monster In The Cellar



Western civilization is an ancient and beautiful structure. We're lucky to live here, mostly. But below this house is a cellar. And in that cellar is a monster. You knew that already.

Anyway, if you're a certain type of social conservative you pretend the monster doesn't exist. So if someone sends you down the stairs to rummage around, it can be quite a shock.

A couple of weeks ago someone sent Pat Robertson to the cellar.

It was one of his viewers. She wanted him to explain why the Bible's bloody parts are different than the bloody parts in the Quran. This difference is important to some of us, because it justifies the things we want to do to Muslims. (Of course, many people would argue we don't want to do any of it. We have to, because they're brutal people. That's what the issue is. Whether Muslims are brutal by their nature; if it's fair to judge them by the worst in their group.)

So Pat found himself halfway down the stairs, his feeble white hand trembling on the banister. He was trying to spot the chain to the overhead bulb in the center of the room. Someone had spilled something on the cement floor. It had barely dried.

We keep so many things down here. It's cluttered. It's not safe. Pat needed to look up one of our old stories. According to a founding document of our culture, God ordered His own chosen people to commit mass murder.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants...

This is 1 Samuel 15:3, and it's part of a campaign of terror and bloodshed the Israelites waged as they took control of the Holy Land. Pat himself referred to it as "the wars of extermination." God and his prophets repeatedly commanded that the Israelites kill their enemies. It was their duty. Even the infanticide.

God is the supreme Lord of life, and can require his own when he pleaseth; infants likewise are born in sin, and therefore liable to God's wrath.

This was how John Wesley justified it, adding...

Their death also was rather a mercy than a curse, as being the occasion of preventing their sin and punishment.

Today many of us say that's not what the Judeo-Christian tradition is about. Progressive believers argue that the text itself is deeply flawed. I think that's the only decent way to think about the Bible. There's just too much murder in that book. Large portions of it are immoral. Not old-fashioned or weird, but wicked and wrong. You have to absolutely reject some of it, or the parts about love and compassion are meaningless. They are actually obscene.

Not everyone thinks this way though. There are many, many people of faith out there still who agree with John Wesley that butchering children was justified. Writing for The Briefing, John Allister compared it to the ethics of assassinating Adolf Hitler - taking life for the greater good. The cellar is where we keep all the stuff some of us try to ignore about our past, and our values. But others - let's be honest - actually like coming down here. They vote. They have power. They support our leaders when they wage war, and they always have reasons. They too define who we are.

Who are we, actually?

Pat found his footing, walked into the stale air, and he decided not to turn on the light. He heard breathing in the corner. He smiled at what was sitting there. What had always been sitting there.

It smiled back at him.

NOTE:
I wrote an entire novel about these things. It's THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES, and you can find it here. Tomorrow and Thursday it will be free at Amazon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Talk To Your Loved Ones About My Book

"Hi mom. It's me. Hey, you know how you just went back and re-read The Best Of Me, and you were saying it didn't have enough annotations and nihilism? Well I think I found something for you. It's called The Black Book Of Children's Bible Stories, and it's free this Wednesday and Thursday."

"Aunt Jo! Thanks again for the cupcakes. My roommate and I loved the M&M's. You're always so thoughtful. I wanted to do something for you. Follow this link and get a free book that's really going to fuck you right up."

"Dad, I know everything's tough lately. You try and try, but no one cuts you a break at that stupid job. Well, I recently found something that changed how I look at the world. It's called The Black Book Of Children's Bible Stories, it's an experimental horror story about Scripture, and its ultimate point is that all human attempts to construct meaning are doomed, and that we're alone, we have no way of figuring out what's happening to us, and we're going to die and be forgotten forever. So screw the job, really. They're lucky you haven't poisoned them all."

"Hello? Sure you can come in and tell me something about your church. I'd love that! Tell you what, though. Before you start I want to read you something first..."
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