Sunday, February 28, 2010

"The Bible: A Skeptic's Take"

Sometimes sitting in Sunday Mass, while the priest repeats himself over and over, I find my mind wandering off in strange directions. I have the attention span of a moth in a room full of chandeliers. A reading from the Scriptures that is meant to inspire, I find funny or at least odd. I know things were different in Biblical times, but really, some of the stories are a little hard to swallow. These feelings are not new for me; I remember having them even as a child sitting with my grammar school class in the beautiful church of Our Lady of Lourdes. Let me give you some examples.

The Wedding Feast at Cana. This was the scene of one of the first miracles Jesus ever performed. Evidently the host didn't count on his guests being such lushes, or was too cheap to buy enough wine, because they began to run out as the party wore on. Mary, the mother of Jesus, feeling sorry for the host, asked her son if he could do anything to help them. His answer: "Woman, how does this concern me". I always thought this reply was a bit snippy. Obviously Mary was not Italian, because if she was, and her son spoke to his mother in this tone, he would have received a smack on the back of his head, son of God or not.

The Prodigal Son. A rich man has two sons and allots their inheritance to them when they come of age. One son, lets call him Murray, goes off, and "squanders his wealth in wild living". Having nothing left, Murray drags his sorry ass home to beg forgiveness from the old man. When the father spots Murray off in the distance, he rejoices. "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate." Now the other son, Bernie, who stayed home and helped run the place, is understandably ticked off. "All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" I think Bernie needed himself a good Jewish lawyer.

The Loaves and the Fishes. "A crowd of about five-thousand followed Jesus on foot from the towns to hear him preach. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." Jesus replied, "You give them something to eat." (Jesus was a card.) "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. "Bring them here to me," he said. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over." I always thought, if you're performing miracles anyhow, why not whip up something special...I mean loaves and fishes?? Why not some nice pot roast and mashed potatoes with gravy, and maybe a nice Cabernet.

Noah's Ark. "God warned Noah that the earth was going to be destroyed with a flood, but told him how he could save his family and himself. He could also save some of the animals. God told Noah exactly how to build the ark. It was to be 300 cubits long. That's about as long as one and one-half football fields. It was to have three stories, a window and one door. Two of every kind of animal, both male and female, came to Noah to be kept alive on the ark." Does anybody else have problems with this story? Can you imagine poor Noah's reaction? "God, what do I know about building arks? You seem to have the specs, can't you build it? Better yet, instead of flooding the earth, couldn't you just post warning leaflets on the trees for people to repent? Why do I and my family have to spend a year on some fachacta boat with a bunch of smelly animals?" I'll bet a thousand drachmas that's exactly how the conversation went.

David and Goliath. The Israelites and the Philistines were at war. The Philistines had a champion named Goliath, a giant over 9 feet tall! (Goliath was an early draft pick of the Philistine Lakers). Every day for 40 days he had called out," Choose a man to fight with me. If he wins, we will be your servants, but if I win, you must serve us!" The soldiers of Israel were terrified at the sight of the giant. "The king will reward the man who conquers the giant. He will give him great riches, and he can marry the king's daughter. Also his father will not have to pay taxes anymore. (This was the first recorded incident of a politician lying about taxes.)

David was a shepherd boy. David said, " Who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" King Saul thought David was too young to fight the giant, (but not relishing the job himself) put his armor and helmet on David, but they didn't fit him. David chose five smooth stones from the brook, and put them into his bag. He had his sling in his hand. David said to Goliath, " You come to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts. David took out a stone, slung it and struck the giant in the forehead. He fell on his face to the earth." Anybody buying this? A kid with a slingshot against a fully armed, nine-foot giant? I'll take the giant and give the points any day.

There are many other Bible tales that take some serious faith to swallow, but I've probably done enough already to ensure myself a suite for eternity in H-E-double hockey sticks!. I do believe in God, but I wish those who were acting as His press agents back in the day could have stayed away from those funny Jerusalem cigarettes before hitting their typewriters.


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The Whiner said...

Yeah I always thought that answer from Jesus to his mother was a bit snippy too, especially calling her "Woman". She should have said, "Listen kid, you fed a whole crowd with some loaves and fishes the least you can do is turn this water into wine!" Well we all know the Bible is an edited work and a lot of things either got conveniently "left out" or were embellished. And what about that Job? Some faith eh?

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Now I have a question. I always thought that Joseph was the carpenter, how come everyone calls Jesus the carpenter?

Jim Pantaleno said...

Actually, records show they were both carpenters, but Jesus never joined the union.