the faith hope

an ongoing exploration of a thankless subject

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Location: Adelaide, Australia

Founding secretary of the Urbane Society for Sceptical Romantics, a club I take very seriously indeed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

everything's connected to everything else

Baal was a fiery bloke

There are so many directions to go with this stuff, it's a bit bewildering, and my various acquaintances aren't helping matters. On getting wind of my new blog and its aims, one good friend bought me, in the spirit of irony, a book called God: a biography, by Jack Miles. I fully expected the book itself to be essentially ironic, but it isn't - nor is it really a biography (though it won the Pullitzer Prize for biography). It's a piece of literary/textual analysis, looking at God as a literary figure through the writings of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible. As such it's a real mind-spin, and is very persuasive in its account of God's contradictory and composite nature (intimate personal god versus aloof universal creator god, god of all humanity versus god of the Israelites, etc), as well as on some of his historical antecedents (eg the flood story comes from a Babylonian myth with marked similarities, even though it involved the clash of two gods, the creator Marduk and the destroyer Tiamat, both of whom plausibly contribute characteristics to the later deity, and the god-as-burning-bush is a manifestation derived from the Canaanite god, Baal).

I'm not sure that a book like this helps me much on the psychology of religion, but that doesn't matter, it's thought-provoking on the detail of how particular religions are forged from elements of earlier religions, and after all, many of the Old Testament tales are intrinsically fascinating, and finally, I'm prepared to drift along anywhere in the company of an enlightening commentator.

I've also been reading The Message, a hip Yank modern version of the New Testament, mainly to get a sense of the different Jesus stories offered in the gospels, and to look more closely at the differences between Paul's approach to religion and that of Jesus's disciples insofar as they can be discerned. Also, while at the Harbour cottage - which is full of old literary gems, such as a well-preserved set of the literary magazine Blackwood's dating from the time of my birth - someone unearthed a 'blockbuster' edition of Life magazine, dated 1965, dedicated wholly to the Bible. I spent a bit of time taking notes from it, though I didn't get much time on my own. I was tempted to borrow it and bring it home, but I resisted, unfortunately. Especially as, now that I've unpacked, I can't find my notes....


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