This first paragraph is repeated from my earlier posts: I have now finished with my final edits for my book How Jesus Became God. In the process of doing these final edits, I have cut out large sections of my Preface and the Introductions of four of my chapters and replaced them with other, hopefully better, sections. But I really like the old ones as well. So, since they won’t appear in print, I decided to post them here as a record of what almost was. The all involve anecdotes about my past. In most instances (the Introductions to the four chapters), these were narratives related to my “deconversion” from Christianity. My editor and I agreed that the reading public has heard enough about all that, and there’s only so much more that could still be interesting to them. And so I have replaced those anecdotes with other things. But I will present them here, anyway, for your reading pleasure or displeasure.
The following is drawn from my old chapter 9. This will be the last post in this series of Prefaces that didn’t make it into the book.
I have mentioned that for years before becoming an agnostic I was a liberal Christian with a “demythologized” understanding of the Christian message. I did not believe in an actual Virgin Birth, or in the miracles that Jesus allegedly performed, and I was not at all sure what I thought about a physical resurrection of Jesus. But I did see the value of these stories as “myths” that conveyed views of the world and human existence that I subscribed to. They affirmed that Jesus was a special person, a religious genius, whose message on a very deep level – though not on the surface – was in some sense “right.” There really are forces of evil in the world, and those who stand on the side of what is true and good will fight against them.
It was not only the stories about Jesus that were “mythical.” So too was much of the rest of the Bible. There was no real Adam and Eve or Garden of Eden or six-day creation. The universe came into being as the result of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago and as humans we are very much late comers on the scene of life on earth; the stories in Genesis are conveying deeper truths about what it means to be human and how humans should be caretakers of the earth; they are not history lessons. So too with the conquest of Canaan, when the children of Israel slaughtered all the opposition in order to inherit the “Promised Land.” It didn’t really happen – it was a legendary account meant to convey deeper lessons about how the Jewish people were chosen and empowered by God. Nor was the book of Revelation literally true; it was not, for example, laying out a blueprint of what would happen in our very near future. It was a book meant to convey a message of hope to those who were in despair over the course of affairs in this world and the evil forces who afflict suffering on those who side with God.
I know of many people today who are liberal Christians of a similar mode, who do not take the Bible literally but still see it as a profound book filled with mythological views that they resonate with and perspectives that they try to live by. And I have absolutely no problem at all with people who have such views. (I do, obviously, have a problem with fundamentalists and others who take the Bible literally as a divinely inspired revelation from God to be believed in all its details; in my view, people like that almost always have their own religious, social, and political agendas and – despite their protests – simply use the Bible as a way of enforcing their views on others.) In particular, I have no interest at all in converting sincere and thoughtful Christians (or Jews, or Muslims, or whatever) to my agnostic point of view.
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