Tuesday, June 28, 2011

King James

When the King Saved God

Fantastic history lesson from one of the great intellects of our generation, Christopher Hitchens. While I am a devout non-believer, I also understand the impact the bible has made on our species culturally. There are many many wonderful lines of scripture that can be words to live by, but couple that with the many many terrible, nasty lines of scripture it seems so easy to see how it was written by man in the 1st century (new testament) and prior (old testament). What this essay does for me, is highlight how easily manipulated the text can be from one inscription to the next (then, let your mind imagine how many times this may have happened over the centuries. Prior to the king james version, only a select few influential people had the ability to manipulate it how they saw fit), and what one should take from it is that the words and messages of the bible are not to be taken literally as edict or as a history lesson, but to be read as a book of myths and legends or a source for inspiration in some cases; a literary work to be appreciated for just that, not for something divine.

I can take two thoughts from this major event in the history of man, the translation of the bible into english. The first is that this was an initial sign of an undercurrent that began to pick away at the foundations of church dogma and church control. After this point, people didn't only have to go to the church for heavenly dictate on the meaning of life or human existence or our place in the cosmos. It allowed the noose of the control of the church over the people to loosen ever so slightly as to allow dissent and differing opinions and interpretations. After this point, you start to see a fracturing of christianity into its various sects, various versions of the bible were written for each faith's specific interpretations of the passages. While heretics were still burned at the stake, this initial loss of control ultimately allowed for the atheist/agnostic/deistic sentiment to arise. [Tangent story- One of the things I always thought was wrong about the catholic church is that there were never any bibles in the pews. Now that I reflect back as an adult, I see how the catholic church still tries to manipulate the message it sends to its congregants because the only scripture ever addressed in mass are the cherry-picked verses in the liturgy of the word. My personal opinion on this is while they obviously pick passages to inspire, etc., the underlying message is that they still don't want the sheep to read the whole book for fear they might lose their faith. This is why there are no bibles in the pews. You would think for a faith based on this one book, they would have the book available for its parishioners to read, or you would at least think the people would want to read the book in which they place so much faith. It baffles me.]

My second thought on this is a question of whether translating the book allowed for christianity to linger longer than it would have. Making the text widely available to the masses also kept the idea of a christian faith-based belief culturally popular and allowed it to pervade society to the core. It was one of a few books that most people have been influenced by one way or another, and was one of a handful that commoners were allowed to read. This may have helped entrench these beliefs in people to this day, passed on from generation to generation. I wonder if there had been no english translation, would the corrupt church-government relationships have been overthrown in a time of upheaval? Would humans have switched to another all-powerful deity instead or would they have been converted to islam or some other faith of an invading nation? It's fascinating to learn about the history of religions and to realize the amount of people that now believe these myths throughout the world can be traced back to just one or just a handful of emperors'/rulers' decisions on how to control their people. How different the world could have been if the gods of the greeks or romans or egyptians had been indoctrinated on the people instead! Or if major scientific discovery had come sooner in our history, would we be a more secular, free and advanced society today?

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