Monday, 23 May 2011

The Power of the Bible

After the predictable failure of Biblical predictor Harold Camping, we are now witnessing the ability of the human mind to rationalise its own credulity.

Here is a remarkable example: Peter Lombardi is a 44-year-old from Jersey City, N.J. who had had taken an "indefinite break" from his job in April to preach about May 21, and John Ramsey is a N.J. resident who had rearranged his life in recent months to devote himself to spreading the news of the Rapture.
Followers like Ramsey and Lombardi said they had few hard feelings toward Camping and still agreed with some of the self-taught preacher's views, such as one that says all churches and denominations have been corrupted.
"I have learned to study the Bible really well. This guy has opened my eyes to a lot of truths," said Lombardi.
"If he makes another prediction, I can't tell you what I am going to do," said Ramsey. "But I've really taken an interest in the Bible. I know it's the word of God. And I've been reading into more parts today."
He quoted Mark 13:22: "For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall [show] signs and wonders, to seduce, if [it were] possible, even the elect."
Despite the apparent stupidity of thinking some nut with a radio station can predict an event that is, in any case, a fiction, these guys still think the Bible's worth reading. One of the master-strokes of early Christianity was its forging of a range of old stories and texts into a whole that makes no sense but can be utilised in the service of any agenda that one wants to push. I've spent my life listening to sermons and preachers, Thoughts for the Day and miracle stories, and they've all found something in that hotchpotch of platitudes to support the view they're pushing.

With a text as full of contraries as the Bible, it's easy to make it fit any narrative that arises, and Ramsey manages it here. Oh yeah, shit, that Rapture prediction culled from the Bible was wrong, and here's the Bible telling me why. Here's the Bible telling me the Bible's wrong. But there really aren't any contradictions in the Bible, in the philosophical sense of jointly exhaustive but mutually exclusive stories and morals; it's too complex and incoherent for that. If the book wasn't 'Holy', everyone who used it would be slapped into prison for deception. For nefarious politicians with an agenda, or just for mad old millionaire radio evangelists, it's the Book that keeps on giving, and keeps those who believe in it giving.


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