The Books in My Living Room—on existential angst

The world is full of books and so is my living room.

They stand haphazardly stacked one upon another in piles of up to six books high.

That is not so high, you think, and you’d be right, but the import of the books involved is.

Sixteen books in all, in four piles.

One-hundred and twenty-six books remain in the bookcase nearby. Why do they remain and the others are found extricated? That is the subject of this tale.

Existential angst.

The first book is on social research. Would you like to know how to research the billions of murders, rapes, declitorisations, and other assaults, on children, women, and men each year? Be my guest. Take this book and read it three times. Study it. Apply it. And see if you don’t come up with an ineffectual little piece of research which essentially replicates thousands of other studies, statistical or otherwise, with a pathetic little addendum “We recommend improving cross-sectoral cooperation in trying to address this scourge.” What difference does this make? Zero. And yet countless such studies are done annually. Why? To get published. Certainly seems like it. And so the world goes on, turning and turning and turning, killing, raping, pillaging, trafficking, stealing, messing up. If I am to make a difference in this world, this book must be differently applied.

Next, a commentary on the New Testament, recently used to try to make sense of a passage I dreamt about in the book of Revelation in the Bible. The first beast is a political philosophy and the second the socio-academic system that supports and promulgates the first. Okay. So what? They are destroyed and replaced by Moshiach and everlasting peace on earth. Nice. But how and when? O ye of little faith! Am I to bother researching and perhaps contributing a tiny sliver of hope, encouragement, love, and real true meaning to life and others, or to anticipate a Messiah? The latter I think will not do. Was he not anticipated a thousand times before, captured, conquered, and written out of history? Read the War of the Jews and Josephus’ other works, along with the Gospels, Dead Sea Scrolls, Atwill’s book, and Eisenman’s, to know how many messiah’s came and went, and only, sorry to say, made a mess of things. Now you are wanting another Messiah to how exactly achieve the whole world acquiescing to him and living in peace from his Jerusalem place of governance? Dream on, not wishing to give offence, but really, stop shifting the responsibility in a delusion of expecting someone else to do your dirty work. Secretly you wish you were the Messiah, you wish other people might recognise you, the righteous, pure, and holy one, as he. But they don’t, and they are not likely to, because you are not he. You are you. You are your own messiah. Oh yeah? Yeah. You are responsible for saving yourself from the evil, cruelty, and unfairness of this world. So, be that good, honest, empathic, loving, gentle, firm, unswerving person your inner parts have the wherewithal, and you know you have, to be.

The next book in the pile on the couch seat next to me is a King James Bible given to me in 1963 by my grandmother for Christmas. The evidence of this is inscribed on the inside cover with the wish that the book would inspire and comfort me always. How sweet of her. I was six years old. She, my mother aside of course, is the dearest person I’ve known, unconditionally loving. This Bible bears record, ten years later, to my avid underlining of phrases in the Gospel of Matthew, up to the middle of chapter 24, where I ran out of youthful steam. But I had stopped actually at verse 35 in which Jesus declares that his words would not pass away. But how could he be so sure? He compared his words enduring beyond the existence of heaven and earth. Were such claims not capriciously wild, unknowing, even blasphemously laughable? Who was he to make such statements? Well, it all depends. Was this just an incredible story, literature, a novel, much like the Iliad and the Odyssey? With all those incredible miracles and strange sayings and reactions to interlocutors, it certainly smacked of contrived fiction. But it was necessary to believe as the socio-psychological exigencies of a 16 year old’s wonderful conversion experience required. Seven years of ascetic eshewance, sole focus on things biblical, and thinking pure thoughts culminated in realities setting in when my father met his premature death six years later.

I then dug out his copy of Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot and over a period of weeks came to reject my belief in Jesus as God, a matter over which my father had travailed for many years. Marcion’s rejection of the Old Testament God around 140 A.D., of which I had read in my Bible College years gave grounds for outright rejection of fundamental beliefs for me. His excommunication from the Roman Church a few years later was reminiscent of my self-removal from the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness whilst still studying at their college.

Jesus has been written out of history. The real Jesus was a Messianic candidate who ran afoul of the Roman authorities for preaching the coming of God’s Kingdom by means of a miraculous destruction and socio-political takeover of governance in Judea. The angelic armies of heaven would appear and lead the Messiah and his righteous ones against the evildoers, destroy them, and set up God’s eternal kingdom. Rome was having none of it, so they executed Jesus, but his brother James carried his mantle still waiting for the apocalyptic event, which again never happened because he was executed and Jerusalem was overthrown and put once again firmly under Roman rule in 73 A.D. To write these Jewish rebels out of history and to pacify the Messianic movement, Paul, a highly connected Roman citizen, positioned Jesus as a spiritual Messiah who provides salvation to Jew and Gentile who must obey Roman rulers and laws. The Gospels provide incredible stories of a faith-healer Messiah who supported Rome and preached humility and pacifism. This is not who the real Jesus was. But the transduction of the volatile Messianic movement into a pacifistic one was being accomplished by the New Testament writings.

The point is, does the actual historical Jesus merit our attention? Not really. He was a rebel Jew who wanted to ensure the overthrow of the government of his time. There had been and were to come more of such.

And does the Jesus of the Bible merit our attention? Again, not really, for he is an invention of Greaco-Roman literacists who created a fiction to rewrite history and make people believe that the biblical Jesus was historical. Alas and alack, he is no more than the figment of very shrewd writer’s minds.

These deductions are both unsettling and liberating. Although I had been childishly upset with God for allowing such subterfuge and deception, I shortly outgrew this, and recouped my belief in God. I rather not thought about Jesus, but he is thrust into one’s consciousness by his fame and deliberation of mythicist, atheist, and avid believer alike. And with the premise of taking the Gospels as gospel, it is hard to dismiss the Gospel Jesus outright, although to any honest thinker he should be.

The Western world, no matter how much it benefitted or suffered by taking Jesus as Lord, now has the intellectual honest work of assessing the socio-literary fiction of Jesus and accepting that we’ve all been duped into the most sardonic and elaborate web of impossibilities that we found sufficient willingness to believe.

The third in the pile next to me is a book of sermons by evangelical preachers who were taught by a man one of whose students landed up in prison for rape. Enough said, but the sermons are quite good, masterful works of illustration and persuasion. It made me wonder how might I have pursued such a path had I not questioned the very shaky foundation of the life and person of Jesus in my early twenties. Could I have pursued a career of telling people that a book written by men is the Word of God that they should listen to and obey? To do so would have been deceptive and not admirable, no matter how many unwitting followers one might have gathered. But people want to believe nice stories. It makes them feel secure and good. Imagine fooling yourself indefinitely. Never growing up and moving away from religious fable.

The fourth book is the NASB (New American Standard Bible) from ten to fifteen years later when I would read it and try to work out my role in a potential end result of global economic stability and peace for which I so longed. The Bible was still my only guide to knowledge from God, so I believed. How else could I find relevance? I particularly had a drawing to the letter of James and marked 3:17 as necessary to be actioned now: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” I wanted to have such wisdom and to be such a person. I also studied Revelation again to try work out future events but it became a waste, and besides I had to concentrate on earning a living.

The next book is a topical Bible, which I have always loved to peruse to see how exhaustively any topic in the Bible is referenced. Here I came across the topic “Battle of life” which reminded me of how I had in the 80’s run an ad in a national magazine called “Battle of life” in which I invited people to share their burdens. I received several letters and wrote back guiding and encouraging respondents.

At the top of this pile is a little book on The Future of Religion. I first read it in the 90’s and now again in 2021. But what is religion’s future in 2022 and beyond? This book predicts a reversion to the established religions for this millennium. I think a lot of the claptrap, unnecessary details of many religions—e.g. Catholicism’s saints, rosaries, and even the mass, and Protestantism’s niceties of Jesus divinity, baptism, happy-clappy, tongues-speaking, and contrived miracles—will all but go by the wayside with the passage of time, as people realise that they can conceptualise and relate to their own God with none of these trappings.

If you consider that every person wants to live pain-free, securely, with company, and be respected, loved, and cared for, such goodness and happiness must be the core of the God concept. So let your God be that good, fair, kind, firm, empathic, caring, protective being. Relate to him or her as such. Be answerable, responsible, honourable, integritous, magnanimous, no-nonsense. That is your religion. You don’t need the trappings. In fact the trappings lead to unnecessary dissention, pride, and fighting. True believers in a good God cannot live like that. Their lives will be different.

The next book is another social research one which deals a lot with viewing the world as a shape-shifting individually constructed reality which is not really what is happening out there but only your interpretation of it. I find such an epistemology weak and accommodative of undisciplined minds for which perhaps trying to discover universal principles in the world is too much trouble, and settling for an individually-biased if not made-up reality is unhelpful to any of us in trying to fix the world’s problems. Also giving precedence and praise to Marxism as a research methodology is not only dangerous but ludicrous. A theory that supports overthrow of an entire system—capitalism’s class structure of bourgeoisie and proletariat—as a way to making everyone essentially proletariat is laughable, and implies the necessary killing of masses of people, which it did, resulting in over 100 million murdered in Russia and elsewhere and over a billion still enslaved to this day in North Korea, China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. Can one deign to even consider using Marx’s analytical approach, as obviously flawed as it was, to do research today? God forbid! I’d rather hang myself. Marx was the most evil of men and we should not revere or listen to anything he ever said or wrote. We must not listen to fools.

Now to the second pile. The first book is the Anglican Prayer Book which I recently saw and bought from our local secondhand bookshop. I did so because I’d heard Peter Hitchens vouch for its beauty and reverence. I read a few passages and found it positively stultifying. It’s only going to give you a rehash of new testament fiction anyway. No offence to Peter whom I love and admire—listen to his talks on YouTube.

Next is my Zulu dictionary. I’ve used it for years, since the 70’s when I took my first of four courses in isiZulu. I majored in Zulu for my BA degree. Zulu is a most beautiful, melodious, picturesque, and intricately structured and executed language full of idiom and expression. In my early years, I wanted to translate Unger’s Bible Dictionary into Zulu to help bequeath Calvanistic theologically bent content to the Zulu nation, but my rejection of Christianity put paid to that. Just as well. Imagine being responsible for bequeathing a myth to the world as Josephus put it. One shudders to think of it. But I do wish to interact more with Zulu speakers so I can thoroughly learn the spoken language and be a better person in the world.

Next book is Hugh Schonfield’s Authentic New Testament. Now this was my dad’s and is an old very precious reminder of his struggle with the historical Jesus, salvation security (possibility of falling away), (persistent) insulting of the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin, being perfect (in love), and works as a part of salvation. I can see this by what he underlined in pencil and annotated in the margins. His verse-coding throughout shows that he must have read most of that New Testament. He also seemed, by his note, to have accepted the notion that the generation that was not to pass away before all those things transpired meant the act of procreating and not 40 years. In this I think he was mistaken. I am quite sure he went to God, for when he breathed his last, as the caregiver reported, he said “Oh my God!” as if moving into God’s presence.

Last book on this second pile is The Lost Books of the Bible and the forgotten Books of Eden, also my dad’s with each book meticulously dated in pencil, allowing for a full chronological contextual appreciation of claimed writer and content. I remember reading the Gospel of Jesus’ Infancy about a boy who bumped Jesus’ shoulder as a child and Jesus commanded that he die on the spot. This made me wonder where the fiction of that Gospel let off or moved across into that of the new testament Gospels. In other words, where along the fiction-fact continuum could one place any of these events, miraculous or otherwise? More recently I have become aware of the importance of reading the two letters of Clement (Titus Flavius Clemens?), the first bishop of Rome after Peter. That’s the end of the second pile.

The third pile is the one on my dining table. Yes, my dining table is smack in the middle of my little living room. I’m currently living in compact refugee mode. The first book in this two book stack is a parallel Bible with four versions. My notes in it from the 80’s read as follows:

“The assumption herein is that the text of these 66 books are a record of certain occurrences in the past which may have been real, imaginary, or feasible. Designer [God] in here refers to the ‘one’ who designed and executed and is still executing the experiment of man’s existence on earth.”

My note at Genesis 2:17: “If Adam didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil, how could he know that to disobey God was evil? He didn’t know this, so doing so was innocently and statistically very likely!!”

And on Gen. 3:5: “They didn’t know they were doing wrong, because they didn’t know what evil or wrong was. They had to ‘eat of the tree’ so that in knowing the difference (distinction) between good and evil, they could then use this frame of reference to pursue good.”

Concerning the need to master your anger in human relations (cf. Gen. 4:5, 7), I noted: “Pull your mind right and think about others’ needs.” And I still think so today. Being good is a good and obvious choice.

Man being made in the ‘likeness of God’ (Gen. 5:1) refers to “a certain type of similarity probably regarding ability to plan, organise, lead, control, think logically, etc.”

Cursing of the ground (Gen. 5:29) is “all in the mind. Designer told them it was, so they regarded it as a burden, but it is submitted that tilling the earth would have been just as burdensome physically, without Designer’s pronouncement. The said pronouncement served to create a psychological sense of burden.”

There are numerous other notes I made in the margins including the one about (Gen. 3:16) the husband ruling over the wife as a patriarchising declaration of “physical male dominance”. This of course is handy for patriarchisers but not for women, and may be one of the primary sources of the entitlement of many men to abuse women both physically and emotionally.

God regretted having made man on the earth and was deeply heartsore about this (Gen. 6:6) much like a mother who later wishes she had aborted her child when she had thought about it in her pregnancy because of the abusive tyrant he turned out to be. Such are the mysteries of life. “Man must have some intrinsic flaw in his composition … What intrinsic element was missing [Gen. 6:12]? Could it be lack of civilisation…the unsubdued environment? Or could it be the disproportionate ‘size’ of the unconscious mind in man which he is unable to consciously influence…a design error?”

Concerning Noah (Gen. 6:3), “It’s always a relief and probably a statistical ‘good chance’ that one finds a person of principle in any large group.”

Man’s destructiveness as created in God’s image is reflective of God’s destruction of the Noahic world (cf. Gen. 8:21, etc.). Like father, like son? I think not. Not the true God—the God beyond God—see Tillich.

Noah’s babelas skelling and cursing of his grandson is inexcusable (Gen. 9:24-26).

God’s communication with mankind “progresses from Direct to Visions to Dreams to Nothing” (cf. Gen. 15:1). Or should Nothing be Intuition? Are we in the age of Intuition? Can we intuit the goodness of God in our lives and finally make the world a better place?

Finally, I used this Parallel Bible recently to look up Isaiah 45:1 about the non-Jew messiah Cyrus and Daniel 9:26 about the Hebrew simply stating “messiah” or “anointed one”, without the definite article, i.e. not “the Messiah” or “the Annointed One” as most translations render thereby corrupting the original. This was brought to my attention by Rabbi Tovia Singer. Search YouTube for his enlightening teaching.

The second book in the pile on my table is one on church history. It corroborates how the Roman Church hijacked the historical Jesus and made him into something he was not and therefore should never have been. True story. How sad.

The fourth pile, on the coffee table next to me, has the Afrikaans Bible on top.

It is refreshing to read books in other languages as this gives insight into nuance and alternate meaning.

The world is full of books and so is my living room.