Reading the Bible

So the Archbishop of Canterbury would like everyone to read the King James Bible “in order to get the Big Picture”.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/8234268/Archbishop-of-Canterbury-read-the-Bible-to-understand-Camerons-Big-Society.html

If he were encouraging everyone to read the Bible (version not specified), I would be in wholehearted agreement. But why the King James Bible? It’s true that the translation commissioned by James I of England 400 years ago has been enormously influential over British culture. And any book that is still being read 400 years after its first publication must have something going for it. The problem is that it is, well, 400 years old. And although it still has a vociferous fan club in the higher strata of the Church of England, the rest of the church (not to mention the other denominations) has moved on – and for good reason. For one thing, although the translation was the best that could be done at the time, many more (and older) New Testament manuscripts have been discovered since – so the modern Bible versions are much closer to what was originally written. (Admittedly, there haven’t been very many changes; and the vast majority are trivial)

More importantly, the English language has changed enormously over the last four centuries – enough to make the language of the King James Bible incomprehensible in some places and unexpectedly deceptive in others. The latter is more dangerous. The familiar form of the second person pronoun (‘thou’ or ‘thee’) dropped out of everyday speech a long time ago, and is now only used in old ‘religious’ texts (the King James Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer). It has become a ‘special’ word, reserved for addressing God. So language that was originally intended to convey the closeness of God, and the intimate ‘family’ relationship that Christian believers have with him, now has the effect of making him seem more distant. In a more general way, the old-fashioned language conveys the subliminal message that Christianity also is old-fashioned and out-of-date.

For those who are very familiar with the Bible and with the quirks of the King James version, these things are less likely to be a problem. But given the decline in general reading standards over the last few decades, what about younger people? What about those (including a high proportion of the ‘other faith communities’) whose first language is not English? What would they make of its archaisms and obscurities? For them – and for those who have never before read the Bible – the King James version is the last one that I would recommend.

57 thoughts on “Reading the Bible”

  1. Deborah, but which would you recommend? I have a copy of the New Living Translation which I think is user friendly but it is true that the King James’s version still has lyrical and poetic quality, at least in part though I admit much of it would be incomprehensible to most teenagers today. Has there ever been a comic version? (e.g. strip cartoons). Anyway the bible should be all about the revelation of truths in a language that is of today – accessible and inspirational. Perhaps someone will write a rap version – no heaven forbid!

  2. I think someone already has written a rap version…

    I absolutely agree with the ‘accessible and inspirational’ description.

    Personally I use the New International Version, which treads a middle line between formal and everyday language. But it really is a matter of personal preference. And reading any Bible is better than not reading it at all.

  3. “The familiar form of the second person pronoun (‘thou’ or ‘thee’) dropped out of everyday speech a long time ago,”

    Twelfth Night 3.2.45. ‘if thou thou’st him some thrice, it shall not be amiss’

    In the early part of the 17th century, when both works were created, the use of ‘thou’ was already considered archaic, even rude when addressing others. It was old fashioned. But it is precisely because it belonged to a different generation that it was employed by those who created the King James Version. They wanted to separate the language of the bible from that of the common herd, in much the same way that serious writing avoids idiomatic parlance. ‘Yo, mothafucka, how you doin’?’ may go down well in Harlem or Brixton, but it does not sound quite as dignified as ‘Good afternoon, how are you?’ or even ‘Hail fellow, well met.’ Essentially, use of such language lent decorum to the Word of God. That is why the KJV is held in such high regard by Christians and atheists alike. Even Richard Dawkins has sung its praises. http://www.kingjamesbibletrust.org/news/2010/02/19/richard-dawkins-lends-his-support-to-the-king-james-bible-trust

    The KJV is a work of art that is filled with eloquent advice for mankind, as are the works of Shakespeare, Aesop and others. It deserves respect and its lessons are eternal.

  4. Elderly Lancastrians were still using thou, thee and thine into the forties/fifties.

  5. Of course atheists like the KJV. It has “literary value” – the only kind of value they are prepared to acknowledge. At the same time, from my own experience, it’s the easiest version for them to ridicule (because of its archaic language and occasional bad choice of words).

    The English Bible is of course a translation – unlike the works of Shakespeare. To ‘update’ the language of Shakespeare would be cultural vandalism. To update the translation of the Bible is a necessity, if its message is to remain fresh and relevant.

    Incidentally, the original Bible languages didn’t have special pronouns for formal address. Now that contemporary English doesn’t either, the use of “thou” is actually a mis-translation.

  6. Tom, so they were in Somerset.

    ‘Fresh and relevant’ – dumbed down for the indolent. There was an article in this paper a short while ago about doing the same to Enid Blyton. This implies that my grandchildren are not as intelligent or diligent as I which, to descend into the vernacular, is a load of bolleaux.

    As for the bible, I preferred the movie anyway.

  7. It is thinking like this that has driven most of the congregation out of the doors!
    Lowest common denominator thinking and utter Biblical drivel has seen most reasonable WASPS straight out the door of formal Christianity.
    Fresh and relevant my arse! Dumbed down for illiterates and foaming at the mouth, rolling in the aisles, happy clapping tambourine playing so called evangelicals.

    Hasn’t it ever occurred to you why the ragheads get more converts? This is one of the reasons.

    Of course you can still get the old James version used and the real book of common prayer. I hoicked a rural dean out of the St David’s Deanery and doubled his fee literally to get the boy buried properly, no ‘relevant’ claptrap for either of us thank you very much!

    Christ, you really do know how to irritate quite so early in the morning, curdled my morning tea.

  8. CO, it’s comforting to know that real Christians still know how to practise their beliefs! :-O

  9. There’s no accounting for taste. Speaking personally, I’d rather have happy tambourine playing than “formal” Christianity any day.

    Driven the congregations away? Not in my church it hasn’t. We’re bursting at the seams, mainly with young people…The half-empty churches are the ones still clinging to the Prayer Book. This is why the evangelicals get more converts – we speak the right language!

  10. You patently obviously know absolutely nothing about the use of various rites within the Church of England/ the Church in Wales or the Episcopalian Church of the USA.
    For your information, neither the King James Bible or the original Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer has been used in the UK Church since the 80s. Since then it has been revised twice and sufficiently dumbed down for idiots, many left then after they were required to be ‘relevant’.
    The Church in Wales revised in 1984 and still uses that version, somewhat better than the English version and a lot more formal in language. The Episcopal Church of the USA revised the rites in the 1840s but no mainstream Episcopal churches use it anymore, most have gone homosexual and happy clappy. The new reformed Anglican Church of the USA has returned to its roots of the 1840 version and is flourishing here under conservative African Bishoprics. There is a sizeable body of people that want their traditional services not mumbo jumbo made up on the spur of the moment, after all that is what the nonconformist movement was all about from the roots of Anabaptism.

    Yes there is a sizeable amount of people, generally ill educated, that prefer the theatrics of evangelism but most of the quiet silent majority who no longer go to church were driven out by the constant tampering with the wording of the services and inclusion of social and personal testimony. This may well have its place but unfortunately not in the Anglican rite! The Church has been its own worst enemy.

    How often do you think they rewrite the Koran?

  11. ‘Occasional bad choice of words…’ or ‘something I don’t agree with.’

    Sterile debate over myths developed by a primitive tribal society, interpreted and re-interpreted to suit the of the time with no thought to the original context and now to be dumbed down into a happy-clappy, feel-good nonsense devoid of rigour or reason to suit the ‘Hello’ generation; a weak and floppy spiritual crutch for those too intellectually vacant to apply themselves to more demanding isciplines..

  12. bravo there was the beauty of the familiar, one could ‘depart’ after the confession and re enter at the creed mentally without fear of interruption! Stand and sit on auto pilot. One could get some good thinking done in a calm and soothing atmosphere.
    Nowadays they tootle on whistles , dance in the aisles insist you shake hands with people you would rather not, shake tambourines and keep bawling amen to that. Bloody madhouse!
    No wonder people fled.

  13. Good Morning Deborah – and welcome back!

    Surely the whole point of religion is to be lifted from the ‘everyday’ and the ‘mundane’? The language in the King James Version is poetical, dignified and uplifting. It is other-worldly and, OK, so people have to think about what it means. How bad is that? Far too many people take the ‘religious pill’ without considering exactly what they’ve signed up to.

    I love visiting old churches – I’m always struck by the beauty, and sense of serenity in those places. I may not be a Christian, but the people who built those churches were and they tried to create places of beauty that were quite different from the mundane houses that they inhabited. Why don’t we just tear those down and replace them with something a bit more ‘fresh and relevant’?

    As to the ‘slappy happy’ style of service – reminds me far too much of primitive tribes dancing themselves into an state of ecstasy!

  14. Hello again Boadicea, long time no see!

    The point of “religion” may be to lift one out of the everyday, but the original point of Christianity was that God had actually come down into the everyday, down to where we are. So we have no need to ‘escape’; rather, God is ‘down here’, and the everyday is thereby transformed right where we are.

  15. My first language is German, yet I have no difficulties in reading the King James version of the Bible or the works of Shakespeare. Anyone who seriously wishes to understand the English language must have an understanding of this as the influence of both resonate strongly. The biggest problem facing society is how much things have been dumbed-down in order to give an artificial “self-esteem” to the lowest common denominator. Rather than dumbing things down even more, why not raise expectations once again?

  16. Incidentally, the original Bible languages didn’t have special pronouns for formal address. Now that contemporary English doesn’t either, the use of “thou” is actually a mis-translation.

    Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic didn’t distinguish between second person singular and plural?

    Rubbish!

  17. Bearsy, of course they distinguish between singular and plural. But not between formal singular ‘you’ and familiar singular ‘thou’. Or between formal plural ‘you’ and familiar plural ‘ye’.

  18. Oh dear, Debs, you’re no linguist, are you? Let’s not take you any further down this path. You stick with invisible fairies and leave the language aspects to others. 🙄

  19. Could you give us an example of a “bad choice of words” with the original version – Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek or whatever? I think you might also need to check the usage of “thou/you/ye” in English.

    The King James Version is beautiful to read. As Christopher has said, there has been far too much dumbing down in Britain and it is high time that children were taught to read properly and to raise their expectations. Have you seen some of the trivia included as set texts in schools?

    If the Archbishop of Canterbury is encouraging the use of the KJV version, it will be the first intelligent thing he has done for years.

  20. You’re on a bit of a loser here, Deborah! As you must be aware, some here are confirmed atheists, while others are agnostics. There are a couple of Christians that I know of.

    Most of us, I suspect, have been brought up with the King James Version and, even if we don’t take the religious bit on board, the language still resonates and carries far more force than the modernised version.

  21. Good to see you, Deborah and a Happy New Year.

    I fear Boadicea is quite right; we are a bunch of reactionaries!

    I’m on the side of the King James Version,; it’s the one I grew up with and I don’t like these attempts at modernisation at all.

    I love old churches too, and dislike most, but not all modern churches.

    That said, I can understand your point about accessibility and interesting that your church is well attended, and attracts the youngsters, whilst most of them, including my local parish church are almost empty.

  22. “bad choice of words” – there are for example some obscure passages in the Old Testament where I am told the KJV has “dragons” supposedly living in the desert.

    Of course if you’re used to the KJV, you like it. I don’t dispute that, and I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t read it. My point was that, for those UNfamiliar with it, it can obscure rather than enlighten.

  23. I can only reiterate what Christopher and Sheona have said: “it is high time that children were taught to read properly and to raise their expectations.”

    Charles Dickens published his works in serial form well before there was compulsory, universal education – they were a huge success. Now, his works are deemed ‘too hard’ for the general population to read and understand. It’s appalling to think that, despite all the money being spent on education, the majority of people are more ‘illiterate’ than they were 150 years ago.

  24. As Karl Marx observed, “Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes”.
    Allow me to reinterpret into the modern common vernacular – “This Jesus bloke gets ya’ high, like, innit”.

    Main-line today! Become a junkie of The Lord! Hallelujah!

  25. Deborah: you brought up something which I think would require further investigation.
    In Taiwan students must pass written exams on literature to enter university. The lingua franca of that lovely land is a distinct dialect of Mandarin Chinese. The literature is, for the most part, Chinese. Students are expected to be able to work through written works dating back to the Han and even the Chou dynasties. While it is annotated, it is still in the original Chinese. Although it isn’t always easy, they are still able to do it. In Germany students are required to read the works of Walther von der Vogelweide, a German poet whose life pre-dated that of Chaucer by well over a century. Speaking only from my own experience it is often difficult, but with some effort it is possible. The point being is that it is possible, with some work, to become familiar with even the more difficult aspects of a language. It is a matter of application and learning. In my spare time I study Japanese and have hired the services of a professor to aid me in the learning of the written language — especially the Kanji, or the Chinese characters used in the Japanese language. As part of my studies I learn the traditional characters if there was a simplified one introduced after the post-war reforms. Even that is not especially difficult. It is simply a matter of approaching the issue on a step-by-step level rather than as a whole.

  26. CHris, you have hit the nail on the head. Worthwhile learning requires effort, not the ability to try to pick the correct answer from a list of five.

  27. Belief in fairies and other mythical creatures aside, Christopher is quite right. Cutting people off from their literary heritage leads us straight back to the ‘Hello’ generation of functional illiterates – rootless, shiftless and, above all, dependant. ‘Relevant,’ in this context, is just another word for ‘worthless.’

    Here’s an apt reminder: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/8235115/Dumbing-down-of-university-grades-revealed.html

  28. The very first English translations (e.g. Wycliffe’s and Tyndale’s) were considered subversive because they broke the monopoly of the priesthood. No longer was it necessary to learn Latin in order to read the Bible – it became accessible to the ordinary man. “Modernisation” is simply continuing this process. For while a good education is a highly desirable thing (as stated above), I don’t think it should be a prerequisite for understanding the Christian faith.

  29. Deborah :

    For while a good education is a highly desirable thing (as stated above), I don’t think it should be a prerequisite for understanding the Christian faith.

    A good education is a prerequisite for understanding anything. Dumbing something down produces dumb acceptance, while lack of education leads to manipulation of the uneducated – see islam. If you consider that a herd of uneducated cattle is what should constitute a religious congregation, you demonstrate at the least condescending elitism, and at the worst, unadulterated social darwinism. Bearsy’s #25 applies.

  30. Deborah: Latin isn’t impossible to learn, either. Latin is in a foreign language, though one which remains influential. There is a difference between having a slightly archaic form of English and having a completely different language. The King James Version, by the way, was mostly based on the Tyndale version as the Biblical scholars charged with translating the Bible wished to retain the august gravity of the somewhat, even at that time, archaic English. Most King James Bibles to have annotations which let readers know what a word means when it is either no longer used or the usage of it has shifted.

  31. Christopher: I agree, but I think you have missed my point.

    Bravo: As usual, we are going to disagree. I think you are being condescending. A congregation using a modern Bible version are anything but “a herd of uneducated cattle”. And if you think religious knowledge should be restricted to the educated, aren’t you the one who is elitist?

  32. And if you think religious knowledge should be restricted to the educated, aren’t you the one who is elitist?

    I do think that religious knowledge should be restricted to the educated. I find it quite appalling that parents are permitted to fill their children’s heads with the dogma that so often accompanies religious teaching at an age when the child is unable to question. For how many centuries did Christianity preach that a woman was subject to her husband and fill their children’s heads with hatred of non-believers? How many centuries more will Islam preach the same?

    Some years ago I taught at a school where there was a religious assembly every morning. We had the whole hymn bit and I consistently refused to sing along. When asked why by the deputy head, I explained that the sentiments being expressed in most of the hymns were contrary to Christian ethics. She told me that she had never thought about the words, just joined in. There are far too many people who do not think about their religion, ‘join in’ blindly and then expect the rest of the world to ‘respect’ their beliefs.

    Personally, I’d like to see the Bible, the Torah and the Koran carry a warning: “This Book contains material that can seriously damage the Peace of the World. Its contents should not be used to propagate beliefs to anyone under the age of eighteen.”

    The deputy head started thinking about the words of the hymns and we got a whole new, more appropriate selection.

  33. Bravo: I absolutely believe in fairies and mythical creatures. Before you would, reasonably of course, suspect that I am insane I would be more than happy to take you on a tour of San Francisco’s Castro District. There are more fairies per block in that, er, colourful neighbourhood, than there are in the children’s section of a book store.

  34. Deborah :

    And if you think religious knowledge should be restricted to the educated, aren’t you the one who is elitist?

    That’s not what I said. What I said was, ‘A good education is a prerequisite for understanding anything.’ It was you who said that it is not necessary to be educated to understand religion – which is probably about right anyway, since reason plays no part in superstition.

  35. boadicea :

    I find it quite appalling that parents are permitted to fill their children’s heads with the dogma that so often accompanies religious teaching at an age when the child is unable to question.

    But Boa, what are parents supposed to tell their children when they ask questions as to the origins of the universe and matters concerning morality? Christian dogma, served me, and millions like me, very well during my formative years. It explained the otherwise unexplainable and it gave me a solid moral grounding. It also gave me an education and the freedom to question those dogmas later in life.

    Athesits say they have no faith. That is not true. They do have faith. They have faith in the fact that God does not exist. They cannot possibly know that God does not exist, but they believe it. If they tell their children that despite what they have heard elsewhere, whether at school, on TV or via their friends, that God does not exist. Thus they too are imposing their dogmas on their children. On the other hand, to say, “I do not know where we came from, we are just here.” Or, “I cannot prove that God does not exist, but I just know that He does not,” does not really cut the mustard. Nor does, “the reason you do not steal, or lie, or cheat is that you would not like those things being done to you.” The child will surely think that “if nobody knows that I am lying, stealing or cheating then it makes no difference. And in any event, just because I do not do it, it does not mean that they wont do it to me.” But if I believe that God is watching every one of my actions and I will one day be punished for my sins, even if I have not been caught here on earth, I will try and do the right thing. Children need to be trained on how to behave until good behaviour becomes second nature. They need answers to their questions. If you cannot give them the truth a well intended lie is probably the next best thing. Christian dogma is on the whole a pretty good story tell kids. It is certainly a lot better than some of the bollocks they get told.

    With regards to the inappropriateness of words in hymns, many national anthems are pretty inappropriate and are given to using archaic language. Admittedly, we no longer ask God to scatter the Queens enemies, but asking to send her victorious does not exactly portray a PC image of modern Britain. As for lands being girt by sea, the less said about that the better. 😉

  36. Sipu! You’re having a stir up, again!

    The origin of the Universe? Tell ’em the truth. Questions of morality? No need to involve a Deity that will punish you after you die – in fact I think that the ultimate cruelty.

    I agree that children need to be trained – pity so many of them aren’t any more. But I was brought up with a sound sense of right and wrong, as were my children, grandchildren and, as far as I can see, my great-grandchildren are, without having to resort to telling them that some Being is going to punish them when they are dead.

  37. I was not totally stirring it up. I genuinely believe that I have benefited from a Christian up-bringing, and I am not talking about living in a Christian democracy, but in a home and school where Christianity was practised daily. I do not think it is cruel to tell kids that God is watching, especially when they can be forgiven by confessing their sins. It makes children strive to do the right thing but also to face up their responsibilities when they have done wrong.

    I dare say you, your children and grandchildren were brought up with strong moral values. But you had the benefit of belonging to an intelligent, well educated family. Millions of children are less fortunate. Explaining astrophysics or moral philosophy to a 5 year old child does not come easily to many.

    I think the PC dogma that children are force-fed today is far worse than much of what Christianity teaches. Christianity is a philosophy based on one lie, admittedly a big one, but most of the rest of it is the truth. The philosophy of Western democracy is based on an equally big lie, namely that all men are created equal (a claim that Christianity does not endorse). However just about everything else to do with our democracy is a lie.

    Despite my upbringing, I no longer believe in God, but I am glad that I once did.

  38. Athesits [sic] say they have no faith. That is not true. They do have faith. They have faith in the fact that God does not exist.

    A logic fallacy so beloved and oft-repeated by the deluded. One does not require faith to not believe in anything – the spaghetti monster, for example – you can invent a million fake ideas and nobody would need faith to not be taken in by any of them.

  39. Sipu, “Despite my upbringing, I no longer believe in God, but I am glad that I once did.” Ditto Santa Claus.

  40. Athesits [sic] say they have no faith. That is not true. They do have faith. They have faith in the fact that God does not exist.

    Echo Bearsy. Atheists accept that you cannot prove a negative. It is for those who assert a thing to support their assertion. I say there is nothing to support the existence of mythical beings – except in the special case noted by Christopher.

  41. boadicea :

    Personally, I’d like to see the Bible, the Torah and the Koran carry a warning: “This Book contains material that can seriously damage the Peace of the World. Its contents should not be used to propagate beliefs to anyone under the age of eighteen.”

    What a good idea. It would make people want to read it.

  42. Bearsy, you have put on your ‘high and mighty hat’. 😦 Saying something, even using a patronising tone, does not make it so. I do not care about the spaghetti monster. Its existence or otherwise, is irrelevant to me. (Though, there are some who believe in the Loch Ness Monster and make a living from the fact.) I and you do, however, care about the existence or non-existence of God. That is why we argue about it. That is why this conversation is taking place. It has meaning and significance. Even if you do not believe in God, it matters, because others do and thus your life is changed by it. You base much of your behaviour and the justification for it on the non existence of God. If somehow you were to develop the same beliefs as our friend Deborah, you would change the way you lead your life. That is why belief in the non-existence of God is an act of faith. It matters just as marital fidelity matters. We believe, if we are lucky, that our spouses are faithful to us. Unless we have proof to the contrary, we do not know, but that she (or he) is, is central to our daily lives. That is why we use the word faith. We have faith in the fact that the company that employs us is (or is not) legitimate and above board and that we are being paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. We have faith that the government does (or does not) work in the best interests of the electorate. Unless we are able to prove otherwise, all we can rely on is faith.

    You maintain that God does not exist.
    It matters to you that God does not exist.
    You cannot prove that God does not exist. *
    Thus it requires an act of faith on your part to support your argument.

    * You are not alone in this. Nobody has been able to prove it. There are theories, theorems and hypotheses, you might even add common sense, but there is no proof.

  43. Janus :

    Sipu, “Despite my upbringing, I no longer believe in God, but I am glad that I once did.” Ditto Santa Claus.

    Exactly. It got us through childhood in a pleasant way. No harm was done by it. And when I was old enough to realise that Father Christmas did not exist, I took it in my stride.

  44. Sipu, “You maintain that God does not exist.
    It matters to you that God does not exist.
    You cannot prove that God does not exist.
    Thus it requires an act of faith on your part to support your argument.”

    Nice try, Sipu, but the burden of proof is on the believers, not the non-believers. Not believing/not being able to prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist doesn’t mean I have to make some kind of leap of faith not to ‘believe in’ him! All the leaping is done on your side of the court!

  45. Christopheraustrier, this is totally off topic, but thank you for your mention of Walther von der Vogelweide. It brought to mind my old professor of Old and Middle High German, who always pronounced the poet’s name in a manner which, he assured us, was the pronounciation of the time. He never explained how he knew this.

  46. I do not think it is cruel to tell kids that God is watching, especially when they can be forgiven by confessing their sins. It makes children strive to do the right thing but also to face up their responsibilities when they have done wrong.

    I never told my children an out and out lie – that would have been hypocritical and contrary to the standards I was trying to teach them. I’ll admit that I went along with the Santa Clause and Tooth Fairy myths, but I never told them that they would get no toys if they did not behave… I knew that I would buy them presents. When I said ‘yes’ I moved heaven and earth to abide by my word, and if I said ‘no’ I did not budge. How could I expect them to behave in a way that I was not prepared to do myself?

    Transgressions should be dealt with immediately. Telling a child to ‘wait until their father comes home’ is sufficiently cruel, telling them to wait until they face God at some indefinable point in the future is even worse.

    As to children ‘confessing’ their sins – they do not need a God or a Priest to do that. Seeking out the person they have offended, facing them and apologising is a far better lesson in not repeating the offence than getting ‘absolution’ from a stranger.

    It isn’t hard to explain how the world began, who we are, and simple ethics to a child. And it isn’t hard to tell them that one doesn’t have all the answers. At least the answer is honest.

  47. boadicea :

    I do not think it is cruel to tell kids that God is watching, especially when they can be forgiven by confessing their sins. It makes children strive to do the right thing but also to face up their responsibilities when they have done wrong.

    I never told my children an out and out lie – that would have been hypocritical and contrary to the standards I was trying to teach them. I’ll admit that I went along with the Santa Clause and Tooth Fairy myths, but I never told them that they would get no toys if they did not behave… I knew that I would buy them presents. When I said ‘yes’ I moved heaven and earth to abide by my word, and if I said ‘no’ I did not budge. How could I expect them to behave in a way that I was not prepared to do myself?

    Transgressions should be dealt with immediately. Telling a child to ‘wait until their father comes home’ is sufficiently cruel, telling them to wait until they face God at some indefinable point in the future is even worse.

    As to children ‘confessing’ their sins – they do not need a God or a Priest to do that. Seeking out the person they have offended, facing them and apologising is a far better lesson in not repeating the offence than getting ‘absolution’ from a stranger.

    It isn’t hard to explain how the world began, who we are, and simple ethics to a child. And it isn’t hard to tell them that one doesn’t have all the answers. At least the answer is honest.

    Boadicea, this may surprise you, but I agree wholeheartedly. I had a virtually identical approach with my own daughter.

  48. Sipu :

    bravo22c :

    I say there is nothing to support the existence of mythical beings.

    Er, duh! That is what is called a truism.

    Exactly, no matter how much casuistry you employ, it is not a belief. Ta daa!

  49. “Exactly, no matter how much casuistry you employ, it is not a belief. Ta daa!”

    Bravo, old chap, I think if you chose to study art you would likely become very knowledgeable on the subject; but you would remain a lousy artist.

  50. Good evening Deborah and a good New Year to you and yours. Thanks for this post which is producing really interesting responses, in my opinion.

    Position-setting, I was brought up as a good Presbyterian in the Church Militant (Army variety). Baptised therein and spent every Sunday morning in a tin hut, ship’s deck or kirk temporarily or permanently dedicated to the worship of the good Lord. Worked my way through Sunday school and Youth Fellowship and then did a year’s Confirmation classes with the Reverend Neil Hume of Kinnoul Parish Church.

    At the end of which, I regretfully advised the boy Neil that I would not be joining up just at the moment. I have remained an agnostic to this day.

    But I stand with Sipu on this post and I do not quite understand why he is getting such abuse. His statement – ‘Despite my upbringing. I no longer believe in God’ works for me. I was grateful for my upbringing and could never deny that my Christian childhood was the prime factor in the development of my own set of moral values.

    Developing my own position, I am a libertarian agnostic. I do not care what anybody else believes to be true about the eternal verities etcetera but I equally do not believe that said beliefs should be held up to ridicule by others. We should all be free to go to Hell or oblivion or whatever is actually out there in our own chosen handcarts. Personal choice and nobody else’s business, however high their personal moral hobby horse.

    King James I and VI version a good thing, in re your actual blog. I still find the language thereof incredibly powerful when saying goodbye to a Christian friend at their funeral.

  51. Deborah

    I’ll second JM’s thanks for this post. It doesn’t surprise me that you did the same, I’m sure that many others have the same approach to bringing up their children Sighs loudly! Would that a few more did!

    My point is that nowhere in that approach is there a need to bring in a Deity.

    JM

    I don’t think Sipu is getting abuse – he has a wooden spoon in both hands and delights to stir up controversy!

    What I find particularly objectionable is the attitude that there can be no moral code without a belief in a Deity. I’m sure that no one here will dispute the idea that Christ’s teachings were good, but one can take those on board without the need to suspend one’s logic and believe in a raft of myths like the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and God made Flesh at one point in history. Myths that all have their roots in earlier belief systems.

    My religious background was to be ‘signed up’ at a few weeks of age and thereafter it was definitely of the “hatch’em, match’em, and dispatch’em” variety. I learnt the stories at school, and I’m grateful for that since it helps to make sense of much of European Society.

    I then started to investigate for myself. Learning about earlier myths fascinated me, as did a study of the various ‘heresies’ that beset the early Church. A good dose of ecclesiastical history finally blew away any lingering notions that ‘Christianity’ was of Divine Authority.

    Like yourself, I am an agnostic and I don’t care what people believe – providing they keep their beliefs to themselves and they do not impinge on me.

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