My trip to Border’s today was odd for two reasons. First, I had a mission, and I did not deviate from it. I mean, sure, I looked longingly at several extraneous books, but I did not purchase any of them. The second odd thing? My mission was to purchase a Bible (actually, I ended up with two, but that still counts in my estimation, since they were different versions, but both were bibles).
I have been reading The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible lately. A. J. Jacobs was raised as a secular Jew who doesn’t really practice any religion, but he decides to spend a year testing the Bible out, living by the rules in the Bible and investigating both Judaism and Christianity, although he doesn’t go so far as to actually believe in Christ’s divinity. The book is very funny, which I expected, but also deep. It also reminded me that, despite 13 years at my local Catholic schools, I am somewhat lacking in religious knowledge. This, even though I was a fairly devout Catholic for some time. Now, I find myself viewing all religion rather skeptically, and I am reading TYLB almost like a tourist, who doesn’t recognize what Jacobs is describing at all from a first person perspective. Being deeply secular now, I seem to have repressed much of the religious knowledge that I used to possess.
I don’t have any plans to start following the Bible’s teachings, but I decided that reading the Bible might be a good idea. It’s one thing to decide not to believe in God, and another to completely disavow any knowledge of what is arguably the most important and widely read book in our country. Much of our culture and English and American literature draw heavily on Biblical symbolism, to say the least about the Bible’s impact. So, I went to get a Bible. I got a Catholic bible, because it has more books than the Protestant bibles, or the Hebrew bible (the portion that Judaism and Christianity share, that is)–the Apocrypha, as Protestants call them, or the Deuterocanonical books, as Catholics refer to them. I am scraping the bottom of that particular branch of my biblical knowledge there, but suffice to say, I wanted to read those books, too. I also got a King James version that was on the bargain book rack, because that is the most common version.
As a non-believer, I felt weird going to the cash register with two bibles. I can tell already that I will do my bible-reading at home. It’s not that I am embarrassed to be seen reading it exactly, but rather that I don’t want people seeing me reading it and making false assumptions about me. I wouldn’t be insulted to be called a Christian, but it feels like lying to me to put out that image when it isn’t true. And people do assume you are a Christian when they see you reading the bible. Today in the bookstore, I seriously considered buying God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, to even out my purchase, but I stopped myself.
So, I didn’t go crazy at the bookstore (have I mentioned the over 100 books I already own that I have not read? Yes, I have? well, just a reminder here…), and I bought not one, but two bibles. A very odd trip for me, indeed.