I have been having fun with the eBooks, as you’ll have noted. In among the 1,600 so far are many works that enable me to review my path from teenage Calvinist and absurdly young Elder in the early to mid 60s through the years to my current status as a member in good standing – though less often there – of South Sydney Uniting Church, albeit really a lapsed Presbyterian Buddhist Agnostic – as I told Dorothy McRae-McMahon some five or six years back.
Not an atheist, you will note. I haven’t enough faith for that.
I won’t bore you yet with details about how my reading/time travel is going, but I have found an oldish – 1919 – book that I respect a lot, and it originates in the US Deep South.
As far back as I can remember, I understood the Bible to be the word of God, every word of it, from the first word in Genesis to the last "Amen" of Revelation; that it was all divinely inspired, verbatim et literatim, just as it appeared in the old King James version; that it was God’s revelation to mankind, beside and outside of which there never was, and never would be any other; that every word of it was literally, and infallibly true, just as it read. Such a thing as figurative, or allegorical interpretations I never heard of until I was a grown man, as we shall see later.
This, of course, meant a literal six-day Creation, an anthropomorphic God, a literal physical heaven, and likewise a literal, physical hell, a personal devil, the absolute, literal, truth of the story of Eden, the original perfection and fall of man, total depravity of the race, vicarious atonement and the eternal damnation of all mankind, individually and collectively, who did not accept the prescribed creed of the church of my parents, as the only means of escape.
My first conception of God was that of a great big good man sitting high up in heaven on a great white throne, whence He would judge the world; that heaven was a great city somewhere up in the skies, with streets of gold and walls of jasper; that hell was a literal burning lake of fire and brimstone somewhere down under the world, and that it was presided over by the devil and was made to burn people in who were not good, or who had not believed in Christ as a personal Savior. As a little child I was taught that if I was not a good boy, when I died, the devil, usually spoken of as "the bad man," would get me and burn me in this hell forever and ever; and that I never could burn up or die, and if I called for water he would pour melted lead down my throat. Many a time I would think over this horrible torture that I might inadvertently fall into by doing some bad thing when at heart I really meant to be good, and sincerely wish I had never been born.
In my night visions I could see the devil with his tea-kettle of melted lead, pouring it down the throats of the helpless little ones, writhing in the tortures of the never ending fire!…
Having thus changed my church relations, and feeling that I had a greater field of usefulness open to me, my zeal for efficiency and success increased. I had a sincere and consuming desire to "save men’s souls." And believing my creed to be as infallible as the Bible upon which it was based, I studied to make myself efficient and able in its defense. By following the ordinary methods of interpretation, I soon found no trouble in doing this. Does the reader inquire here what are the "ordinary methods of interpretation"? Taking a chapter, or verse, or paragraph of the Bible here and there, thru the whole book, from Genesis to Revelation, and weaving them together as a connected whole, regardless of whether there is any natural connection between them or not; then disposing of all contradictory passages as either "figurative,"—with unlimited latitude on the interpretation of the "figures,"—or as pertaining to those "great and mysterious, unknowable things of God’s divine revelation,"—mysteries too great for man to know! This method of interpretation is the common practice, to a greater or less extent, of every church in Christendom that accepts the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible, and looks to it as its sole and final source of authority in religion. There is not a creed in Christendom today, and never has been, that cannot be supported and proved to be conclusively correct from the Bible by this method of interpretation. By the same method the Bible can be made the defense—and it often has been—of war, murder, slavery, polygamy, adultery, and the foulest crimes known to humanity, and these all made the divine institutions of God. And these are exactly the leading methods of interpretation of the Bible that are being followed today, and have been since Christianity first began to divide into sects and parties…
As I have said quite often in the past ten years one thing I am sure of is that there are NO infallible “authorities” on God, and God has never written a book… Or dictated one…
It feels like ages since I last visited this blog. I haven’t had anything published since late 2011 when I ventured into the contentious issue of gay marriage. After that, a heap of family, work, personal and health issues took over.
This blog represents a difficult time of recovery. There is stuff here I’m somewhat embarrassed to read. There is also stuff that was noticed by editors and producers and lots of readers, stuff which I am proud of.
If it wasn’t for this blog, I’d never have ventured into my humble attempts at opinion journalism. I’d never have had sufficient writing practice to write an 85,000 word manuscript.
But believe it or not, writing is tiresome. Write now, I’m trying to gather energy to write some more. But I’m finding it hard. Writers’ block isn’t the problem. It’s more like writer’s fatigue.
So what should I do? Someone suggested I should return to blogging. So I’ll give it a go and see what happens…
Plus many editors couldn’t understand why I was so offended when they would publish anything I wrote about Islam and/or Pakistan and/or the Middle East but nothing I wrote about subjects that really interested me e.g. Australian politics, the law or workplace relations. They must have thought my allegedly unpronounceable name made me an expert on all things exotic but a novice on anything more familiar…
I mentioned Dorothy McRae-McMahon above. That’s her on the right. See also Instead of the Friday poem: Dorothy McRae-McMahon, "A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth", Christianity’s coats of many colours, So this Sunday…, Floating Life’s Books and Ideas: Still reading Dorothy’s autobiography.
I am sad to read this on the South Sydney Uniting Church site.
South Sydney Uniting Church mourns the passing of Alison (Ali) Blogg, partner to Dorothy and friend to us all. A funeral service for Ali will be held Tuesday April 17 in the Camellia Chapel at Macquarie Park Cemetery (Delhi Road, Macquarie Park), commencing 11.30am. Refreshments will be served from 12.45pm.
Ali had been ill for some years now with cancer.
My thoughts are with Dorothy and everyone up there in South Sydney.
Ali was the main photographer on the South Sydney Herald. Here she is in August 2010.
BLOGG, Alison Elizabeth
Late of Lilyfield.
Passed away peacefully on April 5, 2012. Beloved partner of Dorothy McRae-McMahon. Loved sister of Kevin, Val, Terry and Catherine. Ali will be sadly missed by all her family and many friends.
Aged 65 years
She lived life to the full with authenticity and courage, giving so much to so many people. No matter what the future brings, we will always hold her near to us and our love will have no end.