Friday 6 December 2019

The Good Book is a great read but please don't take it literally

Holy Bible on beige sofa,close-up
Holy Bible on beige sofa,close-up

Rob Sadlier Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

If only it were that simple. My first question is: which Bible? There is no single Bible. Many different Bibles have existed and exist. Different books with differing contents feature within the biblical canons of different religious groups. Which one are we talking about?

Moving on from that minor detail, the trouble is that many people have throughout the centuries considered, and many people living today consider, that their particular version of the Bible is a work of divine revelation, to be interpreted literally.

For example, young earth creationists advocate a strict literal interpretation and believe all life on Earth was created by direct acts of a god between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. A 2011 Gallup survey revealed that 30pc of adults in the US – the most powerful and in some ways the most advanced country in the world – said they interpreted the Bible literally.

But, let's assume that they're all collections of metaphors. How are these metaphors to be interpreted and who is to interpret them? This is dangerous territory. It can and has resulted in people relinquishing their critical faculties and in brainwashing.

The Bible has been used to justify murder, torture, slavery and homophobia.

It is still happening to this day: the extreme homophobia prevalent in parts of Africa is justified based on biblical interpretations. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said recently: "Certainly, the teaching of the Catholic Church could be used by some people in a homophobic way."

I have read through various versions of the Bible. Great works of literature no doubt. So are the works of Shakespeare and Joyce, but nobody claims that their works are sources of divine revelation.

I find the concept of human sacrifice (especially in the context of a self/filial sacrifice by a supposedly eternal super-being) morally repugnant.

I also find the concept of hell morally repugnant.

The Catholic Church still teaches that hell exists, yet the church is strangely silent on this matter these days and who will end up there. Practising Catholics often dismiss morally the objectionable concepts and injunctions of the Bible on the basis that they emanate from the Old Testament, but it's the New Testament that introduces us to the concept of hell.

Thankfully, there is not a shred of evidence that such a place exits.

If such a place does exist, I look forward to having a drink with Mr Hitchens by the fire.

LET'S NOT REWRITE HISTORY

* Hopefully we can always have happy and friendly relations with our British neighbours, but without turning history on its head.

DUBLIN 9

DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION

* Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is mistaken in increasing the number of penalty points and fines for texting while ignoring eating, drinking, smoking and the operation of a radio and DVDs while driving.

Previous ministers blamed speed, drunk driving, talking on a phone and not wearing seatbelts for road traffic accidents.

Essential Driver Training was introduced by Mr Varadkar with great fanfare in 2011, but in 2013 road fatalities increased by 30 on the 2012 statistics so texting is now deemed the cause of accidents.

If statistics are to be believed, 25pc of fatal accident drivers were drunk, 20pc were not wearing seatbelts and now 20-30pc were deemed to be texting.

A car radio has as many knobs, buttons, numbers and stations as a mobile telephone.

Is texting on a fixed mobile phone more dangerous than operating the radio controls on a moving steering wheel or watching a sat-nav display while driving?

POST OFFICES ARE HUB OF RURAL LIFE

* The possible closures of post offices strikes another blow at rural Ireland following closures of local banks, garda stations, and health clinics while many schools remain under threat.

For many, the local post office is a focal point for communities and its loss would have an enormous impact on community life.

The social aspect of the post office should be taken into consideration by government, because the post offices are at the heart of the community in towns and villages. The local postmaster provides a personal service that will be lost when they will be forced to close their doors.

It is unacceptable that older people and people with disabilities may now be forced to travel long distances to join the already lengthening queues at bank branches to receive their social welfare payments and pensions, where they also face extra charges along with a customer service that has reached deplorable levels.

It is the elderly and the less fortunate in society who are continually being targeted and the closure of the post office is another aspect of this.

Their closure will inevitably lead to increased levels of isolation and loneliness.

In many areas, the only available shop is attached to a post office and sometimes is the only outlet for social interaction that many older people have.

The banks played a major part in destroying this country. It now appears that it is government policy to get the banks back on their feet by directing more business towards their way.

In doing this, they will have killed off what life is left in rural towns and villages, and the Government could possibly be described as the most anti-rural government we have had in this country.

WHO WILL PAY FOR COUNCIL LEAKS?

l According to the Dublin City Council (DCC) website "water leakage levels have been reduced from 43pc to 29pc from 1997 to 2009".

With the ongoing installation of water meters, one wonders if DCC will have an extra-large meter installed and be charged accordingly for their water losses?

ROYAL ASSENT FOR RISING?

* David Quinn asked recently whether the Easter Rising was worth it? (Irish Independent, April 11).

As a follower of James Connolly's Citizen Army rather than the Republican Brotherhood and Patrick Pearse's Volunteers, I would look at King George V himself for an answer.

Following his very successful 1911 visit to Dublin, during which he visited a tenement, he wrote to the British Surgeon General: "Is it possible that my people live in such awful conditions?

"I tell you, Mr Wheatley, that if I had to live in conditions like that, I would be a revolutionary myself."

Despite my grand-uncle Austin being in the Volunteers, and my cousin James Arthur dying in British khaki on Easter Monday, I hope that I would have fought for James Connolly's vision of a People's Republic – had I lived 100 years ago.

That is in no way to be confused with giving support to the current Labour Party, who in my opinion sold their soul for a handful of bling and a seat on the government jet.

Irish Independent

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