The Friendly Humanist tagged me with this Internet Blog meme. Here are the rules, to be bent only slightly by me:
- Pick up the book nearest you with at least 123 pages. (No cheating!)
- Turn to page 123.
- Count the first five sentences.
- Post the next three sentences.
- Tag five other bloggers.
I don’t call the stuff that I see nearest me “books”. I get up, and walk out of my study (where my computer is) and into my living area. On the dinner table, conveniently, lies Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. Stunning book, that. I turn to page 123. What’s this? Ugh, a quoted piece. Pity, I don’t want a quoted piece.
It is dark, I’m working only by the light of the computer screen. I have been up all night, did not sleep at all, I’m about to go for a long cycle at first light. The movie Elizabeth has just rocked my world. Your conscience, how powerful can your conscience not be. I bet what we call “conscience”, is what the ancients called “the Holy Spirit”. Whatever, my conscience tells me things, the Holy Spirit tells me things. Conscience, why can’t more people actually listen to their conscience? But yes, I digress.
Lo and behold, I’m looking at page 122, not page 123! Page 123 is on the right, not on the left. I’m serious, this is genuine. My “only serious cheat” thus, is this:
Five sentences? So do you count the first half sentence? So here I cheat, I invert it, and I make it two. To pay for this sin in attempting to find better context, I must provide less-context compensation. I drop the last of the three sentences. This is what I see:
His copies of the New Testament (which a century later became the basis of the exquisite King James translation) were then hunted down house-to-house by armed posses — Christians piously defending Christianity by preventing other Christians from knowing the words of Christ. Such a cast of mind, such a climate of absolute confidence that knowledge should be rewarded by torture and death were unlikely to help those accused of witchcraft.
Page 123. Remarkable? A coincidence? You tell me. Either way, just get yourself a copy of Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World and read it.
Somewhere else in that chapter, or another chapter near it, I had read a claim that we still burn witches here in South Africa. I didn’t want to believe it, but lo and behold, within the month, I see an article on a newspaper’s website about a witch burning. In 2007. My, apartheid really messed up our education, I think. Especially in the rural areas. There is much work to be done, many demons to drive out.
The text above refers to William Tyndale, who I heard about in Shofar’s Bible School on Tuesday. Shofar loves the King James Version, but they are not quite “King James Only”. Maybe thanks to the diversity in our town, maybe thanks to so many Afrikaans speakers. There is no Afrikaans “King James”. I should check my notes with regards to what they said about Tyndale, and see how it compares with the whole paragraph (ending in the above two sentences):
Witchcraft of course was not the only offence that merited torture and burning at the stake. Heresy was a still more serious crime, and both Catholics and Protestants punished it ruthlessly. In the sixteenth century the scholar William Tyndale had the temerity to contemplate translating the New Testament into English. But if people could actually read the Bible in their own language instead of arcane Latin, they could form their own, independent religious views. They might conceive of their own private unintermediated line to God. This was a challenge to the job security of Roman Catholic priests. When Tyndale tried to publish his translation, he was hounded and pursued all over Europe. Eventually he was captured, garroted, and then, for good measure, burned at the stake.
I fear not accusations of heresy, and I abhor any people that insist on placing themselves between congregations and God. Except, I must be careful, because that is a particularly strong statement. Every clergy, every priest, every pastor, preaching from a pulpit, runs the risk of getting in the way. It is a dangerous job, a job that takes courage and humility. Well, either courage and humility, or vanity and pride. Vanity and pride can unfortunately serve as a substitute.
So now I must tag some people… let’s chicken out of the international ones, and stay local: Saligerus, Kinekansel, Die Pienk Zuit, Johan Swarts. No, wait, I bet the Bad Astronomer would love to make some interesting comments about “picking up a book, flipping it open at a random page, and reading a random verse”. This seems right up his alley. I’d be honoured if he bites, what with all the Christian Heresy I am spewing and will be spewing on this blog.
I have another confession to make: the vitriolic polemic that I didn’t want to call a book because I didn’t want to make use of it, was The God Delusion. Yea, it’s lying here right next to me. I still don’t want to waste time with it, I have more important things to read right now. I’m on a Jesus-mission, and Dawkins aint gonna be very helpful, he’s clueless about such matters. So let’s hope the following earns some credit with the Bad Astronomer: I thought “Ok, so I cheat by not using this book… what do I want to use? Ah, yes, that Good Book on skepticism, by a guy a biologist like Dawkins could only dream of being, by an astronomer, no less!” (Dear Dawkins fans, if you don’t understand the Bad Astronomy/Pharyngula dynamic, just ignore this paragraph, m’kay? ) “Now where’s that book? Ah, in the kitchen, my sister gave it back to me recently. So let’s go get close to it, so that I can pick it.” I just knew it would have good stuff in it.
Oh, and if the Bad Astronomer doesn’t bite, that’s probably also for the best. I fear he might send me more people that don’t understand my local context and the journey I’ve been walking. Phil, luckily the rules don’t say you have to link to me, y’know!