THE X-RATED BIBLE
The X Rated Bible by Ben
Published by Omar Bros. Publications Pte. Ltd.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ben Edward Akerly was reared as a Methodist but converted to Seventh-Day-Adventist at age sixteen with such fervor that he planned to become a missionary for that faith. However, during his theological studies he soon arrived at Clarence Darrow's conclusion that `doubt is the beginning of wisdom' and entered a rarefied realm of the freethinker. Here he introduces his book `The X-Rated Bible - The irreverent Survey of Sex in the Scriptures'. It is available from Omar Brothers Publications Pte. Ltd. Alexander Post Office Box 0008, Singapore 9115.
The Gallup poll of September 1976 was a surprising revelation not so much for its information on the so-called "evangelical" experience, but for the light it cast on contemporary attitudes toward the Bible - eighty-three percent of those polled view the Bible either as the actual or inspired word of God.
Since I number myself among the thirteen percent of the populace who consider the Bible to be nothing more than "an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by men," my thesis in this book is that nothing in the Bible more forcefully or compellingly reinforces this viewpoint than an objective and impartial examination of the Biblical passages which relate to sex. It is an unpopular position, to be sure, but I am convinced that the eighty-three percent of the population who revere the Bible do so from a lack of familiarity with its contents in general and its passages relating to sex in particular, for the Bible enjoys a twofold, albeit paradoxical reputation. On the one hand, it is the world's undisputed, number one, all-time best seller with more than two billion copies extant in at least 1,800 languages.
On the other hand, it is one of the least read of books and certainly one that few ever venture to read through from cover to cover. Most Bible reading, therefore, centres on selected passages or favorite portions, which are usually the same excerpts, heard from the pulpit.
That much of the Holy Writ has a decidedly salacious flavour comes as a surprise, consequently, to the average layman. This is also due in no small part to the majestic sweep, the grandeur and the melodic ring of the great King James' version - the 1611 translation which is the one most familiar to the English-speaking world. The lofty seventeenth century idiom masks most of the bawdy narrative by its plethora of obsolete and archaic forms, the literal meaning of which escapes the modern reader. It has been estimated that more than five hundred words used repeatedly in the King James' version have altered radically in meaning since 1611.
My interest in writing a book about Biblical sexual practices dates back to my college freshman year as a theology major when I studied the Bible formally, my approach then being both reverent and uncritical. I was astounded to discover the great amount of sex in the Good Book, for until that time, I had viewed it as the literal word of God. I was soon to learn that this view is held only by fundamentalist religious groups.
After changing my major to education, I read Thomas Paine's scathing indictment of the Bible in his The Age of Reason and began to reflect on the validity of some of his observations. Shortly after earning my university degree, I saw the provocative play Inherit The Wind and greatly admired the stirring defense of evolution which Clarence Darrow gave in that Dayton, Tennessee courtroom, where he represented school teacher John Scopes in the famous "Monkey Trial". Darrow's daring in using the Bible itself to challenge fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan left an indelible impression on my mind. I soon adopted the view that the Bible is just another history or collection of histories.
In the early 1970s, while serving on the faculty of the University of Southern California, I was disturbed by the trend of the campus newspaper, The Daily Trojan, in giving frequent space to evangelicals who were mostly members of the Campus Crusade for Christ. When these religious zealots objected in print to official university recognition of the Gay Liberation Forum on the basis of homosexuality being condemned in the Bible, I expressed my concern to the editor of the paper who, in turn, invited me to write a rebuttal article expressing my views. My article "Bible Sex" soon evolved into a series in the form of a dialogue between me and the newspaper staff writer who represented the Campus Crusade for Christ.
The controversy created over this series proved to me what little tolerance fundamentalists have for anyone who has the temerity to criticize or challenge the Bible or, more especially, their interpretation of it. It also gave me the impetus to write this book.
The fundamentalists' position is truly contradictory: they hold to a narrow moral code which they base squarely on the Bible, yet they are on shaky ground indeed since, by the very standards of these conservative religious groups, much of the Bible might be considered obscene.
Not content to keep their myopic, Biblical-based morality to themselves, fundamentalists are notorious in forming pro-censorship groups, in objecting loudly when evolution is presented in school textbooks without giving "equal tittle" to Adam and Eve, and in staunchly opposing and lobbying against any form of sex education or the dispensing of abortion and birth control information.
America has an incredible array of more than 300 of these pro-censorship, anti-evolution and anti-life groups with such picturesque names as Americans to Stamp Out Smut, Youth for Christ, The Knights of Columbus, Campus Crusade for Christ, The Guardians of Morality in Youth, Operation Moral Upgrade, the Christian Force for Our Righteous Christian Environment, The Moral Majority, American Christian Cause and Morality in Media.
Of course, it is always instructive to examine the psychological motives of these self-appointed guardians of everyone's morality and no one has penned a more perceptive or a more penetrating analysis of the censorial mind than have Harvey O'Higgins and Edward Reede in their spellbinding book, The American Mind in Action. They were writing about that archetype of all anti-vice crusaders, Anthony Comstock, but the description certainly applies to all smut-hunters of Comstock's ilk. On page 15 they state:
"The Puritan lived in a state of war with his instinctive self, which he regarded as his evil self tempting him to live according to the law of the flesh when he wished to live according to the Pauline law of God. He hated the flesh in himself and he hated even more fiercely that flesh appearing as the vices of others. Hence he was a great persecutor, a strong vice-crusader, the best of witch hunters. The more puritanical the modern American is, the more he has of these vice-crusading qualities. It is useless to tell such a man to love his neighbor as himself he hates so much of himself. His hate, reservoir within him, gets its drainage in raids on vice, in the prosecutions and suppressions carried on by anti-vice societies, and in the campaigns of reform that call for- the punishment of evil-doers. Nowhere else in the world could modern life produce such characters as America's Anthony Comstock."
But few have be en the voices raised in opposition to these do-gooders and even fewer have been those who have dared to suggest that the Bible is anything but inspired.
One voice raised loud and clear against the Bible was that of America's great patriot-by-adoption, Thomas Paine (1737-1809). As a child, he was exposed to the Bible and its teachings and, at the age of seven or eight heard a sermon on redemption in which there were frequent allusions to the Holy Scriptures. Paine recounts how he left the church and went outside into the churchyard garden completely revolted by what he had just heard. In The Age of Reason, published in 1784, Paine's recollection of this event was still vivid and undiminished with a lapse of nearly forty years. After describing his traumatic childhood experience, Paine concludes: "I moreover believe that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system. "
Here is autobiographical evidence of at least one person who, as a child, felt that the Bible had a corrupting influence. Yet, judging by the very names of many anti-vice societies, which are deeply rooted in the Bible, it is the protection of the morality of youth that is their primary concern. Paine waxes even more vitriolic, again in The Age of Reason, and he pens an excoriating indictment of the Bible:
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel. "
A famous contemporary of Thomas
Paine who also was personally contemptuous of the Bible was
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). It is a little-known but
fascinating historical fact that he was so disgrunted with the
New Testament in particular that the wrote his own
"Jefferson's Bible" in which he radically altered most
of the four Gospels dealing with the life of Christ. He
rearranged them to suit his own interpretation of the events and
entitled the work The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Since
Jefferson had once written in a letter to Charles Clay: "I
not only write nothing on religion, but rarely permit myself to
speak on it," his
Jefferson's Bible was presumably never intended for publication. Nevertheless, since Jefferson's death, it has been published in several editions and it makes engagingly interesting reading.
Another fearless critic of the Bible was D.M. Bennett, a free thought publisher whose journal The Truth Seeker came under fire during the heyday of the most fanatic anti-obscenity crusader America has ever produced, Anthony Comstock (1844-1915).
Comstock was successful in getting Congress to pass the notorious Comstock Act of 1873 and it is to America's great discredit that his despicable law is still on the statute books today. This law gave Comstock unlimited power as Chief Inspector of the Post Office Department and it allowed him to be the sole arbiter of obscenity and pornography cases. Concurrently, he was the chief agent of New York's Society for the Suppression of Vice.
Comstock arrested Bennett in 1877 for publishing a heretical tract entitled "An Open Letter to Jesus Christ" and a biological essay "Why Do Marsupials Propagate Their Kind? When the Government decided to drop its case against Bennett, Comstock became so frustrated that he resolved to get Bennett by any means available to him.
In 1878, Comstock finally managed to get another indictment against Bennett for distributing a free love tract entitled "Cupid's Yokes." It was written by E.H. Heywood of Boston who himself had been arrested by Comstock. Much to the chagrin of Comstock, President Hayes had personally intervened in the Heywood case, having granted Heywood a presidential pardon.
The method Comstock used to entrap Bennett was a favourite with him: he sent a decoy letter through the mail requesting the tract from Bennett's publishing office, and upon receipt of the tract, he had Bennett arrested for mailing "obscene" matter. Bennett served one full year in prison. What had particularly enraged Comstock was Bennett's audacious suggestion that Comstock should also consider indicting the American Bible Society for obscenity for distributing the Bible.
The most famous and most outspoken American critic of the Bible was the great agnostic orator, Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899). At the zenith of his career, he once offered one thousand dollars in cash to any minister in the city of Cleveland who would agree to read to his congregation, from his pulpit on a Sunday morning, passages from the Bible to be selected by the agnostic. The offer was never accepted, and this in a day when one thousand dollars was a considerable sums.
Ingersoll once wrote in a letter to
"Nobody holds in greater contempt than I the writers, publishers, or dealers in obscene literature. One of my objections to the Bible is that it contains hundreds of grossly obscene passages, in my judgement, calculated to corrupt the minds of youth. I hope the time will come when the good sense of the American people will demand a Bible with all obscene passages left out. "
Ingersoll's eloquent anti-theological lectures "Some Mistakes of Moses" and "About The Holy Bible" are masterpieces of oratorical defamation of the Scriptures.
Mark Twain, a great admirer of Robert Ingersoll, once had occasion to take a jab at the Bible. A young woman superintendent in the Children's Department of the Brooklyn Public Library charged that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were corrupting the morals of children. Twain's answer, as recorded in volume two of his autobiography, page 335, was:
"I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was fifteen years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean, sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady - she will tell you so."
Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defense of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion, it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.
If there is an unexpurgated (Bible) in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?
Another outstanding example of open criticism of the Holy Writ where even its divine authorship was brought into question is the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925.
William Jennings Bryan, a devout Christian fundamentalist who ran for president three times but was defeated all three times, had been successful in drafting legislation which prohibited the teachings of evolution in the public schools of America. John T. Scopes, a school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, challenged this law and was charged and brought to trial.
Bryan volunteered to represent the prosecution, but he had a most formidable opponent in the person of Clarence Darrow, the prestigious criminal trial lawyer from Chicago who had volunteered to represent the defense.
Darrow brought the Bible right into the courtroom and brilliantly challenged Bryan's troglodyte fundamentalist views in a stunning and eloquent exegesis of the opening chapters of Genesis. Although Bryan won the case, the trial proved to be such a strain on him that, worn and haggard, he died five days after the termination of the trial. The panoply of events has been faithfully recorded and splendidly dramatized for all posterity in the superb drama Inherit The Wind which was authored by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee in 1955.
In my criticism of the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, I wish to focus only on sex. Anyone who doubts that there is much sex in the Bible need only read Genesis to find in just that opening chapter explicit and graphic examples of several varieties of incest, rape, adultery, indecent exposure, pimping, homosexual assault, bigamy, ritualistic circumcision, attempted seduction of a youth by an older woman, prostitution, baby-making by proxy, use of both an aphrodisiac and a fertility drug, fornication with devils, women punished with sterility, husband swapping, masturbation/ withdrawal and a fertility contest with four female contestants.
I insist that if the Bible is inspired, the passages relating to sex should reveal great enlightenment and exceptionally advanced knowledge and understanding. What we encounter instead are superstition, fear, primitive thinking and gross misunderstanding of even the most basic sexual functions.
Several other books have been written about Biblical sexual practices, but they have always been authored by apologists who rationalize anything and everything to conform to their theological orthodoxy. My approach is different because I do not consider the Bible as sacrosanct or above even objective criticism.
Once we disabuse ourselves of the notion that the Bible is inspired, we see it in a new light and delving into its sexual mysteries becomes real fun. But please don't take my word for it. This is what a noted contemporary theologian has to say about the subject: "...the Bible contains much racy material, fully as sexy as the works of Jacqueline Susann, only better written." (Rev. Charles Merrill Smith writing in The Pearly Gates Syndicate or How to Sell Real Estate in Heave. Doubleday, 1971)
Modern versions of the Bible are selling today as never before, but even in these easy-to-read-and-understand translations, many passages, which refer specifically to sex, are either glossed over or left without any explanation. In The X-Rated Bible, I leave nothing to the imagination since I am providing a comprehensive anthology of sex as we find it in the Scriptures.
I sincerely hope that this anthology will have the additional therapeutic benefit of helping readers learn not to take sex so seriously. Masters and Johnson, the sex researches team from St. Louis, estimate that fifty percent of all marriages suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction. They go on to add amazingly that "the factor of religious orthodoxy still remains of major import...in almost every form of human sexual inadequacy." (Human Sexual Inadequacy, p.229)
To explore the "racy
material" which Rev. Smith mentioned in his book and get a
fresh perspective on the Bible and its many interesting, colorful
and very human characters read my book!