A life of courage, joy and independence.
A skeptic’s ride through the Bible
For Forrest Bell Who gave me my Bible
First Edition Copyright © 2018 by Kurt Bell
“Your reverence (pun intended) is an excellent way to not distance believers and to allow calm discourse. If not for my extreme respect for you, your honest calm attempt at decoding crazy, and the comedy of witnessing your relatively newer audience becoming bewildered, — my comments would be scathing against religion. Thank you for this rare opportunity to virtually study the bible with another non-believer, skeptic, and empiricist.” -Chase Beasley
This project began after my Uncle Forrest Bell sent me a beautiful Bible and then asked me to read it. The Bible he sent is truly a phenomenal specimen. It’s a New International Version with lots of supplemental information included within the Bible, providing background information about history and scholarship as well as helpful footnotes, maps and even in-depth articles about topical subjects touched on in the Biblical text. After thanking my uncle for his gift, the book sat on my shelf for over a year without being read. About a year later I started listening to the Bible via an audio app while commuting back and forth to work. I’d typically listen to one chapter a day, which took usually less than ten minutes, and then think about it for a few minutes while riding. I did this all within my helmet as I rode, and since the activity was private I didn’t devote too much time or energy to the effort. I started this project at the front of the Bible with the aim of “reading” all the way through to the end. I’d made it almost to the end of the Book of Joshua when I realized I wasn’t doing a very good job, as the effort had become more of a rout exercise of turning on the app, listening like a mindless drone, and then quickly forgetting about what I’d read as soon as the chapter was done. This was frustrating, as I believed the effort was worthwhile. I resolved to find a better way.
I’m a YouTube vlogger. And it didn’t take long for me to decide to try vlogging my thoughts about the Bible as a way of forcing myself to do a better job. I’m lucky that I have a very good camera and microphone on my motorcycle helmet, which I immediately began using for vlogging. The way it works is like this: I would listen to today’s Bible chapter in the evening and the morning before then recording my thoughts about this same chapter while riding my motorcycle to work in the morning. This idea did this trick, as I found that once the camera was on I was doing a much better job of focusing my thoughts and words to make the retelling of the story interesting and in-depth. This then caused me to take my listening more seriously in order to better comprehend and convey what I’d read. After a while I began to see that the King James Edition of the Bible that I was listening to was giving me just one perspective on the story, and I decided to try and expand my coverage. That’s when I remembered my uncle’s Bible. I checked and was happy to find the Bible was a New International Edition (NIV) which reads very differently from the King James Edition (KJE). Where the KJE has a more traditional, old English ring to it, the NIV reads more like a contemporary account, using more familiar and plain language. Since my practice to that point was to read Bible chapters no fewer than five times, and as many as ten or more times, I determined to mix up the activity by first listening to the KJE, then reading the KJE text, then the NIV text, and then reading the NIV while simultaneously listening to KJE. I also try to read once using this on-line Jewish Bible. Finally, I’d listen to the KJE one last time to finish off the exercise just before I hop on my motorcycle and begin recording. This is my routine, and it seems to work well as not only names of people, but the names of places and the big picture of the story tends to appear in my mind and remain there for a very long time.
Now a word about the formatting of this book. Each book of the Bible is presented as a chapter in this book, with many sub-section for the various Bible chapters. These sections include a fourteen-point header identifying the book and chapter followed by a heading summarizing the content. After that, there’s a paragraph or two where I try to relate in my own words what I read from the chapter. Finally, there may be a few sentences or paragraphs in italics which are the thoughts I had while reading or after making the video for the section. We then move on to the next section. Usually, the italicized comments relate to the chapter at hand though sometimes I’ll interject questions or commentary about the larger Bible story. Often, my questions appear directed to believers. This is because I uploaded all of the videos to my main Facebook wall as well as a special Facebook page called Freeway Bible Study where the follow-up questions were also asked. Though I don’t include any of the responses in this book, I found the responses and interaction on Facebook were both interesting and very civil.
So here we go. Let’s dive into the Bible started with Genesis and making our way all the way through to the end of Revelation. With a little luck I’ll complete this project in less than five years, and hopefully in time to convert me before the beginning of the End Times.