In the U.S., we have ten legal Federal holidays (from New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day). We call them ‘holidays’ (a word derived from Old English hāligdæg meaning “holy day”, in turn from Dutch and German heilig, meaning ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’), but the religious connotation for such days is generally gone – except insofar as the word ‘holy’ is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘separated’, and on such days, most of us separate ourselves from work! Also, both officially and unofficially, we generally recognize many other special days – and even weeks and months (e.g., Groundhog Day, Children’s Book Week, and Native Heritage Month).
The purpose of this post is to recommend that September 11th (or 9/11) be adopted as Discard a “holy book” Day. Here, by ‘discard’, I don’t necessarily mean burn, bury, or do similar to your “holy book”. For example, you may want to recycle it or trade it in for a better book. Yet, if you own a “holy book” and there’s no concern about air pollution, then if you’re so inclined, burning it would be good.
I should also admit that I’m generally opposed to destroying things. In some cases, however, e.g., in the case of bedbugs, black-widow spiders, and bacteria causing diseases from botulism to bubonic plague, destruction seems desirable – and without doubt, the world is certainly plagued with “holy books”, witness:
• Estimates are available that there are approximately 7.5 billion Bibles in the world. Since 1908, the Gideons alone, have distributed “close to 1.5 billion” Bibles. Last year, the Gideons distributed 26,000 Bibles in Chattanooga, TN, alone (population of ~ 500,000).Thus, even without inquiring of Google how many other “holy books” have been printed, it seems obvious that the world is infected with “holy books.”
• Approximately 800 million copies of the Koran have been sold; I couldn’t find an estimate for how many copies of the Koran have been given away, but last year, “about 18,000 to 20,000 copies” of the Koran were hung on doorknobs in Dearborn, MI, alone (population ~90,000), and “from July 2007 to May 2008, 70,000 [copies of the Koran]… were distributed in Chicago and 30,000 in Houston.”
• Even the relatively minor Mormon cult (membership claimed to be about 10 million) has printed more than 100 million copies of their Book of Mormon and distributed them around the world.
Meanwhile, of course it’s silly to call any book ‘holy’ – in my dictionary’s sense of “dedicated or consecrated to God”, because the most certain knowledge that humans have been able to gain (even more certain than the knowledge that we exist!) is that no god exists or has ever existed. More realistically, “holy books” are “dedicated and consecrated” to the clerics who peddle them in their con games for their own profit, in lieu of working for a living.
Further, the reasoning of one of the most influential founders of the American government, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), in his 1794 book The Age of Reason should have put the silliness to rest, once-and-for-all, that “holy books” are “revelations” from God. An illustration of Paine’s reasoning is given in the following quotation – for which I’ve taken the liberty to update some of its punctuation and spelling and I’ve added a few consistent changes and comments in brackets [such as these].
Every… [organized, revealed] religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals: the Jews have their Moses; the Christians [have] their Jesus Christ… the [Muslims] have their Muhammad [and, after Paine wrote this, the Mormons had the Rigdon-Smith conspiracy]… Each of those [religions rely on]… certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God: the Jews say that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say that their word of God came by divine inspiration; and the [Muslims] say that their word of God was brought by an angel from Heaven [just as the Mormons claim, for their Book of Mormon]. Each of those [religions] accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.In reality, it’s been well known for more than a century that the “revelations” recorded in all “holy books” are just records of ignorant speculations by primitive people. Some examples of such assessments are the following:
As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word ‘revelation’. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man. No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if He pleases [if he were to exist!]. But admitting, for the sake of [argument], that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that [first] person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.
It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication – after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the Commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some “historian” telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention. [Paine adds the footnote: “It is, however, necessary to except the declaration which says that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children; it is contrary to every principle of moral justice.”]
When I am told that the Quran was written in Heaven and brought to Muhammad by an angel, the account comes too near the same kind of hearsay evidence and second-hand authority as the former [and similarly for the Book of Mormon]. I did not see the angel myself, and, therefore, I have a right not to believe it.
When also I am told that a woman called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not. Such a circumstance requires much stronger evidence than their bare word for it. But we have not even this – for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves; it is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not choose to rest my belief upon such evidence…
The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most destructive to the peace of man since man began to exist. Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses, who gave an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers and then rape the daughters. One of the most horrible atrocities found in the literature of any nation. I would not dishonor my Creator’s name by attaching it to this filthy book…
The study of theology… is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion… All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit…
Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.
All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow”, so sleepy, such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. [Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain; 1835–1910)]In the subsequent century and more, even more damning assessments have been made of all “holy books”, but I’ll leave it to readers to explore such assessments on their own. For reasons detailed elsewhere, my own summaries are: as bad as the Bible is (and similarly, the Book of Mormon), the Koran is that much worse.
I studied the Koran a great deal ... I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. [Alexis De Tocqueville (1805–59)]
Having thus given a cursory view of the Qur’an I lay it before the sensible persons, with the purpose that they should know what kind of book the Qur’an is. If they ask me, I have no hesitation to say that it cannot be work either of God or of a learned man, nor can it be a book of knowledge. The Qur’an is the result of ignorance, the source of animalization of humans… a fruitful cause of destroying peace, an incentive to war, a propagator of hostility amongst men and a promoter of suffering in society. [Dayananda Saraswati (1824–83)]
A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell – mouths mercy, and invented hell – mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him! [Mark Twain (1835–1910)]
This Bible bears every evidence of being a book like every other book, conceived by man, written by man, altered by man, translated by man, printed by man, but – and this is where it differs from every other book – the Bible is swallowed by man. And it has disagreed with him; [but] man has not digested it properly through lack of sufficient dissection of its parts. It has been taken with a spiritual sauce that has disguised its real flavor. Anything in the Bible, no matter how raw, is taken as God’s food. It is used to demonstrate problems of diet which do not provide a balanced ration; it is accepted by the gullible though contradicted by the revelations of Geology, Astronomy, Anthropology, Zoology, and Biology. Taken as prescribed by the doctors of divinity, the Bible is a poisonous book. [William Floyd, 1871–1943]
The longer we live the more are we convinced that no adult person would accept the Bible as a divine work if he had not been taught the dogma of the Bible’s divinity when a child. Let the matured mind come to the perusal of the Bible without the religious prejudice in favor of its divine character, and it would reject the book as unworthy the consideration of the intelligent, educated mind. Let the refined sense, which all education in art, manners and social morals seeks to cultivate, begin to read the Bible, without the religious prejudice in favor of its sacred character, and before a dozen pages had been read, it would close the volume with disgust and hide it out of sight, or burn it as soon as possible.
The Bible’s divinity rests upon the mental and moral corruption of the young. Were children not taught that this book was sacred, men and women would look upon it as unholy. Do people realize what harm they are doing to the mind of the child when they teach it to accept the Bible as God’s word? They are telling the child that falsehood is sacred; that ignorance is holy; that foul stories are pure; that vile words are clean, in the mouth of God. Fathers and mothers would not tell their children what they, and what priests and ministers, tell them God wrote or inspired man to write.
What is needed today is to tell the truth about the Bible. Tell men and women that ignorant, uncultured, unrefined men wrote it hundreds of years ago, and that it is unfit in its present shape to put into the hands of a child that a mother wishes to grow up honest, true and pure. Liberals should not allow their children to touch the Bible. They should keep it from them until they are old enough to know that no book was ever written by a god, and then, if they read the Bible, they would see its true character. We must guard the minds of our children from Christian influences. We pity the child that is taught that the Bible is the word of God, but we despise the man that teaches this falsehood. [Lemuel K. Washburn (1846–1927)]
If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane…
The real oppressor, enslaver, and corrupter of the people is the Bible. That book is the chain that binds, the dungeon that holds the clergy. That book spreads the pall of superstition over the colleges and schools. That book puts out the eyes of science, and makes honest investigation a crime. That book fills the world with bigotry, hypocrisy and fear.
The book, called the Bible, is filled with passages equally horrible, unjust and atrocious. This is the book to be read in schools in order to make our children loving, kind and gentle! This is the book they wish to be recognized in our Constitution as the source of all authority and justice!
How long, O how long will mankind worship a book? How long will they grovel in the dust before the ignorant legends of the barbaric past? How long, O how long will they pursue phantoms in a darkness deeper than death? [Robert G. Ingersoll (1833–1899)]
Here, I’ll end this post just with the serious recommendation that it would be good if everyone in the world would commemorate one of the innumerable hideous consequences of permitting “holy books” to pollute the world by denoting 9/11 as Discard a “holy book” Day – and do so!
Although, come to think of it, if you would prefer not to restrict yourself to discarding “holy books” only on September 11th, then I certainly wouldn’t try to deter you. In my view, the more “holy books” trashed, the better.