Already forgotten in the mists of antiquity, before the World Wide Web there was a computer network made up of bulletin board systems (BBS). The BBS could send messages to each other, arriving in a few days while letters (a barbaric form of proto-communication involving ink and paper) would require a week or two. BBS could also host files, and it was to a BBS that I committed one of my earliest electronic publications, A Call to Heresy.
I wrote A Call to Heresy in August of 1991. It was a compilation of quotations from the Bible that highlighted the base character of that book, specifically quotes on women (Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18), sex (If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13), slavery (I will sell your sons and daughters into the hands of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people afar off; for the Lord hath spoken it. Joel 3:8), the end of the world (And [Jesus Christ] said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. Mark 9:1), contradictions (Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1, for example) and absurdities / atrocities (Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. Psalms 137:9). I gave the final word to an authority on whether some or all of the Bible is to be taken as instructions for Christians today (Think not that I [Jesus Christ] am come to destroy the law or the prophets I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill… Till heaven and earth shall pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law… Matthew 5:17-18).
A Call to Heresy was uploaded to a BBS in October 1991. You can find a copy of the essay in its original form at textfiles.com, a marvelous resource for exploring the age of the BBS. I entered A Call to Heresy into the public domain at publication, and so it was distributed far and wide. Remarkably, it was included in a collection of public domain texts on a CD-ROM (ever heard of those?) published by Palm Computers (think of a smart phone minus the phone). I considered reprinting A Call to Heresy on the World Wide Web in 1992 when this new form of electronic publishing came into existence. This earlier work did assist me when I published OVO 16 ANTICHRIST.
Then, in 2002 I found The Skeptics Annotated Bible. Authored by Steve Wells, The Skeptics Annotated Bible (SAB) is a site that includes everything I had written about but at greater length. The SAB also includes quotes from the Bible on its injustice, intolerance, failed prophecies, politics, and (to its credit) also the “Good Stuff” (Test all things; hold fast to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21). The SAB is well organized, easy to use, includes (again to its credit) links to criticisms of itself, and is free of advertisements. After comparing my ‘Call to Heresy’ with SAB, I stopped publishing my essay and instead referred people to the SAB. I wrote Wells and told him just that: he kindly said there was room for both, true enough, but I’d rather refer people to his banquet than my snack bar.
Wells curated the SAB for the next decade. New information was added, mistakes were corrected, illustrations from the Brick Testament (a telling of the Bible in the form of Lego toys) were added, and much more. The amount of cross-referencing in SAB was remarkable, revealing the number of contradictions and false prophecies in the Bible to be far greater than I’d ever known. Nearly no claim made in the entire book is unambiguously a fact; not in contradiction to external history, but within its own pages. When Wells announced he was going to publish the SAB as a book I could not envision how such a thing was possible. How could a book show all these internal references? How could it have so much commentary on a verse by verse basis? Nonetheless I bought a copy as soon as it was offered for sale, and am entirely satisfied with it.
The SAB in book form includes internal references and commentary the way religious books have always done so; in the margins and as appendices. The print is large enough for these old eyes, giving the entire book a three-pound heft worthy of its (faux) leather covers. The contents of the website are here, with easy to follow marginal notes leading one on a chase (merry or weary) from one contradiction to the next, from one failed prophecy to another. But again, the “Good Stuff” is not omitted nor is it ignored. Truth and beauty are where you find them, and this atheist in particular finds much of value in the book of Ecclesiastes.
I would recommend The Skeptics Annotated Bible to any atheist who wishes to critique the Bible. I would also recommend it to any Christian who wishes to read more than the “Good Stuff” in their holy book. After all, it’s every jot and tittle that counts!