Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mmm... Lamb. I want Moore.

Let’s see if I can stop laughing long enough to write my thoughts after reading Christopher Moore’s hilarious “Lamb”. I’m not sure every atheist would find this as funny as I did because it’s quite esoteric, in that a healthy understanding of scripture makes the book so much funnier. If you know the four gospels of the New Testament you will be reeling at in-joke after side-splitting in-joke. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of fun here even for an atheist who has assiduously avoided the “holy” texts.

One of the great points that the book made was that the bizarre beliefs of Christians are strongly related to all of the other absurd religions of the world. Intuitively, all atheists understand that you can put any label on religion and it is still the same thing – a reverently held fantasy that informs every aspect of the believer’s world view. It’s not that we, as non-believers, hold a special contempt for Christianity (although I know most Christians in America feel they are picked on by us). As atheists we simply have no use for any god hypothesis. The primary version of the god hypothesis we have thrust in our faces daily is Christianity and we rebel against it. But if we lived in India, it might be Hinduism that we would mock. This is part of the beauty of Lamb. It ties together several of the “great religions” of the world into the Christ story.

The four gospels are conspicuous in avoiding mention of the childhood life of Jesus (or Joshua, as he is called in Lamb. The name “Jesus” is from the early translations from Hebrew into Greek. My personal take on this is that since the scholars were able to more or less accurately translate the name “Joshua” (Yeshua in Hebrew) for the Joshua of the Old Testament, they probably felt that when it came to their new god, only a unique name would do – thus “Jesus”. This is only a hypothesis).

There is the famous manger story of his birth (in two of the four gospels only), mention of him impressing the Rabbis with his biblical knowledge at about age 12 and, if memory serves, one other childhood reference. We know virtually nothing else about the first 30 years of his incredibly significant life (if he lived). For instance, shortly after his birth, he and the entire family fled to Egypt to avoid the death sentence on males under the age of 2 ordered by Herod. Wouldn’t the story of what happened to god in Egypt be important? So Lamb gives us a fifth gospel! This one covers the years leading up to his ministry.

It is the Gospel of Levi (who is known as Biff). Biff is Jesus’ stalwart pal and is never far from his side from age 6 up until the crucifixion. Since we know nothing of how Jesus came to see himself as Son of God, how he prepared for his mission or why he introduced some ideas that were distinctly different from traditional Judaism, Biff happily enlightens us. How unsurprising to an atheist would it be if Jesus actually tutored for his Son of God gig under mystics, Buddhists and Hindus? Hell, why not?

After all, religion is religion. The aspects of the later Christ story are easily understandable under some elements of each of these other religious genres. There was no need to work Islam into it, because Islam came later and was also founded on the same Old Testament teachings that Christianity was.

A pinch of mysticism, a dash of Buddhism, a teaspoon of Hinduism, mix well with a half-pint of Judaism and there you have it – a cocktail that will have your head spinning for the remainder of your life.

Why not? And why not another Christopher Moore book for the Non-Believing Literati? If not, I'll just read it myself!


Spanish Inquisitor said...

I've read 4 of Moore's books so far. Of the 4, Lamb was actually my least favorite. But I love the way he writes.

I just finished "A Dirty Job" the other day, but instead of reading it, I listed to it on audio. It really, really lends itself well to audio, because the characters are all so goofy, and the plot so implausible. The actor who read it did the voices perfectly. I was cracking up listening to it in my car.

If I was to recommend one, that would be it (until I read his others)

The Stupidest Angel is also good, especially around Christmas.

Good post, John. This is so true:

Intuitively, all atheists understand that you can put any label on religion and it is still the same thing – a reverently held fantasy that informs every aspect of the believer’s world view.

They don't see that it's just a wishful thinking process, set to the culture that it arose in.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I've read everything else of his and have been putting Lamb off ... I guess I'll have to try it.

John Evo said...

Any friend of Chuck Darwin is a friend of mine.

Thanks for stopping by Ridger.

I've read nothing else of Moore's. I intend to change that!

The Exterminator said...

Hey, John:
I left a comment here hours ago, but it never showed up. I'm working on an old emergency replacement computer that needs the electronic equivalent of Ex-Lax; it has very irregular movements. I'll stick around to make sure this comment actually drops into the pot.

Basically, as you know by now from our interchanges at my place, I said that your sense of humor could hold its own in any gathering of adolescent boys. I found the book neither hilarious nor fun. But, as they say, different keystrokes for different e-folks.

John Evo said...

I don't know what happened, but it never came through to my email or posted here.

As to my sense of humor... let's just say I'm the smartest retard in the neighborhood. Anyway, I think our humor agrees at least 70% of the time!

The Exterminator said...

Anyway, I think our humor agrees at least 70% of the time!

I'd say the percentage may be even higher, but please don't invite me the next time you go to a Three Stooges festival.

John Evo said...

I wouldn't be there either... but if I was flipping around the channels and an old Three Stooges epsiode was one, I'd pass a few minutes with them.

Now, Bugs Bunny... I MIGHT go to a festival! Original Popeye (pre 1950s) I'm there.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I suspect Ex is a little younger than us, John. Three Stooges are classics, especially with Curly, but you really have to have grown up with them. Bugs Bunny is also a classic.

And the original Popeye, with the mumblings in the background? You are a connoisseur, aren't you?

John Evo said...

There are connoisseurs of great art and of fine wine. I'm a connoisseur of Popeye. Great. Actually, I'm not even a Popeye connoisuer. That gives me way too much credit. But...

The Popeye of the 50's was in black and white and made specifically for a young audience watching cartoons on TV. The ones made in the 30's and 40's were mini-feature length, made to be shown at movie theatre as an appetizer before the movie. They were high technical quality, color, with a story line that would appeal to both adults and children (think Simpsons). Some of the funniest lines (as you indicated) could barely be understood, with Popeye mumbling them, and a content generally above the heads of children.

They can be found on DVD if interested. Eveyone should see them once.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Well, I've read Lamb now. As you know, I liked it. It's not my favorite Moore, but not my least favorite - and I've read them all, too. (Hate the Stooges, by the way, but love Bugs ... Popeye? Usually he cracks me up.)