R. Crumb’s illustrated book of Genesis

Read any good books lately?
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Lausten
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R. Crumb’s illustrated book of Genesis

Post by Lausten » Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:39 pm

Yes, that’s the same Robert Crumb who created Mr. Natural. He retired and moved to France and thought it would be interesting to go through the Bible as a non-believer and see what images came out it. He did more than just a cursory read through. He researched words and histories and produced an interesting and entertaining look at the Bible. He adds a few comments in footnotes too.

In the footnotes for Chapter 12, where God tells Abraham to “go forth”, he tells of a heated argument he got into with a woman about the Sumerian bricklayers. His argument was that slavery played an important part in the rise of civilization. She argued that early Sumerian temples could have been built cooperatively. Later, when working on this book, he saw this as the difference between the matriarchal and patriarchal perspectives that have been playing out forever.

According to his research, these forces existed alongside each other at that time. This harmony led to the growth of city-states but also to the growth of the military. The military elites suppressed the matriarchy. Slavery, kings and property became more important than people. The ruthless Assyrian empire would be the culmination of this form of domination. But in the time of story of Abraham, it was just beginning.

As Crumb says,
“why does Abraham seem to be pimping his wife off to the Pharaoh of Egypt in exchange for camels and slaves? It doesn’t make much sense as it is written, and the morality of it is murky indeed. Unless perhaps it is a distortion of an older legend, twisted around to fit the later, patriarchal paradigm.”

He goes on to describe the societies with balanced male and female power and the priestesses that were held in high esteem within them. In the ritual of “hieros gamos”, the high priestess would invite a powerful man into her bed-chamber and choose to bestow divine power on him, or not. Author, Savina Teubal suggests Abraham’s wife Sarah was just such a priestess and the original tale is one of the Pharaoh seeking relationships with a Hebrew tribe, and it didn’t go very well.

By time it is written into the canon however, patriarchy is winning out and the story needs to be changed to put Abraham in a more powerful position. As Crumb says, “sounds plausible”.
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Re: R. Crumb’s illustrated book of Genesis

Post by Jeff D » Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:07 pm

I remember hearing a long story about this R Crumb version of Genesis on NPR maybe a year ago.

There are some "fundagelicals" who would benefit from reading it. Of course, they would benefit just as much from carefully re-reading the KJV or the RSV text of the Pentateuch.

They would benefit even more from reading a halfway-decent mainstream book on Biblical scholarship by a non-apologist, or from reading Stephen Prothero's new book on world religions, "God Is Not One."
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Re: R. Crumb’s illustrated book of Genesis

Post by Lausten » Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:55 pm

Hmm, Stephen Prothero. Hadn't heard of it before, and I'm trying to take a break for religion reading for a bit, but this bit from a review sounded like the kind of thing you wouldn't like. Is this review accurate?
The punch of Prothero’s book comes in his final two chapters. In his brief coda on Atheism, Prothero holds little back in regards to how he thinks the New Atheism undermines society in trying to argue that all religions are equally poisonous. Instead, Prothero shines his light on the friendlier side of Atheism and highlights its attempt to coexist with other religions and enter into dialogue with people of religious belief and practice. Almost as a segue, this “coda” serves to set the reader up for the author’s concluding chapter. In it, Prothero contends that both perenelliasts and the New Atheists misconstrue and misunderstand religions when they proclaim that all religions are the same because they are all true, or that they are all the same because they are all equally false (read a related Ubuntu post here).

Prothero instead offers a “middle way” that appreciates religious diversity and seeks to analyze it in order to better understand the variance of what it means to be human and strive for a better humanity through religious pursuits. He asserts that ”denying differences is a recipe for disaster” and encourages a more “secular way to talk about religion” that is focused on objective religious observation and reporting. All the while, he affirms religious reporting that avoids dogmaticism and instead promotes and reports on the mutually shared human quest to understand the transcendent, share it with the people of the world and do so from a perspective of humble awe.

For this reason, Prothero’s book is a significant popular milestone in the effort to improve religious dialogue in the post-modern era
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Re: R. Crumb’s illustrated book of Genesis

Post by Jeff D » Fri Mar 25, 2011 9:00 am

To be clear, I am not a fan, in general, of Prothero's work or his outlook.

I thought his book on religious literacy -- which addressed a genuine need in America -- was better than not having such a book at all, but not sufficiently detailed to suit me.

Prothero wrote this silly, unoriginal critique of "New Atheism" back in Dec. 2009. I'm pretty sure I linked to it somewhere here, or maybe on the old Forum. Prothero was insultingly patronizing toward the female atheists that he characterized as "gentler." Which justifiably elicited responses from Amanda Marcotte and Ophelia Benson, who ripped Prothero a new one.

But despite my misgivings about how, where and with whom Prof. Prothero aligns himself in the general conflict between religion and irreligion, and his consistent attempts to join in the bashing of the so-called New Atheists according to the general party line, I think his new book is valuable, and better than his previous one. I haven't gotten to the final chapter yet, although I knew it was there. I think it will be most beneficial to that huge population of people who --

(a) Are not well-informed about the significant differences between religions,

(b) Are inclined to regard all religions as sharing the same commitment to some universal and eternal "truth" and therefore are not in conflict, and

(c) Have a soft spot for religion in general (may be willing to admit that many of the claims of all or nearly all religions are demonstrably false or not demonstrably true, but think that religion in general is valuable and useful as a community-organizing device or as a quest for "meaning").

I think that even people who fit (a) and (b) but not (c) -- I guess these folks would include the fans of Karen Armstrong and perhaps Krista Tippett -- would benefit from reading Prothero's book.

I have not read the full review to which you linked, Lausten, but based on what I've read so far, I don't think that the principal purpose of Prothero's book is to foster what might be called "constructive religious dialogue." Instead, the book more clearly outlines the details of profound disagreement between religions. Understanding and acknowledging these areas of disagreement doesn't make "dialogue" impossible, but I think it means that real, useful consensus is going to be harder to come by than the cheerleaders for ecumenicism are willing to admit. And not so secretly, of course, I hope that some readers of God is Not One will be motivated to take all the novel claims of all religions much less seriously, and less literally, because I think that's the way to achieve real "dialogue."

Finally (and this is addressed to the reviewer), I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ordinary curiosity and increased scientific literacy have done and can do more to stimulate "awe" and reverence for nature in human beings than all the ritual chants ever chanted and all the sermons and hymns ever written.
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Re: R. Crumb’s illustrated book of Genesis

Post by Lausten » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:57 pm

When Colbert went shopping for a new deity, apparently he thought Prothero was a good expert to check with too

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colber ... n-prothero
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