Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Year of Living Biblically

I had heard an interview with A.J. Jacobs about his book on NPR and had put it on my list of things to read. I've recently discovered that I can order books from the library and have them held for me. I realize I'm probably the last library user on the planet to discover this service, but I'm now taking full advantage of it.

I picked the book up Friday morning and finished it last night; I simply couldn't put it down. Iwas fascinated by his quest to live for a year according to the rules in the Bible, both old and new testaments. Actually, did you know that Jews call the "old" testament the "Hebrew Bible" because they don't recognize the new testament. I didn't.

I'm not a religious person, nor did I grow up in a religious household (don't ever get my dad started on organized religion unless you want a half-hour discourse on what's wrong with it), so I actually learned a lot about both Judaism and Christianity from the book.

What seemed to start out as an excuse to write a book turned into a true spiratual quest for Jacobs, who calls himself an atheist. He ends up taking the commandments from the bible very seriously, and living by them affects every aspect of his life. He attends prayer groups and religious conferences. He spends the weekend on an Amish farm and travels to Israel, where he meets one of the few remaining Samaritans. He visits the Creationism Museum and Jerry Falwell's mega-church.

In the end, he remains an atheist, but he refers to himself as a "reverent atheist," which is a term I like. He doesn't believe in a god who intervenes in elections and football games, but he does see the wonder and grace and miracles that exist around us. It's an apt description of how I view the world and religion.

Next, I'm going to order Jacobs's book "Know it All," which chronicles his year of reading the encyclopedia.


Charley said...

After reading this book, I looked up pictures of Jacobs during his year - hilarious.

Keeffer said...

ugh. I liked both this and know it all, but I don't at all like Jacobs. He always comes off as holier than thou, smarter than thou. And I would have loved to have kept a count of how many times he referenced know it all in this.