Again today I heard a fellow on the radio bemoaning the fact that we have too much religion in our school systems. "Under the Constitution we are supposed to separate church and state," he said, "but there are still some backward areas where they allow Bible reading in schools." He went on to complain that we should have freedom from this sort of thing; that religion has brought us nothing but narrow-mindedness, persecution and suppression. "God died back in the '60s. Why should we resurrect Him?" he complained. "The history of religion is one of the suppression of knowledge, the creation of martyrs and the sanction of innumerable 'holy wars,' not to mention book burnings and a repressive censorship of progressive writers. Therefore I recommend the banning of Bible reading and religious education in our school systems." The more I thought about that, the more upset I became. What have historic religious misdeeds got to do with the Bible? None of those "holy wars" was based on the Bible. Very little of even that which is called "Christian" today is based on the Bible. Much of it is a hodgepodge of paganism " baptized" into a "Christian" guise, and no substance for it is found anywhere in the pages of the Bible. Why blame the Bible for the misfortunes of history? Again I thought, why go back and repeat the same mistakes as those who supposedly used the Bible as an excuse to be repressive, narrow-minded and bigoted? Why use the same methods we ostensibly abhor of banning and censorship to separate church and state? That's just jumping from one ditch into the other! It is my opinion that this poor fellow is subject to the same hypocrisy which he no doubt claims is the bane of religion. It is also my opinion that he has probably never read the Book — otherwise he would never confuse religion with the Bible! Zealots in every cause seem to be similar. They only listen to and read what supports their cause. Fear, insecurity and bigotry prompt this attitude. I don't like any of them. I read the Book a long time ago. I've always been free to read about communism, fascism, evolution, philosophy, history, to read fiction or fact — nothing in the Book ever even hinted that I was prohibited from searching or reading elsewhere for the truth. Nothing in the Bible says: "Don't read any other books." I don't need repression of the Bible to make me free. And the more I read the Bible, the more I realize how little it has to do with today's religions. God is for freedom of choice, and I am too. I want to be free to read whatever I want. I don't want my child going to any school which forbids the reading of any book — especially the Bible. Magazines, newspapers and many radio and TV programs are full of material based on the concept of evolution. Even though I have proven to my own satisfaction that it is a false concept, my family is free to read, listen to or view any and all of them. Fear of open opposition is the surest measure of insecurity in one's basic belief. It rots character. It assumes one is not capable of reasoning and self-determination. It was never our Founding Fathers' intention to ban the Bible, or any religion — only to be sure that no one religion be the "state religion." The forbidden fruit is always tempting, and it is interesting beyond measure to me that in today's world the Bible has become the "forbidden fruit." Some time ago I wrote a booklet titled Read the Book. Thousands have taken me up on the suggestion. Here's a letter I received from one taker:
"Dear Mr. Hill, How are you? Years ago I read your booklet Read the Book. It was very interesting. In it you requested us to inform you when we began to read the Book and also to inform you when we finished. Well, be advised that this evening I finished the Book that I began reading years ago. The reason it took so long to read was that my spiritual life has gone up and down over the years. When my spiritual life was down, I usually stopped reading the Bible, praying and attending services. But I've repented and I am on the upswing now. With God's help I hope to keep growing and eventually enter God's Kingdom. Keep up the good work! Sincerely, Joseph E. M."
Now, that's rewarding! Nowhere does Joseph mention any ban, self- or Bible-imposed, on reading any other material. Reading the Bible has had a positive effect on his life. He is free. I think we ought to rebel against the bigoted opinion that we should NOT read the Book and, instead, be sure to read it! Why not read the Book? (To help you in getting started, why not read my free booklet by that title: Read the Book?)