Burning Books and Worthless Words...

As I said yesterday, I was in Munich recently, for the first time (barring the use of the airport on one previous occasion) and I was struck by the number of bookshops around… Apparently more than in any other German city… and certainly more than any British city I know… As a dedicated bibliophile I should have been in my element, but given that I failed my 3rd year German at school and could only find one English bookshop, it wasn’t a big help.
But the "books" theme came up again and again. The first full day we were there we had a 6 hour toddle around the Deutsches Museum (you can tell that we didn't have the kids with us... although even 6 hours isn't enough to do justice to this excellent institution which is like the London Science Museum on steroids), and it has an excellent section on the manufacture of paper and books, including the mock-up of the monastic scriptorium above. Their German desire for accuracy clearly got the better of them in this and there was a disclaimer outside this diaorama stating that no-one knows exactly what a scriptorium looked like but that this was their best guess. But it also said that in medieval monasticism copying books and particularly copying the Bible was seen as an act of worship equivalent to participation in the mass. That is how precious the written word was to them.
Yet we, who have more printed words in our houses that most monasteries had in their libraries, and who generally have multiple copies of various versions of the Bible, take it all for granted.
The Nazis didn't, however. They recognised the power of the printed word. The second full day we were there we went on a walking tour looking at the rise of Nazism in Munich, and during it the guide pointed out the site on Konigsplatz where on the 10th May 1933 one of many organized mass book burnings took place, burning books that the Nazi party had determined were “un-German.” With the notable exception of some fringe fundamentalists, we don't really go in for book-burnings... But the Nazis were, in many ways, right to fear the words of some books and ideas they expressed… And we should at least be aware of the power of the written word, for good or ill…
But the third day of our time in Munich brought a third reflection on the nature of the written word. We spent another 6 hours in the Alte Pinakothek, the main art gallery (I know how to show my wife a good time!), and while there I came across one of the classic vanitas paintings from the Flemish tradition (I think it was by Broewer, but I've lost my notes). It showed piles of learned books frayed at the edges with the binding falling apart, topped off by the obligatory skull. And that brought me up short.
For someone who loves and devours books, and whose stock in trade are words, both written and spoken, I realised that powerful as written (and spoken) words are, they are only ephemeral... And too great an investment in them is, indeed, vanity.
Ultimately it is only the word of God that will last... and by that I do not mean the written/printed version that is known as "The Bible". This coming Sunday is the day when many churches celebrate the role of the Bible in Christian life, but at the end of the day it is only a temporary means of recording God's words for forgetful and fallible human beings. There will come a time when that is no longer needed. But the Word that stands behind it will remain, the Word which brought creation into being; the Word which John testified to; the Word which took flesh and lived among us...

(This is a, greatly extended, version of the Just a Moment broadcast on Downtown yesterday)



Anonymous said…
The Snauzer says,
Firstly,does anybody else say anything ever? or am I left to abuse the written word in my less than adequate style? I suppose as the only non-believer i'm it.
Some have said that "choosing to reject JC is a moral decision, therefore non-christians have made a moral choice that is judgeable by God. However,I disagree that it is a moral choice. I chose to reject Jesus because I am an atheist "for sake of argument" and connot believe that Jesus is the son of any God or that he can forgive sins.

Without a doubt we must reject anty thought or feeling that we feel comes from an external cosmic God whether we feel good or not.

If God is just, moral or understanding it will forgive us our cautiousness. If God is not just, moral or understanding then we hardly want to share heaven with it for all eternity.

Either way-Atheism is safety by far.

"A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones" Who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one, who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short, who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it,who gave his angels painless lives, yet curses his other children to miseries and maladies of mind and body, and invents hell--mouths mercy and invents hell--mouths golden rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invents hell, who mouths morals to other people and has none himself, who frowns upon crime yet commits them all, who creates man without invitation, Then tries to shuffle the responsibility for mans acts upon man, instead of honourably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!
Mark Twain........

Have not all theists painted their Deity as a God of love and goodness? yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race.

Confucius cares not for the poverty, squalor and misery of the people of China. Budda dosen't care a fig for the Hindoos,Jahve is deaf to the people of Israel and Jesus is dead to his christians who butcher each other?

The philosophy of disbelief in a sky God has its root in the earth,in this life; its aim is the emancipation of the human race from all God-heads be they Judaic, Christian,Mohammedan,Buddhistic,
Brahministic or what not. Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man's lot since gods began. There is but one way out of this blunder; Man must break his fetters which have chained him to the gates of heaven and hell, so that he can begin to fashion out of his reawakened and illumined consciousness a new world upon earth.
(Emma Goldman)

Regards, The Snauzer
Once upon a time I used to get other comments...
Anonymous said…
The Snauzer says,

Sounds a bit like "I used to get sweeties on a Friday night" but!!!

I'm afraid I don't feel sorry for you
because I can only construe that the ones missing are unable or not willing to get engaged.
WHY..this is better than any sermon you can shout out yer thoughts without 'distraction'

Why do you think they have stopped,or did they never start? is it my fault ?, heavens not.

Were they generally just accepting your thoughts as being inspired beyong criticism, blimey. or where they incapable of forming a reply.Probably///

Am I to caustic, frightening, disrespectful to the Lord,for them, maybe. I'm a disbeliever in all things religious afterall.

However if you would want me to stop coresponding and instead regain a plethor of "yes that must be right if you say so" "or no replies buddies" please tell me.

I always thought you would prefer being able to go beyong the mundane.
"The Lord Said"

It does amaze me however why the so called enlightened ones who always had plenty to say as, the lord speaks to them all the time,by the way. Even I recall him telling them when they should buy certain items of clothing or where and when to go on holidays , for their own health. why they can't interpret what god would say to me in reply is baffling.

Have they not read-Dawkins/Dennett/Hitchins/DrJason Long/Thomas Paine/Peter Angels/Douglas Wilson Loftus/Andre Comte-Sponville/PB Shelley,Mark Twain/Louis M Antony/Michael Onfray/David Marshall Brooks/Phillip Beauchamp/A McGrath/Baron d'Holback/Daniel Dennett/Friedrich Nietzshe/Spinoza...and the rest.

Above all I have my own ideas which are precious to me having read the above along with the bible.

Where are the Harolds'the David's etc. @ a meeting recently a 14year old boy gave a talk which would have left them speechless.and don't you know God never gave him one word of it.
Are most christians afraid of something? surely not, God guides their way, their thoughts and their actions.but sometimes stops when it comes to commerce. Strange???

Why do you think they have stopped??is it unseem'ly to argue over- you know who.-but wish us to know they are in close sink with him 'every day'.

Give them a rattle from yer box for not reading yer blog,swines.
More readers that ever on average (according to the hitcounter)... just fewer commenting... It might help if comments pertained to the subject of the post instead of ALWAYS coming back to the dawkins/dennet etc polemic.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your reply,

but surely I mentioned 21 other point than the 3 you mentioned, could this be the problem, missing the point,intentionally, unable to answer or awe struck even.

I could add many more, lots more.

Could you mention some names for me to investigate, other than Mathew Mark Luke and John, they wrote nothing until 800 years after they were dead for goodness sake. (look it up)I mean ones that are as well known or as well educated.

I,m unaware of the ever growing number of hit, brill!!! Must prove diversity rules, you must be excited, who has caused this to happen, all of a sudden. do you know?.

"something new is happening" "BRILL"

Surely this has just got to do with new imformation on the go, a sudden change in input, quality, upto date information less than 3000yrs old.

If the numbers are suddenly growing, might atheism rule--- might just be.

"how can I see this" or "them", why do they not contribute? make their-selves known. Can they not, or don't know how to! don't know what to say anyway, how frustrating for them, or maybe they are having second thoughts, blimey, but surely it would only make things better having a diversity of ideas.

Being a stereotype christian is bad news its just not best, but 99.9% are probably just like that, christians I mean. Evidence if any is rare and questionable, isn't it, infact there really is no evidence at all.

Let a breathe of fresh air surround you.

By the way the reason for the polemic is because at (the end of the day) all else is worthless. I'm trying to point out "a false hope, is no hope"

Showing that evidence given or insinuated is worthless unless backed up with fact. The o'nus is on you to prove God is alive, or more to the point ever lived, without resorting to fairy tales,--History and philosophy proves differently.

I feel these comments and others may be contributing to the sudden increase of hits, can only be that really. Maybe they could contribute?
Tell you what they think, this must after-all be the purpose. Let you know. I can't say me of course.

But anyway lets hope for the best

Re Mathew Mark Luke and John... check your facts... there are manuscripts closer in historical proximity to the original manuscripts of the gospels than anything referring to the Caesar or the Gallic Wars... so I suppose the existence of Julius Caesar or
any of his activities must be more historically dubious than that of another JC or those who wrote about him. But, frankly, debates on such matters were not the reason I started blogging. Nor was it established for philosophical, or sub-philosophical debate on the existence of God. I feel no desire to prove his/her existence... he/she can deal with that herself. It is simply a reflection of my experience and undiluted reflections (deluded as you may think them to be). If you think that as such it is leading people astray, you are at liberty to continue making ascerbic comments (although I would appreciate you not referring to others who have neither entered into cyberspace or onto this forum eg David or Harold who are not here to defend themselves, indeed ANY name-checking of people who do not seek a public profile will result, in future to the automatic binning of comments) as you would be (within certain limitations) to protest outside the churches that I preach in or even my house... but I am not too sure whether either of the latter courses of action would serve your "cause" any good... and frankly, I'm not too sure that your comments here are serving your desired ends any.
As for being a stereotype christian well God forbid that I am that or encouraging anyone else to be one... Checking out, and I mean really checking out, my back catalogue and my track-record inside and outside the church, I hope would support you...

Anonymous said…

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