Biblical literacy is likely lower in Australia today than at any point since the convict era. General levels of familiarity with the Christian scriptures are difficult to plot precisely, but studies of Bible reading habits, and data on various forms of Christian socialisation, indicate a significant decline in Australians’ exposure to the Bible over the last half century.
A 1960 study found that nine in ten Australians had a Bible at home. It was rivalled only by a cookery book and a dictionary, and far outstripped works by Shakespeare. Sixty one per cent of Bible-owning Australians picked it up at least once a year. Thirty eight per cent had read it within the previous two weeks. (Mind you, it seems that apart from the most regular churchgoers, most people read the Bible in a cursory manner if at all.)
A 2002 survey found that 29% of Australian adults still read the Bible at least once a year, with 8% reading it frequently. In 2010, around 10% of Australian secondary students read the Bible weekly or more, and a further 15 to 20% browsed it occasionally.
Overall, though, since 1960 the proportion of annual Bible readers has dropped by half, and regular readers by three-quarters. In less than two generations, the proportion of Australians who never pick up a Bible for themselves has leapt to seven out of ten. The rising use of online Bibles and Bible apps may modify this picture, but 2013 data indicates that Australians read less of the Bible online than their counterparts in the UK or the US.
In parallel with declining Bible reading, fewer Australians identify as Christian at the census. Similarly, the proportion of people attending church at least once a month has fallen from 36% in 1972 to 15% in 2014. So fewer Australians have been exposed to the public reading and preaching of the Bible, and to its inculcation though liturgy and hymnody.
Does it matter if Australians are becoming less familiar with the Christian scriptures? I would argue that, even aside from matters of faith, a working knowledge of the Bible, and a critical skill in interpreting it, remain extremely useful.
Firstly, the world is still an overwhelmingly religious place.
While Christianity has declined in its former European strongholds, and in related societies like New Zealand and Australia, it has spread widely in the global south. In 2018, it remains the most practised faith in the world. Effective global citizenship can only benefit from a working knowledge of its key text.
Shaping our culture
Secondly, biblical literacy is worthwhile because of the Bible’s dynamic role in creative culture.
The foundational role of the Bible in shaping English language and literature is well attested. Common phrases such as “the powers that be”, “from strength to strength”, “in the twinkling of an eye” and “escaped by the skin of my teeth” all come from English translations of the Bible.
Classic texts from Shakespeare’s plays to T. S. Eliot’s poems to the speeches of Martin Luther King assume some knowledge of biblical stories, images and ideas.
Among Australian creatives, too, literary lights such as Patrick White, Elizabeth Jolley, Tim Winton, Helen Garner and Christos Tsiolkas all make powerful use of biblical narratives and imagery. Songwriters from Nick Cave to the late Yolngu star Gurrumul have drawn on the scriptures in their lyrics.
Biblical stories and symbols have also inspired visual artists such as Grace Cossington Smith, Arthur Boyd and Margaret Preston. Reg Mombassa’s popular creation, “Australian Jesus”, offers a subversive take on the gospels.
Each of these Australians has found the Bible an enlarging influence on the imagination. Audiences can easily miss key elements of their work without a degree of biblical literacy.
A colonial legacy
Thirdly, the Bible is a substantial - and unresolved - part of Australia’s European cultural baggage.
It loomed especially large in the process of colonising Aboriginal land and forging settler societies. The legal fiction of terra nullius, for example, drew on a particular interpretation of Genesis 1:28 - “replenish the earth, and subdue it”.
Most British colonists assumed that European agriculture was the proper means of fulfilling this divine command. Failing to recognise Indigenous forms of land use, they deemed the land “waste”, belonging to no one, and ripe for the taking.
At the same time, a minority of colonists drew on verses like Acts 17:26 - “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” – to affirm the common humanity of Aboriginal people, and to denounce settler greed and violence.
Crucially, as Indigenous Australians interpreted the Bible for themselves, they used it to demand just treatment and to assert their unique relationship to country. As the Mabo case made its way through the courts, for instance, plaintiff Dave Passi liked to quote from the Old Testament: “Do not move an everlasting boundary stone, set up by your ancestors” (Proverbs 22:28).
In all these ways, the Bible has been bound up with the Australian experience of colonialism. As such, a robust biblical literacy can aid understanding of the past and contribute to present day reconciliation.
[Ron: Spirituality is not religion. Religions are social control mechanisms. Reading the Bible or abdicating one’s spiritual responsibilities by relying on the utterances of priests, gurus and the like is not conducive to spiritual evolvement. Assessing how much the Bible, the Koran, the Torah or religious books generally, are read is not a gauge of spirituality. A major mission of the Abundant Hope organization is to change the face of religion so that humans here focus upon individual spiritual development in lieu of religiosity.
Ensouled humans are indwelt by a fragment of the Creator so going within to consult one’s intuition is the primary means for gaining spiritual insight.
Esu Immanuel (aka Jesus the Christ) was not a “Saviour” but a teacher. He DID NOT come to establish a religion or to be tortured and executed in order to save humanity from their sins (mistakes). He came to teach divine truth (the Good News) about life, the universe and everything which had been lost over millenia and grossly distorted and corrupted by Canaanites, Levites, Pharisees and others.
The meme that Jesus came to die for humanity’s sins (mistakes) is a deliberate LIE concocted by Pharisees to fool Jesus’ followers into thinking they only had to believe in Jesus to be “saved” when in fact every human being incarnates to LEARN the truth about life the universe and everything through trial and error (sin) so that they can grow in spirit and wisdom by experiencing the effects of errors and learn from them.
Jesus taught that ALL ensouled human beings are sovereign sons and daughters of the Creator because they are embued with a fragment of the Creator's consciousness. Pretending that Jesus was the ONLY son of the Creator belittles ALL of humanity and denies the truth that EVERY human is responsible for his/her thoughts, words and actions and hence his/her own salvation. Jesus did not come to die for us or to absolve us of our sins' (mistakes'). He came to teach us divine truth so that we could become aware of our mistakes and 'save' ourselves. NO ONE can save anyone else. Each of us must 'save' self by learning from mistakes and eventually correcting them. That process can take a very looong time but after all we have eternity in which to achieve it. Eventually everyone will grow in consciousness and meet the Creator unless they choose to cease to exist instead. Lucifer choose uncreation rather than face the rehabilitation process required to overcome his mistakes.
Typical of the Pharisaic tendency to seek to lead the opposition (as Lenin is alleged to have required of his Talmudic Bolshevik cohorts), the Pharisees sought to eradicate the teachings of Jesus by fostering the creation of the Christian religion and constantly using it as a mechanism for distorting those teachings in order to confuse and mislead those attracted to the truths Jesus taught.
To that end the Pharisees influenced Roman Emperors to create the Christian religion and use it for social control and governance. As a result, the Bible is a concoction, a composition by many men that has been revised and manipulated for two thousand years. In particular it suffers from its formation being the result of manipulation and amendment by Pharisees, Roman Emperors and others over a period of many centuries before it was even given its current status. For instance the fact of reincarnation was only deleted from Christian Church teaching as a result Emperor Justinian’s action during the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 554 AD. At that time Emperor Justinian arrested Pope Vigilius for Believing in Reincarnation and had the Council declare:
If anyone asserts the fabulous preexistence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema. (The Anathemas against Origen), attached to the decrees of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, A.D. 554, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d ser., 14: 318). See eg: Pope [Vigilius] Arrested for Believing in Reincarnation -http://abundanthope.net/pages/Political_Information_43/Pope-Vigilius-Arrested-for-Believing-in-Reincarnation.shtml
THINK about it! Once you convince people that they are just physical animals having only one brief lifetime 'In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication' as Dawkins puts it today, then spiritual values and morality seem meaningless and survival of the so-called fitest is the only reality.
But I digress.
The valid parts of Christianity derive from the teachings of Jesus the Christ but Roman Emperors under the influence of Pharisees distorted crucial aspect of his teachings. The Christian religion was initially the work of the Pharisee Saul (St Paul) and his disciples. Paul was a convert who never knew Esu Immanuel (aka Jesus the Christ); and Paul’s ideas distorted Jesus’ teachings in significant ways. For instance he began the institutionalisation of the inferior status of females within the church structure, which was contrary to Jesus’ teaching but typical of Pharisaic ideology.
Contrary to some suggestions, today’s neo-Pharisees who call themselves Jews, do not want to destroy the Christian religion rather they want to covertly control and use it to subvert the thinking of those attracted to Jesus' message of love and service to humanity and the Creation. The Pharisees have been very successful in doing that as the inclusion of the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh as part of the Christian Bible evidences. In effect, inclusion of the Torah and the Tanakh in the Bible pollutes Jesus’ teachings and justifies the Jews’ claims about the Christian Church being Judeo-Christian because it is tainted by Talmudism and no longer accurately reflects Jesus’ teachings. For instance, a world dominated by the Torah's injunction to extract "an eye for an eye" results in the blind leading the blind in a sightless world.
In more recent centuries neo-Pharisees and especially the Rothschilds and other Ashkenazis have continued to distort and corrupt Jesus' teachings. That process culminated in the Rothschilds' becoming the Vatican's bankers in the early 19th Century; funding production of the Schofield Bible in the early 20th century; further infiltration of the Catholic Church by crypto Jews in the 1940s that resulted in the distortions in doctrine and practice initiated by Vatican II; and subsequently the Rothschilds' controlled Bolsheviks murdered and replaced Popes John Paul I and II. See eg: Dr. Peter David Beter - Audio Letter No. 65. Topic #1--THE POPE, THE PRESIDENT, AND ASSASSINATION POLITICS - http://www.peterdavidbeter.com/docs/all/dbal65.html
The message in the Sermon on the Mount is valid because it teaches that all are One and hence we need to reject ideas of separation, division and violence and replace them with love for all that is.
Talmudic thinking is predicated upon the notion that this is the one and only life that humans have. It isn't. Given our eternal birthright as sons and daughters of the Creator, there is nothing irrational or foppish about loving the Creation and every being in it, including those who seek to destroy you. Prior to ascending into Light and Life and proceeding upon our eternal journey to meet the Creator and then returnng to assist in the evolvement of the Creation, we incarnate innumerable times gradually learning from our mistakes ('sins') until we become so aware of the truth about life the universe and everything that we are able to live 'right' and ascend into Light and Life. Thereafter we leave this veil of tears behind and wend our way through the higher vibrational levels of the universe accumulating increasing enlightenment until we arrive in Paradise to meet the Creator. Then we return to the Creation to assist in the management of its evolution and of the beings in it. Fearing death and killing others to avoid our own is a mistake that we need to overcome in order to progress further.
[Comments in square brackets added.].