John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000, and spent his entire adult life as a man of the cloth. In this book he displays incredible bravery and honesty.
Imagine how hard it must be for him to look out into the world, into the faces of the hundreds of thousands of people to whom he has ministered over his long career, and say that he no longer believes in the literal truth of the Bible. Not just in the literal truth of Heaven, Hell, and eternal life, but in the literal truth of any of it. At all.
From page 44:
“Prayer, I would later surmise, was something like an experience of ritual hypnosis. While everyone said the words, no one was expected to believe them. Religious rituals, I was beginning to learn, were defined as part of the human need to deny, to cope, and to pretend that all of these techniques are useful when reality presents us with something that is beyond our ability to manage emotionally. At this point in my life I simply could not separate the human need to pretend from the human search for truth. Organized religion would also forever fuzz over that distinction.”
His book is at once deeply personal and philosophical. In the end, Spong’s viewpoint is, as the back cover suggests, a mystical re-interpretation of the Bible, Christianity, and indeed of Jesus. And since it relates what amounts to his years-long ‘dark night of the soul,’ it is all at once a moving, inspiring, sad and uplifting book.
Every person of every religion should hear his words from page 185:
“The task of religion is not to turn us into proper believers; it is to deepen the personal within us, to embrace the power of life, to expand our consciousness, in order that we might see things that eyes do not normally see.”
I recommend this book to anyone, regardless of his or her religious or spiritual viewpoint. If you want to put your spiritual childhood behind you and take a first step toward facing the truth about yourself, your religion, and the universe, go and get yourself a copy. You won’t be disappointed.