Jose Saramago who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature has written a book Cain that has been described as an ironic retelling of the Biblical story of Cain, Adam and Eve's son who killed his younger brother Abel.
I assume since he has titled the book after the bad guy, it would be a bit rebellious and off-track. However, his one comment resulted in some intellectual fracas. He said:
“The Bible is a manual of bad morals (which) has a powerful influence on our culture and even our way of life. Without the Bible, we would be different and probably better people.”
It is intriguing that for one who is seeking to upset the apple cart of Eden he is concerned about morals, bad or otherwise. If morality is about values that formulate and to an extent formalise social mores, then those would not be uniform and specific to any one society. Is there anything like the Catholic or even Christian culture outside of the realm of religion? Morality learned through belief systems is essentially a conduit between conscience and this way of life thing.
With or without the Bible or any religious text we would be denied this channel. The probabilities of being better depends on what we perceive as good, and the good and bad are again dependent on value systems as well as social behaviour.
Saramago has been accused of being a publicity seeker. It is possible that he does not mind a bit of controversy, and his book is indeed using an aspect of the Bible so it would be a fair exploitation on his part. That apart, what could be the reason for his comment that the book would not offend Catholics or the Church “because they do not read the Bible”? Had he said that it would not offend his readers because they are not religious or they think with an open mind, it would make sense. This, unfortunately, does not.
Does he mean it is not read or read? The Bible has sold more copies than many books and it is entirely possible that Catholics would not read it with much interest beyond what faith dictates, which is true of any religious text. It is also true that many regressive fairytales are being reinterpreted, which is also true for holy texts. Have the updated fairytales had any influence to change mindsets? Is the addition of gender ambiguous ideas enough?
The author believes that his work might offend Jews but he does not care. I find it a bit disconcerting that he has made all these slots about who it will offend and how much. I read that in 1992 he had caused a scandal in Portugal with The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. The book depicted Jesus losing his virginity to Mary Magdalene and being used by God to control the world.
It seems like an interesting idea and there have been works that have tried to analyse the role of Mary Magdalene. As for control, whether anyone writes about it or not, the belief that Jesus is deified for having “died on the Cross for us” is a manner of control. The psychological dimensions of it are right inside the Bible.
Saramago attacked “a cruel, jealous and unbearable God (who) exists only in our heads”. I find the use of such words in a report rather amusing. How can one attack a god one does not believe in and who exists only in our heads? And why expend so much energy on one who is cruel, jealous and unbearable?
We all have demons on our heads, and they have little to do with god or the devil. They have to do with our circumstances and how much we internalise aspects of it. It is our baggage and our tag, both.
These, in fact, could help elevate us to be better since we become more aware about the bad, and consequently the good. The ugly is our reserve player for those bad hair and dare days.