One Sunday morning back in the late 1950s, I was out in field service in an upscale neighborhood of Riverside, California. I had my clamshell bookbag filled to the brim with magazines and a couple of recent books. I also had my personal leatherette covered copy of the NWT along with a hardcover copy to place.
I went to the front door of this very fancy home. A man in his late 40s answered the door and politely listened to my usual opening spiel and then invited me in. "How old are you, young man?" he asked.
He looked at my leatherette covered NWT. "That's a nice Bible you have there. Have you ever read it from cover to cover?"
"Not completely, but most of it, I guess."
He asked me if I'd ever read the King James Version. I replied that I had, and pulled out my small leather covered copy that was buried deep down in my bookbag. He then asked me if I could understand the language of the KJV. I told him that I could, but reading the NWT was much easier.
He then invited me over to a bookcase that was filled with pricey legal books and premium bound versions of the classics. On the top shelf was a copy of what appeared to be a large family Bible, with rich leather, gilded edges and a very impressive ribbon bookmark. Next to it was a beautifully bound copy of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare." He then asked me if I'd ever read Shakespeare.
"No. Not really. But I've seen the movies of Hamlet, MacBeth, and Richard III."
"Here, I want to trade with you. You give me that copy of your New World Translation - and I'll give you this copy of Shakespeare. One condition: You must swear to me that you will read this book as faithfully as you read your Bible. I guarantee that you will learn far more about life and history from this book than you ever will reading the Bible."
Clearly the book he was giving me was worth at least $50 to $100. Mine was worth maybe $5 - if it was brand new, which it was not. "That would be very nice of you sir," I said, "but not fair - as your book is so much nicer than mine."
"I'm an attorney and do very well financially. I can certainly afford to replace this book any time I want. I like you very much and you seem to be an intelligent young man. Do me the honor of accepting my book. I'll know that if you read it and learn from it - that I will have given you something priceless."
I promised that I would read his book of Shakespeare and cherish it. We made the swap, shook hands, and I was on my way.
I kept that book for over 30 years and it was always within reach, usually on my bedside table. He was absolutely right - I did learn far more from that book of Shakespeare than I ever did from reading the Bible. Whenever a Shakespeare movie would come on the TV, I would follow the dialogue in my book as the actors spoke their lines. I was heartbroken when my ex-wife gave it to the Goodwill along with most of my other possesions.
Reading the NWT is like reading high school or community college level poetry compared to the KJV. While the language of the KJV is beautiful, the sonnets and plays of Shakespeare ring with truth and clarity - exposing human conflict, expressing love, desire, and courage - far better than the Bible does. Only Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Solomon compare favorably to Shakespeare.
The difference in the two books is that the Bible presents fictional stories and legends as "truth" - while Shakespeare presents characters and events based on actual history as "fictional."
That attorney I met that Sunday morning over 50 years ago was right. I did learn more from Shakespeare...
I don't feel that the Bible deserves any more respect than any other book - and certainly not to the honored level it is accorded, even by unbelievers, in the USA and Europe.