Indoctrinated into all things Watchtower, I once believed the Bible was true history, that evolution was false and evil, and that the Bible could be trusted to be reliable when it touched on science issues. Then I got introduced to the official Catholic Bible translation of U.S. Catholics, the New American Bible Revised Edition (or NABRE--not to be confused with the Protestant NASV or New American Standard Version) and things changed. I was shocked to learn that the NABRE teaches...
The creation and flood stories of Genesis are Jewish adaptations of Mesopotamian heathen creation-flood mythology, not history. In its introduction to Genesis and it's highly complex footnote apparatus, the NABRE explains that Catholicism has no problem with accepting the evidence that the Genesis stories originated or borrowed heavily from the creation-flood stories of Mesopotamian paganism. Recognizing the "creation-flood mythology" as the accepted cosmology of the ancients, the Catholic view is that the writers of Scripture weren't introducing new ideas on how the world came to be (as the ancients accepted it) but merely placed over this backdrop their own religious ideas and theology, infusing Mesopatamian cosmology with Jewish theology. Catholics don't see the stories as historical but as catechetical, teaching religious ideals based on ancient concepts regarding the origins of the universe (none of which Catholics accept as scientifically accurate).
This meant that Catholics didn't see the six creative days of Genesis chapter 1 as literal like the Witnesses do. They also don't interpret the narrative of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge as a literal historic event. The Noachin Flood of Genesis 6 comes with extensive footnotes in the NABRE, one of which states: "The biblical story [of the Flood] ultimately draws upon an ancient Mesopotamian tradition of a great flood, preserved in the Sumerian flood story, the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and (embedded in a longer creation story) the Atrahasis Epic."
What?! Saying I was "blown away" by this is an understatement. Reading through the NABRE and its introductions and footnotes (all editions come with them) was not only destroying the Jehovah's Witnesses view of what Catholics teach, it made me ask: "If the oldest Christian denomination has its eyes open regarding the origins of Scripture, acknowledging it as neither historic or scientific, I obviously don't know what it means when Catholics say they have faith in Scripture. I am surely missing something."
Because my intention here is not to advocate Catholcism as the "one true religion" or say that "religion has all the answers and is logical" (and I know it doesn't and isn't), I want to stress the main point of what I am getting at.
I know I was missing something in "The Truth" because I could not see the connection between a religion that didn't accept the Bible as fact or the basis of its own teachings and yet being a religion that had faith in the things the Bible talks about. The Watchtower formula, as you know, is that the Bible is God's revelation to mankind, that because it is true, it and it alone is the basis for true religion and measuring the validity of anything else. But here is another religion, far more ancient, that was stating: Nah, we always saw the Bible as quite allegorical even from the very beginning.
How can you have religion without taking the Bible at face value? I realized I was missing something, something billions of others could see, but that being exposed to the nonsense of the Watchtower left me ignorant and in the dark about.
A Catholic priest developed the Big Bang theory, and the Catholic Church encourages the evolution model among its adherents. How can you do that, I wondered, and still have religion? As a JW I thought the Big Bang was a lie by Satan used to turn people away from the truths of Genesis, and that evolution was totally incompatible with the faith of anyone who accepted the Bible.
But somehow for 2000 years and more, the "Whore of Babylon" and main player in "Evil Christendom" managed to produce people of faith without adhering to the Bible like a history textbook from Heaven. Among its priests were scientists, its schools and universities taught evolution, and its Bible translations were made by ecumenical committees, scholars with names that could be read and histories that could be researched (the NABRE has over 100 of them from various religions and background) that approached the Bible with critical thinking--what was I missing? How was this possible?
Seeing the Bible and religion itself with the eyes of the Watchtower, such a thing shouldn't be possible. The "Faithful and Discreet Slave" taught that without accepting the Bible as literal truth one could not have true faith, and yet here was a religion that made more disciples and did more acts of faith than 100 years of JWs "true Christians" ever have, with more missions, aiding the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and building hospitals to care for the sick regardless if those they ministered to believed in God or not. They didn't just care for themselves, they cared for the world. The Witnesses, in contrast, hate the world.
Sure, none of them are perfect. But they shouldn't even be if the only way to do it was the Witness way. And then it dawned on me...
It's not about being Catholic or reading the NABRE, but accepting that you have to do good regardless. The Witness model is that you have to find "The Truth" and then follow it perfectly. But for everybody else it's that you can't always have all the answers. Sometimes even with the best of things you are still left in the dark, groping.
Outside the Watchtower, you make the best with what you have. You don't require or demand perfection. You also go forward with eyes open or you bump into something and ev estuary die from standing still. Life isn't all religion or the lack of it. It isn't one thing or the other, a life purely spiritual or a life purely void of such things. It's a complex tapestry that is greater than you or me. We can try to understand it, and it in turn will always be more than we can understand.
And you go forward anyway. You have faith anyway. You recognize that while you can learn truth, you will never, ever be privileged with all of it or be granted exclusive access to it. And there can be more than one way to get it too.
You can't make reality and life fit you perfectly. That's what I learned from the NABRE, not that the Catholic Church was the "one true religion" or that you have to even believe in God. No. It's a great tapestry, the world is. You can't go rejecting one part of it and accepting another because it doesn't fit with what you believe to be true. It's all here. No one makes complete sense of it. No one. It's the stuff reality is made of.
And while, indeed you may be special to some, you are not special enough to be more correct on how you view the world than another. Even the Bible borrows from the heathen Gentiles in its stories. Yes, even men of faith can discover the Big Bang. Having "the Truth" is accepting that all the world, all of it, even the parts that go against your convictions, makes up reality. And you only know the truth when you allow yourself to see that reality is made up of these many different (and sometimes conflicting) parts, yes even those parts than defy what you believe is true.