Best-selling writer Bruce Feiler find the prize in his latest exploration of the floor of the Bible. sirhenryjones-museums.org
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With his 2001 best-seller "Walking the Bible," writer Bruce Feiler came to be one that the country"s most popular biblical commentators. Feiler"s unique brand that biblical expedition literally traces the geographic locations the the Bible--where he often puts self in attention situations and also war zones--to understand what we deserve to learn indigenous these areas today. Sirhenryjones-museums.org called Feiler"s publication "Abraham" the finest Spiritual book of 2002. In his newest book, "Where God was Born," Feiler return to the middle East--to Israel in ~ the elevation of problem with the Palestinians, come Iraq in the middle of war and insurrection, and also to Iran at a time of political and religious uncertainty. He visits ancient spiritual sites and explores what they can mean for the future the relations in between people of various religions. The spoke through sirhenryjones-museums.org about the birth of the concept of a universal God, why prophets were much more important than kings, and also why interfaith connections are today"s most an important topic.

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We"ll begin off through the huge question. Where was God born?God was born in Babylon. By the I typical that the idea that religion emerged in the thousands years between Moses and also Jesus, in the ancient Near East. Over there was just this minute in time when societies were becoming mature enough and also wealthy enough, and people to be looking for much more meaning. The idea the God as a universal, portable, invisible, anywhere being really gone into the broadest portions of culture at the time.

Babylon is a ar that kind of crystallizes the moment. increase to the time of Babylon, there to be a God who was attached to a particular place. But when the Israelites to be kicked the end of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and sent into exile, God became universal and also portable. It"s a very basic idea in our lives--when we go to church or synagogue, us pray to a universal God--that started in Babylon.


But there to be a Temple before Babylon.Exactly. God lived in that place. Clergymans would walk in and worship to God. What happened in Babylon was the the temple was gone, so the Israelites had to ask, if the residence of God is gone, wherein is God living? They involved understand that God is everywhere, and also you don"t only have actually to get in the temple to check out God, friend can uncover him everywhere. So girlfriend can"t understand religion this particular day without expertise what happened in Babylon in the 600s BCE.

This change is really not talked around that much. We discover that the time of the kings, Solomon and David, was great, and Babylon was bad. "By the rivers the Babylon, lock sat and wept." In fact, the queens were bad and also Babylon was wonderful, since it invented religion as we understand it today.

What happened in Babylon is the advancement of the idea that individuals deserve to have a relationship with God, where they are, and that God can hold those people to do their own lives much better and to make culture better.

In this brand-new book, you compose that your first book around these topics, "Walking the Bible," to be a paean to the land. How is this different? In this book you still trace the soil of the Bible and going from ar to place.This book is a paean to humans" volume to usage their relationship with God to boost the world around them. I think that my journey of "Walking the Bible," and of the first five books of the Bible, as an extremely linear. There to be this small family, they started with Abraham, and also he went under to the Promised Land, and it grew and also grew into this country by the end of the five books.


What happens in the second half of the Hebrew bible is that country begins to communicate with the world. That loses several of its identity for a while, and then go off into exile and rediscovers that is identity. When it rediscovers its identification in the exile, the disperses to teach that post to the remainder of the world. God more or much less turns his fist away from the powerful and towards the people. He says, "I"m not going to put all my fist on the kings," and he turns to the prophets. The prophets room lay human being who are leaders or priests or poets. Lock are individuals who say come the people, "God is no going to aid you all the time. You need to redeem yourself, you have to make the civilization better."

There"s this good idea--you can see that in Jeremiah, you can see it in several of the earlier prophets. They say, "Look about you. Civilization are cheating on their spouses, they"re drinking also much, the town has actually gone come trouble." quite than saying, "Don"t worry, God is walk to settle it," the prophets say, "You settle it. You space responsible because that making the civilization a much better place." that is a very an effective message.

I"ve spent practically ten years of my life now reading and thinking and also traveling and also living with the Bible. I think the ideal line in the bible is the heat in Genesis 1: "God said, Let us make people in ours image, after our likeness." What that says is that there is a tiny bit of divinity in every person. The is our duty to find God in someone that is different from us. Ns think the God basically says, "I produced diversity top top purpose, and it is your responsibility to figure out how to do it work."


What space some instances of how you found this relationship in between God and also people functioning today, in the various places you visited?On my pilgrimage to Iraq, I visited this army base where the chaplain had actually requested copies of my interfaith conversation packets developed when the publication "Abraham" come out in 2002. Here"s a male who"s a Baptist chaplain in the U.S. Military on his own volition walk door come door come the leaders of various religious traditions, in the month after the loss of Saddam, questioning them if they"d like to have actually a dialogue.

There"s a good question in the world today: room these different religious denominations in Iraq going to have the ability to figure the end a means to relate come one another, or room they going to death one another? What I saw in my time in Iraq is the going ago to the origin moment deserve to be an extremely helpful. Periodically the best way to have a contemporary conversation is come look away from the present and also go ago to the past to understand just how we got here.

A the majority of Americans who go to Israel--or a many Americans that go to England, too--feel prefer the previous is life there. That"s the exact same in Iraq, and certainly the exact same in Iran. It"s a place where human being talk around the previous as if it were a main ago. Muslims concerned Iran in around the ninth century, but ask any Iranian and they"ll quiet speak bitterly versus the Arabs, they"ll still be proud of gift Persian and having rule the human being under Cyrus the an excellent 500 year ago. I was in Iran for two weeks, and also every day human being talked around Cyrus the Great. These principles are much much more on the advice of people"s tongues than they room here.


You mention in the publication that americans seem attracted to the past, as shown by the popularity of publications like yours. Is that due to the fact that we don"t live there, in a place where the previous is so present?I think the the great unspoken shadow over American religious beliefs is our geographic distance indigenous the middle East. That is one factor that makes fundamentalist Christianity more popular in the United says than it is in Europe or the middle East. And also it"s an additional factor why this rediscovery the religious background is so famous now. Those locations seem much away, and we don"t grow up close to them, and also some believers feel they don"t desire to concern themselves with history, lock just focus on the text and also believe every word is words of God. And also it"s a factor that people are therefore hungry because that every morsel of history, every morsel the recreated fantasy, "The Da Vinci Code" or "The Red Tent," or "Walking the Bible." once they discover that over there is a actual place and also real history, lock suddenly room insatiable.

What happens is that human being move v the discovery of the background looking for the meaning. That"s what happened to me in mine ten years of law this. I was fascinated through the history, and I gobbled increase the history, however ultimately I moved through the background to discover the an interpretation that"s found in the text. That"s why ns feel favor there is room because that dialogue between spiritual fundamentalists and also secular people an ext concerned v history--because ultimately everyone is concerned with the meaning.


Getting ago to the story girlfriend told about the chaplain in Iraq, what"s the state that interfaith connections today, as contrasted to as soon as "Abraham" came out?I definitely subscribe come the idea that 9/11, to usage an overused phrase, was a wake-up call. There to be a year-long nationwide teach-in ~ above Islam--everyone read books and also suddenly talked about Islam, and also that was an extremely productive.

But there"s no doubt that moment has actually passed. As frequently happens with fads, people who to be briefly interested in Islam have gone ago to caring around Britney Spears or the supreme Court. And also the election sucked up a many the energy. However the biggest question in the civilization today is still: can the religions figure out a method to live through one an additional that"s not by trying to death one another?

Most of your interfaith work has been done amongst Americans. In her travels for this book, walk you uncover that world think about interfaith connections there the method we carry out in the U.S.?In Israel, the number one expression that jumps out in the day-to-day newspapers is "civil war," and that war is between Jewish fundamentalists and secular Jews. Therefore it"s a huge question, over who gets to define Judaism and who gets to specify relations v the Muslims. In Israel, every little thing gets put through the political prism that Arab-Israeli, yet interfaith connections are a large question in Israel.

In Iraq, there space no Jews anymore, yet Sunnis and Shi"as and their relationship with each various other and additionally to Chaldean Catholics and also Syrian christians is the dominant issue. So, interfaith connections is subject number one in Iraq, as with in Israel.


In Iran, again, the dominant question is the relationship in between fundamentalist Muslims and also secular Muslims. In that polarity, there"s also the role of Jews and also Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians. Therefore again, it"s subject number one. It"s not characterized the way it"s characterized here, yet "Can the religions obtain along?" is the most necessary question for every people.

In addition to those areas in your book, the seems prefer it"s the defining question for world everywhere.I think the is. There are 200 million Muslims in Indonesia. Lock don"t treatment where the borders are drawn in between Bethlehem and also Jerusalem. Half the world"s population are one of these 3 Abrahamic faiths. We often tend to specify interfaith connections through the politics prism that the middle East. But certainly once you walk to Pakistan, India, Sudan, Nigeria, they"re all handling the very same question.

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You"ve to be to the area of the world so countless times. To be there anything in your travels this time that really surprised you?The very first time I visited Turkey because that "Walking the Bible" and encountered the epos of Gilgamesh, and also the fact that Gilgamesh is very comparable to the story the Noah, ns was destabilized by it. This time, once I walk back, whenever i encountered things like rivers in the Garden the Eden, or stories of guys fighting giants in other cultures, i was cheered by it. It take it me a when to figure out why the was currently so rewarding.

I think the many surprising point I discovered was that it meant that at the birth minute of western faith, all of these cultures were in dialogue with one another. Unexpectedly I understood the idea that darkness and also light, that originates from Zoroastrianism. The idea of human being rights and also respecting other people, that comes from Cyrus in old Persia. The idea of structure a tower come God, favor the tower that Babel, comes from the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia. I concluded that the holy bible is trying come send us a message. The biblical story is in dialogue v the other stories that its time. And if the holy bible can be in dialogue with various other cultures, why can"t the people who are descendants the the scriptures be in dialogue with various other cultures?