Interview with Jacob Fortin of “Bible Stories”

by | May 17, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Jacob Fortin is the Creator of Bible Stories. Here we talk about it.

*Some parts of the transcript may be inaccurate.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, what is Bible Stories? Why did you write it?

Jacob Fortin: So, for those of are those who have not heard of me, I used to run a podcast back in 2007 called The Good Atheist. I had a few thousand listeners, nothing huge.

But over the years, I found that whenever I did a show specifically about the Bible; the listeners would double. So over time, I wanted to write a book.

If you need any marketing research, you do it among your audience. So, I thought, obviously, the problem with the Bible is psychological pain. Nobody wants to read it.

Even then, your die-hard Christian has to tell you they know the Bible. They do not even know the Bible, like they are still BS about it.

99 percent of them are still Cole’s-noting. They do not know the stories. Because, in a sense, when I am talking about the stories for me, they are more like the Greek parables.

What are the stories like? All these guys that sound like they had a seizure. But they are, nevertheless, people from the Bible that people are mostly unfamiliar with.

So, I did a Kickstarter campaign, when Kickstarter was still something that people barely knew what it was, in 2011. I thought, “I am going to try to translate the Bible.” So, that is what took me in to want to write about the rest of the crazy stories.

Jacobsen: If you take some of the more popular stories that people believe or like, what are they? Why do you think of those stories, in particular, resonate for believers and nonbelievers alike?

Fortin: Most of the stories that people are familiar with come from Genesis. The reason is that Genesis is this richer storytelling parts of the Bible, because the rest of it is interspersed with a bunch of roles.

Sometimes, there is the story. But even later on in the Bible, it becomes a giant complaining fest. The stories are great. It is all the parts of the Bible that came later. The ones obviously influenced by some Arkadian. There is some meaty stuff.

But it is also the parts of that that are at the beginning. If you look at any book, only 30 percent of people finish reading something. So, for the most part, there is no way the first story is remembrance; because people are lazy, and said that they are lazy.

Jacobsen: When you are taking to account this tendency towards being lazy, what appeals to people with certain stories?

Fortin: When you look at how the Bible is presented, the good and knowledgeable parts of the Bible have to do with the people interpreting it. Your places in the U.S., or maybe even in Canada, where people go to church.

There is actually a reading of the stories. They still bring it to life. Yet, for the most part, the problem is when you are reading any specific translation of the Bible. You have to maintain the story element.

But you also have to try to make it sound like it is super holy. All the actions of these guys are the wisest, but you lack humanity in a story when you do that. So, even in my attempt to translate the Bible, I was trying to translate the stories so that they stick with you.

Like when I talk about the story of Abraham and when he was traveling around trying to find a place to live, he was telling every one of his neighbors or the people he was visiting his wife was his sister. Because he was afraid that people were going to kill him.

Then all of a sudden, she gets married. He gets cursed. So to remove the curse that gave him all of this stuff, they tell to get the hell out of town. The funny thing, he does this twice.

Now, from experience as a human being, if someone does this twice, the second time is because it is a dumb scam. Now, when you are trying to portray these people in a good light because of religion, all of the fun humanity of the story is stripped away. It is not memorable anymore because these are the wiser inhuman characters.

I guarantee that anybody who reads my version of the Bible will not only know the stories by heart. They’ll probably know it even better than people who claim to have read it. Because again, they never understood and connected with the stories the way that I have been able to translate it.

Jacobsen: What could have been other relatively noble or good attempts in the past by freethinkers to either rewrite the Bible, reinterpret the Bible, or provide an alternative interpretation more suitable to free thought meanings?

Fortin: There are a bunch of great ones. The Brick Bible was a big influence when I first started because when they were trying to make it. They were filming through the visual medium of the Legos. Because of how silly looking they are, it cuts the tension.

They can show all these decapitated heads. It maintains its humor because we realized the ridiculousness of it. There is, at least to the world there is, all that. There is because it is like a lot of scholars.

There is always primarily scholarly intent. Let me take this book and let me break it down to you, because when I came to this from a logical orientation, and the funny thing, big people read my book, even people who are religiously cunning, got a kick out of it because they do not even realize what they are supposed to know.

I try to present it, at least in my book, in a way that doesn’t overtly threaten anybody who reads it because, even though I am making fun of it and I am cruel, the truth is the material is one hundred times crueler than I am.

So even though I look like a jerk, I am not the one who sent fireballs from the sky because the Jews were complaining about not eating meat. If I am being snarky, it is completely different, but it is the same thing as the Brick Bible.

If I had made a serious translation that did not try to bring out the humor, it would be depressing, especially the fact that the book is so large. It is a huge undertaking. I took on a way bigger task than expected. That was my bad.

Jacobsen: If you are looking at weaning people off supernatural wisdom, does this function in a way akin to some aspects of Monty Python?

Fortin: So, you could get Life of Brian. I remember there was a great interview, probably most people can find on YouTube, where the guys from Monty Python are debating the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Then there is another guy. I do not know this old guy. But whenever a respected man of his time did the funny thing, these religious intellectuals are trying to make cheap jokes at the jokers that are trying to make a serious point of saying, “Look, even in the material… We treated the whole Jesus thing well. You have Jesus. He looks good.”

They have a serious factor. But with the whole point being multiple messiahs, that is true. It is that that makes people uncomfortable, then you are uncomfortable with their own beliefs.

Then the thing that we have to remember. This is particularly important in the atheist community. We can often lack humour.

The foundations were like intellectual and academic. These are not people used to crafting a good joke or who are a little stuffy. But we’ve got to entice other people to come on board.

Even in my book, I am like, “Look, by the time you finished reading it, I hope you have not changed your mind. But you should be already on your way to having changed your mind.”

If this is the first attempt, then people are going to want to burn it. I have no problem making additional flammable paper. I am cool with that shit. Do whatever you want with something you buy, if you want to burn it or read it, it is cool. It doesn’t matter to me.

I want people to know the details. I did almost a paragraph by paragraph translation. I skipped certain parts. But for the most part, this is why it is divided into three parts with each at like 350 pages.

I did not want to lose anything. I wanted people to not accuse me of saying that you glossed over this part. Now, I will include it all. It was a huge challenge. Because, as you can imagine, to me, the Bible is boring.

However, here is a thing that will surprise the hell out of everybody, my book is not boring. I do not know how I did it. I was desperate. It took a while to do it. But I was so desperate to impress. I was thinking, “You are going to read this book. You are going to laugh your ass off.”

That is if you are interested in religion. Then that is a guarantee. Because if you like this stuff, you are going to love my fancy mouth.

Jacobsen: Last question, if you look at Canadian literature, Margaret Atwood sits among most prominent authors. She made a commentary one time. It was brief, but important in my mind.

It was about the foundation of European writing. She mentioned folktales and legends including Merlin and the sword in the stone. Another was Shakespeare, alone. A third was the Bible.

Do you think that perhaps some of the secular community enacts a disservice to their own literary knowledge and literacy by not taking the literary import of the Bible more seriously akin to the way people take the folk tales and Shakespeare seriously?

Fortin: Yes! It will be interesting. Hopefully, in a future where the Bible isn’t so tied up into people’s daily lives, and where we could speak about the pathology and play around with the ideas, everyone can enjoy it.

It can be a part of their heritage. But they do not remember any of the nasty statutes. They can toss them to the side because it is old memories. But when you look at me, even in my introduction to the book, I make it clear.

I still want to respect the material because the one person who wrote the majority of the King James Bible was William Tisdale. They strangled the shit out of him and then they burned him alive for trying to give poetry to the book.

Because they are like, “You cannot let anybody read this. The fear was on the part of the clergy, which turned out to be unfounded.” If you expose the Bible, people read it. They are going to be like one of those fucking things I cannot believe that, but it turns out to be true.

Now, it is more important. You can hide the facts in plain sight. In a way, it has even more power when people can go around leaving the thing alone. Then others claim all kinds of power. There is a lot of beautiful language in there.

There is so much of our culture intertwined. If I tell you, Adam and Eve, and if I mention further the burning bush, there is so much tied into this, culturally, for anybody who is around here. In fact, if they denied that, then they are being ignorant.

It seems silly to never know your adversary. I have always thought that when you make a debate with someone. We should have an exercise in our culture, where, at least for 5 minutes, you should debate the opponent’s side and vice versa.

Because, at least, you could show that you understand the other side. These days; nobody makes that effort to trying to say, “Yes, I understand your point of view. But I do not think you understand mine to defend me.”

This is where us atheists. We have that trump card. We never use it. I am like, “Show them their arguments and then shame them when they cannot remember.”

Jacobsen: Thank you much for the opportunity and your time, Jacob.

Fortin: Alright, Scott, you have a good day. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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