Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s American Atheist Center has quickly sold out its first printing of 5,000 copies of “The X-Rated Bible” and is planning to print 5,000 more.
The book is not the first to focus on sexually frank passages in the Bible, but it has sold much better than comparable works. “We are absolutely delighted with the goddamned book,” said O’Hair by telephone from her Austin, Tex., headquarters.
Author Ben Akerley of San Diego said his 428-page paperbound book, subtitled “An Irreverent Survey of Sex in the Scriptures,” was written in part as an anti-censorship statement. The one-time seminary student, now a semi-retired businessman, said he wanted to counter the anti-pornography campaigns by fundamentalists, and sometimes feminists, which he believes amount to censorship.
“By (fundamentalists’) very own standards, the Bible might have to be seen as obscene,” Akerley said. “I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar but I am a Bible student.”
The selected biblical material includes the long, lusty allegory in Ezekiel’s 23rd chapter which describes the harlotry of two sisters, one of whom dotes on paramours whose “flesh” was like that of asses and whose “issue” was like that of horses. Akerley explains that “flesh” was a euphemism for penis and “issue” for semen. He said the King James Version of the Bible in particular tended to use euphemisms and now-antiquated words for rather explicit language in the original Hebrew and Greek.
O’Hair, a longtime advocate of atheism and church-state separation, said “The X-Rated Bible” was sold out within three weeks last month after wire services transmitted stories about it. News of its publication also went out to the organization’s mailing list of about 60,000 people.
Ever provocative, O’Hair commented in her last news release about the success of the first printing: “The American people apparently want to read this disgusting, filthy, degrading material excerpted from the Holy Bible and appreciate that sick minds have put it together.”
Irreverent or debunking books about the Bible have not usually proved to be good sellers. “The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible,” a book by Ruth Green which was critical of a range of biblical tenets and characterizations of women, has sold about 5,000 copies since it was published in the late 1970s, said the publisher, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Madison, Wis.
Humanist leader Gerald Larue, a former USC faculty member, wrote a relatively dispassionate book, “Sex in the Bible,” published in 1983. His intent, he said in his introduction, was to demonstrate that there was room for differing Bible interpretations on sex, but that some conclusions have been harmful for society or individuals.
“It didn’t do too well in sales,” Larue said. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, N.Y., which publishes many humanist-produced manuscripts, said the hardbound and paperbound copies have sold 2,500 copies to date.
Two large Southern California-based religious bodies are planning international meetings via special satellite networks.
From its headquarters in Pasadena, where about 4,000 people are expected to attend, the Worldwide Church of God will begin on Sunday its eight-day Fall Festival with signals going to more than 80 sites around the world. Herbert W. Armstrong, the 93-year-old pastor general of the church, is expected to address more than 120,000 members through the use of two domestic and two international satellites, a spokesman said.
Campus Crusade for Christ is organizing “Explo 85" as a worldwide Christian training conference on Dec. 27-31 at about 95 locations in about 55 countries. Officials for the evangelistic organization, which is based in Arrowhead Springs above San Bernardino, estimate that about 600,000 people will participate. All the conferences will be linked for two hours each on the last four days “in the largest closed-circuit satellite-television hookup in history,” a spokesman said. Speakers will include evangelists Billy Graham and Luis Palau and Campus Crusade founder-president Bill Bright.