Alan Watts – The Bible

Speech extract from “Insert Speech Title” by Alan Watts, courtesy of 


Alan Watts opens up about Jesus and the religion. Speech extract from “Insert Speech Title” by Alan Watts, courtesy of

The image of Jesus is owned by the church traditions and authorities. He has been moulded to fit the interests of the church patriarchs for centuries, so much so that the prevailing image of Jesus is now so far removed from what he truly represented. Namely an energy from the future who came to earth to bring illumination and knowledge to humanity.

The reason why the Jesus/Jeshua personality came to earth was to create an opening or doorway to a different state of consciousness. He wanted to set an example of the possibilities that are available to each human being.

He wanted to hold up a mirror to human beings and remind them of their own divine origin and the dormant potentials they carried within. The potentials for peace, freedom and mastership over oneself. An official partnership with the Alan Watts Electronic University ( This is a fresh edit of the Alan Watts speech Jesus and Religion found at Alan Watts library.


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by Alan Watts (1915-1973)

For many centuries the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to translating the Holy Scriptures into the “vulgar tongue.” To this day, you can still get rid of a Bible salesman by saying, “But we are Catholics and, of course, don’t read the Bible.” The Catholic hierarchy included subtle theologians and scholars who knew very well that such a difficult and diverse collection of ancient writings, taken as the literal Word of God, would be wildly and dangerously interpreted if put into the hands of ignorant and uneducated peasants. Likewise, when a missionary boasted to George Bernard Shaw of the numerous converts he had made, Shaw asked, ” Can these people use rifles?” “Oh, indeed, yes,” said the missionary. “Some of them are very good shots.” Whereupon Shaw scolded him for putting us all in peril in the day when those converts waged holy war against us for not following the Bible in the literal sense they gave to it. For the Bible says, “What a good thing it is when the Lord putteth into the hands of the righteous invincible might.” But today, especially in the United States, there is a taboo against admitting that there are enormous numbers of stupid and ignorant people, in the bookish and literal sense of these words. They may be highly intelligent in the arts of farming, manufacture, engineering and finance, and even in physics, chemistry or medicine. But this intelligence does not automatically flow over to the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics, theology, philosophy and mythology which are what one needs to know in order to make any sense out such archaic literature as the books of the Bible.

This may sound snobbish, for there is an assumption that, in the Bible, God gave His message in plain words for plain people. Once, when I had given a radio broadcast in Canada, the announcer took me aside and said, “Don’t you think that if there is a truly loving God, He would given us a plain and specific guide as to how to live our lives?”

“On the contrary,” I replied, “a truly loving God would not stultify our minds. He would encourage us to think for ourselves.” I tried, then, to show him that his belief in the divine authority of the Bible rested on nothing more than his own personal opinion, to which, of course, he was entitled. This is basic. The authority of the Bible, the church, the state, or of any spiritual or political leader, is derived from the individual followers and believers, since it is the believers’ judgment that such leaders and institutions speak with a greater wisdom than there own. This is, obviously, a paradox, for only the wise can recognize wisdom. Thus, Catholics criticize Protestants for following their own opinions in understanding the Bible, as distinct from the interpretations of the Church, which originally issued and authorized the Bible. But Catholics seldom realize that the authority of the Church rests, likewise, on the opinion of its individual members that the Papacy and the councils of the Church are authoritative. The same is true of the state, for, as a French statesman said, people get the government they deserve.

Why does one come to the opinion that the Bible, literally understood, is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Usually because one’s “elders and betters,” or an impressively large group of ones peers, have this opinion. But this is to go along with the Bandar-log, or monkey tribe, in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books , who periodically get together and shout, “We all say so, so it must be true!” Having been a grandfather for a number of years, I am not particularly impressed with patriarchal authority. I am of an age with my own formerly impressive grandfathers (one of whom was a fervent fundamentalist, or literal believer in the Bible) and I realize that my opinions are as fallible as theirs.

But many people never grow up. They stay all their lives with a passionate need for eternal authority and guidance, pretending not to trust their own judgment. Nevertheless, it is their own judgment, willy-nilly, that there exists some authority greater than their own. The fervent fundamentalist whether Protestant or Catholic, Jew or Moslem is closed to reason and even communication for fear of losing the security of childish dependence. He would suffer extreme emotional heebie jeebies if he didn’t have the feeling that there was some external and infallible guide in which he could trust absolutely and without which his very identity would dissolve.

This attitude is not faith. It is pure idolatry. The more deceptive idols are not images of wood and stone but are constructed of words and ideas and mental images of God. Faith is an openness and trusting attitude to truth and reality, whatever it may turn out to be. This is a risky and adventurous state of mind. Belief, in the religious sense, is the opposite of faith because it is a fervent wishing or hope, a compulsive clinging to the idea that the universe is arranged and governed in such and such a way. Belief is holding to a rock; faith is learning how to swim and this whole universe swims in boundless space. 

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