Christian Long

A.J. Jacobs: A Year of Living Biblically

In TED Talks on May 20, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Extra credit reflection by GABRIELLA B.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

A.J. Jacobs:  A Year of Living Biblically

Having actually read Jacobs’s book, Living Biblically, I must say finding this talk was motivating. He is an author that always manages to pull the reader into his life. Almost as if you are living vicariously through his experiences. He makes the most controversial, topics approachable, with a subtle use of wit and humor.

However, like his talk, his book was not only about religion. He actually attended an Atheist meeting in New York. Found the speaker to be very moving and inspiring, having had to suppress the desire to shout Amen! Several times. He later spoke to the man. Apparently preaching to atheists is about like herding cats.

Jacobs impresses that the benefits of living biblically are not simply religious obligations but actually help you live a better life.

Despite a few strange ones, Jacobs found a lot of the very archaic and ritualistic laws had very specific and well intentioned purposes. For example while at first he found the endless prayers of thanksgiving, tedious and difficult. After a while he came to realize that because of them he was forced to notice the things most of us take for granted every day.

The same can be said of not lying or gossiping. If you can’t gossip you stop thinking about such things because you can’t eventually you train your mind to be kinder.

It’s rather like reverse training. Instead of doing moral and kind acts because you are a good person. Be moral and kind and you will find you become a kinder person.

So perhaps in a way his experiment proves that if you wear a mask for long enough you forget how to take it off. Eventually pretending to be a good, moral, and reverent person becomes so natural you find that you’ve actually become more reverent and kind. Changing your actions changes your mind.

I think it is both very ironic and very fitting that it takes an atheist who decided to act Christian for a year for us to realize that it’s not what we believe that counts but what we do with those beliefs.

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