Killing the Buddha

A Heretic's Bible

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"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."
The ninth-century sage Lin Chi gave this advice to one of his monks, admonishing him that this Buddha would only be a reflection of his unexamined beliefs and desires. Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet took Lin Chi's advice to heart and set out on a car trip around America, looking for Buddhas along the road and the people who meet them: prophets in G-strings dancing to pay the rent, storm chasers hunting for meaning in devastating tornados, gangbangers inking God on their bodies as protection from bullets, cross-dressing terrorist angels looking for a place to sing.
Along the way Manseau and Sharlet began to wonder what the traditional scripture they encountered everywhere -- in motels, on billboards, up and down the radio dial -- would look like remade for today's world. To find out, they called upon some of today's most intriguing writers to recast books of the Bible by taking them apart, blowing them up with ink and paper.
Rick Moody recasts Jonah as a modern-day gay Jewish man living in Queens. A.L. Kennedy meditates on the absurdity of Genesis. In Samuel, April Reynolds visits a man of tremendous vision in Harlem. Peter Trachtenberg unravels the Gordian logic of Job by way of the Borscht Belt. Haven Kimmel dives into Revelation and comes out in a swoon. Woven through these divine books are Manseau and Sharlet's dispatches from the road, their Psalms of the people.
What emerges from this work of calling is not an attack on any religion, but a many-colored, positively riveting look at the facets of true belief. Together these curious minds tell the strange, funny, sad, and true story of religion in America for the spiritual seeker in all of us: A Heretic's Bible.
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Book Details:
  • Free Press | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743253833 | 
  • January 2004
List Price $17.99

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: GENESIS

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked...

Genesis 3:7
By A. L. Kennedy

In the beginning, it's simple, all very clear -- you are and then know that you are and that's enough. But not for long. Eventually, you need an explanation.

My explanation starts with certain facts: that I was conceived in Australia, then born in Scotland at 3:57 A.M. on October 22, 1965 A.D. These are facts that I take on faith -- I can't remember anything about them.

Beginnings are particularly hungry for our faith. Our communal starting point -- too monumental to imagine and eternally... see more
{\rtf1\ansi\deff0{\fonttbl{\f0\froman Tms Rmn;}}\pard{\f0 }{\par}\pard{\f0
}{\par}\pard{\f0 Introduction: Mortal, Eat This Scroll!}{\par}\pard{\f0
}{\par}\pard{\f0 Late morning, just before lunch, one of Lin Chi's monks comes up to him half-crazed, out of his mind with ecstasy, babbling about Buddha. Says he's seen him. Says he was just walking down the road when suddenly: Buddhamind. Enlightenment. Nirvana. The big payoff. The monk can't stop talking about it. Lin Chi strikes a match, lights his pipe, takes a long drag. Leaves the monk hanging, waiting for his reward. Instead, Lin Chi blows a cloud of smoke, reaches out, and smacks... see more

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