Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible

"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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By Cody (Chicago, IL) · ★★★★☆ · October 15, 2007
Quick background: Killing the Buddha was originally a weekly religious webzine—and still is, in a slightly different format—that is written for the sort of people who feel uncomfortable in churches or ashamed to be caught in the "spirituality" section of their bookstore (to borrow from the site's... ...more
By Jason (Valley Village, CA) · ★★★★☆ · July 26, 2008
"As for me: The Lessons I learned from Blind Joe Death made me a kinder person. But only for a little while. My father died; my mother died; my wife died: After each death, I became a more decent person. But it never lasted. After a while, I'd forget how close death really is, how vulnerable we... ...more
By Liz (Durham, NC) · ★★☆☆☆ · April 25, 2013
This book has great reviews and likable, interesting authors/editors. Also, the cover and title are fabulous. I am just not particularly interested in religion in the way these authors present it. The authors are really interested in what it means to believe particular religious tenets. The book... ...more
By Jennifer (Lansing, MI) · ★★★★☆ · August 05, 2014
Anyway, I can't stress to you enough how magnificent this book is. I keep trying to force various friends to at least read excerpts from the book, but the title seems to frighten people. My explanation of what it means never seemed to help any, so I'll refer you the authors' introductory essay, a... ...more
By Tara (San Jose, CA) · ★★★★★ · November 30, 2008
I have gotten way behind in my book reviews simply because I could not figure out how to approach a review of this book. It was, quite simply, the best book I have read in years. I picked it up a few years ago because I love the cover art - a cloudscape with a giant red X through it, as if to say... ...more
By Indu (Porter Ranch, CA) · ★★★★☆ · July 04, 2012
It's basically like this: two religiously flippant intellectuals (Manseau and Sharlet), and send them on a yearlong road trip to discover the underbelly of America's religious culture. Make sure they interact with the most wild and weird of cult hangers, a philosophical stripper working out of a... ...more
By S (Parlin, NJ) · ★★★★★ · December 31, 2014
Stories on religion need more approaches like this. Travel, movement, creativity, sensitivity. Its all here. ...more
By Mollie (Boston, MA) · ★★★☆☆ · July 14, 2007
I love the web mag..
but I found all of the essays in all the different styles to be a little bit tiresome after awhile.

Some essays were very accessiblee, some I had to work very hard to get and as they were one after another I had no idea how to gage my reading and felt bad when I just knew I was... ...more
By Gini (Greensboro, NC) · ★★★☆☆ · November 01, 2008
I was intrigued by the idea of this book as expressed in the introduction: kill the buddhas you meet, because they will keep you from getting to true religion and spirituality.
however, the stories are interesting, as are the author's experiences, but they don't live up to the intro.
if you are t... ...more
By Annemarie (Boulder, CO) · ★★★☆☆ · April 19, 2007
great ambition for a book. i think my expectations were too high, and thus i was disappointed. some of these essays were really great. a couple of them were attempted polemics that succeeded only in offering the tone of an embittered and abandoned child. despite this, i think the book was absolut... ...more