Tuesday, September 27

«I am very concerned about the here and nothing about the beyond»

The writer, historian and Planeta award winner, Juan Eslava Galán. / VIRGINIA CARRASCO

Juan Eslava Galán goes through the biblical scenarios in a critical and entertaining dialectical journey to the Holy Land together with Antonio Piñero

Michael Lorenci

Two agnostic friends, educated and retired, decide to travel through the most iconic biblical settings. Their sharp and funny conversations give rise to ‘Journey to the Holy Land’ (Booket), a miscellaneous book that mixes history with travelogue and exudes good humor. It is signed by Juan Eslava Galán (Jaén, 74 years old) and his friend Antonio Piñero (Cádiz, 80 years old), an authority on early Christianity, philosopher, philologist and scholar of the scriptures. Converted into Bonoso and Antonio, they are Bouvard and Pécuchet of the 21st century who, like Flaubert’s partner, speak a lot about the human and the divine.

They travel to Israel, Palestine, Turkey and Greece. They delve into the origins of Christianity and observe the variety of the world. From Mount Sinai, where Moses saw Yahweh in a burning bush, his biblical pilgrimage will take them in the footsteps of Jesus and the dense history of the disputed lands where religions, peoples and colorful sects took root.

“We give a historical version of the birth of Christianity and of Christ that, obviously, dispenses with faith, but it is still interesting, I think, for those who have faith,” explains Eslava Galán, who has already told Catholicism to the sheep and the history of Spain and the world to the skeptics.

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In their journey through the key places in the New Testament, these lucid agnostics reflect on the veracity of some biblical episodes, discuss death or resurrection and shed light on such burning issues as the conflict between Israel and Palestine “where, unfortunately, almost You have to travel today with a helmet and bulletproof vest.

“Veterans know the compendium of stories from the Bible, but the youngest are missing out on a fabulous wealth of history,” laments Eslava Galán. “Regardless of your beliefs, if you belong to Western Christian civilization and they steal that kind of knowledge from you, you ignore the keys to your past,” says the historian and Planeta Prize winner. “If you are part of Western Christian civilization, you should know Homer, but also Jesus Christ,” adds Eslava Galán, recommending reading the Bible, “although my character believes more in ‘Don Quixote’ than in the scriptures.” “Being agnostic or atheist is not in dispute with knowing the Bible. The same goes for the Koran or the Torah », he assures.

Of all the biblical sites they visit, the most moving is “without a doubt” Jerusalem. “For what it has of intensity of faith, of its visitors to the places that are related to the Passion of Christ, it is unforgettable.” And inside Jerusalem, “the Holy Sepulchre, which is a kind of religious Disneyland,” says Eslava, for whom humor is paramount and decisive “in books and in life.”

«You have to laugh at everything, and of course at God, with all due respect. But more than God, you have to laugh at some beliefs, at the clothes that humans put on God and that lend themselves quite a bit to humor », she specifies.

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These cultivated agnostics are more than critical of what they call “middlemen of religion,” the shamans, priests, rabbis, imams, popes and priests who wield earthly power in the name of God and accumulate wealth. “They make beliefs a splendid business, in two words,” summarizes Eslava Galán. It’s a “sad common denominator for the great monotheistic religions and sects,” he notes. “But beware! There are selfless people – missionaries, nuns and organizations like Cáritas – who give themselves to others, whom I deeply respect and who are left out of that business.”

kill for god

Unfortunately, “it has been killed, is being killed and will be killed in the name of God.” “Especially religions that do not respect other beliefs, which are usually monotheistic,” says the writer. “But there comes a time when, as happened with Christianity in the Enlightenment, religion is separated from the state and killing stops.”

“3,000 years ago there were some powerful religions that have given way to others and everything could change again. Although religion evolves, it will always exist for a simple reason: man is the only animal that knows that he has to die. No other being in creation is aware of his own death. As long as we know that we are going to die, religions will exist, offering you hope and an afterlife. I am very concerned about the hereafter, and nothing at all about the beyond”, says this well-informed agnostic.

Eslava has not succumbed to the temptation to apostatize. «My apostate friends invite me to do it, but I refuse. I prefer to remain in the fold of the Church, which gives me the right to comment on it and write books like this », she ironically. She does not give him the right to freely enter the cathedrals and she regrets it well. «I am closely linked to the cathedral of Jaén, in front of which I lived for many years, but now every time I visit it I have to scratch my pocket. They have converted the cathedrals into tax collection offices and they force people to pray at fixed times».


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