What Happens When an Agnostic Follows the Bible Literally for One Year?

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The prophetic AJ Jacobs, who wrote the inspiring “My Outsourced Life” for Esquire back in 2005, has gone prophetic.

A huge fan of radical lifestyle experiments, he has already read all 33,000 pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica, experimented with Radical Honesty for an article called “I Think You’re Fat”… even pretended to be his nanny online to try to find her a boyfriend.

Now he’s done the ultimate.

As an agnostic New Yorker, he attempted to follow every rule of the Bible literally for an entire year.

I read an advanced copy of his new book, The Year of Living Biblically, this past July, and it blew my mind. It is AMAZING. Now it’s finally out, and I’m allowed to talk about it. I learned more about religion in this book than in all previous books combined, and I laughed so hard I almost got kicked out of two airports. Here’s a Q&A with my friend AJ on his incredible experience:

You call yourself an “agnostic Jew” in the book. Why did you even decide to do this? What could the possible benefit be?

This was my most radical experiment yet. It affected everything I did: the way I ate, talked, dressed, thought, and touched my wife.

I did it because I wanted to see if I was missing anything. And I have to say, the benefits were huge. I’ve carried over a lot of thinking and behavior from my Year of Living Biblically. Even if you aren’t particularly religious (in fact, even if you’re a diehard atheist), I believe there are lessons to be learned from the Bible and a biblical lifestyle.

What was hardest for you?

Two types of rules were hardest for me. First, there was avoiding the sins we commit every day: no lying, no gossiping, no coveting. I’m a journalist in New York. That’s like 70 percent of my day.

The second type of difficult rules were those that will get you into trouble if you follow them in modern-day America. For instance, the Old Testament rule that you should stone adulterers. Luckily, I was able to stone one adulterer. I was in the park dressed in my biblical garb (white clothes, a beard, sandals, walking stick) and a man came up to me and asked why I was dressed so strangely. He seemed hostile right from the start. I explained to him my project. And he said “I’m an adulterer. Are you going to stone me?” I said, “That would be great.”

I took out a handful of pebbles, because the Bible never specifies the size of the stones. This man actually grabbed the stones from my hand and chucked them at my face. I felt I had the right to retaliate, so I tossed a pebble at him. And in that way I stoned.

Do you think many people are misguided in their “creed over deed” mentality?

[Note from Tim: "Creed over deed" refers to people who value religious belief more than moral behavior. "Deed over creed" would be the opposite.]

I wouldn’t say misguided. But I’d say most of us do underestimate the power that behavior has to shape thought.

It’s astounding. I watched it happen to myself. For instance, I forced myself to stop gossiping, and eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I forced myself to help the needy, and found myself becoming less self-absorbed. I never became Ghandi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some strides.

I even watched it happen with prayer. After a year of praying, I started to believe there’s something to the idea of sacredness. It was remarkable. So if you want to become someone different, just start acting like the person you want to be. It’s like that business motto “fake it till you make it,” but it works on a spiritual and ethical level as well.

Even with my wardrobe, I saw how the outer affects the inner. There’s a line in the Bible that says “your garments should always be white.” I decided to take that literally, and walked around in white clothes. It affected my mood. I felt happier, lighter. Clothes make the man. I felt I couldn’t be in a bad mood if I looked like I was about to play the semi-finals at Wimbledon.


What were some of the greatest benefits of following rules to the letter, and what are the things that have stuck with you since ending the experiment?

It was fascinating. I’d always loved freedom of choice. It’s why I went to a loosey-goosey liberal arts college with no core requirements. But this experiment was all about freedom FROM choice. Or at least a minimal-choice lifestyle. I had a set structure: Should I read the gossip magazine about Cameron Diaz’s latest sex romp? No. Should I give 10 percent of my money to the needy? Yes. Should I turn off my email on the Sabbath (as both the Bible and Tim Ferriss recommend)? Yes.

In fact, there was something Ferriss-esque about the entire way of living. It reminded me of your low-information diet, for instance. In some ways, it was a huge time-saver.


What would you call yourself now?

I’d call myself a “reverent agnostic.” Whether or not there is a God, I believe there’s something to the idea of sacredness. Rituals can be sacred. The Sabbath can be sacred. And there’s an importance to that.

I’d also say that I’m a fan of cafeteria spirituality. During my experiment, I learned that you cannot follow the entire Bible. It’s impossible. You must pick and choose. Everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. Otherwise, we’d end up stoning adulterers on the street.

Some call this “cafeteria religion,” and it’s meant as a disparaging phrase. But I say: There is nothing wrong with cafeterias! I’ve had some great meals at cafeterias. I’ve also had some turkey tetrazzini that made me dry heave. The key is to chose the right dishes, the ones about compassion and tolerance, and leave the ones about hatred and intolerance on the side. So in my year, there was this amazing balance between choosing your religion, which then leads to fewer decisions on a daily basis.

And finally, I’d call myself a reformed individualist. I still see the value of individualism, but I’ve taken it down a few notches. As one of my spiritual advisers told me, you can look at life in one of two ways: As a series of rights and entitlements, or as a series of responsibilities. The biblical way is to look at it as a series of responsibilities, to your family and to your society. It’s like the JFK quote, ask not what your country (or world) can do for you, ask what you can do for your country (or world).

What was the hardest for your wife to put up with?

Well, my wife’s a saint. At one point, I built a biblical hut in our living room, and she didn’t appreciate the construction project in our apartment. Also, the Bible says not to touch women during that time of the month. Even more strictly, though, it says you shouldn’t sit in a seat where an “impure” woman has sat. My wife didn’t like that, so in retaliation, she sat on every seat in our apartment. I was forced to do a lot of standing that year.

Do yourself a favor, whether you’re a bible beater or a beret-wearing atheist, and go get AJ’s book. I put more notes in this book than any book in recent memory.

IMPORTANT:

And remember, you don’t need to be religious to “tithe” like AJ. In fact, you can change the world from your keyboard right now and help me build this school in Nepal for hundreds of children. The top 10 donors (you can donate more than once) get the school dedicated to them on a plaque at the door, and we can all go visit it within a year. Everest base camp, anyone? Here is a glimpse of the wonder that is Nepal if you need a few reasons or want to start planning.

For those of you keeping track, this blog has already successfully funded a school in Vietnam this month, and I’m planning on visiting it in 2008. Life is short and you are fortunate — give hard!

###

ODDS AND ENDS:

-Exclusive 90-Minute Marketing and PR Teleconference with Tim Ferriss:

I will be offering an exclusive 90-minute teleconference (date to be mid- or end of November) to discuss marketing and PR in the web 2.0 and social media era. This will be a one-time event and the cost is $125, with all registration money going to LitLiberation and helping US public school students. Line space is very limited, as we will be taking questions at the end, so I encourage you to sign up now before we cut off registration. To sign up for this one-time event, please go to PayPal.com (you can use your credit cards to pay) and send $125 to timothy-at-brainquicken.com. We might increase the price as space gets limited. Call-in info will come via e-mail in the first week of November, and we’ll post a “FULL” notice on this post when we cut off registration. I cannot tell you the exact date of the call, but if you pay and then cannot attend, I will simply refund you in full — no worries.

Posted on: October 10, 2007.

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136 comments on “What Happens When an Agnostic Follows the Bible Literally for One Year?

  1. Fascinating concept, I think we should put this guy in charge of the prison system, professional sports, and the FCC.
    I’d also be willing to bet that he voted Republican during that year….;)

    Like

  2. It might be an amazing experience to do what AJ did. And in fact I agree with the cafeteria religion, you must pick up what do you think it’s right for you and reject all the other stuffs. But I don’t think that this is a religion type or way of living, it’s just some nice things eu have to do to live in society.

    Like

  3. This guy has used the “Gandhi or Angelina Jolie” line in EVERY ONE of the five or six interviews I’ve see him do. It’s only funny once, AJ, new material!

    Like

  4. I’ve recently been thinking about the idea of secular monasticism (for lack of a better term). Perhaps this already exists and I’m just not aware of it. I’d like to be able to spend some time as a monk, living a monastic lifestyle without any notion of “spirituality” involved… Perhaps as a battery-recharger or even just a perspective modifier.

    Like

  5. I may have to brush up on my study, but I thought Jewish law (Exodus, Levt., Duet.) went even further as to bannish women from all events during that time of the month.

    Mr. Jacobs has a truly tolerant wife!
    Great experiment.

    Like

  6. I saw Jesus on a Piece o Toast this Morning which I immediately Dunked in my Coffee to ferget how the Christian Fundamentalists led by BUSH have managed to takeover American Politics Culture Society Basic Rights to Abortion Scientific Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Thank God those 2 American a British Scientist won the Nobel Prize!!) Deciding if I might like to Die say Sayanara without BUSH flying back from his Hobby Ranch in Texas to shove a Feeding Tube back thru my Throat even tho I’ve been Brain Dead a Vegetable fer 10 Years!! Thanks fer Playing God U Brainwashed Idiots but I will make my own Free Choices!

    ;))

    Ya gotta read god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens – an Excellent Read thank Heavens that The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins have been atop the BestSeller Lists along with the Brilliant 4 Hour WorkWeek by I fergot the Author’s name!!

    ;))

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  7. Sounds like a great book and a wonderfully novel concept! Life is much the richer for life experiments. Thanks for bringing it to our attention Tim and keep up the fantastic work overseas.

    Andrew

    Like

  8. i know this is off topic from your blog but i just want to let you know Timothy Ferriss that i just finished reading your book and its amazing! the best damn book i ever read and it will change my life…thanks!

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  9. To say that Jacobs followed the Bible for a year does not seem to be true. A more accurate title would be “The year of living by the Torah” or “The year of living by the Old Testament.”

    He took the laws in the Old Testament very legalistically (following the laws because I said so). If he included the New Testament, then he would understand the intent. Jesus didn’t stone the woman, but forgave her. I bet there are more points like this.

    Good concept, just mistitled.
    Sam

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  10. This is a very interesting concept. I can say that in the past religion was used to create law for the society to follow. Challenge is when you live in a secular society how do you now follow the secular law and also your religious law if you chose to do that. One simplifies things, the other one complicates them. I can imagine that AJ had to experience some of that.

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  11. Tim,

    The “tithe” means tenth, specifically the first and best tenth that is earmarked for serving God by financing the temple, and is meant to remind people of the original source of any wealth they receive (J.D. Rockefeller tithed, and regularly told critics “God gave me my wealth”).

    There is a subsequent rule in the bible that earmarks the next two or three tenths of one’s income for charity – so if you’re looking for a divine rule to help you out, this is the one!

    Anne

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  12. I’ve returned to being a practicing Catholic for about 5 years now. It probably is not too far off to describe myself as a “reverent agnostic” though, and a frequenter of the cafeteria. after dating a jewish girl for two years, which sparked a lot of religious reading, I am still not sure there is a whole lot of difference between the two religions, except, of course, for the question of whether Jesus was christ or merely a really cool rabbi. I also find a lot of value in Dawkin’s work, although I do think I am not exaggerating in stating that he is truly religiously illiterate. As far as Hitchens, you have to keep in mind that he is first and foremost a polemicist—and beware of what he is actually telling you.

    That makes two books that I have bought that have, coincidentally, been featured on this blog.

    Like

  13. Tim,

    Outstanding post! Hallelujah for the First Amendment of our US Constitution! As a former Catholic, Venezuelan-born and raised, who became a US Citizen 20 years later (after marrying–and divorcing–a Protestant Evangelical British-Canadian Pastor),I loves Jesus, but no longer espouse to the traditional Christian Culture.

    I am truly thankful for not only the opportunity to read books like AJs, but also for having a medium (such as this blog) to express my opinion without fear of government/religious prosecution/persecution.

    Cafeteria Religion is exactly what this country is based on, and we are the great nation we are for it! If you don’t agree, take a drive around Any Town, USA, and count the different denominations of Christian and non-Christian gathering places you come across.

    I would venture to say that Cafeteria Lifestyle Design is what our Founding Fathers had in mind when this great nation was formed! I’m looking forward to reading the book. Thanks again Tim!

    -Carolena

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  14. Something of significance: It seems that AJ purposely chose to omit the New Testament. There is a reason that laws contained in the Pentateuch are not practiced by Christians today. Under the new covenant, Christians no longer stone adulterers or and wear clothing made of two different materials (Cotton and Polyester anybody?).

    “I learned that you cannot follow the entire Bible. It’s impossible. You must pick and choose. Everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. Otherwise, we’d end up stoning adulterers on the street.”

    I am surprised that such a well-educated group of readers (Christian or not) would not choose to comment on statements in this interview. Christians would readily admit that they do not follow Old Testament temple rituals or regularly depend on a priest to atone for the sins of the people. Someone that chose to read a Bible, live by it and publish an entire book on it should know the unique purpose of the Old Testament Law and the New Testament.

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  15. Kooky idea turned cool experiment. But I gotta say, as a woman, the bible’s rules are pretty damn constraining. It’s fine for all you guys to have a bunch of wives and be able to come and go as you please, but us women would have to toe a much more limiting line.

    Sorry I won’t be contributing to your school in Nepal, Tim, but I’m giving away my yet-to-be-inherited-inheritance, at 50K per year, to the National Center For Animal Law (http://www.lclark.edu/org/ncal).

    It’s something I truly believe in, and for those of you who value nature, the environment, and animals for their own sake, and consider them as sacred and worthy of protection in their own right, it’s a great place to contribute. Hope that’s not overstepping bounds, Tim, but the world has many needs, and the future of the planet and it’s creatures is one of them.

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  16. There are a few of major problems with this experiment, which really makes it irrelevant.

    #1 – As an agnostic it is impossible for Jacobs to have followed the first and most important commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart soul and mind.”

    #2 – He ignores the New Testament, where Jesus clearly signifies that he fulfills the Old Testament law and Jesus nullifies many of the rules that Jacob follows.

    #3 – Even when following the Old Testament, there is a clear understanding that the rules are not as important as the motivation and heart behind them.

    Micah 6:6-8

    “With what shall I come before the LORD
    and bow down before the exalted God?
    Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?

    7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of oil?
    Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

    8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.”

    Danny

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  17. This was indeed an interesting post. @ Josh: I haven’t commented on this yet, but have discussed this with several others today.

    One of the first things that struck me was the fact that Jacobs is of Jewish heritage. By the Jewish definition, “The Bible” indeed comprises only the Pentateuch (the first five books).

    It would have been nice if he had stated this distinction. If looked in that light alone, then, yes, you can’t do both. The old law demanded death for adulterers and rebellious children. Christ said that those carrying hatred in one’s heart was guilty of murder – which part is true?

    By the time of Christ, those who rigidly followed the Old Law (the religious leaders of the day) were basically like modern-day mutaween (morality police). Christ taught that he came to fulfill the Law – that following a series of rules was insufficient to make one righteous. Only by a transformation from within could one have a true relationship with God. This “New Law” – the law of the heart – superseded and fulfilled the Old.

    This, of course, supremely pissed off the religious establishment.

    Now, I don’t want to disparage Jacobs’ experiment – I applaud it. It’s given me a lot to think about.

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  18. Further reading for seekers: Of all the commandments, which is the most important? (Matthew 12:28-34). This is relevant to the “which parts must (not “should” =) I follow?” question.

    Another interesting thread I see here in the comments is that there is a difference between faith and religion. I like what the book of James says about this:

    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

    Hard to argue with that, no? =)

    Love to hear more thoughts on this topic.

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  19. Hi All!

    Tim here. I am in Tokyo and have to hit bed before a big day tomorrow, but I wanted to mention that AJ does actually tackle the New Testament as well. He makes no claims to be the world’s foremost expert in the bible, but does do his homework, and his religious advisors (rabbis, priests, etc.) are 1st-class.

    A good thought-provoker, regardless of where you are on the spectrum.

    O-yasumi!

    Tim

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  20. It also says “suffer ye not a witch to live” Exodus 22:18
    Burn many?

    “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” Exodus 22:28
    How did you ever manage to keep your mouth shut for the last year?

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  21. I have to say that this guy is more faithful to the bible than most fellow Christians I know.

    One thing, though: in the New Testament (see 2 Corinthians, Galatians, etc.), the Apostle Paul clearly shows that the old Law (Old Testament) no longer applies because of Christ’s sacrifice. Although, Paul, a trained Rabbi, does say the Law is useful for instruction. A vivid illustration of the change would be Jesus’ confrontation of the Jews who wanted to stone a prostitute. “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.”

    God bless y’all.
    Matt from Texas

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  22. You know, that verse about not rounding the corners of your hair or cutting your beard? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I did a linguistic analysis last semester of that passage and it doesn’t say that. It actually says something like “don’t make pilgrimages to the tombs of famous dead people, but don’t neglect the [nearby] graves of your elders.” Since visiting tombs and placing stones on the graves of famous Rabbis is a deep and abiding practice of the Orthodox, I have to conclude their translation of that passage was a wee bit self-serving. There are some other passages like that, too.

    That being said, though, the Rabbis also have come up with an important caveat to things such as stoning adulterers, such as “the law of the land is the law,” meaning the laws of the society where we live are to be followed as long as they don’t require you to deny God directly or make public displays of sinning (violating Torah) to shame yourself or God. So there is no need to go around “stoning” adulterers – their wives take care of that today, in their own way. I think Lorena Bobbit had the right idea, myself.

    And finally, as someone whose family also observes the written Torah, I congratulate you on your accomplishment. One thing you might want to consider for your journey forward from this point is that Americans, especially, are far too hung up on “feelings” and expect to have some sort of warm fuzzy or ecstatic experience to “prove” to them that God exists. People need to get over that. Serving God is a decision, a commitment – not a “feeling.” Just like you don’t always feel like putting up with what your spouse is doing, but you still love them (even when you’d really like to strangle them) – a Torah observant lifestyle is a decision and a commitment that has little or nothing to do with “feelings” about God.

    You don’t have to “feel” God’s presence to do it, or to acknowledge that maybe His ideas about society and personal life are pretty good after all. If adultery and greed were removed from American society, it would hardly make things worse, now would it? If everyone gave to the poor, dressed modestly, and stopped gossiping, our society would be the envy of the world – as it once was – instead of the despised and reviled virus spreading immorality and degredation that we are.

    Shalom!

    Like

  23. To Josh:

    Regrettably, your understanding of the teachings of Jesus of Natzareth is entirely flawed – which is why the church is rejected by Jews to this day. Jesus taught that heaven and earth would cease to exist before the laws of the Torah are set aside. He specifically told his followers that “not all who say to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of the heavens – only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.” God’s will is spelled out in the Torah. Jesus also said “I will say to them in that day, Away from me, all you who practice Torahlessness.” That is what the Greek work “anomia” means in Hebrew – without Torah. Your English Bible probably says “iniquity” or “wickedness” or some other false translation, but that only proves that the Roman church that put together the new testament had it’s own supply of self-serving misdirections.

    All of the original followers of Jesus were Jews or Jewish prosthelytes. The early church met in the Temple daily – where no uncircumcised person could go (and yes, they did check. Everyone entering the Temple grounds had to be immersed in the mikveh, naked). The people who testified that Paul was teaching against the Law are called “False Witnesses” in Acts – and a false witness by definition is someone who is not telling the truth.

    If Jesus is “God incarnate” as christians believe, then it is Jesus who came down on Mt. Sinai and gave the Torah to Moses, saying it is “eternal,” and “perpetual” and “for all your generations,” and “everywhere you live.” If Jesus is “God incarnate,” then it is Jesus who said to Moses that anyone who tries to teach people to disobey Torah is a false prophet and should be executed. If Jesus is “God incarnate” as christians believe, then it is Jesus who spoke and said, “There is one law for the native born and for the stranger” and who said to Isaiah, “If the stranger observes my sabbath and obeys my covenant, then he can be part of Israel.” If Jesus is “God incarnate,” then it is Jesus who said to Jeremiah, “I will make a new covenant in those days…and this is the covenant I will make: I will write my Torah on their hearts and in their minds, that they may do it.” Paul even quotes this to his students to teach them the “new covenant.”

    The roman church, however, persecuted and executed the Torah observant earliest believing synagogues, and replaced Torah observance with lawlessness and God’s festivals with pagan festivals. The church has taught you a lie, purposefully mistranslated various passages, even wrote “pauline” espistles pseudographically and passed them off as real. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to uncover the false teachings, either.

    What Jesus was really teaching was “repentance,” by which he meant turning from sin (that is, turning away from violating Torah) and rejecting the takanot and ma’asim (traditions and precedents) that the Rabbis added to the written Torah. Basically, Jesus was an early Karaite – the “sola scriptura” branch of Judaism – and never intended to start a new religion. His intent was to correct Judaism.

    Even the apostles say that:

    Grace is not license for sin. (Romans 6)
    Sin is the transgression of the Torah (Law) (I John 3)

    Ergo, Grace is not license for transgressing the Torah.

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  24. The author calls himself an “agnostic Jew”. This implies, does it not, that his family and religious tradition is Jewish. So of course he’d be following the Old Testament!

    Then again, so do a lot of purported Christians, especially self-proclaimed “leaders”, who seize on various rules from Leviticus to justify their intolerance. One has to wonder if they’ve ever read the Gospels at all.

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  25. Tim, thanks for chiming in. While AJ doesn’t approach it like Danny, Josh or I might, what is refreshing here is that he approaches it with an open mind and (I’m guessing, I haven’t read it yet) a fair bit of skepticism.

    Many who approach the Bible are looking to prove or disprove evidences – “proof” of things like the great flood, the plagues of Egypt, and so on (C.S. Lewis comes to mind).

    AJ’s approach is one of the experience: what does it feel like to try to follow these writings? It strikes me, writing this, that the Bible is a progression in itself, from outward rules & regulations to inward transformation.

    I’ve enjoyed the interview, there’s a lot to think about. One more thing, then I’ll shut up: one book that transformed my life – and touches on many areas brought up by 4HWW & this thread – is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. It’s a rich, readable exploration of the inward and outward spiritual disciplines, many of which are forgotten today. The chapter on Simplicity alone is worth picking it up. Check it out, I’m still re-reading it 10 years later.

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  26. It seems that, in the spirit of 4HWW, one could distill the Bible down to 3 simple rules for living and ignore the rest.

    1.) Let there be light (Genesis)
    2.) Do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew)
    3.) Think different (Jobs)

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  27. It seems that, in the spirit of 4HWW, one could distill the Bible down to 3 simple rules for living and ignore the rest.

    1.) Let there be light (Genesis)
    2.) Do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew)
    3.) Think different (Jobs)

    Like

  28. Very interesting. I personally wouldn’t follow it to a tee, however the concept I agree with. I was looking at your website for the school in Nepal and also that that was interesting as well. After work, if my mind remembers, I will definately consider donating.

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  29. Interesting comments. Many others have pointed out one of
    the fallacies within this “experiment”. A.J. did not live by the laws of the Bible. He selected some laws which would make interesting fiction and chose to live them. May I suggest that he pick one law from the Bible and try to live it completely for a year? O.K. We all can usually obey the Thou shalt not Kill laws. Let’s try “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” or better yet, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” My guess is that he would fail miserably and realize the futility of trying to live the standard and gain an understanding of the true meaning of “Grace”.

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  30. I am reading this book right now and it is funny, funny, funny. His previous book, “The Know It All” was so funny that while reading it on a plane I could not stop laughing. Everyone on the flight approached me at baggage claim to find out the book title, as they said they all needed that kind of belly laugh in their life!

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  31. “I wouldn’t say misguided. But I’d say most of us do underestimate the power that behavior has to shape thought.”

    This is very similar to a doctrine I have used in coaching software development, namely that it is much easier to act your way into thinking differently than it is to think your way into acting differently.

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  32. Tim, Jon Cronstedt “the professional contacter” from hawaii. Great article, being a Christian, I enjoyed reading it. I’ve never read about a modern day, old testament lifestyle. Had a question for you, and the blog is the best way to get you. Take care and keep up the amazing work!

    Like

  33. Hey Tim,

    I love what you are doing in Vietnam and Nepal with your ‘Room to Read’ charity.

    I was wondering if you could set one up and build one up in Myanmar (Burma)? Especially with the struggle they are having at this current time with their protesting and fight for freedom. They are one of the poorest countries in the world and their kids need all the help they can get. Watching the footage off various websites brings a tear to the eye, that the Burmese people dont have the basic elements that we have in which to live.

    If you can set one up then I can assist you in promoting it and making it happen.

    Kindest Regards,

    Desmond.

    Like

  34. Pingback: Hometown Tales
  35. Great effort, great article and I am very glad you were able to experience the worth and truth in the ways set out for us by HaShem.

    Pray the Psalms for Jerusalem.
    She is ailing.

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  36. With cafeteria religion, can you reject the imaginary aspects? I’d be on board with that, but I guess it would just make me a secular humanist.

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  37. Tim,

    Two things:
    1. How do you drink your Yerba Mate? Do you use an actual mate, or is there some other way? What would you recommend?
    2. You mentioned the extreme weightloss in your book, and I was wondering if you would share your method.

    Thanks,

    Dan M.

    Like

  38. I found the Radical Honesty article to be the most alluring. I am divorced and decided that with my new girlfriend, that I found a year later, that I would not lie. I found that I kept up certain appearances with my ex. I told my girlfriend, I will tell you the truth about anything you ask, but you need to be careful what you ask. It was/is amazing how unburdening it was/is.

    I have not been able to be perfect in it. I can only think of 3 times that I have lied to her in a year and a half and those were to keep things smooth by not saying I hated a dress that I doubted I would see often.

    The sooner you start the little white lies the sooner it is too late to clear the board. My ex and I, as I imagine it is with many finished couples, have a better relationship now than at the end. We are much more honest and it feels so good.

    Like everything else, you have to find your personal line but since I started this relationship I am much more honest with people and it has cost something. But covering the lies cost me more

    Like

  39. Good article – dedicated guy! However once you start rejecting parts of the bible you are no longer following the bible. You are following your human moral sense: you’re using your own morals to select only the moral or inconsequential parts to follow. Hence we can safely re-write the bible without pretending it was divinely inspired.

    Like

  40. Very interesting article, it does bring up a lot of different issues with religion, modern living, and the low information diet.

    I personally have given up tv news and the newspaper (except for reading about our team and our next opponents), and it is great. I try not to gossip too much and a big thing for me has been giving up complaining. I see some similarities in the experiment and let me tell you my life is much easier to live, I have a lot less worries, and there is a definate weight lifted off my shoulders. I think everyone should try it and the world will be a better place.

    Like

  41. WOW … a lot of very good comments in this blog. I grew up in an extremely fundamental christian background … but consider myself open minded.

    As he has shown us in T4HWW … Tim has done a great job of stirring up our personal value systems … what things are important to each one of us. Religion is obviously a big part of our core values … at least for many of us.

    Tim has shown me that … it is healthy to question … everything.

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  42. I dont know if this is the right place for this:
    you are creating schools in Vietnam, Nepal, etc..

    What about NorthEast tropical Argentina: CHACO
    were Toba indians are starving !! to death !!
    They would need some of that help too….

    Please contact me for more details.
    Many thanks, much congratulations, best regards !! Marcelo

    Like

  43. This “experiment” is inane. Although the person experimenting with this may have found some of what he discovered beneficial, this is ultimately an exercise in mockery or irreverence, and inconsequential to anyone truly wanting to understand what a life devoted to God is all about.

    You can’t just read the Bible and think you understand what it means to follow in God’s ways. It doesn’t work like that. There are many people who’ve read the Bible and don’t truly understand the first thing about following Christ. You can’t just approach this like some sort of a pseudo-scientist. If you don’t accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, and do so sincerely, then the Holy Spirit will not work or move in your life like you need Him to, and He will not open your eyes to see, or your ears to hear God clearly, or your mind to fully understand. That’s the way God works.

    You can’t truly understand the ways of God and the mysteries of God and get to know Him and enter into a relationship with Him (which is the whole point behind devoting your life to Him), and receive all He has to give, if you treat Him, His ways, and His Word as mere experiments. You would never approach a King and tell him, “Well, in my heart, I’m not truly devoted to you or interested in you, but I’ll read some of your rules, try to interpret them on my own, and give them a shot to see what happens.” No one would ever approach a King in an irreverent manner like that and think the King would reveal his wisdom, the mysteries of his kingdom, and show favor, yet people think they can receive those things when they approach God in that way… God – the Creator of the universe and all things (including every earthly king).

    So many people (even some people who consider themselves Christians), don’t understand that following Christ is not about religion. It’s about relationship. Oh sure, every relationship has rules – what relationship or activity in life doesn’t? But it’s not JUST about following rules – you don’t need a living, breathing person or entity to merely follow some rules. So the fact (or idea, if you prefer) that God is living, suggests that the time we devote to understanding His ways and who He is, is about more than just rules. It’s about relationship. The secular world refers to faith as “religion”. But faith is more than rules and religion. It’s about a dynamic, living, evolving relationship with a living God. With THE living God.

    Just as any relationship you’d have with a friend, or family member, or romantic partner is about more than just rules – it’s SO much more than that, so is a relationship with God. Yet so many people don’t understand that. Even many people who go to church.

    Although rules are really just about boundaries, instructions, and accountability, all of which play a role and are necessary and serve a purpose, the problem with religion is that it devotes too much focus on this, and can suck the life out of what following Christ is all about. Suddenly, people idolize and worship only the rules, and forget all about God (or put Him in the background of their minds), and as a result, they either forget or simply don’t see the whole purpose in what following Christ is all about. Then they become legalistic. And God is not about that. He’s about accountability for sure, but He’s also about relationship, and love, and wisdom, and forgiveness, and mercy, and grace.

    We all have things to learn about God – we’ll all spend the rest of our lives learning to whatever degree, but some people just don’t understand a thing.

    Like

  44. Well, 4hourworkweek.com says the best way to contact you is via you blog, so here is what I also emailed you:

    Hi,

    Just wanted to let you know I heard about your book (4HWW), was interested, so looked at getting the audio book. Audible had it, so I signed up, paid my fee, then searched for it and could not find it! After trying various things for 30minutes, I found that google could still see it, but that clicking on the link sent me to the audible page saying it was not available in my geographic location. So in summary, Audible won’t list unavailable books in my searches (whereas it should list them as unavailable).

    After wasting some more time on this, it appears to be because the publisher only had rights to a limited area of the world. This is why I am telling you, as I see you as being ultimately responsible for this.

    The upshot is that I can’t give you money for something I really want. Seems crazy in an internet connected world, especially as the topic of the book seems to be about selling online and making money – you can’t make money from me, even if I want you to! No wonder people resort to file sharing ;-(

    Regards,

    Eric

    ###

    Hi Eric,

    So sorry about that! I’ve spoken with the publisher about this, and it seems to be a complicated rights issue. I’m still trying to fix it, but you many want to consider downloading (if you can — sorry if you can’t!) the e-book at http://www.powells.com

    Thanks for your understanding… I’m doing what I can to speed the process!

    Tim

    Like

  45. I’ve been ruminating something that I wasn’t sure where to present. It seems that AJ has opened the door for my epiphany. So I guess you get to read about it here.

    I was thinking about Tim’s call to leading exceptional lives and how he encourages people to eliminate unnecessary and unproductive activities.

    I came to an interesting conclusion: Many of the things that we do in the name of hobbies impede us from living full lives. I think we can all agree here. As a book collecting, comic reading, science fiction fan, I’m wasting more of my time under the name of hobbies reading about fictional lives than I am spending on living my own life. Instead of involving myself in life changing activities, I’m trading small chunks of my life for meaningless vicarious enjoyment that can leave hours and days wasted. How much of our time and money do we waste with TV, books, movies, sports, and video games thinking we “owe” this relaxation to ourselves, when we’re actually robbing ourselves of a potentially radical life?

    (Here’s the bible beater part, so be warned.) My second conclusion: Many things that the Bible defines as sin impede us from living full lives. How many days and years of our lives are wasted on gossiping, gambling, drunkenness, pornography, adultery, gluttony, and greed?

    And, No, before anybody says it, I’m not comparing hobbies to sin. It’s just sad how we can let hobbies run our lives.

    I just find it interesting that the activities that the bible calls sin is not necessarily God trying to remove enjoyment from our lives, but to actually open the door to richer, fuller lives.

    What amazing things could we do and experience if we made better use of the time and money that we spent on hobbies and sin.

    Bill

    Like

  46. Tim; I am working hard on my second, very intense readthrough of your book. I used to be a model and even ran a small agency, and now (I think you would call this a major career change) have run a heavy construction company for the last 15 years. It’s MAKING ME CRAZY!!! I have a major client right now who is $450,000 past due on invoices and the stress is terrible, and also quite normal! A change must happen!

    I enjoyed AJ’s article, as I am a devout Mormon and live a biblical life all the time (and no, I don’t wear a little white hat, those are Amish, but thanks for asking; I do, however have 8 children and 8 granchildren, but only 1 husband:-). Since I’m honest with everyone I really hate being scammed, and in researching other programs on the net to get more information about web marketing I keep being attacked by sites that will make me a millionaire overnight for only $49 to sell lots of stuff that is never disclosed; I’m not stupid enough to fall for any of that, but I don’t know anything about internet sales, except how to purchase stuff, which I think I may be way too good at. I did come across a Perry Marshall program to learn about Google Adwords that I wonder about. Do you need something like that to avoid spending a mint on research? Would it be helpful? I have several good product ideas, but am a little nervous about the Adword experience. What do you think? You didn’t say anything like that was needed in the book, but it sounds like it could be pretty tricky.

    I’d love your opinion and look forward to making some big life changes with your strategies! However, I can’t add anymore stress to my life right now, so your advice would be greatly appreciated! Cheryl

    Like

  47. Interesting. But a lot of those laws became invalid with the introduction of the new law in the New Testament. So really…Mr.Jacobs didn’t have to follow everything in the Old Testament. For example, you now no longer have to offer animal sacrifices for forgiveness of sins (as was custom in the Old Testament) because Jesus, God’s son, died for our sins and all one has to do is believe and accept Him as his/her savior. I’d rather do that. God made things a lot easier for us.

    Like

  48. Pingback: Boink Blogs
  49. LOL at AJ — after hearing you describe him in 4HWW, I was impressed, but now I definitely want to meet this daring dude! Hey, y’all, if you want to see how the Jewish and Christian views come together perfectly — check out Mary Baker Eddy’s writings on the subject in Science and Health with Key to The Scriptures (public domain copy at ChristianScience.org) Would have spared AJ’s wife a little grief over the past year, too :D

    Tim, as a non-traditional homeschooling mom and bigtime advocate for freedom in learning whose oldest daughter is currently hanging out at one of those loosey goosey liberal arts schools after living it up in the Great White North studying realist art for the past two years (they’re bringing the program to the US now!) — I wouldn’t push our so-called concept of education on any poor third-world child :P

    The failure of our public school systems is what first inspired the CO-OP, but the success of our unschooling odyssey is what kept it energized. Learning in freedom is where it’s at! Give ‘em the tools, but let them develop their talent in their own way, at their own pace, with the world as their school without walls. I have a dream and it’s spelled out in living color on the CO-OP site (see link above.)

    Together we are sweeping the educational world off its feet!
    The time for thinkers has come. ~ Mary Baker Eddy

    Love ya’, man ~ Penne
    Founder/Facilitator, The Secret CO-OP & SGR Virtual U

    P.S. Still got your name on my dance card for that Tango in BsAs!

    Like

  50. “God made things a lot easier for us.”

    Why didn’t he just do that in the first place? Why let so many people die for having a bit on the side?

    God is omniscient right? So why didn’t he just send Jesus down earlier when, right from the start, he KNEW that he would need to?

    The more you look at it, the less sense the bible makes. The bible is sifted through the mesh of human morals, not the other way around.

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  51. Nothing wrong with a bit of religious masoscism – no animals or people were hurt in the making of this book! I was recently BLOWN away by the free documentary movie http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ which put religion, particularly Christianity into perspective for me. Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it. Apparently receiving 50,000 hits a day in Google!

    Like

  52. That’s awesome stuff! It’s not that he chose to follow the Bible for one year but that he chose to follow something at all. Being a bit of a Discordian and Chaotee myself, I applaud any attempt to re-engineer life by consciously adopting different belief systems.

    Like the 4 Hour Work Week, for example. :D

    Like

  53. OK, I have a question I hope someone can answer. I’ve read Tim’s book, and my goal is to work for a boss but work remotely. The problem is, I want to work for someone new and not my current company/boss. So I want to find a job more in line with my skills yet that will allow me to telecommute.

    Is it better to be upfront with prospective employers that I desire to telecommute? Or, should I wait until I have a job offer? Or, should I wait until I work at a new place a few months before broaching the subject?

    Does anyone have an opinion on this?

    Like

  54. Tim,

    Very well done – one of the best books on time management! While you do specifically mention humanity’s overconsumption of the earth’s resources and resulting pain we will face, promoting a lifestyle of cheap and excessive travel is not exactly a reponsible position. Certainly, this sells books, but not sure how this fits in with your “use your extra free time to help others.”

    Not to lecture, but when you get a chance, take a look at Chevron, Exxon, Woodside, and other energy majors, and I think you’ll be shocked at the decline in production (despite $70-90 oil). Aside from excessive demand of developing economies, we need to deal with the environmental impacts. The days of cheap travel are (and should have been long ago) over.

    This is not to discredit the rest of your book which was exceptional, but something to consider in this age of increased usage of fossil fuels.

    Best,
    Ron

    Like

  55. This book sounds interesting and funny at the same time. If the content is anything like your interview with him, then it’s bound to be an amusing read. The part about the stoning incident and how his wife sat on every chair in the house had me cracking up silly. People ought to check this book out and perhaps learn a thing or two about life. This is spirituality with a sense of humor.

    Like

  56. Something of significance: It seems that AJ purposely chose to omit the New Testament. There is a reason that laws contained in the Pentateuch are not practiced by Christians today. Under the new covenant, Christians no longer stone adulterers or and wear clothing made of two different materials (Cotton and Polyester anybody?).

    Like

  57. For the past week I haven’t been able to see any pictures on the blog. I’ve checked from a couple of other computers and they also can not see pictures. (Previously–just over a week ago I think– I was able to see all of the images.) Is anyone else seeing this? Is this a known issue?

    Thanks!
    Erin

    Like

  58. LISTEN CLOSELY, TIM….

    YOU ROCK!

    I don’t usually say “You Rock!” to anybody but seriously, your book is the [expletive deleted] gateway out of the “daily grind” madness. It’s origins were first exposed by the education editor of the NY TIMES who won Teacher of the YEAR award on both the state and national levels. See “The Makers of Modern Schooling”

    …and with the curtain being pulled away, your book shows the actual ways OUT of the big lie.

    Seriously, I have NEVER read a better book on the subject of personal fulfillment and financial freedom and I have read a LOT!

    THANK YOU FOR DARING TO EXPRESS YOUR UNIQUENESS.

    Sam Freedom

    Like

  59. With all due respect to Mr. Jacobs, he could have made it a LOT easier on himself if he wanted to gather up the true message in the Bible.

    I’m taking this directly from Jesus and from the Bible. This is obviously my interpretation. But any Christian worth his or her salt isn’t going to dispute what Jesus says…especially since our entire faith rests with Him.

    Matthew 22:36-41: 36-”Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37-Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38-This is the first and greatest commandment. 39-And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40-All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    The Son of God himself takes the 10 Commandments down to TWO. I wish more of my fellow believers thought this way. Everything hangs on those TWO. From Jesus’ lips to our eyes.

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  60. I can’t help but think of the Pastafariansim craze from a couple of years ago. If you missed it in the first go ’round, but want a good laugh and aren’t particularly easily offended, take the time to Google it. I’ve laughed myself into tears more than once over it.

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  61. I think the key thing that the person experimenting here forgot to consider is the difference between the old law (The Old Testament) and the new law (The New Testament). We as Christians are not required to live under the old law any longer. The Old Testament is filled with rules and ritual that are now not required of us, because the blood that Jesus gave by dieing on the cross, covered all of those “bases” for us.

    That’s where grace and mercy come in. God knew we were a flawed and imperfect people and that even as Christians (followers of Christ) we’d need something more to cover us. That’s why Jesus was sent to die for us and take care of all that.

    So all the rules and rituals that the guy experimenting here followed were really an experiment in living under the Old Testament law, not necessarily living strictly by the Bible.

    Cool study though. Lot of discipline required to complete this one.

    Like

  62. Hi,

    I stumbled upon your site today and was quite impressed. I really liked the design. Did you make it yourself?

    I wanted to let you know about ReadPrint.com — a massive non-profit library similar to Bartleby — except its far better organized and user friendly. We’ve been using it extensively in school nowadays — it’s great for doing research since you can search within the books.

    Like

  63. A good post. Thanks, I will probably read the book now.
    As for following the Bible literally; read Proverbs 16:22.
    Even the Bible tells you not to take it all so literally, that it is only the beginning of wisdom. I think that’s where it becomes difficult for people who want someone or something to give them answers that they need to find for themselves. True Evil is any action taken based upon Blind faith, whether that blind faith is in gods, government, or gurus….

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  64. Hi Jenn and All,

    Thanks for the great contributions to the conversation, everyone!

    Jenn, all people registered for the tele-seminar will be receiving full details via e-mail within the next 48 hours, so no later than Thursday at 5pm PST. It will be fun and very fun and dense on actionable tips.

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  65. Follow the Bible literally for one year?… It only took me a minute to accept Jesus Christ as my savior… I promise you Tim, A.J., anyone reading this, if you really want to follow the Bible, just follow Jesus.

    I have included a link here to a short video from Pastor Rick Warren (author of The Purpose Driven Life). It’s a really simple, real world explanation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I hope you will take a moment to view it. Call me after you do. I would like to pray with you.

    [video src="http://videos.purposedriven.com:8080/Exp_Salvation_hi.wmv" /]

    Yours in Christ,

    Boe

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  66. Tim,

    We get ourselves in trouble when we try and read and live all of the Bible literally. The Bible must be read as the different types of literature it is: historical narrative, poetry, legal contracts, parables, stories, letters, sermons, apocalyptic literature, etc. Sometimes we lose the eternal truth and principles the Bible teaches in our zeal to live the Bible literally.

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  67. Hello Tim,

    I am going to be running a special deal for design clients and will be donating 25% of all sales to your NEPAL school building fundraiser. What a great opportunity to give back and build up a great generation with a large amount of knowledge.

    ###

    Thank you so much! That is most generous of you, and many children will have you to thank for better futures. Rock on :)

    Tim

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  68. AJ JACOBS DID NOT READ THE REAL BIBLE. HE READ A MADLIB COMIC BOOK. WHAT A LIAR. I FORGIVE YOU TIM FOR GIVING THIS CRAZY GUY A PIECE OF YOUR BLOGSPACE (COZ I LIKE YOU). BUT AJ JACOBS, YOU ARE NOT EVEN FUNNY.

    Like