Mission Debriefing: Genesis

Posted: January 29, 2015 in atheism, morality, religion
Tags: ,

Ah, Genesis… where it all began. Literally. So much good (or not) stuff here. If nothing else, it is fertile ground for vivid, interesting mental images. Some of those mental images are of massive amounts of death, but yay for creation stories! Creation stories are always interesting, regardless how nonsensical they might be.

The Good

Creation: This is a big one in terms of praiseworthy things. Creating all existence is awesome! Good on ya God! There’s some wrinkles to be ironed out in terms of how and why, but creating everything is definitely a great accomplishment and everything in history depended on it. We can quibble about impressive-good being different than moral-good, but for simplicity sake, I’m counting it.

Other things I marked as “good” was promising never to kill everyone (with a flood) again (9:13-16), and two different instances of blessing Abraham (12:2-3; 17:1-8). The blessings of Abraham were entirely arbitrary on God’s part as far as I can tell, but I think they still count. I’m still not sure if promising not to murder the population in a certain way counts as properly good—one would expect not murdering everything would be the default setting for anyone, let alone a supposedly loving, all-powerful entity—but the pickings were kinda slim.


The Bad

The Garden/Fall: So many things bothered me about the story of the garden and the fall, the primary one is that a supposedly merciful, omni-benevolent creator would blame what are effectively mindless children for wrongdoing, and to so intensely punish them for a transgression they couldn’t even understand when they committed it. According to the story, Adam and Eve were wholly without knowledge of right or wrong prior to eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If we are to assume that disobeying God is evil, Adam and Eve would have had no idea that disobeying God was something they shouldn’t do. How could they be blamed for doing wrong when they didn’t know what “wrong” was or that eating from the tree was wrong? They were unequipped to know any better. And God (supposedly) knew that. They were his creations and he is (supposedly) omniscient, after all.

Imagine the scenario of a father telling his exceedingly young baby—pre-language and pre- any concept of morality—not to do something. Say, touch fire. Then the father leaves a lit candle in the middle of the baby’s room. Eventually, the baby touches it and the father loses his shit. He not only kicks the child out of the house, but inflicts horrible pain and suffering upon said child. He then predicts more hardship will befall the child out of the house, but unsatisfied with that, he promises to both enable said hardship, allow it to happen, and watch as it happens. Is this a loving father properly disciplining his child? No. It’s an abusive, likely psychopathic person who (supposedly) knows better. In a real situation like this, the father in question would be convicted of child abuse and extreme criminal neglect.

The Flood: The fact this one gets passed off as a cute story about animals for kids is likely one of the greatest examples of sickening double-speak that I can think of. The story of the flood is the story of GLOBAL GENOCIDE. I don’t think there’s even a word sufficient for purposefully killing all life on the planet, since genocide is generally limited to a race or group, and the biblical flood was dealing in whole species.

I really don’t know what to say about the flood in terms of why it is an example of pure evil. If God committing global genocide because he “was grieved” and his “heart was full of pain” over the undetailed “great wickedness” of man (6:6-8) isn’t evidence of God as evil, I don’t know what is. The fact so many Christians can reconcile this specific story—not to mention so many others of lesser, but still vastly disturbing proportions—with the idea of a loving God is truly terrifying to me.

Generally being a dick: Tower of Babel (11:6-7); tells Abraham his descendants will be slaves, but does nothing about it (15:13-14); repeatedly curses people who Abraham has lied to though they have no idea of any wrong doing, effectively acts as the strong arm for Abraham to extort stuff from people (12:10-20; 20).

The Ugly

Two creation stories: This is one I didn’t remember from Sunday school or my prior reading; there are two different, conflicting creation stories. There is one which follows the usual 6-days story where God creates the various elements of life in a haphazard order culminating in creation man—MALE AND FEMALE—on the sixth day (1-2:1-3). Then there is the other story where God creates the heavens and the earth with its various geographic and hydrological features, then creates Adam out of dust, then proceeds to create the plants and animals for Adam to name. Only after all other things were created and named does God then create Eve by stealing a rib from Adam (2: 4-25). Funny how the popularized version of the Biblical creation story tends to merge the two using the details that highlight the finality of man’s creation and the afterthought-like nature of woman’s creation.

No Devil in the Garden: Despite much talk of Satan/the Devil tempting Eve and indirectly causing the downfall of man, that character has not appeared yet. The snake that talked to Eve in the Garden was just a snake given the text here. And I’ve heard people say that “serpent” is one of the Devil’s many monikers, but nicknames can overlap with things that aren’t nicknames, and sometimes a snake is just a snake. The surrounding language regarding the snake suggests that it was nothing more than a “crafty” animal (3:1). All told, the snake was called: serpent, wild animal, livestock. Other translations use these related phrases: animal, beast, cattle, beast of the field, living creatures.

Details of the Garden: While we’re on the topic of what was or was not in the Garden, how many popular references do you hear to the Tree of Life? First mentioned in 2:9, the Tree of Life stands together with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of the Garden. God forbids Adam from eating from the latter, but says nothing of the former. It is only after Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God gets concerned about the Tree of Life (3:22) which apparently grants immortality. After driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden, he set heavenly guards to protect the Tree of Life, lest they try to get back in and be like God (3:23-24).

God is not so great: One of the things that really stood out to me in Genesis is how it pointedly DOES NOT describe a deity fitting modern depictions. God is not omniscient nor omnipresent (3:9-11; 18:20-21; 32:24-30), God is not infallible even in his own words (6:6-8), and as mentioned above, he does not seem to be omni-benevolent or merciful. He is also fearful of his creations besting him (3:22; 11:5-7), which suggests pride and insecurity.

Incest, lots of it: Oh… where to begin. There are of course the elements of Adam and Eve parenting the entire species, meaning that the next generations were all full siblings. Then of course there was the aftermath of the flood wherein the generation of Noah’s grandchildren all had to marry their first cousins at the most genetically distant. There’s also Abraham and Sarah being half siblings (20:12-13), Lot and his daughters (19:30-38), Jacob and his cousins Rachel and Leah (27:43 and 29:15-30).

Fun facts

  • God is a carnivore (4: 3-5)
  • Depending on which creation story you go with, first marriage is either incestuous or masterbatory
  • Third marriage (seventh if all sons are assumed to have been married) discussed is a polygamous one (4:19)
  • The “sons of God” and “daughters of man” produced demigod superheroes (6:1-4)

 

Score
God — Good: 4 / Evil: 16
Devil — NA

 

Background: My Mission and Explanation of process

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Comments
  1. Why assume that Adam and Eve were mindless unless that is your personal bias against human nature?

    In fact, Genesis makes clear that man was supreme among the creatures.

    That means man had a super-brain.

    The correct view of the Genesis tale is to wonder at and ponder the grave offense committed by Adam and Eve since the authors of this story made it clear that God was all good and supremely affectionate toward all of his Creation.

  2. Admiral Yrrek says:

    Hi silenceofmind. Thanks for being my first comment!

    The story does admittedly does not comment on Adam and Eve’s mental capabilities except what could be inferred from their behavior. I assumed they were mindless perhaps in error given my focus on the no knowledge of good and evil detail. My thinking on the matter can be seen in my analogy to the baby; what human creature in our experience has no knowledge of good an evil? Extremely young babies (and arguably psychopaths). Babies of course outgrow this condition, but to severely punish them for doing wrong before they have any concept of right or wrong, let alone what constitutes either of those categories, would be asinine and abusive. Train them in age- and mental-capability-appropriate ways, sure, but not “downfall of entire species for ever and ever” levels of punishment.

    That said, I think your assumption of them having a “super-brain” is not supported by the story either. God directly said humans had dominion over all other creations in the garden in the first story, and allowed Adam to name the other creations in the second story, but that doesn’t mean they are super in their mental capacities. At best it suggests they are possibly better than the animals and plants, though not even that is necessary. One character giving another character dominion over all the others doesn’t necessitate that that second character is more intelligent than the rest of the cast, just that the first character chose to give them power. And the story establishes that they had no knowledge of good or evil prior to eating the fruit of the so-named tree, which I think is the most relevant element, regardless of their speculative mental abilities.

    The core structure of the story from a moral POV is this: Beings which had no concept of right or wrong disobeyed their creator (for argument’s sake, we’ll call that “wrong”). Having no concept of right or wrong prior to the action, they had no way of knowing it was wrong. They were then severely punished despite their inability to know any better. And all of this by something that is supposedly all-knowing, all-loving, and all-merciful. It thereby should have known such a thing would happen, and would thereby theoretically either do something to prevent it, or be merciful/loving in correcting the transgression.

    Why is your asserted “correct” view the “correct” one? Why are beings who have no concept of good or evil disobeying an order from their creator a “grave transgression?”

    • Admiral,

      The view of Genesis I presented in my comment comes from Catholic teachings.

      The Catholic Church compiled the Bible and published it at the end of the 4th century.

      Consequently, the Church is considered a credible authority on the meaning of the Bible.

      • Admiral Yrrek says:

        OK… but why does that make it correct? On that matter, how can any view be the “correct” one considering the nature of the material? And appealing to the authority of the Catholic church doesn’t address any of the other issues I brought up, particularly my second question.

      • Admiral,

        Adam and Eve knew exactly what they were doing.

        Freedom to choose between good and evil and to reason (think about what we are doing or about to do) is essential to human nature.

        The ancient Greeks understood that as well as the ancient Hebrews.

        The atheist interpretation of human nature as fundamentally stupid is key to atheist political and moral philosophy which replaces God with the all-knowing, all-powerful State.

        Plato covered this ground stupendously in his, “Republic,” where his design for a perfectly just city (polis) produced iron fisted, brutal tyranny.

        The moral of the story is that any human society, no matter how just, will be messy since the perfect human society would really be a nightmare of oppression.

        The Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman understanding of human nature is that each individual man is totally responsible for his actions and choices.

        Therefore, since Adam and Eve possessed untainted human nature, they knew exactly what they were doing when they rebelled against God.

  3. Admiral Yrrek says:

    Silence,

    As I am not discussing politics in this particular post nor in this branch of my blogging, I have no interest in getting embroiled with you on your perception of the supposed atheist political agenda that you seem intent on discussing. In this “mission” endeavor, I am looking at the story of the bible and its characters. While I am doing so in an attempt to better understand Christians—and I admittedly am and will continue to be snarky while doing it—I am trying to refrain from making generalized comments about a huge group of people I don’t know. I would ask the same of you.

    But to your point regarding the situation of Adam and Eve, am I understanding you correctly that you believe they had knowledge of good and evil prior to eating the fruit of the so-named tree? Where do you see that supported in the story? I do not see that position supported anywhere—and in several places, countered—and this is not a claim I have ever heard from Christians before. If they knew good and evil prior to eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, why were “the eyes of both of them were opened” (3:7)? Can you explain more on your perspective here?

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