Saturday, June 26, 2010

Genesis 18-19: The destruction of Sodom

Something, which is either 3 men, 3 angels, or God, appears to Abraham near his tent. He begs them to stay and rest, they agree. Abraham runs off and tells Sarah to get 20 quarts of flour and make bread. That is a lot of bread... Abraham then runs off to kill a calf, and he brings it to the men and they all eat. Then God says that Sarah will have a son in a year. Sarah heard this from inside the tent and laughs; she doesn't quite believe it. Then there was this bit of pedantry:
God: Why'd you laugh?
Sarah: Nuh-uh, I didn't laugh!
God: Yuh-uh you did!
The men walk off toward Sodom, and God tells Abraham that Sodom's "sin is grievous," so he's going to go there and see what's what. (Really, all-knowing God has to go to Sodom to see how bad it is? He can't just know?) Abraham then has this weird haggling session with God:
Abraham: Will you spare the city if there are 50 good people in it?
God: Yeah, OK
Abraham: How bout 45?
God: Fine
Abraham: 40?
God: OK
Abraham: 30?
God: Yeah, fine
Abraham: 20?
God: K
Abraham: 10?
God: K
Then he stops. How about not destroying a even single good person, God? Really?

I've heard this sort of ethical question before (mostly on star trek) many innocent people is it OK to wipe out? Now we know the answer, the bible says it's 10. See, I am learning things.

The next chapter starts with "The 2 angels arrived at Sodom." I thought it was 3 that set off from Abraham's tent. But, whatever.

They find Lot at the gate of the city, and he basically badgers them into staying with him. Later that evening, the house was surrounded with men demanding that Lot send the 2 angels out so they can have sex with them. So obviously, Lot offers the mob his 2 virgin daughters instead. Really, Lot, really? That's a despicable act if I ever heard one. The angels pull Lot inside and make all the men outside blind.

The angels tell Lot to gather up his family and go to the mountains, because they are going to destroy the city (and apparently all the other nearby cities). Lot asks if they could just go to that other city instead, and the angels promise to spare that one city. So Lot runs away with his wife and daughters.

I want to know why Lot gets to live. The story is the people of Sodom are horrible and need to be destroyed...and I guess if the angel-raping mob is representative of the city as a whole, I could sort of see that. But is Lot really any better? He offers his virgin daughters to the mob. I don't care what anybody says, that is disgusting and he deserves to die with the would-be angel-rapers.

This is all assuming, of course, that God is vengeful and cruel, and doesn't much care about actually doing anything to make people better. Seriously, God's big solution to everything is to just destroy everything when things get tough, surely he could do better.

Anyway, Lot and family are running away, and his wife looks back and turns into a pillar of salt. OK... As usual, I don't get it. I guess it must be symbolic of something. But as literal truth, that makes no sense.

Lot and his 2 daughters end up holed up in a mountain cave, where the daughters hatch this brilliant scheme: let's have sex with our father! Brilliant. So one night, they get him super drunk, and the one sleeps with him...and the next night they get him super drunk, and the other sleeps with him. The bible is very clear that Lot doesn't know what's going on. And they both get pregnant and have sons. What a charming story.

So I was kind of interested in this story, because it's one of those that get trotted out by the anti-gay wingnuts, in that, "the bible says it's wrong and this story proves it," way. Really, I don't see it. God destroyed Sodom because the people there were so bad, and I guess the rapist mob was an example of that. And I would agree, that would be bad. But it says nothing about consensual homosexual relationships, which is what these wingnuts fight so hard against.

In this story, there was a mob of men who wanted to rape men (I assume the angels looked like men). And what the wingnuts claim is that it was the men having sex with men part that was so wrong. But would it have been OK if that mob wanted to rape women instead? That would be heterosexual, so I guess it would be OK. Really? Ugh. Maybe that would be OK with God and right-wing nutcases, but it's not OK with me...

If anything, I could see where this story says that God frowns on rapist mobs, and as usual overreacts by destroying everything. I don't see where it has anything to do with gay marriage, or homosexuality in general, like the wingnuts claim.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Genesis 15-17: Abram knocks up servant, chops up dicks

God tells Abram that his reward will be great (that’s random). Abram says, what does it matter, I don’t have any children, and one of my servants is my heir. God reiterates his promise to Abram, your descendants will be as numerous as the stars, all this land I give to you (in this chapter, 10 tribes who already live here are listed...but fuck ‘em) etc. This time Abram says “how can I now that I will gain possession of it?” Is Abram asking for proof, or a sign? What a thinker. So God tells Abram to bring him a cow, goat, ram, dove, and pigeon. Abram brings these, and for some reason cuts them all in half (except the birds!). I guess “cut them in half” was implied in God’s request to “bring them here.” Then Abram spends the rest of the day fending off all the things that come by trying to eat them, and eventually he falls asleep.

Then God apparently talks to Abram in a dream. Even though this here is the “promised land,” Abram’s descendants have to go away to be enslaved somewhere else for 400 years. But it’s OK, because after 400 years, God will punish that country where they will be enslaved, and they will come out with “great possessions.” The reason, apparently, is because of all the people who are already living in the promised land; their sin “has not yet reached its full measure.”

Seriously, this is the weirdest fucking covenant I've ever heard of. I guess the people already living here aren’t quite evil enough to destroy yet (Seriously, this is the best example of a benevolent God I've seen so far...that he's willing to wait until they are sufficiently bad to kill them all. That's just great.), so Abram et al have to go somewhere else for 400 years. For some reason they can’t just wait anywhere for 400 years, they have to go be enslaved. But God is going to punish these people (400 years later) for enslaving them. But why is God going to punish them, when it is part of his own plan that his chosen people be slaves for 400 years? Seriously, it was his idea in the first place. What an all-around shitty deal.

At the beginning of chapter 16 we get a hilarious piece of news: even though God has promised Abram three times that his descendants will be numerous as the stars and the grains of dust on the earth, Abram’s wife Sarai is barren! Good move, God.

They (Abram and Sarai) decide Abram should start sleeping with Sarai’s servant, Hagar. So Abram knocks up Hagar, then Hagar starts to “despise” Sarai. So Sarai beats Hagar, and Hagar runs away.

An angel (the first we’ve seen so far) finds Hagar in the desert and says (paraphrasing), “Whatcha doin?” Hagar says she’s running away, and the angel tells her to go back and submit to Sarai. Well, that’s friendly, and helpful too *snark*. The angel also says her descendants will be too numerous to count (this is quite the common promise, apparently), that her son will be named Ishmael, and he will be a wild man. This all sounds good to Hagar, apparently, and she goes back to Abram and Sarai. The chapter ends with Ishmael’s birth.

13 years later, God comes to Abram and reiterates his promise (for the 4th time). This time, however, there is a catch. God will make Abram’s descendants numerous, and give them all of the land of Canaan, and all that, but all of the males in the household have to be circumcised…every male, even the servants and the servants’ children. Any male not circumcised will be considered to have broken the covenant, and will be cut off from his people.

So this is circumcision… there is absolutely no reason given for it, other than, “I’m God and I say so.” I was hoping for something, but there is nothing. And why only on the 4th time God makes his "covenant" with Abraham does he mention circumcision, why didn't he say that in the first place? I cannot believe people are still circumcised today. The bible gives no reason whatsoever, and there is no good secular reason to do it.

Also, Abram is now Abraham, and Sarai is now Sarah. I assume that this has some significance in Hebrew.

God also promises that Sarah will have a son named Isaac. Amusingly, Abraham doesn’t seem to believe him, because he and Sarai are so old.

God says that he still likes Ishmael and all, and he will bless him and his descendants, but it is Isaac he is making this covenant with. (I’ve heard before that Ishmael et al are supposed to be the Muslims, and Isaac et al are the Jews.)

So on that same day, Abraham circumcised himself, his 13-year-old son Ishmael (why? Ishmael isn’t part of this covenant anyway…), and all of his male servants. Busy day. I can only imagine how that must have gone down…I imagine Abraham basically rampaging around, chopping up people’s dicks, while everyone else runs around going, “Ahhh! He’s gone crazy!!!”

Seriously, this's like God keeps upping the ante. The first couple of times it sounds great; numerous descendants and land. Then later...yeah, all that will happen, but you all have to go be enslaved for 400 years. And now...yep, we'll do that, but first you have to mutilate your own genitals, then go be enslaved for 400 years. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

I still want to know why Abraham and his descendants are chosen out of all the people in the world to be so blessed (if you can call enslavement and genital mutilation "blessed") by God. Abraham doesn't seem special or particularly righteous. He lies, he sleeps with someone who isn't his wife, he doesn't quite believe God about his prolific descendants or his barren wife's miracle baby. He sounds like a normal person, in other words (aside from that genital mutilation rampage he just went on...that was pretty not normal). As far as I can tell, he's just randomly, arbitrarily chosen. Why does God always play favorites? Can't he just bless everybody? Is that too hard for him? Does he only have time for one guy at a time? I don't get it.

I also want to know what's so great about this land God keeps promising Abraham. It's so special, it's worth Abraham et al being enslaved for 400 years, and totally wiping out 10 tribes worth of people! Why? In any description of it, it's just desert, like everything else. Why can't they just go somewhere else? Or live somewhere with other people without destroying them all?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Genesis 14: Abram rescues Lot

This bit is just kind of random and weird.

There was some sort of battle involving 4 kings vs. 5 kings, and at some point one of the kings took stuff from Sodom and Gomorrah, which included Lot (and Lot’s possessions, oh dear). Abram heard about this and decided to go rescue him…he took a bunch of his people and attacked them, and took Lot (and his possessions!), and other people and goods.

Afterward, there is this weird exchange between Abram and the king of Sodom. At first, Abram has all the goods (that originally came from Sodom), and Abram apparently gives 10% of this to the king of Salem (Don’t know why…maybe it’s because the king of Salem was praising Abram, saying he was blessed by God and such. With Abram, flattery will get you everywhere apparently). After this, the king of Sodom says, give me my people and keep the stuff for yourself. Abram says he doesn’t want to take anything from the king of Sodom, so that he won’t owe the king anything later (I thought pride was one of those 7 deadly sins, lol). But he already gave away 10% of the stuff that he admits he doesn’t want, and never considered to be his. Bit weird.

So, Abram is willing to take stuff (under false pretenses no less) from the pharaoh of Egypt, but is too high-and-mighty to take stuff freely offered from the King of Sodom. But he's not too high-and-mighty to give the King of Sodom's stuff away to other people.

This whole chapter confuses me. Actually, make that, everything that has happened so far confuses me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Genesis 12-13: God's abritrarily "chosen people"

God comes to Abram and says that he will be blessed, and his name will be great, and so on. He tells Abram to go away to some land that he will show him, and live there. So Abram goes away with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. Eventually they get to a place, where God appears and says, all this land I give to you and your children. There are other people already living in this place of course, I wonder what is going to happen to them?

So, why is Abram so blessed, why is he chosen? There is no reason given whatsoever. By my count, Abram is 9 generations removed from Noah’s sons…if you start with 3 couples, 9 generations later there must be thousands of people. Out of all of these, God chooses Abram to be his chosen people, and fuck the rest. Why? It’s a mystery.

Then Abram and Sarai pull off this con in Egypt. They go there, and Abram says something about how he’s afraid that if the people know they are married, they will kill Abram to have Sarai, because she is so beautiful. So he convinces her that they should pretend to be siblings. The pharaoh marries Sarai, and Abram, as the royal brother-in-law, gets all sorts of amazing riches.

God decides to be pissed at the pharaoh (why? For all the pharaoh knew, she was unmarried. Abram and Sarai are the ones who lied to him.), so he unleashes a bunch of horrible diseases on the pharaoh’s household. So the pharaoh says to Abram, you suck, take your wife and go. So they left, and they also got to keep all the stuff they were given. What a couple of con artists.

So Abram, Sarai, and Lot leave Eypgt. There was no mention of what Lot was up to in Egypt, but he must not have done too bad for himself…between Abram and Lot they had so many possessions that the land could not support them, and they had to split up. Lot went toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abram went to the land of Canaan.

After they separate, God comes and reiterates his promise to Abram; all this land (where people already live, but fuck them) I give to you and your offspring. Your offspring will be as numerous as grains of dust on the earth, etc, etc.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Genesis 10-11: Horrible writing, Tower of Babel

Chapter 10 is entirely a tedious genealogy of Noah’s sons. One amusing bit is chapter 10, verse 8-9: “Cush was father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’” Really? This is the worst example of writing I have ever seen in my life, and I’m pretty bad at it myself. Also, I am totally going to start working that saying into my everyday language.

The first half of chapter 11 is about the tower of babel. I’ve heard this story before, and in the version I heard, it starts with God telling everyone to spread out and cover the earth, but they ignore him, so he makes them all speak different languages, so they have no reason to stay together. So in this version, God tried telling them nicely first, then he pulled out the big guns.

That’s not how it goes here though: God hasn’t said anything to anyone since the end of the flood, when he said, “go forth and multiply,” which doesn’t necessarily mean “don’t live all in one place.” So apparently all people had decided to build a big city to live in together, in peace. Sounds great to me. But God was apparently threatened by this…he says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So he did, and they scattered all over.

First of all, this is the second time that God has talked to himself in the plural…what the heck is up with that?

Second, apparently the motivation for the tower of babel incident was that God didn’t like that people could accomplish things, and decided, for no apparent reason (other than to be a dick, possibly), to make their lives more difficult. They didn’t even disobey him, because he never told them to do any different.

Then the last half of chapter 11, it jumps right back into the tedious genealogy again. But it doesn’t pick up where it left off, it starts over with Noah’s sons, following a different line to Abram.

Seriously, this is a terrible book, just in terms of readability and flow of the plot… some genealogy, a random story thrown in, and then more genealogy. But it’s not even chronological, the genealogy starts over. It’s like whoever put the bible together had bits of writing that they just shuffled together and said, “there it is.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Genesis 6-9: God's first major temper tantrum

Chapter 6 starts with God deciding that the human life span will be 120 years (up til now they all lived to about 900 years). Why does he decide that? Of course, it’s not clear.

God is upset about how his own creation turned out, though it’s not clear from the text why omniscient God wouldn’t have known exactly what would happen. So he decides to destroy everything. But he likes Noah, who was apparently less evil than everyone else at the time.

So God says to Noah, (paraphrasing) “I’m about to destroy everything, so you better build yourself an ark.” And the ark had to be 450 x 75 x 45 feet, made of cyprus, with a roof that is 18 feet tall, and a door in the side, with little rooms inside in 3 levels. And since Noah is the favorite, he can go on the ark, with his wife and sons and daughters-in-law. And Noah has to collect 2 of every animal and take them in the boat with him.

Chapter 6 ends with a statement that Noah did all that God asked.

I do find it interesting that for all the lack of details so far (Cain’s wife, etc.), that the description of the boat is so detailed.

Chapter 7 starts with God changing his mind…now he wants 7 of every kind of clean animal, 7 of every kind of bird, and 2 of every kind of unclean animal. Chapter 6 ended with Noah having finished building the ark and collecting 2 of every animal…how funny is it that, after all that, God apparently comes down and says, “Actually, make it 7 of every animal.” I’d be pissed at this point, if I was Noah.

So now Noah goes onto the ark with his family all these animals, and it rains for 40 days…it says the water got high enough to cover the tops of the mountains by 20 feet, and the earth was flooded for 150 days. There is also some detail about how every single thing on the earth died.

Then “God remembered Noah.” Aww, that’s sweet. After 150 days of doom, God finally stopped going “mwah ha ha” or whatever he was doing all that time, and “remembers Noah,” and causes the water to recede. 7 months later the earth is dry again, everything comes out of the ark, and the first thing Noah does is sacrifice some of those clean animals to God. Ah, so that’s why God decided he wanted extra animals! It seems a bit ridiculous to me that God told Noah to save those animals from the flood, just so when it was over they could be sacrificed. God was pleased with the sacrifice (that he himself ordered), and promised to not wipe out everything ever again. Again, aww, that’s sweet.

God sets up a covenant with Noah et al…he gives them dominion over everything, and also sets up the death penalty (as punishment for murder), which is a bit weird. It’s not consistent anyway, Cain’s “punishment” for murdering Abel was to fail at growing crops, and to have God set it up so no man could ever kill him.

Then God promises to never again kill everything with a flood (that sounds like he’s leaving a loophole for later…yeah, I’ll never wipe out all life with a flood again, but maybe by some other means I will, you never know), and says he’ll put rainbows in the sky whenever it rains, as a reminder of his promise…not for people, but for himself, oddly enough. Yeah, seriously. Genesis 9:16, God says, "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

So that’s the story of Noah’s flood… which cannot possibly be interpreted literally, if you think about it logically. Just the logistics of it are overwhelming…all-powerful, benevolent God left it up to Noah to collect 2 (7) of every kind of animal…that’s at least a million different species, from all over the world. Impossible. And kind of a jerk move on God’s part, when he, being all-powerful, could have just poofed them all into the boat himself. Or better yet, he could have just poofed everything else dead without all the trouble for Noah. Or even better, he could have made his creation more to his liking in the first place.

The ark is 450 x 75 x 45 feet… that’s about 5 football fields in area, and about as tall as a 3-story building. There’s no way there is enough room on that boat for 2 (or 7) of every kind of animal; I bet a pair of brontosauruses would take up almost that much space on their own. There is no way that Noah could have rounded up all of these animals from all over the world on his own. There’s no way that, being on this boat for about a year, the carnivores didn’t eat any of the other animals, or that Noah didn’t make some species of insect extinct by stepping on them. And there is no way that after the ark landed, all the species ended up where they were supposed to be…with all the marsupials in Australia, etc.

If the waters really covered the entire earth, up to 20 ft higher than the mountain tops, wouldn’t that have killed all of the plants? Noah didn’t save any plants on the ark…so clearly we should have no plants today. Noah sent a dove out of the ark, which came back with an olive branch…where did that come from? After 150+ days underwater, every plant would have been dead and rotten. Also, how is it possible for the entire earth to be covered in that much excess water? I mean, if you get a flood in one place, it’s because it has extra water that came from somewhere else. You can’t flood everywhere at the same time, unless God created some extra water just for the occasion. And then reverse it… when localized flood waters recede, it’s because they are going somewhere else; if the entire earth was flooded, there would be nowhere for the extra water to go. The flood waters would never recede. Unless, again, God made it magically disappear…but then, why wouldn’t he just do it all at once, instead of making them all wait in the ark while he slowly disappeared the water over 7 months; is it because he’s a jerk?

This whole story gives the impression that God is kind of an asshole, and not really all that perfect. There are so many stages along the way where God demonstrates his ineptitude. He creates something, man, which turns out so wrong it makes him want to destroy everything. Why would a perfect God mess up his own creation so badly?

Then, to deal with his own fuck up, he decides to kill everything in a big, doom-filled flood. This is so much overkill, and more what I would expect an ill-tempered, angry, imperfect deity than a benevolent, perfect, all-powerful one. A benevolent God would have gone down there and done something to make man better…a vengeful God throwing a temper tantrum would decide that the thing to do is kill everything.

Assuming that it’s OK for God to decide that the thing to do is just kill all the evil people, rather than make them better, even the way he goes about it is absurd. Rather than using his perfect knowledge and supreme power to only destroy the evil people, he decides to kill everything…evil people, good people (surely in all the world, Noah was not the only good person), animals, plants…except for Noah et al.

Even at that, surely God could have used his omnipotent power to simply kill everything in the world, except for Noah et al, and 2 (or 7) of every animal. It would have been much less trouble for Noah. But God, the jerk, decides to make Noah traipse all over the world, collecting 2 (7) of everything, then put him and his family through the ordeal of being stuck in a boat with all these animals for a year.

Then, when it’s all over, he invents rainbows as a reminder to himself of his promise to not kill everything with a flood again. Because being perfect and all-knowing, he might have forgotten otherwise? I don’t get it.

Anyway, chapter 9 continues with the story of Noah, being drunk and naked in his tent. Yeah, after that ordeal he just went through, who can blame him. One of his 3 sons, Ham, sees him. His 2 brothers cover Noah up without looking. Noah woke up and was apparently pissed off that Ham had dared to look at him naked, and cursed him and his descendents to be slaves forever; the other 2 brothers he blessed. Overreact much? Maybe he was still drunk at that point. This story is a bit random, and all I can figure is that it was stuck in as a lame justification for slavery.

Ham just looks at his drunk and naked father. From what I’ve heard of Christianity, it’s generally a bigger sin to be drunk and naked, rather than to be the person who happened to see you that way. But, whatever. Then Noah, possibly still drunk, or maybe hung over and grumpy, curses Ham and all his descendents to be slaves forever. But this is just Noah...Noah shouldn’t have the power to actually curse people; he’s just a man. I thought that was some sort of blasphemy, anyway. So I guess God must have seen all this and thought, “What a good idea, I’ll go ahead and do that,” which would fit right in with that picture of God as a total dick that I’ve been seeing so far.

Seriously, this is the actual bible story (one of them, anyway) that was cited in support for slavery in America. (Disclaimer: I am not a history buff, and I may be wrong about this. I have the impression, mostly from this book, that Christians back in the day generally opposed abolition, mainly because of bible stories like this one.) What a stupid story. It pisses me off just to think of all the people who suffered because of this idiotic story. Yes, I know that people who wanted to have slaves would have probably done it no matter what the bible says. But it is there...the bible, the literal word of God, supports slavery. Seriously.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Genesis 4-5: Cain kills brother, hooks up with mystery wife

Adam and Eve have babies, brothers Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer, Abel was a shepherd. They both offer stuff to God, and God liked Abel’s, but didn’t much care for Cain’s, for no apparent reason...maybe God doesn’t like vegetables (in skimming ahead a bit, I am guessing that this is but the first of many, many examples of God arbitrarily playing favorites). So Cain gets jealous and kills Abel. God comes along and says, “Where is Abel?” (Again, not sounding so all-knowing at the moment. I thought God was supposed to know everything and be everywhere; this is the second time that people have done something while God is apparently not around, then God shows up and says “what’s going on, eh?”) God figures it out, and curses Cain to be a wanderer and a crappy farmer. Cain says he’s worried that people will kill him…I don’t know what he is worried about; the only people in existence are Adam, Eve, and himself. So God puts a mark on him so none of the mystery people will kill him.

Then it says, out of the blue, “Cain lay with his wife.” No mention whatsoever of who she was or where she came from. Again, at this point, the only people who exist (are explicitly mentioned) are Adam, Eve, and Cain. So either it was Eve, his mother; he had sisters that aren’t mentioned; or God went off and created some other people, who aren’t mentioned. Either way, it’s a bit weird.

The rest of chapter 4 and all of chapter 5 is a long and tedious genealogy from Adam to Noah.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Genesis 2-3: Creation (again), Adam and Eve

Chapter 2 starts back at the beginning, with the creation of heaven and earth. Then God makes man “from the dust of the ground,” and puts him in the Garden of Eden. After some time, God creates woman from the rib of the man. All of this is in direct contradiction with the previous chapter, of course. Apparently there are 2 creation stories that contradict each other in the same holy book, who knew?

So God has put Adam and Eve in paradise, but there’s a catch…in this paradise, made by God especially for Adam and Eve, God also put a tree, which apparently serves no purpose other than specifically to tempt Adam and Eve. If they ate from it, they would die.

I imagine creating a paradise for my cat...a room, in my apartment, filled with catnip plants, fish to eat, bits of string to play with, etc. But then I decide to store my poisoned catnip plant of knowledge in that room too, for no good reason. Then I’d explain carefully to the cat that it can have all the catnip it wants, except for this specific catnip. How much sense does that make, when I could just...not put that plant in that room? Or I could even have made a... broccoli of knowledge. You know, something cats don't like anyway. Not that hard.

I have to ask… couldn’t God have just put his tree somewhere else? Or just not made the tree in the first place? Or not made his creations, Adam and Eve, so gullible?

If you’re interpreting this story metaphorically, I suppose it’s OK…but there are people who really think this literally happened! As a literal history, this makes no sense at all.

So Chapter 3, Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, with the tree that they are arbitrarily forbidden to eat from. So of course the serpent tempts Eve, Eve eats from the tree, and gives some to Adam too. Then they hear God walking around and yelling, “Where are you?” so they hide. (Walking? Saying “where are you?” God doesn’t sound so omnipotent in this part) God finds them and learns what happened, and curses the serpent to crawl around on its stomach (what was it doing before, I wonder?), woman to painful childbirth and perpetual servitude to man, and man to labor and toil. Then God made them some nice clothes and sent them away. And he puts a Cherub and a big flaming sword there as guard.

I find it interesting that in Chapter 2, God tells them that if they eat from the tree of knowledge, they would die. Well, they ate, and they didn’t die…did God just lie to them? Maybe it was referring to the point that they were made mortal when they were kicked out of Eden, and so they were made so they would die at some point.

In the new catholic edition of the bible, it actually says that if they ate from the tree, they would die on that same day. Well, that obviously didn’t happen. Which version are we to believe? In one, God is just sort of vague…yeah, you’ll die, but I’m not saying when. In the other, God outright lies to them…if you eat, you’ll die on that same day, which they didn’t.

Isn’t it weird that we have 2 versions of the bible (which 30% of Americans believe is the inerrant and literal word of God), in the same language, that each say such different things?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Genesis 1: Creation

Ah, one of the bits I’ve read before. Before I get into it, here’s a summary of what science has to say on our origins…

13.7 billion years ago there was a big bang, and shortly after that, everything was so hot and dense that it existed as energy, and high-energy exotic particles. Then particles like protons and neutrons formed, and later they combined to make hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen and helium collapsed under gravity to stars and galaxies. Heavier elements were formed in stars, those stars exploded at the end of their life. Those heavier elements went on to form other stars and planets. Our sun was formed about 5 billion years ago, and the earth about 4.6 billion years ago. The earth was initially liquid, molten metals, and as the planet cooled a solid, dry crust formed. Water was trapped as steam in the crust, which escaped to form clouds of water vapor. As the earth cooled, water rained down from these clouds to form oceans. (And possibly more water from comets?)

The first single cells appeared about 3 billion years ago. Multicellular organisms first appeared in the ocean about 580 million years ago. The oldest land plants and invertebrate animals date to about 400 million years ago. 300 – 65 million years ago were the dinosaurs, during this time there were also small mammals and birds. 65 million years ago the dinosaurs were wiped out, and mammals began to diversify. The first tool-using hominids appeared about 2.5 million years ago; modern man has existed for about 100,000 years.

For more information, I suggest wikipedia.

Now, the genesis creation story goes:

Day 1: heaven and earth, then light
Day 2: firmament (the atmosphere?)
Day 3: separating the ocean from the land, then plants
Day 4: the sun and the moon
Day 5: ocean animals and birds
Day 6: land animals, then humans (male and female at the same time)
Day 7: rest

Amusingly, God talks to himself in the plural on day 6… “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” If this is really just one god, why is he talking to himself like there’s more than one person there? The first example that comes to mind of someone else who does that is Gollum, from lord of the rings. Maybe this is the mysterious trinity, which I’ve never had adequately explained to me…it’s just that God has multiple personalities.

So this clearly does not match up with the scientific account at all, if you interpret it literally. You could theoretically reconcile the two, if you assume that God set everything in motion, and then let it unfold according to science, that “day” doesn’t mean a literal 24-hour day, and if you reorder the events of Genesis…

God separated day from night on day 1, but he does it again on day 4, citing his desire to separate night and day as his motivation to create the sun and the moon…what? Cosmology tells us that the stars are formed before the earth; Genesis has the earth on day 1 and the sun on day 4. Genesis also has plants before the sun, which makes no sense because plants need sunlight for photosynthesis to survive. It is also likely that the first plants did not arrive until well after the first ocean creatures. And so on. The question is, why bother? Why not just assume that this story isn’t true?

Why would an all-knowing God invent natural laws and set the universe in motion, allowing future events to unfold according to those natural laws, then write a creation story where the chronology of it gets all mixed up? Didn’t he know what was going to happen?

If the creation story was written by a man, and not dictated by God, then maybe whoever it was just got it wrong. But if that’s the case, why take anything in the Bible seriously? If we assume that this part was written by a man who messed it up, how could we possibly know which parts (if any) are true?