Saturday, April 15, 2006

They Just Don't Make a Lick of Sense

Easter in the MacKenzie household is a trifle unusual because this all important Christian Holiday often coincides with my deconversion from the Presbyterian faith to atheism. Living in a strongly fundamentalist area of Southeast Wisconsin can be a little on the difficult side when you don't believe in and see no proof for the existence of a higher power, but, by the same token, I have learned to enjoy debating my Christian friends over the existence or nonexistence of God.

During those debates the question almost invariably rears its ignorant head. "How could you give up all that security in exchange for no afterlife." Or, on other occasions, the question is rephrased to inquire why I became an atheist in the first place. For some strange reason my Christian friends--the few who didn't disown me after I renounced their self-contradictory world view--assume incorrectly that it must have been some outside force which prompted me to alter my view of the world, when in fact my initial doubts were created by a series of self contradictions within the Christian paradigm itself.

For some equally strange reason, monotheists are proud of the fact that their God is both, all powerful and all knowing. But when you think twice about this idea you realize that it just doesn't make any sense. If God is both, all powerful and all knowing then he has a hell of a lot to answer for, because it means that we are living under deity which is both, strong enough and wise enough to do something about this demented slaughterhouse of a world that we live in, but who sits by and does virtually nothing. In other words, the belief that God is both, all powerful and all knowing reduces God to a cold-hearted sadist who does nothing while the children in his creation suffer on a daily basis. Of course you could argue that God all knowing but not all powerful, in which case I would counter that I refuse to worship an impotent God. On the other hand, you might argue that God is all powerful but not all knowing, in which case I would tell you that I refuse to worship a stupid God.

Indeed, if you adopt a literal interpretation of the King James Bible, and then look at that creation myth from a slightly different angle--same facts but a different interpretation--you realize that the Lord Gos is a brutal, sadistic butcher who is little better, or perhaps even worse than the mythical devil that we have all been raised to hate and fear.

I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation as to WHY God created the earth and its living things--including humans--in the first place. If God is perfect then why in the hell would he even WANT to risk disturbing perfection by creating something. This raises a an interesting question. Could it have been that things weren't as perfect as we had been led to believe? If God is the author of everything then are we not to assume that he was the author of Satan, his favorite angel who rebelled against him and who was cast out of Heaven? What went wrong? Did God create an imperfect angel, or were there problems in Heaven against which Satan rebelled? Either way it seems as if the Lord God made a huge mistake, but isn't honest enough nor moral enough to own that mistake.

Still blistering from his first error, the Lord God then decided that he would create the Earth and it's many life forms. That was a bright idea. Assuming that you are all familiar with the TWO creation myths which occur in Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, it appears as if the Lord God was determined to mess up again.

In Genesis Chapter 1, he creates man and woman together. The first chapter says nothing about Adam and Eve, it says nothing about a mist or Adam going to sleep, or the Lord God borrowing a rib from his first-created. It specifically says: "And God said, Let us make man in our own image after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the foul of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it..." (Genesis 1 26-28). Note the use of plurals. The text could not be more clear. In the first version of the creation myth God created man and woman together.

But in Chapter 2 we find ourselves in the Garden of Eden where the second creation myth, the story of Adam and Eve and the ensuing temptation and fall of mankind, take place.

That's all well and good, but now we have a problem. Just who, pray tell, is the woman that God created in chapter one? The literalists claim that version two is a retelling of version one, but this clearly is not the case. The styles are different; God is referred to by different names in the original Hebrew, and the plants and animals are created in different orders. Moreover the second version is little more than a a retelling of an older, Sumerian creation story, and I would remind our readers that in mythology rising mists often indicate confusion. And there's a lot to be confused about. Including my question pertaining to the first woman in Chapter One. According to 8th-10th Century Jews the woman in Chapter 1 was Adam's first wife, Lilith, which in and of itself is an interesting story, although there are even more problems with the "traditional" Adam and Eve myth.

We are all familiar with how the Lord God told Adam not to eat of the "Tree of knowledge of good and evil." But where in the text does God warn Adam, and for that matter Eve, about that talking snake? God not only fails to warn the first humans about this deceptive creature, he does nothing to intervene when that talking snake is in the process of ruining the Lord's creation. And as you read further you have to ask yourself and obvious question. "Does God even have a clue as to what's going on the Garden of Eden?" After the temptation has taken place and the unnamed fruit (at no time does Genesis refer to this forbidden delicacy as an apple) has been tasted, the Lord God seems oblivious as to where his creations are located: "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?" (Genesis 3: 8-9).

Hello? What is this? Assuming that the Lord God is indeed all knowing and all seeing, and assuming that he is perfect and has no need for rest, the logical question is this: Why did the Lord God feel a need to go for a stroll in the cool of the day and why didn't he know where Adam and Eve were located? ( For that matter, if God is all powerful why did he have to rest after the sixth day of creation? Did our all powerful God get tired? And if he got tired does this mean that he was not all powerful? )

Having discovered that Adam and Eve had in fact eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Lord God then metes out a horrific punishment. He strips Adam and Eve of their immortality, exiles them from The Garden of Eden, and condemns subsequent generations of human beings (who weren't even born at the time of temptation), finite, miserable lives filled with war, chaos, murder, and incest.

Yes incest, because if we accept a literal interpretation of the King James Bible we are faced with the fact that Adam and Eve and their immediate offspring created subsequent generations through incest. Quite an accomplishment when you consider the fact that the authors of Genesis didn't even bother to mention the fact that Adam and Eve had girls. Assuming this was just a chauvinistic trait on the part of the misogynists who wrote the myths in Genesis we must face the fact that subsequent generations of humans must have arrived because of the following forms of sexual relations:

1. Sexual relations between Adam and Eve which resulted in offspring.
2. Sexual relations between Adam and his daughters which resulted in offspring.
3. Sexual relations between Eve and her sons which resulted in offspring.
4. Sexual relations between Adam and Eve's daughters and sons (between brothers and sisters) which resulted in off spring.

Translated into the common vernacular, the Lord God--thanks to his own, unforgiving actions--had to sanction the use of incest, of interbreeding between closely related family members to populate the earth.

And now comes the strange part. Rather than forgiving Adam and Eve on the spot, and using his infinite power and infinite wisdom to correct the flaws which he injected into his own creation, he decided to taunt and torture humankind for thousands of years until he finally had the bright idea of sending his Only Begotten Son into the world to--you guessed it--cleanse mankind of sins and redeem human kind.

This either makes the Lord God an incredibly slow learner, or it reduces him to a demented sadist who gleefully exiles his own flawed creation to eternal damnation for the slightest transgressions. Only to turn around and do thousands of years later, what he could have done without the whole business of the Virgin Birth, the crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. He could have dispensed with the anal retentive behavior, said something to the effect of "okay guys, let's try this again, let's work things out," and been done with it.

Which brings us back to the original question. How could I have given up the security of a loving God and forgiving Savior? The answer is that I haven't. When looked through objective eyes he is neither loving nor forgiving. In the final analysis it is better to live in the now, accepting the fact that when I am dead I am truly dead. And while that may frighten some people, I prefer to live in the knowledge that I only have one chance to get my life straight; one opportunity to get it right. I lose the delusion of an afterlife and an eternity of worshiping a celestial bully, but I gain clarity of thought and the motivation to make my world a better place.

As for the creation myths, and the subsequent mythologies that they spawned...
They just don't make a lick of sense.


Sage said...

Try the position of an Agnostic as you don't really know, especially ater reading your diatribe. It was well written and well thought out and mirrors much of how I (an Agnostic) rationalize Christianity.
I am not saying you are wrong merely making a suggestion.

Enlightenment said...

This reminds me of an old comedy routine. It went something like "My wife and I got dovorced. We had religious differences. She was an atheist and I was an agnostic. We couldn't agree on which religion not to bring up the children.

On a slightly more serious note I tend not to be evangelical in my atheism. I figure people have the right to say and believe as they want. It's only when they use the power of the federal government coupled with my tax dollars to impose those religious beliefs that I become somewhat defensive. Or when they mischaratcerize science as a religion, or claim that atheism--a non belief--as a belief system.

Between the time I abandoned Christianity and the time I realized I was an atheist, I actually went through a two and a half year period of agnosticism--the questioning of which eventually led me to atheism.

Have a good one