Deconstructing Genesis

Discussion in 'Ancient History and Mythology' started by citizenzen, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    I've had a few posts that have touched on the issue of Genesis, and in an effort not to derail threads that didn't initially address this story, I thought it best to begin a new thread. I also placed it under the category of Mythology as that is exactly what I think this story is, and I didn't wish to unduly irritate Christians by appearing overly combative in their section.

    That said, it seems obvious to my outside perspective that this story of creation is clearly an outlandish fable that casts God in a very bad light. He is portrayed as a bungler, a liar, incapable of foresight and utterly opposite of the all-powerful benevolent deity people describe Him as today. His handling of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden seems especially egregious, and yet it's A&E who shoulder the blame for God's ineptitude. How is it that the story got twisted in this way?

    Later, I will address Noah and the Flood and demonstrate how completely ridiculous this story is. And yet there are still many people today who believe in the literal Biblical interpretation. It is only the willfully ignorant or blindly faithful who could accept this fable as fact. So lets take a look at these stories and see how they hold up to a little scrutiny. True believers, I suggest you hang on to your hats... it's going to be a bumpy ride.
     
  2. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Well, if we're here for a scholarly deconstruction, I would be interested in learning a thing or two. If we're here to listen to opinion about how this doesn't make sense and that doesn't jibe with how I think it should be, then I'm not really interested.

    The story isn't meant to be factually true. It doesn't have to be to convey a lesson.
     
  3. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    I am not a scholar and have never claimed to provide anything more than my opinion. So if you are not interested, that's fine. Though you say the story isn't meant to be factually true, there are millions of people—some who are members of IO—who believe that it is.

    Faithfulservant, in the thread Demon possession..., describes her belief that "everything is corrupted because of the fall of man"

    Avi, normally a very rational person, says in the thread Origins of Jesus, "Calling a holy book [Genesis], which embodies the entire history of a religious group, a legend, fable, myth, takes away from the greatness of that book. It makes it sound like less than it really is."

    There are people today searching for Noah's Ark or the Garden of Eden, using the Flood to counter science and evolution. While you may easily pass off Genesis as not factually true, there are many who would disagree with you. How is it possible that it has come to this point, that something so obviously based in fantastic mythology is given one shred of credence as fact?

    The only reaction to Genesis that makes any sense is, "Well of course it's fiction, but there are lessons to be learned even in fiction." Yet I contend that even the lessons people think Genesis provides are not what the actual words tell us. Somehow the story of Genesis has been interpreted as a failure of mankind when it should be seen as a failure of God. How did this blame get mistakenly turned to man? How much real suffering have people endured based on this false outlook?

    These are some of the things that I will be addressing here in this thread. It might be merely a monologue... I don't care. The curtain needs to be pulled back to reveal how flawed these stories are. Anybody who doesn't wish to participate... well... you know where the door is.
     
  4. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Indeed. Of course, doors open both ways. I can't help but wonder if you apply the same critical scrutiny to the Suttas, or if you just have some personal prejudicial vendetta?

    I'm pretty sure you already know what they say about opinions... :D

    The difference being a scholar can support his opinions with relevent facts and ongoing studies of evidence. Emotional appeals and popular opinion are not fact nor are they evidence. ;)
     
  5. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    I would place this under the category of personal vendetta... with extreme prejudice. You see Juan, I live in America, a country drowning in a value system so twisted and perverse that it defies imagination. Where we spend over 700 billion dollars a year on our military, more than the next 50 nations combined. Where half of all personal bankruptcies are related to medical expenses. Where 35,000 people last year were killed in gun related incidences. Where over 3.5 million homeless people walk the street.

    All this takes place in a country that prides itself on its Christian values. Where virtually every speech by a President ends in an appeal for God to "bless America". All this takes place in a country with declining rates of education as schools wrestle with Christian fundamentalists who are desperate to insert religion as science. All of this takes place in a country that denies civil rights to consenting adults based on Bible passages.

    So is this a personal vendetta? You bet it is. You show me an instance where a sutra was used to deny an American their civil rights. You show me where a sutra was asked to be put in a science book and taught to our children. You show me where a sutra was used to justify war. You show me that and I'll rail against sutras with the same passion.

    And yes, Juan, I know what they say about opinions and I know mine don't smell like roses. But this is a forum. You're complaining that I'm dumping turds in an outhouse. The last time I looked under the lid, all I saw were a pile of "opinions". And none of them smelled like roses to me.
     
  6. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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  7. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Now this is an interesting observation. So now we are going from the problem of fable to one of pessimism ? In my view, this is a minor aspect of Genesis. I see Genesis as a tremendously hopeful book, which leads to the rest of western development.

    Don't you see great optimism in: the stories of Noah, Avraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph ?
     
  8. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Genesis 6:7 So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."

    Genesis 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man;

    Genesis 7:22 everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

    Genesis 7:23 He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.

    Yeah... well... maybe it's just me, but I fail to be filled with "great optimism" by this.

    But while we're on the subject of Noah, let's take a quick look at the timeline he faced in his flood preparation...

    Genesis 5:32 32 After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

    Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

    So in less than 100 years Noah had procure the materials, engineer and build an enormous wooden boat (at least 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high) by himself (there is no mention of a work crew and anyway I wonder if God would approve of defiled humans working on his project). Noah then had to gather two of every "animals and creeping things and birds" and enough food to feed every creature for a year.

    That would mean he had to travel to each continent, collecting for instance, koalas from Australia and the eucalyptus leaves they eat, pandas from Asia and their bamboo. He would have needed an Ark just to prepare for his Ark! But maybe I'm missing your point here. Maybe that's the optimism that you speak of... the optimism to face an impossible task, roll up one's sleeves and "Git-r-done!"

    Noah... the Biblical version of Larry the cable guy.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    It did always strike me as odd that such a self-professed "peaceful" faith could be so inextricably entwined with such "martial" arts. What need for such extremely violent ability if they are so mild mannered? It is a curious contradiction I have long thought inconsistant with the professed doctrine.

    Sure, the west has its problems and its faults. Maybe we should be more like India or China, or maybe Burma? They have much better track records on human rights (Chinese prisons? Burmese Martial Law?), environmental concerns (*sacred* Ganges river? see note #) and homelessness (Indian slums? Bangladesh?) than we do.

    But then, like everything else, I suppose we can continue to throw *more and more* money at it and hope it all goes away...instead of coming to the different state of mind it will require for *everybody* in the world to contribute.










    #: Along the 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) stretch of terraced bathing ghats in the holy city of Varanasi, the water of the Ganges is a "brown soup of excrement and industrial effluents."[5] The water there contains 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 ml, 120 times the official limit of 500 faecal coliforms/100ml that is considered safe for bathing.[5]

    Ganges - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    India and pollution: Up to their necks in it | The Economist
     
  10. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Or maybe you're referring to the optimism that the animals had to rely on once the ark landed, because now they not only had to travel all the way back to their native lands, but they couldn't eat anything on the way! (since there were only two of each left)

    Then even after they returned to their territory, after trekking in some cases thousands of miles, they still couldn't each other until at least a generation or two of new animals ensured that the population would not be turned into dinner.

    Yes... now I see the "optimism" behind the story. :rolleyes:

    BTW... how did the banana slugs travel back to California? Wouldn't the swim across the salty ocean be hard on the little guys? Just askin'.
     
  11. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    I think the problem comes in that many Americans (and perhaps people from all over the world, I dunno) assume that myth = legend, folktale, or novel. This is not the case.

    The creation myth in Genesis (I won't bother with the rest, since by "Genesis" it seems you are mostly talking about A&E), is a myth. A myth is a sacred narrative believed to hold truth. That truth doesn't have to be literal. So this is where I fail to understand fundamentalism, which degrades mythology by treating it as if it is an ordinary news report or historical account. I also fail to understand the crowd that thinks such mythology is like the latest Harry Potter tale. From the perspective of academic religious studies (that is, looking at religions from a secular humanities point of view), neither is the case.

    Mythology all over the world is not simply explanatory, but rather it is meant as a meeting place of the human mind with truth too difficult to express in ordinary language. The point of mythology is to engage with something more than ourselves, to open our minds up to new ways of thinking, and to explore the most difficult questions of human life. Mythology is, for societies, more like dreams than like waking consciousness (in my opinion). It is deeper thoughts, fears, explorations of truth than can be contained in ordinary language, so it is expressed as symbolic narratives that engage the reader/listener in a personal journey of exploration into one's own mind, into humanity as a whole, and into the universe and the experience of the Divine.

    I don't believe there was a literal garden with a guy and a gal, a talking snake, and a couple trees that conferred free will (that is, knowledge of good and evil, and thus the distinction to make choice) and eternal life. But neither do I believe the story is without truth and meaning.

    And by the way, many Christians and Jews do not interpret Genesis the way you describe. In fact, I've heard from some Jews that A&E's actions were seen as necessary to transform them from animals (without free will or responsibility) into humans (with both of these things), and the snake was acting in accord with God's will to do so. The Gnostics have their own take on this too...
     
  12. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I don't know how slugs made it to California. Hitch-hiked like so many foreign species do?

    You wouldn't happen to know how whale fossils could be found on mountains, do you?

    Fossil whales found on mountains:

    The Deseret News. - Google News Archive Search

    WHALE FOSSILS HIGH IN ANDES SHOW HOW MOUNTAINS ROSE FROM SEA - The New York Times

    Maybe you know why it was so hot in the arctic that tropical plants grew?

    Tropical Arctic in Distant Past:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/01/science/earth/01climate.html

    Ancient Turtle Migrated From Asia To America Over Tropical Arctic:

    Ancient Turtle Migrated From Asia To America Over Tropical Arctic

    Or maybe you know how single fern trees can grow right on through multiple layers of sedimentation?

    Giant fossil ferns growing in Canada…(fossils that grow across multiple layers of stone):
    The Joggins Fossil Cliffs | Nova Scotia, Canada

    Just sayin'...

    Like so many before, you are attempting to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Most likely the flood of Noah was a localized event...I would be happy to provide references towards that too if you like. Even then there is still much to plate tectonics we don't fully grasp. Do you realize there was an ocean in the American heartland at one time? If that land raised or other land sank, the water had to go somewhere. That's only one geologic example...there are more, along with associated myths like Atlantis and Lemuria. Did you know there are flood stories from around the world? I have read that a lot of these myths from in and around the middle east even have linguistic variations of the name of Noah as the hero, but I haven't checked this out yet.

    Here's a reference from an avid atheist anti-creation site that has a rather long list of flood myths:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html

    The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the more famous:

    http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab11.htm

    These myths do not have to be 100% factual to contain grains of truth. Troy was *only* a myth, prior to 1870.

    And plate tectonics was laughed at by the scientific community for over 30 years before enough evidence was gathered to sway the opinions of *some* scientists. It wasn't until the 1950's that the idea of tectonic plates gained any scientific acceptance. :p
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2009
  13. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Namaste cz

    gotta bug in our bonnet do we?
    And so in Communist countries who do you blame? Say Russia or China, who do you blame? How about the atrocities in India..who do you blame?

    Yet again I am always amazed how atheists see the bible the same as fundamental literalists. Yet most of Christianity does not. Oh my the flood didn't happen, heavens to mergatroid, 'bout time you caught up, but it won't make the news at seven....we already knew that.

    Now far be it from me to defend the American Military, I should leave it to others...but I have learned over the years that whoever the big dog on the block is...and that is now us (if we looked over the past 30 years and skipped since 9.11.2001 I think we'd find that prior to the fall of communism in the world China and USSR would be up there on expenditures)...So now why do we spend so much BECAUSE the next 50 countries combined aren't interested in assisting or defending anyone other than their own shores.

    Half of personal bankruptcies are medical related....what does that mean? We are the most over medicated over spending country in the world in our last years of life. In this country most of us spend whatever we've got left trying to stay alive.... Just look at medical expenses around the world, it isn't becuase we don't have nationalized health care, it is because we are over medicated and try to extend our lives forever with tests and medications.

    1% of us is homeless? How does that equate with the rest of the world..ie how many live in poverty here vs. Russia, India or China?

    35,000 gun deaths? where does that stand asmongst causes of death? Probably well below tobacco, alcohol, drownings, car crashes, falling in bathtubs... if you can find out I'd suggest we worry in order about the leading causes of death first.

    And I always wonder how many of those gun deaths are criminal v. criminal and actually reduce negative impact and costs to society?? I never see statistics of how much potential robbery or criminal activity is reduced by the premature deaths of criminals at the hands of criminals.
     
  14. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Yeah, I got a bee under my bonnet. And frankly, I'm not talking about Russia, or China, or India. I'm not a citizen of those countries. I can't vote in those countries. My tax dollars don't get spent by those governments. So I'm not commenting on them. I'm commenting on the one nation that I live in and the one nation that I have some responsibility for.
     
  15. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Most likely, in reality, it was. But in Genesis it isn't a local event...

    Genesis 6:17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die.

    Genesis 6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

    Genesis 7:4 For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.

    Genesis 7:19 And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered;

    Genesis 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man;

    Genesis 7:22 everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

    Genesis 7:23 He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.

    Genesis 7:24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.

    And j123, you are welcome in this thread to take all your instances and to prove they are caused by the flood if you wish. I will simply say that there are rational, scientific explanations for you cited examples, or there is also the possibility that they are incorrectly described and "urban legends". But by all means, prove them if you wish.

    I would like to ask you, as a thought experiment, how you solve the migration of animals from the ark. If they were being fruitful and multiplying immediately after landing, then we should see evidence of this. How is it that all the monkeys with tails knew to return to South America? How does one reconcile the distribution of wildlife as we currently know it and have it all emerge from one location, with one mating pair, in just a few thousand years?
     
  16. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    CZ, are you arguing for evolution over creationism on this thread ? If so, I doubt any of the posters that have posted this thread would disagree (not sure just guessing).

    Also, I agree with your comments about how our value system in this country is confused, but I fail to see the link to the myth of Genesis. The main connection, I believe, is a lack of compassion which is widespread.

    Poo's insights are very well articulated with respect to this issue. I have heard the notion that she describes as the Jewish one, with respect to the story of A&E being a transition from animal to human. I am not sure where that notion comes from. It might be what is called "midrash" which are stories which relate to the Torah, but I am not sure.

    Also, I am bit confused by the scripture that you are posting. It seems like you are trying to show how primative the scripture is. No argument from me there. I tend to interpret scripture metaphorically, allegorically and with respect to modern context. Don't you do that as well ?

    Perhaps an interesting question is, is the interpretation in Genesis consistant with a pantheistic or panentheistic concept of G-d ? I happen to think yes, that is the case.

    I think this thread is gaining traction, but you have to be careful to avoid the strawman approach as well as preaching to the choir. However, if any of the more literary interpretor posters joins the conversation, some of your arguments might kick in.
     
  17. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    yes but you are attempting to prove our shortcomings are due to a literal belief in the bible. Sp I bring into the discussion large countries with equal or more problems without the same belief.
     
  18. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Just to jump around a bit... back to A&E...

    Artha in this post in the thread the deep flaw in both PRAYER and MEDITATION writes,

    ...nonetheless I believe the Lord hears us.. and knows when a feather drops from a bird.

    It's a very poetic notion of God as being all-knowing. He even know when a bird loses a feather. In the threads on free will, God's knowledge of all things past, present and future lent some to assert that there is no free will as everything we will do is already known by God.

    Yet Genesis betrays this all-knowing aspect of God. God does not know that Eve has eaten from the tree of Knowledge or shared the fruit with Adam...

    Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

    Genesis 3:9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"

    Genesis 3:10 And he said, "I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."

    Genesis 3:11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"

    Genesis 3:12 The man said, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."

    Genesis 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?"

    God isn't all-knowing. He isn't even all that attentive. If all this happens when there were only two people to keep track of, I think we can safely say that dropping feathers are waaay outside his sphere of knowledge.
     
  19. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    The problem here is that IO is too full of intelligent practitioners of religion. :D

    But there are a few literalists out there... and even more in the population as a whole. My problem is that I'm actually very naive when it comes to the Bible. I've never read it, never critiqued it before. It hasn't been until I arrived at IO that I had any reason to crack open a passage or two. So it just astounds me that this story has not been called out before... at least that I've seen. So I thought it time to do so.

    By the way, I don't see this as straw man arguments. I'm not trying to describe and distort what you believe in. I am going after the text itself and interpreting it as a first-time reader. I think this is a key point. There is so much institutional investment in Genesis that believers aren't able to see the contradictions anymore. Even you and PoO say you see the uplifting aspects of the stories. Could you please fill me in on what uplifts you about A&E and the Flood, because frankly, I don't see it.
     
  20. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    I'm not trying to boil it down to that simple of a syrup. I'm not saying literal belief is a cause so much as it is another symptom.

    But I do have to ask, when the fall was put on the shoulders of Eve, do you think that changed a few lives over history? Do you think that might have shaped how we treated women through the centuries? I do. I think that interpretation was a vital force in female oppression, a force that we still feel the repercussions of today.
     

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