Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 3

Sorry for the late arrival of this week's installment, real life got in the way!

As a taster for what we have in store this week, take some time to watch this first:

Genesis according to Ricky Gervais.

So, chapter 3: The Fall of Man.

So we're introduced to the villain of the piece - the Serpent. More crafty than any other wild animal apparently. Given what is about to happen, that does seem an oversight on God's part. Like the man said, if God knows he is going to be trouble (and he must do, right?) then why did he make the serpent crafty in the first place? Why not make serpents the animal equivalent of the village idiot instead? But then I suppose God would have had to find a new role for sheep. So along comes the serpent and he asks Eve what God said about the tree of knowledge of good and evil (he doesn't start that way, but you know what he is getting at). Which is strange, because she wasn't there when God told Adam not to eat it. I mean, why not go straight to the source? Why it's almost like some male dominated society was trying to invent a mythology that justifies their mistreatment of women.

So anyway, the serpent asks if God said not to eat any tree in the garden and Eve responds:

We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' GEN 3:2-4

Which is biblical proof of what husbands have known since time immemorial, that women don't seem able to relate a bloke's words to someone else without embellishing for effect - God didn't say anything about touching the tree killing you as well. He only told Adam that eating it would kill you. (GEN 2:17) That would seem to be another large oversight from the Gaffer if true - what if Adam had innocently decided to lean against the tree one day for a breather, he did have to tend the whole garden of Eden after all? And when did Eve find this out, or was she making it up for dramatic effect? Who told her? Was she seeing God behind Adam's back? Bastards.

But the serpent knows better - it's all a bit of bluster from God. The serpent tells Eve that she won't die from eating or touching the tree. The whole thing was the Christian worlds first lie. Which would raise a lot of questions, wouldn't you think? God told the First Lie, but man is cursed with Original Sin for ignoring the First Lie. Talk about a hypocrite. And then the real reason for the First Liar's words come out - he wants us to remain ignorant of good and evil. The First Liar thinks that if we know the difference between good and evil, we will become like him, as a god. (GEN 3:4-5)

Hold on to that thought because we're going to return to it.

Eve sees that the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is tasty, looks nice and can give her wisdom (I fail to see why this fruit is a bad thing myself - but then God does move in mysterious ways they say) so she quite reasonably takes some and eats it. Finding that God is indeed a lying bastard she also gives some to Adam and he eats it. Note also that Adam has been with her the whole time and not done a damn thing to stop her (probably pissed she's been seeing God without telling him) but Christian literalists and fundamentalists would have us believe this is all Eve's fault - was Adam the original downtrodden husband? (GEN 3:6)

Eating the fruit opens their eyes - they see they are naked and for some reason think this is a problem and decide to make clothes out of fig leaves (hey - for the world's first ever attempt at fashion it's not bad, clearly the first fruit had nothing about cotton in it). Why would they think this is a problem? There's only them, a talking serpent, God and every type of living creature on the planet, why bother? Hell, isn't it every bloke's dream to make it through the day without having to put pants on? So what is Adam's rush? And if they were easy on the eye to each other wouldn't you think one of them would say 'Well OK the fig leaves might have their uses. Sunday best for instance. Or when your standing at the BBQ. But let's not make any rash decisions here.'

What is it with the religious and nudity? If nudity isn't bad, why hasn't someone added a postscript to the Bible that says 'But seriously folks, let it all hang out.' ?

Anyway, now Adam and Eve are for it because God is taking a stroll through the Garden of Eden and they hear him coming. So they hide from him. (GEN 3:8)

Now, if you ask me this is completely arse about face. God lied to them. They have done nothing wrong. They have simply rumbled his game by finding him out and challenged his god sized ego. What the First Liar did to Adam and Eve was the equivalent of me bringing a 12 pack of Theakston's Old Peculiar out during a party and telling you that it will make everyone beautiful and turn you into the wittiest person there, but you can't drink it because you'll die. But then fortunately someone else comes along and says 'Don't worry mate, he's full of shit. He just wants to be the only drunk one here. Drink up.' If anyone should be hiding, it's God.

Of course, God being God hiding is really a waste of time. Or is it? Because God still has to ask where Adam and Eve are. Which part of omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent am I missing here? Can you really play Hide and Seek with God? (GEN 3:9)

Adam answers (which would seem to defeat the purpose of hiding) and says he hid because he was naked. But aren't they wearing fig leaves now? This is so confusing. The continuity editor should have his or her arse fired. God replies, 'Who told you that you were naked?' Well, er, I know that God created the Universe in this book but doesn't he seem a bit, well, dim? Wearing no clothing is sort of the definition of naked isn't it? I'm pretty sure that Adam and Eve knew they were in the nip, they just didn't bother with it until eating that one fruit. Heck, in GEN 2:25 it even makes a point about them being naked and feeling no shame. And then God catches on and asks Adam if they'd eaten some fruit from the tree he'd commanded them not to (the one he lied about).

Adam confesses. (GEN 3:12) Well I say confesses when what I mean is he cracks under the feather touch of pressure and like the snivelling worm he is throws Eve under the bus, thereby causing centuries of abuse to befall womankind at the hands of the religious. And this is supposed to be an ancestor I look up to? He's a pussy. Where's the righteous indignation at being lied to? Where's the anger at being denied the understanding of good and evil, right and wrong?

For that matter - what the hell was God playing at? He wanted mankind to remain unaware of the nature of good and evil? Yet Christians have the cheek to argue there is no morality without God? Bollocks. God committed the first immoral act - and then he punished Adam and Eve for having the cheek to find out (with a little help from a talking snake). Where, exactly, is the morality in that? If we had remained unaware of good and evil there would be nothing you could logically call morality - in fact you could then truly make the argument often levelled against atheists by idiots - anything would be permissible without knowledge of good and evil (replace knowledge of good and evil with God for the idiot's version).

On top of that, I agree with Ricky Gervais. If the tree was going to be a problem (and God must have known it was going to be) then why bother planting it in the Garden of Eden? God knows that Adam and Eve will eat the fruit, but sets it up for them and then punishes everyone involved beyond all reasonable measure anyway. God knows the serpent will be persuasive (he made him crafty after all) but still puts him in the Garden and still punishes everyone anyway. What a colossal twatting wanker. It's all his bloody fault.

The tree was just a big red button with a sign saying 'Do Not Press'. Everyone knows how that ends up.

So, does Eve take it all on her shoulders? No chance. She blames the serpent (apparently unaware that later Christians will argue themselves in circles about God granting humans free will). And God, who is really to blame for all this remember, realises he's dodged the bullet and that no-one else will notice what he's done until 6,000 years in the future, when he'll have been declared dead by a philosopher anyway. So God starts to dish out the punishment as if everyone else is in the wrong. Sorry, but if my two year old drills through a wall with the power tools I've left out, it's not his fault, even if I told him not to. Remember, Adam and Eve didn't know that eating the fruit was apparently wrong until they ate the fruit.

So, how does the First Liar punish Eve for playing with the tools he left out? The pains of childbirth and her obedience to her idiotic snivelling toad of a husband (when exactly were they married by the way? I challenge you to find a reference to this first wedding in the Bible). And this punishment is apparently passed down to all women. None of whom can be blamed for what Eve did because God was grossly negligent. Would it be right for me to curse all of my two year old's descendants because he drilled through the wall with the power tools I left out, even if I told him not to play with them? Or would that be the action of a petulant prick?

How are the two any different? Well, apart from the fact that I wouldn't be saying no to the kid because I was jealous he might become as handy with a power tool as me (oh god no).

And how is Adam punished - he has to work for a living. (GEN 3:14-19) See how basically God lays this all on Eve. Big man, picking on a woman who he knew was going to do this anyway.

And Adam finally deigns to name his wife Eve, which was nice of him. No, I can't see at all how this came from a patriarchal society. And Eve is mother of all the living? (GEN 3:20) Animals too? I mean - we are taking this literally aren't we? If any biblical literalists want to explain how 'mother of all the living' only applies to humans even when taken literally I'd love to hear from you.

So, now God turns his hand to fashion design and makes garments of skin for Adam and Eve. (GEN 3:21) And then here comes an interesting bit from God:

The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. (GEN 3:22) [emphasis mine]

Interesting. God specifically says 'like one of us' So there is more than one god. What does this mean if there are not other gods? Who are these other gods and why aren't they mentioned in the Bible? Why were we created in God's image but not allowed to become like him? Why is God so jealous of his position that he punishes all of mankind with Original Sin? There is no escaping all of these questions if you are a literalist. However, no wonder there's all that later stuff about being a jealous god and wanting people to worship no-one but him. And then, as if the punishments he handed out weren't bad enough God takes away eternal life. He takes eternal life away from humans for something he is ultimately to blame for. But he is supposed to be the source of morality. Someone who can't even admit to his own mistakes is meant to be the arbiter of right and wrong?

And then finally God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden and puts some cherubim to guard the east entrance (seriously, those little flying fat kids are guardians?) and a flaming, flying sword (bit Monty Python if you ask me) to guard the tree of life. What's to stop us going round the other side? (GEN 3:23-24)

Anyway, if you ask me that chapter does nothing but prove that God is a colossal lying git with a huge ego who is petty enough to punish others for his mistakes. Sounds like ideal management material.

And yes, I did get a slap for that bit about women embellishing retold conversations.


  1. from Yakaru:
    Nice post. Plenty of weirdness there.

    I tried to find a few non-literal interpretations of all this and they make even less sense than the literal. One guy was claiming satan might've made the serpent talk, or that all animals used to talk in those days, and even suggested "talking" might include non-verbal communication on the part of the snake - without going into details about how a snake might non-verbally debate complex theological matters.

    Others see the serpent as being satan himself, which would mean that satan spends his days sliding about on his belly.

    And why is there no mention of what motivated the snake?

    All in all, this is one of the most influential chapters of the Bible, but it's completely vague. Esoteric people like to say that it all has mythological meaning, but I don't see anywhere to start. I'm all in favour of interpreting myths and fairy tales to draw some kind of meaning out of them, and there are some compelling stuff in some of them. But this genesis stuff is so old that any meaning that might once have been in it has disappeared.

  2. Thanks Yakaru, I appreciate you looking for the non-literal interpretations and posting what you've found - makes this a genuinely interesting exercise, even if it is usually in the "What the fuck?!' sense.

    The question about the snake is interesting - during my Catholic schooling I'd always been led to believe or flat out told that the serpent was Satan - if that isn't the case then what was its motivation and how did it know Eve would not die? Furthermore - if the serpent is Satan then why doesn't the Bible mention that teensy fact?

    Incidentally - have you played around trying to post just using the name/url option - or is blogger totally erasing your identity?

  3. It seems to have recognised me this time - previously it would recognise me but then not respond when I'd click post.

    Yeah, people keep telling me there are positive messages in the Bible if you interpret them properly. I have some sympathy for the idea that it's a mystical text, never intended to be taken literally, but if so, then it's being grievously misused. I don't think it's good enough just to "interpret" it however one sees fit, and then claim biblical authority for it.

    People would be much better off reading Moby Dick or William Blake for their metaphysics than this cryptic/lunatic nonsense.

  4. There is some suggestion that the snake story is a remnant of an older nature story of some kind. There's only one other story in the bible about a talking animal (Balaam's ass could talk), so it seems a bit out of character. (Asimov's Guide to the Bible)

    In any case, the evil is without discernible motivation, so evil is simply done by some bad guy who simply wants to destroy all that is good. ("Why do they hate us?") It leads people straight into an narcisstic worldview where the "other" remains a mysterious danger, lacking common feelings or motivations.

    I've looked around a bit at different interpretations of this story, but basically you could just dream up any old nonsense about it and it would be better than any of them.

    Also, the authoritative Ken's Guide to the Bible notes that the only "knowledge" imparted by the Tree of Wisdom is that it's embarrassing to be naked.