christianity – Page 3 – The Wayward Willis Podcast

Oh, You Dirty, Dirty Humans

Genesis 5 is simply a chronology of people getting it on and having babies. Genesis 6:1-8 tells us a very little bit of the back-story leading up to the Great Flood. We’re going to have problems with this story, so let’s dive right in.

Problem 1: Wickedness
So far we’ve learned of two crimes in the history of mankind: disobedience and murder. After the Cain and Abel incident there is no mention of any significant problem with the population of the planet. We can probably assume the humans were doing human-like things and since getting kicked out of the Garden they probably took a few liberties they wouldn’t have before. Nevertheless, god says (out loud to nobody in particular; I suppose he’s just musing), “My Spirit will not contend with man forever…” Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Only evil all the time? Really? If they were having children and raising them, there had to be some love and basic morality. I find this claim to be absolutely stupid. I can’t put it any other way, it’s really just stupid.

There also seems to be a very real lack of specificity as to what these wicked humans were doing, aside from being human. Knowing that these verses lead up to a very drastic act on god’s part, I’d like to know just how horrible you have to be in order to earn that kind of wrath. I get the feeling that this is a lot like a tantrum that a child throws when his sibling is irritating him. It goes something like this:

Child: “Dad! Billy hurt me!”
Dad: “What did Billy do?”
Child: “He hurt me!”
Dad: “Did he hit you?”
Child: “No.”
Dad: “Did he kick you?”
Child: “No.”
Dad: “Did he bite you?”
Child: “No.”
Dad: “What did he do then?”
Child: “He was being mean!”
Dad: “What was he doing?”
Child: “He was being mean to me!”
Dad: “Go away.”

Can you honestly punish Billy for being mean when nobody will tell you what Billy did? Not really. This problem certainly doesn’t undermine the whole story, but it doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence in god’s judgment when we notice the trend in his crime-to-punishment ratio so far.

Problem 2: Lifespan
In Genesis 6:3, god muses, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” I find this statement odd because we already learned that man would not live forever when they got kicked out of the Garden. God already knew that man was mortal and he already knew that they weren’t going to live forever. It’s obvious he wasn’t imposing strict limits as to how long man could live but we know they were dying because the Bible tells us that a bunch of people died. So…what’s the problem? And how many people do you know who live to be 120 years old? Not many.

Anyway, prior to this observation humans were living for a gazillion years. OK, not a gazillion but a really long time. Here’s a list of old people:

  • Adam: 930 years
  • Seth: 912 years
  • Enosh: 905 years
  • Kenan: 910 years
  • Mahalalel: 895 years
  • Jared: 962 years
  • Enoch: 365 years (poor guy, god took him early)
  • Methuselah: 969 years
  • Lamech: 777 years

Noah was 500 years old when he started having kids and is said to have lived a total of 950 years. No mention is made post-flood as to how long Noah’s descendants lived. I’m assuming none of them got past 120 years…

Problem 3: Nephilim
Humans were having babies left and right and some of those are coming out female. Apparently the female babies were nice-looking and the “sons of God” took them as wives. They just married any of them they chose! Imagine the audacity! Anyway, these “sons of God” appear to be either angels or the offspring of Seth depending on who you ask. You can read up on it and decide for yourself.

When the “sons of God” had children with the daughters of man, those children were called “Nephilim,” described by the Bible as “heroes of old, men of renown.” They were supposed to be giants who were alive prior to the Great Flood and also afterward (a problem for my next post).

My major problem with the Nephilim is that they seem wholly irrelevant to the story unless god is specifically mad at them. God seems to have major issues with the humans, but this interjection about the “sons of God” mating with human women seems to suggest that it’s these “sons of God” who are the real problem. Perhaps angels were strictly prohibited from having contact with humans, I don’t know. In any case god ought to acknowledge to whom the blame really falls and if the “sons of God” and Nephilim aren’t the issue then I’d really just as soon have them left out of the story. They’re distracting me and my ADHD can’t handle it!

Problem 4: God Admits a Mistake
Genesis 6:6 says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” How could a perfect being be grieved that he had done something? He purposely made the humans and knew exactly what was going to happen when he kicked the humans out of the Garden but for some reason he’s surprised at what’s going on? No, I’m sorry, this just doesn’t make sense at all. God showing remorse for his own actions constitutes a mistake, and a perfect being cannot make a mistake. This story’s falling apart.

Problem 5: Over-reaction!
Genesis 6:7 says, “So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.'”

Remember how in the last verse god said he regretted making man? Well, now he’s extending that to every living being on the planet – he’s an equal opportunity regretter. So now the animals are going to suffer because the humans screwed up. Don’t you hate that? It’s like when you lose your recess because that one kid with the B.O. who doesn’t raise his hand yelled out an answer in class! Damn that Stinky McStinkypants! In this story, humans are all Stinky McStinkypantses and the animals are now pissed off that they’re missing recess. Do you still maintain that your god is a just and loving god? I don’t.

Conclusion
What have we learned from this story? That humans were horrible, wicked creatures that all deserved to die with no chance of repentance or vicarious salvation? Well, not really. We never really learned why the humans were so wicked and we’ll learn later on in the Bible (SPOILER ALERT) that god actually does have a plan for redeeming humans without having to destroy them all wholesale.

You want to know what I learned from this story? God flies off the handle at everything! Seriously, it’s like he’s got no self-control whatsoever. Not an attractive quality in an all-powerful deity, wouldn’t you say? So far, the Bible doesn’t have a single story that a level-headed person can read and say, “That makes perfect sense without having to squint or do any kind of mental gymnastics at all!” Not one. Stick around for the Great Flood…

A More Perfect Solution

Comments on a recent blog post of mine prompted me to do a thought experiment. Seeing as how the Bible has been fragmented, pieced together, translated, interpreted and altered is there a better way than the written word for god to have disseminated what could be considered the most important information in the history of the world? I think so.

I’m running with the standard model of the Biblical god for this example meaning he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipresent. He is perfect and unconstrained by time and space. Consider this:

When a child reaches the age of 12 he or she is considered by god to have the capacity to understand the concept of his existence and Jesus’ sacrifice for their eternal salvation. On each child’s 12th birthday, god visits them in a vision. During this vision, the child is locked in a trance state where no stimuli other than god can be experienced. In the vision, god reveals to each child that he’s their Heavenly father, he created them because he loves them, and that they have the choice to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. He reveals this in their native tongue without using parables or vague language. When the vision ends, the child is released from the trance state feeling refreshed.

At this point, the child has the choice to use his or her free will to either accept the vision as truth or reject the vision as a delusion. They have the choice to accept the gift of salvation or reject it as nonsense.

Here’s the rub: the vision is the same no matter the culture, language, or dialect of the child. A child in India can compare their vision to that of a child in Zimbabwe, Chile or Canada and the description will be identical. Some will accept this for the miracle that it is and rejoice. Others will consider it coincidence or mass hysteria and dismiss it out of hand. Others may take years to decide what they think but no matter what the message was clear, concise, and cannot be misinterpreted.

Would that not be (at the very least) a better solution than a vague book full of magical stories and parables? It certainly beats the telephone game of the oral tradition.

Here’s the question: what problems do you see with this approach?

I Have No Soul

I have several problems with the concept of a soul (or spirit, or whatever you may choose to call it). Aside from the argument for lack of evidence, there are issues facing a person who claims that humans have souls that are created by God and that outlive the body on a separate, spiritual plane of existence. I’ll outline these issues as follows:

IF I HAVE A SOUL, WHY DO I NEED A BODY?

This first question stems from the idea that God creates human souls (I’m not sure when) and implants them or attaches them to the fertilized egg at conception so that the bundle of cells becomes a viable human. Never mind that 25% of these “viable humans” will be naturally aborted or miscarried without intervention from humans. What I don’t get is this: God’s ultimate plan for everybody is that their souls reside in Heaven with Him eternally and that we are all happy, healthy, and free of sin. So…why do I need a body? If my soul would be happy in Heaven then why can we not forego all of the formality, suffering, and nonsense and just get right to the end goal? If God cares nothing at all for my body and only wants my soul, then He should have just created my soul in Heaven directly. It’s reasonable, it’s simple, it’s loving, and it accomplishes the goal with zero room for error.

WHERE WAS MY SOUL BEFORE I WAS BORN?

Since we’re assuming that God creates souls, but don’t know when He does it, we might assume that He created my soul a long time ago and was waiting for my parents to find each other and conceive the body into which He would ultimately place my soul. This begs the question(s): how long was my soul around before it was joined to my body, and where was it? If my soul was in heaven with God waiting to be transplanted, then I find it particularly disturbing and despicable that He wouldn’t have just left me there. After all, Heaven is where He wants me to end up, isn’t it?

If my soul was not in Heaven with God, then where was it? What other existential plane is there on which my soul may have sat in wait for a body? The flip side to this question relies on the idea that souls don’t exist prior to being joined with a body and that God creates them at the point of conception (kind of a chicken-and-egg argument, in my opinion). This brings us to my next question.

WHEN DOES GOD CREATE SOULS?

If, statistically, 25% of all pregnancies end in natural abortion or miscarriage then we have to question when, exactly, God is creating these souls. Is there a period of time during which the bundle of cells is under observation and in a probationary period before God deems them worthy of being joined to a soul? If not, and God joins the soul immediately at the time of conception, then why does He deem some souls lucky enough not to have to undergo the suffering of mortality and get a “Go Straight to heaven” card? Is He showing favoritism, or is He just shooting dice with these souls and they happen to hit the jackpot? If these souls were destined to end up in Heaven without having to struggle through life, then why did He bother with their conception (obviously wasted energy and resources for nothing) and bonding of their souls at all? He would have already known where they were going, because they never got to exercise their free will (a central tenet of religions which I find incredibly contradictory).

WHY IS GOD STILL CREATING SOULS?

God presumably knew prior to creating the first human soul that He would have to mourn their poor decisions, deal with sin, and eventually sacrifice His son for their forgiveness. The question then arises: why did God – angry at Adam and Eve for sinning – command them to go out and make more sinners?! To whom does that make any sense at all? Not to me. So perhaps my biggest question is why God is even creating souls at all. If I were in charge, I would have just let the two sinners die, send their souls wherever they needed to go, and call it good enough – an experiment that turned out poorly and from which I can learn a valuable lesson.

WHY DOES MY SOUL NOT DEFINE ME?

If we have non-corporeal souls that outlive us, then whatever defines who we are should be contained in that soul. That is to say, our personality, our compassion, our jealousy and anger and greed should not simply be a product of chemical reactions in our physical brains, but should transcend our bodies on the spiritual plane. If we have these souls, then they would not be affected by drugs, social pressures, local culture, or trauma. Regardless of what was happening to our bodies, we should always be exactly what our soul defines us to be. We know this isn’t the case. Brain trauma sometimes causes an irreversible shift in a person’s personality to the point where – behaviorally – they would be unrecognizable even to their own family. Drugs cause personality shifts and behavioral changes where people will do things and say things they would otherwise never do or say. It can be argued that moving to a different geographical location or immersing oneself in a different culture causes fundamental shifts in behavior and personality as well. We tend to change ourselves to suit our surroundings if we are unable to change our surroundings to suit ourselves.

How could this happen if we have an immortal soul? I don’t think it could, and I have yet to come across an argument convincing me that this question isn’t valid.

IF I HAVE A SOUL, WHY DO I NEED A BRAIN?

Even if my soul doesn’t define my personality, then it is said that it is what gives me life. Religious people often claim that our brains are so complex and amazing, it couldn’t possibly be reduced simply to electrical impulses and chemical reactions – an argument from incredulity. But why, if I have an immortal soul that gives me life, do I need a brain? Why doesn’t my soul do that work? Why isn’t my soul more actively and apparently involved in my living process? This may be the weakest of my problems with the soul concept, but it’s still a problem.

IF ANIMALS HAVE NO SOULS, HOW DO THEY LIVE?

It is commonly accepted and stated as fact in religious circles that only humans bear a soul. Animals don’t have souls and they don’t go to Heaven or Hell. It seems odd then that animals have identical living processes to humans – that is, brains, hearts, digestive systems, etc. Why do we look the same as animals on the inside if we’re so much different? Why are we made up of exactly the same material? This makes absolutely no sense. If humans have souls, then animals must also have souls because we can find no fundamental difference between animals and humans (who, as we all know, are still animals). I find it frustrating to think that any religious person could hold to this idea and even go so far as to construct some type of elaborate defense of this position that defies all logic and reason.

I HAVE NO SOUL.

Given that these questions are never answered, I have to operate under the assumption that I have no immortal soul. As such, I am not in any terrible danger of ending up in Hell and I have no reason to make myself subservient to an oppressive deity on the off-chance I might make it to Heaven. Instead, I’ll act as though this life is the only one I get; that I should be kind to my fellow humans in the hopes that it will propagate to all and we’ll live in peace; that my happiness here on Earth is my ultimate goal, so long as I don’t harm others in my attempts to attain it; that I should not waste a single moment of my life bowing and scraping to an invisible person who doesn’t care about my mortal existence anyway. I’ll just be the best human I can be. Is that so bad?