Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bible Stories, Part Deux

My first Bible post looked at some of the most blatantly crazy (and hence crazy-entertaining) verses that lovely book contains. It was so much fun picking apart the text that is the basis for Christianity that I’m going to do it again. My aim here is to show what a preposterous book the Bible really is without abusing too much of the low-hanging fruit. I covered Leviticus and Deuteronomy in depth in my first post, but those books are so incredibly outrageous that many Christians will agree they’re worthless, so I’ll skip those here. I also covered the book of Joshua in my “God is an asshole” post, so I’ll skip over all the senseless killing and genocide that God was such a big fan of in the Old Testament (and, for the record, there is a shit ton of righteous slaughter to be skipped over). I’ll even skip most of the stories that are only considered ridiculous because they contain “miracles.” Of course, it’s interesting that a being with the ability to break any laws of nature he so pleases stopped doing so a couple millennia ago, but let’s pretend that God could do things like turn an entire river into pure blood because He’s God. Sure. Whatever.

If I exclude all that nonsense, I should be left with an inspiring book that serves as a source of comfort and guidance, right? Christians complain that atheists only point out the crazy stuff and ignore all the good stuff, so theoretically I should have only “good stuff” left to criticize. Oh, if only that were the case. Keep in mind that this is the source of the religious beliefs of the majority of this country. Here are some more common (yet still fucking crazy) excerpts.

Let’s start at the beginning: Genesis. I wish I could skip over the whole “creation of the world” part since it’s totally ridiculous...but there are still plenty of people who believe in creationism (and they even have a “museum”), so let’s get into it. Nearly every verse is worth commenting on, but I’ll try to keep it reasonable.

  • For God made two great lights, the sun and the moon, to shine down upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:16)
So the moon is a light, eh? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this whole creation story was written by someone with no knowledge whatsoever of astronomy or geology, rather than an omnipotent being who, as the creator of everything, would presumably know how...well...everything works. You know, like the fact that the moon is just a rock that reflects the light of the sun rather than being a source of light itself.

Unlike the relationship between Muslims and the Koran, (most) Christians are willing to admit that the Bible was written by men and is therefore not the literal word of God. However, no man observed the creation of life, the universe, and everything, so we have to treat the creation verses as the word of God told directly to man. You know what would make the Bible believable? Two things in particular: 1) God not making false statements, and 2) some proof, any proof, that God is actually omniscient. There is an endless list of things that God could have revealed in biblical times that would have proved his omniscience since there was an endless list of things that people didn’t know then. All He had to do was proclaim something as simple as “the Earth revolves around the sun, the sun does not revolve around the Earth” a few thousand years before humans figured it out, and we would be forced to put some stock into the Bible. Instead, we’re told things that are simply not true.

  • Then God said, ‘Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life--the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.’” (Genesis 1:26)
Lots of interesting stuff here for a seemingly innocuous verse. I’m not the first person to wonder “Who the hell was God talking to when He said ‘Let there be light?’” If we take this verse literally, we have a reason: God was not alone before He created humanity. He bothered to verbalize the obvious because He had other beings to talk to. Not only that, they were apparently also godlike as He wanted humans to be like “ourselves.”

Are these the other gods that He’s always bitching about humans worshiping? Did the God of Abraham used to hang out with the Roman, Greek, Norse, Egyptian, etc. gods? Was Yahweh (the Christian god) besties with Odin and Zeus once upon a time? Who had the coolest beard? Sadly, the authors of the Bible never bothered to provide these details.

Another interesting point about this verse is that we’re supposed to be the masters of all other animals. While that’s essentially the case today thanks to things like guns, one needn’t look any further than the infamous Shark Week to be reminded that there are plenty of species on this planet that would fuck us right up given a level playing field. Even God later admits that humans are not the masters of all creatures in Job 41:1-9: “Can you catch a crocodile with a hook or put a noose around its jaw? Can you tie it with a rope through the nose or pierce its jaw with a spike? Will it beg you for mercy or implore you for pity? Will it agree to work for you? Can you make it be your slave for life? Can you make it a pet like a bird, or give it to your little girls to play with? Will merchants try to buy it? Will they sell it in their shops? Will its hide be hurt by darts, or its head by a harpoon? If you lay a hand on it, you will never forget the battle that follows, and you will never try it again! No, it is useless to try to capture it. The hunter who attempts it will be thrown down.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say God was rather explicitly telling Job that he cannot master a crocodile. He would have been hard-pressed to make the point “crocodiles > man” any clearer. The fact that men have not always been the masters of all other animals might lead a thinking person to believe that the inhabitants of the animal kingdom are determined by natural selection rather than a divine order that places humans solely at the top of the food chain...but why believe in a crazy theory like evolution that has untold volumes of evidence to support it? I’m sure God would have let us know if evolution was real because it’s not like him to withhold knowledge.

  • ’God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.’
‘You won’t die!’ the serpent hissed. ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:3-5)
Again, I just want to take this opportunity to point out that these are all direct quotes from the Bible. I am not making this up. God tossed Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for knowing stuff. The tree they ate from was called the “tree of knowledge.” Is this why the Religious Right views all intellectuals as terrible, terrible people--because they have *gasp* KNOWLEDGE? The more you think about these verses, the more preposterous they become.

First of all, since God is the omnipotent creator of the world, you’d think he would know better than to place this “tree of knowledge” in the middle of the garden where the only humans on Earth are living if he didn’t want them to eat from it. For that matter, if He really want to be a dick and withhold knowledge from the people He created, why did He even bother with this magic tree in the first place? It’s almost as if He’s a stereotypical action movie villain who, instead of simply killing the hero while he has the hero at his mercy, insists on explaining his diabolical plan to the hero so that he can later be thwarted. God is kind of like the original Dr. Evil.

Secondly, obtaining knowledge about how the world actually works is considered to be the greatest sin ever committed by humanity? Really? Why is this never explained? What the hell is so bad about knowing things? Why is God such an arrogant prick that He insists on being the only one who knows stuff? Why did he lie to Adam and Eve about the tree by telling them they would die if they ate from it when in actuality the only consequence was that they wouldn’t be completely ignorant? We’re barely three chapters into the Bible, and it sucks already. This does not bode well for you, Christianity (or Judaism, for that matter).

  • Then he said to the woman, ‘You will bear children with intense pain and suffering. And though your desire will be for your husband, he will be your master.’” (Genesis 3:16)
Childbirth is the punishment that God comes up with for Eve eating from the tree of knowledge. To be fair, this is one of the very few questions that the Bible provides an explicit answer for: “Why is childbirth such an excruciatingly painful experience?” Answer: because Eve ate an apple. Duh.

This verse also answers the question “What is the origin of the Judeo-Christian oppression of women?” Answer: Genesis 3:16. While people love to quote John 3:16 (which I’ll get to later), Genesis provides a much more interesting verse. Right at the very beginning, God makes it explicitly clear that women are meant to be subservient to men. As much as Christians would like to portray God as a compassionate and loving being, he turns out to be a colossal misogynist. If you’re worried that I’m placing too much emphasis on such an old verse, don’t worry--I’ll point out plenty of other explicitly misogynist verses in this post and the next. This verse is far from being an outlier.

  • In the future, they will live no more than 120 years.” (Genesis 6:3)
This one is too easy. The Bible itself refutes this multiple times (such as Job 42:16: “Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren.”), and I imagine that the late Jeanne Calment told God to go fuck himself on her 122nd birthday. Fun facts of the day: she smoked for 94 of those 122 years, and at a rate of about two pounds a week she consumed something in the neighborhood of five tons of chocolate. I bet you can’t eat five tons of chocolate.

  • “Whenever the sons of God had intercourse with human women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes mentioned in the legends of old.” (Genesis 6:4)
Again, there’s talk of other godlike beings. So much for being the “one true god.” So maybe Odin was Yahweh’s grandson? Do they still get together for Thanksgiving? If so, is it incredibly awkward? Does Thor gloat about how much cooler he is than his great-grandfather? Does he trash-talk Jesus about how much better The Avengers was than The Passion of the Christ? I would. That movie was phenomenal.

  • I will completely wipe out this human race that I have created. Yes, and I will destroy all the animals and birds, too. I am sorry I ever made them.” (Genesis 6:7)
Whoa whoa whoa Miss Lippy--the part of the story I don’t like is when God decides to kill everyone. He didn’t give them rules or anything, He just sat up in heaven like a goon and waited. God’s gotta think “You got a society. You got a responsibility.” If your people are lost, you don’t give them a few generations and call it quits--you get your ass down there and you guide those fucking people! 

For those wondering if I was drunk when I wrote that (answer: maybe)--I was referencing what is arguably the greatest movie ever made. You’re welcome.

  • He will demand that the people of Israel be allowed to leave Egypt. But I will cause Pharaoh to be stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will crush Egypt with a series of disasters, after which I will lead the forces of Israel out with great acts of judgment.” (Exodus 7:2-4) These verses are followed by the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness in chapters 7-10, followed by the killing of firstborn sons in chapter 11. “Although Moses and Aaron did these miracles in Pharaoh’s presence, the Lord hardened his heart so he wouldn’t let the Israelites leave the country.” (Exodus 11:10)
This is something that also shows up frequently in the Koran--God “hardening the hearts” of heathens so that they don’t even get a choice when it comes to their salvation or damnation. Not to go all SNL Weekend Update on you...but really? Really?! Really, God, you have to be such an asshole that, at the only point in time when a reasonable case could be made for believing in you (the firsthand witness of miracles), you can’t let people save themselves from eternal damnation? Really? You alternately inundate a region in the Middle East with frogs, flies, and locusts, yet you won’t allow the people that see this happening to believe that something supernatural is responsible? Really? I thought you wanted everyone to love you! How can they love you if you won’t let them? God, what a jerk.

  • I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations. But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands, even for a thousand generations.” (Exodus, 20:5-6)
Oh, right, you’re big on punishment; that’s why you won’t let people believe in you and save themselves. Not only do you insist on punishing those who were taught to worship Odin or Isis or Zeus, you insist on punishing their great-grandchildren! I know you made man “in your image” and we’re capable of holding grudges...but did you ever consider grabbing some mead and talking it out rather than giving the shaft to people who weren’t even alive when the “sin” was originally committed? Also, what happens when a parent hates you but their child loves and obeys you? According to verse 5 that child is in for some hellacious treatment, but according to verse 6 you’re going to lavish your love on them. And what happens to that person’s kids? Their grandparents doomed them to punishment, but their parents guaranteed them love. I know the Bible is no stranger to contradiction, but you could at least try not to contradict yourself in back-to-back verses. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s supposedly omnipotent...

  • Each week, work for six days only. The seventh day is a day of total rest, a holy day that belongs to the Lord. Anyone who works on that day will die. Do not even light fires in your homes on that day.” (Exodus 35:2-3)
Now you’re just being straight up cruel. In your infinite wisdom you knew that people were eventually going to move away from the equator, right? I mean, you knew that Russia and Canada and Greenland all existed (because you designed the Earth), and you knew that it gets cold as balls in the winter there (because you control the weather), and you knew that people would eventually move there (because you told people to go forth and multiply and all that)...yet you had to outlaw fire for one day a week? What kind of sadistic move is that? Furthermore, you’re advocating six day work weeks? Come on, now. You know I don’t like to work on weekends. Weekends are meant for consuming unnecessarily large amounts of calories and artificially altering our states of mind. You can’t give the world the gift of booze without also giving us an opportunity to use it. Seriously, enough with the sadism.

  • As Elisha was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. ‘Go away, you baldhead!’ they chanted. ‘Go away, you baldhead!’ Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them.” (2 Kings 2:23-24)
OK, maybe a little more sadism, because that passage was fucking awesome. Nothing will ever compare to the verse that calls for cutting off the hands of those who yank on testicles in a fight, but this is still pretty great. It seems as though all the youngins who are dealing with bullies these days simply need to curse them and God will ensure that BEARS WILL FUCK THEM UP. Bullying problem: solved. I guess we need to add “divine control over bears as a retribution tactic” to the list of benefits of religion. Also: “baldhead” is cause for a bear-mauling? God should have invented Triumph the Insult Comic Dog a few thousand years earlier to give this passage some more weight.

  • I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You ask, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I. And I was talking about things I did not understand, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:2-6)
The book of Job in a nutshell: Satan bets God that Job will turn against Him if all his riches are taken away. God accepts the bet, and takes his inner sadist and channels it directly at Job. Repeatedly. Job questions why God treated him like shit. God says, essentially: “Shut up. I created everything. You can’t explain anything related to geology, astronomy, or biology yet, so that means I am the answer to all questions. I’m not going to tell you how any of this stuff works because it’s more fun if the answer is ‘God made it so.’ So quit your bitching because I’m awesome.” Except he does it all in the form of a question because Jeopardy! is His favorite show (see the Job quote at the top for a good example of this). Also, since God seems to have a beef with gay people, I like to think that he threw in a derisive slur like “lustful cockmonster” somewhere in his diatribe but that part just didn’t make it into the book.

Job, apparently unaware that God gave him absolutely no reason whatsoever for why He tortured him, responds with the above passage. That is literally his entire response, after which Job is blessed with double his original fortune, and it is never discussed again.

The lesson: don’t ask why bad things happen to good people, because God will not answer you. He’ll just let you know that He is awesome and you are not, and because He’s so awesome He’s allowed to be a dick to nice people for no good reason. End of discussion. Seriously. God never even bothered to tell Job that he was just being tested by the devil because, you know, God hates it when people know things.

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is a question asked by followers of all religions, and this book is supposed to provide some type of answer for Christians. In typical religious fashion, it completely sidesteps the question and instead asks you to adopt the “don’t question God because you cannot possibly fathom his reasoning for anything” line of thinking. Because that’s totally satisfying. “I know you’re probably feeling pretty down about getting raped, but don’t you dare get mad at your omnipotent being of choice. That dude makes the sun rise every morning, so you’re not allowed to question his motives behind allowing you to be sexually violated because He has a plan. What do you mean the sun is actually relatively stationary and it’s only the Earth’s rotation that causes the sun to ‘appear’ to rise in the morning? If God says He makes the sun rise, then He makes the sun rise. Your reasoning for how the universe actually works is not welcome here, blasphemer.” Thanks, Bible!

So. There’s a taste of the Old Testament. A mere sampling of the completely nonsensical bullshit that can be found in the first portion of the Bible. At least for now, I won’t waste any more of your time pointing out how ludicrous “the Scriptures” are. While it’s tempting to keep tying archaic drivel to Billy Madison since the Bible is a practically endless target of ridicule, I’ll move on to the New Testament next time. The New Testament is, of course, still chock full of archaic drivel, but it’s not as old as the Old Testament, and for some reason Christians seem to think that it contains useful advice for living. We shall see about that (spoiler alert: the New Testament also sucks)...