In the beginning… Midrash. Allegory. Fables. Stuff like that. When I was a kid, my father often read an Aesop Fable to us as we drifted off to sleep. We knew that it was a ‘story’ but it was interesting and it taught a lesson- an overt lesson because, at the end, it told the moral of the story. One of my favorites was the Crow and the Pitcher. My natural scientific curiosity was tapped by the buoyancy principle of the tale. Caw! Caw!
How about that large fable that starts: In the beginning. Much more complex than an Aesop fable and way-too violent for a bedtime story. Rated M for mature audiences. Lots of sex and wanton violence. Terribly unbelievable and a confusing plot as well. Is there a plot? Imagine this: millions of our fellow citizens believe that the stuff contained between the covers of that book was real. Yes, real as in it actually happened. Even more frightening is the fact that there are many members of our legislature who base their decisions upon this fable and construct laws for our society based on the stuff between the covers. How dreadful is that!
There may be some who regularly read and/or comment on this blog who might be sighing at this point, mumbling, ‘Another religion posting!’ Well, yes. And, why not? The large majority of posts here are on politics, religion and science and, not surprisingly, they all intersect. Imagine, if you will, that only two of those were operative and co-mingling: science and politics. Suppose religion was not in that mix. What if science was unencumbered by religious fundamentalists filtering and inhibiting scientific research. Yes, go ahead and imagine that. Not in this Congress; not with the GOP in charge of one branch of government; not with 5 anti-science members serving on the House Science Committee.
So, when did YOU start to disbelieve the fables in the Bible? For me as a kid, I couldn’t get my brain around Noah and his ark what with dinosaurs and all. I didn’t know what a cubit was, but even so, I figured that it couldn’t possibly be large enough for dinosaurs without sinking due to the buoyancy factor. The there was the thought of how to feed all of them, and the cages for the carnivores and the poop… Forty days?
Later in life I learned that the dinosaurs lived 200 millions of years before people. Fossils hundreds of millions of years old found in Wyoming, Utah, and Canada. What? Well, at least that would have made Noah’s construction work much easier.
Bang off on the 2nd page of the Bible, God created all of the land creatures on day six. Yet on that same day, he created man. Huh? Where was that 200 million-year gap between dinosaurs and us? Some said that ‘time’ was different then and a ‘day’ was not 24 hours. So then was a day 200 million years? Confusing stuff for a curious grade school boy. We Catholics didn’t discuss the Bible much so my curiosity merely festered. Imagine, though, a curious kid born into a bible-thumping family. Woah! The lights go dim.
Then there was the odd story of the first violent act ‘on earth’ only a few pages further in the Bible. Cain kills his brother! What the hell was that all about? It was curtly presented in that 4th chapter- nothing like those radio detective stories we listened to on our Philco. When we gathered to listen to those programs, we were introduced to the cast of characters, learned the plot, imagined the situation unfolding, figured out the ending, then were satisfied that we, too, had solved the problem. Yet in Genesis 4, after 4 short verses, Cain kills Able. No clue why. No motive suggested. No unwinding plot. Dead!
One feels sorry for Cain a few lines before we discover that he is the murderer. We find out that both brothers brought prized items to be ‘offered’ to the Lord, but the Lord finds Cain’s fruits unacceptable- no reason given. Yet the Lord smiled at his brother’s offerings. Cain probably is thinking, “What the fuck! I brought my best fruits and vegetables and the guy disses them and me!” Then the Lord wonders why Cain is in a funk? Doesn’t he know? Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? Duh! How terribly clueless.
Not only that, but the Lord accused him of sin, “Sin is crouching at your door,” says the Lord. Sin? What sin? No wonder Cain is filled with anger- he got the short end of the stick early on in his life. He gets banished from his family and homeland and has a mark seared on his body to distinguish him from the ‘good people.’
Midrash; fable. But a kid didn’t know that. He is left wondering WTF!
Now fast forward to the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Who among us validates the stories of creation, Noah and Cain and Able? Who among us interprets them as fable? And what is the difference between those who validate and those who question? Further, why are there people so eager to believe and another group who are natural skeptics?
to be continued…