In the Beginning was an Allegory

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…

 

 

 

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “In the Beginning was an Allegory

  1. “Is there a plot?”

    Couldn’t we say that there is a plot? The plot embraces the concept of
    contract among people and a deity. This concept would lead to a
    contract betwwen the ruled and the ruler. This is one of the values of the stories presented.

      1. Not exactly, for the believers. The implied contract is if you obey my
        commandments, you shall inherit my kingdom. Yes, it did lead to
        divine right rule, but it still was looked up as a contract. So, as long as the ruler ruled in the interests of the people, the monarchy remained.
        It would cost Charles I of England his throne and then James II of England.
        And, it would cost Louis XVI and Marie Antonette their heads. It lead to the Puritans and the Mayflower Compact and finally into the Declaration
        of Independence. It all stems from the biblical plot of a contractual
        relationship.

        1. (Disclaimer… my caps are for emphasis, not shouting.)

          It seems to me Sir that… for many… the TRUE MESSAGE to be garnered from the Bible… IS NOT ONLY THE RIGHT… BUT THE PRUDENCE OF FREEDOM TO CHOOSE… TO THINK FOR ONE’S SELF… AND TO CHOOSE ONE’S OWN PATH… as DIVINE RIGHT OF FREE WILL … as endowed by our Creator, if you will… or as an INNATE ABILITY BORN TO ALL MANKIND… which could be the same thing… who knows?

          The Greeks and other Ancients had ‘contracts’ and philosophical perspectives long before the Bible was published as an Anthology… that along with the Native American’s exhibition of ‘contractual recognition of Tribal distinction and equality, brought into alliance’ arguably contributed more to the making of our Nation, than that ‘contract’ to which you claim.

          What IS documented KNOWLEDGE is that George Washington had a “contract of allegiance” to the King of ENGLAND AND THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND… it was NOT TRULY voluntarily contracted… AND IT WAS MANDATORY for anyone who wanted to ‘advance’… SO… while it ‘existed’ … it did so, as a sham… ‘falsely agreed to, just as it was falsely demanded’…. i.e… it was not a genuine commitment of the heart… hence… that oath was easily broken, as soon as it could viably be done… in order to establish a ‘new environment’ which acknowledged ancient TRUTH… that no man is a sovereign to another…. unless men are willing to tolerate such claim… and kings and popes are NOT Gods…

          THEREFORE… why in the heck would someone today, accept the ‘written fables’ of other people, as being ‘real’… when they themselves apparently thought about an existing religious system and decided to CHANGE IT… yet discourage others from doing the same to theirs?

          Key words… “thought”… and “CHANGE”… and those clever fellows, realized that in order to woo others to their REVISION… then they needed not only an easy transition, (letting folks keep some of the old), but also some heavy duty ‘endorsement’…

          The old Testament had Moses and Abraham… so hey… only GOD could trump those guys, right? So those creative writers boldly made claim… just like that Mormon guy, Smith… that their ‘works’ were GOD’S WORD and GOD’S WILL… not theirs.

          PROOF? …. “Trust God” … but not really… actually ‘just trust the book’… despite how foolish… despite errors of translation that can totally change a ‘message’…

          For instance… “Man is made in God’s Image” … I believe was a poor translation… it more likely had been written that “Man (like everything else) was made in God’s Imagination”. WHAT A DIFFERENCE IN CONCEPTS THOUGH… and what AUTHORITY AFFORDED MAN to be the IMAGE OF GOD… rather than just another critter in creation!!!

          But I digress… back to the ‘endorsements’… the old religion claimed to be inspired of God too… so these Off Shoots needed a better gimmick… to be truly competitive.

          Hmmm… maybe they could give the folks what they had been waiting for… the MESSIAH… yeah!!! That’ll bring ’em in!

          But… geez… Messiahs were hard to come by… but hey… one doesn’t actually have to have one ‘on hand’… if the tale to be delivered is that he came and went!!!! Better yet, how about blaming the old competition for killing him! OH YEAH… that would clinch the deal!

          BRILLIANT… right? Plus… to keep folks from contributing goods to the old religious temples (fat cats who partook of the offerings)… which could lead to ‘losses’… how about this new religion keep ten percent of everyone’s earnings but waive necessity of goat killing?

          Why, because God will be happy with just the cash… less flies and clean up? No… folks need more than that… so… how about because, GOD ALREADY received the ‘ultimate sacrifice’… and anything after that is inferior, so… eh… a waste !!!!

          YEAH… and this ultimate blood sacrifice would not have been just a goat… but a human… and not any human… a virgin… and not a female virgin, because eh they are subservient to me… so a man virgin… and not just any man virgin.. but a good man virgin…and not just any good man virgin, but THE BEST Man VIRGIN EVER!!!!

          YEAH, now they were cooking! In fact… the offering would be a truly DIVINE OFFERING… WELL… SEMI-DIVINE… AT LEAST… AS A DEMI-GOD OFFERING that kills two birds with one cross… explains how the Messiah got killed and also kills that nasty blood letting habit!!!

          But… of course… since the demi-god in question was previously taught to have been the son of God… then hey… this killing has to be GOD’S IDEA… because of course a Real God is not going to let a bunch of rednecks kill his ‘only begotten’ son… UNLESS… it was part of a DIVINE PLAN… oh yeah… that was it… killing off a perfect son, is okay, so long as there is a plan!

          Is it beginning to sound like a man-made tale yet?

          Does it really reflect an All Knowing, Loving, Creator?

          I DON’T THINK SO… it is all a ‘gimmick’… and a ‘tie in’ to the old… since folks hate change, so they have to be able to keep part of the old… as they introduce or force feed something new…

          Clearly the Bible is fable after fable… broken into two major fables, where in the older one, is replaced with a new one, but since the old one has such ‘good beginnings and history that will not easily be forsaken’… then it will be kept but ‘the icky parts’ will no longer be ‘law’… but the ‘convenient’ parts will be kept and contribute to the ‘new tale’… as ‘validation of the existence of a Messiah’…

          You speak of Contract between God and Man…

          IF a contract actually exists in implication… it is a contract between MEN… men being encouraged to do what other men tell them that God told them, to tell others to do… because they are more special than the others, whom God didn’t care to tell personally what he ‘wanted’.. so the ‘contract’ is actually between the ‘believer’ and ‘the middleman’…. but it is sold as a contract between God and the middlemen… for the ‘believer’… hmmmm?

          Faith is directed to the ‘words of the middlemen’… sold as ‘God’s own words’… rather than allowing one to have faith in their own ‘sensibility’ or ‘logic’ or ‘gut’ or ‘reflection’… it is not directed to the pursuit of God or Spirituality… it is sought to support and blindly follow doctrine… PERIOD… thinking or questioning is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED… even deemed blasphemy and grounds to tie you to a stake and burn you to death.

          And those who ‘fail to oblige’ do not simply get tortured to death… their ‘souls’ are sent to eternal torment in hell… in fact… ‘going to hell’ is the ‘most persuasive clause of your supposed contract’…

          Seriously… DOES GOD REALLY NEED THE WORDS OF A FEW MIDDLE EASTERN SALESMEN? Especially words that inadequately define and even outright defame Divinity, by assigning the attributes of man’s own failings, as characteristics of God, along with obvious inequities that are ‘accepted’ and even encouraged… like incest?

          Is God a used car that needs commissioned salesmen, to sell folks on the notion that God even exists… when the World and Universe itself encourages belief that something had to be ‘in the beginning’… and it was not something that man can explain, let alone make claim to credit…

          Is it not truly more honest, more humbling, and more appreciative of the awesomeness of Creation to admit IGNORANCE and to SEEK KNOWLEDGE?

          Surely, our own minds and spirits are no less valid today… as those ancient individuals… [ as all of us are created to be unique… and therefore surely intended to have unique ‘spiritual’ ‘relationships’ or paths… ] who for what ever reason, had the means to or ability to have their reflections, regarding Events, Divinity, Spirituality, and the Unknown, transcribed before we do?

          Why would anyone want to embrace a concept that a Divine Being is no better, really than man… being CRUEL… UNFORGIVING… Commanding… Demanding… Jealous… Vengeful… Biased… Hateful… etc. etc. with the only distinctions being immortal and more powerful?

          Most folks do understand that Love is not commanded nor demanded by threats… yet the Bible teaches… “love me as these guys have portrayed me and as they have instructed, or you will burn in hell for ever”…

          To me… TRUE FAITH is like the faith of a child… Children don’t give a crap about what ‘their Daddy’s real name is or what he does for a living’… all they care about is whether Daddy is kind, supportive, and loving… which means letting them go when it comes their time to do so and loving them, even if they make mistakes on their journey to maturity’s ‘enlightenment’…

          The Bible presents GOD as A TOTAL JERK of A DAD… one mistake and your ass is out on the street… and if that is not bad enough… you will be made to really, really suffer out there… A LOT… and in EVERY WAY IMAGINABLE AND UNIMAGINABLE… WHY?

          BECAUSE HIS FIRST MADE ‘SON & DAUGHTER’ TRUSTED THAT THEIR DAD WOULD NOT TRULY WANT TO DENY THEM KNOWLEDGE… OR HORRIBLY PUNISH THEM… since… HE PROVIDED THE TEMPTATION AND PLACED IT SMACK DAB IN THE GARDEN… IN THE FACE of HIS CHILDREN… AND AT ARM’S LENGTH… ?

          NO… NO… NO… To read the Bible as a Fable… as a Parable… as Creative Writing… can be stimulating and provocative, with potential to teach ‘what not to do’ if nothing else… But to read it, accept it, and believe it as being the actual WORD OF GOD… even though it reeks of man’s own selfishness and inequities… is FAILURE to use Common Sense and Intelligence.

          On that note, I extend apologies to Mudrake for rambling on this way… obviously I could do this for hours on end… heehee… so I had best stop.

          1. Thank you, Colleen, for your extended response to UptheFlag. I am quite sure that he will want to parry with you a bit on the points you made above.

            The assumed ignorance of so many of our fellow citizens in the area of religion and religious beliefs is terribly frustrating for those of us who are naturally inquisitive and who wish for sensible explanations. As I commented yesterday, I cannot imagine the frustration in a bright and inquisitive child who is forced to believe the garbage presented to him/her by fundamentalist parents. It must be Hell. Worse yet, I suppose, is a gay or lesbian child born into such a situation.

            For the life of me I cannot understand the ‘passion’ albeit misdirected of a fundamentalist who fails to question scenarios in the Bible which, to us, seem so blatantly stupid and false. Why do they refuse? Have they been so thoroughly indoctrinated throughout their life that they cannot ‘risk’ an examination of that 4000-year-old collection of writings? Do they fear instant death upon doing so? Or eternal damnation?

            I cannot get my mind around such fear. I wonder if psychologists have a term for this and/or I wonder if they have a surprisingly large set of clients who have been damaged by this brainwashing process- especially as children.

            I was fortunate to escape such waterboarding as my parents were not fundamentalists. Nonetheless, I bear many scars from religious misadventures I endured before my personal enlightenment. No doubt, most of us do.

            1. I was more fortunate than some, in that respect, Mudrake, as I was reared in a non-religiously oppressive/impressive childhood.

              Though I saw lots of rants and ravings of TV preachers, as the result of natural curiosity and limited channel selections on Sundays. :)

              I recall never ceasing to be ‘amazed’ and filled with the ‘sheer wonderment of ‘incredulous disbelief’… that those ‘appalling preachers’ had any following at all!!!

              But even more appalling was the appearance of the ‘followers’… who seemed… ‘entranced’ and ‘blind’ … to that which seemed so blatantly obvious to me… that those ‘leaders’ were con men!!!

              I was just a kid and could see right through them… but found it very disturbing and scary that others were so eager to ‘forfeit sight’ to ‘blindly follow’… :(

              Religion was never ‘put down’ per say, in our household, as much as it was simply not encouraged or practiced. Though, admittedly, I was exposed to an occasional derogatory remark, from my father, which conveyed to me that he saw what I saw… but spoke from a more personal first hand experience, that I lacked… having grown up… I later learned… with a religious hypocrite of a father.

              So… perhaps not so oddly, READING rather than religion, was both practiced and encouraged, throughout my childhood.

              Thus, I learned very early in life that one can learn a ‘good lesson’ from virtually any tale told…. be it the Bible or Harry Potter… but that ‘opportunity for insight’ did not mean that the tale was written by God or even inspired by God… as much as it simply reflected a talent for writing, a gift for story telling, and the less obvious truth that readers love to be lead by their curiosity….. :)

              No matter what we read, however, WE ULTIMATELY HOLD THE POWER TO CHOOSE WHAT WE EMPOWER, when we afford anything the precious gift of our BELIEF….

              It has been my experience, as an early avid reader, that the best tales did entail the age old element of the battle between ‘good and evil’…

              BUT WHAT MANY OFTEN SEEM TO OVER LOOK… is the fact that SOME OF THE TALES’ BEST LESSONS… RELY ON THE READER’S ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE THE EXAMPLES OF WHAT NOT TO DO… to another creature… as well as the examples of what good things can be done… :)

              I found the Bible to be littered, through out, with heinous examples of the reality that man is man’s very worse enemy… directly and indirectly… as both depicted and suggested… in the Biblical examples of the potentials of what mankind can do to mankind… and never did I have any sense, what so ever, of it being Divine Writing or Inspired to honour the Divine, in any respect… but rather quite the opposite… as man’s attempt to control other men, through fear and the degradation of the aspects and potentials of the very concept of Divinity. :)

              1. Thanks again for your thoughts and for sharing some of your personal history. You wrote, I found the Bible to be littered, throughout, with heinous examples… Indeed so, but you surely know how many millions of our fellow citizens plan their life around that very document. A phrase that galls me to the marrow is, “For the Bible says…”

                Ghastly stuff!

                For some real guidance throughout life without the dangers of reading awful biblical stuff around it, one might merely get a book of the writings of Socrates and Plato. They had no ‘agenda,’ just wisdom.

                1. So true… so very, very true… Most of the Great Thinkers had no real agenda… other than sharing their observations and thoughts with receptive and responsive other minds…. :)

                  But I would not rule out ‘agenda based tales’ entirely… as they can be great adventures… ALL THE GREAT LITERARY Classics, from Man in an Iron Mask, to Moby Dick, to The Three Musketeers, to Ivanhoe, to Robinson Crusoe, to Last of the Mohicans, to Little Women, to Pride and Prejudice and so on… and so on… and so on… right down to the HARDY BOYS AND NANCY DREW… ALL HAVE THE ELEMENTS TO INSPIRE ‘recognizing both good and evil’ and encouraging the reader to ‘make a stand’ for the side they most favour… :) And do so without terrorizing young souls too terribly much… heehee

  2. One of my clearest memories of an early objection to a story in the Bible happened when I was about seven or eight. Our Sunday School class at the tiny Presbyterian church where we attended was studying Daniel and the Lion’s Den. The Sunday school teacher told us that God prevented the lions from eating Daniel, but I insisted that they either weren’t hungry or had some other reason for not ripping him limb from limb. I remember arguing with her, but in hindsight I doubt I really made more than a couple of feeble protests that the story couldn’t have happened the way it did. I was a little kid, after all, and an adult authority figure was telling me otherwise. Not that I believed the adult, but I was taught not to argue with adults other than my parents. (I argued with them all the time!)

    This exemplifies the problem, though. Kids who are natural critical thinkers make logical objections and are told to shut up, not to argue, and to accept what they are told not because there’s any proof, but because some authority figure said so.

    By that time I already had serious doubts about the stories in the Bible. Like you, I loved dinosaurs, and the fact that they weren’t mentioned in ark tale bothered me. Plus, I figured the fish and whales didn’t drown, so what about plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs? What about birds? Did they perch on top of the ark or did they have to keep flying during the whole time of the flood? And did Noah have to load seals and otters onto the ark? They can survive in the water a long time, but if they were in the ark and didn’t get to leave it, or if they had to stay in the water the whole time, they would have had a really tough go of things. No one could answer those questions.

    Finally my dad (a lapsed Catholic) told me that they were just stories, and I didn’t have to believe them. I was relieved – but it also meant that I started really looking for the impossibilities in other stories.

    Then, one day – I guess I was in about sixth grade – I was sitting in church bored during the sermon and flipped through the Bible. I happened upon Judges Chapter 19. I was outraged that nobody stood up for the concubine who was cut into 12 pieces after being raped to death, but instead went to war over how her neglectful husband was treated as a guest. (This story is a more heinous retelling of the horny mob in Sodom, with an equally gruesome ending.) I was appalled that the rape and murder was supposed to teach us a moral lesson about how to treat guests. The men who threw the concubine to rapist mob were never punished or even chastised. No one seemed to have a problem with what they did to that poor girl.

    The big one is always the Isaac story, though. God was just a dick to both Isaac and Abraham. When I was a kid I thought that if I were Isaac, I’d never trust my dad to take care of me ever again, and I wouldn’t want anything to do with him. WTF kind of decent parent would ever, ever agree to sacrifice a child?

    1. Kids who are natural critical thinkers make logical objections and are told to shut up, not to argue, and to accept what they are told not because there’s any proof, but because some authority figure said so.

      Indeed they are. A great example of a local authority figure is a bible-thumping, born-again, fundamentalist woman who used to post her crap on this blog. She now has her own, unread, strictly homophobic blog. She, unfortunately, is in charge of the childrens’ education program at her church. I cannot imagine any creatively-thinking kid sitting in her classroom and lasting too very long. What a pity. And I am certain that this scenario is played over and over all across this land.

      1. When I was younger I thought I was nuts because my mother would scold me for things I thought had happened. Later in life I’ve learned I didn’t imagine those things. I still have not forgiven her for the years of anguish she put me through. Why you ask? She still denies it all and most of my siblings still believe those lies. My Dad went to his grave still suffering through her lying.

        The Church lied, my mother lied and the “book” lied. Why should I believe ANYTHING they have to say now?

  3. One of my favorite Dylan songs:

    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What ?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done ?”
    God says. “Out on Highway 61”.

    1. Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. From S to N. To go the other way, reverse the order of the states.

      [geography major]

Comments are closed.