Zoom Meeting Sermon September 25 2022

Topic: Biblical Literalism

Largely thanks to my late father, Myles, I have the tendency to examine stories and take them apart, looking for inconsistencies and flaws in the logic. One of Daddy’s favorite objects of such dissection was the Christian bible, because it is rich in narrative inconsistency and logical fallacies.

For example, in the part about original sin, where the snake in the garden of Eden tempts Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Where did the talking snake come from? If the god character truly created everything, then he is the one who put the snake in the tree, which makes everything that followed completely his fault. The whole thing seems like a setup upon close examination. Why would god put the tree right there in the middle of the garden, fully accessible and with a talking snake hanging out in the branches, if the humans weren’t allowed to eat the fruit? And what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil, anyway? I thought that knowing the difference between good and evil is the basis of all morality. Why wouldn’t a god want his creations to be able to live and act morally? On a more hypothetical note: if a horse in the garden ate the fruit after it fell off the tree, would it also learn the difference between good and evil and be cast out? Or does that rule only apply to humans? Did the snake eat some of the fruit before it tempted Eve? There are just so many unanswered questions.

I also wonder why they suddenly developed body shame and dressed themselves in fig leaves. Nudity is not an intrinsically evil or shameful state; we are all born naked, after all. With this story, Christianity demonized nakedness and taught its followers to be ashamed of their own natural-born bodies. Body shame is cultural, not innate; we know this because toddlers will go streaking at a wedding before they’re taught to keep their clothes on in public. The pagan and druidic religions Christianity supplanted celebrated the body and encouraged ritual nudity. So who told Adam and Eve to cover themselves? I blame the talking snake, which basically makes it god’s fault.

The whole creation story is rife with problems and unanswered questions. If Adam and Eve and their two sons were the only humans in the world, after murdering his brother, where did Cain find a mate? And even if he did, how could they populate the world? A genetically stable population requires a minimum of seven reproducing pairs; two people and their descendants would be unable to produce anything like a viable society, let alone build a city. They would die out in a few generations. Even if they somehow pulled it off, where did the different races come from? If every human in the world is descended from the same two people, we should all look a lot more alike than we do, and we should all be the same race. The few proposed explanations for the phenomenon of race are almost cartoonishly racist, basically suggesting that white is the default, and the ancestors of the different races committed some trespass to be branded as “different.”

None of this would matter in the least if the bible was being presented as a mere story. Taken as a story, it can serve as an allegory, even if the lesson being taught is questionable at best. The problem is that too many people take it literally, and they go to great lengths to force everyone in the country to do the same, whether they agree with it or not. It has been and is currently being used to justify slavery and systemic racism, sexism, and homophobia. It wasn’t too long ago that women weren’t allowed to vote and black people weren’t even considered people. It was actually illegal to be gay in many states until 2003, and marriage equality didn’t happen until 2015. All of these injustices were based on passages found in the Christian bible.

It is important to remember that religious texts in general must be read with a critical mind. If your holy book tells you that it’s okay to treat certain people as things, maybe ask yourself who wrote the book and what their intentions may have been. A book written by and for old, straight, privileged white men may not be the best possible bastion of moral lessons. While there’s nothing wrong with reading the bible, and there are even a few tidbits of true benevolent wisdom in it, there’s a lot in there, particularly in the old testament, that could stand to be taken apart and examined critically. Nothing you read should ever be beyond rational dissection.

Thinking about it rationally, do you believe the biblical story of creation? If so, do you have your own theory about where the snake came from?


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