The book of Genesis is the first, and one of the most hotly debated, books of the Bible. It opens from where Christians believe God created the universe and everything else stems from this huge and groundless assumption. The main action of the book is the supposed (and highly unlikely) conversation between God and Abraham and then his descendants. It is not merely Christians who are expected, and claim, to believe this but the rest of us are too and it is still treated as the height of bad manners to disbelieve it but to openly admit our disbelief and challenge their faith in unprovable stories and parables is considered a gross insult. Tough. I refuse to be bullied into submission over a set of ideas which places unthinking obedience (Because, let’s face it, religion has little or nothing to do with morality) over considered thought and questions. We are meant to believe that an all-knowing god needed to test the faith of a single desert dweller over that of entire populations, and comparatively more advanced, societies in China or Rome.
This is but one of the stories meant to describe the meaning of life, the origin of the universe and deserve unreserved respect from believers and non-believers alike. The psalms regularly speak of God’s creative streak and he is often portrayed as being on a constant campaign of self-defence against questioning. One example of this is a five chapter long rant in Job (38-42). Job is not alone in this and it does much to explain the grossly over-done and frequently exhibited persecution complex. The book of Isaiah (45:9-23) does much in a laboured attempt to answer preempted charges of unfairness and unfaithfulness. Could it be that those ancient men had anticipated the ungainliness of their fraudulent claims of wisdom and authority? Did they realise then that they would be called out on their tall tales by those who were not so credulous as to swallow their lies? What better way to stamp out such unbelief and non-conformity than to make it a sin and inspire fear in/persecute those who don’t accept their authority at face value? These religions began as a con and as such they continue to be.
“1 LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c]
5 You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[g] feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The anticipated defence often consists in depicting humanity as uncomprehending and incapable of understanding either God or his creation. The act of keeping the congregation humble and dependant is a foundation stone of this ancient con. It also centres on the fact that not only are we incapable of understanding this but that we should not even try to because doing so usurps the position of God. If we had heeded this absurd idea (of power-hungry self-interest of the church) we would still be in the dark ages blaming demons for our ailments and witches for our woes. The Gospel of John also refers back to Genesis and echoes the assumption that God claims the creation of the universe as his achievement. This may go a long way to explain the ever so Christian affection for circular ‘reasoning’ and disregard of empirical evidence when defending their own beliefs (John 1:1-5).
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.” – John 1:1-5
Genesis does not state facts. It states only what was the acute misunderstanding of the world at the time. It is nought but an ancient creation myth. The basis of that understanding is known to be drastically flawed because it was limited by the knowledge of the time and should have long ago been disregarded. The traditions of the bible are nothing unique. They are derived from older mythologies at best and plagiarised at worst. While the similarities are both numerous and striking the differences are equally. The Gods of the Greek (The Romans emulated the Greeks to such an extent that they even adopted the mythology) and Egyptian pantheon were both portrayed and acknowledged as hypocritical, capricious, malevolent, selfish and frivolous. However much they were worshipped and their believers attempted to appease Ra, Osiris, Ptah, Zeus, Ares, Athena, Artemis and Apollo or Hera (to name but a few) they did so only under duress: the fear that if they did not, all manner of ills would befall them and thus rendering their acts of worship little more than mercenary acts of self-interest.
The Christian mindset of working only for god and to earn ‘his’ love is nothing new but the God of the Bible seems to be immune from the criticism afforded to the afore mentioned deities by the followers of said cults. Those ancient gods were also often regarded as an example of how not to behave. The idea of a God’s representative on earth is also one which far pre-dates those stories of the bible. I have lost count of the times I have heard people claim to follow the ‘ways of Jesus’. They may as well claim to follow in the ways of Heracles (Hercules is the Roman incarnation) or Prometheus for it would just as little. There is no proof that God exists so the argument that an ancient Jewish carpenter was his own father (actually God in human form) who was sent to us to be sacrificed in order to atone for the ‘sins’ of all mankind (before and after his lifetime) and impress himself is not only ludicrous but sickening. There is also no more evidence that Jesus existed than there is of Heracles, Perseus or Ra and if people expect to be taken seriously they need first to start realising that their beliefs are not immune to scrutiny and second, to stop stamping their feet and throwing tantrums whenever a contrary idea is expressed in public.
Neither the quantity of these stories, nor the similarities between them grant them any truth by any stretch of the imagination. The god of the bible, along with the ancient gods, are no more than characters in very old stories. Interacting and interfering in human affairs (Prometheus and fire and Pandora’s Box), the Christian god is no different in its attempt to hold humanity in its subordinate state. The common thread in creation myths differs from Genesis in one very particular manner. While Genesis goes out of its way to reiterate the peaceful origin of our world, the others depict violent conflicts between deities and titans, petty squabbling among deities, and catastrophic natural disasters. Also, the relationships between gods and mankind is often unfriendly with humanity created as a race of slaves to God or gods. Even though the a few relationships may have positive elements, the majority are little more than the systematic bullying of a subordinate (behaviour which would merit an employment tribunal under modern western civil law).
In Genesis the antagonist is alone in his malevolence though, and free to claim all credit for the creation of the universe (Light on day one but no sun until day 4? So where did the bloody light come from?). There may be no squabbles between gods with only a single god but there is great animosity between the God of the Bible and his immortal adversary (Formerly an immediate subordinate and once an angel, but weren’t angels also supposedly created to be slaves? The all-powerful wasn’t doing such a great job really) as well as the conflict sanctioned between rival tribes. In this case the all-powerful seems capable of doing little more than banishing and ineffectively imprisoning his rival though there is not much of a story if the antagonist is too easily defeated.
The Genesis story has less literary content to offer than any title by Dan Brown (and that’s saying something) and reads like a badly written fantasy novel. The apparently perfect lone deity organises the sun, moon, earth, and stars with the intention of sharing it with his imperfect creations. Like the gods in older stories this god requires that his creation worship him in return for protection from his own acts of cruel violence (much like a Mafia protection racket) but the book still goes out of its way to explain the innate goodness of the acts of this immortal ‘provider’. The assumption that every word of this dreadful story is the literal truth is crass beyond belief. Genesis is not a challenge to the perceived or accepted origins of our universe because we do not know what they are yet. Anyone who claims to know that answer is either deluded, a liar, or both. It cannot even be claimed to be an accurate examination of the culture at the time and is proof of nothing more than the people who wrote it had developed to the stage of using a written language (something which the Egyptians had achieved several millennia before hand). Genesis, and the rest of the bible, does little more than attempt to arrest human development by discouraging natural curiosity in the provision of a flimsy answer which does not stand up to scrutiny. It achieves little more than the flattery of human arrogance by granting our short lives some specific significance in some cosmic plan.