Atheist Bible Study – The Second Creation Story

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2007 at 5:54 am

One of the things I found out in reading Genesis, was that there are actually two creation stories. The first thing I noticed about the second one is that it seems to be written in a completely different style. It is almost as if the two stories were written by different people, and were sort of “glued” together to form the beginning of Genesis.

The second story does not follow the “7 days” approach to creation of the world, but instead quickly goes through the creation of the earth and the heavens, the animals and plants, and creation of Adam from the “dust of the ground”. He also does the trick of making Eve our of Adam’s rib. No messing about here, as the point of this story seems to be what happens AFTER creation.

Once man and woman are created in the Garden (naked mind you, this will be important later), the “serpent” shows up. It also tells us that God made the serpent. The serpent tells us that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from a particular tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So I’m going to assume that Adam and Eve do NOT know the difference between good and evil at this point. So the snake tempts Eve and she eats the fruit. So my first question is… how is Eve “tempted”? I mean, she has no idea what is ‘good’ or ‘evil’. In fact, here we see something that seems to conflict.. The bible says…

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

So wait. She doesn’t know what is good, but she can see that it’s “good” for food, and that it is a “delight” to the eyes? Isn’t that seeing the difference between good and evil? Let’s take an apple for instance. We KNOW that an apple is pleasing to the eyes, and tastes good. In fact, BECAUSE an apple tastes good, we find images of apples pleasing. If we had no idea if an apple was good for you, or poison, we would have no opinion about the “goodness” or “badness” of an apple, the exact same state that Adam and Eve find themselves. They have no idea if eating the apple is a good thing or a bad thing. They know that God told them not too.. but how do they know God is good? How do they know the snake is evil? The point I’m trying to make here is that Adam and Eve cannot be held responsible for eating the fruit. If God doesn’t give them the knowledge of good and evil, then they would not know how to behave at all. They wouldn’t know who to believe or not believe. So, whose fault is it? Sounds to me like God can take the blame here, or maybe the snake… but God created the snake… it says so right in the scripture:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal hat the Lord God had made.

I guess the question becomes, is “crafty” a good thing or a evil thing? Why would God make such a crafty creature? Why would God create beings that cannot know the difference between right and wrong and then tell them NOT to do something? It seems like entrapment to me.

So anyway, Eve eats the fruit, then gives it to Adam who eats it as well. Then God gets all pissed (did he not know this was going to happen?) and throws them out of the garden. He also curses the snake and tells it “upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat”. This is plain weird, as I have no idea why snakes should eat “dust”. As far as I know, they don’t do that.

He also gives women pain in childbirth (could they have children painlessly before this?), and kicks them out of the garden otherwise they might now “eat from the tree of life and live forever”.

Is God worried man will become as powerful as God if he lives forever? How can God be worried, isn’t he all powerful and all knowing?

Another curious notion is that Adam and Eve now suddenly realize that they are “naked” and they are ashamed and hide from God. Why is nakedness so important?

Now, during all of this, I haven’t even mentioned the biggest question I have about this story. I can sum it up like this; Do you really believe this happened? But this is really most atheist’s biggest problem with the Bible in general. We just don’t believe that this stuff happened the way it is described. I hope that all of posts don’t devolve into this, but so far it’s not looking good. The next stories I’ll be writing about are the Cain and Able story and then it’ll be on to Noah and the Flood.

So, Christians, do you REALLY believe this stuff actually happened? Is this a huge parable or metaphor for something else? If so, I’d sure like to know what, as it seems fairly obfuscated.

  1. Aha! Finally! I’ve been waiting for you to continue with Genesis.

    I’ve written a character study of Eve, which I think any woman can relate to and any man who’s loved a woman can understand. See here.

    I also wrote my thoughts about where evil may come from here.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to truth in the scripture, and anything else for that matter.

    I’ve been finding lately that bits of truth can be found in the most unusual and unlikely places. The wonderful thing about truth is that the more you dig, the more you find… But it doesn’t come without a price of being willing to be open and vulnerable, which seems to be very difficult for most people.

  2. Linda’s language or word choice might be off-putting, but there is truth in what she says. 😉

    With regards to the “new atheism” movement, it is mostly reactionary to fundamentalistic Christians, so I don’t think you are necessarily interested in other perspectives.

    Mainline churches typically have educated clergy. They know the Bible isn’t a literalistic account. I see such churches with fundamentalists in the congregation though. Getting fundamentalistic memes out of someone’s head, is extremely difficult. And you rather want them taught by an educated theologian than an uneducated fundamentalist. So all the flak that the moderates have been getting? I think that’s because the atheists don’t like to look at the role that they play in contributing to the misunderstanding. Just thank your lucky stars (grin) you don’t have the unenviable job of trying to get mindless zealots to start thinking. Uhm, no offence meant.

    For progress, rather than attack their beliefs, show them how the good of their beliefs can be kept, without having to be literalistic. Offensive action only reinforces the defences of the Christian meme-complex. You gotta coax out the good, you gotta show them they can keep their “God” without having to believe in the supernatural. That is the way out. And I’m speaking from experience… (Sure, not everyone has the same path, but anyway. I intend to prove my theory.)

  3. Linda, I like your thinking. I know what you mean, and I do agree. But it is likely that atheists do not understand your language. Christianity and Atheism are two different languages, and I think very few people are able to translate. I think people typically don’t realise this because their thinking is defined in terms of boxes.

  4. There are so many questions in your Creation “Bible Study” it kind of overwhelmed me…and really, it didn’t seem worth jumping in, since I can’t help feeling a little condescension. Although, I have been known to be morbidly sensitive 🙂 (just ask my bud, Linda)

    I have to wonder if there is much sense in reasoning with even a ‘reasonable’ athiest? Does that mean that if someone could explain the GOD, Who claims to have spoken everything into existence and created an entire universe and everything in it out of nothing…in a reasonable way…to your satisfaction…there’s a chance you might believe it?

    Your last question, however is the one that moved me to leave a comment.(after I looked up the word obfuscated, of course)

    “So, Christians, do you REALLY believe this stuff actually happened? Is this a huge parable or metaphor for something else? If so, I’d sure like to know what, as it seems fairly obfuscated.”

    Yes, I believe absolutely that it happened. What God in Jesus Christ did makes no sense without the horrific shift of creation He came to undo. I don’t want to argue, because we can’t. You see a fable…an unbelievable fairy tale, because it doesn’t make sense to you. I see His love, because He’s revealed it…personally and intimately.

    You see an arrogant tyrant, who plays games with his little humans, luring them and then dropping the hammer on them. I see a world bursting with life, preparing for the reason for creation itself. Made in His image,I don’t think our human mind can even comprehend the magnificance of the first man and woman as God created them to be. I see a Father, who is not meting out punishment for their choice, (and there had to be a choice or they would be mere puppets) but an announcement of what their choice has produced. (Like when we tell our kids, don’t touch the stove, it will burn you. They do and it does)

    You see a God who is p*ssed off and kicks them out. I see a God Who is Life itself..the very source of life, whose creation just embraced a lie that they could live independent of that source of life. To allow them to live in that un-life state of death forever would be a hell of chasing an elusive satifaction that they would never grasp without HIM. That would be cruel, so even in what we know as the “curses” there is mercy as it drives His creation back to Him…back to life.

    We could go back and forth, verse by verse, but…you’d see it from your perspective and I’d see it from mine. All I know is three awful “energies” (for lack of a better word or the “right” word)fear, shame and guilt, came in like a tsunami. There is no religious talk at the beginning…no fear, no guilt, no shame. Just two human beings who knew they were loved by their Creator. No analyzing, and agonizing. They simply were. Suddenly, they’re afraid, and they realize they’re naked. They having probably what’s known as the first anxiety attack.

    Yes, this all makes sense to me…as much as it needs to…it answer lots of questions in my own life, which had it’s own twist on those awful un-life “energies”. Although we’ve reduced Jesus Christ into some silly little “good people” club, the most powerful truth on earth is this; Jesus, God in human form, says this; “I have come that you might have life.” He didn’t come to make “bad people” good. He came to make dead people alive! And this only makes sense to people who know they were dead.

  5. Hugo,

    I think what you’re saying is very refreshing. South Africa, eh? Thank you for your encouragement. Speaking of boxes, have you read my post on Freedom in Thought?

    And do you intend to prove your theory on this blog? I don’t want to miss it. 🙂

  6. Melanie,

    Well said. Makes sense to me! 🙂

  7. I remember when my brother, a self proclaimed agnostic challenged me on certain parts of the bible including these chapters in Genesis. So intent was I on convincing him the bible was literally true, that I began my own intensive study. And what I found was that I could not honestly hold to a fundamentalist point of view. In fact, I questioned to the extent that I wondered if Christianity was true at all. But I came to the conclusion it was true. And I admit Anglican Bishop Tom Wright (NT Wright) was a big influence. Because whatever the author of this site or readers might think, I do not believe Christianity would exist if Jesus followers did not firmly believe (even if delusional and that is questionable) that he was raised from the dead. But I would like to point out that the thought of Christianity being false really did turn my world upside down. I mean, sometimes I don’t think Atheists realize how much the religious have vested in their God. And I think it is wrong to conclude that all people would still choose morality. Nor is this a denial of Atheist morality. It is just that people can come to fundamentally different conclusions.
    The following website
    has a good explanation of Ancient vs. Modern perceptions of the World. In other words the ancient world had a world view of myth and magic while the modern world has one of naturalism and positivism.
    Sociologist Rodney Stark also offers a good survey of religious history in his book “Discovering God”. In this book he appropriately asks, why did so many major religions suddenly appear? And what are the grounds for divine inspiration?
    Also, consider the difference in the conclusions of the church fathers.
    St. Augustine said:
    Adam and Eve originally lived in a state of pristine
    perfection, in a world that was paradise
    They sinned, corrupting their nature (which they
    bequeathed to us), leading to the appearance of evil
    St. Irenaeus said:
    Adam and Eve were created innocent, but imperfect and
    immature, in a world designed for soul-making.
    Soul-making is a creative, arduous task of maturing and
    growing into perfect spiritual moral beings, and that
    involves choosing between our selfish interests and those
    of Others, between our selfish interests and God, between
    good and evil. The possibility we will choose evil
    sometimes is inevitable.
    So, in conclusion, do I believe the Genesis Account could be legitimate Jewish Oral History? Yes
    Do I believe Earth was created in 6 literal days? No, Genesis was written in the language of myth and magic.
    Which of the above church fathers explained the situation best? In my opinion St. Irenaeus.
    Amazing how some passages of scripture can absorb our attention isn’t it?
    Thank You for reading.

  8. As to what you asked at the last part of your blog- the answer is yes. We christians (practice ones that is) do believe these stories.

    I understand what you mean by how Adam and Eve wouldnt know about “good and evil” but I thought of something..think of Adam and Eve as little children, children are innocoent they do not know that it isnt customary to walk around without any clothes on, they don’t know that fire can hurt them, nor do they know that its bad to walk in the street where cars can run them over. This is the way Adam and Eve probaly where children who do not know of good and evil.

    Now about the appealing fruit, don’t children ever find something appealing? They look at fire and they want to touch it, they look at a street and want to go stand in it. To a child these things can look good, appealing. You might say “well what about them being responsible for not knowing the difference between good and evil” well personally I think even though kids don’t have any knoweledge about right and wrong they do understand commands of not to do something, Adam and Eve didn’t eat from the tree because they knew it was wrong but yet they didn’t eat from it (at first) because they had been told not to by the person who created them.

    Just out of curiosity if you’re an atheist why are you reading the bible?

  9. Because I told him to. He talks about it in the blog. My husband has a tendency to want to talk about folks who criticize books they haven’t read- so I pointed out to him he had been doing the same thing with the Bible. You really can’t be judgmental about something you haven’t read all the way through. BTW, if you are a Christian, why are you reading an atheist blog?- Not being a smart aleck, I really want to know.

  10. Read the story of the Serpent and Eve carefully and you will see that it is God who lied and the Serpent confirms the truth, and God openly states this in the Scripture. This definitively shoots down Original Sin.

  11. I recently discovered your blog and I just wanted to tell you that I am impressed. I, too, am an ex-Methodist, though I consider myself to be an agnostic rather than completely atheist. Anyway, you and the people who comment on your blog have inspired me to re-read (or, in the case of the less famous parts of the book, just read) and analyze the Bible again from a non-religious perspective. I will certainly be following your comments on it.

  12. It is this and many other Bible and Quran passages that have caused me to reject Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. If this were a true account of God, God would have to be either insane or evil or both. I prefer to assume that the Bible and Quran are corrupted and remain agnostic on the existence of God.

    However, corrupted or not, the Bible tell us something about people who believe in it as literal truth: if you believe in a world ruled by an insane or evil God, that says something about you.

  13. I understand what you mean by how Adam and Eve wouldnt know about “good and evil” but I thought of something..think of Adam and Eve as little children, children are innocoent they do not know that it isnt customary to walk around without any clothes on, they don’t know that fire can hurt them, nor do they know that its bad to walk in the street where cars can run them over. This is the way Adam and Eve probaly where children who do not know of good and evil.”

    Yes, but if they are like children, you know that children do not know much. And act on trial and error, learn from mistakes, so God being so High and Mighty, all knowing and powerful, making them this way, wouldn’t he forgive them? Knowing that they were innocent like children, its only something like that a child would do. I don’t think that makes much sense. Isn’t forgiveness a big part of Christianity too? Or just with life in general?

  14. I think it might be more helpful to your project to make use of “The Quest Study Bible” published by Zondervan. It is designed with answers to typical questions about each passage printed alongside those passages (e.g., there is a discussion of “How technical is this description of creation?” alongside Gen. 1-2). This would address many of your initial questions; then you could limit blog discussion to more obscure questions that have not been repeatedly answered in the scholarly literature. (The only problem is that the Quest Study Bible is only in NIV translation, but you could read NRSV along with it for comparison). Just a friendly suggestion 🙂

  15. Probably not going to do any good as starting at the point I am jumping in at tends to cause arguments to run in circles but I will give it a shot:

    First, Good = what we experience in God’s presence. We are created a certain way and when we live within that creation we experience Joy, Justice, etc.

    Evil (Bad) = void of God. This happens when we turn our backs to God, reject God entirely (which many atheists claim but not realizing it, do not do), etc. We are created a certain way and when we step outside of how we were created we experience “bad” things. (I am not created to fly on my own, if I tried I could be seriously injured).

    Secondly, nakedness isn’t important, shame is the important part. When Adam and Eve lived within their restrictions they experienced no shame in anything they did (yes, even sex, etc.). When they ate the forbidden fruit they experienced shame. They knew they had turned their backs on God and created a void (without God = Bad/Evil). They tried to hide themselves because they felt what it was like to be outside of the restrictions God intended.

    It is like doing something you know you shouldn’t do, nobody catches you doing it, but you still live with that guilt and it eats you up. God does not want this to happen. He gave us free will so we can truly experience his love. However, in our free will we do fail. This is why we need Christ Jesus!

    Remember, restrictions are not bad things always. I live in “the land of the free” but there are restrictions on me for sure. These restrictions usually allow us to be truly free (this definition of freedom is not doing whatever you want whenever you want like many in our society believe is “true” freedom).

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