Sunday, July 20, 2014

RYBS: God, Afraid?

Read Your Bible Series - Week Eleven

God, Afraid?

Genesis 11: 1-9

If we take the Bible at it's word, then there would most assuredly be emotions that an all-powerful supreme being could never feel.  Jealousy, for example.  With there being just the one true god in existence, there simply cannot be any physical way that god could feel that emotion.  How about desire?  For a being this powerful, desire seems downright laughable - if it wasn't so logically unfeasible.

But if you believe that god could never be afraid, the Bible tells us that you'd be wrong.

Take, for example, one of the more popular stories in Genesis, the city of Babel.  The story begins in Genesis 11:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, "Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
The first portion of this story makes complete sense if you remember that Noah had just finished saving himself, his family, and a select few of the billions of species that had once inhabited the Earth, from God's wrath against humanity.  And he saved them all with a magic wooden boat.

After wiping the Earth clean with water, God instructed Noah and his family to go and do what humans LOVE to do - be fruitful and multiply.  Now, why these descendants of Noah were afraid they would be scattered all over the face of the Earth is not clear, but by golly they knew they needed to build a city with really, REALLY tall tower.

God should be proud of his chosen ones, right?  Let's see:
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel - because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Since these people went to all this trouble so many years ago, we should probably try to put all of this in perspective.  The best that these poor saps could muster would have been just under 500 feet or so.  That's roughly one and one-half of a football field, straight up.  As impressive as that sounds, to our standards that's so short it's almost adorable.  Modern architecture has reached heights of over five times that, with the Burj Khalifa reaching heights of 2,722 feet above sea level.  Judging by those astronomical heights, god should be huddled in a holy corner shaking in his celestial sandals.

Okay, let's not bother with the obvious question of why god needed to descend from - wherever - to the plains of Shinar to see the tower that these budding new engineers were building.  To me, the biggest, most glaring question about this is, what could humanity ever do that would scare an omnipotent being to do such a thing?  These poor people were just doing what humans do best - they were practicing their ingenuity and engineering a fancy new high-rise.  Good for them!

And what's all this "us" nonsense from god?  Are we to believe that the god of the Universe needs the unscrupulous equivalent of a depraved bathroom buddy?  If you're going to curse humanity like this, then you shouldn't need a rotten little toady to keep you on task.  Sheesh, don't be a sissy and do it yourself!

Besides, what kind of message is this?  The minute people begin to work together to build something awe inspiring, you curse them with confusion?  Is the message of the almighty really supposed to be so anti-intellectual?

Or perhaps, just perhaps... the message here is something that the authors never really intended to convey.  Perhaps the message that our society should recognize is that someday, given enough time of course, humanity will finally figure out that the belief in the supernatural is no longer necessary.  Perhaps even they were unconsciously aware that humanity might reach a point that was once thought to be impossible: our species will eventually evolve beyond the necessity of a maker and free themselves of the restrictions that a maker creates.  Why else would someone write a story about a god that was afraid of technological advancement?

And one last thing - did you notice that the poor saps got scattered all over the Earth anyway?  Talk about tragic!

Stories like these should give us all pause, as by the very nature of the anti-intellectual messages they express, they cultivate an adherence against what makes us all human - our insatiable quest for knowledge.  And how could a being that created us ever want that?

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