Adam and Eve
There is an atheist Adam and Eve meme going around that I replied to on Facebook.
"According to Genesis we all come from Adam and Eve, who had three sons. Think about that. Take all the time you need."
Sometimes the wording is different, but the message is the same: incest humour aimed at Christians and other religious. Of course it’s directed at Christians more than, for example, Jews, because Jews do not hold and treat Scripture as exclusively and literally as Christians - especially conservative Christians - are apt to do. For Jewish theology and practice Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) is but one of a stream of theology that also includes Talmudic tradition and rabbinic commentary. There is a lot of commentary in Judaism. In some Jewish tradition Adam had a wife, Lilith, before Eve. Adam had two wives, not one. Eve was his second wife. I’d bet that the writers of this meme don’t know that.
The Genesis Creation story is less about HOW creation occurred than it is about WHO created. To read it the other way round is to miss the point of it. Furthermore, “Adam” and “Eve” are not historical, individual people, which is obvious when you read the scriptures in Hebrew. Jews know this better than Christians because Jews continue reading the Old Testament in something approximate to its original language. ‘Christians’ who read the story literally as the story of a single historical family are heretics. They are worshipping scripture as an idol instead of the deity who lives behind it and inspires it, and reveals Himself through it. They are abrogating their moral obligation to be intelligent. They are thinking, speaking and preaching falsely. It is a gross misuse of scripture - scripture is not an encyclopedia, a go-to Book of Answers. It is more like a window. It is an equally gross misuse of scripture for atheists to mock a literal interpretation of it, because they are mocking a straw man (an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument). In that regard atheists are equally abhorrent as fundamentalist literalists.
I just finished reading Genesis for the umpteenth time last week. Then I breezed through Exodus once more, and now I’m entrenched in the offering protocols of Leviticus again. For many the Bible is dead boring. But not for me because I dig the flow and structure of the story-telling. This is an advantage of the Bible over other scriptures, like the Koran, the Tao te Ching, the Upanishads, etc. The Koran - which is a fine book easily read in just a few days - is a collection of quotations that are not assembled into a narrative story the way the Bible is. I think that’s a great advantage of the Bible over other religious writings and other religions’ scriptures.
Contradiction, inconsistency or apparent incompatibility do not disqualify religious belief.
Fools say there is no God. Religious belief is intelligent and rational. It corresponds to and reflects a universal, timeless and continuously unfolding experience of divinity. The experience is real because the divinity is real - I mean it’s not a hallucination, or a delusion, or a malicious conspiracy. The best education for a Christian is synonymous with the best education, period, and faith is not served either by ignorance or stupidity. So belief in the Big Bang, the Geologic Age of the Earth, the Theory of Evolution of Species through Natural Selection, are as Christian as the Theory of Gravity, the Germ Theory of Disease, the Atomic Theory of Matter, and Psychoanalysis. They are not incompatible with a life of religious faith. And, if it turns out that there is life on other planets – either bacterial life or mature, intelligent species - those would equally not be incompatible with a religiously faithful human life. Contradiction, or apparent incompatibility do not disqualify religious belief. Instead, we must be imaginative enough to reconcile the anomalies of existence. Hang-ups about Adam and Eve and their three sons as the origin of all of current humanity are wrong, uninformed, ridiculous, unproductive and terribly misleading.
To be legitimate religion has to satisfy three minimum requirements: 1) it’s voluntary; 2) it’s private; and, 3) it occupies one’s free time.
But I could be wrong.