An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Genesis 1

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on November 28, 2007


Nothing, total blackness, zilch.

Here we are, probably the most famous opening sentence of all time. There was nothing and the, BOOM, suddenly there was something.

The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Except that there wasn’t nothing was there? There was obviously god, otherwise he couldn’t have done very much creating. Oh, and if you’re a Douglas Adams fan you’ll know that there was also the “Big Bang Burger Bar” floating around somewhere, casually flipping back and forth across the moment of creation.

So we’ve got nothing, and god. Damn, he must have been bored. Alright, so the universe didn’t exist so there was no time to speak of, so presumably time couldn’t drag on but still, eternity in nothingness with not even a dodgy Dan Brown novel for company. Not so exciting.

There are just so many questions left hanging here it’s unbelievable, and (not to spoil the plot or anything) they never get answered! That’s right, the rest of the book just skips the big issues such as:

– Where exactly did god live before he created the heavens?

It seems rather odd to just assume that god existed in a complete vacuum before he decided to create the universe but I have yet to see a satisfactory answer as to what was there before.

– Who created god?

If the universe is so complicated that it must have been created then surely it’s creator is pretty complex too, so where did he/she/it come from?

Of course it doesn’t actually say that god created the universe, just that he created the heavens and the earth. It’s possible this refers only to the actual planet Earth and the atmosphere he wrapped around it which enables us to look out into the rest of space. Would that be less impressive? Probably, from an overall point of view, but if you told me you could create a planet I’d still be impressed. Perhaps god was some sort of extra-terrestrial terra-former?

2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening, and there was morning— the first day.

So after creating the universe he nipped down to earth and found that it was a bit dark, so he created light. This of course begs the question of what all the other stars in the universe were emitting before god ‘invented’ light.

Of course if he only created the earth then the light was already in place so why didn’t he just come back during the daytime, or possibly nip round to the other side of the planet where it was probably light. Even with no moon there is still a decent amount of starlight, so either way you look at this one the idea of god creating light just doesn’t make any sense.

Then we have the statement that light is good so it must be separated from darkness, implying darkness is bad! Pretty sure god would be up in court for inciting racial hatred if he did something similar today.

6 And God said, Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.
7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.
8 God called the expanse sky. And there was evening, and there was morning— the second day.

So according to this there is water (the sea), then above that there is sky (OK so far), then above that we have more water, since the sky was only put there to separate the water. No mention of anything else, even things that must have been reasonably obvious at the time, such as the moon. Obviously there is water vapour up in the atmosphere, or we wouldn’t have a great deal of weather (not of the wet variety anyway) and perhaps I’m just being picky saying that that counts as the sky anyway, after all science wasn’t so advanced at the time, so let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the author of genesis (wait, isn’t that ultimately god the infallible?) made an omission and forgot to mention all the things beyone the water in (above) the sky.

9 And God said, Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear. And it was so.
10 God called the dry ground land, and the gathered waters he called seas. And God saw that it was good.

Now it appears that to start with the Earth was covered in water (since the spirit of god hovered over the deep etc.) and god decided to gather the water in one place, thus exposing the land.

There is one minor flaw with this … if you moved all the water to one side to expose the land you would also have to raise up the land, otherwise the water would either go flooding back into the gap or you would be left with a rather improbably tower of water with nothing holding it in place.

Obviously another minor omission. I’m sure it meant to say that god raised the sea-bed, displacing the water and creating land.

11 Then God said, Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so.
12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
13 And there was evening, and there was morning— the third day.

So far so good, we’ve got spontaneous vegetation, all growing out of what was, until half an hour beforehand, the sea-bed.

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,
15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so.
16 God made two great lights— the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.
17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth,
18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Didn’t we already cover creation of light? Or was that some great cosmic torch (flashlight to our American friends). If that’s the case what on earth was he doing fumbling around in the dark, with a torch when he could have just created the sun?

And surely the sun and the moon would be part of the rest of the universe which he either created on the first day or isn’t mentioned anywhere?

19 And there was evening, and there was morning— the fourth day.

You know I’d always been told that god rested on the seventh day, but he does seem to be sleeping at nights, even, strangely enough, before he’d acrtually created night and day.

20 And God said, Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.
21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
22 God blessed them and said, Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.
23 And there was evening, and there was morning— the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so.
25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

And here comes a whole can of worms for evolutionary scientists to deal with. This passage has got to be in the top 10 most troublesome bible quotes. Creationists and intelligent designers (oh, wait, they’re not religious are they, so we should include it in the science curriculum at school) seize on these six small verses as actual ‘evidence’ that god did indeed create life and it didn’t evolve at all. In fact not only did he create life but he created it fully formed in all it’s varieties.

I guess they missed out verse 25a, which must mention something about burying fake fossil records to confuse future biologists, paleontologists and the like.

26 Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

It’s always good to know that we’re more important than everything else. Now I know it’s OK to hunt to extinction or eradicate the rainforests in the name of progress because they’re only put there for our convenience anyway.

Perhaps the author could also have mentioned what we should do when we’ve used everything up?

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Wait, don’t I remember something about Eve, the first woman, being created from Adam’s rib? I guess we’ll get to that bit later.

28God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

“Fill the earth and subdue it” … suddenly politics and big business makes a lot more sense. The author probably thought it would be confusing to write “dump nuclear waste with a half-life of tens of thousands of years where it will kill many animals, pollute the seas, create vast slicks of oil to obliterate birds and animals along entire seaboards”. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

You know, I’m starting to get the impression that, had god been a human, we wouldn’t find him chained to a tree protesting the local bypass. I’m pretty sure he’d be driving some heavy machinery with a bumper sticker saying “Smite is right”.

29 Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground— everything that has the breath of life in it— I give every green plant for food. And it was so.

As god had only just created man I’m sure he must have known that diets high in meat content are likely to cause heart disease and cancers. It’s nice that he’s equal opportunity though – we can eat the common cow and the rare Bengal tiger with equal good conscience. At least there’s nothing here equating to halal killings, we should be thankful for small mercies.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning— the sixth day.

No three day weeks for god! It must be time for a cold beer by now.


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