An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Archive for December, 2007

Yuletide break

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on December 18, 2007

A quick note to say that I’ll be taking a break over the christmas period to spend time with family.

I may be a godless heathen but I’m not a heartless godless heathen (why does that bring to mind George Clooney’s line at the end of “Dusk to Dawn” – “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.”)

There may be one or two posts in that time but failing that I’ll be back the second week in January.

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Genesis 8

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on December 17, 2007

1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

You’d damn well hope that he remembered him, I mean who put Noah in that situation in the first place? Here it’s made to sound like god was doing him a favour by remembering that he’d killed every person on earth except for eight of them, and those eight were cooped up with thousands of animals in a confined space.

(Incidentally, I wonder how many species we lost because they were eaten by the lions, or a mammoth sat on them?)

2 Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.
3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down,
4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.
5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.
6 After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark

Opened the window?

Opened the window?

You mean to tell me they’d been stuck inside this ark with no fresh air for 40 days, plus 150 days (to the 17th June) plus 105 days up to 1st October. 245 days in a confined space with that stench. Is it even possible to survive that? And how did they dispose of the waste?

7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.
8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.
9 But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.
10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark.
11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.
12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

I do wonder what the purpose of the raven was here. If I was overly cynical I might think there were some racial undertones here but I’m sure that’s not it at all. In any case the dove gets a number of chances to find land and, sensibly, buggers off at the first available opportunity, probably to escape the stench of life on board the ark.

13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry.

It seems it’s a lot easier to flood the earth than it is to drain it. I wonder where all that excess water is going?

14 By the twenty- seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.
15 Then God said to Noah,
16 Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.
17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you— the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground— so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.
18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.
19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds— everything that moves on the earth— came out of the ark, one kind after another.

Form a line please, nice orderly fashion.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

So Noah burned some of god’s pets, and god was happy because he realised he didn’t have to burn them himself in future. Good news for the unclean animals though.

(Isn’t killing small animals one of the early signs of a serial killer?)

In fairness it doesn’t say god asked for this, just that he was happy about it when Noah went ahead and did it anyway.

22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

Well, erm, duh. So as long as the earth is around there will be seasonal and diurnal cycles. I’m not sure we needed god to tell us that.

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Genesis 7

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on December 10, 2007

1 The LORD then said to Noah, Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.

Were they really the only ones that qualified here? If this is the case does it not mean that we all trace our bloodlines back to Noah, his wife and his three daughters in law? Adam end Eve would surely become a little irrelevant now with this sort of convergence?

2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate,
3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.

This is a little like one of those old Saturday morning cinema sequels (a la Flash Gordon or Rocket Man) where the hero died a tragic death at the end of one episode and at the beginning of the next, the following week, they showed a slightly different version of events to recap, where the hero magically got his cigarette lighter out and burned through his bonds to parachute to his escape before the plane crashed into the mountain.

Why does he have to take seven of some animals now? It doesn’t say if it’s seven animals or seven pairs but at this point it’s a little irrelevant as we haven’t yet been told what a “clean” animal is. For that we have to flash forwards to Leviticus where we find that it’s a cloven hooved animal that chews the cud, which does restrict the numbers somewhat.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that Genesis defenders often maintain that there were not that many species around at the time, suggesting that since, for example, horses and zebras come from the same ancestor, that we only need to count about 8000 species.

Apart from the fact that over 16,000 animals is a hell of a lot for eight people to look after for a month and a half that argument si rather self-defeating, as by using it they are admitting that all the animals were not created “in the beginning” and named by Adam.

4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.

Tabula Rasa, with only Noah’s innocent family and all those innocent animals (that haven’t eaten from the tree of knowledge) surviving.

5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

Now we’re done with the recap. That’s where genesis 6 finished.

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth.

Since Noah had the kids around 500, they would be around 100 by now. You would have thought they might have some kids themselves?

7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.
8 Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground,
9 male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.
10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month— on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

That is very specific. Obviously we’ve skipped the bit about somebody inventing the calendar.

12 And rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights.
13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark.
14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings.
15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.
16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.
17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth.

Just in case you weren’t clear what’s happening that was another recap.

18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.

As arks are wont to do. We have to give Noah some credit here. There’s nothing to suggest he’d built anything like this before, and almost certainly not on this scale, yet he managed it with only the sketchiest of instructions from god.

19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered.
20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.

Mt. Everest is 20,035 feet, meaning the water was 20,055 feet above normal sea level. Considering we talk in terms of inches for sea-level rises associated with global warming that’s a huge volume of water. In fact, let’s calculate that.

The volume of the earth is 1.0832 x 1021m3.
20,055ft = 6113m
Equatorial radius of earth + water = 6,378,135 + 6113 = 6,384,248
Polar radius of earth + water = 6,356,750 + 6113 = 6,362,863

Using the same formula used in that link for the volume of the earth plus the water at that height, we have an equatorial radius of 6,378,135m and a polar radius of 6,356,750m we get a volume of 1086327265578564090274.1622957933m3, or 1.0863 x 1021m3.

That leaves a volume of water of 3.1 x 1018m3.

Now that might seem like not so much compared to the volume of the earth, but to put it another way it is 3,100,000,000,000,000,000, or 3.1 billion billion, or 3.1 quintillion square metres of water.

So how much water do we have on earth?

According to here, which states :

“Water is not only fascinating, but it is also one of the most important and ubiquitous substances on Earth. There are 1.3 × 109 km3 of water in the oceans, 3.3 × 107 km3 in the polar ice caps, 2 × 105 km3 in glaciers, 105 km3 in lakes, and 1.2 × 103 km3 in rivers. In addition, 2.2 × 105 km3 of water fall annually as precipitation.”

We have 33 × 106 km3 of water floating around the earth in various forms, that leaves us with a shortfall of 3.067 x 1018m3, or 93 times the total amount of water that exists on the earth.

To quote this by depth (of 6113m over 40 days) gives you an average daily rainfall of 152.82m.

Hmm …

21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished— birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.
22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.
23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

Not entirely surprising with that amount of water, although I would have expected a waterbound creatures to get through it. This also assumes that Noah took all the sea and freshwater life with him on the ark, making for one huge aquarium – more work for those 8 people and a pretty big tank for that pair of blue whales.

24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

And then this amount of water magically evaporated?

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Genesis 6

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on December 7, 2007

The Flood

1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,
2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

It’s rather unclear here exactly who “the sons of god” are. The general assumption seems to be that they are angels although, like so many other things in this book that is the basis of all christian belief, it’s not clarified, and not even really mentioned again. Whoever they were though it seems like they had very human traits – nipping down to earth and bedding the best looking women.

And you thought that sort of thing was reserved for false gods like Zeus and Odin!

But really, you’d think the sons of god had better self control than that. I guess they’d been eating from the same tree as Adam. One thing that does seem fairly clear here is that god has no daughters, only sons. Another example of religious misogyny.

The phrase “they married any of them they chose” is rather interesting too. It does tend to imply that “the daughters of men” didn’t have much choice in the matter.

So basically, we have god’s angels popping down to earth to mate with any women they feel like. Bunch of rapists.

3 Then the LORD said, My Spirit will not contend with man for ever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.

And of course god chooses to get upset with mankind about this, or perhaps this is just a huge non sequitur, it’s really not clear. Anyway, god’s fed up with fighting against man and decides to limit his lifespan to 120 years. Still not a bad innings and I’ll be quite happy if I make it that far. I can only assume that at some point he reduces it even further since the average lifespan until very recently was around the 30 year mark.

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days— and also afterwards— when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

If the “sons of god” are angels then the Nephelim are the children of angels. Nephilim in a number of cases is translated as giants, and it’s not the only mention of giants in the bible.

I wonder why we’ve never dug up any giant Nephilim bones? Or have we? (Note, before you click on that link you should know the full URL is http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/giants.htm)

5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
7 So the LORD said, I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth— men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air— for I am grieved that I have made them.

God’s sons nip down to earth for a bit of rape and pillage, begetting an entire race in the process, but god’s only pissed off with man for … what, precisely? It certainly makes no mention of it here. So far we’ve had a couple of murders in what seems to be several hundred years. Not a bad crime rate really.

8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.

I wonder what he did?

9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

So did Job, but we’ll get to him later on.

10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.
12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.
13 So God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

Wouldn’t this be akin to (although significantly more extreme than) Bill Gates ringing me up and telling me that Microsoft Office had got so bloated and buggy that he was going to scrap it and rewrite it from scratch? Noah is so far below the level of supreme being that you have to wonder why god really gives a toss.

14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.
15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.
16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.

And Noah said unto god, “listen mate, I’m not a boatbuilder, I’m going to need more than a few vague instructions if I’m going to put together something that floats. Preferably a blueprint and a B&Q* discount card.”

And god chose to ignore Noah’s facetiousness and continued with his rant.

17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.
18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark— you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.

Assuming that all his sons are married that’s 8 people.

19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.
20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.

“What, even the skunk,” asked Noah.
“Just do what you’re told,” said god, smiting a nearby tree with a bolt of lightning to make his point.

I don’t like to even think about how many species there are, but the suggestion is that there are about 1.8 million. Let’s be generous and assume that insects weren’t included and as they make up 2/3 of that number that takes us to about 0.6 million species (and presumably there were more in those days since we’ve had a few extinctions since then).

So we’ve got a boat, 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, housing 8 people that between them have to look after 1.2 million animals (two of each remember). What is this, the T.A.R.D.I.S? Even ignoring issues of space and how much weight a boat like that can carry we can add the fact that Noah and family are going to get mighty fed up with shovelling crap overboard so that they don’t drown in it!

21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.

Well at least we know they’re not going to starve, although I’d like to know how they fit the food in the pantry when there’s a couple of elephants shagging at the back and the lions are chasing the reindeer around.

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Next time we go on holiday I’m going to get Noah round to pack the car.

* For the non-UK people here B&Q is a large DIY chain of the sort that gets very busy on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else to do.

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Genesis 5

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on December 6, 2007

No real comments on this particular chapter as, let’s face it, it’s rather dull. It really shouldn’t have made the director’s cut, let alone the abridged version!

So we’ll just mention that apparently everybody lived for a rather long time, despite having no public health care, and at the very least the men could father sprogs into old age (there’s no mention of who the mothers were).

Of course the implication of all this is that there was an awful lot of incest going on at this point as people slept with daughters, cousins, nieces, mothers. I guess any knowledge gained from the forbidden fruit didn’t include genetics. Either that or at least a couple of the people mentioned below had webbed feet and twelve fingers.

I have read a defence of this from a christian point of view which suggests that as Adam & Eve were created perfect there were no imperfections to pass on to their children. Imperfections have been introduced over time as genetic copies have degraded in quality.

The problem with that of course is that it admits that people have evolved, rather than being created precisely as we are today. Something that a fundamentalist touting the truth of genesis would likely be extremely reluctant to admit.

From Adam to Noah

1 This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.
2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them man.
3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.
5 Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh.
7 And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters.
8 Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.
9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan.
10 And after he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters.
11 Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.
12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel.
13 And after he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 Altogether, Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.
15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared.
16 And after he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters.
17 Altogether, Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.
18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch.
19 And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah.
22 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.
23 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years.
24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech.
26 And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters.
27 Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son.
29 He named him Noah and said, He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.
30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters.
31 Altogether, Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died.
32 After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

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Genesis 4

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on December 5, 2007

Cain and Abel

1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.

I have to question why this is with the help of the lord, seeing as his main contribution to the process so far has been to make childbirth unbelievably painful for Eve.

2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering,

Already god’s showing favouritism, and to the shepherd no less, depite telling Adam that he and his line would tend the soil for the rest of their days. Obviously we are not all equal in the eyes of god (and, not to give the game away or anything, but this is somewhat of a recurring theme).

5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Well, you would be, wouldn’t you. After all, you spend all day working in the fields, tilling the land and growing food for yourself and your family and who gets all the praise? The guy that sits around in the field and watches sheep!

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.

Not only is god playing favourites but he’s confused as to why it upsets people. Yet another mark against the omniscient theory.

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, Let’s go out to the field. And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the LORD said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel? I don’t know, he replied. Am I my brother’s keeper?
10 The LORD said, What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

Now, again, god seems somewhat surprised that Cain has knocked off Abel despite that fact that he (1) blatantly favoured Abel and (B) by virtue of being cunning/stupid caused Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge int he first place, without which Cain just wouldn’t have been worried about any of this (or, indeed, have had to work in the first place).

11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.

Bit of a common theme here – Cain gets pretty much the same punishment as Adam did for listening to Eve in the first place.

13 Cain said to the LORD, My punishment is more than I can bear.
14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.
15 But the LORD said to him, Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over. Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no-one who found him would kill him.

So Cain is upset because he won’t be in the presence of god? More likely he’s just being sycophantic so that god will provide him some protection. Leaving aside the question of who actually exists to find him at that point (which is explained a little in the next chapter) any other people out there must be related somehow and would therefore be mighty pissed off that their nephew/cousin/son/whatever had been knocked off.

Fortunately ole’ Jehovah’s feeling mighty benevolent today, so he just marks him to make sure everybody knows he killed his brother and tells him that he’ll punish anybody that hurts Cain even more. Nice.

16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
17 Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.

Whoa!! Slow up a little here. Where did she come from? And who lives in the land of Nod? (The sandman, perhaps?)

18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.
20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock.
21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.
22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives, Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.

Well apparantly the Mormons have it right. Bigamy is not a problem, at least not from a religious point of view. I wonder when we were all forced into monogamy? And could the women have more than one husband here? The land of Nod is beginning to look a little like a 60’s free love hippy collective here.

Big family tree, there’s more of that to come. Most of it just as tedious as this. You’d think the editor would have stepped in here and cut a bit to pick up the pace.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.
Lamech’s a sneaky one – he bumps off some unspecified youth (probably picked up a hitch hiker!) and claims that god will avenge himself on anybody who dares take revenge on good old Lameth. No mention as to whether this is actually backed up by god or not.

25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.
26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.

Poor old Adam, the implication seems to be that every time he gets laid another son pops out. It’s worse than being catholic.

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