An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Genesis 9

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 9, 2008

God’s Covenant With Noah

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

A policy echoed by, of course, the catholic church. The more sprogs popped out by his worshippers, the more worshippers there will be, and it will grow exponentially generation by generation. Just as long as the indoctrination process can keep up with the birth rate. Still, I’m sure a few judicious smitings will see to it that the young’uns don’t stray from the path of righteousness.

2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.
3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

We’re more important than everything else and it’s all there just for us. I think this must be why we have so many religious fundamentalists in charge in the western world – they get to sell off natural resources to the highest bidder … sorry, lobbyist … with impunity, because god put everything there for precisely that reason.

Now I’m off to drill for oil in Alaska, if that’s OK.

4 But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

Don’t eat living things, OK, I reckon we can live with this one.

5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

And don’t kill other people, unless they’ve already killed someone, in which case it’s fine. Sounds like a recipe for everybody dead to me as soon as you get the first murder. Somebody kills the murderer, so it’s then alright to kill them, etc. etc. Not sure god really thought that one through.

Then of course there is the fact that he’s already put the first murderer under his own protection with the mark of Cain. How does that fit in with company policy?

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.

Just in case you missed that the first time – get out there and produce some more worhippers.

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
9 I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you
10 and with every living creature that was with you— the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you— every living creature on earth.
11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:
13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
17 So God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.

See, he’s a nice god really. He’s promising not to kill everybody in a massive flood again.

Of course he’s not promising not to kill anybody, just that he’ll use a different method next time.

The Sons of Noah

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)
19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.
21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside.
23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him,
25 he said, Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.
26 He also said, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth, may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.

So one of Noah’s first actions was to start the homebrew and get wasted. Then he gets upset because he’s passed out naked and his son has seen him (though no fault of his own it seems). I can only assume that Noah had a really tiny penis and was extremely embarrassed about having been seen with his tackle out. Condemning an entire race of people to slavery for this would seem to be just a small overreaction though.

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

And good riddance, from what I’ve read of him.

On the plus side if this is an example of a devout holy person that was basically the only human god considered worthy of saving then it would seem there is hope for most of the rest of us come judgement day.

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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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Genesis 3

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on November 30, 2007

The Fall of Man

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?
2 The woman said to the serpent, We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’
4 You will not surely die, the serpent said to the woman.
5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Now I had always been told that the serpent in the garden was Satan himself, disguised as a snake, tempting Eve. Here is a fairly typical argument for that one. Not only is there no mention of the snake being Satan but Satan has not even been introduced as a character yet.

I have to say though – that’s a fair temptation. Eat this apple and you will become a godlike being. Seeing as all god had done was issued a blanket “stay away” command with no explanation is it in the least surprising that Eve fell for this? If you ask me the serpent is far more likely to have been god testing his own creations and letting Satan take the fall for it is just mean.

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Doesn’t seem like Adam needed much persuading though, or was he already under the thumb?

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

OK, now they’ve eaten the fruit, which apparently means they can distinguish good from evil, and their first act is to be ashamed of being naked. Would this not imply that nakedness is evil? I’m sure the Catholics are happy about that but I have to ask: if nakedness is, in fact, evil, then why did god leave them naked in the garden in the first place? Why didn’t he create Armani on the seventh day?

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9 But the LORD God called to the man, Where are you?

This blows the omniscient god theory out of the water – he couldn’t even beat Adam in a simple game of hide and seek!

10 He answered, I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.
11 And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?
12 The man said, The woman you put here with me— she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, What is this you have done? The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

I sense a wrath of god passage approaching …

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

Nice easy scapegoat there – the poor old serpent. If it was Satan disguised as a snake then it’s a bit mean to punish the poor old snake. If it was god that set the whole thing up then it’s even worse as he knows for sure that the snake’s innocent and is just using it to divert attention. If it was indeed just the snake having a bit of a laugh then why try and “interpret” it as meaning something different. Why not just say “snakes are mean and sneaky”?

Of course that would beg the question of why god created an evil creature in the first place. After all everything’s still pretty new here, so all these animals (including Adam and Eve) only have the traits that god gave them. Another pointer to the fact that poor old Eve was set up by god to take the fall for all of mankind. I’m not liking this god chap much so far. He sounds like a bad project manager or management consultant – take the credit when all goes well but when he’s cocked up it’s time to shift the blame to the closest unfortunate.

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

Now this is harsh. Man will suppress woman and woman will basically really bug man. It seems that any relationship issues you may have can be blamed directly on god and his little temper tantrum here. On the other hand Dr. Phil and John Gay (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: How to Get What You Want in Your Relationships) have made a pretty good living off it.

16 To the woman he said, I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

Whoah!! And if you thought he’d been a bit nasty so far here’s a really bad one. I’m now 100% positive genesis was penned by a guy, and a guy that had never been in the same room as a woman in labour at that.

17 To Adam he said, Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

So the moral of this is, what precisely? Don’t listen to your wife? Incidentally it would seem that this is the first time the word wife has been used, although I haven’t noticed god presiding over any ceremonies.

This one really doesn’t make too much sense though. Does it mean that Adam’s not allowed to eat apples, and where does the assumption that it was an apple tree come from? God just calls it the “tree of knowledge” and leaves it at that. It would seem more likely that if Adam’s not allowed to eat this any more then the fruit was something unknown to us which god subsequently destroyed (or left growing in the garden of Eden, from which mankind is shortly to be banned. Oops, sorry, that was a spoiler…)

God obviously wasn’t thinking long term though. I don’t have a lot of painful toil when I nip down to the local shops to get something for dinner. Unless I take the kids with me – that can sometimes be painful.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

Yadda, yadda, work for your food, aha, here we are. Now you are MORTAL! The implication here of course being that previously Adam was going to be around for a pretty long time, but now that god can’t trust him any more (having fallen for god’s sting operation) he’ll now only have a limited time on the earth.

I would imagine by this point Adam’s pretty relieved about this. He’s just been told the cushy life is over. Eve’s going to nag him for the rest of his days, which he’s going to have to spend trying to grow enough food to stay alive. Death will probably come as somewhat of a relief to him.

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

Another implication that the men and women created in genesis 1 don’t seem to exist, as supposedly god created them first. Or are we talking a different race here?

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

I’m really hoping we’re talking about animal skins and some decent sewing skills here, because otherwise, eeeww, it seems to suggest that they didn’t have any skin. I think I’ll just put this one down to poor writing and/or translation so that I don’t have nightmares.

22 And the LORD God said, The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever.

Now this is interesting – “The man has become like one of us”. US !! Who exactly is god talking to here?

There is a word in hebrew – Elohim – which is used in the hebrew version of the bible and would tend to reinforce this concept of plurality. The bible doesn’t seem to make much of it apart from this and I’ve really never heard any christians bring it up.

Should christianity and it’s offshoots be re-classed from monotheism to polytheism? That would confuse an awful lot of people.

23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

I’m beginning to think this garden of Eden lark was some kind of early reality show, along the lines of “Big Brother” or “I’m a celebrity idiot, get me out of here”. I can just see the Elohim sitting around somewhere working out which species to get thrown out of the garden next and devising elaborate ploys so that they can bring about their own downfall.

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Genesis 2

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on November 29, 2007

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Time for that beer at long last.

3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

So god rested on the seventh day. I can’t say I blame him, it sounds like a pretty busy week – I’d have taken the Sunday off too (or would that be Saturday? There always seems to be some confusion over this one, if only he’d mentioned what day he actually began creation we’d be OK).

I would like to know though why that supposedly means that the rest of us aren’t allowed to do anything on the sabbath. Just because god wanted a lie in on the Sunday why can’t I mow the lawn on one of my (two days a week only) days off? Seems a little unfair really and for no good reason.

Adam and Eve

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens—
5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,

So presumably we are talking about the second day, the fourth day and the fifth day, when all life sprang up, with a bit of a break on the third day to sort out night and day. Presumably not having that would have played havoc with circadian rhythms.

And what’s with this “LORD” stuff? Why is the single initial capital letter not suitable for this? It’s really pretty unsubtle and you can imagine god telling his scribes – “Make sure everybody knows I am their lord and master”. Then when the second scribe had finished brushing away the remains of the first for daring to ask “how?” he just went for the most blatant method possible.

6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground—

This is the earth that was seabed until not so long ago.

7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Out of the dusty ground, that’s just been watered, so probably more mud than dust, springs forth man.

8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground— trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This is getting really disjointed. When did he create Eden? Before or after he created man. If I was looking at this for a screenplay I think I’d be giving up about now or suggesting a rewrite that actually sets the scene in a reasonable chronological order for the viewers.

10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.
12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)

Woohoo! We’re only up to chapter 2 of the whole bible and already it’s telling us that gold is good. God is a stockbroker!

13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.
14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

God obviously never had to deal with unions. You can imagine the conversation:

Adam – Err, god, hi. Do you think we can talk?
God – What is it, my son?
Adam – Well, I’m working my ass off here, putting in ten hour days, tending your magnificent creation.
God – Yes?
Adam – Well, frankly, what’s in it for me?

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;

Hardly an above average salary with a nice pension. Especially with all that gold knocking round just down the river.

17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.

Now really. That’s a little obvious isn’t it? Put a gun on the mantlepiece in act 2 and you just know what’s going to happen later on.

18 The LORD God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

I was wondering about how Adam named them all in different languages, then I remembered we haven’t heard anything about Babel yet, so I’ll pass on that one for the moment.

21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.

And left him in a bath of ice?

22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.

There are some sources that say that Lilith was Adam’s first wife and Eve was created later. Others that suggest Lilith came to Adam when he was separated from Eve, but I’ll avoid digression as we’re just dealing with this version of the bible for the moment. I might get to the apocrypha later.

There is of course an implication here that wo-man is inferior simply because she was created “out of man”. This inferiority is somewhat of a recurring theme throughout the whole book.

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

And why should they? Shame is a natural consequence of a social order along with all it’s mores and rituals. Religion plays a significant part in generating shame in people so it’s somewhat ironic that one of the first things the bible establishes is that before there was religion (while they are still innocent and haven’t eaten any forbidden fruit) there was no shame. It’s a subtle admission that seems to be oft overlooked.

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Genesis 1

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on November 28, 2007

[CUT TO]

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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