Saturday, 14 June 2008

Knowledge


The story of Adam and Eve is particularly troublesome for Xianity for many, many reasons. But, one that is especially galling to me is it's treatment of knowledge.

In the story, Adam and Eve eat the fruit and god gets angry and tosses them out of paradise. The fruit they eat, however, is the fruit of knowledge of good and evil and god clearly states that he is throwing them out because of the knowledge they have gained. The inescapable conclusion is that knowledge is a bad thing and it seems that Adam and Eve are being punished for gaining knowledge. It seems that god wants us to be ignorant and unlearned. He doesn't want us to discover new things, he simply wants us to do as he commands. Incidentally, this also argues against the Xian conception that god wants us to have free will. No he doesn't. He punishes Adam and Eve for using their free will. He wanted them to simply obey and be ignorant.

Sadly, this anti-knowledge streak persists to this day. There are tracts in the NT that speak against knowledge and Xianity tends to eschew it in many ways. Through the dark ages, the Catholic church refused to do mass in any language but Latin, thus assuring that the masses could not understand the words (I believe they still do this). This trend continues to the modern day where we see virulent anti-science sentiment among many Xians. These Xians are all too eager to use the latest technology - cell phones, computers, airplanes, etc. - while holding scientists in disdain and engaging in anti-evolutionism and anti-climatism among other science denials.

20 comments:

Dave said...

Most people would say the important story element of Eve and Adam is about original sin.

I think the important part of the story is that, in order to become human, we must have knowledge, and this includes the ironic realization that, unlike God, are mortal.

Without the knowledge we are mortal, without obtaining knowledge, we aren't fully human. In a way, then, even the idea of a god is absurd to a thinking person, the story of Eve and Adam is true, because it symbolically explains how and when we became human.

Anonymous said...

So Dave, what you are saying is that god put man through this whole little episode to learn that he(man) is mortal, but along with that comes a punishment/judgment for all of mankind?

And what about man using the free will that god gave to him? The important element of the story is what it directly says, and where does it say that "in order to become human" It sounds like you are adding an opinion to the story. But, if I am wrong than that would mean that god decided to leave yours & my free will up to Adam & Eve.

Dave said...

I didn't mean to imply the story makes sense - it doesn't, when we think through it. Jewish and Christian beliefs are nonsensical and contradictory.

Which is to say I don't believe in a god, and the Judeo-Christain belief system is, to my thinking, ludicrous.

I do think the story of Adam and Eve is about what makes us human, and it's knowledge. I don't think the story is about sin, which is an attribute of being human.

Also, I think the major elements of the story came about quite possibly unconsciously, at a time when humans little understood the nature of reality, and their place in it.

acidkoolaid said...

I'm amazed at how "aetheist" here can so logically and rationally argue their positions and with limited emotion. I must admit that I am still believing in God/Jesus/Holy Spirit but am experiencing this deity as a complete asshole who has little to no love or compassion. I'll spare the details but it is an everyday event that I see what dickheads they are.

Anonymous said...

Tell me. Where is Jesus in this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DStwXsmZ3OE&feature=related

Dave said...

>I must admit that I am still believing in God/Jesus/Holy Spirit but am experiencing this deity as a complete asshole who has little to no love or compassion<

Oh, your god has compassion and love to go along with it's lack of compassion and hate, so it's only an incomplete asshole.

Anonymous said...

I think you missed the point of this story. First it is significant that the tree they ate of, which was forbidden, was the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.

God had created mankind (male and female) in His image. He put them into a paradise and gave them only one rule, don't eat from this tree. This gave mankind the opportunity to ACCEPT in faith that what God said was good and for their benefit, or they could REJECT in disbelief.

When the snake deceived Eve it was the greatest irony. He told her she would become 'like God knowing good and evil'. What's ironic is that mankind was already like God as they were created in His image. What the snake was offering her, what she accepted, was the ability to act autonomously in deciding for herself what was good or evil.

The Genesis account does not speak out against knowledge (though admittedly many christians mistakenly do). The Genesis account speaks out against us attempting to define for ourselves what is 'right and wrong'. God has defined right and wrong for us in His Word, we can accept that or reject it.

All sin, then, is the same in a sense. All sin is refusing to obey the commands of God, thinking that somehow in our human understanding we know better than God.

Original sin did not deal with humanity becoming aware of it's mortality. That is a presupposition you have read into the text.

Dave said...

>God has defined right and wrong for us in His Word, we can accept that or reject it.<

The problem, of course, with this line of thinking is the belief in a god. There isn't one, if we decide to base reality on logic and evidence.

Anonymous said...

This blog was critical of the christian faith based upon false premises. Their understanding of original sin was a bit off the mark. My post was not an argument for the existence of God, as much as it was a correction of theological perspective.

Certainly I am open to objective criticism (after all it's God's book not mine and if He really wrote it... then it should be defendable!). I just want your arguments to be credible. For that to happen you must criticize what the text actually says.

dave said...

Anonymous wrote:

>God had created mankind (male and female) in His image. He put them into a paradise and gave them only one rule, don't eat from this tree.<

Eve and Adam exist only as metaphor. As we made our way up the evolutionary Tree of Life, the dividing line that defines humans from non-humans is best seen as a blurry demarcation. Thus there were no "first humans" and that means no sin, no turning away from a god.

And by the way, if sin means disobeying the will of a god, then there is no such thing as sin, as there is no god.

Anonymous said...

Again, your response fails to address the Bible for what it actually says. I'm sure I would have a solid argument for everything I was allowed to distort to say what I want it to say.

In the Biblical account Adam and Eve are not figurative symbols. You might through isegesis plant a theistic evolution into the text, however the Bible never made such claims.

If you are criticising the Bible for what it actually says, then we can talk. But as long as you're going to criticise everything the Bible doesn't say you will continue to fail to address the real issue at hand. If that works for you, that's fine. But don't expect anyone to conform to your false view based upon your false information regarding what the Bible teaches.

dave said...

anonymous wrote:

>In the Biblical account Adam and Eve are not figurative symbols.<

Oh, Good Lord. Just because the Bible doesn't announce up front that it's full of "figurative symbols" doesn't mean it isn't full of them. For a few millions of years, the evolving human mind, consciously and unconsciously, has attempted to understand and give meaning to the nature of reality.

>If you are criticising the Bible for what it actually says, then we can talk.<

Be silent, if you wish. What you think or what you say is no special concern of mine - I'm just a visitor to this blog, like you.

>But as long as you're going to criticise everything the Bible doesn't say you will continue to fail to address the real issue at hand.<

That you are unable to see beneath the surface of a collection of particularly nonsensical and potentially harmful fairy tales (do you really think there was an Ark, that Moses turned a staff into a snake, that Jesus sent a devil-possessed herd of swine over cliff, that dead "saints" walked the streets of Jerusalem, that there was an Eve and Adam?) demonstrates well the simplistic way you want to comprehend reality, even though I know you are capable of doing better.

Were we having this discussion a few thousand years ago, I suppose you'd upbraid me for suspecting the sun was not a god driving a chariot across the sky.

Like Jesus and Adam and Eve and all the other make-believe figures in your bible, all the gods and goddesses and other make-believe figures in the world's religions offer humans a way to understand the world around them.

Adam and Eve and Jesus, like the gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and like Tarzan, like Harry Potter, like Raskolnikov and like Leopold Bloom, are nothing more, nor less, than creations of the human mind.

GCT said...

"I think you missed the point of this story. First it is significant that the tree they ate of, which was forbidden, was the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil."

Actually, I specifically said that in the OP.

"God had created mankind (male and female) in His image. He put them into a paradise and gave them only one rule, don't eat from this tree. This gave mankind the opportunity to ACCEPT in faith that what God said was good and for their benefit, or they could REJECT in disbelief."

I fail to see how this undermines my argument at all.

"The Genesis account does not speak out against knowledge (though admittedly many christians mistakenly do). The Genesis account speaks out against us attempting to define for ourselves what is 'right and wrong'. God has defined right and wrong for us in His Word, we can accept that or reject it."

Except, it is knowledge that gets us all into this mess.

"All sin, then, is the same in a sense. All sin is refusing to obey the commands of God, thinking that somehow in our human understanding we know better than God.
"

Are you familiar with Euthyphro's Dilemma?

"Original sin did not deal with humanity becoming aware of it's mortality. That is a presupposition you have read into the text."

I said nothing about mortality in the OP, try again. I spoke of knowledge and the fact that god gets angry at Adam and Eve for gaining knowledge by eating the apple. If nothing else, you have to admit that god was trying to keep them from gaining knowledge by forbidding them to eat of the tree. Since they did not know that disobeying god was wrong (they had not the knowledge to rationally determine this) god really is asking for blind obedience. If you have a problem with my conclusions, please point out where I'm going wrong instead of just asserting that I'm wrong and then pointing to things I didn't say and claiming I didn't say things that I clearly did.

dave said...

>"Original sin did not deal with humanity becoming aware of it's mortality. That is a presupposition you have read into the text."<

>I said nothing about mortality in the OP, try again.<

I think this was a comment the poster made in response to something I wrote.

Anonymous said...

The problem with your assumption about God's prohibition is the premise that Adam and Eve possessed no capability to judge an action as 'right or wrong'. Adam and Eve would have known eating the apple was wrong as it was prohibited.

The 'knowledge' Adam and Eve lacked was 'why' it was wrong. Or what defined it as being wrong. The call to eat the fruit was to call into question God's ability (or willingness) to fairly judge between right and wrong.

Adam and Eve knew that violating the rules was wrong. They wanted to be able to define the rules for themselves. It was a rejection of God's rule and an acceptance of what their rational minds were telling them.

Eve 'judged' her action before she ate. She saw the fruit was appealing to the eye and fit to make one wise... sounds like she possessed the capability to examine things and come to conclusions before she ate.

GCT said...

"The problem with your assumption about God's prohibition is the premise that Adam and Eve possessed no capability to judge an action as 'right or wrong'. Adam and Eve would have known eating the apple was wrong as it was prohibited."

Not without knowledge of good and evil they would not. This knowledge wasn't obtained until after they had already eaten.

"The 'knowledge' Adam and Eve lacked was 'why' it was wrong. Or what defined it as being wrong."

This is wholly unsupported by the text. They were suddenly made aware of their nakedness after eating the fruit. Had they already known it was wrong to be naked but not why, they would have covered up, although for no reason.

"The call to eat the fruit was to call into question God's ability (or willingness) to fairly judge between right and wrong."

Again, this is not supported in the text. Where do you get this from?

"Adam and Eve knew that violating the rules was wrong."

How? How could they have possibly known that without knowledge of good and evil?

"They wanted to be able to define the rules for themselves."

There is no indication of this in the text.

"It was a rejection of God's rule and an acceptance of what their rational minds were telling them."

Actually, it was god allowing another entity to use their ignorance to trick them, and then punishing them for being misled.

"Eve 'judged' her action before she ate. She saw the fruit was appealing to the eye and fit to make one wise... sounds like she possessed the capability to examine things and come to conclusions before she ate."

Whatever "judgement" she made could be likened to the judgement made by a toddler before deciding to take a cookie from the shelf when told not to. This is the reason we don't imprison youths and the mentally impaired, because they don't have the ability to actually discern right from wrong.

For someone who calls others out on reading into the Bible things that aren't there, you've done quite a bit of it.

Anonymous said...

"Whatever "judgement" she made could be likened to the judgement made by a toddler before deciding to take a cookie from the shelf when told not to. This is the reason we don't imprison youths and the mentally impaired, because they don't have the ability to actually discern right from wrong."

The child who takes the cookie knew it was wrong because daddy said it was wrong. And in most homes the child is punished for disobedience. The child (by taking the cookie) has decided to reject what their father told them was right and substitute it with their own version of right which satisfied their own desires.

And we do imprison youth's. What are you talking about? We have seperate detention centers for their protection.

Eve understood she should not eat the fruit which is why she responded to the snake by quoting the prohibition. She wanted to choose for herself what was right and wrong. She was beguiled to become 'more like God'. The text is actually very clear about this.

GCT said...

"The child who takes the cookie knew it was wrong because daddy said it was wrong. And in most homes the child is punished for disobedience. The child (by taking the cookie) has decided to reject what their father told them was right and substitute it with their own version of right which satisfied their own desires."

Actually, we understand that the child didn't really know, so we punish in order to teach a lesson to the child. It's not punitive in the sense of gaining vengeance, as god does, but instructive.

"And we do imprison youth's. What are you talking about? We have seperate detention centers for their protection."

And we wipe their records clean at 18. We also don't imprison for certain offenses or for certain ages where the child is incapable of actually understanding the consequences, etc. This is the same as what we do for the mentally disabled.

"Eve understood she should not eat the fruit which is why she responded to the snake by quoting the prohibition."

How could she truly have understood it without any knowledge of good and evil? You can continue to assert this, but it doesn't make logical sense. If a child ate a cookie that you told it not to, would you kick it out of the house? Would you hold that child as accountable as an adult?

"She wanted to choose for herself what was right and wrong."

There is no basis for that in the scripture. In fact, the scripture paints a decidedly different picture. She doesn't choose what is right or wrong, she's misled by another into committing an act that carried consequences that she couldn't know about or fathom. In this, god has allowed false information to cloud the judgement of Eve without providing the actual information that she needs in order to make an informed judgement.

"She was beguiled to become 'more like God'. The text is actually very clear about this."

And this works for your argument how? Becoming more like god to her probably would have meant that she liked who god was and wanted to be more like him, like someone wanting to be like their hero. Little did she know that he was a vindictive, evil a-hole.

Anonymous said...

"There is no basis for that in the scripture. In fact, the scripture paints a decidedly different picture. She doesn't choose what is right or wrong, she's misled by another into committing an act that carried consequences that she couldn't know about or fathom. In this, god has allowed false information to cloud the judgement of Eve without providing the actual information that she needs in order to make an informed judgement."

How do we know how Eve was deceived? By the results. Did Adam and Eve become more like God? No. In fact the condition of mankinds after the fall suggests that mankind is now very far from God.

Eve saw the fruit, that it was desirable as food and good to make her wise... what is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?

In the snake's temptation, did you not question God's rule? (Has God said...) and then the snake denies what God promised (you surely will not die...). Clearly the snake is suggesting to Eve that she can make a choice for herself if eating the fruit is wrong or not. Forget what God said.

Also, all these references to the kid in the cookie jar... Adam and Eve didn't sin on their own. There is nothing in the text to suggest they would have eaten if not tempted first. Also, Eve obviously had the ability to reason as she had a discourse with the snake. If she didn't have the ability to reason, no conversation or attempt to resist the snake's suggestion would have occurred.

GCT said...

"How do we know how Eve was deceived?"

Actually, you are right about this. Eve wasn't deceived. The serpent was speaking the truth - it was god that was lying in that he said they would die, which they did not.

"No. In fact the condition of mankinds after the fall suggests that mankind is now very far from God."

Which is god's doing. He was so incensed that they would learn about good and evil that he punished them severely.

"Eve saw the fruit, that it was desirable as food and good to make her wise... what is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?"

Most likely a translation error in this case or at least a colloquial swap of knowledge and wisdom. The tree was the tree of 'knowledge' of good and evil.

"In the snake's temptation, did you not question God's rule? (Has God said...) and then the snake denies what God promised (you surely will not die...). Clearly the snake is suggesting to Eve that she can make a choice for herself if eating the fruit is wrong or not. Forget what God said."

You're forgetting the part where Eve had no knowledge of good and evil, therefore making it impossible for her to really understand that it is wrong to disobey god. Would you similarly punish a toddler for eating a cookie that you left out and said not to eat? The toddler doesn't have the moral ability to understand right and wrong, and so it would be wrong to punish the child in such a manner as throwing the child out of the house.

"Also, all these references to the kid in the cookie jar... Adam and Eve didn't sin on their own."

Exactly, and god is an accomplice in this as well. He knew what would happen, he allowed the devil to tempt them, he placed the fruit out in the open knowing they would eat from it and did nothing to either hide it, not create it in the first place, or make it unreachable for them.

"Also, Eve obviously had the ability to reason as she had a discourse with the snake. If she didn't have the ability to reason, no conversation or attempt to resist the snake's suggestion would have occurred."

In order for your argument to stand, you have to argue that Adam and Eve did have knowledge of good and evil before eating of the fruit that gave them that knowledge. This is obviously impossible. Eve's "reasoning" consisted of a questioning because she was confused that the snake would contradict god. This does not mean that she knew it was morally wrong to disobey god.