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12/18/2008                                                                                       View Comments

A Fallen World?

By LanceThe Original SinImage by Vermin Inc via Flickr
"Of course the world is messed up. We live in a fallen world"

Or so my Christian friend says.

I used to believe this, and it was a good method for me to explain all the pain and suffering I saw in the world. Of course God had created a perfect world, and then we messed it up. It was all our fault. Even the fact that there is so much death and killing in the natural world of animals can be explained by the sin of disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. Apparently this act poisoned the entire world, magically transforming the world from God's perfect plan into the pain and death we see today. Before Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree, all animals got along just fine, and only plants were asked to sacrifice their lives. Adam and Eve and their kids would have had a perfect existence had they not fucked it all up for themselves and the rest of us.

Yeah, right.

My friend, who made the first statement, also believes in a literal Garden of Eden, with a talking serpent, and a magical tree; everything the Bible says.

This got me to thinking -- and we all know how dangerous that can be -- what would an un-fallen world have been like? What would the world be like today if Adam and Eve had not eaten the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden? What if Eve had said "Holy fuck! A talking snake!!!" and then hit it on the head with a rock? What exactly are the underlying assumptions when someone says that we live in a fallen world?

So let's have a little thought experiment and see how the whole fallen vs. un-fallen world stands up to a little logic and reason. Of course we'll have to get out our Bibles to see what actually happened in the garden, since we have no other way of guessing about what the world would be like before the fall.

(Disclaimer: I'll be using the capitalized word God, as a proper name for a fictional character in the Bible, just as I will capitalize Adam and Eve. This does not mean I believe this god exists. Also, just because I am quoting from the Bible does not mean I believe it is anything more than a book written by humans. I'm just quoting it to show how silly it is.)

The more I look at the Bible, the more I realize it is the best weapon we have against Christianity. Let's use it well.First off I want to identify some of the underlying assumptions of the Christian world view regarding the fall of the world into sin because of Adam and Eve's transgression.

- God made everything perfect in the beginning
- All humanity would have been living in peace and harmony
- Everyone, including the T-Rex, is a vegetarian
- There was no pain or suffering (funny, but the Bible does not say this. Only that God thought his creation was good.)
- People were naked and didn't know it was wrong, in-fact they did not know anything was right or wrong.
- There is some universal standard of right and wrong that was contained inside the fruit from the magic tree

So let's see what the bible says. Gen 2:16 "And the LORD God commanded the man. 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden: 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.'" And Gen 2:25 "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

Hmmm. That is interesting. So it was not the tree of 'Let's get drunk and screw', but instead it was the tree of 'the knowledge of good and evil'. So eating the magic fruit would not have caused them to start doing evil things, but simply to know what was evil and what was not. So before this they could have done all sorts of terrible things and it would have been OK, since they did not understand what they were doing was wrong. Maybe we should look at the Bible again to make sure I'm not missing something.

Gen 3:6-7 "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. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked: so they sewed fig leaves together and mad coverings for themselves. 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. But the LORD God called to the man, 'Where are you?' He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked: so I hid.' And he (God) said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?'"

I'll ignore the obvious contradiction that if they had not already eaten from the tree, then they should not have been expected to know that it was wrong to disobey God. I've heard that as a common complaint about the whole idea that God is not to blame in this situation. But my question in this rant has to do with what seems to be implied in the above verses: Namely that God did not seem to care if Adam and Eve did wrong things, but only if they knew the things they did were wrong. This brings me back to my original question. What would an un-fallen world look like?

So if we read those verses carefully we can see that a world before the eating of the fruit would not have been a world without sin, but simply a world where people did not know what was sin and what was not. We would have been more like un-thinking animals, unable to see the consequences of our actions.

Let's think about the nakedness thing. It is implied that being naked is wrong by the fact that Adam and Eve knew they were naked and then covered up after eating the magic fruit. The fruit told them it was wrong. But if being naked is wrong, then it would have been wrong even before they ate the fruit. I mean, God made the tree and the fruit, so he must have made the rules that were embedded in the fruit. So he must have made the specific rule that being naked is wrong. So being naked is simply wrong from God's point of view. And he is the boss, right?

Are you with me so far?

But God seemed to enjoy walking around the garden with his naked people. God did not seem to care if being naked was obviously wrong in his eyes, as long as they didn't know it was wrong. The Bible says that Adam and Eve did not start sinning when they ate from the magic tree, but only that they were now able to understand the rightness and wrongness of their actions. Interesting, huh?

What if we take this a step or two further? Let's imagine that Adam and Eve never ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they started to have kids, just as you would expect from people walking around naked and looking at each other. Adam and Eve and all their kids would have been walking around the garden buck naked, and neither God nor they would have cared one lick. Their sons would probably start spanking the monkey in public when they hit puberty, but no one would bat an eye. Maybe a couple of Adam's sons would start spanking each other monkeys, but again, they don't know it is wrong, so everything is cool, right? God just smiles and laughs at his cute little ignorant creations. And I guess I'm OK with that too. No harm, no foul.

But as I think a bit more, then I start to have a problem. Again, the Bible does not say there was no sin, but only a lack of understanding about it. So what happens when one of the kids pulls the hair of another kid, and the second kid starts crying? I guess God might simply smile at the two little tykes, but I'm wondering what Adam and Eve would have thought. The Bible does not say Adam and Eve are stupid. They can think and talk, and I see no reason to assume that they would have been without empathy. It was not the "tree of empathy" they ate from after all. But the Bible is not clear on this, so let's look at a couple of possibilities.

1. Adam and Eve, and thus all future humans were created without empathy (the ability to identify and understand another's situation, feelings, and motives.)

Or

2. Adam and Eve did have empathy, even before they ate from the magic tree.

Let’s imagine a world under situation #1. People hit and cry and take each other’s stuff. The strongest rule the roost, and no one cares when another is hurt. This sounds a lot like life among the lower life forms. Even the great apes are better than this amongst their own groups. But again, God would not care about all the sin that was going on, since we would have been too stupid to understand it. It would have been a messy place, and I doubt this is the un-fallen world the Christians are thinking of. Also, it does not seem realistic to me, as Adam and Eve were smart enough to think and talk, and thus could have told each other when something hurt them. I’ll rule this first situation out as one neither Christians nor myself could think of as God’s perfectly created world.

Now let’s look at a world under situation #2; a world with empathy. God might not give a shit about what people did, since we did not know what was right and wrong. But Adam and Eve and their offspring would give a shit! They would notice that it sucks when someone hit them, or took their stuff, or made them cry. Thus they would watch someone else getting hurt and would understand what the victim was going through. They would grab the perpetrator by the ear and tell him or her to knock it off. They and their kids and grand kids would end up forming their own system of ethics based on empathy and mutual self-interest.

Funny, but that does not seem any different from what we have today. Some asshole hurts someone, and the rest of us cry foul as we identify with the victim. We seem to do an OK job of creating our own ethical society; or at least as good of a job as you could expect from a bunch of hairless primates.

So if Adam and Eve had even a bit of empathy, but had never eaten the fruit, then they would have needed neither the magical tree, nor God for that matter, to figure out what was right and wrong. Human intelligence, empathy, and a concept of mutual self-interest are all that is needed.

Let me restate it just to be clear. Humans do not need a god or some magical fruit to explain to them what is right and wrong. They can figure it out just fine on their own. In my opinion, the so called holy books do nothing but to screw up any system of ethics we come up with.

So what makes more sense for explaining ethics in human society; The ridiculous story of a magical tree of knowledge of good and evil that tells people they should not be naked, or the evolution of human intelligence that eventually included empathy and language?

I think you know what my vote is.

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So here is my conclusion: This so called un-fallen world as described in Genesis would not be substantially different from the world we live in today. The whole pre-fall vs. post-fall dichotomy of explaining the current state of the world is totally bogus.

The more I look at the Bible, the more I realize it is the best weapon we have against Christianity. Let's use it well.

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P.S.
Here is an idea for a related rant that some of you might like to take further: Think about the fact that Adam and Even didn't need a book to tell them what was right and wrong. They just ate the fruit and then 'boom', they knew internally what was right and wrong. But Christians tell us we need the Bible to give us a basis for morality. Even the Bible itself doesn't seem to support that idea. Go figure.

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