Here we are, finally, at the beginning. A fine place to start, but not the only place, as anyone who has watched “Pulp Fiction” can attest. But I’m old- fashioned, or simply not smart enough, so chapter one it is.
The creation myth of Genesis is one of the most widely known on earth. It tells a tale of the rise of man, his brief stay in paradise, and his precipitous fall, over a woman, no less. It is a beautiful allegory…
What’s that? Here’s a solid atheist calling the Bible beautiful. Absolutely, but only allegorically! As literature, the Bible is a glimpse into human nature. Like all great writing, it tells both of the people who wrote it and humanity in general. The key point here is the term “literature”. Like Homer and Virgil and so very many others, the Bible is has some universal human stories within it’s pages. There is much of what makes us human there, gems amidst the gravel. But if one demands that the Bible be taken as literal truth, then the beauty is discarded. It’s dirtied and marred, often irretrievably. You may as well tear out its pages and pick up dog shit with them for all the good it will do.
So as an allegorical tale, let’s look at the quite sexist rendering of the fall of man and how it has been interpreted over the ages. Man is in paradise living a life of bliss and innocence until a woman comes and destroys him. The same story has been told over and over. In fiction and even news broadcasts, this theme continues to pop up? From the fictions of Jane Austin to Danielle Steel to the factions of Bill Clinton and Mark Sanford, every man is fine until a woman tempts them to destruction. I fully understand this is the same sexistly simple way to look at these events that boys and their doting mothers have used for centuries. He was such a good boy until he was led astray. It harkens back to the innocence of the playground when all boys were yucky and all girls had cooties. Today we tend to be somewhat more equitable with blame, and modern man is now asked to take the responsibility for his decisions, here anyway. Islam in its harshest interpretation hasn’t made it beyond blaming Eve for all our problems.
But this story in its basic element is still a human story, a universal story. How many times have we heard something similar? How many friends, male or female, have related a personal experience that could fit onto this framework with a bit of stretching. Humanity still fits into its baby clothes even if they’re a bit uncomfortable. How much have we really grown?.
The other side of the issue has to be the effect such writing has had on us as a civilization. Yes, there are universal stories here, but how much have these stories held us to the path we actually took through history. All works reflect the human condition to some degree, but they also guide or nudge that condition. How has the story of the fall of “man” shaped us? How have women been pushed into the various roles they have assumed over the centuries? How have men? Has it retarded our march out of the abyss? Did it help? My answers to these question would have to be :a lot, a lot, yes, and no.
The tale of Eve’s sin helped lock us into a system that didn’t allow women to vote until 91 years ago. Even today, there remain sects within this country who still preach a return to a completely male dominated society, where women assume their traditional roles and are banned from politics. Doubt me? Four years ago I had a newly “saved” work partner who insisted that women were only given the right to vote to appease certain lobbies and that God always intended for men to lead; women to follow. His church was pushing for reform of the voting laws to disallow women’s participation. Needless to say, there was little unnecessary conversation after a few days. He had said more than I ever wanted to hear. You would might expect this from some ancient crusty relic of the past gasping hatred through his last breath, but this man was somewhat educated 30 year old with a wife and child whom he professed to love deeply. The danger of his view predominating is very small, his being such a fringe group, but these people are out there in numbers that may surprise, and at the base of this oppressive belief and so many others lies the story of Eve tricking Adam into biting an apple.
Sometimes I wonder how we made it this far!
Oh yes, science. Now I remember.