Cain and Abel — Christianity’s First Dysfunctional Family.
Ah, the magnificent story of Cain and Abel. Jealousy, rejection, murder, incest, banishment, a curse from an invisible being, sex, drugs and Rock and Roll. O.K. not drugs and Rock and Roll. But dudes, this story has almost everything else! Nearly every conflict that humans can engage in, and all in about 25 lines. The Bible is often long on action but a bit short on details.
So let’s look at humanity’s first sex, first murder, first incest, and second banishment. Cain and Abel set the bar so high!
Adam had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.”
Once again, I find it more enlightening to assume the Bible true as written and then look at the logical inconsistencies from the inside. It’s harder to find holes in your tent while it’s still lying on the ground. Set it up. Crawl in. Look around. Live there a bit. The flaws become more apparent after an hour or two. Just be sure to get the hell out before you become too used to flaws and fail to see them any longer. That’s a doom I would wish on no free thinker. So let’s explore a bit.
You have to wonder about those first relations. Was there a manual? Did God have that awkward rednecky birds and the bees talk with Adam? Was it instinct? Trial and Error? Sigh! Poor Eve! It’s always the women who suffer! Well, she did say she had the help of the lord. Hmmm! I’ll just stay away from that entirely. And don’t you get all offended. Look what happened to Mary with the help of the Lord!!
Then Abel was born, and he grew to become a shepherd, while Cain grew into a farmer. God, unbeknownst to Cain, was a carnivore and looked with disfavor on an offer of veggies and fruit, while smiling on Abel’s MegaMeat offering. Hey, we were created in his image and what man wouldn’t favor a bit of tender lamb chop? Damn vegetarians! Anyway, God doesn’t like Cain’s offering and Cain doesn’t like God not liking his offering. As anyone who has even the slightest intimacy with the human race knows, this will lead to no good. So in typical human fashion and not being able to harm the one who truly wronged him, Cain takes out his shame of rejection on his brother and kills Abel. Problem solved, right? Well, not so much.
As with so much in this book, When we look with modern eyes on these decisions of God, they come up lacking in both compassion and common sense. Even at a glance, I feel uneasy with offerings to an all-powerful being. What does an all-powerful god need with offerings, anyway? I mean, he can create shit out of nothing! He’s the ultimate “guy who has everything”. What does he get out of it? A sense of satisfaction? An enjoyment of the gift? An opportunity to meddle? Oh yeah, baby! I think we found us a winner! Old Jehovah is no different than Brother Zeus, always looking for an excuse to descend and tinker with human lives. Am I being too hard on the old guy? I think not. This is a theme that we will be returning too over and over. An all-seeing and all-knowing God cannot but know what the consequences of his actions will be. He knew Cain would kill Abel before Cain was even born. He knew the why and the when. This is the direct logical conclusion of being all-knowing and all-seeing.
When Cain is crestfallen because of the rejected offering, God does nothing to calm his spirit, nothing to stop the terrible sin. If you knew someone was going to kill his brother but did nothing to stop it, would you not share in the blame. People who witness a rape but do nothing to stop it, are they not partly responsible? With a deity, the blame magnifies. He created the world. He created Cain. He made the whole human race in the view of the literalists. How can he escape the blame for what we do? Let’s say I made a very advanced robot capable of making decisions on it own. It runs into the street one day and starts mowing people down. I do not believe that blaming the robot for the error would be a valid legal defense. In the infinite wisdom of Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s sad when Peter Parker show a higher morality that the Lord God.
Here is what God actually says when he sees a very sad Cain “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well you can hold your head up, but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is towards you, yet you can be his master.” Is this what Cain needed? Assuredly not, because Abel’s soon bleeding into a field. He tells Cain, and I paraphrase here, “Do better. Please me more!” What the….
During the murder, does God reach down and block the blade? No, he doesn’t even know it has happened until he hears Abel’s blood calling out from the ground. For an omniscient God, he is peculiarly blind at times. And it’s not like he had too much to attend to. There were only four people on earth at this time for god’s sake (irony intended).
Here is one of those inconsistencies that shine so brightly. God then curses Cain to restlessly wander the earth,never living off the soil again. Cain whines that his fate is too terrible, that with this curse anyone he meets can kill him. God then places the Mark of Cain protecting him from harm by threatening seven fold retribution on anyone who kills Cain. Death would be the easy way out, and God seems to want him to suffer for the murder of Abel. Here’s the problem. Who in the hell is there to kill Cain? According to literal biblical interpretation there were only two other people on earth at this time, Cain’s parents. Is this who he was afraid of? Who else could there have possibly have been? At the very most, there may have been a few unmentioned brothers or sisters about, but remember Cain was the third person on Earth and the first one born of woman. How many could there have been?
Cain then moves to the land of Nod, has relations with his wife and founds a city. Wife? Who? City? With who? Scarecrows? Lego people? Weird little Blair Witch Project stick people? Again, there was no one else around.
A few months ago a letter to the editor in a local paper stated quite boldly that we atheists were sinful to even ask this question. In the time of Adam there was no prohibition against incest. God made it OK, initially, and only forbade it later. Talk about relative morality. Therefore, Cain’s wife was merely an unmentioned daughter of Eve, a sister. Eww! This is troubling on so many fronts, the incest and cities populated with hordes of nearly genetically identical people. Not to mention that a sister marries a brother who murdered another brother. After this, is it any wonder humanity has such a taste for soap operas?
On the other hand, metaphorically, this myth does have a beauty. Was there a small seed of truth here? Did Cain screw up and have to live with his fratricide. Could he have forgiven himself? Could his parents? Banished from his tribe he was forced to wander forlorn and alone. Screwing up and being banished or shunned is a very human theme from the playground to the workplace. We have all felt this many times, if not to this degree. This myth does show how terribly we are flawed, how we are weak and hateful, jealous and petty. How we long for some explanation of why we are as broken as we are. This story tells us oodles about who we are, good and bad, and what it really means to be human.
It just doesn’t have much good to say about God.