Sunday, 15 January 2012

God, Satan and The Garden of Eden

GEN 3:11And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
Everyone in the western world should be familiar with the story of the Garden of Eden, at least at its most basic. Most Christians I know take it as an allegory, not an historical fact, I have been lucky enough to have met very few creationists in my life.

The story is supposed to represent the loss of humankind's 'innocence,' after Eve was tempted by the evil serpent. In some versions I have heard that the serpent was secretly the devil in disguise, but I couldn't find that in my quick Bible refresher I did before beginning this blog.

My question for this rant is 'who is the good character in this story?'

On the one hand we have the god, YHWH, supposedly the creator and father figure of the human race and on the other, we have the 'great adversary,' Satan the deceiver. God has created Adam and Eve who are effectively children in this story, having no real knowledge nor comprehension of right and wrong, and put them in a beautiful garden where they want for nothing on the condition that they don't eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, under the threat of death.
Satan, or the serpent, then comes along and persuades the woman and through her the man to eat from this tree. For this God casts them out of the paradise and piles upon them massive punishment.

That's the story, now who comes across in the best light.

Point One
On the face of it Adam and Eve disobeyed their creator's instruction and were punished. But that is only a just outcome if you accept that Adam and Eve owe their unquestioning obedience to God. The most common response to that claim that I have heard is that, as their creator, God has the right to require obedience of them. This theme gets repeated later on in the Bible, in Exodus, when absolute obedience to parents on implicit pain of death is a commandment.

God keeps them in the garden and restricts them from gaining knowledge and consequently the freedom to choose for themselves what should be their fate. A father keeping his children locked in his metaphorical cellar? That's right, God is basically a better-funded Joseph Fritzl. It's not a perfect analogy, but it fits well enough; it even has incest.

Point Two
In this story Adam and Eve have no knowledge of good and evil. They are basically children, entirely dependent on God, and at his mercy. God has the option of teaching them, but elects not to, preferring them unlearned and servile.
Not knowing what is good and evil, how on earth could Eve know that disobeying God is something that she shouldn't do? She has been told not to do it, but she doesn't have any understanding of morality, so when Satan tells her that the tree won't kill her (does she even know what death is?) she has no reason not to eat the fruit.

Point Three
Satan comes into this story to persuade Eve to eat the fruit of the tree. The traditional reading is that he is trying to tempt the fledgling humans away from God and into sin, leading to what some Christians refer to as 'The Fall of Mankind."
An alternative reading of the story, taking into account the first two points, is that Satan saw the two prisoners kept in the garden in their ignorance and took pity on them. He took it upon himself to teach them. When God found out he over-reacted to an obscene degree.

Now this comes across as a metaphor for growing up, with Adam and Eve being children until they were tempted and grew up with new knowledge, losing their 'innocence,' or leaving the home where their parents provide everything for them and having to make their own way in the world.
What is this innocence? Why does knowing about good and evil make them somehow guilty?

Satan strikes me as the noble character, trying to help the young children understand the world around them. God seems like an overbearing control freak, who throws a tantrum when his children don't do exactly what he says, just because he said it.

Either way, they're both fictitious characters!

Here endeth the rant...

Further interest on this topic would be Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Andre, a vlogger from YouTube, recently did a video along the same lines as this.

No comments:

Post a Comment