What Would that Carpenter Do?
by Noah Mann-Engel
Have you ever had an argument with a Christian?
Don’t worry! This essay is not about specific opinions held by believers and nonbelievers, but an examination of how believers choose to view and argue matters with the latter. I, unfortunately, have and let me tell you it is not a fun experience. First of all one needs to understand that for the Christian (or Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu or Satanist, etc.) an argument with a nonbeliever is in actuality not an argument at all, but a TEACHING opportunity. Their thought process is as follows; if, a nonbeliever, [you] have the temerity to approach [me] a Christian then you must be seeking the truth of [our] Lord. Why would they want anything else from [me]? This is the first, or, “Jesus be praised a soul to save!” stage.
They have already disregarded and ignored your actually intentions and views before you even share them. They now move on to the “sharing the truth of our Lord” stage where they let you talk for a bit while they stare, smile, and nod pleasantly. This is the second, or, “I am your Christian friend and I listen” stage of the argument. This is where you quote Nietzsche, talk about the logical loopholes in Pascal’s Wager, wield Occam’s Razor like a katana, and just generally use your reasoning skills. You start to feel a little good yourself for holding up so well against this Christian fellow. I mean come one! The guy is even smiling in response to your argument! Little do you know that you are now entering the third stage of the Christian argument process: the “that is nice, but why are you so deluded?” stage.
You see, while he/she was standing there nodding like a hula dancer bobble-head doll, your Christian was actually puzzling over the strange noises you were making about something or another… Why isn’t the nonbeliever shutting up and getting excited about hearing the word of our Lord? Your Christian friend begins his/her argument by praising your intellect.. Example, he/she might try to disarm you with kindness by saying something like this: “Wow! You sure are a smart fellow. I wasn’t quite prepared for THAT (chuckles in a self deprecating way). But (and THIS is where the fun really begins), why don’t you believe in god?” This is where you sit in stunned silence for a moment or two. Did this whack-job really just ask you that? YOU JUST TOLD HIM WHY you didn’t believe, you think to yourself. You politely remind the Christian of this fact, and he/she chuckles again before suddenly entering the fourth stage, the “I would be a hooker/drug addict/homeless person without Christ” stage.
This stage is rather boring, and consists of the Christian telling you how he thinks his belief in a dead carpenter saved him from his raging meth addiction. After relating this riveting story to you the Christian poses a question that he/she thinks will really get you in a bind! He/she asks “So, how would I get over all of these terrible problems if their wasn’t a god? eh, eh, EH?” This is when you smile and say to yourself “oh I’ve got him/her now”. But, sadly, your optimism is grossly misplaced. You begin by saying that all the good things that happened to the Christian could also be explained by personal strength, the help of friends and family, and perseverance. God need not enter the equation at all! Now feeling very good about yourself you unwittingly enter the deadly fifth stage of the Christian’s argument: the “But the Love and the Heart” stage.
It starts when you ask your Christian friend “isn’t it true what I said? You DID get through your troubles by yourself. You only added god because you WANTED him to be involved”. But alas, you have just sprung the trap. Your Christian friend grins and replies with a question of his/her own; “But, what about the Love and the Heart?” You pause. You think that maybe you misheard your Christian friend. So ask them to repeat him/herself. He/she gladly complies. “All I meant was there has to be a god because of the Love, and the HEART! (chuckles)” This is the point where you realized that you just wasted 15 minutes of your precious time. You feign a smile and say “we just have to agree to disagree” and that it was nice talking. Your Christian friend thus enters the sixth and final stage of the argument: the “That’s great! Hey! I have an idea! Why don’t you come down to our church sometime?” stage. The Christian gives you some colorful literature on their church, their beliefs, and of course an anti-abortion pamphlet. The Christian then shakes your hand, and walks away to find his/her next soul to save. You are left feeling a little used, a little amused, and very hungry. You get up, and head over to the vending machine to get a Milky Way bar.
(this essay is based on a real conversation I had with a evangelical Christian in my sophomore year at Northern Illinois University)
(Noah Mann-Engel is a poet and writer from Dekalb Illinois. He is a life long atheist who with aspergers, an autistic spectrum disorder. You can see some of his writing in the upcoming summer editions of Fighting Chance magazine, Love’s Chance magazine, and in the American Scholastic Press Association honored spring 2007 edition of The Prairie Light Review. He is also in the process of writing his first novel.)
A Contradiction in Terms.
Genesis 1:27- “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” You will notice that god creates man and woman AT THE SAME TIME and this woman’s name in never mentioned.
Let us now examine and consider the second verse, which is the contradictory and yet most well known story of the creation of man and woman.
Genesis 2:21-23-“21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.”
This is the story most are familiar with known as “the rib story”. This woman is then named Eve, however she is NOT the FIRST woman and not the first wife of Adam.
To find this out the name, Jewish scholars engaged in something called Midrash. Midrash, according to the Online Encarta Dictionary/Encyclopedia, is “commentary on Hebrew Bible: a body of Rabbinic literature consisting of commentary on and clarification of biblical texts, first compiled before 500 ad”. If that is not “authoritative” enough for you, according to the Oxford English Dictionary Midrash is, “A Rabbinic homiletic commentary on a text from the Hebrew Scriptures, characterized by non-literal ..nterpretation and legendary illustration.”
Why did they use Midrash?
Jewish Rabbis were not stupid. They understood that these two stories contradict each other. Since, Genesis is contained in the first five books of the bible known as “The Torah” and “The Five Books of Moses” and considered the most direct revelation from god to humans; the Rabbis decided this contradiction had an explanation that could get rid of the apparent contradiction. They did this by looking through the Bible (Old Testament) and looking for clues as to name of the first unnamed woman of creation. The reason, ironically enough, why the name of the woman is missing is because earlier Rabbis, those responsible for putting the Torah together didn’t like the story of the first woman, so they left the minimal amount of the story there, namely Gen 1:27. Why didn’t they like this first woman of creation? That will be explained later. First, let us look at what the Rabbis looked at during this Midrash.
Isaiah 34:15 “…The night-demon Lilith, evil and rapacious, will establish permanent quarters. Scavenging carrion birds will breed and brood, infestations of ominous evil.” Here is mentioned Lilith, a woman-demon. They link this name up with a woman in Jewish lore known to them at the time but coming down to us through a medieval text known as The Alphabet of Ben Sira, in full text and explained later.
Why is this important?
According to ancient Jewish lore, known from a medieval text, based on lost texts of the same stories, known as The Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith is the unnamed wife in Gen 1:27. The story explains why the book was left out of the Pentateuch/Torah, how and why Lilith goes away, and is supposed to explain why babies die early, why men have wet dreams and as a way to demonize women.
The Alphabet of Ben Sira
The Story of Lilith
“The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof. After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Gen. 2:18). He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith began to fight. She said, ‘I will not lie below,’ and he said, ‘I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while am to be in the superior one.’ Lilith responded, ‘We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.’ But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: ‘Sovereign of the universe!’ he said, ‘the woman you gave me has run away.’ At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels to bring her back.
“Said the Holy One to Adam, ‘If she agrees to come back, fine. If not she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.’ The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God’s word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, ‘We shall drown you in the sea.’
“‘Leave me!’ she said. ‘I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’
“When the angels heard Lilith’s words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: ‘Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.’ She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels’ names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.”
Explanation for why Lilith is left out of the Torah
Lilith wanted to be equal with Adam, and gives good reason, according to the story. Adam did not want this and would not allow it, so she left him. This is quite feministic. She says, “I will not lie below”, during sex presumably and “We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.” She is actually correct, in the sense that they are equals. This is disturbing to the early Rabbis of the Judaism. In the culture of the day, men we seen as superior to women and so having this idea in the bible was unacceptable, so it was discarded. She then leaves him by uttering the name of god (in Hebrew) and then she magically flies away and never seen again. Oddly, neither god nor his angels can bring her back to Earth. She then becomes a demon of night and roams the Earth causing havoc.
The Aftermath and Conclusion
Then we have the rib story, only after Lilith leaves, and Eve is purposely made out of something less than what Adam and was done so to insure that she would be subservient to Adam, and men in general. Eve is then the second wife of Adam and Lilith the first. Lilith’s story brings up one additional problem, one that may actually be worse than having two contradictory stories of creation that is; god- the omnipotent, omnipresent, and all-perfect, creator of the universe- is NOT perfect because he made a mistake. Not only did god make a mistake, he also did not see it coming (therefore not all knowing) and could not stop Lilith or control her (therefore not all-powerful). This is what one would expect from a “quick fix” explanation of a man-made myth touted by believers as the perfect word of the creator of the universe.
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise. – James Madison
This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it. – John Adams
Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies. – Thomas Jefferson
Man is a marvelous curiosity…he thinks he is the Creator’s pet…he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to him and thinks He listens. Isn’t it a quaint idea. – Mark Twain
All thinking men are atheists. – Ernest Hemingway
It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him. – Arthur C. Clarke
A man is not moral because he is obedient through fear or ignorance. Morality lives in the realm of perceived obligation… – Robert Ingersoll
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. – Karl Marx
The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. – George Bernard Shaw
Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night. – Isaac Asimov
We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. – Richard Dawkins
“The time for respecting religous beliefs of that sort has long past”-Sam Harris at Idea City 05
“Thou shalt not take anything on faith”-Penn Jillette
“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
— Stephen Roberts
“Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.”
“Only Sheep need a shepherd!”
“God is not dead. He is alive and working on a much less ambitious project.”
— graffito (1975), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations
“Appraise the Lord: Tax church property.”
— bumper sticker
“Humanity without religion is like a serial killer without a chainsaw.”
“Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.”
“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”
“The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.”
— Denis Diderot
“the trouble with theocracy is that everyone wants to be Theo.”
— James Dunn
“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.”
–Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor (1769-1821).
“The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.”
–Ferdinand Magellan, (1480–1521), Portuguese navigator: discoverer of the Straits of Magellan 1520 and the Philippines 1521.
“Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches.”
— Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Roman Catholic philosopher
“Don’t you know there ain’t no devil, it’s just god when he’s drunk.”
— Tom Waits
“An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.”
— John Buchan
“The atheist does not say ‘there is no God,’ but he says ‘I know not what you mean by God; I am without idea of God’; the word ‘God’ is to me a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation. … The Bible God I deny; the Christian God I disbelieve in; but I am not rash enough to say there is no God as long as you tell me you are unprepared to define God to me.”
— Charles Bradlaugh, ‘Plea for Atheism’
Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”
— Annie Dillard, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’
“I give money for church organs in the hope the organ music will distract the congregation’s attention from the rest of the service.”
— Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
“Gods always behave like the people who created them”
— Zora Neale Hurston
“Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.”
— Chapman Cohen
“Pray: To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.”
— Ambrose Bierce
“I still say a church steeple with a lightening rod on top shows a lack of confidence.”
— Doug McLeod
“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”
— H. L. Mencken
“Men never commit evil so fully and joyfuly as when they do it for religious convictions”
— Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
“Man has never been the same since God died. He has taken it very hard.”
“The world holds two classes of men – intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence.”
— Abu Ala Al-Ma’arri (???? – 1059)
“No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of Atheism.”
–Annie Wood Besant (1847-1933)
“Hey, let’s get serious… God knows what he’s doin’ He wrote this book here And the book says: ‘He made us all to be just like Him’, So… If we’re dumb… Then God is dumb… (And maybe even a little ugly on the side)”
– -Frank Zappa
“God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”
“You know your god is man-made when he hates all the same people you do.”
“Atheism is a non-prophet organization”
“Organizing atheists is like hurding cats”
— Madalyn Murray O’Hair
“In the absence of fear there is little faith.”
— Michael Pain
“If atheists are deaf to the word of God, then theists are blind to the ways of man.”
— Michael Pain
“You’ll never find a dead Christian in a foxhole who didn’t pray.”
“On the sixth day, God created man. On the seventh day, man returned the favor.”
“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”
“For god so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son,
that whosoever would believe in him would believe in anything.”
“Theists think all gods but theirs are false. Atheists simply don’t make an exception for the last one.”
“Fundamentalism means never having to say ‘I’m wrong.'”
“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day;
Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish”
“You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?”
— Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith
See for yourself.
“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”
-Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)