Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Story of Abraham

I wrote before about the detestable thing that Christians call "Original Sin". This is the idea that all humans are cursed with the "sin" of wanting wisdom over submissive ignorance. According to the Christian churches we should aim to avoid acquiring knowledge.

It's important to analyze these messages because, quite simply, adherence to religion is not based on technical facts. It's not based on looking at the holy book of the religion, critically examining it, comparing it to the actual universe and saying, "Yes, this lines up!" No. Adherence to a religion is based on an emotional tie. Everything else is rationalization.

Let's turn to chapter 22 of Genesis.

It starts off simply enough. God says to Abraham, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac" up a mountain and "Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering".

The proper reaction - at least in modern times - to hearing a voice in your head calling out for you to set your son on fire is to call 911. This sort of thing occasionally happens to women and it's called "severe postpartum depression" or "postpartum psychosis". It's rarer in men, but the 911 operators would know what to do with Abraham: they would tell him to put the kid in a room by himself and wait by the front door for the social worker to show up.

911 isn't for Abraham. Admittedly, there was no 911 in his day, but still ... the guy doesn't even ask for clarification. He doesn't react with surprise or shocked indignation. He is the very model of stupid obedience. He grabs his son and heads off to the mountain. "Gee, Dad", the boy asks, "there's wood for a fire, but what are we going to burn in sacrifice?" Abraham, noble servant of God, dodges the question.

At the last moment, as Abraham is about to kill his son, God calls it all off. Then, as a reward for his utterly reprehensible and mindless obedience, God tells Abraham, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore."

Yeah, nice. That's a lovely, beautiful message, isn't it? Offer to kill your children and you will be rewarded.

I don't see how anyone can offer Christianity as a moral compass when it contains stories that value ignorance over wisdom and mindless obedience over ethical compassion. Even if there were some kind of powerful entity that demands the death of your children, your job is to fight it, not slaughter your children and beg for the scraps from its table.

Anything less just isn't human.

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