Noah’s Ark seems to be very popular these days, there has been the recent “blockbuster” film staring Russell Crowe and there is an upcoming big adaptation for the BBC staring David Threlfall. I have always been rather fascinated by the story of Noah’s Ark. As a young child it was the usual thing with cute pairs of animals going into a big boat, what’s not to like? Later on I started think about the story more and, importantly, I started thinking about the people and animals that didn’t make it onto the ark. I never really thought about whether it was “true” or not. As I’ve described before in “Atheist reflections on apples, genesis,and growing up” they were just bible-stories, they were just there.
But as I thought about it I started to imagine just how terrible the events described in this story really are. If you are having trouble imagining it just check out some of the reports of the Tsunami of 2004, then multiply the misery, death, destruction, stench, and appalling suffering a thousand fold and that might give you some idea of what it would have been like.
So, here’s a quick summary of the story which appears, in some form, in all three of the holy books of the Abrahamic religions.
- God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe out mankind
- One righteous man among all the people, Noah, found favour in God’s eyes.
- God gave Noah instructions to build an Ark to save his family and two of each of all living creatures
- After they entered the ark, rain fell on the earth for a period of forty days and nights.
- The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days, and every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out.
- This genocide included every blameless child and baby in the world
- The waters fell and the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat.
- After a further 8 months Noah and family left the ark and offered animal sacrifices to God
- God decided the sacrifices were good and promised not to kill everyone again and invented the rainbow as a “sign of this everlasting covenant”
And there you have it. The deliberate and brutal drowning of every human being on earth except for one favoured family! And this act was carried out by God. The good father-figure in the sky that we are meant to worship!
According to scripture, God does this kind of thing regularly. Sodom and Gomorrah, bears ripping up kids who take mickey out of prophets, and all various evils visited on Job so he could win a bet with Satan, to name but a few. This God also intends to torture unrepentant atheists like me for all eternity after I die. And don’t forget the suffering and destruction yet to come when we reach the “end of days”.
In my opinion religion, as represented by the supposedly perfect scriptures, is utterly vile. To quote Richard Dawkins
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
But my point is that no normal Muslim, Christian, or Jew would dream of behaving like this. Most are tolerant, even respectful, of other religions. They wouldn’t destroy whole cities no matter how badly the citizens behaved. They wouldn’t even want to torture me forever because I disagreed with them about God either.
There are of course notable exceptions. The Westboro Baptists are pretty vile and ISIS are busy proving that there is nothing so vile in scripture that they won’t do it in God’s name.
But my point is not how vile these religious texts are. My point is how the overwhelming majority of the followers of these religions are perfectly decent, tolerant, peaceful, people.
If you type Islam is Perfect but I am not into Google you will get more than 20,000,000 hits usually in the form of a longer quote something like I’m a Muslim, Islam is perfect but I am not. If I make a mistake, blame it on me, not on my religion. It will also get millions of hits on Facebook or Twitter. You can find this kind of apologism for all the Abrahamic religions. It is for example the position taken my Mehdi Hassan, who has on many occasions said that the dreadful barbarism carried out by Islamists is not the fault of Islam, which is perfect, but the failure of some Muslims to understand and live up to that perfection.
This is about as wrong as it gets. People are infinitely better than there Gods, as they are described in their scripture.
Most people have actually already outgrown literalism. Theyknow that their scripture is a very long way from perfect. They know it deep down, that’s why they don’t actually get their morality from their scripture.
If they could just admit it to themselves and say so publically they would be in a better position to argue against the extremists.
So please – stop pretending your scriptures are perfect – rejoice in your humanity – you are so much better than your scripture.
And this particular atheist is grateful (to you not your God) for that.