African slaves adopted the religion of the very people who enslaved them. Their masters used the Bible to justify their enslavement to the europeans, and the way they were treated. To justify this, they often referred back to the “Curse of Ham“, a biblical story in which Noah’s son and his bloodline are forever cursed to be servants to Noah’s other son’s bloodline, Shem.
So how did the Christian faith grow into something the African-American community holds so dear? What did Christianity look like through the eyes of these slaves? And what does this mean for religious people of African descent today?
Using the Bible to Justify Slavery
The african population that was brought to America in 1619 carried countless religious beliefs with them. Nearly a third of them were said to have been Muslims, and many practiced traditional african spirituality.
The slave traders cared about as much for the religious beliefs of their slaves as they did their human rights. In fact, many saw the slave trade as a form of providence. They saw their passage to America as their path to God. It was only thanks to the slave trade, they argued, that they were able to “find” God.
But God did not ‘find’ them. The Christians did. They wiped out their previously held beliefs and replaced them with their own. They encouraged the largely illiterate population to visit church services and hear the sermons of pro-slavery preachers. Those who could read were given ‘Slave Bibles‘ in which certain passages that promoted rebellious thinking – such as Moses’ liberation of the Israelites – had been removed.
Any abolitionist who tried to oppose using the Bible to justify slavery was shot down on the grounds that it was “so obvious” that the Bible supported it. This sheds light on a larger issue that comes with the idea of scripture. Interpretation can turn the Bible from anti-slavery to pro-slavery as quickly as it can do the reverse.
Literacy was the Key to Freedom for African Slaves
Once the enslaved learned to read english, things quickly took a turn for the better. They understood that the only way to appeal to their masters was in their own tongue, and along the lines of the holy text they held so dear. Slaves began protesting the idea of slavery being justified by the Bible and instead saw in those pages a profound sense of hope.
The ideas that the figure of Jesus Christ brought to the western world spread throughout their communities. Although many turned their backs on the religion of their oppressors, others saw in Jesus the promise of eternity, joy and peace.
And so the Bible, though once used to subjugate the african people, became a powerful weapon in the fight against slavery. Through the music we now know as the “African-American spirituals” and their “call and response” chants, they were able to empower slaves all across America. Christianity began to take a new form within the african population.
Religion Amongst African-Americans Today
According to Pew Research Center, around 80% of American churchgoers attended a church where at least 80% of the congregation is only of one race. This shows that the divide in their religious activity is still rampant today. As a result, white evangelicals and black believers often stand different politically. The former focus more on issues like abortion and sexuality. The latter focus more on issues of inequality and criminal justice.
So, if you’ve ever asked why Christianity has such prevelance in African-American culture, you have an answer. It’s because of the role it played in freeing their people, not just in enslaving them. Something we should keep in mind as we work to make the world less reliant on religion as a whole.
Conversion therapy has played a central role in the worldwide prosecution of the LGBTQ+ community. The idea that a person’s sexuality can be changed at will – either through faith-based conversion therapy or unspeakable medical procedures – has sinister roots and consequences.
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A Brief History of Conversion Therapy
It’s the turn of the century, the year 1899. A german psychiatrist named Albert vonSchrenk-Notzing attends a conference on hypnosis and presents to the crowd his amazing discovery – that he had turned a gay man straight.
His patient, he claimed, now had a lasting attraction to women; after just a few sessionsof hypnotherapy and a couple visits to the local brothel. Homosexuality was more than just a taboo at the time; a sinful, shameful sometimes even criminal act that was treated by most experts as an illness – and so it comes to no surprise that leading psychiatrists across the world had a vested interest in discovering a cure for being gay.
And Schrenk was just the beginning. The hunt to determine the source of gay men’s sexuality lead to one Austrian endocrinologist theorizing that a man’s homosexuality came from the testicles. In the 1920s he even carried out numerous transplantation experiments in which gay men were castrated and given “hetero testicles”. And although that didn’t work, it didn’t stop people from trying to find new ways to adress the “problem”. ECT, labotomies, even “aversion therapy”, which attempts to plant a general disgust for homosexuality in patient’s heads in the hopes that this will eliminate their sexual desires.
Patients were given chemicals that made them vomit when they looked at gay pornography or electrical shocks to the brain or genitals when they cross dressed. But even where these extreme practices weren’t occurring as much, the idea that homosexuality was a disease was widely accepted by the community as well as medical experts. Only in the 60s and 70s, when the gay rights movement began to demand equality for same sex attracted individuals did psychiatrists across the world begin to turn their back on the practices and techniques they had once used on their own patients.And once the medical community had distanced themselves from attempts at changing people’s sexuality, the stage was wide open for self anointed “experts” and religious groups to take over.
Modern Conversion Therapy
Modern gay conversion camps and meetings involve isolation, hypnotism, mockery, and sometimes even physical and sexual abuse. Most attendees are young boys, and many are not there by choice. Even those who decide for themselves that they wish to change their sexuality, are only encouraged to do so because of the culture they live in that denies them that part of themselves, and are fed lies about the effectiveness of the treatments they’re signing up for.If you have what you think to be an illness, and someone offers you painful, even traumatic treatment on the basis that it will help you, you may be willing to subject yourself to some horrible things.
The practice of corrective rape, in which a homosexual individual is subjugated to sexual assault in an attempt to enforce conformity with gender stereotypes, has weighed on countries like South Africa and India for decades, and has even found it’s way to the United States, like with the case of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was raped and later murdered for this exact purpose. A better understanding of sexuality and an environment that doesn’t demand sexual conformity has been proven to be a much more consistent way of helping LGBTQ people exist in the world today, and unlike conversion therapy, hasn’t repeatedly lead to the suicides and abuse of young people all over the world.
Comparison with Addiction Therapy
Some might be quick to point out that not all conversion attempts are that extreme, but it’s not just these gruesome practices I have a problem with. The entire premise and approach that conversion therapy has towards self respect and growth is absolutely backwards.
Drug addicts typically have lower self esteem than the average person. When someone is insecure or lacks confidence, they may struggle with negative thoughts about themselves. So, to escape this constant negativity, some people turn to drugs or alcohol, which in turn leads to even lower self-esteem.That’s why rediscovery of self respect is an important step in addiction therapy. Reestablishing an interest in one’s own health and wellbeing can be the catalyst that allows one to overcome the temptation to use.
When comparing the goals of addiction rehabilitation to the narratives behind conversion therapy, it becomes clear that while one practice encourages patients to rediscover a love and respect for themselves they may have lost, the other attempts to brainwash you into suppressing an integral part of your very being. If the values of addiction therapy were applied to young, sexually frustrated boys and girls living under homophobic conditions, we would be encouraging them to grasp that same self respect, embrace their identity and take back the life they were given – not to punish and shame themselves for it.
Banning Conversion Therapy
Today, all across the world, conversion therapy is being outlawed, at least in some respect. Brazil was the first country in the world to apply a nationwide ban on conversion therapy. In Germany, conversion therapy applied through deceit or coercion or any form of conversion therapy on minors is strictly illegal. In many countries like Switzerland and Albania, it’s illegal for medical professionals to carry out conversion therapy in any form. Even the Queen denounced conversion therapy as recently as this year, planning to ban it nationwide, and many U.S states already have laws in place banning the practice all together. So, things are getting better. But there are still people who stand behind it, and seem to be willing to die on that hill.
If they didn’t have such serious consequences, these people’s attempts at justifying conversion therapy would be almost laughable. The idea that people should have the right to attend conversion therapy if they want to is a convoluted one. I would agree that everyone should have the freedom to seek out whatever they think is going to help them on their path, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But – and this is critical – you won’t learn to rid yourself of your homosexual desires. Only to hate yourself for them, and how to suppress them. If that is what you truly want, I am sad for you. But I understand. It’s not that easy, is it?
I often hear people say, “being gay is bad, that’s just how I was raised.” “I just grew up that way.” That’s what really gets me, in the end. It’s that I do understand why so many people have such a problem with people exploring their sexuality. They’re not stupid, or dumb, they’re not evil or hateful, they’re just wrong. Not ignorant – but misinformed.
In the end, you don’t decide what you believe. You know only the way of life you can comprehend. Our efforts in the past few decades in the fight for LGBT rights have changed the world forever. And as we distance ourselves from an exclusively toxic narrative on homosexuality and reduce the effects of conversion therapy on future generations, the future seems bright.
Of all the stories in Genesis, chapter nine is one of the most controversial amongst christians and non-christians alike. Some of the earliest seeds of racial segregation have their roots in these pages. Regardless of intention, the curse of Ham was used to justify countless crimes against the people of Africa. It’s paramount that we familiarise ourselves with these passages and view them under a harsh light.
God’s Covenant with Noah
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Genesis 9:1, 9:2, 9:3
God’s command of Noah is fairly similar to the ones he makes of Adam and Eve; he gives him the task and responsibility of repopulating the earth. His relationship with Earth is an abusive one. Within the added context that we have, living thousands of years after this supposed event, we can speculate that the Bible supports the destruction of Earth for the good of humanity.
It’s hard to look around at the world today, the product of an entitled species’ need to expand and consume exponentially, and say that this passage had nothing to do with it. It’s likely that God’s words here to Noah , or at least the mentality behind it, played a role in chipping away at Earth and it’s ecosystems.
Made in God’s Own Bloody Image
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
Genesis 9:4, 9:5, 9:6, 9:7
Jaweh puts great significance into the concept of blood – drawing a direct connection between a creature’s life and it’s blood. It’s easy to read these verses as a metaphor, but “blood” here is meant to be taken litterally. To the church, blood is sacred. To God, Noah eating bloody meat would be a move against his creator.
The Bible also establishes capital punishment as justice, an arguable topic in itself. In the most simplistic, overbearing way possible – Anyone who murders another human will be murdered. What goes around, comes around.
Note that animals who kill humans are also said to be sentenced to death, but not humans that kill animals. This conflicts directly with the image of God that we’re familiar with today. God is said to be all-loving, and to care for each living soul equally, not to be prejudiced towards humanity.
Where does this prejudice come from, you ask? It’s from our ability to worship him. As humans, our brains are the only thing about us that truly set us apart from other animals. And with that, our ability to worship God rather than simply exist in his world gives us a special place in his “heart”.
“Whoops, My Bad”
God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
Genesis 9:8, 9:9, 9:10, 9:11
God’s behaviour throughout Genesis up until now is so vile and terrible that his promise never to wipe out all of humanity in one fell swoop again almost seems like mercy. In truth, though, a loving God would never have done it in the first place.
Why has God had a change of heart? How is this even meant to be possible? Was God more ignorant at the end of Chapter 5 than he is now, or he did he know even then that he would come to regret his actions? If so, why did he carry on? As always, there are no answers.
The Covenant of the Rainbow
God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
Genesis 9:12, 9:13, 9:14, 9:15, 9:16, 9:17
The Rainbow is a symbol in christianity of the covenant between God and Earth, and his vow never again to wipe it clean of life. However, reading this passage, I can’t help but see it differently.
You see, if a human had the power to wipe out almost all life on earth with a flood, and witnessed it all as it happened, I would hope they have some deep regret looking back. Perhaps the feeling deep within themselves that they could never again even consider causing so much pain and destruction.
But that isn’t what God does here. Instead, God creates the rainbow, as a “reminder” for himself; implying that he will be tempted, inclined even to do it again, but then able to talk himself out of it through aknowledging the rainbow. Talk himself out of it. A God. It hardly makes sense.
Naked & Ashamed
And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
Genesis 9:18, 9:19, 9:20, 9:21, 9:22
Things take a strange and sudden turn towards the end of this chapter. The Bible describes Ham accidentally seeing his drunken father naked in his tent. This is a wholy innocent act in itself, but as the following verses will confirm, Noah would be furious.
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.
Genesis 9:23, 9:24, 9:25, 9:26, 9:27, 9:28, 9:29
No matter how much I search for answers in religious sources, they all seem to agree to disagree on this one. What was Ham’s sin exactly? It’s often speculated that he mocked Noah when he told his siblings that he had seen their father naked. Either way, they don’t question it. They don’t care. Noah is a devout servant of God, and so they do not ask themselves if it is righteous.
This is the inescapable danger of faith in our daily lives. When we give in to faith, we begin to act on some divine commandment, not with our own built-in supercomputer. We find ways to justify God’s actions rather than consider their fairness. Even here, where God isn’t even the one cursing Canaan, but Noah.
And if you were feeling sympathy for Noah up untill now, we finally have the necessary proof that Noah is immoral, not just carrying out the orders from an immoral deity. The curse of Canaan is given by Noah, not God – and to Canaan and his descendants, not Ham.
As it would seem, Noah learned his ways from God himself; to curse children for the offenses of their parents, and to treat people – in fact, his own spawn, as if they were animals on a farm.
Justifying the African Slave Trade through Faith
Despite some problems with this story – What was so terrible about seeing Noah drunk? Why curse Canaan for the sins of Ham? Surely Ham would have had the same skin color as his brothers? – it eventually became the foundational text for those who wanted to justify slavery using the Bible. In its boiled-down, popular version, known as “The Curse of Ham,” Canaan was dropped from the story, Ham was made black, and his descendants were made Africans.
It was only so that the church was able to come to terms with their own dissonance, as they ripped africans from their homes and worked them to death in their home countries. And although this story has a very different meaning to christians today, the dramatic ripple effect it caused cannot be overlooked.
Any atheist who’s spent even a short amount of time debating with theists about their beliefs knows how hard it can be. Trying to get through to believers can feel like hitting a brick wall. In some of these cases, it’s best to bite your tongue and save your arguments for someone who might actually try to understand them. But how do we pick our battles, and avoid the pitfalls of conversation that truly is a lost cause?
There’s a Time and a Place for Everything
The most important thing to keep in mind when sparking conversation about religion is that, in many situations, it is simply not welcome. For one, you may want to avoid the subject in a professional atmosphere. The topic is so personal and intrusive to some people, it’s almost like asking them about their wages. Also, keep in mind that many people simply do not like to argue or debate at all. They see it as either a waste of time or hostility.
You don’t have to respect somebody’s beliefs in order to respect them as a person. Sometimes that just means recognising when you make them uncomfortable and not inflicting that upon them. Conversations about God can get heated, or make people question things they don’t wish to think about. You shouldn’t go around shoving that down anyone’s throat – no more than they should have the right to do so with their faith.
Being an atheist means being in the minority. Coming to terms with that will help you guide others towards a more rational perspective. Let them speak about their experiences, their beliefs, the reasons they have for them. Ask them questions, don’t dominate the conversation. Show them that you’re genuinely interested in their way of thinking; and that you don’t dismiss it outright.
We like to say we don’t need a God to know right from wrong. To act respectfully, and to live together as people. If that is true, we have to put our money where our mouths are. Take the high road, go the extra mile, and if all else fails, it’s better to disengage than to act out.
Don’t Be A Preacher
If you find that not a single theist is even remotely capable of having a civil conversation with you, maybe you’re the problem.
Patience is a virtue, and it is when you are most in need of your patience that it grows thinner than ever. Learn to hold back, and ask yourself what your goal is. Do you really expect to change hearts and minds here; or is there a smaller, more concise point you could make that may actually get them thinking?
Because if you don’t reach them, if they don’t actually absorb what you’re saying, you are no more use to them than street preachers with cardboard signs are to you. That’s why it’s so important to pick your battles. Our time, our energy, our tolerance, these things have value. We don’t have to chip away at them with petty arguments that go nowhere.
You cannot teach rational thought through ridicule and mockery. This usually only leads theists to further block out any new forms of thinking. Sparking an interest for skepticism in anybody requires a calm, gentle approach. Your goal should not be to teach, it should be to guide. The leap must be their own.
Evangelicals love to claim that science and religion can stand together. The hope is that through not having to choose between your faith and your comprehensive understanding of the world around you, you will be more susceptible to religion as a whole. Scripture once meant to be the direct word of God become ‘collections of stories and metaphors’ and contradictions found within become ‘different interpretations’ – but in reality, these inconsistencies are all the evidence needed to see that faith is not a reliable path to truth.
The problem is, the methodologies behind religion and rationality are so far apart, they cannot both be embraced to their fullest extent. The best a person of faith can hope for is a selective sense of rationality that is kept at a distance from their religious view; because a proper barrier of skepticism and the application of the scientific method cannot lead to the justified belief in a God.
All religions claim to know things they couldn’t possibly know – some even claim the existence of things that could never exist. It’s clear after even a broad analysis of any abrahamic text that the intention is to fit the presupposition of God into as many aspects of our daily lives as possible. God is in the sky, in the earth, in our minds and even waiting for us on the ‘other side’.
But the scientific method scrictly FORBIDS presupposition. In science, there is no intention beyond seeking the truth. It’s the frame of mind that allowed scientists throughout history to disprove widely-believed unjust claims about people of color and women, that allowed us to cure and treat thousands of diseases and save millions of lives, and that pushes us every day further and further towards the stars.
Bias is the biggest threat to a scientific world view, and a bias as strong and relentless as a belief in God is more crippling to this frame of mind than any other bias imaginable. It changes how you see death, and as a result, life – it changes your view on morality and judgement, on fairness and justice. It’s why, in a world less and less dependent on labels, the terms “Muslim” “Christian” and other such names are still on the table.
It’s because defining these terms are about who you are and how you supposedly act and think. And sure, not all muslims or christians are alike, but their characters are internally much more consistent than outside of it. Individuality and self- expression are not central themes in any majority religion today.
To ‘believe in faith and science’ is to do one of them well, whilst doing the other one poorly. Institutions of religion have worked tirelessly to dull down your idea of this dichotomy and present these two as if they aren’t mutually exclusive – sometimes, they even claim them to be interchangeable.
Regardless of what people believe, the truth is simple; that faith and science are worlds apart, and the only way to bring them together is to lie to ourselves. Religion and science may indeed coexist, but like oil and water, they will never mix.
It’s a fascinating bit of fiction, claimed to be true but widely discounted by scientists across the world. Some believers claim although there was no ‘global flood’, a highly localised flood did occur. Keep in mind that, even according to the Bible, this is false. We’ll get into that later on in this chapter. Meanwhile, let’s check up on Noah and his family.
The Calm After the Storm
And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;
And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.
Genesis 8:1, 8:2, 8:3, 8:4, 8:5
Here, God finally closes the floodgates, ending the flood and calming the waters. As the water dissapates, the Ark settles on a mountain in what is today known as eastern Turkey.
Countless articles are written in support of this narrative every year. They claim to have found a door of the ark in the turkish alps, or a geological formation in the rocks that seems “ark-shaped”. In reality, only one of these conflicting claims could even be true – and not a single one of them is.
The Raven and the Dove
And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;
But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.
And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.
Genesis: 8:6, 8:7, 8:8, 8:9, 8:10, 8:11, 8:12
In an attempt to better understand Noah’s apparent motivation behind sending out a raven, I did a lot of research into the symbolism of the raven and dove in christian mythology.
Most sources point to the selfish, carcass-feeding nature of the crow; and that the description given to it as going “to and fro” is also commonly used to refer to Satan. It’s widely believed that the goal here is to show that even after the flood, both the “clean” and the “unclean” – or the “good” and the “evil” will repopulate the earth.
But then, I wonder, what was the purpose of the flood in the first place?
I have my own interpretation that I’d like to propose. I don’t usually do this, but the story of Noah’s attempts to find land after the flood always told a different story to me. See, the crow may have been “unclean” – but it was also self-sufficient. The crow could feed off the carcasses floating in the waters and rest upon them to avoid fatigue. As such, the raven’s “uncleanliness” relates more to its seperation from – or lack of need to rely on – God.
This image of the rotting dead floating in the waters after the flood is in stark contrast to the blue, beautiful waters often depicted surrounding the ark. It’s easier for the church to portray this story as based in reality when the scenery thereof is so beautiful. People are accepting of the flood myth because it’s a magical tale that focuses on God’s love for Noah and his family, rather than the glaring atrocities carried out by the Lord in these chapters.
Good Thing Noah Didn’t Suffer From Claustrophobia
And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.
And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.
Genesis 8:13, 8:14
This is the fourth & fifth time the Bible gives us a specific date related to the events of the Great Flood. What other purpose is there to this, than to double down on the idea that this is a true story? The Bible drops all sense of ambiguous descriptions like “once upon a time” and insists on these dates in the hopes to create a believable timeline of the events before, during and after the flood.
And God spake unto Noah, saying,
Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.
And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him:
Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
Genesis 8:15, 8:16, 8:17, 8:18, 8:19
So, after a year and ten days, the stampede of animals who’d been locked up with one another in the ark are finally allowed to leave. Let’s put aside the sheer impossibility of them being aboard the ark in the first place and instead focus on the matter at hand – somehow, Noah apparently succeeded. He had brought countless animals from the world before the flood to the world after the flood. The sheer nobility of this act is not to go underappreciated. Whether directed by God or not, we cannot deny that according to the Bible, Noah saved countless species from extinction.
It’s nice to know that even though the story is a falsehood, the overall morality depicted in this tale is righteous. Or is it?!
Sacrificial Offerings Are a Baffling Concept
And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Genesis 8:20, 8:21, 8:22
These three verses are jam-packed with insanity.
First, why the hell did Noah go through all this trouble to preserve the lives of certain animals just so they could be sacrificed later? Would the burnt offerings not have had the same effect, if burnt before the flood? If not, why? What kind of cruel God would demand his offerings first go through hell on earth, before death? What kind of cruel God would require the burning of living creatures as a price for “never again smiting any more every living thing, as I have done”?
What kind of omnipotent, omniscient deity would be swayed by the smell of burnt offerings? What is it about the destruction of life that calms him so? What on earth is even going on here?
What is the take away here? What are we supposed to learn? It makes me sick to my stomach.
This passage in the Bible is often referred to as “Noah’s Sacrifice”. In truth, Noah isn’t the one giving over his life, or the lives of his loved onces. Noah, of all people at this point in the Bible, has sacrificed the very least. To refer to it as Noah’s sacrifice is vile – and absolutely what God would have wanted.
It’s common for apostates to have a looming fear of hell even long after they stop believing in it. People who were raised in deeply religious circles have essentially been branded with the idea that hell awaits them should they step out of line.
The concept of hell is a traumatising, inexcusable mess, so it’s no surprise they struggle so much. The christian faith has always been able to thrive in society despite it conflicting so dramatically with scientific research. Similarly, christian principles stick around long after followers abandon the church itself.
But there’s one other burden that ex-religious individuals carry around with them in life – a fear of the so-called “abyss”. Let’s take a minute to discuss accepting mortality, the lasting effects of being convinced of an afterlife, and the uphill battle that is coming to terms with reality.
If we’re brought up in an honest, healthy environment, death is slowly but surely introduced to us as a concept in our younger years. Death remains a terrible, tragic thing, and yet passivley remains as a peaceful thought in the back of our heads; a reminder that all pain is limited.
However, if we’re instead first introduced to the idea of an afterlife, hidden away from the realities of death the way young children are hidden from the truth about Christmas, it can be a disheartening blow to realise that no such paradise exists.
Many apostates are plagued by feelings that their actions have little or no significance. With no “reward” at the end of the line, life itself must be satisfying enough. When you’ve been chasing a carrot on a stick for years, finding out it’s made of plastic is unsurprisingly heartbreaking.
So how do apostates deal with the realities of death? How do you go from believing you’ll live an eternity in heaven, to spend it with your family, your heroes; any and everyone who was saved by Jesus Christ – to the belief that soon after your passing, you will be nothing but dust and ash?
Fear of the Abyss
The christian position is bolstered by the dramatic change that can be drawn from believing in an afterlife. They can dictate to followers how they are to live in order to get into heaven, because they claim absolute knowledge of good and evil. They can mould the world to their ideaology. Leaving religion is so difficult because it’s designed to be difficult. Leaving one’s family, friends, entire life behind can feel like one is going completely against what’s right. But what positive change comes with turning away from baseless claims about death?
Well, for starters, they can allow themselves new freedoms. Previously limited by the christian frame of morality, apostates can now begin to express themselves and live their lives in ways they had once seen as detremental to their salvation.
There’s also a destinct value in living in reality. Nobody can retain a healthy rational perspective while also turning a blind eye to some of the most weighted and crucial questions of the modern age. Either slowly veer off into delusion, or abandon the idea of a God until someone gives you some actual evidence.
Whatever emotional or psychological benefits religions bring are widely overshadowed by the toxic systems they’re built upon. Christianity is oppressive, deceptive and demanding by design. By leaving the church, you open the doors for other members of your commune to glimpse a ‘way out’, and should you ever have kids, they could be given a choice you never were. In essence, you’re not the only person who can benefit from your secularism.
The story of Noah’s Ark continues on through the next chapter. It describes the horrific flood that wiped out all life on earth, with the exception of the beasts and people on the Ark itself. With the great flood around the corner, Noah makes his final preparations for the apocalypse.
Excuse Me, Is That Sacrifice Kosher?
And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.
Genesis 7:1, 7:2, 7:3
Remember, we’re supposed to believe that every single person on the face of the earth is deserving of death, except, of course, Noah’s family. God is essentially decimating the entire population in order to retain control over and loyalty from his followers.
He commands Noah to bring only one pair of each “unclean” animal and seven pairs of each of the clean animals onto the ark – clean referring to the religious notion that while some animals, God approves of eating or sacrifice, while others do not. Note that God is indifferent here to the lives of the so called “clean animals”. His intention isn’t to protect them. It’s to preserve them until they are to be sacrificed. To him.
For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.
And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.
Genesis 7:4, 7:5, 7:6
Proponents of this flood myth care very little about the actual facts behind this story. Why? Because it’s so obviously untrue. Aron Ra, a well-known atheism activist from Texas, made an entire YouTube series debunking the flood from numerous scientific perspectives that is definitley worth a watch.
The Great Big Bloody Do-Over
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.
Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth,
There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
Genesis 7:7, 7:8, 7:9, 7:10
It rains – a lot. Forty days straight, actually. So the earth is covered with water, killing everything that was not aboard the ark. When compared to the largest recorded flood in earth’s history, an around 10-year lasting flooding process of an astounding 2084 cubic kilometres (500 cubic miles) of water, the great flood doesn’t make much sense. Not only was this prehistoric flood highly localised, but it was a direct result of glacial phenomenon. Had humans been alive at the time, maybe we could have even predicted it.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.
Genesis 7:11, 7:12, 7:13, 7:14
It’s really interesting how much the Bible repeats itself in this chapter. It seems to really want to hammer in the idea that this flood actually happened. Regardless of what christians say about the flood today, the original intention of the author of this chapter was to convince you that this was the truth.
Unfortunatley, this is simply impossible and unreasonable by any standards. The fact that this is just a story should come as a relief. Anyone who reads the tale of the ark and looks up to Noah, or even to God, hasn’t thought about it beyond the way it’s presented.
Noah is admirably loyal to God, yes, but at the same time, infuriatingly dismissive of mankind. If we begin to look at Noah as an agent of God, infinitley devoted to him and therefore his human plaything, we recognise something. Just like in the story of Cain and Abel, or in the story of Adam and Eve, the true crime here is disobeying God. The only qualifier Yaweh is interested in is devotion. Everyone else can – quite literally – go to hell.
One Flood to Kill Them All
And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.
And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.
Genesis 7:15, 7:16
Yaweh is the one to shut the door of the ark, not Noah. It’s described as the Lord shutting Noah in – but in reality, it was much more brutal than that. In one fell swoop, God shuts out the rest of his creation. The act of closing this door is the official death sentence to any and all who still walked the earth.
There’s metaphorical value to this act as well. In the christian faith, God closing the door is tangential to his promise of protection over those he saves. To me, however, it just sounds like God is making clear once again that the choice is simple. Revere, fear and obey him – or die. Die in the most gruesome, terrible way he can think of. Suffer for your insolence.
It’s moments like these where I struggle to see the loving, caring God that proponents of the Bible seem to find within these pages.
And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.
And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.
And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
Genesis 7:17, 7:18, 7:19, 7:20
Does this feel like an empowering story to you? Do you feel inspired? If a human had the powers of God, and sent a global flood with waters as deep as the mountains are high to flush out all life on earth, would you revere them? Praise them? Worship them?
What about those who do? The people who hold them in high regard, not despite their act of gruesome violence, but because of it? Would you feel the need to respect their beliefs? Would you cast anyone who critiques their perspective as a bigot?
On the Brink of Extinction
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.
Genesis 7:21, 7:22, 7:23, 7:24
The great flood was more than just unnecessary. The events described in this chapter of Genesis were nothing short of useless. Even within the story of the Bible, Noah’s flood does not eliminate sin in the world. His “cleansing” of the earth results in a world still littered with all kinds of atrocities. What purpose did the great flood have if the end result is a world full of hate, rape, murder and oppression?
What made Noah and his family so exceptional? Why did the animals have to pay the ultimate price too? Did God not know of a better way? The number of questions that remain after reading this story show why christian apologetics exist. The Bible raises many more questions than it answers, and unless you’re willing to fill in the massive gaps and ignore its glaring flaws, this story makes no sense.
Today, I’d like to share a story with you. It’s a story of somebody coming close – very close – to changing my mind. Maybe even close to dramatically shifting my behaviour in a time when I drastically needed a change of pace; and in the last possible second, God came inbetween me and the right decision.
A Cry For Help
When I was about 16, I got heavily involved with a wide selection of drugs. Some of these substances were directly contributing to my diminishing health, and I saw no way out. I was addicted, and the symptoms of molly addiction were amplified by my young age and direct access to the substance.
It’s fair to say I wasn’t “all there, all the time” and was neglecting my relationship, school, family and general responsibilities in favor of getting high. It was indesputable: I needed help. The only problem was, I had a strong aversion to medical professionals and a constant urge to avoid my problems entirely.
What I really needed more than anything was intervention. Someone had to put their foot down and stop allowing me to drag myself through the mud. To be fair, a few people tried. I remember an old classmate taking me by the shoulder and warning me what I was doing to myself, and I remember my mother breaking down into tears as she wondered what on earth was wrong with me. It was one man, though, a total stranger, who came closer than anyone before him to setting me on the right path.
The Right Place at the Right Time
So there I was, participating in some admittedly illicit activities on a sunny day with two of my friends, when a couple walks by. They had those cheerful smiles you only see on truly happy people – and were clearly just out and about enjoying their day. Then the husband glanced over at me, saw what I was doing and began to approach. His wife had a look on her face that told me this was a common occurance.
He was a very kind man, and, in the most polite way possible, asked what it was we were doing. When I told him, he looked sad. Genuinely, actually sad. As if the idea alone of us wasting our young lives with our heads in the clouds pained him.
To be clear, I was very ignorant at the time. Rude. I had no respect for anyone who tried to tell me what to do, or how to do it. That’s why it was so exceptional that this man stood before me, shaking his head at my actions. I felt terrible.
But as he spoke, he told us of his experience as a young man. He told us that we had our whole lives in front of us, and we were on the brink of throwing that all away. His words actually touched me. For a brief moment, I was awake. Aware. I knew that I had to do something, and for the first time in forever, it felt like I had control over my own life.
Have You Heard of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ?
But then, the man pulled out a pamphlet for his church. He started going on about Jesus, and letting him into our heart, how Christ would guide us away from our lifestyle choices and towards the light – that God would be able to help us, even if we couldn’t help ourselves.
Looking back, I want to shout at the man. At the time, though, I just shook my head, dissapointed. I told him I had truly thought he was here to help. He told me he was, and I replied saying if ‘accepting Jesus into my heart’ was a necessary step to a better life, I’d sooner rot in the gutter where I was.
Why did it infuriate me so? Because he didn’t really want to help me. He thought he was helping, sure, but in his best-case-scenario, I would have gone home a christian. If he’d had his way, if his kindness and helpful demeanor had been able to convince me, I would have dropped to my knees and prayed to the very God I know to be responsible for so much untruth in the world.
His smile was no longer encouraging. His hand on my shoulder no longer comforting. In that moment, all I wanted more than anything else was for him to go away. Far, far away. God was a slippery slope, and even my darkest day wouldn’t push me that deep into desperation.
Maybe if he’d left out the Jesus part, or if I’d been less stubborn, I would have listened. Instead, I continued down my path of self-destruction for years thereafter. I’m not trying to blame this stranger for my mistakes – but the only people who seemed able to pull me out of that were those who loved me for who I was, cared for my wellbeing and helped me in ways that I needed, rather than pushing his ideology onto me in hopes that living his life would bring me the peace it obviously brought him.
Religion Shouldn’t Hold a Monopoly on Love
I understand that if I had listened, I very well may have found myself off drugs considerably faster. I may have found the happiness, love and respect I so desperatley wanted from those substances in the word of God and the feeling of belonging to a church. But I shouldn’t have to give up my framework for another just to be healthy again.
That day marked the first in a long process of learning about the state I was in, and how important it was to be released from it. I was not healthy the next day, or the next day, or the day after that, but today I look back on that day as the day I learned that even God couldn’t help me.
I didn’t want him to. I wasn’t ready to succumb to religion just because there were things in life that I wanted. If God really could help people, I would simply be one of those he doesn’t. It seems most of the people I’ve met have had enough misfortune in their lives to second that statement. Faith may work for the old man and his wife, but all I really needed was a heartfelt talk with somebody who cared. So much for that.
Finally we arrive at one of my favorite stories in Genesis – the tale of Noah’s ark. It remains one of the easiest to disprove historical accounts of the holy book. The way I see it, the story of the great flood is a massive embarassment to proponents of the Bible.
You may remember where we left off – Lamech, a descendent of Seth, son of Adam, had just given birth to his son Noah. In the following chapters, he’ll play a central role in the course of humanity.
A ‘Giant’ Leap of Faith
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
Genesis 6:1, 6:2, 6:3, 6:4
The first verses of this chapter may seem cryptic, but there’s quite a bit to unpack here.
For one, God seems to think that living nearly an entire millenium is no longer something humans should be capable of. He sets a ‘natural limit’ on their lifespans: 120 years. Some christians take this at face value, noting that the oldest people in history lived to be around that age. I however, find them to be the exact opposite – the few individuals who managed to live past the age of 120 have wholly disproven this verse of the Bible.
As humans continue to populate the earth, the ‘sons of God’, a.k.a Angels, who were cast out from heaven are so attracted to the daughters of mankind that they take them as wives and impregnate them. Not with human children, no – their offspring is the highly controversial group, the “Nephilim” – also known as giants. These giants will be described in the Book of Enoch as being around 4500 feet (1350 metres) tall.
It’s not uncommon in mythology to depict impossible creatures as the result of sexual activity between mythical figures. In greek mythology, the Gods often came down to earth to have children with humans and nymphs, producing half-blood offspring like the cyclops.
Why Must Beasts Pay for The Wickedness of Man?
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
Genesis 6:5, 6:6, 6:7
God looks upon his creation and sees only evil. It grieves him, and he feels regret. Regret. The all-knowing, all-powerful, eternally God who created the universe regretted his decision to make mankind. So, naturally, he swears to destroy any and every thing that he had created, ashamed of what it had become.
This is a really interesting point in Genesis. In my opinion, this is where everything could have still been kept from falling apart. Any author would tell you that God as a character in this story would now arrive at the ‘turning point’ in his development. Finally, God would recognise how much of a monster he’d become and how unjust his judgement had been.
Instead, God blames his creation. Humanity is at fault for sin, and so the whole world must pay. Like a bitter, self-righteous dictator, he believes the world is filled with toxic, mislead individuals who know little about life and even less about morality. Not unlike some of the authoritarian leaders in power throughout history, there is apparently only one way to fix this issue. The final solution. The animal kingdom, humanity… God regrets creating them both, and vows to destroy them all.
I Have So Many Questions About Noah’s Ark
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Genesis 6:8, 6:9, 6:10
“Noah walked with God.” This isn’t an understatement. Noah is described throughout the following chapters as speaking directly with the Lord. His devotion to God is unwavering. God chooses Noah for one reason, and one reason only – Noah listens to God’s every word. You see, as the Bible repeatedly reminds us, it’s not about who does good or evil in the world. It’s all about your devotion to him. Everything else is secondary.
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Genesis 6:11, 6:12, 6:13
You might think this whole thing is starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s important we ask these questions. God created the earth, apparently, and everything on it. Now he looks down at it, disgusted by the violence and corruption. So… logically, he sets in motion a plan to kill them all.
How could a God be so opposed to violence and yet so willing to murder innocent people? Well, the truth is, many christians don’t think the men and women from before the flood were innocent at all. They say that through their own free will, they defied God and as such became sinners, deserving of whatever punishment God sees fit.
And if you’re a christian who doesn’t believe that, tell me please what the purpose of this story is; if not to make us fear the sheer power behind something that actually doesn’t really exist.
You’ll find only a few christians these days who claim to stick to everything the Bible says. They will however admit their belief in things like creationism or original sin. Where they get these ideas, if not from scripture, I don’t know.
Building an Ark: For Dummies
Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
Genesis 6:14, 6:15, 6:16
It’s not exactly clear what “gopher wood” is. It could be pine, cedar or even cypress wood. However, the specifications of the ark are laid out in a lot of detail. It’s not entirely pointless to note that these dimensions have been shown to be suitable for a craft like this to float. There are plenty of other issues with the story of Noah’s Ark – so I have no issue admitting that a ship like this could have been seaworthy. No, in my eyes, the real problem begins a verse later.
And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
God is virtually incapable of ‘making the punishment fit the crime’. All life must pay for the ‘misdeeds’ of mankind. Christian sources describe this event as a ‘reset to backup button’ on God’s part; returning the earth to a state it was in before humanity had soiled it. It seems God has very little respect for his creation. No loving God would see his people as so disposable.
Divine Favoritism and Selective Mercy
But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
Here, we establish the covenant between God and Noah. More than a contract, a covenant in this context is the most serious obligation possible. God vows to save Noah and his family from the incoming flood – further bringing attention to the fact that Noah is supposedly so much better than the other people of the world.
Why is that? Is it because he walked with God? Did everything he told him to? Is Noah allowed to live solely because he devoted himself unquestiongly to his Lord, and followed his every command?
And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
Genesis 6:19, 6:20, 6:21, 6:22
You see, God shows mercy to Noah and his family, but not to the countless innocent animals that inhabited the earth. Only two of each ‘kind’ are to be saved. The sheer number of innocent creatures that are to be wiped out by this flood is immeasurable. Why?
Seriously, let’s ignore the atrocity of killing all of humanity for a second and ask a different question. Why the hell would God would kill all these innocent creatures, only to preserve two of each kind so they would be able to populate the earth once again? Is there a more accurate example anywhere of unnecessary slaughter?