Right there in the very front, in the beginning so there’s no question of its importance, no room for misinterpretation, god commands his children NOT to eat of the tree of knowledge of ‘everything’* and thus the religion is bound and encapsulated within itself, with no outside influences – however sound their truths might be.
This thought struck me for the first time the other day and it intrigued me greatly because I immediately understood that it was important, no it was crucial to the religion to damn knowledge right off the bat, at its inception: That way there could be no question or curiosity from its followers and any thinking or contemplation done by said person is strictly limited to “a chaotically cobbled together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors, and copyists, unknown to us and to each other, spanning nine centuries,” as Richard Dawkins accurately describes the bible.
Now I am well aware of the ‘theological’ discussions regarding this particular transaction in the story of the garden of Eden, I was a christian myself for a long while. Most interpretations use the story to set the stage for the rest of the bible, ie. the fall of man, the failure of man to be perfect and hence the need for a redeemer. Some say it defines man’s life cycle: pain associated with birth, toiling in the soil until death. There is also significant discussion about whether the whole thing was a set up: surely an omnipotent god just knew we were going to botch it? Yet, didn’t he have to give us free will at some point in order for us to have the ability to choose whether or not to obey him? But if he was an omnipotent god wouldn’t he have known we would be unable to resist temptation? Especially that all-too-human trait of doing exactly the opposite of what a parent tells us to do? But then he had to allow us a choice….ad infin.
I say not one of those premises is the truth and they merely act as smoke screens. See, if one is tasked with compiling a workable document for a fledgling religion as were the delegates at the Council of Nicaea under Constantine’s orders, then it makes perfect sense that a well refined story would be utilized at the very outset of the narrative which effectively deters its readers from ever wandering past the pages of that one quilt-worked book. By so doing, the religion is then set up, indeed, mandated to refuse any other refinements or outside information. Now the religious leaders have a captive audience. Now can begin the building of a theological empire whose leaders are given carte blanche control over their flocks because they have been taught that information and knowledge is evil and suspect.
It’s been an effective tool. The christian religion is entirely encapsulated and absolutely refuses any new information. Check out what Copernicus went through when he observed that the sun did NOT revolve around the earth. His successor Galileo was forced to recant his view about a heliocentric galaxy and not until 1992 did the church issue a formal apology on his behalf. 1992!! Darwin’s ideas have been similarly refused even though the past one hundred fifty years have yielded massive amounts of support in their favor. Yet a christian’s response is almost robotic: Doesn’t matter, got a commandment to follow, No. New. Information!!!!!!!
How has that affected our nation? Well, we have a large section of our population who are dutiful christians and therefore make for paranoid, suspect, information wary voters whose only source of information comes from the church and select news sources that are proven horribly skewed. I know ’cause I was once one of them. Some of those christians have been elected to office and so we possess wholly ignorant politicians who are charged with making long-term policies without caring about facts, they blatantly admit it, and they careen forward recklessly, with blinders on. So we will continue to suffer the effects of global warming because we cannot accept new knowledge as a nation. And we will continue to be left behind the world in terms of groundbreaking science research, education, and progressive social goals. We can no longer claim to be number one as a nation on several levels simply because so many of us have obeyed the first commandment: thou shall be ignorant.
It’s a damning, damning situation and there’s not much to do for it except plod along. It doesn’t do any good to present facts, send links to verifiable resources, or emphasize one’s historical background in education. Our brothers and sisters simply cannot fathom or manage any form of outside information or knowledge: they’ve been taught that its evil. I find for myself, that at some level this new revelation allows me to muster a great deal more patience towards my fellow humans. Awareness is everything sometimes. The best we can do is educate when the opportunity arises and try not to sound like arrogant asses at the same time (I know this can be a problem because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to be conscious of it).
Despite the ironclad direction to remain naive, there are those brave enough to dare step outside the lines and let the road take them where it may. I know because I was one of them – and every day more and more of us make the choice.
Imagine …. a movie with a character living in animation until suddenly something makes her real and we see her foot emerge from the cartoon into real grass, experiencing real sounds, amazing smells, and beautiful, beautiful colors for the first time. She feels the warmth of the sun on her face and the wind gently tossing her hair. For several long moments we might watch her as the camera circles around her and we witness the overwhelming gratefulness she experiences as she takes in everything and smiles at her newfound freedom, no longer confined to the pages of someone else’s hand. Yes she’s a bit scared and we would see that she navigates through some bumpy roads in this new reality, but we watch her grow more confident each day. And, at the end of a few years, we might picture her at her computer writing these words of truth: Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.
Here’s to knowledge and understanding kids; and let truth will out.
* I choose to use the word ‘everything’ here since it more accurately depicts the gist of the commandment. In research for this article it was asserted in several places that the phrase ‘good and evil’ is really used a merism…that is a set of linguistic opposites put together with the effect to mean not just the parts, but the whole. So the interpretation of knowing ‘good from evil’ is a bit off, it really means that adam and eve would have knowledge of everything, including good and evil.