| || |
The hopelessly muddled story of Genesis even seems to have got the authors confused. Firstly, our purpose is to have dominion over the (previously created) animals:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.Followed soon by giving the animals a purpose what with them now being created after mankind merely to provide Adam with 'an help meet' in an apparently revised version of creation, or maybe another go at getting it right.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.Then there is an attempt to define a purpose for woman (not clear if this is in addition to being Adam's 'help meet', for which she was originally created as the animals God had created earlier didn't measure up, or instead of. It amounts to much the same thing though):
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.And finally another go at giving men a purpose, which, by great good fortune, just happened to be working in the fields of those who employed people to write the origin myths.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;And that seems to have been about it until we get to Ecclesiastes. Having originally said it makes no difference what we do in life:
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.The author then seems to have decided we do have a purpose after all. Alas, he only managed to come up with:
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.It's not clear which set of 'Commandments' are being referred to here, but the chances are, on past form, that they will not be a million miles removed from the ten listed in Exodus 34:17-26 which are almost all about observing rituals and giving stuff to priests. (Can you guess who wrote them?)
And this 'obey all the rules' rule is pretty much what Mohammed seems to have latched onto for the Koran, presumably not being able to come up with anything better and which still kept the clerics in charge.
And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me…You really would have thought that in the intervening thousand years or so between "God's Holy Word" being written down for the first time in the Old Testament books, and Mohammed having to write out a 'New Improved' edition with added threats, the clerics could have worked up a better purpose than this.
But there we are. If you're Christian, Muslim or Jewish, your great purpose in life is just to obey all the rules and 'worship' the god which will punish you if you don't.
In other words, the purpose your clerics have given you is to do what they tell you, without question. Don't think for yourself; don't question the rules; give up asking the questions 'what?', 'when?' and 'how?' and settle for a 'why' which gives easy answers with minimal thought and no need for learning. Abandon intellectual honesty, integrity and reason, and, above all, grovel continually in abject fear, or a bogeyman in the sky get you.
Talk about something to frighten the children with!
What a forlorn and hopeless prospect - a life of servility, obedience, fear and ignorance, and everything gambled on the hope for something better later. What a wonderful tool for keeping those at the bottom of the social pile in their place. Just obey all the rules and you'll get something better later - when it's too late to ask for your money back. Probably the best means of social control and keeping both Jack and his master in their 'rightful' places ever devised.
But, didn't we abolish slavery? Didn't we do that because we realised it was an immoral thing which degraded the slave and the slave-owner and took away human dignity from both; that the presence of slaves in our society made us less worthy to be called civilised? We did it because we knew it was right to do it; not because any holy book ever called for it to be done.
There is no purpose to life save what you chose to give it. You have no real freedom if your life's purpose is dictated to you as though you were a mere machine or robot pre-programmed for a purpose with no freedom to deviate from it.
The attraction of religion seems to be to provide an illusion of certainty for people who are so afraid of uncertainty that they'll settle for whatever certainties are at hand, no matter how absurd or how ill-supported by facts, logic or reason they may be.
They are like caged birds, too afraid to fly no matter how widely science opens the door or prises the bars of the cage apart. They trade the dangerous freedom of flight for the safe certainty of a perch.
What is wrong with knowing that you are the product of a three and a half billion years process in which every single one of your ancestors was a success in the struggle for life and a process which inevitably tends towards perfect adaptation; that you are the descendant of an unbroken line of survivors?
What is wrong with knowing that you have a connection with every other living thing on this planet?
What is wrong with being accountable to yourself and your fellow Man for the way you behave and the way you conduct your affairs and knowing that it is not enough to mutter a few spells or to talk to an imaginary deity when you have done wrong; that your wrongs cannot be wiped away by someone other the person you have wronged and that no one else, dead or alive, can right them for you; that you, and you alone, are responsible for yourself?
What is wrong with knowing that you are made of atoms forged in supernovae in a fourteen billion year old universe; that you are made from the same stuff the universe and everything in it is made from?
What is wrong with knowing that you are one of the lucky ones because you are alive and sentient and yet you need not have been; that your life - your bright spark of consciousness - will flash for a mere instant in eternity on the surface of what must be one of the most remarkable, beautiful and complex planets in the universe and you have this one brief opportunity to learn about it and marvel at what the universe has done.
What is wrong with knowing that through you, because you are part of the universe, the universe can look at itself in astonishment and ask itself how it got to be this way? And what's wrong with knowing that we have to work hard to answer that question and that there are no simple short-cuts to understanding.
And finally, what is wrong with thinking that the best you can hope to achieve in life is to leave this planet in a better shape than the way you found it and for it not to be the worse for you having spent a few short years upon it?
No 'faith' or holy book has ever told you that. No open-handed unctuously smiling priest or preacher has ever shouted that at you from a pulpit on Sunday. No Sunday-school teacher ever taught it to any wondering child. No televangelist fraud ever asked you to send him money so he could carry that good news to 'sinners' and 'save' them with it.
And yet it's all true!
It's what makes you special and it's what gives you an almost sacred responsibility - a duty even - to live life to the full and enjoy every moment of it, and to help create a world in which this is possible for everyone, not just a lucky few; a world which will continue long into the future so future generations can also enjoy the experience of life and carry your genes on to greater things and into other special people, each one of them the descendant of survivors.
Knowledge which comes lightly or which is declared by fiat and handed down to us with the instruction not to question it, is not worth the paper it's written on. It is one of the great crimes of religion that it has made people think it is.
Only religion can make you abandon a worthwhile life in favour of grovelling slavery and tell you that's a good thing.