Any topic that qualifies as a complicated conversation generally contains a lot of heated passion from every side, regardless of the topic being explored. I will of course be talking from my own point of view, so go with the assumption that it is my opinion. When I give facts, I will also provide the appropriate links so that you know it’s NOT my opinion.
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“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” (Shakespeare, “Henry V”)
I won’t scare you with the chain of thoughts that led me to this, but let’s start here:
When God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden, He told Eve “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe.” That was to be Eve’s punishment for eating the fruit of the Tree of Life/Knowledge (depending on who you ask).
Keeping that thought in mind, let’s get scientific and modern. All female mammals have to labor in order to give birth. (Even things that lay eggs have to work at getting them out of their bodies.) I’d go so far as to say that having children requires some type of “labor”, some effort to get things where they need to be in order to keep the population going, no matter what kingdom they belong to. Heck, even the lowly amoeba has to work at splitting itself in two. So my point is that childbirth has labor–and with that, comes pain. James Herriot wrote several descriptions of having to help a cow or a sheep that was in labor (and that it was obvious the animal was in pain) in his books about being a Yorkshire vet.
You still with me? Okay, let’s put those two thoughts together: God told Eve that he was going to punish her by making childbirth hard and birth requiring labor (and pain) is pretty much universal across all living beings. When I thought about that, it led me to only two conclusions:
- Either God was vindictive enough to cause “travail” for all female/childbearing creatures OR
- Adam and Eve had NOT been having sexual intercourse OR God had been using some form of birth control so that she had not gotten pregnant
IF God was vindictive enough to have punished all child-bearing creatures, that makes him a rather sick fuck and not much of a god. I’m not sure I would agree with punishing Eve, but according to His rules, she had ignored The One Rule (to subdue them all?). So why would He make all animals suffer? Unless…childbirth with labor/pain was already the norm and this was an empty threat–that was made into a threat only because she had not given birth yet.
So that gives us the second option and its associated scenario. Let’s say that Adam and Eve had been having intercourse. It has been described as being a “gift from God”, something joyous and holy. So the two of them were having sin-free sex. The basic and biological reason for having sex is to produce offspring. Why didn’t they? Was there some “magical” birth control? Was God preventing conception? Had He placed his Holy IUD into her womb, or put a sacred cervical cap to prevent the swimmers getting through? Or…did he just have the fertilized ovum…die? All of which puts a seriously new spin on the fundamentally religious stance of anti-choice, anti-abortion, mostly anti-birth control (since some of those pills are “actually abortifacients”).
Or was there some other reason that Eve did not get pregnant, perhaps she didn’t ovulate (or menstruate, the bigger “punishment” if ever there was one!) or Adam did not produce sperm. Maybe it was just for the oldest reason (and the most religiously approved form of modern birth control) — they were abstaining. Well, they couldn’t abstain from something that they didn’t do to begin with. And after The Fall, when the Lord comes looking for Adam and he hides from God, he is asked why he hid and his answer is, “Because I was naked.”. If Adam and Eve did not know that they were clothing-challenged, they probably never considered rubbing their nether parts together.
Adam was so busy naming all the animals that he didn’t bother naming body parts. Not only were they “innocent”, they were beyond that since even a child knows that there are two kinds of bodies in their species…those with a hose and those with a hole. A newborn boy will (automatically?) reach for his stem when you change his diaper. A newborn girl can be a bit more discrete, just clenching her thighs to get that good feeling. Of course, I can grant that this is behavior that occurs after Adam and Eve were thrown out of their home. So maybe our innocents are really born with the “Original Sin”. And maybe Adam and Eve just didn’t have sexual intercourse while they were in the Garden.
Having muddled our way through all of that, what is the next logical step for this though process? Well, now we consider the general rabid fervor the fundamentally religious employ when talking about sex, intercourse, procreation and particularly about birth control and abortion. Where on Earth did they ever get the idea that sex is sinful, should only be done within the bonds (good name, that) of marriage and only to have a child? Well, maybe it wasn’t on Earth–maybe they have made the logical assumption that Adam and Eve did not have children until AFTER they sinned because they didn’t have sex before taking a bite of that fruit.
Since they are so adamantly opposed to interfering with procreation, either prior to (birth control) or after the fact (abortion), I don’t think that the fundamentals would worship a God that had actually performed either of these methods. Let’s face it: if He actually did prevent children (before or after the act), then He is obviously pro-birth control, possibly pro-abortion. (“Pro-abortion is not to be confused with “pro-choice”. Two different things.) That seriously contradicts some of their most strongly held beliefs…their heads would probably pop if they suddenly had to incorporate this idea of “God, the Original Planned Parenthood”. And would probably require a new look at every bit of the book they follow–to the point of admitting that it is a work of humans who had their own agenda for what belonged in it and what didn’t–just try researching the Council of Nicaea and who was there, who was making deals… Add to that the Bible that is in Turkey, scientifically accepted as being about 1500 years old, which makes it the oldest Scriptures in the world. It is said to hold a very different story of Jesus’s death–that he actually didn’t die, but was taken up into Heaven (not unlike his mother). Sure changes the whole “suffered for your sins, died on the cross” thing, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately the fundamentally religious people also have another very specific and irrefutable trait: they KNOW what they know. They know it without a doubt, without even the consideration of a thought about other possibilities, because they were told that (something) is true. It’s capital “T” true for them, and once it’s been given that status, there is NO changing it. It’s TRUE, godsdamnit. Don’t try to confuse me with facts. (Or science.) I will defer to Galileo Galilei: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
If the God of Abraham, also called Jehovah or Allah–because Jews, Christians and Muslims all have the same guy as their CEO (Chief Evangelical Officer)–bothered to spend the time making brains to put into our heads, shouldn’t we then be responsible, nay even required, to make fullest use of them? Otherwise, why bother making them? Illiterate, uneducated people can live a full and rewarding life; they can appreciate Nature, care for others, and do most of the things any of us do (that don’t require reading or school-taught skills). The “so-called” primitive tribes (and I say “so-called” because the adjective “primitive” is something that we add to their name and I consider it pejorative) have homes, tools (and weapons), and skills. In some ways, because they don’t have “book learning”, they have an understanding of some pretty complex concepts beyond that of a Harvard graduate. They not only follow the natural cycles (seasons, animal migration and so on), but understand Nature in a way that the “so-called” enlightened folks do not–and we suffer for that lack of connection to the world.
And yes, even those who are illiterate, who are uneducated–use their brains. Intelligence is not measured by how many letters there are after your name or how many books you’ve read. Your ability to solve problems, to handle abstract concepts, to communicate clearly with others…these are the things which show that your brain works. (Side thought: why does it seem that it takes intelligence, especially higher than average, to really have a sense of humor? Or at least a more sophisticated sense of humor than just a pie in the face.) So God, that according to the fundamentally religious, created all of us, intended for us to use the brains we have in the world that we live in.
Which point these same fundamentally religious people seem to miss. They allow another mortal, usually a male, to read from or cite a book (that may or may not actually be what they think it is) while they listen and take it as (excuse me) “gospel truth”. They allow other mortals (again, usually male) to form groups and hierarchies within their specific forms of religion who then control the religion from those positions. These hierarchies may stretch back through hundreds, even thousands of years of the religion’s existence and it is always mortals, mere humans, who are passing down the rules and beliefs for that religion. Have you ever played the game “Grapevine” (some call it “Telephone”), where one person whispers a sentence into the next person’s ear, who repeats what they heard, through the players. At the end, the last person states out loud the sentence s/he was told–and then the first person says out loud what he had whispered to the next player. If you haven’t ever played this, trust me when I tell you…those two sentences seldom bear any resemble to each other. “Your brother came to my house and we played Nintendo” can end up like “Our mother’s the same, do you know sand and sea stayed in tandem”.
Now just imagine the first sentence in–and to keep with most fundamentally religious people’s timeline–about 4000 BCE (Before Common Era, also known as “BC”, Before Christ). God has created the whole show; dinosaurs and mastodons are running around, and Adam and Eve have settled down in a nice community with their two boys. (Ummm, where did that community come from? Never mind.) So God decides it’s time to get someone to ghost write (Holy Ghost write?) this book He’s been working on. Or maybe it’s even as late as Moses’ time…since the Egyptian knew how to read and write. Or maybe it was with the Phoenicians. Anyway, God finds his co-writer and begins to dictate.
Except that his chosen vessel doesn’t have paper or a pen, so God repeats it often enough that it’s memorized. And it’s still what God had said…so this person passes on the whole saga to the next, probably the Keeper of Records in their religious hierarchy. He tells it to the next person and in two generations, words are being left out or replaced with other words that don’t mean quite the same thing. And the more stories which have to get added, the more gets forgotten or reworded. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest writings of the story of Jesus, are not as old as the events they talk about. And so eventually we end up with both Old and New Testaments which Mr. Gutenberg prints and now makes it available to more people, not just the very rich who would have scribes to make copies of the versions that were in their local religious building.
Now add to that the fact that the earliest versions were written in Aramaic. Check this out: “Last of the Aramaic Speakers” –an article that says what we consider to be Aramaic is not just a single language, but a whole conglomeration of different languages–and it does NOT reflect the form spoken at the time of Jesus. You can certainly agree that translation would be necessary, but would be done by people who had perhaps very little or even no knowledge of the language they would be translating. Remember Grapevine? Imagine if the first sentence is given in Russian or German–but the second person doesn’t speak that language and can only reproduce the word sounds, trying to make a coherent sentence out of them.
We’re talking about the obvious reasons for not believing as literal and incontrovertible truth anything that is passed down in oral history, written in an ancient language and then translated without the knowledge of that language (or as is the actual case for the Bible, multiple translations). As with other cultures, the Bible can be considered a book of mythology, an allegory for events that occurred in the distant past. (And in this case, distant means more than about 6 generations removed, since anyone alive at the first generation is probably not around to dispute the sixth generation’s bastardization of their story.) Consider the Genesis story of creation: if it’s literally true, the empirical evidence that we can discern through scientific observation and using our God-given brain is not true–and not worth the effort of figuring it out. On the other hand, what if it began as an oral history, given to nomadic tribes who were illiterate and uneducated (as we define those terms today), people who didn’t know about scientific process and didn’t even have the words for “quantum physics” or “evolutionary process”. It’s a simplified explanation of a process that has, by scientific discovery, taken millions of years–not thousands.
So IF the Word of God IS true, where does that leave Adam and Eve, sex and sin? I think it breaks down like this: Adam and Eve were NOT having sex prior to eating the fruit. By consuming from the Tree of Life–or the term I like better, the Tree of Knowledge, “their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked”. In other words, the act of sinning is what ended up enabling them to have children, even if there was labor involved.
That would explain the modern fundamental stance on sex, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, birth control and abortion. It would also provide the basis for most of the “War on Women” we are seeing in legislation throughout the nation. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” becomes the other part of that thought process. That explains the actual NEED to control women’s sexuality. Intercourse was not supposed to be fun, it was supposed to be for procreation and therefore, women were not to seek it other than from their husband and only to have a child. There is simply no other reason to “do it”. And men will be in charge. Although I think the fundamentalists have taken that a bit far, because it has become ANY man being in charge of ANY woman.
This is one of those *things* that the fundamentalists KNOW, and is TRUE for them. So by association, a woman who seeks birth control (never mind what medical reason she might have for needing it, we all KNOW what she’s really talking about) or has an abortion (AUGH!) is committing SIN. And as concerned and loving fundamentalists, it is now the men’s job to ensure that she does not sin–even if they have to make non-religious laws to do that. And even if she is not of their religion, they still have to adhere to their belief and force her to conform to that belief, because they KNOW they are right and she is wrong.
If she is sinful enough to engage in sexual activity without a husband and becomes pregnant, it is her punishment for sinning. She cannot take active measures to prevent it because that is a sin of intention. She cannot kill the child (or as I call it, have an abortion, ending an unwanted pregnancy that isn’t a viable human being yet) because that would also be a sin–a BIG one!! And anyone who helps by providing birth control or an abortion is also sinning and deserves the wrath of God for their sins. So it’s okay to firebomb an abortion clinic, or walk up to a doctor (that provides abortions) while he is greeting people at his church and shoot him dead. It’s okay to stand outside of Planned Parenthood and shout vile and disgusting things at the women who are trying to enter. Anything done to stop women from sinning is okay and not a sin at all. In fact, there is an exemption from all other types of sin while saving the women, such as lying, killing and bearing false witness. If it’s done in the name of love and your God…it’s all okay.
Anybody besides me notice that this current and incredible insistence on controlling women’s sex lives NEVER includes their male partners? Women cannot get pregnant on their own–the one time that happened it was God’s will and therefore, acceptable–so why aren’t the men being similarly targeted for the
loving intentions interference of the fundamentalists? Oh there have been a few attempts to make premarital sex illegal…but let’s be frank: that’s been going on for almost as long as there have been humans on this Earth. In fact, in some cultures, it is a requirement to ensure that the man and woman in question are actually able to have a child together.
You want to know why men don’t have the same scrutiny and control on their sexual live? Because it’s men making the rules, to suit them and give them control over the other half of the population. Men don’t have to worry about whether it can be proven that they are 1) a virgin or not and 2) having sex. They don’t get pregnant, so birth control is not a man’s responsibility. <snark font> This once again bring us back around to the dogged attempts to completely control women’s sexual life (and her childbearing). And it goes much deeper than just whether she has sex and or a baby, or not. A woman who cannot control her own body, who cannot prevent pregnancy, has to either be completely abstinent or risk having a child at any time. (Pointing out the obvious: men NEVER have to abstain from sex; to have or not to have is always a choice for them.)
Women who cannot plan for the birth of a child have to live their life as if they could have a child at any time (assuming they do not choose abstinence from sex–which, as a basic, biological drive is pretty damned hard to do). This severely limits their job choices — pregnancy can interfere with work attendance (a serious issue these days, and one that can get you fired even if you’re not pregnant); the time off for recuperation from childbirth, as well as any additional time a woman might take can be a real killer for a career path–it shows where her priorities are, and it’s not with the company. Lack of loyalty, that. When teens get pregnant, only about 50% of the women actually finish high school or get a GED by the time they are 22. What job can you get without a high school diploma? The GED doesn’t even carry as much weight as that diploma because it means that at some point, you quit. If you’ll quit school, you will probably quit the job, so the business doesn’t trust you–if they will even hire you in the first place. (And most of the teen fathers actually finish high school and get that diploma. Only about 30% have some problem finishing school. Which may or may not be due to the child, although I know that the boys will quit school to find a job to support this new family. And then he spends his life working at unskilled jobs, often multiple jobs–which creates its own kind of stress on top of adjusting to the new conditions of life.)
Without a job that will pay a living wage, which is something very different from “working a minimum wage job”, a woman then has to rely on someone else to help her out. It might be Uncle Sam, in the form of WIC, food stamps and welfare. Or it may end up being marriage to the man who is the child’s father, whether or not you had planned to spend the rest of your life with him. And the concept that marriage is forever is certainly not proven by the divorce statistics–which are generally thrown about as being 50%. Well, “…better way, researchers suggest, calculates how many people who ever married subsequently divorced. Counted this way, the divorce rate has never exceeded 41 percent and is even now edging down. “This highest rate of divorce in the 2001 survey [of the Fertility and Family Branch of the Census Bureau] was 41 percent for men who were then between the ages of 50 and 59, and 39 percent for women in the same age group.” (from this article: US Divorce Rates and Statistics) So even using this formula for figuring it out, there are an awful lot of marriages that end before either party dies. I would also suggest that the current decline in the rate of divorce that is mentioned is probably explained by the growing choice of co-habitation rather than a legal union–and when that dies, there is no divorce to track.
Where does all of this leave us? How about with the fundamentalists tromping all over personal liberties and rights to enforce their beliefs on the rest of us in the form of legislation that prohibits women’s sexual choices? They have gone beyond picketing abortion clinics to re-writing school curricula to teach bad information about sex, or no information at all–which leads to teens not even knowing how they got pregnant. This strategy also removes women from the corporate boardrooms–at least the ones who want to have children. And it tries (and is succeeding, on some levels) to put women into a second class citizen, a commodity to be kept unsullied until
purchased married and then she must obey her husband. Women lose not only their right to control their own body, they lose basic human rights of freedom and choice for what their lives will be.
And this train of religious ideology leads straight to a station called “The Handmaid’s Tale” (see here: The_Handmaid’s_Tale) I read this book almost 20 years ago and thought it creepy and frightening. I remember it now, look around me and realize that we are racing, hellbent for leather, into the theocratic horror of the story. The almost amusing, but very ironical twist to the story is that while under public scrutiny, the men are very stalwart in their religion. But once they get home, once they are out of the public eye…they behave as men do today: going to bars, sleeping with women they are not married to, all those sinful things they would not allow others to do. I don’t see the current bunch of fundamentalists being able to create their theocracy any differently. How many TV-evangelists have million dollar mansions, wear custom-made suits and then tell their congregation that God wants more money? How many preachers have been caught with their pants down–and not always with a woman?
As far as I can tell, religion serves one purpose: to divide and differentiate its followers from everyone else. This sense of superiority leads to behaviors that are all the bad things humans do — and not the loving, caring actions which their own books and dogma tell them. When I am pointing this out, I quote Matthew 25, 31-46:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Now that you’ve read that, look around at our society and tell me: are the fundamentalists who seem intent upon creating a theocracy sheep, or goats? If the Bible is the literal Word of God, true and the final authority, then they are sheep, sort of. They are cherry-picking the parts they want to follow, but in their own mind … they are following. On the other hand, if the Bible is an allegory, a mythology then they are perpetrating a hoax in order to achieve control of the nation. And that, in most any book, is treason. All of this is because we cannot answer, of our knowledge, whether Adam and Eve had sex in the Garden of Eden.