On Wednesday last week, I began what I hope will be a series explaining my personal religious views. If all goes well, I'll write from time to time about religion and God, two separate topics in my view, and about my speculations, hopes, and experiences. Heck, maybe I'll even write about the drugs sometime.
Today, I want to follow up on the Daniel Quinn thing that I brought up last time. I have read two Quinn novels, Ishmael and The Story of B, both about a big old talking gorilla by the name of Ishmael who has a novel view of mankind's roll in the world. While we all know that we are just as much animals as are any of the world's other animals, we also know that we are somehow different and we spend countless hours pondering that difference, trying to figure out what it is that places us above our animal ancestry.
The Judeo-Christian religions generally use denial. Man isn't an animal. But common sense, DNA research, and archeology are slowly breaking down those defenses for anybody who doesn't have his head completely buried in the sand.
Ishmael approaches his theology from the Judeo-Christian perspective starting with the story of Adam and Eve. When I read about this, it blew me completely away. I had the sensation that the shroud of mystery about the story of the fall of man into sin, a mystery that the church could never explain to me, had suddenly been torn down and I was looking at the truth for the very first time.
Well, anyone who reads Daniel Quinn books is going to have a different opinion on what they say, so let's get one thing straight right away. This is my opinion. OK?
The Bible story about the fall of man comes in the first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter 3. God wasted no time here introducing sin. Create light. Create the world. Create plants and animals. Create man and woman. Bring on the sin. But sin was brought on when Eve, at the advice of the serpent, tasted the apple, the fruit of the forbidden "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" which is introduced in Genesis 2, verse 17.
What has always been a puzzle to me is why it would be sinful to have knowledge of what is good and what is evil. Isn't that the basis of self-preservation? Aren't we supposed to do what is good and avoid what is evil?
What Ishmael tries to say, and what is followed up on in The Story of B, is that about 10,000 years ago, mankind went through a transformation in how he thought and how he lived. He chose to part ways with the natural way of living, the way that had evolved through the ages, the way that was in touch with all of the rest of the creatures on earth. Mankind parted company with sustainable living and entered on the path of civilization and domination that has brought us to where we are today. We are set on consuming the very world which sustains us. In the process, we have virtually destroyed any sustainable lifestyles.
While Ishmael's message is fascinating, what struck me the most was that for the first time in my life, I felt I had a handle on the story of "original sin." For the longest time, I wondered what the sin was. Was it that Adam and Eve disobeyed God? If so, then why did God put that tree there in the first place? To tempt mankind into sin? Does that make sense? Why would God create the perfect world and then tempt man to make the whole world fall into sin? I could never buy this argument.
But reading Ishmael, it dawned on me that it was the fruit itself that was the sin. Think about it. What is the fruit of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" if not that knowledge itself? But what is that knowledge? What does that term refer to? I have finally concluded that it refers to morality. What is morality if not the knowledge of good and evil? But to understand why it is a sin, I think the definition here needs a little twist. I don't think this refers to knowing what is good in God's eyes and what is Evil in them. I think this refers to humans defining what is good and what is evil. I see a huge difference here.
I don't think there is sin in knowing what God's plan is, why creation exists and what the future offers. Nor do I think there is sin in identifying God's truth from the false truths of deception. But as soon as sin was introduced into the world, what was the first thing Adam and Eve did? They made clothes. Right? And we all know the connection between clothes and morality. So the original sin was that they established human morality. The freedom God allowed them wasn't enough. Perfection of nature wasn't enough. They needed morality and rules to live by. And that was a sin! The sin!