An Atheist Bible Study: Genesis 5-10

Alyssa Wright shares her perspective as a deconverted Christian, now an atheist, on the story of Noah and the flood in the Bible.

When I was a Christian I set out to read the whole Bible. I have never actually done it. Now that I’m an atheist, I want to know what the Bible says. Not what people claim it says, but what it really, truly says.

I want to first make a disclaimer. I am not a theologian. I am a layperson. I went to church for 16 1/2 of my 18 years. I went to a Christian school for all but two years of my schooling. That included daily Bible study classes, and my two years of dual-enrollment included theology and evangelism classes. I was surrounded by the Bible, a biblical perspective, and Christian teachings my whole life. So I am approaching the text not so much as a scholar but as a normal, everyday sort of person. Please comment if my post contains any misinformation, with sources supporting your claim.
This post is based on my personal reading and informed by my experience in Christian circles as described above.

I’ve also written about Genesis 1-4.

Chapters 5 & 10: Genealogy

The genealogy in chapter 5 goes from Adam to Noah. All of the men listed are impossible ages. In 5:23, Enoch is said to have been taken by God. There could only have been so many people on earth at the time, given that he was only 6 generations after the first two humans. Even with the unnatural lifespans, it seems based on the story of Abraham that childbearing possibilities were about the same for women. In that story, Sarah was around 60 or 70 I think and “passed childbearing age.” If a girl was considered a woman around 15 and started menopause at 55, she could at most have 50 kids. That assumes 1 year and 3 months to be fertile. The time to conceive again could vary a lot. And she could also die during childbirth. For both of those, let’s assume that takes the average actual possible births to be 25/woman in a lifetime if she has as many kids as she can. Half of those children will likely be female too.
I am not done with this post. I’m doing the math to figure out what the likely population would be. I think it’s possible that Enoch could have wandered away and not come back, so people decided God took him. It’s impossible to know for sure, I’m just postulating.

As for the other genealogy, there’s no ages listed. It seems like Ham’s sons’ wives had a lot of children, though.

Chapter 6-8: Noah’s Flood

Okay, put on your seatbelts, strap yourselves in, and let’s get into this.
6:2 and 4 seem very odd and mythlike, as though angels are having children with humans. “[T]he sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose…. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days… They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

6:6 God regrets making humans. This seems to contradict the Christian teaching of his omniscience — all-knowing-ness. He would/should have known that men would sin or rebel or disobey him. Then, because of his regret, he decides to destroy all of them. This does not sound like the actions of a loving God to me: Knows creation will disobey, creates it anyway, decides to destroy creation when it disobeys.

6:19-22 gives the dimensions and specifications for Noah to build the arc. God tells Noah to bring two of every kind of land animal and bird and his entire family. I’ve seen a lot of trying to define “kinds” as groups of animals with similar enough DNA that they could have descended from the same two (or seven, in the case of “clean” animals) original animals. Like I mentioned in my previous Bible study post, if that was the case, it could cause problems with inbreeding. Noah and his family being the only humans could also have problems with inbreeding. They could have had a bit more variety from the sons’ wives, but even so, they all had one set of grandparents in common. Inbreeding issues aside, the Bible never defines “kinds,” or how large or small a group that is. That could mean all domestic cats and dogs were one kind, but wolves, coyotes, and dingos were separate kinds. Horses and zebras don’t have the same number of chromosomes, so could they be separate kinds? We can’t know. So the number of animals in question in completely unknowable but it has to be huge. For all bugs, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and land mammals to fit, plus all the food they need, including more animals because a lot of those animals are carnivores, you need more space than the arc allows. I will concede that the rectangular shape of the arc and it’s tar coating would allow it to float for the sake of argument. That would likely be the case if this did occur. But even so, they were supposedly on the arc for 150 days. They would need a ridiculous amount of food for them and the animals. They would need to clean up after all the animals all the time and remove the waste from the arc. They would need light sources. They would need to keep the animals from stepping on/crushing/eating/infecting each other. Also, what about plants, bacteria, and fungi? How did fish and aquatic mammals survive something so tumultuous? Especially when the water receded and the whole world had been their ocean? I find it too crazy, honestly, to think that all of that somehow worked out.

7:19-20 states that the water covered the whole earth, even the mountains, by around 23 feet. Where did the water come from and where did it go?

8:6-7 states, “After 40 days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.” But 8:3 says the water didn’t go down until 150 days had gone by. The raven would have died long before then.

8:20-21, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done” (emphasis added). I do not believe that humans are evil from childhood. We are highly social creatures, have empathy, relate to each other, feel each other’s pain. Children can understand that just like they don’t want someone to snatch their toy, they shouldn’t snatch another kid’s toy. They don’t like when people make fun of them, so they shouldn’t make fun of someone else. People can become evil and do bad things in the world, but that doesn’t mean they were always evil. People can also be and stay good and do good in the world. And yet here God is saying everyone is evil and always desires evil.

Chapter 9: God’s Promise to Noah

In this chapter, God establishes a covenant, or promise, with Noah to never destroy the earth by water. That while it will still rain, it won’t flood the whole earth.

In 9:5, God says he will “demand an accounting from every animal” for killing humans. It seems odd that other animals would be punished by God for killing humans. People, of course, mourn people who are killed by animals, and sometimes have taken revenge. Sometimes people are stupid, other times they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.


I grouped these chapters together because they all relate to Noah. Next time I’ll discuss either 11-15 or 11-16.

If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out my post about Genesis 1-4.

“Coming Out” (Poem)

I recently came out as atheist on this blog. This is a poem I wrote on 15 August 2018 thinking about telling everyone.

How will everyone react

when I admit I’ve been

living a lie

And pretending to believe as they do?

I don’t and I haven’t,

but it’s scary regardless.

No matter how long

it’s been since I agreed,

it’s daunting

To publicize that

not just to those I care about

But everyone

I’ll ever meet

will know of my beliefs.

Recap: I Came Out as Atheist and This Happened

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

My response was written 17 August 2018.

I watched Genetically Modified Skeptic‘s video I Came Out as Atheist and This Happened. It was fitting for me, time-wise, because I was planning my post Why I’m Not a Christian. In the video Drew tells his deconversion story along with telling his family and friends that he was an atheist.

Notes:

Drew grew up devout fundamentalist Christian. He was a leader in his church’s youth group and went to a Christian college. His last semester of college he started having doubts. He stopped believing creation and accepted evolution. He changed his mind and accepted that being gay was not a choice, harmful, or wrong. He also admitted to himself the Bible has errors. He spent a long time in which he questioned his beliefs intentionally, avoiding non-Christian sources.

In late 2016 he admitted to himself that he was not a Christian, he was an agnostic atheist. He hinted at his doubts to his wife and soon told her he was an atheist. He thought life was over until she didn’t freak out at the news. He thought he would lose his job at the Christian homeless shelter, get divorced from his wife, move in with his parents, lose his relationship with them and his friends, and end up broke and alone. All because he was no longer a Christian. He came out to his parents about a year later. It went better than he expected but was still difficult. He started his Youtube channel after telling his parents. He got really into making videos, gained small following, and started to see it as a part time job.

A few friends found channel once it got hard to hide. Hiding it was taxing; still had to participate in some Christian/religious activities. Didn’t want to become “pet project” or lose friends, so it was worth it for a while.

Went full time on YT in May. Told in-laws and all friends who didn’t know. Very few people were surprised. A few found channel and waited for GMS to tell them. A lot of close friends had loving responses. Best response that he had permission to share, “I love Drew as Drew, not as Christian or atheist.”

Just didn’t want this issue to come between him and friends/family. Moved shortly after coming out; most friends helped him move and set up his new, larger studio. No one yelled at him or shut him out after he came out. Best thing you can do is assure someone that you still love them and value them. Just wants healthy relationship with people. That’s why he didn’t come out for so long. Some people prioritize religion over relationship.

Specified didn’t want to debate; if they wanted to, he wanted to schedule it and have it be prepared and not sloppy so it wouldn’t come between them and ruin the relationship. Cares more about the truth than holding to current positions. Knows apologetics, especially Christian apologetics, very well. Studied it a lot. Hasn’t seen anything new on apologetics.

Considered sad response a negative; big deal, prevented his coming out for a long time. Can’t control it. Sees that it’s understandable, but it’s their burden not his.

For those in the closet, seek out community, even just online. Recommends the Secular Therapy Project and Recovering From Religion Foundation. Openly secular, normalize atheism, make things better for those still in the closet. Humanize atheists to others.

Response:

 

I just came out as atheist to two of my friends personally. I wrote a blog post that’s going to go up tomorrow explaining why I’m not a Christian and mentioning that I’m an atheist. Otherwise, my parents have some knowledge, and my boyfriend is an atheist too. My grandparents, who live with us, are less supportive than my two friends, but did not want any sort of debate. They simply said they would pray for me until I came back to God. I didn’t want to disappoint them so I haven’t told them I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in God. My parents asked questions, not the first time it came up, or even when I said I was leaning towards atheism. We were sitting at the kitchen table with my younger brothers and they asked for my thoughts on some things. Some of what they mentioned I don’t have a position on yet, because I haven’t done research on it.

I’m at a point where I see Christianity as equal to other religions to a basic degree. I see that, in general, it’s not that different. The only reason Christianity seemed more believable to me was because I was raised in it. I was surrounded by it for my entire life until just about eight months ago.

At that time, I was drifting out of religion and wanted to be honest about my disinterest in church. It happened to coincide with starting to date my boyfriend. I worried it would look like I left church because of him, and in fact, my parents told me once that they weren’t sure if that was the case. I assured them it wasn’t. It was a coincidence. My boyfriend has made clear that he is not concerned with my religion, I can believe as I will for my own reasons and he will still be there, it won’t change anything for him.

Knowing that Drew’s situation was similar to mine helps assure me that my friends and family could also react positively. I agree with him that a sad or disappointed reaction is a negative. That’s a large part of why I kept quiet about my disagreements, disinterest, and disbelief.

I plan to revisit this topic later to give an update on how people reacted, what they think, etc.

Why I’m Not a Christian

Alyssa Wright shares her deconversion experience, explaining how she drifted from Christianity into atheism.

I’ve been thinking about writing this for months now. At first I thought it might go on Over the Invisible Wall, but I don’t think it fits. Mostly because of the mission statement we created. I’m finally writing this and telling everyone the truth. I’ve implied a lot about my beliefs through omission of my thoughts, so I’m here to clear up some of the basics and tell my story.

This is just my experience. Your experience can be different. That’s fine. You can believe as you will and so can I.

I used to be a Christian, or at least I tried to be.

When I was five, I went to vacation Bible school (VBS) at my family’s church. The leaders presented the gospel and I asked Jesus to “come into my heart” so after I died, I could go to heaven. I was terrified of hell. If it’s real, it is and should be terrifying. Eternal, never-ending torture with no relief? Who wouldn’t beg to be forgiven for whatever wrongdoing had sent them there?

The next few years I attended VBS, I again went forward to ask Jesus to “come into my heart” to save me. I feared that my previous requests were not genuine and I was still destined for hell. This fear was persistent and recurrent. I could not shake this the whole time I considered myself a Christian.

When I was nine, I told my parents and church leaders I wanted to be baptized. At the time, I had some understanding that baptism is a public declaration to the church that you’re a Christian too. I also knew it was something I was supposed to do, but I had never seen anyone get baptized or heard of people I knew getting baptized. I’m not exactly sure how I came to my decision, but I was baptized, along with other kids from my Sunday school class and a few others.

Around the age of thirteen, perhaps a bit before, I began to struggle with depression. I now have a hunch that it was likely in part due to the hormonal swing that accompanies the menstrual cycle. However, at the time, and for years, it was a near-constant state for me. I still experienced positive emotions such as happiness but a lot of times I felt hopeless. I recall a myriad of times that I begged God to end my life. I was in a dark place a lot of the time. Most of my poetry from that time is about all the negative thoughts and feelings I had.

I was taught my whole life that I am a horrible, sinful human being that deserves to go to hell, that it is entirely my fault if I end up there, that I will have chosen to go to hell. This intermingled with the other aspects of my depression. I felt very strongly that I deserved to die, that I shouldn’t be alive because I didn’t deserve to live. There were times that things felt too hard to handle, I felt like I couldn’t go on, I didn’t want to live. I frequently had suicidal thoughts. I will not disclose more detail about my thoughts in that vein as it is a dangerous thing to do.

I prayed and prayed. At first, I prayed for God to kill me or make the rapture happen now. Later, I started praying that I might be free of depression. I’m not entirely free of depression, but things are looking up. It took years, though, and I was at risk for a long time before I was able to combat the thoughts I was having.

Between the ages of thirteen and about sixteen I kept flip flopping from trying to pursue a relationship with God to giving up and back. When I was pursuing God and godliness I spent a lot of time praying, reading my Bible, and memorizing Bible verses. I asked for closeness, I sought after it. When I prayed, it felt like I was talking to myself. If ever a voice spoke to me when I asked a question, it was quite obviously from my own mind.

I would pray for strength to resist sin, and I would do well avoiding things considered sinful for a few days or a couple weeks. Then I would buckle and cave. I felt incredibly guilty over this. Many times I gave up pursuing God because I kept failing, beating myself up over my failure, asking for help, not getting it, and repeating. More than a few times I decided to quit trying.

In that same window of time, I found that I was attracted to girls and guys. I was taught that homosexuality was bad and sinful and against God’s plan. I didn’t choose to be attracted to people regardless of gender. If I chose who I’d find attractive, I would be straight not bisexual. I didn’t understand why something I didn’t choose was so sinful. A position I encountered was that homosexual desires themselves were not wrong but acting on them was. However, to be consistent, you have to acknowledge that based on Jesus’ equation of lust and adultery, homosexual desires are the same as acting upon those desires. It didn’t make sense to me why it was sinful.

For about the last year and a half, I started having more problems with aspects of Christianity not making sense. While I thought through some of the contentions, I stumbled into the atheist community on YouTube and started watching videos. A lot of what they were saying made a lot of sense to me. What I knew and understood of theology, philosophy, and logic was not sufficient to form counterarguments I found convincing. At that time, and for a while, I was at near-perfect agnosticism, uncertainty whether there is or is not a god. I have since drifted further from agnostic theism into agnostic atheism.

I have an article I wrote detailing a logical problem I have with a specific aspect of Christianity and God. It is too long to include here so I will be editing it and sharing it in the future.

I was once committed to theism and Christianity. My life centered around it. Everyone I knew well was a Christian. It was easy. Over time, faith wasn’t enough, the arguments weren’t convincing enough, and it fell apart for me. That is why I no longer consider myself a Christian.

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments. I don’t want a debate, but if you want more detail about certain parts of my story I will do my best to recall them.