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.

Recap: Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

When I posted Why I’m Not a Christian, it sparked a discussion between Courtney Whitaker and I about homosexuality. She sent me an article by Preston Sprinkle, a Christian theologian, called Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?


“[Some argue that] if Paul did not know of any gay people acting out their fixed sexual orientation within a consensual marriage, then Romans 1 cannot not apply to same-sex marriages today. In short, Paul didn’t know about SSO; therefore, his words can’t apply to people with a fixed SSO.”

A friend of mine held a position similar to this. I disagreed based on my understanding of theology and Christian teaching and the traditional interpretation of the text.

 

The article contains some examples explaining how the concept of inherent, ingrained, or unchanging sexual preference was not unfamiliar to Romans in the first century AD which are really interesting.

 

“We can’t use these texts to show that homosexuality as a sexual identity existed as such back then. It didn’t. As is widely acknowledged and almost universally agreed upon by scholars of all persuasions, the Greco-Roman world did not have the same category of what we call homosexuality or gay/lesbian as a sexual identity.”

It may not have been the same, but it seems that they certainly conceptualized it similarly to today, even if they didn’t frame it exactly the same. There’s some following clarification about this that explains the Greeks and Romans thought in terms of “manliness” and “womanliness.”

 

“Whether such sex is pederastic (man on boy), exploitative, consensual, forced, extra marital, marital, or the byproduct of a fixed sexual orientation established at birth—it goes against the Creator’s intention; it’s ‘not the way it’s supposed to be.’”

My main problem with this is that someone can have a fixed sexual orientation established at birth and it would still be considered sinful for the person to have gay sex. Once I reached the conclusion that my attraction to women was out of my control, it didn’t make sense to me why it would still be sinful. If I were only ever attracted to women, I would not have any desire to marry a man; if I followed the biblical teaching on this, I would still refrain from any homosexual relationships, but I could very likely find myself unfulfilled in the romantic/sexual area of life. That’s not to say that freely choosing abstinence is a bad thing, but freely choosing it is what matters.

 

“I don’t think it’s accurate to equate what people mean by same-sex attraction to what the Bible says about sexual desire. SSA is a general disposition, regardless of whether someone is acting on, or even thinking about, it.”

This is actually different than what most Christians I’ve been close to have believed. Based on conversations in small groups and teaching from youth group leaders and even some slightly veiled mentions from the senior pastor, the majority position at the Baptist church I attended was that being gay was wrong.

 

“[L]iving in the constant state of opposite sex attraction isn’t sinful, even though it’s only okay for me to act on that attraction with one member of the female species. Likewise, living in the constant state of same-sex attraction doesn’t mean that someone is living in a 24/7 state of morally culpable sin.”

The difference is that you are “allowed” to act on your sexual desires, with your wife. Homosexuals, based on what I know and what you’ve included in your piece, are not “allowed” to act on their sexual desires with anyone ever.

 

“SSA is not just about actively wanting to have sex.”

So what? This is relevant to your argument, but I think this whole thing is you trying to justify having a dissonant position. It doesn’t mesh to say that it’s perfectly fine to be gay but it’s very much not okay to have gay sex, especially if you agree that at least some people were or may as well have been born gay. That would mean God created them gay and forbid them from ever having sex.

He then continues to talk about how SSA is more than just a desire for sex. It’s a bit excessive in my opinion.

 

“Romans 1 appears to conflate desire and action. That is, Paul doesn’t seem to view a naked desire apart from a sinful action.”

And you follow that with this, a couple paragraphs down.

(James 1:13-14) “James distinguishes between a desire, and desire that “gives birth to sin.” A woman may give birth to a child, but the woman herself is not the child. Likewise, in James’ own words, desire may give birth to sin, but this means that desire itself is not sin.”

So which is it? Paul doesn’t distinguish between the two, but then you pull out a different, unrelated passage that you explain as contradicting that.

 

The article contains some interesting historical information about the time period in which Romans was written. That part is fantastic, I really enjoyed it. Throughout the article, there is a strong emphasis on same-sex attraction being separate from a sexual desire for someone of the same sex. Followed by an ambiguous conclusion about whether such a desire is sinful. Romans 1, the passage the article primarily deals with, deals with them as though they are one and the same, but James 1:13-14 has a different perspective. It is unclear which is the correct perspective on homosexuality.

I would like to point out that Preston Sprinkle’s interpretation of the passages encourages my opinion that Paul and James presented divergent and contradictory perspectives. Take that to mean what you will.

Recap: Girl Defined Fixed My Anxiety

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.

Additionally this was written September 8th despite the url.

I recently watched Rachel Oates‘ video Girl Defined Fixed My Anxiety. I wrote about my struggle with mental heath on Over the Invisible Wall and I mentioned it in Why I’m Not a Christian. In my response to the video I share more about that.

Notes

Rachel Oates has dealt with anxiety and it’s been a big part of her life.

Girl Defined equates worry and anxiety in their video, but it’s not the same thing. Worry is something everyone faces frequently. Worry usually has an external cause. Anxiety on the other hand is more intense; worry on a way bigger scale. There’s more internal or physiological causes, and anxiety is longer term. It can have external triggers but is more internal.

First of Girl Defined’s points, you should pass your worries onto God. Rachel disagrees: what helped her with anxiety was feeling more in control; it was worst when she felt out of control.

Girl Defined’s 2nd point: don’t worry so much about the future that you forget to live now. Rachel shared how focusing on the present moment helped her at times when she was feeling overwhelmed because of anxiety. She said, “Things can change and things do change and you have the power to change them.”

Third point: worry isn’t helpful. Obviously. But you can’t just tell yourself to stop worrying or stop having a panic attack.

Fourth point: God promises to help those who trust him. Rachel wants proof that God exists, can help her, and has her best interests in mind before she’ll just trust him and throw out her medication.

Point five was to remember that God has a plan for you. Rachel disagrees, thinks better advice would be that while life is crappy sometimes it’s possible to recognize those things that make it so and make a plan to change them.

Girl Defined then tells people that following God more and praying is the best way to deal with and stop worrying or having anxiety. This is a dangerous mindset because it could stop people from getting the help they need and seeking treatment.

Rachel recommends Sane New World by Ruby Wax and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

Response

I grew up in a Christian home and I dealt with depression. Which, yes, is very different, and not related to this specific topic directly, but it is a mental health issue. And I’ve seen Christians suggest partial “cures” for it in the same way Girl Defined suggested things for anxiety-conflated-with-worry. I was told at least once that my depression was probably due at least in part to my poor relationship with God. If only I would fix things with God and grow closer to him, I wouldn’t be so depressed. But I’ve had the opposite problem.

Rather than making me less depressed, it aggravated other problems. I feared I was not truly following Christ, that I hadn’t been forgiven, that my sins hadn’t been washed away, that I was one of the goats who thought they were Christians but were not and would burn in hell. This led me to hopelessness. I had some security in my faith to a degree, but it wasn’t enough. It didn’t convince me. It couldn’t convince me. The what ifs swirled on and on, building up. It took me to a point where there was no hope, no certainty, no reason to believe my life mattered.

I was taught that everyone’s true purpose was to glorify God. But I couldn’t discern whether I was truly glorifying him or if I was trying to glorify myself. There was no way to be sure. I kept reaching a point where my relationship with God, if you can call it that, felt ingenuine, more obviously fake than I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter™. And that drove me further into hopelessness and a fear of hell. It also drove me toward atheism.

If this God existed, he clearly did not intend for me to follow him. I can’t. I’ve tried everything and I can’t do it. It always flakes. I always feel like I’m faking it, going through the motions, holding a veil over everyone’s eyes, especially my own. So it seems that he is either not real or he is not good, because he is surely sending me to hell. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to believe. So badly. So badly. But I couldn’t. It always fell apart. Every time.

“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.

“Disbelief” (Poem)

This was written 13 August 2018. For more detail, check out Why I’m Not a Christian.

I should really let you know

The truth I’ve been hiding so long.

I pretend and agree

Go along with that

which is so familiar to me.

Am I ready,

Is it the right time?

Will it ever be

or will it only get worse?

I don’t believe anymore

And that’s hard to say.

It shouldn’t have to be,

But I’ve been surrounded

and inundated with religion

my whole life

And so many close to me

value it

and will be

Devastated

At my disbelief.

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.

“That Which is Still Private” (Poem)

This was written 12 August 2018. For some more detail, check out this post.

This or that still bothers me,

A lot of which

I do not talk freely.

There’s a lot

I haven’t shared,

Some of it

I do not yet dare.

Not because I wish to hide

But because so different

Is my perspective on life

Than so many

Who are close to me.

I don’t want to disappoint,

Though I know

It’s a bit inevitable.

Regardless of how it goes,

While my perspective

Isn’t set in stone,

I will not change

Because of adverse reactions.

I’ve given thought

To my positions,

And do not wish to debate

Family or friends,

Generally, on such issues.

I understand what and why

They believe as they do

As well as why I disagree.

I plan to explain,

But they may not understand,

As I’ve already seen happen.