An Atheist Bible Study: Genesis 1-4

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.

Chapter 1-2: The Creation Story

Genesis 1 describes how God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. This is familiar.
But the order is a bit odd.
Light, sky, land and seas and plants, sun and moon, fish and birds, and finally all land animals and two humans.
God made the light before the light sources. The moon is treated as its own light source, though it reflects the sun. God also created plants before the sun. How did they not die without the heat it provides?
Genesis 2:5a & 7 (NIV) says, “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up… Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” That appears somewhat contradictory to the story that God created plants days before humans.

Chapter 3: The Fall/Introduction of Sin

Genesis 3 describes how sin entered God’s perfect creation and has subsequently been passed from generation to generation. Sin is frequently defined as anything someone thinks, says, or does that God disapproves of.
God tells Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from a certain tree in the Garden of Eden or they will die.
A serpent, said to be Satan, tells Eve about the benefits of eating the fruit in Genesis 3:4-5, “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'”
After they eat it, they realize they are naked, sew clothes from leaves, and then hide from God. Once they come out, God asked what they did. Adam pointed to Eve who pointed to the serpent. Christians point out that they shouldn’t have blamed others for their actions. God not only punishes Adam and Eve for eating the fruit but also the serpent for convincing them to eat it.
Instead of Adam and Eve being killed by God, they are kicked out of the garden. Christians often say that they died a spiritual death and after eating the fruit they were separated from God until their eventual physical death. I don’t know if that is the case or added later to explain the (seeming?) inconsistency. In Genesis 3:22 (NIV), “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'” This could be how their physical death would come to pass. It reads more as though they were not immortal at all, except by eating fruit from that tree.

Chapter 4: Cain and Abel

Some time passes and Adam and Eve have two sons (and presumably some other unnamed children), Cain and Abel. Cain is a gardener and Abel is a shepherd.
They both make sacrifices to God, giving what they have. Abel offers a lamb, and God accepts the sacrifice by burning it. Cain offers some of the harvest from his garden, and God gets mad at Cain. Cain then kills Abel out of jealousy, and God rebukes him. Cain is cast out, marries his sister, and gets some kind of mark so no one will kill him.
God has not given instructions for proper offerings, and it’s unclear why he rejected Cain’s offering. Cain offered what he worked hard to earn/produce, and God rejected it.
She has no name, but Cain had to have married his sister. A lot of people in Genesis marry their siblings, cousins, or other close relatives. Yet no problems from inbreeding are ever mentioned, and they continue to do it. Later on, the Israelites are told not to marry non-Israelites. They all basically descend from 12 brothers, with some unrelated wives at some points in the genealogy, but still no issues? Also, if God is all-knowing (omniscient) as a lot of Christian teaching claims, couldn’t he have thought to make more humans to increase the diversity of the gene pool? Two humans for all people ever to descend from is tiny!


I grouped Genesis 1-4 because they are all closely tied together. Next time I’ll work through Genesis 5-10, the story of Noah.

Life Is What You Make It (5)

I frequently think about my life, what I want to accomplish, what I’ve done so far, and how long I have to do everything I dream of. This is a series featuring things I’ve written about such things, both poetry and prose. The previous parts are here.


It’s my anniversary with my boyfriend. We’ve been together a year. A whole year! I can’t believe it’s been so long.

The past is important in shaping us into who we are today.

We live out each moment, each day, each week, each month, each year… But sometimes we forget where we came from, what shaped us into the people we are now.

Our memories are imperfect, sometimes even fabricated.

We’re able to record our thoughts, our actions, our lives more easily than ever before. People post on Facebook, and the next years, Facebook shows it to them again. They get reminded of their memories because they recorded them.

I’ve always loved journaling. For a while I hoped my journal would matter to others in the future. Now my past journal entries matter to me. I have a window into who I was in years past, a clearer view of how I’ve changed. I wrote about what was happening in my life. I might not remember a lot of that otherwise.

I can clearly see because of my recordings how time has passed, how my life has changed. I can track where I’ve been to see how I got where I am now.

We all need to know where we’ve been to understand where we are.

I journal and blog and date all the creative work I do.

How do you remember?

The Coffee Explorations: Cameron’s Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend

I bought a French press a few months ago and want to figure out what kind of coffee I like best because we only had an espresso maker at my house before. It might be interesting later for me to look back and see what I thought about various coffees while I was drinking them for the first time. For those of you who also love coffee, you might enjoy this post as well. I also wrote about Starbucks Sumatra, the Papa Nicholas House Roast, the Papa Nicholas Hawaiian Roast, and Sam’s Choice Mandheling Sumatra.

We’re not out of the Manheling Sumatra yet, but I wanted to try the coffee I bought about a week ago. I was at the last of the Hawaiian Roast and the Sumatra is low, so new coffee!

Image result for cameron's specialty coffee jamaicaAt Walmart, a few choices caught my eye. One brand was called Mash Ups and featured combination blends. That seemed exciting, but I didn’t know what the pieces tasted like separately. I continued browsing, and eventually chose the Cameron’s Specialty Coffee Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend.

This morning I eagerly opened the bag, and contemplatively inhaled the scent of the grounds. They smell dark and rich and earthy.

After letting it steep in boiled water in my French press for about six minutes, I poured half into my mug. I stirred in stevia and heavy whipping cream to my liking.

That first, glorious sip: It has a really smooth, light taste, and it feels light and almost airy in my mouth. It has the usual hallmark of coffee, of course, but wow! This one is really good!

I’m amazed at how different the varieties of coffee really are. This is altogether a different experience than the Sumatras or other blends I’ve tried.

The bag of grounds was between five and six dollars.

I give this coffee a 9/10 for a great price and a fantastic experience!

Behind the Scenes: The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan

This post contains spoilers about my novella. If you haven’t read it, check out parts one, two, and three before reading this post.

Yesterday I released part three of my first novella, The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. I posted it in three parts because of the length. I wanted to break it into manageable chunks, and two parts were still not right.

That all happened after the story was finished. This post is a look at ideas and inspirations I had while writing.

I don’t know the exact timeline, but quite a long time ago, a few of my writing friends and I were choosing writing prompts and sharing short stories. We all wrote from the same prompt and had the same amount of time to write. We started with every two weeks, then realized we were too busy for that to be adequate. It switched to once a month, rotating who chose the prompt.

Someone chose this prompt: “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.”

I recall wanting someone to pick it. I don’t think I chose it, though, if I remember correctly.

At first I didn’t have a clear plan. I just started writing and went where my thoughts said to go.

Then I named Kaashif Sarwan. Both parts of his name are related to exploring or adventure or discovery. I don’t remember exactly what meaning I chose, but both parts have the same meaning. Because that’s what he is.

Around that same time I realized this story should take place on Irqulnirn, in the N’Zembe system. I’d been thinking about the star system and how far away Irqulnirn was from the star. I created quarzyls to be the solution and explanation for how Irqulnirn could support life. I decided/figured out what was outside the walls and why they were built. That led me to write the Apocalypse of Irqulnirn, the background for this novella.

Once I knew how and why the walls were built, I had to go about the business of writing Kaashif through his journey to the top of the walls.

When I first had the idea for the dead world outside the walls, the conclusion was going to be bleak. Hopeless.

But because of how quarzyls “work,” and their life-giving abilities, I was able to work in a hopeless, depressed period for Kaashif and end with hope.

This story is as much about Kaashif as it is about my own journey with depression. Not literally or even symbolically, but experientially, to a degree. I wrote my depression into Kaashif as part of his journey, including the hopeful ending.

I changed as my vision for the story changed.

When I thought the ending would be bleak, I was in a dark place and wanted to reflect that artistically.

When my vision morphed to something more hopeful, I’d come to a more optimistic, hopeful place in my own life.

This post is a bit different compared to my other posts. I’ve never written about what the nature of inspiration in writing stories is for me.

This post also marks 50 days of blogging! In another 50 days I could do something like this again, provided I have a new story to write the behind-the-scenes for.

Choosing a Self-Publishing Service

This post is not sponsored by the Alliance of Independent Authors, BookBaby, Medium, or Marcin Wichary. All information is based on my research for this post and while I was at this step of the self-publishing process for Inside a Writer’s Head.

I have a few recent posts about preparing a poetry collection for self-publishing. This post is more general and can be used for finding the right self-publishing service for any project.

There are a huge number of self-publishing services available nowadays. I couldn’t possibly investigate and review all of them. What I can do is discuss some qualities to look for when choosing a self-publishing service. When you find a service you like, you may want to review this page by the Alliance of Independent Authors rating self-publishing services to see what they have to say about that service.

Your Goals

Before you can find the right self-publishing service, figure out what your goals are. Do you want to give your writing to family and friends? Do you want to sell it? Do you want it to be something you giveaway to your audience, possibly as a free ebook download or a Patreon reward or in some other way? Do you want an ebook, physical book, or both? Are you going to design the cover or have someone who will? If a physical book, do you want a hardcover (dust jacket?) or softcover book?

Ask questions and really understand what you hope to accomplish.

I wanted to sell my writing to the most people possible, but also have the option of giving it away.

Cost vs Reward

Think about what the service costs, what you can afford, and what is being promised for a certain price.

Keep in mind what your goals are. If a service is really cheap but won’t check all your boxes for what you hope to accomplish, it may not be a good fit. On the flip side, if it’s way outside your price range but has everything you could ever want, it’s also not a good fit. As a side note, if the promised quality doesn’t match up with the price point, do some more research.

When I chose BookBaby I knew it was higher than I had anticipated. I thought about what they were promising for that price and did research on them and other services before deciding. For what I paid I’m getting 25 copies of my poetry collection, an ebook available on all platforms from Amazon to Apple’s iBooks, print on demand, and distribution of my book to catalogs for major retailers, and Amazon. I also got a free book review, which I shared on my Published Work page.

Ease of Use

You will also want a service that is uncomplicated and clear about the steps. Some services may have old or clunky software or process for uploading your writing and cover. There may be other advantages to a service that do make it a good choice even if the uploading process is harder or more time consuming.

The Finished Product

Find other authors who used the service(s) you’re looking at. What do they have to say about the service and their finished ebook or physical book? Is their review positive or negative? Why?

If they have a bad experience with the self-publishing process with a given service, see if that is common. If their negative review is with the end result, evaluate what they hoped to accomplish and if what they received aligns with your goals. Do the same for a good experience and a positive review of the end result.

While researching options, I found an article on Medium comparing the quality of four self-publishing services for printing 15 copies of a hard cover book. Marcin Wichary shows images of the books he received, discusses his goals and what he liked and disliked about all parts of each service. If you want physical books, definitely check out his article, even if you’re doing soft cover books. He shows the pages, the type quality, and the interfaces used.

 

These are the three main things to consider when choosing a self-publishing service, your goals, the cost vs reward, and the finished product. They all intersect, and the services that excell in all three areas are the services to choose from for your project.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Life Is What You Make It (3)

I frequently think about my life, what I want to accomplish, what I’ve done so far, and how long I have to do everything I dream of. This is a series featuring things I’ve written about such things, both poetry and prose.

This post contains profanity and mentions suicidal thoughts. If you are not comfortable with such things, feel free to skip this post.

[Don’t Forget] Low Self-Esteem and a Desire to be Remembered

18 September 2016

I don’t have a very

high self-esteem,

I don’t put much stock

in that I’m a human being.

I know that I’m valued,

worth a motherfucking bunch,

But it doesn’t always feel that way —

like when a bully steals your lunch.

I don’t very much love myself

any which way.

I easily find myself

depression-ly swayed.

I try to avoid

such dark, self-hatred filled thoughts,

But they sometimes come up

and shred me apart.

I find myself wondering

“what more can I do?”

I find myself wondering

if life’s worth living through.

I feel as though I’ll waste my life,

fuck everything over,

I don’t get to live twice.

That’s not an excuse

to “have a fun time,”

Or “eat, drink, and be merry,

for tomorrow we die,”

Because I want my life

to be worth remembering.

I don’t want to be forgotten

or remembered because

My life was lived rotten.

I want my time used best it can,

none of it, no moments,

left to fester in the trash can.

It’s a lot of pressure

I put on myself,

when I want my life story

to not rot on a shelf,

With no one caring what all I did,

with no one caring if I even lived.

I could be made up,

for all they may know,

So for evidence, what will I have to show?

I don’t want my story

to just be mistakes,

Or for it all to just have been a waste.

If it’s not worth

recording, reading, remembering, or reliving,

Is there even a point

to my life continuing?

Death is inevitable,

should I even try?

I want so badly to know

if I’ll really use my time,

But I won’t know that

until I’ve lived my life.

Right now, right now

I could not, would not

die satisfied

That my life was worth

all the time I spent

Making it what it is,

Wouldn’t die satisfied

that I’ll be remembered

For too much longer

after I’ve died.

Even if someone

published all that I’ve written,

I’d still be forgotten,

Forget having never been smitten

or ever in love,

That doesn’t matter so much to me

As my life story

being worth  my time,

being worth remembering.

I’ve been told I’m a good poet,

so maybe, just maybe,

There’s something to that

and my life won’t,

at least not in its entirety,

be forgotten and allowed to rot

in the annals of history’s

ever-growing bookshelf.

 

Poetry Prompts: “Cold Showers”

This was written and posted at 11:44 pm on September 17th.

If you have any suggestions for poetry topics or writing prompts that struck your fancy, share them in the comments!

The prompt, taken from Think Written, was “cold water.”


Icy,

Shivers,

Goosebumps,

Curling toes,

Rubbing arms,

Shaking.

The water runs

over me like rain,

and it feels like rain,

it will not warm,

it’s all used up,

my shower’s

forcibly cold.