Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Barmy Bible Study - Noah's Ark, The First Genocide

Today in Barmy Bible Study, let's focus on Genesis.  The first book of the Old Testament is full of fantastic stories which are, according to fundamentalists, literally true and which demonstrate the power and might of the all-loving god of the Christians and Jews.

Our text tonight is the Noah's Ark story, helpfully condensed by this online Sunday school resource:

Noah and all the Animals
                                                                                                 by Len
A story that will capture the children's attention and hearts!
For additional ideas to techniques to enhance telling a story, click here


Miniature plastic animals
Faces of Mr. and Mrs. Noah
Approximately 10 minutes
ark and animals

Animals, Noah, Listening
Obedience, Protection

Target Audience:
Ages 4-6
Once there was an old man who had a veeeery looong beard. He was the only nice person in the whole neighborhood. He worshipped and obeyed God all the time. Then one day, God spoke to him.

"Noah, you know what? I'm tired of all your neighbors being so selfish and mean. They don't even know how to share or take care of other people who are poor. They just think about themselves all the time. I tell you what. I would like you to have a new neighborhood, and this is what I am going to do. I will take you to a new place in an ark, because I like you. I will make it rain for forty days and forty nights. There will be a great flood, but you and your family and all the animals will be safe."

Noah was surprised and asked, "What's an ark?"

God replied, "It's like a boat, but very big. You will have to make it. (As you read the next line, make long steps from one side of the room to the other) It should be wide, and this long, (Then jump and stretch your arm to the ceiling) and this tall. You also have to make it out of very special wood. And you have to do this right away!" 

Noah squinted and looked at the sky. "Oh, oh!", he said. "I better get going! Mrs. Noah! Mrs. Noah! We need to have food, blankets and hay for the animals. God said it is going to rain for a long, long, long time. There will be a great flood, so hurry!"

"But how will we live through a great flood?" Mrs. Noah asked.

Noah said, It's ok. I'm going to build an ark so our family and all the animals will be safe in it. So hurry and make all the preparations."

Mrs. Noah asked, "What is an ark?"

"You'll know what it is when it's done," Noah replied.

And so Noah built his ark. It was so long, and so wide and so tall. It had a window and a big huge door. All of his neighbors laughed at him. "What's that silly thing Noah is making?" they would ask. "It looks enormous, and like a boat, but there are no oceans or rivers in sight. No water anywhere." And they kept on laughing.

Noah finally finished the ark and as soon as he did, the clouds started to cover the sun. He heard God's voice again, "Noah, it's time to go!"

So Noah gathered up the animals, two dogs, two cats, two lions, and two rats. He gathered two tigers, two bears, two of every animal in sight. Some of them just went right into the ark, but Noah had to trick others. After everyone was inside, God closed the door.

Inside the boat, Noah's family could see how the sky was getting darker and darker. It became scary and quiet. Then, Noah heard it. A drop, then a second drop, then a third, then another and another, and they came faster and faster, and bigger and louder. After a few minutes, it became a huge storm. The dry land started to get soaked in water. It rained and rained without stopping. After two days of rain, the ark started to float and still the rain kept pouring down. Soon the ark was in the middle of a large ocean. It rained more and more without stopping, for forty days and forty nights. Just like God said it would.

Then suddenly, it stopped! The sun began to shine, so Noah sent out a raven to find dry land, but it came back to the ark. He waited a few more days and sent out a dove. It came back with a leaf in it's beak. Then he sent the dove out again. He waited for many days but the dove never came back.

"Wow, the storm must really be over!" Noah cried. "I think it's safe to come out now."

"Finally," shouted one of Noah's sons, "The animals are starting to stink up the place."

"Alright then, let's open the door and go out."

Noah and his family and all the animals marched out from the ark to dry land. There was no one else around. Then Noah realized, “so this is the new neighborhood God was talking about.” He had a lot of work to do.

"We better get started," said Mrs. Noah.

"Yes, but first things first," Noah said, "We need to give God an offering to show him how thankful we are for saving us from the flood." So Noah gave God an offering, and God was very, very pleased with him.

This charming tale remains a perennial children's favorite. After all, what child wouldn't enjoy a story about animals all piled happily in a boat together, "two by two"?  Christians uncritically accept this story of the "nice" man and his ark and all the animals as an example of their god's loving protection.

Study questions for Noah's Ark:

1. Why did God tell Noah to build an ark?

2. What did God plan to do?  Why?

3. How does the Bible tell us Noah felt when he heard about God's plans for the rest of the people on earth? provides a helpful synopsis of the story beginning with this line which gets straight to the heart of the matter:

"God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth." (emphasis mine)

Bible literalists believe that the Noah story is an account of a mass extinction of humanity by their god. The casual way that this global genocide is mentioned in the statement above (and in the Bible story itself) is an example of the way that Christian belief can warp normal human empathy and deaden human awareness of how cruel and immoral mass murder actually is, not to mention the gross injustice of global genocide committed by a violent god angry with a few "sinners".  Christianists will tell you that the Noah story is about their god's merciful and protective nature.  The immorality of the story and of the god character's behavior in it seems to be totally lost on them.

God decided to "wipe" humanity from the face of the earth because of the "great wickedness" he saw.  Even if every adult on the planet was a wicked "sinner", little children and babies did not take part in that "great wickedness", yet the god in the story wiped out all of humanity including innocents.  This is the justice of the all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent Biblical god:  it does not use its omnipotence to change humanity to behave as it demands, thus solving the problem without bloodshed. No, instead it creates a species which is inherently prone to behavior which angers the god, and then the god punishes its "beloved" creatures mercilessly.

Another notable thing about the Noah story is that marked and chilling casual disregard of the writers, main characters (and later of those retelling the story - see Sunday school version above) toward the fate of the rest of humanity.  Not once does Noah (or his family members) express any dismay over the horrible fate about to befall their neighbors. This sociopathy is considered righteous and good in the perverted and upside-down "morality" of Bible-believing Christians.

Thankfully, the Noah's story is, of course,  just a myth.  Flood stories abound in the mythologies of countless ancient peoples and the Bible version of it is neither unique nor special in any way.  The only thing that makes the Bible version so well known is that it is the version believed by the dominant cultural group in the western world. Modern geological and archeological research has proven beyond doubt that the Biblical account of the entire world covered in flood waters is false. Nevertheless, young earth creationists persist in peddling pseudo-science called "flood geology" where - in direct opposition to the proper scientific method - religionists posing as scientists look for and interpret "evidence" to fit the Bible narrative. Any evidence that does not fit into the narrative is denied or attributed to scientific (or even Satanic) trickery.

The Noah's Ark story serves two purposes for fundamentalists.  First, it establishes the Christian perspective on genocide, wanton cruelty and gross injustice - turning every normal, socially adaptive and moral human feeling on its head by teaching believers - usually starting in early childhood - that violence and murder are acceptable and righteous in the name of their god.  Second, it forms a narrative for the Christianist attacks on science and education, which is a necessary prerequisite for an authoritarian theocratic society to become established.

Class review:  The Noah's Ark story is summed up quite well by a commenter on the FTB Pharyngula:

"The classic story of glorifying death is the Big Boat event.
They tell that to children because it is so cute. It has a Big Boat and animals and stuff.
It’s a story about the invention of genocide. A Sky Monster kills all humans but 8 and destroys the world. This was supposed to teach people a lesson. It also didn’t work. The Sky Monster had a plan B though, which involved sending himself down to be killed. That didn’t work either. Plan C is to show up someday and kill everyone again.
The Sky Monster’s kludgy fixes usually end up with a lot of dead people."

Raven,  on Pharyngula

Class dismissed.


  1. You are just another hater who cannot accept that Jesus died for YOUR sins. Don't worry, he STILL loves you!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. Sadly, if Jesus did actually exist, the poor fellow was the victim of religious persecution because, as a radical liberal, he did not conform to the rules laid down by the religious conservatives of his time. Hundreds, maybe thousands were executed for angering the religious right of that time - just as hundreds of thousands have been tortured and killed by religious conservatives over the intervening centuries.
    No one "died for my sins". I am not a sinner, but don't worry, neither are you. We are all human beings. Peace to you.

  3. It would be more interesting to read about your actual beliefs as they exist independently, not in relation to others' beliefs you are fixated on deconstructing.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Sorry, I borked the link. Let me try that again:

    Be my guest, Anonymous. I have posted on that topic already. May I recommend you check out my posts "A Christian Asks an Atheist" (Parts 1-3)?

  6. "others' beliefs you are fixated on deconstructing"

    Anonymous, you've made me smile. I have published well over 100 posts and this is the very first "deconstructing the Bible" one that I have posted.

    "Fixation": I do not think that word means what you think it means!

  7. What we believe or disbelieve is inconsequential. What really matters is truth. If there was a global flood, then it would leave traces, things like marine fossils on top of the highest mountains; billions of dead things buried in mass graves all over the earth, massive extinctions of species, layers of sediments up to a kilometer thick, ... come to think of it, that is exactly what we do find. If you would like to see the scientific evidence for the event, there is lots available. Try or
    retired biologist.

  8. Hi Anonymous, thank you for your comment. I agree with you about truth. Unfortunately, the myths in the Bible are not "truth", and your examples have all been thoroughly explained by science.
    The flood myth may have been inspired by an actual flood of the BLack Sea - which while certainly not a worldwide catastrophe, may have had a huge impact on the mythology and psychology of the people living at that time. There is a fair discussion of it here:

  9. I also wonder why you assume that only a flood could leave behind the fossils and bring about the mass extinctions.

    The link you provided is not to a science site. It is a religious creationist site which uses pseudo-sciencey-sounding words and phrases. The creators of that site try to hide a religious agenda by trying to make it sound like science - because they know that the myth is not true, but it is vital to them to maintain the illusion. They try to sound like science to give legitimacy to their mythology.

    It's a back-handed compliment to science - obviously, the creationists wish to piggy-back on the real work of science to give themselves a veneer of legitimacy over the lies they peddle, but what is much worse, they also try to confuse people by suppressing the pieces of truth about reality that science has been able to piece together.

    If you were truly once a biologist, I am sad and disappointed that you have bought into this nonsense and turned your back on real science. The creationists and Bible literalist movement is determined to drag us back into the Dark Ages.