Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Ricky Gervais: Bible Part 1

Posted by prb3 on November 7, 2010

I’m sure many of you have already seen this, but on the off chance that you haven’t…

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42 Responses to “Ricky Gervais: Bible Part 1”

  1. Bob said

    Yeah, I saw this awhile back. Gervais is a genius. Gervais mentions that verse where we learn that Adam and Eve were naked but without shame. It just occurred to me to wonder why they would have shame in the first place? They’re the only two people on the planet, and they’re having sex with each other, so why would they feel shame? You have to have other people around, who you don’t want to see you naked, for that shame thing to work. Sloppy writing, ancient goat herders!

    • Bob said

      By the way, I recommended Gervais’s film The Invention of Lying awhile back. Here’s a link to the post.

    • Noraa said

      i’ve wondered this before. i’ve actually heard it argued that adam and eve weren’t the only two people god first created, they were just the two that were particularly historically significant. not that i’m defending the stance, just saying…….

      i’ve actually kind of toyed around with the idea that the story of adam and eve represents the first human beings that reached a state of sentience on the evolutionary chain. maybe it actually was a very small number of hominids that first evolved in that way, if so they would have definitely stood out and had all kinds of fireside stories told about them over time. all the stuff about the serpent and what not was just folklore for explaining how and why that happened.

      • Ann said

        Noraa, that’s crazy talk. Adam and Eve would have been around like, tens of thousands of years ago. It seems any myths based in reality, logically, would be most likely based on some people who lived more recently. People love to speculate, but it’s all bunk in my opinion when you try to rationalize any stories in the Bible. There are way too many examples of almost identical stories that preexist the OT and NT from entirely different cultures, but all recent enough to be documented. Like the stories of the exodus, flood, virgin birth, resurrection from the dead… It gets, frankly, completely ridiculous to try and explain them as more than myths. It’s like trying to explain Greek myths.

        • Noraa said

          i tend to believe there is truth in every myth, even if it just the truth of the psychological purpose it serves to exist. beyond a certain point it’s all speculation, some with just a bit more evidence to back it up.

          • Noraa said

            for clarity, let me add that i think there is SOME truth in every myth. the former sounded a little too…..faithful. ha.

          • Ann said

            Yeah, symbolism. There’s truth in every fantasy novel. Maybe you mean in every legend? Our world cultures are woven with symbolic meaning. Depends on what you mean regarding truth. Truth to the myth of Zeus? Symbolism to represent the human experience?

            • Noraa said

              i guess my use of the word truth should first be defined(and i had i considered the discussion that word has the potential to ignite i probably would have avoided it). it tends to be rather ambiguous and frustrating otherwise, but yeah, i think truth even gained from symbolism is still valid and useful. even aside from just symbolism, in my relatively uneducated opinion on this matter, myths still have a lot to say about the time, place, and people from which they originated.

              • Ann said

                Nice! I agree.

                • Ann said

                  For instance, people used to think various Gods controlled specific aspects of their natural environment. The truth to those myths is that the people of that time period actually believed the Gods controlled specific aspects of their natural environment. lol!

              • Ann said

                You realize I’m teasing (although what I wrote is true). The myths of different peoples indicate “truths”, or little moral lessons, or quaint ways of saying more than one thing with the same set of words, or symbolize experiences you can’t quite get to directly with your language, or help people think outside their cultural box. Sorta like what you find in Buddhist teachings, song lyrics, Bible versus, aphorisms, poetry, fiction authors, etc. But to stretch all the way to the beginning of time, the way the Bible does, to make inferences about human ancestors, and to believe the writer of that piece of art (that book in the Bible) knew about some myth that developed thousands of years before his time based on actual events isn’t logical. It’s much more likely the myth was made up to explain something people didn’t know anything about but wanted to explain, and developed much closer to the time it was written.

                • Bob said

                  I agree, the fact you have to put the word “truth” in quotation marks is a good indication it’s the wrong word to begin with. Maybe saying myth “has some basis in human experience” is a better way to put it, although it loses pretty much all of its explanatory power then. It’s akin to saying, “Myths are about life.” Yup, they are, but they are false.

    • JN said

      The “without shame” part was undoubtedly for the audience.

      • JN said

        …by audience I meant those hearing or reading the Bible. This of course would be a long time after Adam and Eve abandoned the nudist lifestyle.

  2. Noraa said

    this is in reply to the above conversation, but the thread was getting really narrow on my page so i’m starting here.

    i’ve been sitting here for a minute trying to find a more accurate word to use to get my point across aside from “truth” and i can’t right now. i still don’t think it’s inaccurate to use in this sense because as concrete as the word should be ideally, on a communicable level i think it’s about as ambiguous as the word “god” or “love” (which, coincidentally, are all 3 considered synonyms by many christians but that’s beside the point).

    can we say with certainty that all myths didn’t originate in an attempt to verbally explain what we could now accept as scientific fact? a few hundred years ago, diseases were often associated with the spirit world and all kinds of stories were made up to explain the hows and whys, but it was still based on the factual observation that people got sick. also, the source of that sickness was often accurately observed although the details of why that source caused the sickness (microbes, etc.) was beyond their capabilities to observe. then in comes the spiritual nonsense, but still the basis of the fairy tale was not just pure imagination. furthermore, there were actual scientific facts often tied into the stories (this thing causes this sickness, etc.), although usually buried deeply.

    this whole discussion started because of my little whimsy about the story of adam and eve somehow being tied into the cognitive evolution of man. first of all, i don’t honestly believe that but i thought it to be as plausible an idea as many others out there even outside the realm of bible stories. plus i knew it would ruffle a feather or two. ha. considering most people that read this accept the idea of evolution, is it not unreasonable to believe that there had to be a step of self-realization? or at least discernible period of time in which one of our evolutionary forefathers cognitively evolved to a point that they began to question their reality and make up stories in response to their lack of answers? after all, as far as we know chimpanzees don’t question why they exist and make up stories to explain it, and likely some of our closer evolutionary predecessors didn’t either.

    so my point is that it’s not so far fetched to imagine that a myth or legend can circulate within a group of people for countless numbers of years, and the origins of that story were possibly based in something factual. in this case that i’m rambling about, if there was a specific cognitive evolutionary step (unless it was instant and species-wide) those individuals that were a part of it, or those soon after at least, would have been aware of their difference and sought to explain it and told stories about it. considering the group would have likely been relatively small in number, those stories and ideas would have had a much longer life in terms of time and consistency.

    i don’t believe the bible to be any more of a history and/or science book than any other comparable ancient text, but i don’t think it should be so quickly dismissed as useless myth either just because we’re at a point to historically and personally see some of the negative impacts it’s had on our lives individually and collectively.

    • Ann said

      Nice speculation. What I do know is that the Bible is a book that gives us an idea of the morals, beliefs and ideas of the time (or to what they had developed from earlier beliefs about the natural world). Including a bunch of superstitious nonsense. If there are any myths in it that went back a few hundred years, it doesn’t really mean anything except to tell us what the people that lived during Biblical times thought about things and had heard their families tell them (and only a small group of Jewish tribespeople during Biblical times mind you–don’t forget about all the other cultures that were around then). If there’s one thing I’m certain of, every time a human being tells a story it changes a little. The human mind is irrational, forgetful, and easily deluded.

      • Ann said

        P.S. It’s pretty useless now except to look at and say “Oh, that’s what they believed back then. So interesting.” We’ve moved past it. Or maybe I should say, if you want moral teachings and symbolic “truths” I think Buddhism is a better place to begin.

      • Noraa said

        i disagree. myth’s and the like (superstition, folklore, etc) have aided in the advancement of science throughout history, if for no other reason than people setting out to disprove them. from hypocrates to charles darwin to richard dawkins and countless contributors to science in between, myths have played a part in their work either directly or indirectly. a rather significant part in some cases. you could almost look at myths as a sort of primitive and incomplete use of the scientific method. “well, i see this happening, and it seems to be related to this…..but i can’t understand that so i’m going to make up something there to explain it.” of course, as i said: primitive and incomplete. so instead of researching and testing the hypothesis scientifically (which was in part due to a lack of the means to do the research), the process often stalled there and led to ridiculous beliefs and all kinds of other problems related to that (religion and other systems of supernatural belief). then every once in a while someone would come along and recognize that maybe that little made up portion of the process could be explained after all, and the scientific aspect of the process was resumed. almost every field of science has a little bit of this going on. granted, this has played less and less of a part as time goes on and technology advances, but i think it still not accurate to say they’re useless.

        • Bob said

          Could you give an example of myths aiding in the advancement of science, since this has occurred “throughout history”? Noraa, I think you are reading causation where there is merely correlation (or coexistence). To say that “myth’s and the like (superstition, folklore, etc) have aided in the advancement of science throughout history, if for no other reason than people setting out to disprove them,” is an interesting hypothesis, but you’ve given no evidence to support it. It has no persuasive power without evidence. And why make the assumption that scientists set out to prove myths wrong? There is no evidence whatsoever that that is their primary motivator. I agree with Ann that what you are saying is pure conjecture.

          I think I am following what you mean about myth and your attempt to connect it to the scientific method. I think a better way to put it would be to say: myth is a heuristic for understanding the world that offers explanations that are untestable and/or testable but false. Myth did exist in “primitive” times, but it doesn’t solely exist there: our parents believe in myths! So the linear timeline you discuss–a movement from myth to science–is not an all-encompassing one. Otherwise, religion and other myths would no longer exist in this age of science. The truth is they coexist. Myth isn’t an early and primitive form of the scientific method–it is a hugely faulty paradigm or framework for explaining the natural world. (Depending on the myth, it also combines human law (or morals) and tells people how to act.) I think your underlying assumption is that human culture and thought is on a linear plane of progress. That’s not the case. Human culture and thought is not always moving forward in increasingly better ways. And when there does appear to be a long gradual increase in beneficial results (such as the increase in standard of living over time), it doesn’t take more than a second to remember all of the evidence to the contrary (the increasing numbers of people suffering from famine, etc.) In fact, the idea of human progress is a myth. There is only change, but it is neutral change. Sometimes it appears good or bad, but that value exists only in our minds.

          • JN said

            I think a couple different definitions of myth are being thrown around.

            • Bob said

              Such as…?

              • JN said

                What are often referred to as scientific myths or medical myths or whatever are basically things believed to be true that aren’t really true (like the myth that a drafty house will give you a cold). Myths like the Greek myths or the slew of creation myths out there are more or less stories. Most of us would argue they aren’t based on fact, even though they might convey some basic truths.

          • Bob said

            When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty hilarious to think we are arguing about the definition of truth and whether it applies to myths.

            • JN said

              I think truth applies to myth. Fact doesn’t really apply as much. Fiction novels can convey truth, but none of us would argue those events were necessarily real (although some might be based on actual events.

              • Bob said

                I agree that literature can reveal the truth through fiction. In fact, a few of my fave quotes are (paraphrased): “Novelists lie to tell the truth,” and “History tells us what happened. Literature tells us what it felt like.”

                But as I said to Noraa, the word truth in the context of a discussion about the Bible is usually saying much more than what I think you mean here. I do think myths reveal truths about human desires, fears, loves, etc. at the times in history when they were believed to be true. Again though, the use of the word truth here is totally unnecessary and really does seem to imply something more than it is meant to express. I could just as easily say myths reveal the state of human desires, fears… To say that fiction conveys truth shouldn’t say anything more than the fact it reflects characteristics and aspects of human culture that resemble ones in the actual world. Or, to take it a step further (since that last sentence sounds like something the Realists or Naturalists would say) we could say that fiction/art can reconfigure or construct realities we recognize or that make us realize things that we might not have thought of or noticed before. I think it would be more accurate though to call art a concept-constructor/revealer as opposed to a truth-revealer. The word truth suggests a center–and a center suggests a God. So what’s the point in using the word truth when it stinks of the supernatural and there are more precise words to get across the ideas we are discussing?

              • Bob said

                Noraa, no. Not altogether. Just when it comes to myths and fiction–and they are the same thing after all. Personally, I only use the word truth when it refers to the veracity of statements people make in day-to-day life. In those cases, it not Truth with a capital T, like it ends up being in discussions about what lies at the center of art or religion.

        • JN said

          I think if you just look at the world through the cold lens of science and facts, myths might just seem like a bunch of hogwash. But then again, so might poems and paintings. I’m not convinced all myths were meant to be taken literally. I doubt the Cherokee believed that the earth was literally tied to the sky with string, but maybe it helped teach a lesson about the world. I think there is some value in mythology, even though its hard to put a finger on why.

          I’m biased though. I find mythology fairly interesting. Some of the ancient poems have some very interesting imagery and metaphors (some poems from places like Papua New Guinea are kind of gross though, unless you like reading details about the male anatomy). If you don’t look at myths strictly in terms of fact or fiction, I think you can find some interesting ideas.

          • Bob said

            JN, I don’t find science and facts to be cold–I find them warm and comforting. I find violent holy books that sanction the subjugation of women, the owning of slaves and the stoning of people to death to be cold: cold as hell.

            I agree with you that not all myths are probably intended to be taken literally. And I also see value in myth as a reflection of human culture and understanding. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t flatly wrong.

            • JN said

              Warm and comforting like liquor. I was playing off “cold hard facts,” or trying to. But whatever. I know you’re a bit biased ever since your wife gave you that Dawkins snuggie for Christmas. Ha!

        • Noraa said

          oh, also, if i did so, i didn’t mean to imply that “human thought and culture” is moving forward in “increasingly better ways”. i didn’t think i implied that at all. i think you mistook my acknowledgment of scientific advancement as saying humanity and culture has somehow morally improved, which i was not. i was saying we have moved forward scientifically and a good portion of what once was explained by false beliefs now has been explained thanks to scientific advancement and the accumulation of centuries worth of trial and error.

          • Noraa said

            oops, that was meant to come after the following post……

            • Bob said

              I don’t mean to pick on you, but I think some of your word choice in the discussion is imprecise and allows in unintended meanings in this whole truth/myth discussion. In this last section that word “advancement” stood out to me, and I linked it to what I thought was a description of a linear progression from myth to science. Reading back over that shorter post, I recognize that you don’t say that–my bad. It’s a tricky discussion, especially since I think we have different definitions of truth. My main objection is that your definition of truth really means something totally different. It seems to me you are saying that, at their core, myths are based on a truth. I just don’t see how you can possibly claim that. I could see how a legend could be based on a central truth (and by “truth” I mean “fact”)–truth is a value-laden word that automatically makes me think of what Christians refer to as the “truth” of the scripture. And by “truth” they mean “fact.” Using “truth” in this context, when discussing the Bible, makes it sound like you are meaning “fact” as well. That would mean you are agreeing with Christian claims that the Bible is based on facts–things that actually happened (maybe not just as they are recorded in the Bible, but pretty close). That is really all I was getting at–I think the word truth is a poor choice, since it doesn’t communicate what I think you were getting at. And I still disagree that myth aided science somehow–I don’t even know what that means. I like your use of the word accumulation! Now that is precise and doesn’t allow progress to slip in there. 🙂

              • Ann said

                Yeah, I agree about the word truth. Truth is not the right word. Maybe you could use a phrase like “something real to humans”.

        • Ann said

          Noraa’s statement: i don’t believe the bible to be any more of a history and/or science book than any other comparable ancient text, but i don’t think it should be so quickly dismissed as useless myth either just because we’re at a point to historically and personally see some of the negative impacts it’s had on our lives individually and collectively.

          Ann’s response: It’s pretty useless now except to look at and say “Oh, that’s what they believed back then. So interesting.” We’ve moved past it.

          I wasn’t referring to past usefulness of myths in general. And didn’t say they weren’t interesting. I was referring to specifically the current usefulness of the Bible and its teachings, particularly now that we have science. I think the Bible is a book of myths and moral teachings that are no longer all that useful, though I think it was useful in the past for some people who were trying to explain their world. In response to your question for Bob, I don’t think we have a disagreement. I think it is of course possible that myths from our past human culture have impacted the course of explorations, of scientific study..these myths are where we began and show some of our superstitious explanations for the natural world before science.

    • Noraa said

      while i should be studying the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, i find myself back here (in comes flashbacks of the good old “ICA survivors” bulletin board).

      bob, do you not think that early beliefs about the nature of our planet had anything to do with magellan and other early explorer’s desires to sail around further and further west? the christian belief of creation didn’t influence darwin’s work at all? galileo’s heliocentric ideas weren’t influenced at all by the church and their beliefs? and there’s no arguing the influence on richard dawkins’ work. are you saying that scientist and explorers throughout history were somehow immune to the influence of mythology on their society? if you’re waiting for me to dig through all their work and find specific quotes where they cited a specific myth as an influence on their work then well, you’ve got me. mostly because i don’t have the time or desire to do that kind of research, and secondly because i don’t think such clear examples could be found in every case, all though i’m sure you could in many. no where did i say it was the primary motivation, but the influence of myth, religion in particular, reaches into practically every aspect of society. i don’t think you would even argue that.

      i didn’t say myths have ceased to exist either, or that they are still useful at this point in time. it’s like the rest of evolution, it’s a slow process in which it takes time for even the parts that have become useless to be eliminated. i think they served a purpose though and were not completely useless to us. that’s really the point of my conjecture, which i have no problem admitting this is.

      • Bob said

        You make a good point, I need to get my ass off this website to get some other work done!

        I’m sure it’s possible that some scientists responded directly to their desire to disprove Christian myths about the nature of the natural world, but that doesn’t suggest all scientists do that. In today’s world, I doubt most scientists ever think about religious myths. I don’t know much about Magellan, so I can’t say about him. When it comes to Darwin, remember that he put off publishing his work because of what it meant for Christianity. He only published it when someone else was about to steal his thunder. Keeping his work underwraps like that, out of respect for the superstitious thinkers, is hardly the sign of someone who is itching to disprove a Biblical myth. He was just a curious guy following the facts. You are changing what you said slightly though, by using the phrase “influence at all?” Of course, they were influenced by the religion of their culture, just as I am influenced by the message of McDonald’s in my culture. But that wouldn’t mean that everything I say, that goes against the accepted McDonald’s mission statement and business model, is in direct response to McDonald’s. I might not have been thinking about them at all at the time I did my research or studies. Forgive me, but I do have to argue with what you say about Dawkins’ work. There is nothing to suggest that Dawkins’ academic work in the field of Biology is in response to Biblical myths. However, his work that focuses on Biblical mythology is obviously in response to it. Do you see the distinction I’m making? You are jumping to conclusions that are unsubstantiated if you claim that this scientific work is in response to Biblical myths; possibly affected by it due to its being a part of the cultures of the scientists? Yes. A direct response to it? Not unless there is evidence for it. And I see none.

        • Bob said

          Noraa, one last thing:
          Since I know we have basically been saying the same thing this whole time (for the most part), let me point out that I am overworked and haven’t had a full-night’s sleep in awhile. That explains why I am fixating on word choice–which is pretty damn inconsequential, given where we are having the discussion. Let me get a full 7 hours of snooze time, and all of my politeness filters and sense of proportion will be back in functioning order. My students are lucky I’m not reading and grading their papers right now.

  3. Noraa said

    i don’t feel picked on. ha. actually, i agree that my choice of language is not clearly conveying the idea i’m trying to get across. with you, this is in part because it’s your job to pick apart people’s writings. secondly, i’ve never actually tried to verbalize a lot of what i’m trying to say here so it’s kind of like trying to navigate through a mine field with all these “hot” words that are related to the subject.

    i admit the focus of my argument has shifted a little bit, but i think the core of it was to say that myths/false beliefs/whatever have not been a useless phenomenon in human history or science. i don’t think i strayed much from that point, nor have i changed my mind in believing it’s valid.

    i suppose i should let let this particular discussion die, considering it is just my conjecture and i don’t have the time or desire to do the necessary research to back it up. although it does really interest me, maybe i’ll come back to it when i’m old and retired with nothing better to do. ha.

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