Sunday, October 2, 2011

Richard Dawkins - "The Magic Of Reality"

From Richard Dawkins' new book, The Magic Of Reality.  The book is obviously for children, or possibly for those of us with a religious fundamentalist upbringing who need little reminders from time to time to avoid slipping back into religious tribalism. 
Those are the two reasons why I'll probably buy it. 
Parts of this fable that Dawkins shares in his book might sound familiar.  Names, characters, gods, and incidents are the products of the pre-civilized imagination.  Any resemblance to actual events, characters, gods and incidents, living or dead is entirely coincidental.   


Utnapashtim told Gilgamesh of an occasion, many centuries earlier, when the gods were angry with humankind becase we made so much noise they couldn't sleep. 


The chief god, Enlil, suggested that they should send a great flood to destroy everybody, so the gods could get a good night's rest.  But the water god, Ea, decided to warn Utnapashtim.  Ea told Utnapashtim to tear down his house and build a boat. 


It would have to be a very big boat, because Utnapashtim was to take into it 'the seed of all living creatures'. 


Utnapashtim built the boat just in time, before it rained for six days without stopping.  The flood that followed drowned everybody and everything that was not safely inside the boat.  On the seventh day the wind dropped and the waters grew calm and flat. 


Utnapashtim opened a hatch in the tightly sealed boat and released a dove.  The dove flew away, looking for land, but failed to find any and returned.  Then Utnapashtim released a swallow, but the same thing happened. 


Finally Utnapashtim released a raven.  The raven didn't come back, which suggested to Utnapashtim that there was dry land somewhere and the raven had found it. 

Eventually the boat came to rest on a mountaintop poking out of the water.  Another god, Ishtar, created the first rainbow, as a token of the gods' promise to send no more terrible floods. 


So that is how the rainbow came into being, according to the ancient legend of the Sumerians..... In fact, it is obvious that the Jewish story of Noah is nothing more than a retelling of the older legend of Utnapashtim.  It was a folk tale that got passed around, and it travelled down the centuries.  We often find that seemingly ancient legends have come from even older legends, usually with some names or other details changed. 

Go here to read a story about a Dutch Creationist who built a full-size "replica" of the ark from the Noah story.  
Go here to read what percentage of Americans believe that this story is literally true.  (Noah's, but not Utnapashtim's.)


The pics of Utnapashtim came from here and here and here and here and here. 

1 comment:

Nick said...

Fundamentalists scare me, because they believe literally that which was obviously metaphor. Jesus spoke in parables, yet the obvious conclusion that Moses et al also spoke in parables eludes them.

I have been reading Genesis lately. What surprised me most is how much it resembles the science of how we think the universe was formed. If you asked an ancient human to describe an airplane, he'd likely reference things within his experience, such as birds, gold, silver, smoke, fire, armor, lightning. Genesis sounds like a fairly good explanation of Creation when viewed as a metaphor. Obviously, no one was there at the time.

Adam's rib is still elusive to me.

The way Genesis uses the word "waters" makes me think they really weren't talking about water. Previous references resemble celestial gas and energy. The Earth actually was completely covered by ice once or twice. "Firmament" is apparently used to describe something other than land.

Most of Genesis is filled with "begatting". They begat with their mothers and sisters. They begat with their wive's handmaidens. There was also a lot of murder and theft, even after the great flood wiped out the sinful.

Much of it is pretty boring lineage, and the interesting parts are the stories we remember the most, such as Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau.

So much for brotherly love.