Burning Bush Sounds About Right

According to Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Moses was on drugs when he heard the Ten Commandments:

“As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush,” suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

The UK Daily Mail provides this helpful graphic:

senseexodus.jpg

The whole notion makes me rethink all those people who “got stoned” in the Bible.

(Thanks to Lexi for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, God, Jesus[/tags]

  • http://www.thechristianmanifesto.wordpress.com C.E. Moore

    The interesting thing abous scoffers is that they are KNOWN for scoffing. If you want a reason NOT to believe, you will ALWAYS find one. The same COULD be said of religious belief, but I think it is far less likely if you’re honest (which is the key for spiritual searching). Christianity isn’t very convenient to my natural inclinations (like wanting to have sex with whoever I want and punching people that annoy me in the face). But, I found it made more sense than the other religions (and non-religious beliefs) I’ve thought about and tried out.

    What I’m saying is, it seems like people are spending an awful lot of time trying to disprove a miracle that happened 8,000 years ago with stuff that seems even MORE ridiculous than the miracle described in the story itself. Really? A MILLION people were on drugs? Honestly? And then they lived their lives based on laws given to them while under the influence? Aren’t these the same laws that you guys point to as being common in the ancient near east? Now they’re drug-induced?

  • http://synapostasy.blogspot.com Aaron Golas

    I’d like to know what reason Prof. Shanon has for not believing the Mt Sinai story to be a legend, apart from the fact that his psychedelics hypothesis depends upon it.

  • Renacier

    It’s actually far more likely that the entirety of the Exodus story is just a legend with no archaeological or historical data to back it up.

    It also seems likely that your “natural inclinations (like wanting to have sex with whoever I want and punching people that annoy me in the face).” run counter to the most basic forms of civility present in even simple mammalian social groups.

    This indicates a likelihood that you are not versed in the current theories of the biological basis for moral behavior.
    It also is likely that your attempt to somehow equate events in Exodus with events elsewhere in the globe is a non sequitur.

    It is further likely that “[believers] are KNOWN for [believing]. If you want a reason to believe, you will ALWAYS find one. The same COULD be said of [freethinkers], but I think it is far less likely if you’re honest (which is the key for [intellectual] searching)”

  • Jick

    “But I would not feel so all alone…everybody must get stoned.”

    Maybe that’s why Dylan became a born-again Christian in the late ’70s, eh?

    But seriously, folks, I’ve heard this one before, and it doesn’t make enough sense to keep repeating. Sure, if everything happened like the Bible says it does, then let’s go ahead and rebut it. But that’s what ridiculous things in the New Testament are for.

    Exodus and Genesis are preposterous enough that we don’t need to invent hypotheses to debunk anything – we’ve already got talking serpents, extreme old age, plagues, the parting of seas, and the whole Noah’s Arc episode, just to name a few. Moses’s very existence is in doubt; there’s no reason to decide this is what really happened. Why is Shanon finding it hard to believe it was a legend when he’s already looking for ways to doubt the experience?

  • I like tea

    I’ve seen many attempts to come up with “reasonable” explanations for the miracles seen in both the Pentateuch and the Gospels. It’s unnecessary because the Pentateuch and the Gospels are, of course, all fiction. There’s no historical or archaeological evidence for any of it, so if you’re not going to put your blinders of ignorant faith on and pretend it all makes sense at face value, there’s no reason to pretend that it’s just an embellished version of actual events. No such events transpired.

  • I like tea

    What I’m saying is, it seems like people are spending an awful lot of time trying to disprove a miracle that happened 8,000 years ago with stuff that seems even MORE ridiculous than the miracle described in the story itself. Really? A MILLION people were on drugs?

    Well, all “million” of them wouldn’t need to be on drugs, just Moses and preferably those in the immediate vicinity of Moses. I guess you like to picture the Sunday School version of events, where the entire Hebrew population stood around in the same place to receive Moses’ revelations from God, but that just doesn’t make any logistical sense.

    Also, a million people on drugs is definitely not more ridiculous than “God did it.” Let’s consider the facts: 1) Drugs exist. 2) God doesn’t exist. And in two easy steps, I’ve already demonstrated why the drugs explanation is more realistic, even if I don’t happen to think it’s anywhere near correct.

  • stogoe

    Why couldn’t it be both “just a legend” and “came up with it while on crazy-strong hallucinogens”? They don’t seem mutually exclusive to me.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    This theory seems rather far-fetched to me.

    BTW, I did a post some time ago about what I consider to be the historical basis for the Exodus story. One word: Hyksos.

  • Jen

    There is only one way to test this theory: Let’s do drugs!

    Maybe it was something they ate? This theory reminds me of the Salem Witch Trial theory that says the girls who testified in the trial(s) were accidently high on bad wheat which had morphed into LSD. Now, my aunt told me for some unasked reason that while she was in college, she did LSD and watched her foot for six hours straight. This is my craaazy aunt, who switches religions like other people switch socks.

    I’m just saying, I wouldn’t trust food from the sky to be the best quality…

  • Siamang

    This theory seems rather far-fetched to me.

    It does remind me from a part of Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God”.

    “If his epistles can be seen as John on pot, then Revelation is John on acid.”

  • Wes

    Many cultures are replete with stories of glorious heroes and their supernatural interactions with the gods. Should they all be explained as actual events in which the people were on drugs? If not, how do we distinguish between pure legends and accurate descriptions of hallucinations?

    The reasoning in that article sounds hokey to me. He’s basically probing for similarities between a thing described and a drug-induced hallucination, then concluding that since they have that similarity they must be the same thing. But he’s not considering the fact that 1.) It could just be coincidence, 2.) Many of the effects of drugs can also be had, or imagined, without drugs (synaesthesia is a good example; you don’t need drugs to describe sounds as color and such—we all say and understand synaesthetic things like “white noise” or “bitter cold” even without tripping on peyote. In fact, it’s comes so naturally that many people don’t even realize those terms are synaesthetic!) or 3.) These descriptions of events might have other features which don’t comport with drug use (any good hypothesis must also seek out possibly falsifying evidence, but that article doesn’t seem to consider any).

    Also, this statement:

    As far as Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics.

    …sounds a lot like C. S. Lewis’s fallacious “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” false trichotomy. It could be a historical event greatly exaggerated by legend and embellishment. Not to mention the fact that the complete lack of archaeological evidence makes the “legend” option much more plausible than Shanon is giving it credit for.

  • Josh Golackson

    “This indicates a likelihood that you are not versed in the current theories of the biological basis for moral behavior.” – Renacier

    I probably won’t be back here to read your long explanation of this sentence that seems ridiculously nonsensical, but if we came from a glob of primordial soup and then monkeys, how in the world does the term “moral” have any meaning.

    I also find it sad that most of you who are trying so hard to disprove the existence of God are more familiar with the Bible and authors like C.S. Lewis than a lot of people that call themselves Christians. Why are you wasting your time trying to tell people what to not believe? It’s just as narrow-minded as those who attack others for telling people what “to” believe. Give it up. Save your breath. If you don’t want to believe in God, fine. Why not spend your time, energy and brain cells doing what you enjoy rather than trying to un-convert people who choose to believe in God.

    Isn’t this supposed to be the “Friendly Atheist” forum?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X