Seeing God in the Bible as Ridiculous

Seeing God in the Bible as Ridiculous January 5, 2018

One of the great things about the new Patheos book, Not Seeing God: Atheism in the 21st Century, is the variety on offer. Here, Andrew Hall takes a modern humorous look at a biblical classic.

Check the whole book out in all its glory:

not seeing god: atheism in the 21st century

Back in the days of the Book of Genesis, the world still had that fresh, tasty smell you get after unwrapping a Five Guys burger. The Fall of Man took a lot off the shine of the planet. However, only the harshest critic would rate the planet less than five out of five stars. Humankind had not yet filled the land with fast food wrappers. Global warming was limited to where the Sun was shining at that moment.

East of the Garden of Eden, lay a humble mud hut. It was on a hill. This is not the inhabitants’ first house. After their eviction for violating the Eden rental agreement, the couple moved to this area due to its closeness to drinking water. After building Mud Hut 1.0 on low ground, they discovered water runs downhill and rivers overflow their banks. Mud Hut 2.0 is far dryer.

At a safe distance from the river is a small fruit and vegetable farm. By today’s standards, it’s not much. There are no superfoods that affluent shoppers in organic supermarkets would pay top dollar for. On the other hand, every food that keeps you from starving to death in the ancient world is a superfood. Garden variety carrots are things of wonder.

The King of Mud Hut 2.0 ambles out. Adam stretches his weary bones in the morning light. He likes to use this quiet time to reflect on life. Once the family is awake, it’s go, go, go. It’s been years after The Incident that led to his and his wife’s eviction from the Garden. All in all, he’s adapted well to the situation. Take the mud hut. It’s an engineering marvel. There was a steep learning curve on how to handle mud proficiently. After all, there were a few nights when he woke up due to collapsing walls. Hunting and trapping animals was another toughie. Immediately after The Incident, animals and he just hung out together. All of that ended when Adam discovered fire and how good roasted chicken thighs taste. It didn’t take long for animals to figure out they were on the menu and now they avoid him like the plague. He thinks the animals look at him with a sense of betrayal. He’s right.

What does he miss the most about Eden? Not having to wear clothes.

“Being naked was easy back then,” he muses out loud to no one. “Now you can’t turn around without stumbling into prickly prickles.”

Oh, he misses his six-pack abs, too. God is a righteous God. God saw fit to strap on twenty extra pounds right to Adam’s midsection after The Incident.

Shaking those disturbing thoughts out of his brain, Adam switches into business mode.

“Family meeting! It’s time for a family meeting!” he cries out.

His wife Eve is the first to answer the call. She’s normally calm and the emotional rock the family relies on. This morning is different. Adam disturbed her dreaming of those long lost six-pack abs.

“Oh, it’s too early for this, Adam! I wish I could use the second person of the Trinity’s name in vain, but I have no idea that God has, in fact, three distinct personalities!” she says.

“His ways are mysterious.”

That does not make her feel better. She sits down on the earth.

Favorite son Abel walks out after his mother. He’s in his early twenties, has a Channing Tatum look and a Someday all of this will be mine attitude.

“Dad, I had this dream last night that I was the favored son, and look, it’s real! Praise be!”

Adam puts his arm around his boy. “Hallelujah and praise the LORD, Favorite Son Abel,” he says.

Adam and Abel sit down in their respective spots. The head of the house clears his throat, “OK, let’s begin!”

“What about me?” Cain stands in the doorway. He’s a year younger than his brother with twice the angst and at least three times the brain power. Under one arm, Cain is carrying a wooden wheel. He ambles over and sits down.

“Look, it’s not-Abel. Good to have you here. What do you have there? A wooden circle?”

“I’m very excited about this. I’ve been working on it for days. I call this the wheel.”

“I like triangles,” Abel chimes in.

Everyone except Cain agrees that triangles are vastly superior to circles. Why would he build a wooden circle, anyway?”

“A wheel wouldn’t work if it were a triangle. I want the wheel to go around and around and around.” Cain makes his point by standing and moves the wheel around the group.

“Why would you want to do that?” Eve asks. It seems like a lot of work to push the thing around.

“I say it’s unholy and blasphemous. If the LORD wanted us to have wheels they’d be growing on trees like apples,” Adam announces

“Honey, we agreed never to use the “A” word,” his wife reminds him.

“Oh, right. Sorry about that. Favorite Son Abel, break it down after the meeting so we can use it for the fire tonight!”

Cain’s face is awash with other people’s arrogant stupidity. He sits.

“First order of business, Favorite Son Abel, nice work on the sacrifices to the LORD. I’ve heard from a very high source that He is pleased with you,” Abel says.

Abel sees his chance to play up the role as favorite son. “I don’t know how I would’ve been able to deal with it if God didn’t like it. It would’ve been the worst day ever.”

Eve shoots him a look, “Sweetie, you have no idea what a bad day is.”

A fair amount of air gets let out of Abel’s balloon. While he seems to shrink a little, his brother sits a bit straighter. Seeing Abel get dumped on brings a rare smile to Cain.

“Hey, you shouldn’t be schadenfreuding over there, mister! Your brother did good. You? Not so much,” Adam observes.

“I sacrificed! My fruits and vegetables I dedicated to the LORD were fresh. My snow peas snapped! My zucchini firm! The elderberries worthy of Methuselah.”

“God likes to smell fat burning. You can’t make the LORD a vegetarian. This is a competitive world. Sacrifices have to razzle and dazzle. I got to where I am today by lighting up the grill and barbecuing high-fat meats for God,” Adam says.

“It’s a competitive world? You and Mom were the only ones around for years!”

Sometimes not answering your children is winning the argument Adam reflects.

“OK, onto new business. God has told me we need to be more proactive with being fruitful and multiplying. It turns out we have not been multiplying since not-Abel was born,” Adam announces to the team.

Eve and Abel don’t seem to understand the full import of this newest directive from God. Cain, however, can see the train coming down the track and suspects he’s tied to the rails.

“God is going to make us more women? Because He’s God, he can just whip up more women,” Cain points out.

Adam ignores his son’s attempts to question the way of the LORD. “OK, here is the schedule.”

“Schedule? We don’t need a schedule. I have plenty of ribs that God can make more women out of.” Cain is fighting a losing battle, but gosh darn it, he’s bringing his A-game.

Adam completely ignores him.

“This week, Abel is with his mother Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Not-Abel, you’re in the batter’s box on Thursday.”

It slowly dawns on Abel what divine family planning looks like. He looks at his mother in a whole new light. A way reminiscent of how a middle school boy looks at a Victoria Secrets catalog. “I get to be with Mom–”

“Biblically,” Adam answers.

Cain mounts his last and best defense. “How is this OK? I don’t think animals do this kind of thing. Back me up on this Abel! Isn’t this wrong, wrong, wrong?”

His brother is silent—icky silent.

Adam hates talking to not-Abel, but you do what you have to do in the service of the LORD. “God is giving us a free pass for a few generations. There’s going to be some freaky shenanigans going on. You don’t want to know what the deal is going to be between Lot and his daughters.”

“Look at Abel. You like Abel. If my ribs aren’t good enough for God, why doesn’t He pluck a few out of Abel?”

Abel offers up some sage wisdom, “They’d still be related to you.”

“THEY WOULDN’T BE MOM.”

Eve hopes to calm things down a bit. She’s always been the peacemaker of the family. “Schnooky, if the Almighty said it’s OK, then it has to be moral—divine command theory and all.”

Cain can’t believe what he’s hearing. “Divine command theory?”

“Whatever God does or orders must be moral because He is the source of all that is good,” Eve says to Schnooky-not-Abel.

Abel sticks out his chest and holds his chin up high. “If that’s the way it has to be, then I’ll do my absolute best.”

This is all too much for his brother. “You are such a suck up.” A second passes and Cain makes yet another disturbing realization. “Why does he get three days and I only get one?”

“Like I said, your sacrifice was lacking. God wants his sacrifices to smell like the annual Memorial Day Church Cookout. Maybe you amp your game up, and you will be the one with three nights with your mom,” Adam points out.

“What about Saturday and Sunday?” Abel asks.

“Saturday is your parent’s date night. Sunday is the LORD’s day.”

Cain gets up. He grabs his wheel and stomps away.

Despite everything that’s happened, Abel is still positive. “I think he’ll come around.”

 

***

 

A day later and Cain is basking in the early afternoon sun. He stands on a hill and gazes on the field of crops. It’s a humble farm. There’s a stone fence encircling it. To his left is a good-sized two-wheel wooden cart. It’s full of fruits and vegetables that he has painstakingly plucked.

Abel sneaks up behind him. With a swift movement honed from hundreds of attacks, Abel dope smacks his brother on the back of the head.

“Owwwwwww!”

“What’s up, loser?”

This is Cain’s favorite place. It’s where he goes in dreams where no one is around to tell him his inventions are stupid or make fun of his sacrifices. Right now, though, he just wants to run away from his idiot brother.

“Nothing much. I’m just on my way back to the mud hut.” And with that, Cain grabs the cart.

“Hey, aren’t you going to ask Big Bro how his big date went last night?”

Cain had successfully repressed yesterday’s family meeting so far down that there was a distinct chance he’d poop it out with last night’s corn. Despite his best efforts, his brother has been able to ruin his best-laid plans.

“You mean your alone time with Mom?”

Abel’s chest puffs out a bit more than usual. “Yeaaaaaahhh”

“Please save me the details, you inbreeding Casanova, I’ve got business to do.”

Abel doesn’t like the sound of that. He can’t go around boasting about Eve-time with Adam. That leaves his brother as the only person on Earth to talk to. In a fit of irritation, Abel changes strategy and goes with what he does best. He knocks the cart out of Cain’s hands.

“Whatcha got there? One of your stupid wheels?”

“No, it’s two of my stupid wheels attached with a rotating column I call an axle. Together with this containment unit I call the machine a cart.”

“So you can carry your stupid carrots and stuff that God doesn’t want!”

Cain grabs the cart again. Abel knocks it down again, this time spilling all its contents out.

Cain takes a deep breath and starts gathering the nutritious and delicious produce. He looks up from the ground and sees his brother sitting in the cart. Abel is looking down the steep hill. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what the idiot is about to do.

“The cart isn’t designed for that. That right there? That thing you’re doing? It’s going to end up catastrophically failing.”

“Cain, you were second born and a first rate loser. Watch how a man lives his life in the here and now!”

As soon as those words leave Abel’s lips, he pushes the cart down the hill.

Wow! It’s fast!

He’s probably setting some speed record for humanity. Someday, Mom’s and his kids will talk about the time Abel went really, really fast on Uncle Cain’s Idiot Machine of Idiocy.

Those were the last thoughts Abel had before smashing into the stone fence surrounding his brother’s farm. Cain sadly notices he was right all along. His brother’s head has a lot of similarities with a pumpkin.

He had never seen anyone die before. In fact, his brother is the first person to die. Ever.

Stuck in a mental miasma, he lies down on the grass and stares at the sky.

Cain takes a few moments in silence and thought about the good times and the bad times he and his brother shared. There weren’t a lot of good times. It was more a case of bad times and worse times. But he never wanted Abel to end up like this. Cain always assumed he would be working with his plants and tinkering while Abel occasionally rained down smack talk and low-intensity physical abuse. It would be like that until Abel came to his senses and settled down.

Note: Settled down with someone other than a close relative.

Cain didn’t know what happened to you when you died. God hadn’t told Dad anything on that front. Maybe the Almighty let that slip His divine mind. That was okey-doke with Cain. He never mentioned it to anyone, but Cain secretly thought God’s plan with a capital “P” seemed a bit, well, disjointed and erratic.

A gust of wind pulls Cain back to the real world. There, standing in the tomatoes, is the LORD. God had only appeared to Mom and Dad. This couldn’t be good. Even though his brother just became the first Darwin Award recipient, what Cain cares about right then and there are his delicate tomato plants.

“Hello, LORD, can you just whisk yourself out from those tomatoes? I raised them from seeds, and they are wonderful manifestations of your benevolence.” Cain understands he couldn’t just tell the LORD to shove off. He hopes that manifestation of your benevolence line is enough flattery to avoid a tomato patch disaster.

God doesn’t move.

“I don’t have to tell you, seeing that you know everything, how great those beefsteak tomatoes are going to be in a few weeks. Um, standing there is OK if you don’t move about.

God takes a step towards Cain. One plant gets stomped by a heavenly foot.

Cain is at his wit’s end. However, he’s not a quitter. “OK, if you have to move how about going in between the rows? That should limit the damage –”

“WHERE IS YOUR BROTHER ABEL!” God bellows.

God’s voice is deep and very godly. The LORD’s fluffy beard waves in the wind. His garments are as white as His beard. God seems to care a lot about matching colors.

Cain, confident he had done nothing wrong answers calmly, “My brother Abel took a ride in my cart and got himself killed, LORD.”

God takes a step and crushes another beautiful tomato plant in the prime of its life. Maybe Cain could reason with the LORD before more destruction occurs.

“Am I my brother’s keeper, LORD?”

That was not the right thing to say.

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

“First, I made the first wheel. Then, seeing that I was on a bit of a roll [Cain makes sure he doesn’t laugh at his pun] I made a second wheel and hitched them together–”

“YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD IS CRYING TO ME FROM THE GROUND.” And to bring that point home, the LORD took a divine foot and stomps another plant.

“I did try and stop him. In retrospect, I should’ve used smaller words.”

“I AM GOING TO BANISH YOU FROM THIS PLACE FOREVER.”

“Wait, what? What’s my crime? Inventing the wheel or starting the Agricultural Revolution thousands of years before its time?”

“YOU WILL NEVER SEE MY FACE AGAIN.”

Cain wonders if that just may be a blessing.

“YOU WILL LIVE IN THE LAND OF NOD AND THERE YOU WILL BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY!”

Everything was moving very fast for Cain. However, he did pick up on the tidbit that God wants him to multiply. How was he going to do that when he could never see Mom?

“Who am I going to multiply with, LORD? Are you making me a woman?”

“THERE ARE PEOPLE IN NOD. FIND A CISGENDERED WOMAN OF YOUR OWN RACE IN THAT LAND.”

And there the two stood. God in the tomato patch. Cain standing on the outside. It took a second for Cain to piece it all together. He’d never have to see God again. That was a plus for any future gardening. Two, he wasn’t going to have to have sex with his mother to make babies. That seemed like a double-win for Cain.

And he couldn’t help but think that the people in Nod are probably nicer.

“OK, LORD, you’re right. I’ve been a naughty, sinful boy and I’m going to leave right now.” He looks down at his cart. While Abel didn’t fare well with the ride down the hill, the cart was intact. Cain looks at the angry LORD and realizes he should just bug out. He could make more carts.

Cain cautiously walks away. He prides himself as a pragmatic sort of fellow. While his parents and Abel spent their time gossiping about intrafamily politics, he kept himself focused on real world problems. No matter how pragmatic he is, his heart burns with a question for God. If there were more people within walking distance, then why the heck have his brother and he have sex with their mother? It didn’t make any sense.

Knowing he was putting himself in jeopardy, he knows he has to know why. It had to be for a good reason, right? Otherwise, something was very wrong. Very wrong, indeed.

Regardless of the consequences, Cain takes a deep breath and turns around.

Something very wrong is going on. God is still there. His back is to Cain. He is gingerly stepping around the plants in the garden and holding up his robes.

And then God falls face-first into the watermelons.

Cain rushes over. There is God, face-first in a watery melon, arms and legs splayed out. He rolls God over to His back.

“Dad?”

God’s beard was stuck in the fruity flesh, revealing Adam’s angry face.

“You weren’t supposed to look back!”

Cain stands up. He has a thousand questions. And like many people who will be the victim of gaslighting in the future, Cain figures out the only way to win that game is by not playing.

“Screw this. I’m heading to Nod.” He walks away.

“I’m going to write this all down in my memoir!” Adam screams. “You’re going to look like a schmuck!”

“No one’s going to read your stupid book!”

Cain doesn’t look back.

 

 


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