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We can’t understand the world from a divine viewpoint because if by definition it’s divine, then it’s beyond our understanding in the natural world. There are serious constraints with using religion as a way of knowing. One of the major constraints when one bases their way of knowing off of religion is that you can’t ask how things are the way they are. It’s the will of God. And that’s as far as the conversation can go because we’re not divine like God is. From a divine standpoint, we can’t question the will of God, so at best religion might lead us to ask “How does the world work?” and the response to that can only be to parrot back “Because God willed it to be that way”.

In the Judeo-Christian belief system, all of humanity descended from a single breeding pair; ignoring the problems that come from a literal interpretation of the Bible about how a single breeding pair cannot account for the amount of ethnic and racial diversity alive on Earth today, the story of Adam and Eve is informative to say the least about what religion, Christianity in particular teaches us about the world.

Adam and Eve lived in a paradise and had never experienced strife, pain, suffering and deceit, evil, wrong-doing, punishment or death, but God had still expected them to be able to grapple with the intricacies of morality. According to the Bible, humans were created by God in the beginning without any notion of morality. They lived in a paradise that never required them to think about the ramifications of their actions. God had never taught them about the nature of morality, presumably, because the need had never come up. But when Adam and Eve do defy God’s will by eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge of good and evil, God doesn’t explain to them why such a thing was bad. He banishes them from paradise for all eternity for a single worldly transgression. This tale comes with three major lessons that have become internalized by Christians everywhere. One, even if you’ve never had the opportunity to learn right from wrong, you can be punished for your crimes. Two, you can be punished for all eternity for a single worldly crime and, in fact, every one of your descendants will have to suffer for your crime for all of eternity, too. And three, that all humans deserve this burden, especially women.

According to the Genesis story of the Bible, God created Adam and forbade him from eating from the tree of knowledge, but never explained why he would be punished. For Adam, the concept of right and wrong was completely unknown. He didn’t know what punishment was or indeed what it would mean to sin. Yet, he was expected to obey the command of an all-powerful being and fully understand the consequences of his actions. When Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge, they were sent out of the garden and never allowed to return. Suddenly armed with an acute understanding of right and wrong, they became aware of what they did as wrong and discovered only after the fact why their actions were forbidden by God in the first place. Learning right from wrong was Adam and Eve’s transgression against, something that they couldn’t have been aware of before they committed that act. Yet, God punished them for their actions even though at the time they had no conception of what they did as wrong and even after they realized how they had sinned, they showed incredible remorse. It reads in the Bible that upon eating the fruit, they suddenly became aware of their nakedness and grew ashamed for what they did.

God was so furious of their sin, that he cursed the earth so that humans would have to toil to survive and women would have to suffer the agony of childbirth for all eternity for the transgressions of Eve’s Original Sin. He cast them both out of paradise and sent them out into the harsh world. Neither one of knew the penalty of disobeying God, but were punished none the less. To Christians everywhere, the story of genesis is viewed as undeniable fact, yet this would require Christians to accept that it is okay to punish someone who can’t understand what they are doing. Our criminal system requires that someone convicted of a crime willingly and knowingly commit a crime before justice can be served. True morality requires not only that we understand the difference between right and wrong but that we willfully commit a crime. And because Christianity as an institution believes that it is okay to punish sinners regardless of their ability to understand what they’ve done, this has a profound impact on our judicial system. When we testify before the court, we put our hand on the Bible. What could be more disturbing than to base the mercy of our judicial system off of a worldview dominated by a vengeful supernatural being? Maybe we can’t question God, but at the very least we should be questioning ourselves.

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