Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In the beginning

Polish Eden

Í upphafi skapaði Guð himin og jörð. So begins the Bible in Icelandic.

Why, you might reasonably ask, have I launched this series called Genesis for the rest of us in a language so obscure that (in all likelihood) exactly one visitor among Jurisdynamics' first 8000 guests understands it? To demonstrate this point: the rhetoric of any single religious tradition, though powerful to its adherents, can confound the unfamiliar outsider. A masterful speaker of English might discern the elements of Genesis 1:1 á íslensku -- "in [the] upheaval [?!] shaped God heaven and earth" -- but its true power remains elusive. For now we see through a glass, darkly.

Herewith the airing of grievances that necessarily accompanies a celebration "for the rest of us." Why do human beings care about beginnings? Perhaps because they must. Fair enough. But if indeed a look back at origins is a universal emotional necessity, what does humanity gain by expressing those sentiments in an idiom understood by the elect and confounding to all others?

The ultimate goal of Genesis for the rest of us, therefore, is to find a universal tongue in which all humanity can seek to understand its origins, in order perchance to master its destiny. The Christian tradition has a nice name for this quest: Pentecost.

Next in this series: Founders versus forgetters.


Blogger John Pieret said...

"TomS" over at the newsgroup is forever (rightly) reminding us that people have no significant trouble accepting a "naturalistic" explanation for their own existence, in the form of the bees/birds business. There is no great movement towards "storkism" or "cabbagepatchism" to explain the origin of each individual.

And yet, in terms of a "personal" relationship with a deity, one's personal origin would seem more ontologically important than the origin of one's species, which most people couldn't cogently define anyway. The dogged adherence to creation stories must have more than the mere parental passage of lore on to children as a motive force. Those stories must somehow speak powerfully to the sense of self-worth of believers. And the vehement any-tactic-is-fair-game, at-all-costs defense against evolution that has raged for 150 years now must go beyond mere theology, which most people, I dare say, don't let bother them at all. I must be perceived as an attack directly in the individual's ego.

The other interesting question is why other people don't feel threatened by evolution at all.

8/30/2006 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Hinheckle Jones said...

You almost touched an important point , but deftly skirted it. The question "what happened before the beginning?" needs to be answered. Religion purports to provide an answer. Science cannot or will not provide an answer.

I believe that no answer is the correct answer, but many people want the question answered.

8/30/2006 12:10 PM  
Blogger envirolawgirl said...

'The question 'what happened before the beginning?' needs to be answered. Religion purports to provide an answer."

I am by no means a religious scholar but it seems to me that religion also does not give a definitive answer to the question "what happened before the beginning?" If you ask a Christian, for example, “where did God come from” their answer will undoubtedly be the same answer that you get for many complex questions: “he just is.” That, to me, doesn’t seem to give any type of answer to the question. And trying to get that answer and prove the existence of god or gods is a futile attempt. The whole idea behind religion is that you must believe. If we are able to turn that belief into fact then we have changed the entire dynamic of religion.

8/30/2006 2:25 PM  

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