From Eden to evil, what creation story really tells us


In contemplating the evil that the megalomaniacal Vladimir Putin has rained down on Ukraine, I wondered what might be the polar opposite of such an obvious example of human depravity?

I thought of the Garden of Eden, and the loving kindness that religious Jews everywhere, for thousands of years, have ascribed to the world’s creator.

According to GotQuestions.org, chesed, “or loving kindness, as it relates to the character of God … is God’s kindness and steadfast love for his children. God shows his loving kindness in saving his children from their enemies and delivering them from their troubles.”

God’s loving kindness is abundant, everlasting, full of goodness, and knows no bounds.

In this Point of View, I am not questioning the existence of God, although I do question it: I don’t believe that our puny human brains will ever determine how the universe came to be. The biblical story of creation does not ring true to me, since there is no evidence for what the Bible describes.

That is why I label myself an agnostic. Rather, I am questioning the nature of God, in whose existence billions of people have total faith.

As manifested in the history of humankind, it seems to me, God is more often cruel than kind. I cannot understand why a loving kind God would allow all the atrocities that have caused and continue to cause untold suffering in our world.

People have assured me that evil does not come from God, but from the devil. Or is the result of our free will. Or that one cannot question God’s thinking.

But the Bible gives us clues to God’s thought processes — in his own words — and thus contains plenty to make people like me wonder about his modus operandi.

For example, in Exodus 34:7, we read, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness and truth. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

And God has done just that: When he saved Noah and his family from the flood, millions of others perished — including infants, who certainly could not have sinned.

When humans punish an entire group for the misdeeds of a single miscreant, most of us feel revulsion because it strikes us as deeply unjust.

The Bible does not describe the Garden of Eden in detail. In addition to an abundance of fruit trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, we learn of the river that provided water to the garden’s flora and fauna. Adam and Eve and all the animals that God created had more than enough to eat, all in the form of plant food.

For eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, which God had forbidden them to do, God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and tells them that now their survival will depend on their own labor. That Eve will suffer pain during childbirth. And that they will not live forever.

Moreover, it was from that moment on that animals have killed other animals to sustain themselves, causing prey animals to spend much of their lives on constant alert and in fear of predators. And, for many, to die in agony. Why did Eve’s single act of disobedience lead to such endless suffering among animals?

Now consider Eve as a human being. She has no human parents who might have raised her lovingly and wisely. She emerged fully formed from Adam’s rib with the anatomy, physiology, character and mental capacity that God chose to endow her with.

Since this omniscient God created Eve and the serpent, surely he could have anticipated what such a human being might do when tempted — and that the serpent would tempt her. Does not God write the fate of every person in his Book of Life every year?

So for Eve’s sole transgression, humankind has suffered exactly as God ordained: struggling to find or grow enough food to nourish ourselves — with many starving to death. Suffering (for women) sometimes excruciating pain during labor. And dying — often painfully — from genetic defects, disease, accidents, natural catastrophes, in childbirth, and as a result of the many ways that humans have devised to kill each other — whether individually, with their fists, stones, knives, poison, or guns, or en masse, and in wars.

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