Wow - can't believe it's been nearly 3 weeks since I posted! I've been happily distracted by The King and I project ... which has just started reading the book of Exodus this week. On Tuesday, Bruce wrapped Genesis with some concluding thoughts, which I didn't get to until today. Before I reflect on the first book of the Old Testament, I have to say how respectful and thoughtful the commenters on the blog are - it really helps make this a learning and sharing environment. On to my summarization:
First, I approach the OT as person who was once-upon-a-time "born again". The reason I lost that "born-againness" was primarily my attempt to read the OT from start to finish as part of immersing myself in Christianity. When I was born again, I started by going to a full gospel Pentecostal Church - plenty of speaking in tongues and folks full of the spirit. I carried around a copy of the New Testament, which I probably read 80% of - from start to whenever-I-petered-out. I peeled off once I got deep into the NT (which is a good read when taken on its own) and decided to undertake my first systematic reading of the OT. It was that first systematic reading that really undid my belief in the Bible. That's a long way around saying that I didn't expect to be convinced by a second systematic reading of the Old Testament - and I haven't been, but because the atmosphere is so peaceful at The King and I, it feels more like a reading circle, and hardly at all like a gaggle of godless atheists.
Second, subsequent to my un-borning-again many years ago, the proposition that there is an omnipotent God as most believers of the Bible hold, has become just unsupportable. There never seemed to be a point (after my de-conversion) that the concept of god was necessary to the existence or functioning of the universe. If I were to give credence to any idea of god, it would be that god created the universe and then went on his way, never to return again. So clearly, a religion that has as its basis for the universe an entity whose whole existence seems so unnecessary and implausible has a lot of convincing to do to win me over. It hasn't happened.
Third, Genesis itself is a weapon against belief. The creation story starting in Gen 1:1 doesn't make sense - god makes heaven and earth before he makes the stars? God makes light before he makes the sun and the stars? Also, Gen 1 is a broader "cosmic" creation story, while Gen 2 is a human-centric story that immediately contradicts Gen 1. Then, there's where do wives for the sons and grandsons of Adam and Eve come from? Then there's Noah and the flood story ... how do you keep two (or seven - depending) of each species alive in a boat for 40 days (or around half a year, depending) without some serious food-chain chaos? Other incongruent ideas are presented - god is impatient - why? He's not so perfect that he can create perfect humans; he's not so powerful that he can make man obey his laws; when he becomes unhappy with man, he decides to kill them all and all other life except those on the boat as punishment; Once the passengers on the boat disembark, where do other tribes that are later introduced come from? We thought everyone was wiped out! This story has more holes than cheesecloth does.
On the bright side, reading the OT over has spurred my thirst for ancient mid-eastern history and mythology. So, overall, this is good! It's just like being in junior high school again and learning about the Greek and Roman gods again!