Monday, June 27, 2011

Forget Cedar Wood, Scarlet, And Hyssop. Just Wash Your Hands

Image courtesy of Google Images.

God is omniscient. God created the earth and everything in it. God is loving.

These three pillars of the Christian religion could hardly be denied by any legitimate Christian. I am normally hesitant to cherry pick parts of the Bible in an attempt to make any point. Examine a work of literature in whole if you are going to critique it. Doubtless those who do believe in God will assume that I am cherry picking here, and that there is some “logical” reason why the following path of reason doesn’t apply. But, as I state, one could hardly deny the three claims above if one were to accept the God of the Bible.

God is omniscient. He knows everything and he always has known everything. He has known all along that there are microbes in the soil, on our skin, in our digestive tracts, in our feces, everywhere. He has always known that microbes not only exist but that they are one of the fundamental health threats to primitive humanity. (One wonders whether Christians believe Jesus walked around with all this knowledge in the forefront of his consciousness or if he somehow limited himself to being a genuine first century Jewish man with only the knowledge appropriate to that). How many hundreds of millions of infants in the history of humanity have perished due to microbial infection? How many billions of good young men and women have contracted some easily preventable infectious disease and died prematurely and left families devastated and without means? What single best action is everyone in the modern world aware of to prevent this fate themselves? You’ve heard it since pre-school: wash your hands. Simple hand washing is probably the single best action that can be taken in the prevention of communicable diseases. Simple, cheap, and very effective. Yet, mentioned no where in the Bible. (There are, of course, verses in the Bible that deal with ritual washing and so on. Leviticus 15:11, for example, states: “Anyone the man with a discharge touches without rinsing his hands with water must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.” (Almost seems like an attempt at modern medicine, doesn’t it? But then you realize there is no universal prescription for hand washing on a regular basis. It is not at all clear from reading the Bible that you probably should wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. Given the critical nature of this simple action to the well-being of a primitive tribe living in ancient times, you would think that a God, providing the only written book to his chosen people, would have ensured that one command, above all else, was crystal clear. Instead, pages and pages are devoted to tedious agricultural laws and requirements. Dire consequences are spelled out for those who deviate from specific sexual guidelines (none of which seem particularly inclined to prevent STDs, by the way), and all sorts of ridiculous rules about the uncleanliness of women during their period are introduced (despite the fact that there is really nothing particularly infectious or unclean about this normal, regular physiological function). In any case, had the god of the Bible actually passed on this simple piece of personal hygiene advice, you would expect it to have been followed and therefore you would expect to observe the followers of the Bible suffering far less infectious disease than other primitive societies. But, of course, you do not observe this because it didn’t happen.

Why did it not happen? Did God decide that it wasn’t that important? Perhaps, due to his mysterious ways, God decided it was OK for hundreds of millions of people to die prematurely even while it was unacceptable for people to work on Saturdays. Are we really to accept that this all-loving deity, whom Christians refer to as a father figure, covered all manners of detailed trivial instructions on how his earthly children should live their lives, but knowingly withheld all information that might have helped them live a healthier life, that might have helped countless offspring survive infancy? What kind of abusive father figure would actually behave that way towards his children whom he apparently loves?

No, this is simply one more piece of evidence supporting the fact that deities are man-made rather than the other way around. A deity’s knowledge is always limited by the knowledge of their creators. You never see a deity offer a tidbit of knowledge that might help his people make leaps and bounds forward in health, technology, or even simple education. I can hear the Christian argument already: God is a loving father who wants his children to discover things on their own without being given all the answers. Rubbish. The simple fact is, God is man-made. The god of the Old Testament is completely limited by the people of the time. There is not one piece of information in the Bible that couldn’t have originated from the people of the time. There is not one technological, scientific, medical, or even agricultural fact that was further advanced than the people of the time and might have helped them in their daily struggle for survival. Quite the opposite might be true in fact. All the countless resources and time spent building tabernacles, paying priests, sacrificing healthy and useful animals, not working certain days, warring with tribes of rival religions, and so on, would have been much better allocated towards more productive undertakings in helping primitive societies in their daily struggle for survival.

God is omniscient. So he must have known about microbiology and the benefits of hand-washing at all times. God created the earth and everything in it. Including bacteria, viruses, and all other microbes. God is loving. He loves humans more than any other creatures, judging by the amount of time and effort (not to mention self-sacrifice) dedicated to them. How to fit these “facts” together?

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