Monday, February 15, 2010

Adam and Eve

By Mister Curie

I don't keep my disaffection with the church a secret on this blog, my disaffection was integral to accepting my homosexuality. However, I am interested in trying to salvage some of my spirituality, and I have been reading a fascinating book by Karen Armstrong, titled "The Case for God." Due to my scientific background, I reject a literal Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, but Armstrong presents a metaphorical view of the Garden of Eden story that I find highly appealing.  In her book (pages 27-30), she states:
It is a typical lost paradise myth . . . . Like any myth, its purpose is to help us to contemplate the human predicament. Why is human life filled with suffering, back-breaking agricultural labor, agonizing childbirth, and death? Why do men and women feel so estranged from the divine? 

Some Western Christians read the story as a factual account of the Original Sin that condemned the human race to everlasting perdition. But this is a peculiarly Western Christian interpretation and was introduced controversially by Saint Augustine of Hippo only in the early fifth century.  The Eden story has never been understood in this way in either Jewish or the Orthodox Christian traditions. . . . The Eden story is certainly not a morality tale; like any paradise myth, it is an imaginary account of the infancy of the human race. . . .To know pain and to be conscious of desire and mortality are inescapable components of human experience, but they are also symptoms of that sense of estrangement from the fullness of being that inspires the nostalgia for paradise lost. We can see Adam, Eve, and the serpent as representing different facets of our humanity.  In the snake is the rebelliousness and incessant compulsion to question everything that is crucial to human progress; in Eve we see our hunger for knowledge, our desire to experiment, and our longing for a life free of inhibition.  Adam, a rather passive figure, displays our reluctance to take responsibility for our actions.  The story shows that good and evil are inextricably intertwined in human life.  Our prodigious knowledge can at one and the same time be a source of benefit and the cause of immense harm.
The story of Adam and Eve has become an integral part of the culture of Christianity because of its transcendent ability to connect with our experiences.  Adam becomes a symbol for Everyman.  I find my life to be an almost disturbing parallel to the Adam and Eve story.

Start with my disaffection, it was my wife who first "took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Genesis 3:6).  This was the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Our eyes were opened to the inconsistencies and contradictions in church history.  We could not shut our eyes again and felt driven from the paradise of being believing members of the church.  But as with Adam and Eve, we would rather have true knowledge of things, rather than belief in things that are false.

The same pattern followed our acceptance of homosexuality.  My wife accepted that she was lesbian first.  She also recognized and accepted that I was gay first.  She then encouraged me to discover my homosexuality for myself.  Sometimes I think she regrets feeding me the "fruit".

But my eyes have been opened, and MAN! how they've opened.  I never knew there were so many cute guys out there!  It seems I've spent years of my life trying to be attracted to the wrong demographic.  I didn't realize that the men were always there.  My wife says the mechanics of how I check out guys hasn't changed, but now the connections are being made in the brain.


  1. Hey, Adam fell that we might have joy. (2nd Nephi 2:25) Likewise, you "fell" and now you too have joy!

  2. Questioning child had two hamsters he named Adam and Steve, unfortunately, things ended badly as is often the case among adult male hamsters in shared living arrangements.

  3. I find the problem with Armstrong is that in her zeal to reclaim God from literalism and traditional viewpoints, she creates a rather nebulous and inaccessible form of god of her own. It sounds like what an atheist would try to describe god as and still be an atheist.

  4. AndrewS - perhaps that's why I find so much to like in Armstrong's books ;)

  5. Andrew - Is Armstrong the same one you were discussing in your one class, where you were arguing that someone saying a God of man's making is not really what Christians call God?

    I like Armstrong's ideas a lot, but then I thin it is perhaps because of what I look at religion to provide in the first places. I don't really see spirituality as providing anything in the way of objective truth.

    Really looking forward to starting History of God and moving this type of discussion to the religion blog!

  6. Mme. Curie:

    That actually was Robert Wright. He quotes Armstrong pretty frequently and the two seem to have pretty comparable positions.

    I think what I said regarding Wright could actually fit very well for Armstrong too, though.

    I think that based on what you said you enjoy getting out of religion, you'd enjoy Armstrong.

  7. I think the LDS temple rite which recounts this story was meant as a symbolic, mythological experience in which each man and each woman is figuratively Adam and Eve and goes through that metaphorical experience. Unfortunately it seems to be taken literally now--as if you are watching a documentary about a historical event. Taking things literally has caused lots of problems.

    In my quest for spirituality after leaving Mormonism, I've found a lot of good has come from looking at mythology in all religions and instead of looking at them as events, looking at them as powerful stories we tell each other to make the world better. So what are the stories saying, and what about that makes the world better? Asking those questions has been meaningful for me.

  8. Daniel, thanks for the comment. I agree that the Adam and Eve story was meant to be mythological and metaphorical. Your approach is exactly the one I am trying to take with looking at all powerful stories throughout the religions of the world.