The Real Hero and Heroine of the Garden of Eden Story

Karlysymon

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The generally accepted interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Knowledge, is that the Serpent was evil, Eve (and Adam to a lesser extent) sinners. Many believe that for their act of disobedience to Yahweh, they brought a curse on the whole of humanity, causing many people to go to hell for having supposedly inherited their sin. For those people, the story is one of failure to obey true authority, human weakness, falling into temptation and becoming wicked. This interpretation is in fact the cornerstone of the whole Christian religion. But is this the true significance of the tale?

We must first ask, who is the God of the Garden of Eden? The true and ultimate deity? Or a tyrant god, a demiurge? The Garden of Eden is generally considered to be a desirable state. Abrahamic mysticism contains many ideas about Adam’s gradual return to the Garden. It is certainly a state of innocence – but what kind of innocence? There is an innocence in knowing nothing, in not existing, in being unborn and never experiencing life. This is the partial and inauthentic happiness of “ignorance is bliss”, and this is what the Garden of Eden represents.

The Tree which they ate from, it was called “The Tree of Knowledge”. Well, knowledge is a double edged sword. Knowledge is power, and power can be abused. Nonetheless, we really must say that Knowledge is a good thing. It is certainly better than ignorance. So the deity of the Garden of Eden doesn’t want them to eat from the tree, what does that mean? He does not want them to have Knowledge. Could we say that the ultimate and true God would not want people to have knowledge? No, the only deity who would desire ignorance for humanity would be a demiurge, a deity with some interest in keeping people ignorant, a deity with some egoistic purposes.

Did the Serpent then lie, in saying “you will become as gods, knowing good and evil”? Was his intention in leading Eve to eat from the tree a bad one? What does it mean, knowing Good and Evil? To know Good and Evil is to know embodiment, existence in the human form. This is a necessary step, a thing which must be experienced if we are ever to become “gods”. Without experiencing the human situation, there would be no possibility of evolution. We might be happy, but happy like plants or animals are happy. The Serpent understood this.

Of course, embodiment means suffering. The labour pains with which the deity of the Garden cursed Eve, the serpent cursed to “crawl on its belly”. Actually, the curse of pain in labour makes it quite clear that the deity’s “curse” is embodiment, human form rather than a non-corporeal situation - can we really imagine childbirth without pain?. Embodiment is to know the body, illness, old age, death. The development of knowledge is to leave behind the dumb bliss of ignorance, to know separation, responsibility. Sufferings, but essential sufferings.

The Garden of Eden had to be left behind, in order that souls could experience the human situation, and thus have the possibility to develop into something more than a disembodied soul. To triumph over the cage of flesh, making it the city of paradise rather than a dungeon. The Serpent therefore represents the Liberator, the one who destroys a peaceful yet empty status quo for the possibility of something truly meaningful. Who leads us to “fall” – a necessary fall which begins the journey through embodiment towards self-realization. Eve was the courageous one who dared to ignore the tyrannical interdictions of a selfish deity, and to take on the burden of embodiment, the necessary basis for eventually becoming “gods”.

There was no “original sin”, really. There was a state of dumb elemental bliss, ignorant peace, workless rest, absorbed in the supersoul. Then we desired something more, to take on the trial of existing in this world, for the ultimate purpose of someday embodying divinity, and also in order to experience desires. There is no “guilt” transmitted to us by our ancestors, no “separation from God” caused by the Tree of Knowledge. The Demiurge may have wanted to keep us in dumb bliss, but the True Deity is a deity of knowledge, not ignorance.

The Garden of Eden story is about people breaking free from a paradise prison, fearlessly accepting the curse of a cruel false god. The Serpent and Eve are the hero and heroine, the original rebels against unjustified authority, willing to accept curses, suffering, and the hate of those who love ignorance, in order to eventually arrive at true freedom. If they are the cause of suffering, this suffering is necessary that it can be overcome and true joy found, so we can say that they are also the cause of true joy.
Shankara

What you’ve fleshed out in the OP isn’t that much different from what certain groups/sects/cults etc believe today nor is it unique to our present time, meaning there were groups/sects/cults in antiquity that believed the same.

My only question to you and anyone else who genuinely believes this, is; if Man benefitted so much from the Fall/rebellion, what tangible evidence do you have for it? I, as a Christian and firm believer in the Genesis narrative, have more reason to believe the narrative to be true because I can see and feel the evidence with my own eyes. Examples would be: I can stand outside and see a flower bloom, fade and fall, OR Man’s propensities or inclination for the debasing. We get a thrill from the risky, dangerous or rebellion.

In the Genesis narrative, Man’s rebellion/Fall subsequently affects his own habitation because the “ground” was cursed because of him and his “subjects” (the animals) also rebelled against him. Therefore, if that narrative is false and Man supposedly entered upon a higher existence through his rebellion, wouldn’t his “ascension” also affect his habitation? Sin sundered/altered his relationship with God, himself and the creatures that he was given dominion over. If what you claim is what actually transpired, then those relationships wouldn’t be what they are today. Man wouldn’t be afraid of animals nor would they be afraid of him.

Entering an “exalted”/higher state of being naturally implies that you are beyond the profane or debasing. So, how do you account for Man’s perpetual inclination for what debases him? I mean, if what you claim is exactly what happened, there would be no such thing as crime! We wouldn’t delight in harming other people, we wouldn’t even embark on it because we would, simply put, be beyond it. In describing His mission, Christ repeatedly notes what the Fall did to Man and that He came to redeem him from the depths to which he had fallen.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”-John 10:10

None of this, or the Cross itself, would be necessary if rebellion had already granted us the full life anyway. And if the hardship that is this life is better than the blissful ignorance that our forebears enjoyed, then it stands to reason that more people would enjoy it and that suicide would be an extremely rare occurrence.

You also said that a tyrannical God wanted to keep Man in ignorance. If God was hell bent on doing that, why didn’t He outright reduce Man’s faculties to that of a brute beast? We would all be like Tarzan. He has all the time and means to deprive us of the advantages that Man has over animals and yet He doesn’t. Curiously though, the very people that celebrate Lucifer’s rebellion don’t take too well to dissension coming from their fellow man and want to make rebellion something of an impossibility. We are living through that right now…

When you look at it from the way I recounted (not invented) it, there is the clarity that the whole "Tree of Knowledge" business was actually an essential step for us, from dumb innocence to intelligently fallen, which will eventually lead to intelligent innocence.
The angels who have never fallen/rebelled have no experience with sin as we do. They see the results of rebellion "from a distance". Do you regard them as being in a state of "dumb innocence"?
 






shankara

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Shankara

What you’ve fleshed out in the OP isn’t that much different from what certain groups/sects/cults etc believe today nor is it unique to our present time, meaning there were groups/sects/cults in antiquity that believed the same.

My only question to you and anyone else who genuinely believes this, is; if Man benefitted so much from the Fall/rebellion, what tangible evidence do you have for it? I, as a Christian and firm believer in the Genesis narrative, have more reason to believe the narrative to be true because I can see and feel the evidence with my own eyes. Examples would be: I can stand outside and see a flower bloom, fade and fall, OR Man’s propensities or inclination for the debasing. We get a thrill from the risky, dangerous or rebellion.

In the Genesis narrative, Man’s rebellion/Fall subsequently affects his own habitation because the “ground” was cursed because of him and his “subjects” (the animals) also rebelled against him. Therefore, if that narrative is false and Man supposedly entered upon a higher existence through his rebellion, wouldn’t his “ascension” also affect his habitation? Sin sundered/altered his relationship with God, himself and the creatures that he was given dominion over. If what you claim is what actually transpired, then those relationships wouldn’t be what they are today. Man wouldn’t be afraid of animals nor would they be afraid of him.

Entering an “exalted”/higher state of being naturally implies that you are beyond the profane or debasing. So, how do you account for Man’s perpetual inclination for what debases him? I mean, if what you claim is exactly what happened, there would be no such thing as crime! We wouldn’t delight in harming other people, we wouldn’t even embark on it because we would, simply put, be beyond it. In describing His mission, Christ repeatedly notes what the Fall did to Man and that He came to redeem him from the depths to which he had fallen.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”-John 10:10

None of this, or the Cross itself, would be necessary if rebellion had already granted us the full life anyway. And if the hardship that is this life is better than the blissful ignorance that our forebears enjoyed, then it stands to reason that more people would enjoy it and that suicide would be an extremely rare occurrence.

You also said that a tyrannical God wanted to keep Man in ignorance. If God was hell bent on doing that, why didn’t He outright reduce Man’s faculties to that of a brute beast? We would all be like Tarzan. He has all the time and means to deprive us of the advantages that Man has over animals and yet He doesn’t. Curiously though, the very people that celebrate Lucifer’s rebellion don’t take too well to dissension coming from their fellow man and want to make rebellion something of an impossibility. We are living through that right now…


The angels who have never fallen/rebelled have no experience with sin as we do. They see the results of rebellion "from a distance". Do you regard them as being in a state of "dumb innocence"?
You have to consider what is meant by the idea of a "fall". What I am describing in telling this story isn't precisely what might be considered a "fall" in humans, which is becoming debased, losing some former state of goodness. To start with, it is necessary to understand that which is called "sin" really has no ultimate power over us at all. From the Dharmic perspective there is no possibility of "losing", no possibility of arriving at a state of eternal condemnation. When Christians speak of "the fall", they are speaking of something irreparable, something causing ultimate damage, essentially a victory of the dark principle over the light. With the only solace being the "redemption" of some chosen few who believe the "correct" thing and act in the "correct" way.

I am not speaking about a fall like that. I am speaking about being in a state where there has been no material existence, a state of "blissful ignorance" without the horror and suffering of incarnation in this world. This is what the "Garden of Eden" represents, it is the peace of not knowing, the peace of a plant (not even of an animal, because there is no struggle for existence). The "tyrannical" God in this story is not necessarily the God of any particular religion - it is a character specific to this story, with its own symbolic role in the thing. Whether or not this is the God of the Old Testament (or even New Testament) is immaterial, it's not what I was thinking about in recounting the story. The "tyranny" is the tyranny of new having existed, the tyranny of innocence without experience.

You say that the angels have never known sin, but if this were the case they would not be angels. Why? Because it is necessary to experience what you call "sin" or what might otherwise be called "material existence" or "samsara" in order to have the possibility of reaching such a state of transcendance. The human form is the bridge to the next stage of spiritual evolution, and there's no possibility of getting there without crossing through it.

So to be clear, I am not saying that bringing eternal condemnation upon the great majority of humanity would be in any way heroic. But there is something heroic about accepting the terrors of material existence in order to reach a higher state. This "backwards" interpretation of the Genesis story speaks of this, it is a narrative about breaking free from a peaceful and happy but meaningless status quo for a painful yet meaningful existence. Yes, everything here is very chaotic, there is a lot of very seemingly dark stuff going on. Yet when you see it from the perspective of being a cosmic necessity, a journey where it is never possible to be completely lost, it all makes some kind of sense.
 






Red Sky at Morning

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You have to consider what is meant by the idea of a "fall". What I am describing in telling this story isn't precisely what might be considered a "fall" in humans, which is becoming debased, losing some former state of goodness. To start with, it is necessary to understand that which is called "sin" really has no ultimate power over us at all. From the Dharmic perspective there is no possibility of "losing", no possibility of arriving at a state of eternal condemnation. When Christians speak of "the fall", they are speaking of something irreparable, something causing ultimate damage, essentially a victory of the dark principle over the light. With the only solace being the "redemption" of some chosen few who believe the "correct" thing and act in the "correct" way.
Might I suggest that however we define things, if God is real and if He sees things differently, then we should give his perspective serious consideration.
 






Red Sky at Morning

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Gnosticism vs Christianity: choose you this day...

I guess the essence of the objection to God is promoted in the lyrics of “My Way”...

“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself then he has naught
Not to say the things that he truly feels
And not the words of someone who kneels
Let the record shows I took all the blows and did it my way”

This is a favourite of those who go to their deaths wanting nothing to do with God, content in the reassuring feeling that they were “true to themselves”.

I was just pondering on the fact that “repent” actually means to change your mind. In this context, repentance means admitting you have been incorrect about God. The problem is (and I say this as a man), admitting I have been wrong about something doesn’t come easily!!! It certainly takes a degree of humility.
 






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Seduction, I suppose, is a part of the whole dialectic of things. But temptation is necessary in order for there to be some possibility of overcoming it. Would you rather a world in which there was no duality, no choice, no possibility of falling?
it is all a karmic lesson. I also can't accept that there is a deity who predestins everything, which is the only way you can attempt (and ultimately fail) to justify things like children dying in air raids and people living lives of brutality and starvation without any spiritual solace.
There is an internal contradiction between two of your positions. On the one hand you are saying that evil and temptation are necessary for moral development (this is your main point), and on the other hand, you object to its existence in the world. But if you consider evil to be necessary, then it follows that you must accept pain, suffering, brutality and war to be inevitable things that result from evil, as this is what evil begets in the real world context. Furthermore, if there is to be evil and temptation from which karmic lessons are to be derived, then there is necessarily a doer of evil, and a subject to whom the evil is done, correct? Because evil is not all done in an enclosed box where it affects no one, has no consequences, or causes no pain. So if you accept that there can be a valid rationale behind (what may be perceived as) evil/pain/suffering, then you must abandon the "problem" of "evil" argument and accept that it is not a legitimate basis on which to reject God's existence.

In the Islamic paradigm, the existence of evil is not a problem at all.
"Good and evil in the world is a result of human beings, not necessarily God. Although yes, God is the creator of all things we do, that does not change the fact that the evil that exists in this world is a result of human beings choosing to commit evil, that merely exist. The question of why God does not simply take away evil and intervene when a man is robbing a store by having a lightning strike him is basically asking why does God not simply take away our free will. However, should this happen, we human beings would not be humans. We humans would be merely in a vegetative state basically being forced to make decisions, almost like programmed robots.

"What makes good, in fact good, and bad, in fact bad? The reason one is even able to ask the question “if God exists then why does evil exist?” is because of the fact that both evil and good exist. Without evil, you would lose the value “goodness” has as you would be deprived of a measuring stick to differentiate between the two. A man who has only seen a straight line his whole life, will never know that the line itself is defined as “straight” unless he has some reference as to what a crooked line is. The difference in morality of earning a living through permissible and ethical means has value not necessarily only because of the act itself, but also because the opposite of earning a living honestly, is stealing. In comparison, the latter is obviously an immoral thing to do. The issue is, without one, the other loses its “value” and its weight that it carries. Compare this with the act of turning the TV on. The act of turning on the TV does not exactly hold any value in terms of a “moral landscape”. The act of turning the TV on is merely an act which does not have any “moral weight”. It holds neither a virtuous value nor an evil one. This is how all our deeds would be internalised in a world where evil did not exist, and only goodness existed or vice versa. Overall these are simply attempts of answering questions to the problem of evil. To conclude, the “problem of evil” is not much of a problem, in the sense, within the paradigm of theism, existence of evil is not an inconsistency."
Who created death and life that He might try you as to which of you is better in deed. He is the Most Mighty, the Most Forgiving. [67:2]
 






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A Freeman

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Shankara

What you’ve fleshed out in the OP isn’t that much different from what certain groups/sects/cults etc believe today nor is it unique to our present time, meaning there were groups/sects/cults in antiquity that believed the same.

My only question to you and anyone else who genuinely believes this, is; if Man benefitted so much from the Fall/rebellion, what tangible evidence do you have for it? I, as a Christian and firm believer in the Genesis narrative, have more reason to believe the narrative to be true because I can see and feel the evidence with my own eyes. Examples would be: I can stand outside and see a flower bloom, fade and fall, OR Man’s propensities or inclination for the debasing. We get a thrill from the risky, dangerous or rebellion.

In the Genesis narrative, Man’s rebellion/Fall subsequently affects his own habitation because the “ground” was cursed because of him and his “subjects” (the animals) also rebelled against him. Therefore, if that narrative is false and Man supposedly entered upon a higher existence through his rebellion, wouldn’t his “ascension” also affect his habitation? Sin sundered/altered his relationship with God, himself and the creatures that he was given dominion over. If what you claim is what actually transpired, then those relationships wouldn’t be what they are today. Man wouldn’t be afraid of animals nor would they be afraid of him.

Entering an “exalted”/higher state of being naturally implies that you are beyond the profane or debasing. So, how do you account for Man’s perpetual inclination for what debases him? I mean, if what you claim is exactly what happened, there would be no such thing as crime! We wouldn’t delight in harming other people, we wouldn’t even embark on it because we would, simply put, be beyond it. In describing His mission, Christ repeatedly notes what the Fall did to Man and that He came to redeem him from the depths to which he had fallen.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”-John 10:10

None of this, or the Cross itself, would be necessary if rebellion had already granted us the full life anyway. And if the hardship that is this life is better than the blissful ignorance that our forebears enjoyed, then it stands to reason that more people would enjoy it and that suicide would be an extremely rare occurrence.

You also said that a tyrannical God wanted to keep Man in ignorance. If God was hell bent on doing that, why didn’t He outright reduce Man’s faculties to that of a brute beast? We would all be like Tarzan. He has all the time and means to deprive us of the advantages that Man has over animals and yet He doesn’t. Curiously though, the very people that celebrate Lucifer’s rebellion don’t take too well to dissension coming from their fellow man and want to make rebellion something of an impossibility. We are living through that right now…


The angels who have never fallen/rebelled have no experience with sin as we do. They see the results of rebellion "from a distance". Do you regard them as being in a state of "dumb innocence"?
Thank-you. Well-said.

It's amazing that concepts as simple as good and evil -- and the gift of free-will to choose between the two -- are still so confusing to so many.

We are living in a world that is literally filled with evidence of our choices. We pollute and destroy parts of our natural environment and life-support system, and then we wonder why we're suffering from the result of our own actions.

The pseudo-intellectuals want to pretend to grapple with the concept of God, arrogantly believing they know better than He does what is good and what is evil. They (all of us really) then attempt to redefine Him, so He neatly fits within the preconceived limits that they've made for Him in their minds, before embarking on their satanic mission to con others into believing the same. This is how every one of the thousands of organized religions on this planet were started.

We have a present, physical reality inside of these human animal bodies in this 3-dimensional world ruled by the physical senses. But many of us realize that this is NOT reality, in as much as we have either had out-of-body experiences or, at the very least, realize that their is a struggle going on inside of our own minds between what the human animal desires and the amount of control we (as spiritual-Beings) exercise over those desires, to maintain moral boundaries.

This alone should be enough to cause people to stop and think.

This present, physical reality of linear time and physical space had to be brought into existence by someone who is OUTSIDE of time and space. A SINGULAR, self-existing immortal spirit-Being, with the power of intelligent design and creation. In a word, THE Creator (whose name is, simply and unsurprisingly, "I AM" -- the self-existing ONE).

As someone who exists outside of time and space (The Creator), everything that has happened (the past), is happening now (the present), or ever will happen (the future) is known. But to everyone else inside of the created reality, there are still decisions to make; free-will to be exercised. And those decisions in the present moment not only influence our future, but they help shape our collective future as well, as all of us are interconnected in ways that most have not considered. In brief, we get exactly the world we make for ourselves, with our own individual thoughts, words and actions.

This is why The Creator (God) knows what will happen as the result of our free-will decisions to choose between good (God) and evil (the devil/Satan, who controls us through the "self" - those same, human-animal urges and desires we are supposed to be learning to overcome through discipline). It is also why we've been sent The Law (God's Law -- His definition of what is right and wrong) and been provided with countless warnings over the past 6000 years to stop being criminals/sinners/Beings that do evil to one another.

There is no such thing as "eastern religions" nor "western religions" nor an "Abrahamic God", nor any of the countless other preconceived notions people have about God, all of which are born out of ignorance and arrogance (which always go hand-in-hand) instead of humility and wisdom (which likewise always go hand-in-hand). There is only ONE God, Who is THE Creator, and He is amazingly the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Most Patient and Long-Suffering, and Most Loving and Forgiving Being there is, or ever will be.

He is waiting for those precious few who see how bad things really are, to take personal responsibility for our own actions, and start changing this world for the better. That process always begins with learning to overcome and control/discipline the "self" (the small part of this world we have control over) and can only be achieved by working together WITH God and each other, for the greater good, as God has defined it.

And yes, He already knows how many will actually do exactly that, thereby being resurrected out of the confusion and certain death which has existed since the fall from grace (being in God's Good Graces) in the Garden of Eden.
 






shankara

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Might I suggest that however we define things, if God is real and if He sees things differently, then we should give his perspective serious consideration.
I don't think God really has a perspective. A benevolent Deity cannot be a partial and subjective being with subjective desires. Such a being would be a Demiurge.

There is an internal contradiction between two of your positions. On the one hand you are saying that evil and temptation are necessary for moral development (this is your main point), and on the other hand, you object to its existence in the world. But if you consider evil to be necessary, then it follows that you must accept pain, suffering, brutality and war to be inevitable things that result from evil, as this is what evil begets in the real world context. Furthermore, if there is to be evil and temptation from which karmic lessons are to be derived, then there is necessarily a doer of evil, and a subject to whom the evil is done, correct? Because evil is not all done in an enclosed box where it affects no one, has no consequences, or causes no pain. So if you accept that there can be a valid rationale behind (what may be perceived as) evil/pain/suffering, then you must abandon the "problem" of "evil" argument and accept that it is not a legitimate basis on which to reject God's existence.

In the Islamic paradigm, the existence of evil is not a problem at all.


Who created death and life that He might try you as to which of you is better in deed. He is the Most Mighty, the Most Forgiving. [67:2]
No, I don't think there is. You simply cannot resolve the Problem of Evil from the Abrahamic perspective. When it comes to responsible adults making individual choices, you could say "well that is just God allowing us free will". But there are types of evil which do not involve individual choice. For example, a child who dies of some disease or other cause. Harsh as this sounds, you cannot say that the child is going to heaven or some kind of paradise. They have never had the possibility of living and choosing between the good and the bad. Whatever "paradise" there may be, it is necessary to earn it, and not having the possibility of doing so is one form of evil which cannot be resolved.

As you say, also, evil does not only affect ourselves. If somebody kills someone, they may be either a) taking away their possibility of salvation (assuming the person may later have "repented") or b) giving them a free ticket to paradise (assuming that someone who is killed in that way is a "martyr" or somesuch). Then how can the killer be justly punished spiritually speaking? If they sent the person to hell, they would have go to some "double hell", which is an impossibility (it would also be contradictory to the Qu'ran saying that no-one can bear the sins of another). If they sent them to paradise, they've done them some strange kind of favour, which is clearly an absurd idea.

I can find no way of resolving these problems except for accepting the existence of multiple lives, and karmic reactions for each deed. Of course the Abrahamic response is generally that everything is "predestined" and thus "the Will of God" and thus "good and correct". What that ignores is that a deity who or which predestins in such a way would lack the important attribute of All-Benevolence.

Thank-you. Well-said.

It's amazing that concepts as simple as good and evil -- and the gift of free-will to choose between the two -- are still so confusing to so many.

We are living in a world that is literally filled with evidence of our choices. We pollute and destroy parts of our natural environment and life-support system, and then we wonder why we're suffering from the result of our own actions.

The pseudo-intellectuals want to pretend to grapple with the concept of God, arrogantly believing they know better than He does what is good and what is evil. They (all of us really) then attempt to redefine Him, so He neatly fits within the preconceived limits that they've made for Him in their minds, before embarking on their satanic mission to con others into believing the same. This is how every one of the thousands of organized religions on this planet were started.

We have a present, physical reality inside of these human animal bodies in this 3-dimensional world ruled by the physical senses. But many of us realize that this is NOT reality, in as much as we have either had out-of-body experiences or, at the very least, realize that their is a struggle going on inside of our own minds between what the human animal desires and the amount of control we (as spiritual-Beings) exercise over those desires, to maintain moral boundaries.

This alone should be enough to cause people to stop and think.

This present, physical reality of linear time and physical space had to be brought into existence by someone who is OUTSIDE of time and space. A SINGULAR, self-existing immortal spirit-Being, with the power of intelligent design and creation. In a word, THE Creator (whose name is, simply and unsurprisingly, "I AM" -- the self-existing ONE).

As someone who exists outside of time and space (The Creator), everything that has happened (the past), is happening now (the present), or ever will happen (the future) is known. But to everyone else inside of the created reality, there are still decisions to make; free-will to be exercised. And those decisions in the present moment not only influence our future, but they help shape our collective future as well, as all of us are interconnected in ways that most have not considered. In brief, we get exactly the world we make for ourselves, with our own individual thoughts, words and actions.

This is why The Creator (God) knows what will happen as the result of our free-will decisions to choose between good (God) and evil (the devil/Satan, who controls us through the "self" - those same, human-animal urges and desires we are supposed to be learning to overcome through discipline). It is also why we've been sent The Law (God's Law -- His definition of what is right and wrong) and been provided with countless warnings over the past 6000 years to stop being criminals/sinners/Beings that do evil to one another.

There is no such thing as "eastern religions" nor "western religions" nor an "Abrahamic God", nor any of the countless other preconceived notions people have about God, all of which are born out of ignorance and arrogance (which always go hand-in-hand) instead of humility and wisdom (which likewise always go hand-in-hand). There is only ONE God, Who is THE Creator, and He is amazingly the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Most Patient and Long-Suffering, and Most Loving and Forgiving Being there is, or ever will be.

He is waiting for those precious few who see how bad things really are, to take personal responsibility for our own actions, and start changing this world for the better. That process always begins with learning to overcome and control/discipline the "self" (the small part of this world we have control over) and can only be achieved by working together WITH God and each other, for the greater good, as God has defined it.

And yes, He already knows how many will actually do exactly that, thereby being resurrected out of the confusion and certain death which has existed since the fall from grace (being in God's Good Graces) in the Garden of Eden.
But there quite clearly is a divide between the Abrahamic and Eastern religions. The Eastern religions are very clear and straightforward about things like reincarnation, whereas in the Bible etc the thing is only hinted at in a vague kind of way. There is also the issue of the Divine Feminine, which has essentially no place whatsoever in the Abrahamic thing, but is something quite important in the Eastern teachings.

I find it somewhat absurd that you direct at others the criticism of defining divinity by their own subjective standards and in accordance with their ego desires, as if you and only those in your particular sect have an infallible and total understanding of Divinity. For this to be true, it would require that yourselves (and only yourselves) are receiving communications from an infallible person. In any case, such a belief in your own "superior insight" is in a certain way exactly the same kind of "arrogance" you decry in others.

Of course, it isn't really your fault, it is the responsibility of the person who is making brash claims and sowing confusion with some invented fear-based doctrine. On the other hand, it isn't really his fault either, because to have such beliefs about himself he must be very traumatized. Well, there are in truth plenty of false Gurus in the East as well...

By the way, when you say there is "One God", is that intended as some kind of criticism of Hinduism? Because you understand that Hinduism isn't actually "polytheistic", right? Or perhaps I'm just being paranoid.
 






kerrichinchilla

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"Eve (and Adam to a lesser extent) sinners. Many believe that for their act of disobedience to Yahweh, they brought a curse on the whole of humanity, causing many people to go to hell for having supposedly inherited their sin"

This is why I could never be religious, the idea I could go to hell because a woman ( conveniently) ate a fruit 6000 years ago. How exactly is this the work of a loving God Ill never know.
 






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No, I don't think there is. You simply cannot resolve the Problem of Evil from the Abrahamic perspective. When it comes to responsible adults making individual choices, you could say "well that is just God allowing us free will". But there are types of evil which do not involve individual choice. For example, a child who dies of some disease or other cause. Harsh as this sounds, you cannot say that the child is going to heaven or some kind of paradise. They have never had the possibility of living and choosing between the good and the bad. Whatever "paradise" there may be, it is necessary to earn it, and not having the possibility of doing so is one form of evil which cannot be resolved.

As you say, also, evil does not only affect ourselves. If somebody kills someone, they may be either a) taking away their possibility of salvation (assuming the person may later have "repented") or b) giving them a free ticket to paradise (assuming that someone who is killed in that way is a "martyr" or somesuch). Then how can the killer be justly punished spiritually speaking? If they sent the person to hell, they would have go to some "double hell", which is an impossibility (it would also be contradictory to the Qu'ran saying that no-one can bear the sins of another). If they sent them to paradise, they've done them some strange kind of favour, which is clearly an absurd idea.

I can find no way of resolving these problems except for accepting the existence of multiple lives, and karmic reactions for each deed. Of course the Abrahamic response is generally that everything is "predestined" and thus "the Will of God" and thus "good and correct". What that ignores is that a deity who or which predestins in such a way would lack the important attribute of All-Benevolence.
1- This is assuming that you are in possession of full knowledge of all the variables that are involved in any one situation. This child may be a test for his family and community, a test by which they may attain greater appreciation and gratitude to God, and greater perspective of the priorities they ought to hold in life, and thus a means by which God will absolve them of their sins and enter them into heaven; this child may be enable a medical breakthrough by which other children with similar conditions will gain an inestimable benefit; moved by this child’s suffering, a person may decide to set up a charity or hospital in their memory, through which many thousands of children in similar positions are helped; the child’s condition may motivate a person around him/her to become a medical doctor, a nurse, a psychiatrist, a scientist and so go on to contribute to the alleviation of suffering of other such children, etc. Also, you are rendering meaningless this child’s suffering by assuming that their pain and suffering did not constitute a "choice" or a "life", and that they they did not earn the right to be rewarded for their pain and suffering. You are saying that only a more physically perfect child could attain greater self-perfection.

I would also ask why you are assuming that the body of this sick child is this soul's first incarnation? It may be a later incarnation in which the soul is being punished for its failures and wrongdoings in a previous life.

In Islam, the comparison of the dunya (worldly life) to the akhirah (hereafter) is like a drop in an ocean. God will make it in the afterlife as if this child never suffered at all, and will alleviate this child's pains and greivances, and give him/her bliss and comfort for eternity.

2- Why do you assume that the dharmic religions can free human beings from predestination? Is it not true that if a particular individual does not attain self-perfection, they will not be liberated from samsara until they are able to attain a high enough station such that they are regarded worthy of being freed from it? What if it is not in their capability to do so? What if it is against their wish to be reborn; will they be forced to enter another host body against their will? If a person is unable to achieve the adequate level of self-perfection – will they be condemned to an endless cycle of birth and death? Can this state be described as the fulfilment of the exercising of maximal free will? Or is it simply a hell with another name?
 






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Karlysymon

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This is a favourite of those who go to their deaths wanting nothing to do with God, content in the reassuring feeling that they were “true to themselves”.
Christopher Hitchens, on his deathbed, assured everyone that there would be no forthcoming deathbed confession. 2014/2015 i think? Can't remember the exact year.
I was just pondering on the fact that “repent” actually means to change your mind. In this context, repentance means admitting you have been incorrect about God. The problem is (and I say this as a man), admitting I have been wrong about something doesn’t come easily!!! It certainly takes a degree of humility.
It’s often been said that “there will be more women than men in heaven.” Men and their pride! SMH
 






Karlysymon

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From the Dharmic perspective there is no possibility of "losing", no possibility of arriving at a state of eternal condemnation. When Christians speak of "the fall", they are speaking of something irreparable, something causing ultimate damage, essentially a victory of the dark principle over the light. With the only solace being the "redemption" of some chosen few who believe the "correct" thing and act in the "correct" way.
I see. Leaving the metaphysical aside for a moment, we have all, at one time or another in our lives completely made up our minds or resolved to do something so that it is virtually impossible to persuade us otherwise. Iam also sure that you’ve heard or used the phrase “s/he is too far gone”. Therefore, if in the corporeal sense of it, we can get to a point where we are “too far gone”, then how can “sons/daughters of perdition” be an impossibility in the spiritual sense?

It is a very common occurrence that the Christian God is accused of being evil for consigning multitudes “to hell”. What most people fail to elaborate is how they expect God to treat people that have resolved, beyond all doubt, to pursue an existence APART from Him. Nevermind that, that is an impossibility because we are finite beings and cannot self-sustain or self-exist. So an existence apart from Him means death.
There is an internal contradiction between two of your positions. On the one hand you are saying that evil and temptation are necessary for moral development (this is your main point), and on the other hand, you object to its existence in the world. But if you consider evil to be necessary, then it follows that you must accept pain, suffering, brutality and war to be inevitable things that result from evil, as this is what evil begets in the real world context. Furthermore, if there is to be evil and temptation from which karmic lessons are to be derived, then there is necessarily a doer of evil, and a subject to whom the evil is done, correct? Because evil is not all done in an enclosed box where it affects no one, has no consequences, or causes no pain. So if you accept that there can be a valid rationale behind (what may be perceived as) evil/pain/suffering, then you must abandon the "problem" of "evil" argument and accept that it is not a legitimate basis on which to reject God's existence.
Indeed. And it reminded me of this quote

"It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the final disposition of sin to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with evil. Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that God was in no wise responsible for the entrance of sin; that there was no arbitrary withdrawal of divine grace, no deficiency in the divine government, that gave occasion for the uprising of rebellion. Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is “the transgression of the law;” it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government."
source

I will slightly disagree with what’s in your quote box that we need evil to appreciate good. Again, that’s justifying evil and its presence. We don’t need evil to appreciate good. That’s kinda like saying you’ll appreciate your wife more if she gets into a horrible car accident and her life hangs by a thread and you’re about to lose her. You can greatly appreciate her even without things getting so horrible and thrown out of balance.
Yet when you see it from the perspective of being a cosmic necessity, a journey where it is never possible to be completely lost, it all makes some kind of sense.
Not any different from evolutionary thought. Destruction & death are necessary for evolution.

I invite you to read the chapter I linked to. Not to convince you but for a different perspective on the problem of evil
 






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shankara

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1- This is assuming that you are in possession of full knowledge of all the variables that are involved in any one situation. This child may be a test for his family and community, a test by which they may attain greater appreciation and gratitude to God, and greater perspective of the priorities they ought to hold in life, and thus a means by which God will absolve them of their sins and enter them into heaven; this child may be enable a medical breakthrough by which other children with similar conditions will gain an inestimable benefit; moved by this child’s suffering, a person may decide to set up a charity or hospital in their memory, through which many thousands of children in similar positions are helped; the child’s condition may motivate a person around him/her to become a medical doctor, a nurse, a psychiatrist, a scientist and so go on to contribute to the alleviation of suffering of other such children, etc. Also, you are rendering meaningless this child’s suffering by assuming that their pain and suffering did not constitute a "choice" or a "life", and that they they did not earn the right to be rewarded for their pain and suffering. You are saying that only a physically perfect child could attain greater self-perfection.

Also, why are you assuming that this sick child is this soul's first incarnation? It may be a later incarnation in which the soul is being punished for past failures and wrongdoings.


2- Why do you assume that the dharmic religions can free human beings from predestination? Is it not true that if a particular individual does not attain self-perfection, they will not be liberated from samsara until they are able to attain a high enough station such that they are regarded worthy of being freed from it? What if it is not in their capability to do so? What if it is against their wish to be reborn; will they be forced to enter another host body against their will? If a person is unable to achieve the adequate level of self-perfection – will they be condemned to an endless cycle of birth and death? Can this state be described as the fulfilment of the exercising of maximal free will? Or is it simply a hell with another name?
Ok, I get your point, but it still doesn't all work out properly. Really in order to have the possibility of actually doing good (rather than good being done through us), we need to exercise some agency. The most twisted and selfish people have good done through them, but this doesn't make them good. If we want everything to balance out properly, there's needs to be some possibility for every sentient being to experience life in its fulness, not merely a small part of it. In fact this argument goes beyond even the thing I mentioned, we can see in the world that many people live lives of senseless brutality with no possibility of any kind of spiritual development. Why would a Deity allow this to happen if this were all the person ever experiences?

When you take into account the idea of reincarnation, these things make a lot more sense. They are just temporary experiences for the soul, part of the continual process of purifying karma, learning, and attaining desires in this or future lives.

As for your second point, the Dharmic viewpoint allows for the exercise of agency beyond a fixed form of predestination. Of course we are not "completely free", we have our subconscious conditioning and all that, instinctual reactions where our "free will" is only theoretical. However we are not saying about every bad thing "well, that's the will of God", as if that somehow excuses every terrible thing which could possibly happen. Predestination is just a philosophical attempt to justify suffering, basically, a way of getting out of the logical dilemna about how all of this could possibly be the work of a benevolent Deity. Nor is it a successful attempt, because it ultimately can't fail to either a) ascribe suffering and badness to Deity, or b) purport some kind of evil entity who is permitted to bring about suffering (and who is permitted to do so by Deity, hence the same issue).

Yes, we are condemned to wander in Samsara. Yes, it could be seen as a kind of hell, at least it is said to have faults. We continue wandering so long as we are fascinated by Samsaric pleasures. There is no obligation of immediate self-realization, nobody is going to experience "eternal condemnation" for their failings. There will always be opportunities for attaining the good, and hence there is nothing to fear.

I see. Leaving the metaphysical aside for a moment, we have all, at one time or another in our lives completely made up our minds or resolved to do something so that it is virtually impossible to persuade us otherwise. Iam also sure that you’ve heard or used the phrase “s/he is too far gone”. Therefore, if in the corporeal sense of it, we can get to a point where we are “too far gone”, then how can “sons/daughters of perdition” be an impossibility in the spiritual sense?

It is a very common occurrence that the Christian God is accused of being evil for consigning multitudes “to hell”. What most people fail to elaborate is how they expect God to treat people that have resolved, beyond all doubt, to pursue an existence APART from Him.
You are assuming that people understand that this Deity exists, and choose to separate themselves from the "love and mercy". The actual love and mercy is such that it is quite impossible to separate oneself from it, however far we go it is always there (one of the definitions of God's attributes is being All-Present). Furthermore, if God is "All-Powerful", how could there ever be a situation where a person is "too far gone"? However far they go, He would always have the capacity to go further.

Indeed. And it reminded me of this quote

"It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the final disposition of sin to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with evil. Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that God was in no wise responsible for the entrance of sin; that there was no arbitrary withdrawal of divine grace, no deficiency in the divine government, that gave occasion for the uprising of rebellion. Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is “the transgression of the law;” it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government."
source

I will slightly disagree with what’s in your quote box that we need evil to appreciate good. Again, that’s justifying evil and its presence. We don’t need evil to appreciate good. That’s kinda like saying you’ll appreciate your wife more if she gets into a horrible car accident and her life hangs by a thread and you’re about to lose her. You can greatly appreciate her even without things getting so horrible and thrown out of balance.
Again, this is denying the Divine attribute of All-Benevolence. If Deity were All-Powerful and All-Benevolent, there would be no possibility of something ("sin") arising as a power separated from Divinity. You say: "Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin". If this were the case, there would have to be some force which opposes God which is equal in power to God, which is capable of damaging humanity and causing ("eternal") suffering despite it not being the will of God. Thus deity would not be All-Powerful.

In any case, I think that this whole misunderstanding within the Abrahamic religions is down to a lack of appreciation of the Divine Feminine. The Feminine side is the material side, known as Prakrti, the material intelligence, the substance as opposed to the spirit. The Abrahamic religions impart to the Divine Feminine the idea of "sin" (hence why Eve is the "first sinner"), a loaded moral judgement, condeming identification with material nature as "evil". It is necessary to get beyond that fearful and reactive idea of things and deeds as "sinful", and recognise that everything is a part of a process. If this process seems to be invisible, seems not to be working out as it should, this is not because of "sin", but because we don't see it over the perspective of many rebirths.
 






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"It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the final disposition of sin to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with evil. Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that God was in no wise responsible for the entrance of sin; that there was no arbitrary withdrawal of divine grace, no deficiency in the divine government, that gave occasion for the uprising of rebellion. Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is “the transgression of the law;” it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government."
source

I will slightly disagree with what’s in your quote box that we need evil to appreciate good. Again, that’s justifying evil and its presence. We don’t need evil to appreciate good. That’s kinda like saying you’ll appreciate your wife more if she gets into a horrible car accident and her life hangs by a thread and you’re about to lose her. You can greatly appreciate her even without things getting so horrible and thrown out of balance.
1 -
The lack of evil is the possession of good, and the lack of good is the possession of evil. If God disallows the possibility of evil, He also disallows good.

If everyone by default always did the right thing, are they actually morally good?

No, because the potential to do evil didn’t exist in the first place. It’s like giving a test but highlighting the correct answer for each question. In this way, it isn’t truly a test, and a student who passes doesn’t necessarily have the knowledge. In order to do actual good, there must be the potential to do evil, just as to be considered an excellent student, there must be the potential to have not known the answers.

Can a stethoscope used in healing the sick be described as being merciful? Can a computer programmed to be correct be described as truthful? No, because the virtue is automatic/default, there is no possibility except for good, and therefore it cannot actually be described as being virtue.

If God had intended to create a being that was only capable of goodness, he would have made humans angels, but we are not angels. Hence, it is the belief in Islam that the most righteous of men and women are superior to angels, because the angels do not have any inclination to disobedience or evil, while a righteous man does possess these whims and desires, but resists them and overcomes them in order to obey and submit to God.

Heaven cannot be attained by an angel, but can be attained by a human.


2 -
If you say that God does not allow for evil, this presents a very big problem for your theology. If there is a force that is outside the realm of the omnipotent God's control, this severely undermines God's all-encompassing sovereignty and implies that there is a duality - a good deity, and a bad deity, and this equates to polytheism and henotheism, not monotheism.

If you continue to explain what should be the most obvious tenets of religion (i.e. what am I directing my worship to?) by virtue of mystery, you could eventually say something akin to what agnostics/deists say: "Well, God's existence is a mystery. If he does exist he would not care if we worship him or not, and if he does not exist then it is sufficient to live a good life."


3 -
The purpose of life as described in the Quran:

"Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving." [Quran 67:2]

"And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me." [Quran 51:56]

"Did you then think that We had created you without purpose, and that you would never be returned to Us?" [Quran 23:115]

"Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned." [Quran 2:286]

"Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the day and night there are signs for people of reason. ˹They are˺ those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth ˹and pray˺, “Our Lord! You have not created ˹all of˺ this without purpose. Glory be to You! Protect us from the torment of the Fire." [Quran 3:190-191]

"And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient. Who, when disaster strikes them, say, 'To Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return.'" [Quran 2:155]
 






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The Agrarian

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This thread is a perfect example of what happens when the post-modern West picks and chooses a random tradition just to differentiate from their parents. The 60's are over and you are not unique.

"The fool is disturbed not when they tell him that his ideas are false, but when they suggest that they have gone out of style." ~ Nicolas Gomez Davila
 






shankara

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This thread is a perfect example of what happens when the post-modern West picks and chooses a random tradition just to differentiate from their parents. The 60's are over and you are not unique.

"The fool is disturbed not when they tell him that his ideas are false, but when they suggest that they have gone out of style." ~ Nicolas Gomez Davila
Well thanks for your insight there, but I'm not quite sure that this is what's going on with me. There probably is something cliched about getting into Dharmic things, there are certainly plenty of Dharma hipsters. Probably lots of people into pseudo-Gnostic stuff as well.

In any case I'm quite comfortable that I'm interested in these things doesn't just stem from some kind of unresolved complexes. And maybe we can discuss the topic rather than going into the old "ad hominem"?
 






The Agrarian

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Well thanks for your insight there, but I'm not quite sure that this is what's going on with me. There probably is something cliched about getting into Dharmic things, there are certainly plenty of Dharma hipsters. Probably lots of people into pseudo-Gnostic stuff as well.

In any case I'm quite comfortable that I'm interested in these things doesn't just stem from some kind of unresolved complexes. And maybe we can discuss the topic rather than going into the old "ad hominem"?
The entire OP was an ad hominem against Christian orthodoxy stolen from gnostic teachings.

If you truly see the first chapters of Genesis as a women's-degradation narrative you'll be hard-pressed to find any texts that harmonize with the whole of scripture to justify this belief.

The word you're looking for is "eigesis" (ie: "reading into the text"). You will find nothing useful or contructive in that doctrine except a good hearty chuckle from people who have actually studied the Bible in depth. The whole *SHOCKING TRUTH* Dan-Brownology is actually a running meme-joke amongst theologians. Its embarrassing.
 






shankara

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The entire OP was an ad hominem against Christian orthodoxy stolen from gnostic teachings.

If you truly see the first chapters of Genesis as a women's-degradation narrative you'll be hard-pressed to find any texts that harmonize with the whole of scripture to justify this belief.

The word you're looking for is "eigesis" (ie: "reading into the text"). You will find nothing useful or contructive in that doctrine except a good hearty chuckle from people who have actually studied the Bible in depth. The whole *SHOCKING TRUTH* Dan-Brownology is actually a running meme-joke amongst theologians. Its embarrassing.
Yeah the story is from some species of Gnostic or another, no idea which exactly. But I don't think it is "reading in", rather it's one of the many different layers of meaning of the original text. Perhaps it is the "inverted" interpretation, which nonetheless doesn't make it any less valid or interesting.

Certainly the Christian cuture involves (to a lesser extent these days than in past times, but still) a fear of women as being tools of the devil, inducing "evil" carnal desire in men, temptresses lacking reason and always seeking ways to drag the masculine down into their own "intellectual degradation". It's clear enough that a certain part of that horror comes from the "standard" interpretation of this story.

As for the Serpent, Christian culture has also tended towards an extreme dualism, in which a near-omnipotent evil being with individual plans and ("evil") desires is doing battle against an anthropomorphic father deity with a different ("righteous") agenda. Really the "devil" or tempter is a part of the process, a necessary character in the story, actually one aspect of Divinity. I didn't really go into this here as I'm planning it to be the subject of some other writing, but anyway challening the idea that the Serpent is "evil" or "a liar" seems to me a worthwhile endeavour - because that metaphysical dualism is fanaticising, fear-inducing, the cause of neurosis and sorrow.

So I would dispute your contention that the story is meaningless, useless, or infantile.
 






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