The Misreading of Genesis

I have been working on my second book this last week, trying to avoid, unsuccessfully, the world of political repetitive philippic rhetoric, bad locally produced television commercials and, as Senator Al Franken would say, the “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”

The book is not really about the lies as it is about the misreading and the continued mis-teachings by religious leadership of Genesis. More specifically the lies concerning homosexuality and same sex marriage based on the misinterpretation of the story of Sodom (Genesis 19, NIV, KJV and the Torah, to which few Christians refer). In total they are known as the “Clobber Passages.”

Part of my research, as I rewrite the book’s outline for an eleventh time, concerns why we believe the way we do? Why do we believe in the myths and mysticism of the various religions on the planet? Why do we believe homosexuality is considered a sin in the various versions of this biblical story, just why do so many believe the wrongful-telling of the story in order to demonize homosexuality?

My plan was to define “cognitive belief” as the antonym of cognitive dissidence, the other side of the cognitive system continuum. Definitions range from the oblique to doctorate dissertations. Most define the system complete, not the holding to a specific belief or groups of beliefs.

In September, 2011 Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene of Harvard University published their research titled, “Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God.” And though it is quite comprehensive and scientific in manner, the conclusion appears to be similar to those from Michael Shermer, Ph.D. in his series of books concerning why we believe, and Dr. J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. M.D. Their summary reads in part.

More importantly, their research shows no correlation between a belief in a god or gods and an individual’s education, income, political orientation, family religion or beliefs during childhood, or other demographic variables. In other words, smart people do believe in the Christian god or gods, whether book smart, IQ smart or a combination.

In his “Why People Believe in Weird Things,” Michael Shermer takes this one step further by postulating that one’s openness to change or conflicting “realities” (cognitive dissidence) is also a factor in holding on to an otherwise untenable belief, like alien visits, that Barak Obama is not a natural born American, or is Muslim by faith, or is himself an interplanetary alien – from Kenya.

The same factors can be seen in those who take strong political views on almost any issue. As with religion, in today’s fractured political climate even the smartest among us can be closed to alternative explanations and possibilities. Shermer goes on to suggest that it may be easier for a smart person (education, IQ or plain common sense) to believe “weird things” because she or he is better able at developing argument.

After the research, I believe that the definition of cognitive belief is the unconditional belief in a topic, person, etcetera, with or without proofs – usually based on substantiated or unsubstantiated faith.

In religion as in politics these beliefs are subjective, not objective, usually on the opposing sides for the swinging pendulum. On faith alone.

There is a fear that what once was true is no longer. America was not founded as a Christian nation, or abortion is a religious issue, not one of secular concern, or that the Neo-Nazis are permitted to speak at a public gathering despite the hate being expounded. What is happening does not meet one’s beliefs or morals.

Belief can be pictured as three concentric circles. The outer is knowledge, the second is belief and the inner most is faith. As an individual’s belief deepens with the circles, the harder it is for one to be open to new ideas. It is at this point one must decide if it worth the effort to introduce a person to thoughts differing from hers or his? In addition, each held “truism” lives at a different depth in this sea of acceptance.

The bottom line from this research is simple; if a person is so entrenched in their beliefs that they refuse to look outside the protective inner circle, convincing him to change his mind on an issue. It is equally difficult to have this person simply listen to the opposition.

Mythologies have, are and will continue to be part of civilization. There will always be those who believe “Post hoc, ergo Proter hoc,” “after this, therefore because of this.”  If after prayer someone feels better, then it must be the prayer and not the medical attention received. After declaring a team’s belief in God and the team wins the big game, it must be their collective belief and not the team’s training and abilities.

The same holds with politics. Obama was elected and the economy continued to fall without regard to how it began, how deeply in trouble the economy was before out 44th change in government, and alike. Therefore it is Obama’s fault, regardless of the absurdity of that statement.

The belief that homosexuality is devil sent and an abomination of God’s word and, therefore, the gravest of sins, may be true to some, but it is not based on reality.

The thought that homosexuality can be cured with two aspiring and some grandma’s chicken soup is ludicrous.

These thoughts are based on the failure of thinking openly and, as Chinese general Sun Tzu suggested in “Art of War,” refusing to know your opponent as well as you know yourself.

As David Ben-Gurion said on the eve of Israel’s independence, “One must open his ears to open his mind.” Let’s teach listening and thinking.


About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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