Posted by: gebs | December 19, 2007

An Ananlogy for the Tree in the Garden of Eden

Today I had an interesting conversation with some friends which revealed a good analogy through which we can come to understand some of the mysteries about the human condition and our relationship with God.  In a sense this all came back to the question about the tree in the Garden of Eden and its significance.

God telling us that we should not eat from the tree of knowledge between good and evil is analogous to a parent telling their child that they should not touch a naked flame.  No person can touch a naked flame and not be burnt in the process.  It is something which is beyond our power, yet we are free and able to touch the flame despite this fact.  As the story goes, God told Adam and Eve that they should not eat from the tree of knowledge between good and evil, not because he did not want them to, or he wanted to test their obedience, but because He knew that it was something that is beyond the capabilities of human nature and the consequences would be detrimental.  Indeed this has proven itself to be true, because only evil followed the decision to do so, and our harmony with God was automatically broken.  There are things beyond our power and one purpose of the story is to illustrate this.  There are things we should not do, not because we can’t, or we do not have the freedom to do so, but because they will lead only to negative effects, which although may be unforseen by us, are known to God who is omniscient.  

 Boundaries are there for a reason.  Religion tries to draw these boundaries.  Even though it might fail at this, this does not mean that boundaries need not exist.  It is therefore, a matter for drawing the right boundaries, not denying their existence.  There is a purpose for critical examination of beliefs, but one should not assume that it is within their power to draw the boundaries themselves.    


  1. well said!

  2. Everyone should think about why they do what they do, and why they believe as they do. It is imperative for the survival and progression of our people.

    It is due to the strength of very few individuals that we progress mentally. Before declaring that “one should not assume that it is within their power to draw the boundaries themselves”, you should consider why this is wrong. We should test all our beliefs for authenticity every single day. That is how we improve, for only the deceased are truly consistent. We as a people must progress, grow and change. One day, perhaps too late, I fear we will understand how devastatingly negative religion has been towards the mental and social development of our species. We are all like little children, refusing to acknowledge that our ancestors may in fact have had no idea what they were talking about. Religion was perhaps their only means of protecting their children against behaviour they found damaging and wrong. So they wrote a story that illustrates all their messages. While this is a caring and protective gesture, it does not mean that we should believe it simply because they care for us. Sometimes people that care for you have no idea what they are talking about. You don’t accept everything your father tells you, simply because he wants what is best for you, for your father may not be correct.

    The authors of the Bible (and all other religious texts) instruct the reader not to question and simply have faith. This is a great way to silence all debate.

    “Here is a book we wrote, it is the word of God. Do what it says and you will be saved forever, otherwise prepare for gnashing of teeth.” (This is all true because we said so)

    Could it be that a curious mind scares a parent more than anything else? When you feel your child is in danger, you may say things to them that are not true, simply to protect them. For example, you may tell your child “don’t go near the lake, there is a big monster down there!”. This ensures your child stays away from the lake and avoids drowning. It does not mean monsters exist. Imagine 2000 years later: everyone avoids lakes, fearing monsters…people fly planes into buildings because they disagree who was the best monster slayer.

    It is much harder to introduce the Bible as authentic to a 35 year old than it is a 5 year old. Maybe that is why the authors encourage you to “be like children” and do what your told without thinking about it first. What we are taught in our infancy is taken in by our minds to be 100% accurate and true.

    A book written by our ancestors 2000 years ago should be put to the same tests of rationality as any book written today and not taken to be true simply because the authors declare it (quite arrogantly) to be the word of God. No scientist ever put out a theory and demanded that you “have faith and accept it to be true”.

    Always ask Why. The truth will always remain true.

  3. Rameil,
    Thanks for the response. You have said some interesting things.
    I agree that we should “test our beliefs for authenticity”, but all kinds of questioning happens through a lens. What is it that we are testing them against? All judgments are bias in one form or another and no person is able to be purely objective in their deliberations. When we “test” something for authenticity we are doing it through a lens. Your lens is obviously critical and under a hermeneutics of suspicion. You make sweeping remarks about history and about religion which you assume to be correct.
    Religion has been with humanity since the beginning of history. We are driven by a spiritual need for meaning which permeates all eras of our existence, and some even argue more so today than any other age. No doubt religion has been the cause of many evils throughout history but it is not the sole cause of these things by any means. Religion is something which will remain with humanity even after you and I are dead, and the sheer fact of its historical significance demands that we give it more credit than that of our own subjective judgements about it. The reasons for its existence in human life continue to be an issue of debate and I doubt that your simple judgements on the matter are enough to bring closure to it. I think that it is quite arrogant and ignorant to dismiss it simply because of ones own personal judgements about it.
    Why do I say this? Well I guess you don’t realise that the first school, or the first hospital, was a religious institution. The fact that you can use your so called advanced (as opposed to your judgements on our ancestors and history) knowledge to make the remarks that you make is primarily because of the achievements of religion in our world. Education was introduced by religious organisations. Hospitals were first built by religious institutions. The very values of equality, tolerance, and freedom of speech, were developments of religious ideas. You can build an argument against religion but you should not deny its profound and somewhat unprecedented revolutions it has given to our world. Religion has its role in our life, perhaps not the same role as it had historically, but a role nevertheless.
    I would argue the same for the bible. This profound text, which has inspired countless people and generations perhaps, demands a little bit more credit that you give it. It takes decades of studying before one can come close to understanding what it says and when or why it was written. Your judgments seem a little childish in this light.
    Rational consent has a purpose in our life. No doubt about it. But this does not mean that we can equally claim that it is within our reach to know all things. We are limited beings in all respects. Some things require a different approach. Love, for example, is not purely rational and sometimes it demands that we do things that do not make too much sense. Human beings are more than just rational creatures. Reason can never be the sole support of faith. Reason cannot lead to faith. We can use reason to try and understand certain features of our faith, but it is faith that allows us to believe in them, not reason. First we believe, and then we come to understand. Believing that God is eternal for example, is not a result of reasons ability to fathom what such a thing can mean. Faith brings the insight needed to fathom belief and begin to see how such things can be true in our life.
    You make some good points in your comments and I am sure that you will again disagree with what it is that I am trying to say. Again this is not a matter of reason. I cannot make you believe in the bible, nor in God. If this were true then what I have said is wrong. Faith is what allows for such beliefs. But it is not faith that you are seeking. You seek rational knowledge. I hope that you find what it is that you are seeking, whilst you believe that your mental capacities are equipped for it. Perhaps the truth you are seeking is your own.
    Merry Christmas!

  4. Hi, Im from Melbourne Australia.
    Please find a completely different Understanding of Trees (and the Garden of Eden) and their relationship to us humans via these references.


  5. You may have taken what I said the wrong way. I will try respond in greater detail later, but here are five small points for you to consider:

    1. Read my post again, I did not comment on what religion has offered the world. Clearly, many great acts have historically been carried out in the name of religion and continue in a similar fashion today. The numerous religious charities are a great example of this. Many horrendous acts have also been carried out in the name of religion and continue to be done so today; take 911 as a more recent example. Regardless of the “historical significance” of such acts, they do not validate the authenticity of the contents of the Bible (and all other religious texts).

    I stated that religion has held us back mentally and socially. I stand by this comment. Religion discourages us from exploring our minds and what we feel is correct and true for us, constantly reminding us that we are not capable of comprehending truth without the assistance of an invisible and all powerful supernatural male. Religion teaches that “eating from the tree of knowledge”, or put another way, our attempts to increase our own understanding and awareness of ourselves and others enough to allow us to differentiate between right and wrong, independently of our ancestors’ rules (aka God), is what caused God to end our face to face relationship, banish us from the garden of Eden and label all future people sinners at birth. The situation is not so bleak, for God forgives the sins of all those who repent. One wonders why he did not forgive Adam and Eve.

    The boundaries placed on our minds are keeping our thoughts in bondage. Our ancestors are still to this day controlling our thoughts, our actions and almost our all our views on life, primarily through religion. From 2000 years ago, we are encouraged to think, behave and choose as they did. The results are sometimes good (eg charity) and sometimes bad (eg 911). I agree in teaching our children that “thou shall not steal”, I don’t agree in making up the part about the lightening and the mountain and the old man. We should explain why it is wrong to steal without resorting to fairy tales.

    In my example, making up the story to prevent the child from drowning yields a positive result, as it ultimately leads to the safety of the child. However positive and desirable the outcome may be, the story about monsters is not the truth. We should encourage humanity to create its own “standards” in the same way we create our constitutions. Although these standards do not need to be entirely different from those in the Bible (and all other religious texts), they do need to be conscious behavioral choices that we as a people make for ourselves. We should be given the opportunity to mature and think for ourselves. Our children should not be clones of us. We should encourage them to do whatever they believe is correct; explain to them why we believe as we do and allow them to make their own decisions. For example, you can bug your child all day about going to university and warn of the great dangers of not doing so. Or, you can explain the importance of a tertiary education to best of your ability and allow your child to make their own decisions (and mistakes). Mistakes are fantastic learning tools, robbing people of the chance to make mistakes by removing our ability to decide between right and wrong is detrimental to the development of our minds.

    Even if we had not invented religion, we surely would have achieved, at least at a minimum, the same amount of social progress. I am sure by now, through trial and error, we would have worked out that stealing is unfair, hurtful and therefore unacceptable. We should be asking ourselves how we can increase debate and thought in order to determine our own purpose(s) and direction, not constantly refer to the same 2000 year old manuals because after all, “it is only through God that we can have meaning in our lives”. Why is this statement automatically accepted to be true?

    2. I agree that the Bible (and all other religious texts) require “decades of studying before one can come close to understanding what it says and when or why it was written”; with multiple faiths and multiple versions of the same events in addition to multiple interpretations of these multiple versions of multiples events, the body of work is obviously rather large. I also agree that it has “inspired countless people and generations” and provided us with “profound and somewhat unprecedented revolutions”. This does not make it true.

    3. Your point on faith leading to reason makes little sense. How can faith in something unreasonable bring about reason? How can having faith that the invisible all powerful male exists, make it reasonable to believe in his existence?

    There are numerous problems with trying to justify any belief, philosophy, or religion on faith. The most significant may be the fact that there is no good reason for only allowing a single religious group to use it. If one person can offer it as a defence of a religious tradition, why can’t a second person use it to defend an entirely different and incompatible religious tradition? Why can’t a third person use it to defend an incompatible, secular philosophy?

    So now we have three people, each defending completely different and completely incompatible beliefs systems by claiming that they are justified by faith. They can’t all be right, so at best only one is right while the other two are wrong (and it may be that all three are wrong). How do we determine which, if any, is correct?

    Do we decide based on whose faith is the strongest, assuming we can measure that? No, the strength of a belief is irrelevant to its truth or falsehood.

    Do we decide based on whose faith has changed their lives the most? No, that’s no indication of something being true.

    Do we decide based on how popular their belief is? No, the popularity of a belief has no bearing on whether it’s true or not.

    Anything can be justified by faith, so faith ultimately justifies nothing.

    4. You write “this does not mean that we can equally claim that it is within our reach to know all things”. If this is true for us, then it is also true for our ancestors, the authors of the Bible (and all other religious texts). Therefore, if they authored a book and claimed it to be the way of God, they cannot “claim that it is within their reach to know all things”, in particular, what God thinks.

    5. You state that “we are limited beings in all respects”. Why is this statement automatically accepted to be true?

    I will spend some time and respond in greater detail (hopefully) soon.


  6. you have a lot of great blog’s. i love it. it open my mind to the things i should know..^^

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