March 16, 2008

Christianity 101: Abraham and Isaac

Too often I find that many Agnostic, Atheist, and AntiChristian youth that don't actually know the stories of the Bible. Even worse I often see people who claim to be Christian's who don't even know the stories of the Bible. Although I am not a Christian, I do see the importance of understanding such a worldwide book that has influenced the greatest art and literature of the last 1500 years. It's important to know and understand whether you believe in it or not.

So this week I start with the story of the first man to have faith, Abraham. Often Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are referred to as Abrahamic religions because of this man. The story is often referred to as the Binding of Isaac or the Sacrifice of Isaac. The story remains the same between the Torah and the Bible, however the Qu'ran states that it was Abraham's son Ismael in the story and not his son Isaac. This story is believed to have occurred around 2000 BCE by most Christians.

The story begins with God apparently deciding that he needs to show humanity that he is unlike the heathen god idols of the pagan religions. God tells Abraham that he wishes for him to sacrifice his only begotten son, Isaac. Right here we have several issues regarding not only how many sons Abraham actually had but how many wives he had. And as the Bible gives very little to suggest a time line, it is hard to tell which if any of this came first.

There are a couple Biblical cites that show that Abraham really did only have one son, Isaac:

Hebrews 11:17
By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac, ... his only begotten son.
Genesis 22:2
Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, ... and offer him there for a burnt offering.
There are more cites to suggest that Isaac was not Abraham's only son. Apparently God either had issues counting or just wasn't paying that good of attention to Abraham's family.

Genesis 16:15
And Hagar bare Abraham a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
Genesis 21:2-3
For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son is his old age .... And Abraham called him Isaac.
Genesis 25:1-2
Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
Galatians 4:22
Abraham had two sons; the one by a bond-woman, and the other by a free woman.
Despite all this Christians still tend to believe that Abraham only had one son and one wife, Isaac and Sarah respectively.

So not for one moment does Abraham doubt this immediate order from God. Thus we have the first man to have faith. He had faith in a God that demanded him to murder his (only) son. Now if you are confused, wondering why the loving God of the Bible is demanding blood you must remember that God didn't become a loving God until the New Testament. This is the God of the Torah, the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible... named Yahweh. Yahweh is anything but loving! At times he's a freaking megalomaniac!

So Abraham grabs two guys, his son, and an ass carrying wood for burning. He walked with his son for two days to the north mountain. Apparently God needed a very specific place for this sacrifice. Most likely because God is up above and the higher Abraham was to the sky the closer he was to God.

Next they get to the mountain and Abraham tells the two men to stay with the ass while he and his son go up to the mountain to worship. He tells them that they will both be back down soon enough. So either Abraham was keeping this all a secret from Isaac or he expected God to resurrect Isaac after the sacrifice.

Eventually they get to the top of the mountain and Abraham takes the time to build an altar out of earth and stone. I wonder if Isaac helped his father build his soon to be death bed?

Somehow Abraham managed to tie Isaac's feet and hands down to the altar. Here more speculation comes to the age of Isaac. For much of Christian and Jewish history it has been believed that Isaac was an older son, possibly as old as thirty-seven years old. This would make him old enough and strong enough to overpower his father if he wanted to. However, many Christians today believe that Isaac may have been far younger.

The moment of truth comes and Abraham pulls out a knife and holds it above his head. Ready to murder, an angel stops him from killing his son, not a moment too soon. According to Jewish teachings this angel was the ArchAngel Metatron. Christians often do not discern a name or any notability to the angel.

God says to Abraham, "Do not lay your hand upon your son. Do no harm to him. Now I know that you love God more than you love your only son, and that you are obedient to God, since you are ready to give up your son, your only son, to God."

Suddenly a ram appears for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son. Christians believe that God did this to show Abraham that he did not want human sacrifices like the pagan idols of the past. However, apparently God was all for animal sacrifices. And from then on, everybody knew that God did not want humans killed in his name, that that he cherished the life of men... but that he loved it when you killed animals.

This story represents a lot of what Christians today seem to believe. There is this feeling that all human life is precious. However, animals are somehow lesser than humans and deserve to die for God. This is shown several times throughout the Bible leading Christians to the belief that God places all animals on this earth to serve men. Horses to ride, cows to eat, dogs to be pets, and goats to sacrifice to show God your love for him. Obviously the Bible fails to mention that man domesticated these animals to serve them themselves and that these animals did not serve humans until after humans made them do so. Often Christians like to say that all life is precious and that God doesn't want any creature to be slain. This is nice and pretty but this idea is not a Biblical idea at all. It is through the evolution of humanity that we see animals as having pain and that we want to end their suffering. God however, cares not in the least if animals suffer and die and this can be show time and time again through the Bible, including the story of Abraham and Isaac. I cannot think of a single line of the Bible that shows that God gives a damn about the wellbeing of animals. Personally I wouldn't want to pray to any God that cared for the fate of one species out of billions purely because we are the most intelegent and advanced on Earth. If the Christian God truly was an all loving being then he would care for all his creation, not only the ones that kiss his ass and lick his boots.