Creation as an Allegory for... What?


Three weird thoughts involving Christianity. I think they would also generalize to Islam and Judaism, but no guarantees. Today's subjects are: human-angel warfare, God messing up creation, and the Fall of Man as analogy.

Thought #3

There is a segment of Christianity that rejects Creationism but still considers the Bible to be divinely inspired (and more-or-less passed down correctly). They normally say that the first portion of Genesis (up to Abraham) should be interpreted as an allegory that God used to explain complex things to people without the background to fully understand them. The history of the universe, under this view, proceeds about as described by science, with the Big Bang and the evolution of life playing a major role. Exactly what the stories are an allegory for, however, is unclear.

One important event described there is the Fall of Man (Genesis 3). For those of you who have not heard the term, it is a famous story involving Eve (the first woman), a fruit she was not allowed to eat (commonly depicted as an apple), and a snake (who is probably actually a demon is disguise). The snake convinces Eve to eat the fruit (as does her husband Adam), and 4 things result. Firstly Adam and Eve gain the power to distinguish good from evil, and with it presumably the obligation to choose good. Secondly, life gets a lot harder, with nasty power struggles and working for food replacing easy companionship and just finding food. Thirdly, ever afterwards they and their descendants (i.e. the entire human race) are evil by nature (which, by the harsh standard used in Bible, means their nature is not entirely good). Fourthly, the human race is ever afterwards separated from God and can only find out His will (if they even try) by guesswork and the odd revelation (when He tells them).

I have an idea on what this could be an allegory for (assuming it is one): the origin of human sapience. The term (in this usage) is from science fiction, where it means "that hard-to-define quality that separates people from animals". Elsewhere, it may be called "intelligence" (e.g. intelligent aliens), but that can lead to confusion with the more normal kind of intelligence (that IQ tries to measure). I don't know of an equivalent term from psychology.

In my judgement, the match here is pretty good. Animals do not have a moral status, but people do. Sapient thought can invent goals and new ways to use the world to achieve them, and this can be used to gain power over others. Thirdly, sapience is a prerequisite for agriculture, and presumably for planning new hunting strategies as well. Without it, you just get the food you happen to come across. I don't know of anyone who debates that people are not perfectly good by nature (people who say that human nature is good are using a lower standard for "good"). Animals that act entirely on instinct and non-sapient thought are arguably always doing as they should (although it may be inconvenient to us) because that is how they are supposed to act. (Alternatively, if you believe that e.g. raiding garbage can is improper behavior for racoons, remember that they only doing because people put the garbage cans there. In this view, the racoons have been inadvertently corrupted by human activity and will return to their original state if the corrupting influence - the garbage cans - is removed). I am not sure exactly what the significance of the snake and fruit are.

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