God’s attractive nuisance: the Tree of Knowledge

May 12, 2006 | By | 70 Replies More

Imagine for a moment that you go into your neighbor’s home one day and discover a large homemade bomb sitting in the middle of his living room.  “Don’t touch that.” your neighbor tells you, “If you do, the bomb will explode and our entire block will be destroyed.”  How would you react?  If you have an ounce of common sense, you would probably think your neighbor was the biggest nutcase you have ever met, and you would probably say something like, “Why in the heck did you build that bomb and put it in the middle of your living room, just waiting to go off and incinerate us and the rest of our families?  Then you’d probably call the police and demand that the bomb be removed and your neighbor be arrested.

Now, imagine you go to work and discover a bottle of deadly nerve gas sitting on your disk  “Don’t touch that bottle of nerve gas,” your boss tells you, “because, if you break the seal on the bottle you will surely die.”  Off to the police you go again, screaming in rage at the wantonly dangerous conditions.  “What kind of insane world is this?  Are these people all idiots?”

Now, let us consider the Tree of Knowledge that God planted “in the middle of the garden of Eden,” intermingled with other trees “that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (see Genesis 2:8 through 3:6).  God placed no fence or other barrier around the Tree of Knowledge, and filled it with appealing fruit that “was good for food and pleasing to the eye.”  He then told Adam, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it or touch it you will surely die.”

Should we not ask ourselves, “What was God thinking?”  Why did God create the Tree of Knowledge, plant it in the middle of the garden of Eden, fill it with attractive fruit, place no fence around it, give Adam and Eve a desire to gain wisdom, indicate that the tree was a source of wisdom, and then merely tell Adam an Eve not to eat of it or touch it?  Didn’t God know that verbal warnings are the least effective type of safety precaution, after:  (a) safer design, (b) physical barriers, and (3) effective warning labels?  Wasn’t the Tree of Knowledge an open and obvious danger — an accident just waiting to happen?

Moreover, how sufficient was God’s verbal warning?  God told Adam and Eve that they would “die” by touching or eating of the Tree of Knowledge, but how could they possibly have understood this warning, given that they had no concept of death? 

If you were God, and you wanted to protect Adam and Eve from the Tree of Knowledge, would you have done such an inept job?  Indeed, according to Genesis, the Fall of Man appears to have occurred on the very same day that God created Adam and Eve.  Parents do more to protect their children from matches than God did to protect Adam and Eve from death.  Moreover, God is supposedly omniscient — with infinite awareness, infinite knowledge and infinite insight.  How is it possible for an omniscient being to have done such a stunningly incompetent job protecting His children from danger?


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Category: American Culture, Evolution, Good and Evil, Religion

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

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  1. Abusive Relationship with God? : Dangerous Intersection | August 26, 2012
  1. Dan K. : Excellent points. Let's measure the effect of the Law. When a society adopts, for example, "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed". When this policy is implemented with consistancy, very soon murders diminish. It is measurable, and it is a spiritual law, based upon man's likeness to the Creator.

    When this Law is set aside, and man's law, such as – if you murder someone, and you are convicted beyond reasonable doubt, you will have to spend the rest of your natural life locked away in a maximum security prison, where you will be fed, entertained, and monitored, and have limited contact with your family {kidnapped}, replaces it. This is not justice and is worse than death, for freedom loving persons.

    "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." In our society there is little deterent for murder because the consequence of man's law is considered temporary. A permanent solution is avoided. And this, because much of the so-called justice system are protecting their paycheck. If the perpetrators of crime enjoy a revolving door incarceration system, the system has customers, and the citizens pay the frieght.

    The reason for this is that people have quit believing in the resurrections. If you don't believe in something afterwards, it seems very overboard to end a person's life. The realistic view is that he will live again, we all will. He is being taken out of circulation until it is time for an accounting, and to restore the lawful order here among the {physically} living.

    Measure the differences between nations {if you can find one} who follow scriptural laws on murder and those that follow man's laws on murder. This may be impossible. Then we are left to history or conjecture, if we can even agree on what really happened.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Larry has some truly medieval ideas about justice. What's next? Public executions (by stoning) for women who are "unchaste before marriage"? Burning at the stake for children who disobey their parents? Such punishments come from the same holy book that Larry points to for the bizarre ideas mentioned in his comment.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    LJC: The blood for blood passage you quote (Genesis 9:6) is based on earlier, pre-monotheism laws literally written in stone in Mesopotamian civilization. Moses certainly knew of those earlier texts, if he was indeed raised as a prince.

    Also, quick, direct and proportional vengeance is observed in most mammalian species, some of which presumably don't knowingly follow God's laws. Most "Christian" laws are based on primal sociology and their evolutionary bases are well traced.

    Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan come pretty close to exactly following God's laws. I'd rather live here.

    But we have wandered from the point of this post: Why did omniscient God put an irresistible temptation close to a gullible creation, and then claim that the creation was not supposed to act on the inevitable temptation as God already knew the creation would? Whose crime is it, anyway?

  4. To allege that those countries are following God's Law shows me you do not understand God's Law. Cutting off a person's hand is not part of the Law. For theft the value of an object had to be restored double. Makes theft pretty unprofitable. I'll bet the ingredients of Vioxx are not listed in the bible as things you can put in your body. Merck is responsible for manslaughter if not murder.

    God wished to obligate Himself for our training by making Himself responsible for our situation. We cannot save ourselves. We can convince ourselves that we don't need help, but this wears thin after a while. If our measure is other men, we can certainly find someone to compare ourselves to who may not be as smart, beautiful, moral, focused, eloquent, educated, wealthy, whatever the world system curently holds forth as a real man.

    God is in the business of destroying pride. After Adam and Eve showed they could not follow simple instructions, for whatever reason, they showed us ourselves since we would not have done anything different.

    It is no crime for God to train His children. It is, now, we have become very bright teenagers and think we know more than we know. Sometimes with teenagers you have to just let them run into the brick wall before they are willing to listen. That is what is happening now.

  5. "The blood for blood passage you quote (Genesis 9:6) is based on earlier, pre-monotheism laws literally written in stone in Mesopotamian civilization."

    God's law had been in existence since the creation and was thus much older than the Code of Hammurabi. Adam had been given dominion over the earth at the time of creation (Genesis 1:26-28), and this right to rule the earth under God was one of the foremost features of the Birthright that was passed to succeeding generations. Just as Adam was the lawful King of the earth while he lived, so also were Methuselah and Noah.

    However, during the days of Noah, Nimrod (Hammurabi) usurped the throne with the support of his army. For this reason the Bible calls him Nimrod, "rebel."Long before Hammurabi (Nimrod) the people and judges had altered God's law to suit their own understanding of right and wrong. Hammurabi himself seems only to have codified it to set the legal standard for Babylonia. Once again, Prof. Sayce writes on page 68 of his book,

    The individual laws [of the Hammurabi Code] had been in existence before. They embody for the most part the decisions of the judges in the special cases brought before them, Babylonian law being, like English law, "judge-made" and based upon precedent.

    The divine law insofar as it had been revealed to Adam and his descendants was centered around Shem, the priest-king in Jerusalem.

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    Thanks to Dan for at least trying to steer this thread back on course: "But we have wandered from the point of this post: Why did omniscient God put an irresistible temptation close to a gullible creation, and then claim that the creation was not supposed to act on the inevitable temptation as God already knew the creation would? Whose crime is it, anyway?"

    Larry can't seem to address this point, as evidenced by his(?) many tangential comments. Maybe Larry could try this simple thought experiment: leave a loaded shotgun, some sharp kitchen knives and some cleaning chemicals (the kind that comes packaged in bright, colorful bottles) in your living room, then invite someone with small children to come and visit you. When they arrive, tell the children not to touch the items in the living room, then let them play freely around the dangerous items. If the children go near the items, say nothing to remind them of your warning. Ask what the children's parent thinks of you for your behavior. Now, compare the above behavior to that of god in the book of Genesis and explain why we should not condemn god as unfit to raise children.

  7. grumpy,; Your bitterness is showing. It is causing you to compare little children to grown adults. We were not maimed by the Tree. Why don't you ask God what He thinks of your comparisons? These were not other people's children, they are His own. The " beef" illustrated in this thread is with our own "parent" not someone else's. Are you really the worse off because of your mortality? If you don't believe in it, how could it even effect you?

    Why does not God have the right to do with His creation as He chooses? Are you qualified as a pot to argue with the Potter, "Why have you made me thus?" or "Why have you subjected us to death?" I believe He did it for a good reason. Since you do not believe in Him at all, you must attribute this to someone else. Some mattoid with delusions of glory.

    God will have no one stand before Him and brag. There's your bottom line. The fact that we are all sinners {1John3:4} beginning in the garden is the proof. Now, can you accept the proof? Can you forgive God for putting you in your place, ie; "Because I'm the momma!" Do you have any idea how much God believes in you?

    I'm not avoiding your question, I'm just having trouble being plain enough while trying to disguise spiritual concepts in intellectual language.

  8. Dan Klarmann says:

    If spiritual concepts have to be "disguised" in the language of reason, that may be a sign that such ideas don't have the substance necessary to stand up to reason. Reason strips away the guise and leaves behind … emperor clothes. Okay, I'll grant you that it's "Man's reason": The systematic process of observation, recording, and consistent and rigorous mathematical modeling with never ceasing attempts to disprove earlier conclusions.

    The only way to "prove" God is to a priori accept as an axiom that the Bible was written by the idea that it is used to prove. Because that axiom has failed for millenia to lead to any subsequent provable theorems, it is often disregarded as irrelevant by intellectuals.

    If we assume that the Bible was written by men who decided to lead, in the language of men who were to be followers, at the level of understanding of men in the various eras in which it was written, and look at those passages in the historical context of their times, we can give it an "A" for effort. But it is not a reliable guidebook to the universe that we now know so much richer, wider, and more complex than this book ever indicates.

  9. Dan Klarmann says:

    Back to original sin: The father creates an ideal playpen (Garden of Eden) to raise his unsophisticated and trusting youth. In this pen he places a tempting, shiny, aromatic, object. He tells the youth that it is also delicious, and would bring the youth great understanding. And he says, "hands off".

    Then he puts a carnival barker in the pen (serpent) to further tempt this adolescent to step right up and play, disobey.

    Add to that, a comely wench designed specifically to please the youth, and also created even more susceptible to the barker's pleas than our boy. So now she also conspires to entice the lad.

    Now explain to me how it was ever God's intent for Adam not to eat that fruit.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: You've just written Count I of the indictment: The People vs. God. It's a child abuse criminal case and the evidence is clear that God set up His own children to get badly hurt.

    The allegations of Count II are that He (being omniscient) planned every aspect of his children's failure and that He also planned to throw huge numbers of his children into a place where they'd be eternally tortured by burning them or freezing them or whatever (check out Dante's Inferno for some of the options).

    Count III is that He desired, more than anything else, that his children never grow up emotionally. Rather, he wanted them to sit around, for eternity no less, and constantly worship Him. More child abuse. Emotional abuse this time.

    Grumpy nailed these issues with his earlier comment that God loves us like an abusive parent.

    If (contrary to all of my instincts) He actually exists and He actually did these things, Shame on Him! Time to elect a new Creator of the Universe. Pull this Guy off of His throne and replace Him with someone with better judgment. It shouldn't be difficult.

  11. grumpypilgrim says:

    No, Larry, I'm not bitter. I'm simply pointing out the absurdity of your religion. All of Christianity depends upon the creation story in Genesis being true, but look how easy it is to show that it is nonsense.

  12. Sorry but the Creator of the Universe is not elected. You do not have enough insight to be making condemnastions. Questions and accusations are okay, "Come let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow". It was God's intent for them to become mortal. How can you appreciate immortality if, 1. you don't believe in it and 2. you don't have anything to compare it with?

    Count I: we became mortal – this is more like being on probation, not maimed, not hurt, not even neglected when you consider the big picture.

    Count II: anticipated selfishness, willfulness and lack of wisdom. Part two, unsubstantiated – eternal punishment is against the Law. Therefore it is a doctrine of men. http://www.goldismoney.info/forums/showthread.php?t=2127...

    Count III: it is alleged "that He desired, more than anything else, that his children never grow up emotionally. Rather, he wanted them to sit around, for eternity no less, and constantly worship Him. More child abuse. Emotional abuse this time."

    Substitute your own definition for "worship" with respect, appreaciate and obedience, and you have the same elements you desire from you own children. God desires for each of us to grow up into the fulness of the character of Christ. He is the example we are to learn to emulate and aspire to. "But grow in grace , and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

    Again, you are confusing what God is doing with what religions teach that God is doing. Do some Discovery. The Judge is very lenient.


  13. —Sorry but the Creator of the Universe is not elected. You do not have enough insight to be making condemnastions.—

    This is a blanket dismissal of all other points of view than the one in which you have chosen to invest. It is not definitive. It's not so much that it isn't true, but that it cannot be rationally answered.

    In a way, the creator was elected. The name, the attributes, the idea that such a thing exists, all these things were decided upon and written down by a long-running parliament of theologicians, refined over time, altered where needed, and voted on by popular acclamation.

    We cannot know down to the last neuron what the minds of others contain—often we can't know what it is in our own minds—so to declare that someone doesn't have enough insight to make a judgment is hubristic. What you seem to be really saying is that his viewpoint doesn't persuade you, and therefore it must be wrong. There's a false syllogism embedded in that.

    In another forum, long ago, an earnest Believer and I exchanged points, and I stated that at one time I was a true believer, but I got over it. He declared that I could not have been, because had I been I would still be.

    All these sorts of arguments end in the same place. It's an argument between those who point at what may really Be There and those who have already made up their minds what Is There. Evidence plays no real part in this debate, since only one side is ever interested in changing their minds based on evidence. The starting positions are mutually incompatible and the debate derails at some point when it is clear that Belief is more important to one side than Fact/Truth.

    You shouldn't judge the capacity for insight others possess. After all, regardless of the source of inspiration, human beings described what it was they believed and erected the arguments of explanation and defense—if they had the insight to do this accurately in your estimation, others logically possess the insight to see the work for what it is and comprehend the flaws.

  14. Mark T.; Well said. "Evidence plays no real part in this debate, since only one side is ever interested in changing their minds based on evidence."

    How can you know that "one side" has never changed "their minds"? Is not the definition of repentance a changed mind? We were once of another mind, now we are being given the mind of Christ. How can you call that evil?

    Next, how can you know the quaility of the evidence based on belief is automatically greater or higher quaility than evidence based on a yardstick? "If any man will do my teachings he shall know whether I speak of myself or these are my Father's words." Measure the blessings given to the faithful compared to those who follow some other rulemaker {god}. That is how belief turns into knowledge; by putting it into practice and counting the results. There is some evidence for you. I'm convinced not because, "I desire it to be so", but because it is becoming so, right before my eyes. The prophecies are being fulfilled, as you read.

    Am I supposed to deny what I see, and believe what you tell me? When did you become a true witness? What are you qualifications? Do you keep the Law of God? Or the law of men? There's some evidence that indicates wisdom, or perhaps gullibility. The practices of men are obviously getting us in worse and worse shape. Men's hearts failing them for fear of what is coming upon the earth. "Absurdity" to some.

    What is it going to take for us to admit that we don't know what we are doing? Perhaps burning a third of the corn grown on the planet so we can drive our automoblies while millions of the earth's people die of starvation every year?

    Insinuate that believers never ask questions? Don't try it.

  15. Larry,

    Prophecy? Please. We do not live in a Cartesian universe, and that is what I mean by my criticism of a certain kind of believer. It is those who assert that they have the authority to dictate cause and effect to the rest of us based on a misperception (misinterpretation?) of a set of parables who I question. You should not (assuming you did) presume that I included you among such as they, unless you choose to align your thinking with them.

    But when you call you call up prophecy to bolster your arguments, I am afraid I must conclude we are talking about two different things. There is no historical evidence of any kind to support the veractiy of prophecy. None. Allegorical evidence, anecdotal evidence, claims by those who "knew someone who knew someone who saw something"…

    Just as there is no evidence that religiously based efforts have proven any more effective at alleviating the ills of our world than others. I'd have to say that probably, just to be fair, it's about even.

    But I will say this: of the two, teaching a poor person how to feed his or her family by teaching them how to farm, manufacture, create, or otherwise effect their situation does far more than teaching that same poor person how to pray. If you teach them both, great. But if you leave out the first, the second has shown a dismal record of improving their condition in this life. As far as I'm concerned, that's what matters.

  16. Julian says:

    "We were not maimed by the Tree."

    Hang on a moment here, Larry….

    "…but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely DIE." Genesis 2:17

    "Adam was created immortal. He died {became mortal – subject to physical death} the day he disobeyed."

    Not maimed…??

    “Wherefore, as by one man {Adam} sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…"

    Not maimed, huh?

    "When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed to all mankind. We all became liable for Adam’s sin, and thus we are all mortal, paying for a sin which

    we did not commit…."

    Not maimed!?

    (crucifixion scene from from Mel Gibson's 'Passion of the Christ')

    Do I really need to repeat myself one final time…!!??

    Yeah, really.

    Not maimed one single solitary bit.

  17. grumpypilgrim says:

    Ebonmuse's excellent website, Daylight Atheism, led me to this one, wherein I found an essay that relates directly to my post above.

    The item of interest in the essay is that Eve and Adam (by definition) did not possess knowledge of Good and Evil at the time they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, if they had no knowledge of Good and Evil prior to eating the fruit, they would have had no way of understanding that disobeying God was Evil, nor would they have had any way of understanding that the Serpent was Evil. Furthermore, why didn't God, who knew that Adam and Eve were ignorant of Good and Evil, warn them about the Serpent? They had no life experience nor any prior experience with liars, so why didn't God prepare them for their first encounter with deceit? Don't human parents normally warn their children about not taking candy from strangers? And where was God when all that deceit was going on? Was his omniscience on vacation at the exact moment when Eve was chatting with the Serpent and when Adam took his bite? Seems pretty ridiculous for God to blame Adam and Eve for the Fall when God was apparently off DAYDREAMING instead of looking after the children that he supposedly loved so much.

  18. Iracible says:

    My eyes hurt from reading every comment… I have yet to be smite down by some pre ejaculated smite bolt… No god.

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