Class Warfare Blog

November 27, 2019

The Truth About Sodom and Gomorrah

Filed under: History,Religion,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:57 am
Tags: ,

I have seen other programs under the rubric of “Buried Secrets of the Bible,” and blogged upon episodes, but this new series stars Albert Lin, the likable new star for Nat Geo programming. The charming Mr. Lin has appeared in a series on the Maya, Lost Cities and a couple of others, I think. In any case, this series is using his tool set to investigate events in the Bible to see if there is any archaeological basis for the stories in the Bible. Very little time is spent on the theology involved. Mr. Lin’s tool set is to use LIDAR (from both plane and drone) and satellite imagery to identify hard to see from the ground archaeological sites, then he goes exploring.

These shows are, I suspect, a gold mine because if they avoid offending righteous believers, they pick up the “see everything in the Bible is true” crowd and at the other end are the curious science types looking to see what advances in archaeology are to be had. NatGeo, of course, blends in a soupcon of beautiful cinematography to make it very tasty to the eye.

Okay, so last night Episode 2 was on Sodom and Gomorrah. Was there any truth to be discovered about that story?

After some scene setting, the final segment was about an archaeologist who had discovered a site, or decided he could identify the site, as the ruins of the city of Sodom. The ruins were properly placed in time, they had the outward characteristics as described in the Bible and as were known to exist at the time. The site was quite near the Dead Sea. This city had been turned into a “pile of rubble” in some sort of catastrophic event, which involved the tumbling down of buildings, extensive fire and then 700 years of no further occupation after the event. Various possible causes were considered, but the archaeologist involved felt that the possibilities were quite limited because of some of the artifacts. These were pieces of clay pottery that had been exposed to extreme heat, to the point that the pottery melted. The only known sources of such temperatures were nuclear explosions or meteor strikes, so the working hypothesis was a meteor strike. Part of the meteor (they seldom are just a single object) could have exploded over the Dead Sea resulting in a giant wave of salt water flowing over the arable fields supporting the city, resulting in fields that no longer supported crops, which would explain the 700 year historical gap. Another part of the meteor, striking the ground or exploding above ground would account for the shock wave causing the tumbling buildings and fires.

Using LIDAR and satellite images, Mr. Lin’s team created a 3-D representation of the city site and using false colors, they picked up what appeared from the ground to be a giant cistern for water, but from above looked exactly like an impact crater from a small, but potent, meteor strike. Ta da. The cistern idea wasn’t very good unless it were underground as water exposed over that large of an area would evaporate too quickly. To confirm that it was indeed a meteor crater, an excavation study will have to be done. If confirmed then a story of massive destruction involving “fire and brimstone” from the heavens will have an historical event underneath it.

Very cool.

And, let’s entertain the idea, for the moment, that this scenario, or one like it, were true.

This is a tragic event. An entire city of thousands of people with their animals were wiped out by an “act of nature.” So, residents of that city who had been away on trading trips or nearby relatives of those living there would be faced with the horrible remains. People from safely far off would describe the fiery death of the city. The survivors would be left with tremendous losses and questions that couldn’t be answered, the primary one was “Why?”

The fact that the “why” question could not be answered didn’t stop some of the religiously minded. They connected dots that existed mostly in their minds, including: this was a horrible destruction rained from above, therefore it must be an act of their god, a godly punishment. And since the destruction was so vast, the reason for the destruction must have been heinous. But in the Old Testament, the only real sin is disobedience. People are punished for disobedience because, well . . . why, boys and girls? Because religions exist to control the masses to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites, that’s why. And obedience is always what they demand and disobedience is what they always punish.

So, the inhabitants of these cities are declared to be depraved because their punishment was so severe. Stories were invented to show how depraved they were including attempts at angel rape. (Which brought to mind Arlo Guthrie’s masterpiece “Alice’s Restaurant” and “. . . mother rapers and, and father rapers, sitting right there on the Group W bench . . .”) How it is that angels couldn’t protect themselves from puny, human angel rapists is beyond me. (Were I one of those angels, I would pull out a fiery sword and lop a few heads off and see if their mood changed at all.)

And, of course, the topper is the story of Lot’s family. Lot, son of Abraham, is the only righteous person in the entire city, so angels come and tell him to get his family the heck out of town and don’t look back. And as they are descending the hill of the city, the destruction began, and one of Lot’s family couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak a peak and got turned into a pillar of salt. (Another example of the punishment not fitting the crime, but that is the norm for the Bible.)

Now, who was selected to be the disobedient one? Ah, Lot’s wife. Silly woman. She might have been righteous and tight with god, but she also made a good object lesson and the topic of the lesson is? Disobedience! (Ah, you were paying attention!) Silly woman. Women are so flighty and undependable. Tsk, tsk. That will teach them to stifle their curiosity.

So, it wasn’t enough for the people of these cities to be destroyed by a random cosmological event, but in the aftermath, religious assholes smeared their city and all of the inhabitants and their families for ever and ever, Amen, with made up stories of their depravity. Well, I guess they just got what they deserved . . . not!

Oh, and if the narrative doesn’t hold up, then we are left with the prospect that the entire story is made up, aka fictional, which makes the religious who wrote it, thinking it a great teaching story, even bigger assholes.

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