Uncommon Sense

May 12, 2016

Biblical Explanations and Justifications

In a religiondispatches.org review of the book The Lost White Tribe (The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent, Michael F. Robinson, Oxford University Press, April 2016) which addresses the somewhat perplexing desire on the part of mostly nineteenth and twentieth century white explorers to find white people in previously unexplored (by white people) places.

At one point the review’s author, Michael Schulson, comments:

“… as they entered Africa, Europeans had another tool with which to understand all the new people they were meeting, trading with, and sometimes enslaving. The first 11 chapters of Genesis offer a fairly comprehensive account of human diversification. The text shows how and where people originated (Eden), describes the lineages of early humans (all those begats), explains the origin of languages (Babel), and mentions the dispersal of people after a catastrophic event (The Flood).

“Most importantly, there’s Ham, one of Noah’s three sons, who is cursed to be “a servant of servants” in Genesis 9 (a verse used by plantation owners to justify the enslavement of black people). But as Robinson chronicles, an alternate Hamitic hypothesis was also deeply influential. In this version, Ham’s descendants did go down to Africa, but they stayed white. Once there, they ruled over the dark-skinned locals.”

I assume that this is fair telling of some of the justifications in circulation for what people were finding as they explored. Remember that the initial purpose of biblical archeology was to confirm what we were told through the Bible, not to discover anything per se. The Bible had a profound effect as a source of “wisdom.”

But, egad, the amazing poor level of thinking involved!

Consider the “the dispersal of people after a catastrophic event (The Flood).” Hello … the people of the Earth had been dispersed and the Great Flood killed all of them, save eight. The remaining eight could comfortably sit in a ten by ten foot space. I’d say that was a fantastically non-dispersive event. And, brilliantly, since the people pointing to this evidence regarding how people came to be dispersed all over the planet, they were operating from the understanding that … people were dispersed all over the planet! So, the Great Flood was a setback in that trend, not a feature. (Talk about evolutionary/genetic choke points!)

Then consider “In this version, Ham’s descendants did go down to Africa, but they stayed white. Once there, they ruled over the dark-skinned locals.” According to the depiction of the Great Flood, everyone subsequent to that event has to be a descendant of Noah and Noah’s wife, Whatsherface. Everyone has to be of the exact same race, the race of Noah. And there could be no pre-existing “darkies” for Ham to rule over as they had all been killed by the Flood, so where did they come from? Was there another Creation we were not told of?

Granted we are talking about the thinking ability of white supremacists, basically all white people of the time, but the level of thinking is stupendously bad. It is, though, quite in keeping with the bulk of the biblical justifications and explanations being bandied about even today. If one looks at the performances of professional Christian apologists as being appallingly poor, consider that most of the apologies are being made by amateur apologists, who are far less adept.

The book looks fascinating but I do not think I could read it. I find the accounts of the oppression of various peoples so vile as to cause frequent stops in my reading to allow my blood pressure to recede. I have pushed hard to educate myself on subjects closer to home, the treatment of native Americans by U.S. white supremacists for example, but even then frequent stops are needed for my bile to be dealt with.

When it comes to justifying our actions, people apparently have a very low bar. It is as if we have all agreed that “if you accept my bullshit explanation, I’ll accept yours.”

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