It being Sunday, I have been spending a little time with the Good Book. It has been a while since I re-read Genesis, so I started at the beginning. As you will recall, it takes God a chapter to create the world, and another chapter to create Adam and Eve, but scarcely have we made our way two pages into the King James version when things start to go downhill. The serpent shows up in chapter 3, and sex rears its ugly head in chapter 4, with the birth first of Cain [verse 1] and Abel [verse 2]. It is an old and ugly story. The Lord prefers Abel's sacrifice of a sheep to Cain's offer of grain [this is long before the advent of vegetarianism], angering Cain so much that he up and slays Abel, whereupon the Lord curses Cain. Cain is weighed down by the curse, and expresses to the Lord his fear that "every one that findeth me shall slay me," [chapter 4], so God, taking pity, I guess, puts upon him a mark [the mark of Cain, as it came to be called], "lest any finding him should kill him."It is just about here, barely three pages into a Book that, in my edition, runs to 918 pages [not War and Peace, to be sure, but not The Great Gatsby either], that I begin to have doubts about this being the inerrant Word of the Lord. I mean, whom is Cain afraid of? At this point, only four people have come into the world, two by divine creation and two by birth, and one of them is dead. Although it requires us to engage in a soupҫon of lit crit, I think the text makes it pretty clear that Cain is not fearful of being killed by Adam or Eve. Besides, while we are still in chapter 4 [verses 16-17], Cain leaves Eden and sets up light housekeeping east of Eden in the land of Nod where he "knew his wife" who "conceived, and bare Enoch," so pleasing Cain that "he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch."
As Spencer Tracy asks Frederic March in the great courtroom scene from Inherit the Wind, where on earth did Cain's wife come from? At this point, the only woman in the world, according to Inerrantist Fundamentalists, is Eve, and I think we have to assume that Cain did not "know" Eve, who was, after all, his mother, and is living in Eden, not Nod.
All right. So much for the cheap shots. There is nothing even faintly original in this snarking. But look, in the United States today, we are routinely asked to take seriously grown men and women who believe this nonsense. They control the choice of textbooks in Texas, and have taken to writing vicious anti-women laws in a score of states, all as an expression of their deep faith in The Word, which we atheists and agnostics and rational people are supposed to respect and treat with great courtesy.Now I take a back seat to no man or woman in my love and admiration for the King James version as a great work of literary art. I expect my students to read it, and as this post makes clear, I recur to it repeatedly. But the time has come for all of us who are even halfway educated to just say, Enough! Keep your childhood fantasies and bedtime stories to yourselves and don't try to foist them on the rest of us.
Tomorrow, if I have time after returning from Bennett College, I will have a few choice words to say about Ayn Rand, who is the inspiration not only for the Chairman of the Fed who gave us the present Depression but also for the newly anointed presumptive Republican nominee for the Vice-Presidency.