Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Is Abraham Considered a Hero?

I recently finished reading the Genesis stories involving Abraham, and looking back at it, I really don't understand why he is considered a hero. You often hear the phrase "the God of Abraham" and people will speak of Abraham with great reverence. It really makes me wonder if I am reading the same stories as they are. Let's take a quick look, shall we.

Let's start with the positive things that Abraham does. In chapter 14 Lot get's captured and Abraham saves him. That was pretty cool. In chapter 18 Abraham tries to help the people of Sodom by arguing with God on their behalf. Pretty cool move, although it does seem to go against the idea that he was obedient and trusting in God. As far as I can tell, these are really the only things that he does that I would put in the good column.

As far as negative things, let's start with the first significant thing we see Abraham do. In chapter 12 when he is afraid he will be killed for his wife's beauty, he responds by claiming she is his sister instead of his wife. This cowardly act resulted in his wife being taken as some other man's wife. Furthermore, at the end of the story the Pharoah returned Sarah and was just pissed that he was lied to. We see at this point that Abraham is not only a coward, but a horrible judge of character. For some reason, Abraham tells this same lie in chapter 20.

Throughout these stories, God promises them they will have a son over and over again, and yet Abraham goes ahead and has a baby with Sarah's maidservant Hagar in chapter 16. It would seem that Abraham's trust in God isn't really that great. In chapter 21 God finally comes through and gives Abraham and Sarah a baby, and they kick Hagar out on her own. Really a screwed up move.

pic source
Chapter 22 is the famous story where God asks Abraham to kill Isaac. This story is horrific, and yet for
some reason is held in high regard by the religious. They will say it is good that Abraham was obedient, and that he trusted God. I have two responses to that. First, if we look at the rest of the stories involving Abraham, we can see that he doesn't seem to trust God all that much, and he wasn't always completely obedient. But more importantly, when someone tells you to kill your child, it is a bad thing to be obedient to them.

Finally in chapter 25, Abraham remarries but he has a bunch more kids. He treats Isaac much better than the rest of his kids, which I must say I am not a fan of at all.

Honestly, I keep asking myself if I'm being too hard on the things I read in the bible, and I really don't think I am. Take these stories and tell them to someone who has never heard them before and how do you think they would react? Would they consider Abraham a good guy or a bad guy? I'm guessing pretty much everyone would think he is a piece of shit. Why would you consider him a hero? Why would you want to follow his God?

13 comments:

  1. I like the picture you chose -- it depicts Abraham as more of a madman than a servant of the divine.

    I'm at a loss as to why anyone, past or present, would see such a sociopath as a hero.

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    1. And yet they do, it's quite puzzling.

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  2. give anything a couple hundred years to become a tradition and people will believe it. it doesn't matter how messed up it is.

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    1. That's definitely true, if you are brought up in a tradition and always told it was good, you might never question it. The thing about these stories is they are so terrible that it is surprising to me that people don't question it.

      But then, how did it get to be a tradition in the first place? Some large group of people had to hear it without the baggage and decide to make it their tradition. I guess it was a different world back then, but still.

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  3. Not that I find a whole lot which is praiseworthy about Abraham, but one thing I've heard from some apologists is that Abraham's imperfections, as well as those of nearly all the key Biblical figure, are evidence of the story being true. Why? Because if you were writing a story of heroes and an all-good deity, why would you write one using such imperfect people?

    It's kind of a good argument... if you ignore God's imperfections which get demonstrated at the same time. ;-)

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    1. It's an interesting point for sure. They are chronicling the lives of these holy figures and telling us the bad along with the good. Certainly not a strong argument, it's pure speculation so we can counter with "they were trying to make it realistic", or "they made people flawed so you could relate to them more easily", or "they were trying to use the story to teach a lesson".

      But actually, I think my favorite response would be "okay, suppose it is true, why would you follow this guy?" Their claim is basically that the bible includes the good along with the bad. I would ask "where is the good?"

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    2. Yeah, and my guess is that this was a story, and a good story needs some sensationalism! OK, well, "needs" is a strong word, but stories about perfection are often difficult to write well, making these "realistic" ones a more approachable target for an author, and probably the author's audience as well.

      Also, I think this speaks to the culture of the gods at that time. If you look at Egyptian and Greek mythology, for example, the gods are far from perfect, and their heroes often have flaws too.

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  4. Right on target Hausdorff! I've contended for a long time that the "original" prophet was the "false one." The three major religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, that worship his wrathful god are the ones who have been inspired to create the most havoc on earth ever since the Bible was written. Why folks continue to worship and glorify the god of Abraham is a mystery to me.

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    1. I think that makes some sense. Suppose Abraham was a con artist who just invoked the name of God to manipulate people. How would we know? It certainly seems to me that he was at least somewhat insane. It's really a shame people have used this book to justify so much violence

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    2. I think it was the impotent men who wrote about Abraham who were the insane ones. It appears to me Abe was just a downright vain and greedy man who pointed out "his" people should worship only one idol...and named it "God," And then he made up fables and "miracles" to attribute to it to convince equally greedy and ignorant flocks that they were the "only" ones that "god" favored. The rest of humanity was all going to burn and get poked by a devil in a red spandex suit with a pitchfork in hell fire for eternity for not being as "wise" as the ancient Israelites were. To think people still believe it is simply scary.

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    3. That's a good point, it might not really be Abraham, but whoever it is that wrote the story. Actually, how sure are we that Abraham was even a real person? Are we pretty sure there is a man who these fables are based on, or is there a strong possibility that he was created out of whole cloth? Ultimately I'm not sure how much it matters, but it is an interesting thought.

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  5. Agreed, but the same is true of most characters in the Bible, most of them are seriously messed up, borderline sociopathic and dishonest to their core. If it's meant to show that you don't have to be perfect to follow God, then it worked, they couldn't have chosen a more imperfect lot than ended up in the Bible.

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    1. Totally agree. I didn't mean to single him out from the rest of the characters of the bible, this thought just occurred to me after reading his stories.

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