Tuesday, April 27, 2004

$10,000,000 will buy you the Ark of the Covenant on eBay

I hate to rain on someone's parade (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), but the recently announced search for Noah's Ark is just an exercise in wasting money ...probably donated money provided by nice, God-fearing people. Shame on mainstream news outlets for treating this fool's errand with such dignity.

Didn't these explorers get the memo that real scientists have already explored the heck out of this issue, actually finding a myth-worthy flood?

Haven't they read their Gilgamesh?

Ancient, hard-to-translate writings are, well, famously ancient and hard-to-translate. I'd put "Ararat" in the same category as "Nephilim" as words that are real challenges to translate into a modern religion.

What's intriguing about modern participation in an ancient religion is that people focus on the details. The presence of multiple, competing systems of thought forces adherents to one particular system to present it as watertight. Why do Christians look for Noah's Arc? For the same reason that Muslims feel compelled to discuss virgins in the afterlife or Buddhists have to explain why the Buddha apparently died of food poisoning.

Absent competition from other worldviews, I think that the Arc (and the Ark), virgins in the afterlife, and Buddha's fateful meal would be situated where (some would say) they belong : On the margins of their particular religious systems.

When religions feel the heat of scrutiny, individual members of various religions try to shore up the stories. In so doing, they lose sight of the messages of compassion, understanding, charity, and love that constitute their religions' contributions to the human experience.

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