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Lessons From Babel

Awhile ago, I wrote about the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. I really like that blog and I am feeling a little lazy today so I am re-posting it:

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4

I was recently reminded of the story of the Tower of Babel and more particularly this verse. There is of course the central issue of this story which to me is an attempt by bronze-aged people to understand why it is that people speak different languages. Today, sociology makes it pretty clear that since people live in different areas of the world, they develop their own languages and when communities interact, languages between them share different aspects, words, and root words. Most of the western languages are off shoots of Latin for example and so English tends to share common root words with French, Spanish, etc.

But back in the day, those bronze-aged people had not studied sociology or language and had to account for the fact that different nations and tribes had different languages. And so the story of the Tower of Babel came about. Obviously it would be pretty ridiculous for Christians to take this story literally today. Most of the mainstream Christians recognize that it is simply a story with no basis in historical fact. However, there are still a surprisingly large number of people especially in America who hold that this is an actual historical account of how different languages developed.

Those who do believe that this was an actual historical account also have to address the issue that has come up in this particular verse. That issue being that the writers of this verse clearly thought that God lives in Heaven and that Heaven is not in some sort of different dimension or plain of existence, but rather is up there is the sky. The Tower was to be built as high as possible so that the top should reach into Heaven.

According to this account, Heaven is in space. It is a physical place which can be reached by building a high enough tower. The problem is that since that time, we have build ships that can reach as high as Heaven and yet no God was to be found.

To deal with this problem, the apologists might try to turn to word games. These apologists might quickly claim that the Hebrew word used in this passage is Shamayim, which literally means “sky” or “The Heavens” referring to the physical universe and not to the Kingdom of God. However, this argument really doesn’t work out for the apologist since there are passages in the Bible which are clearly referring to the place where God dwells as Shamayim. The fact is that the Hebrew word Shamayim means both “The Heavens” and “Heaven” because the ancient Hebrews thought they were the same thing.

Even Paul thought that when we die, it wasn’t just our souls that were going up to Heaven, but our entire body. Heaven was thought to be a physical place up there in the sky. Now of course, we have been there up in the sky and so Christian apologists who take this passage literally need to change what the Bible meant.

Another point to consider is that God was angry because humans of different tribes all got together to build this tower out of pride. They wanted to reach God. God punished them by giving them different languages so that they could not work together. Today, we have Google. Google allows us to translate languages from one to another so that we are no longer “babbling” to each other. Now humans can work together. And we have done so in the form of the International Space Station currently in the Heavens. We have done this out of the pride of humanity just like in the story. Where is God now? Why hasn’t he taken Google away and stopped us from building our modern day Tower of Babel?

If you ask me, the International Space Station is a giant fuck you to the Christian God. Our pride in science and human achievement is much greater than that of those in the story of Babel. The fact that people can read this blog from China in Chinese using the Google Translator is evidence that the story of Babel is fiction.

Of course as I stated in the beginning of this blog, mainstream Christians already know that it is fiction and yet those same mainstream Christians still often claim that other aspects of the Bible (which are ridiculously more unbelievable than this story) are real historical facts. That is like saying that while we all know that planet Kypton doesn’t exist, Superman is still real.

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