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Unintelligible Babel

“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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  • Barry

    Su…Superman…Superman’s not…REAL!! FUCK!!!

  • Kat

    Because Satan owns Google, LOL
    The story kind of makes sence, as far as answering peoples questions in that day and time..Like most bible stories, they tried to answer their questions and fears.They didn’t really know the answers…so that’s where the made up stories came in..We know now,through science some of those answers, so it pretty much voids most of the bible..especially Genesis.I believe the only question NOT answered is “What happens when we die? That’s why religion still exist. That’s the one thing I don’t understand about people who still follow the teachings of the bible…They say you are suppose to just believe and not ask question..but mankind has been asking ..and answering those questions ever since. Kudos Saks

  • http://www.myspace.com/rothtalltales Tralf

    Another story that ought to have left an archeological trace yet to date no one has found the ruins of a tower to Heaven. Go and figure.


  • http://www.poweressence.com/ Maxwell Jennings

    The archeological record proves that many of the ancient places were not even close to being what was described in the Christian bible. The History Channel aired a show on “The Bible Unearthed” I think is the name of it and it’s out on Youtube.

  • Mr. X

    It’s funny how all of the verbose Christian apologists have vanished, since the “So Much for Being Pro-Life” blog.

    People like “Illicit Paradigm” can rationalize until the cows come home; but at the end of the day, their best defenses still fail to elevate Christianity (or any other present-day religion) above the failed, discarded mythologies of the past.

  • http://myspace.com/blackhawk089 Matt

    hmmmmm….why is it then that Herodotus mentioned this tower when he visited Babylon in 440 BC? I would assume you’ve heard of him since he wrote like ….9 books which he is famous for and often known as “The Father of History.”

    “”It has a solid central tower, one furlong square, with a second erected on top of it and then a third, and so on up to eight. All eight towers can be climbed by a spiral way running around the outside, and about halfway up there are seats for those who make the journey to rest on.” ”

    Also….it seems some claim to have found its base…with an inscription which was translated by Mr. William Loftus in his book “”Travels and Researches in
    Chaldea and Sinai” (London: James Nisbet, 1857),
    page 29. I found a picture too…took…3 seconds…gotta love google.

    “Where is God now? Why hasn’t he taken Google away and stopped us from building our modern day Tower of Babel?”

    Why hasn’t he struck you dead for blaspheming his name time after time? I mean, in the old testament he struck dead a man and his wife for simply lying. Has God changed?! When you ask these questions, it simply reveals your lack of theological understanding. Covenant theology is my short answer. I don’t have a long answer today, sorry.

    As for the random rant about Paul….I don’t care if Paul didn’t believe in gravity….that doesn’t change his contributions to the early Christian Church or his willingness to be beheaded for that big fake known as Jesus. I’m sure he was crazy though….

  • existential blues

    Covenant theology is God admitting that he was a gigantic screw-up, and now he’s going to try something different and seeing if it works better. Of course, by implication, you are shitting on the Jews, who actually own the God idea that your co-religionists co-opted.

    Your god is one very capricious, inconsistent being. Was he PMSing all through the O.T. or what?

    There were any number of ancient structures that anyone could could label the Tower of Babel. Do you think it was as tall as the Sears Tower? The Sears Tower was built as a monument to man’s engineering ability and commerce, rather than as a glorification of God. Even if God is out of the human tormenting business, don’t you think that the construction of the Sears Tower totally pissed him off?

    Maybe that’s why he sent some true believers in airplanes to take down the World Trade Center towers. They WERE carrying out God’s will, wern’t they? I mean, they have as much evidence for their beliefs as you do for yours.

    • http://myspace.com/blackhawk089 Matt

      um….there was an inscription that that dude translated on this particular finding…I’m pretty sure I listed the book…so…yeah.

      No, not inconsistent or capricious….covenant theology helps in the understanding of these things. As for your definition of it….well….I simply think you have never read a credible theologian on the matter. Pure speculation on your part…

  • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

    Babel is a parable meant to teach man it’s place. There is a reason the Hebrews called it the Tower of Babel, they were jealous of Babylon…the ancient world’s America. They saw Babylon as evil and vial and all that and thus created this story about a tower which man had made to spite god, to bring man up to god’s level…but the tower was not finished because god gave everyone a different language simultaneously…

    Which is rubbish because as we grow in the early years of childhood our brains do what psychologist call, “synaptic pruning” which basically means are brains eliminates weaker synaptic contacts that aren’t being used, and since certain languages use different pathways it’s harder to learn a 2nd language as you get older…if you learn only English at a young age it will be harder to learn, say German when you’re 20 or so, the idea of a person suddenly speaking and understanding in a different language is rather silly on it’s own…

    It has been argued that the tower was real and it was a ziggurat (guard tower) in Mesopotamia…but archeologists have found evidence of twenty some-odd such ziggurat towers in the area of Mesopotamia…makes sense if every city needs one. These towers were constructed between 5th to 3rd century BC, and normally these guard towers were dedicated to a goddess or god…not to spite a Hebrew god they may have never heard about seeing as how the Hebrews were barely surviving in the desert and seen as a lessor nomad people…back to the Ziggurats, well, in their mythology these temples were used to reach their gods realm…not the Hebrew god’s heaven…

    Clearly, while the location implicates Mesopotamian as the place the tower was located in and the only towers found in that place were numerous guard towers of military and spiritual use the story of babel simple holds no water…not from a scientific, historical, sociological or common sense perspective… The Hebrews were an underdeveloped people, angry at Babylon and making up stories to keep their own people in line….nothing more, and if we can admit that that is rubbish we can admit the whole things is rubbish and stop making public policy based on a silly old book and stop killing each other based on a silly old mythology.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    I’ll gladly take warp drives, but I’m still hoping for transporter pads – anything to render air travel obsolete.

  • Carl

    That i09 article didn’t mention a follow up story that came after the original bunch of stories that mentioned this possible warp drive design. Apparently the design proposed by Harold White has serious drawbacks of the explosive variety. I have a link to one of the articles below:


    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Well that sucks. Hopefully they will find away around that. I’m still optimistic, but this this might set us back a little bit.

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    So in what context did he say that?
    Unfortunately my personal experience with liberal christians has not been a pleasant one. http://skepticink.com/nocrossnocrescent/2012/11/25/the-religious-left-as-stupid-and-hateful-as-the-religious-right/

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    Right. It *should” be protected under the free exercise clause, but that clause specifically refers to “religion”. So we don’t have any explicit protection if we keep saying atheism isn’t a religion. I guess it all depends on how one defines religion.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    It us protected under religion just as silence is protected under speech. But silence isn’t speech nor is atheism a religion.

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    Yes, but that’s only because 5 to 9 people in DC have CURRENTLY interpreted a vague and archaic document that way. That could easily change…just like the way that 5 of them are ignoring the militia clause of the Second Amendment.

  • Ron Freethinker

    I generally like Thom Hartmann but don’t agree with him that atheism is a religion. Of course, people are free to call anything a religion if they desire, including writing letters to the editor, But that is just the sloppiness of language in play. If atheism simply means “without god or gods” it would seem to be the opposite of traditional religion which is concerned with a god or gods. .