Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Alternate Origin Story

In the beginning, there was everything already: planets, sky, bushes, people, buildings, books, drinks, musical instruments, tape recorders, ice cream cones, grass skirts, Rhode Island, telescopes, digital watches, sexy stable boys, the disowned Velvet Underground album Squeeze, cardboard cutouts of Jesus, VCR 4-heads, arugula, Thanksgiving break, plastic keychain toys for babies, the King's Quest computer game series, square colored memo cards, racism, George Burns, masturbation, internet trolls, "Hills Like White Elephants" student interpretations, fingernail clippers, photographs of dead people being sold for five cents apiece, Smurfette, stains on a Frenchman's bathroom sink, the TARDIS, children who could sing the jingle for Krazy Glue, beard dandruff, open mic karaoke, boat anchor chains, Tylenol PM, the smell of an aluminum bucket full of crayons and erasers, elephant tusk controversies, dried lily pads in a scrap book with butterflies on the cover, the Articles of the Confederation, slam dunk contests, paper airplanes made with Hello Kitty stationary, WordPerfect 5.1, tetanus, Leanna Foxxx's fake breasts, the Gladney Center for Adoption, furries, conspiracy theories, Zildjian ride cymbals, 1840s camera tripods, New Coke prototypes,, all of the lead singers for Tower of Power, Babylonian theology, Regular Scent Dry Idea underarm deodorant, teeth fillings in transit to Atlanta, the Age of Reason, adobe huts, the Acronis Secure Zone, canker sores, Lotus 123 spreadsheets, sod, Avenue Q, plankton, quilts made of T-shirts worn in elementary school, Germany, the Horsehead Nebula, Song-Poem collectors, grocery store receipts, spend the night parties, white Chiclets, dinosaur sex, Humbert Humbert, donkey rides up the Grand Canyon, The Pirate Movie, hip-hop translations of the Bible, mitral valve replacement surgery, Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu's great-grandmother, No Fear Shakespeare, Phillip Joll, false etymologies for the Tagalog language, the clitoris, Dave's Records of Guelph, failed recycling programs, stardust, the dropping of the letter O in the word opossum, the R65 in South Africa, gaydar, soccer trophies, foreign exchange students who pretend to not know the language, three day weekends, the Naval Battle of Awa in 1868, Scott Walker's later albums, historic gazebo tour pamphlets, the buffy-tufted marmoset, potatoes, the 2002 US Open, the WEDWay People Mover, the asteroid belt 15034 Décines, the Faisalabad Railway Station, Egyptian feminism, childhood interest in tumbling, the peak of the Hochfrottspitze, abandoned planetariums, Scarlett Johannsson nude photograph leaks, moonshine, treacle, and Dan Quayle. For starters.

Eventually everything got to be too much, so it began swirling into itself, until everything was compressed into a tight ball. This was not done by anything or anyone outside of itself, and it was not done for reasons of morality. It just happened, as one might expect. And there the tight ball sat.

And then, as one might also expect of something that contained all of these things, it finally exploded. But everything did not re-exist at once. The universe unfolded slowly, starting with hydrogen or whatever. Everything expanded, and eventually the earth was formed and all of that business happened.

And now here you are, motherfucker.

Monday, November 14, 2011

God and Babies

After three miscarriages, my wife was diagnosed with a "uterine septum," a little malformed wall hanging down from the top of the inside of her uterus, making it look like a little heart. This septum was not allowing room for attachment to the uterine wall, and this (we're more or less certain) caused all three miscarriages. Fortunately, after my wife was diagnosed, we learned that there was treatment for the problem: a relatively un-invasive surgery where the doctor goes in, finds the septum, and -- in the doctor's words -- "trims it out." So trim it out he did, and the next pregnancy was a successful one, producing what they call, in the business, a "take home baby," a girl. So I'm a dad now.

Even though infertility wasn't our issue, we were recommended to infertility specialists (since they also handle related problems). The motto on their pamphlets and website is "For couples with infertility, miracles happen every day." They also have a place on their website for submitting "miracle memories." Now, if by miracle they simply mean "something good and unexpected," then fine, because this was both. If they are referring to the work they themselves do as miraculous (meaning wondrous, amazing), then fine, because it is. But if they mean that some sort of divine intervention or circumventing of nature was involved, then I have to take issue with whoever decided to use that word.

My baby is not a miracle. If it weren't for medical science, she almost definitely would not be here. She's my medical science baby.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why I Am a Football Heathen

I've never been more afraid to publish a God Blog post than the following. I wrote it last year and decided it would fit on this blog (though I didn't originally write it to be published here), then sat on it like a coward. Yes, I've written about the Bible, evolution, Christianity, atheism, Islam, Scientology, and Santa Claus, but never about something people get this passionate about: football. If this is my last post, you'll know that some fan tracked me down and put a stop to my blasphemy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rusty W. Spell, Ordained Minister

Last November, I became ordained as a minister with the Universal Life Church Monastery. They only have two tenets: 1. To promote freedom of religion. 2. To do that which is right. It's not connected to any religion, and it even welcomes atheists (who, of course, are fully capable of following the two tenets). So I am now able to perform marriages, funerals, baptisms, ceremonial rights, last rights, and exorcisms. I can start my own church, ordain new ministers, and I can absolve you of your sins. Since I'm humble, you can simply call me Dr. Rusty W. Spell (a title it took me a bit longer to receive than this one). Anyway, I thought I should let readers of my God Blog know. Not sure why I didn't get around to it earlier.

Oh yeah, I remember. I recently purchased this nifty card from the Monastery. I carry it in my wallet with pride, just waiting for someone to muse aloud, "You know, I sure wish I could be baptized." (I prefer dunking for full metaphorical impact, but I will sprinkle if you insist.)

Some might ask, "But Minister Spell..." and I will interrupt and say, "No please, please. Russell Wayne Spell, PhD will do." And then they will continue, "Isn't this a scam? Aren't they just hoping that, after you become ordained for free, you'll want to buy the wallet card and the ordination certificate and the clergy badge and the parking hanger?" Maybe. What's your point?

If it's a scam, it's a scam I can get behind. I think that the people running the Monastery are sincere in wanting their "We are all children of the same universe" message to be heard, so I'm willing to chip in to make that idea more public. And the product delivers what it promises. It gives you permission to do all of these things with authority.

I mean, naturally, I could already absolve you of your sins before becoming a minister. You know why? Because there's no such thing as "sin," at least not as an invisible substance we inherited that can only be dissolved by spiritual magic. At the most, it's a word to describe the things we do that others may not exactly appreciate. When a cat eats a lizard, is the cat sinning? Does a tree branch sin when it falls and hits you on the head? If you like, I can also forgive you for having a survival instinct or the hiccups.

This card and this title, "minister," is meaningful because I say it is. Why is the Pope so powerful? Why is Pat Robertson listened to? What do they got that I ain't got? Getting this little card is the same as the Scarecrow getting his diploma or the Tin Man getting his clock heart. Was the Wizard wrong in giving them tokens of things that was in them all along? No. Tokens are nice. I've done my homework, read all the holy (and unholy) books, wrestled with a million angels, peered into the abyss. The least I can ask for is a 2 x 3.5 inch piece of plastic that says I've been a good and faithful servant of myth and morality. I like my token, and it was worth whatever silly amount of money I paid for it.

Don't forget though: I really can perform weddings and all that. So can notary publics, so whatever, but my thing works too. All proper and official. Yes, sure, they want you to buy the coffee mug, but the free part is the most valuable, and the life quest that eventually led to a "be a minister in less than 24 hours" website is priceless.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cosby Show: The Juicer

In season two of The Cosby Show, in an episode called "The Juicer," Dr. Cliff Huxtable brings home a new gadget: a juicer that he demonstrates to the family, making it look fun and appealing, especially to his youngest daughter, a cute and innocent six-year-old named Rudy. Dr. Huxtable makes it clear that this is his juicer and that no one is allowed to touch it.

One day, Cliff and his wife Claire leave their thirteen-year-old daughter Vanessa in charge of Rudy, but Vanessa is preoccupied with her friend on the telephone and largely ignores her. When Rudy and her friend Peter are bored, they go to the kitchen to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but there's no jelly, so they use her dad's forbidden juicer: shoving grapes into it and leaving the top off. Naturally, they make a terrible mess. Both children flee the scene of the crime, hide, and feel ashamed.

When Cliff comes home to see juice all over the kitchen, he is predictably angry, though calm. Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable (Claire) first have a talk with Vanessa and scold her for not doing her duty in watching her little sister. Claire also points out that Cliff was partly guilty because he made the juicer look so attractive. Then Cliff and Rudy have their special talk. She earnestly apologizes, and Cliff reminds her of why what she did was wrong. She is told that she has to clean up the mess, with Vanessa's help. It is a very sweet scene between father and daughter, and it ends with a tender kiss.

But is this what should have happened? No!

First, since Cliff was both forbidder and tempter, he should have convinced Rudy that the temptation was actually carried out by another person altogether (because good and evil can't exist in one being), insisting that this evil person was some lowly creature. Vanessa seems to be the best scapegoat for this scenario. Cliff has already blamed her for not watching Rudy -- apparently expecting a young teen to be the equivalent of a parent -- so blaming Vanessa for the temptation itself is the next logical step. Rudy, being impressionable, will easily believe the new version of history, and this will cause enmity between Vanessa and Rudy for the rest of their lives. Dr. Huxtable, meanwhile, can be secure in his role as the all-powerful, all-good forbidder.

Of course, Dr. Huxtable doesn't need a wife either. As a doctor who delivers babies, he can bring life into the world, and he doesn't need anyone to point out when he's done something wrong, since that will damage his all-good reputation. So Claire should have never been in the picture to begin with.

Next in the story, Cliff should have used his skills as an obstetrician to make it so that -- if his daughter eventually has children -- she will have an especially painful labor. It's obviously what a disobedient daughter deserves. As for Peter, Cliff should have instructed him that he and Rudy are no longer equals in friendship. Instead, Peter is now the dominant friend and should behave accordingly, since Rudy was the one who put the fruit in the juicer. But Peter will be punished too: he will not be able to eat as much food as he wants because he'll have to work for it now (a terrible fate for a fat kid).

Because, of course, what should have ultimately happened is that Cliff should have kicked the pair out of the house altogether, forever, so that they didn't mess with any other appliances, now that they probably knew how to use them as well as Cliff, causing them to be like him, with the knowledge of the right way and wrong way to use gadgets. Maybe Cliff could give them an extra set of clothes first, though, to be nice, before sending them on their way. Cliff should also have placed attack dogs at the entrance of the house (especially the kitchen), to make sure the couple -- especially Rudy -- never come back.

And if this harsh and seemingly unfair punishment leads to these innocent, helpless children having a rough life, maybe eventually giving birth to a son who becomes the murderer of his own brother, so be it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 21, 2011: In Perspective

As you've probably heard or seen on billboards, Family Radio, founded by Harold Camping, has said that Judgment Day and the Rapture will be on May 21, 2011 (at about 6:00 pm, in whatever time zone you're in) and that the end of the world itself will be later the same year on October 21 after five months of suffering for those left behind. The Rapture will be accompanied by earthquakes and will take about three percent of the population.

Of course, mainstream Christians do not believe this prophecy. They know that one god created everything in the universe, that he was a father who begat (without a mother) only one son, both of whom -- along with a magic spirit -- are part of a unit that is actually three entities in one. When this creator god created the first two humans, a snake tricked them into eating a piece of fruit, so sin began and mankind was cursed. But one day, a woman who had never had sex was impregnated by the magic spirit and gave birth to this son of the god in human form. This god in human form was nailed to a piece of wood so that humanity's sins could be forgiven, but three days later (after diving into the underworld first, where the punished are tormented forever) he was brought back to life and floated upward in the sky where his father lived. But, one day, the son of this creator god will return to judge those living and those who have died (a resurrection of dead bodies occurring somewhere in this timeline), appearing in a cloud in the sky with trumpets being blown by creatures who are immortal and live in the sky but are not themselves considered gods. Anyone who accepts that the human version of the son of the god is in fact the actual son of the god (especially if they also ceremonially are covered with water, eat crackers, and drink wine) will be forgiven and called up to the sky, but those who do not will suffer until the world finally ends.

But to say that this judgment day is going to be Saturday is too far-fetched to be believed!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Belief In Marduk

As you all know, Marduk is the ultimate god. When Marduk defeated the chaotic Tiamat and created mankind out of the blood of her rebel husband Qingu, his father Ea bestowed all of his power onto Marduk himself. Fifty gods were then absorbed into Marduk so that the became the supreme being. His tower was built in Babylon, which is the center of the universe. This is all recorded in the Enuma Elish, written around 1800 BCE, which is also known as The Epic of Creation.

However, some people do not believe that Marduk exists. Some are atheist, some are agnostic, and some believe in strange gods. The following is a list of arguments that attempt to explain why Marduk does in fact exist.

The Teleological Argument (Argument from Design) -- Just look at the world around you. Doesn't it seem like a huge coincidence that humans need water to drink, air to breathe, and food to eat, and here we are in a world that supplies all of those things? Did you know that if the earth weren't tilted just so that nothing could live on the planet? Not to mention the beauty all around us: the waterfalls, the rainbows, the mountains. All of it couldn't have come about by chance. There must be a designer. The Enuma Elish tells us that, when Marduk defeated Tiamat, he split her in two and created the earth and the sky. Her tears became the Tigris and Euphrates river. Her breasts became mountains. Marduk established order in the cosmos, telling the stars, moon, and sun how to behave. He set up our calendar and established time itself. None of this would have come about if it were not for Marduk. He is the intelligent designer, and he is the true answer to the question of how things got here: not evolution, which science cannot even prove and is just a theory.

The Cosmological Argument (First Cause) -- Everything that exists has a cause. You know that you came to exist because your mother and father brought you in to this world. They exist because their mothers and fathers brought them into this world. That tree was once an acorn, which came from a previous tree. And so on. So what caused it all? Something had to, right? We know that Ea was Marduk's father and that before Ea there was Anu who was the son of Anshar who was the son of Lahmu who was the son of Tiamat and Apsu, who is known as "the first one." So Apsu was the first one, the first cause, but Ea defeated Apsu and then Ea gave all his powers to Marduk. Therefore, Marduk exists and is -- essentially -- the first cause.

Argument from Morality -- We know that morality exists. Why don't we murder people? Why don't we steal? Why don't we eat babies? Because those things are immoral. But where does this idea of morality come from? If Marduk had not established the cosmic order of the universe, then we would have no morality at all, no right and wrong, and all would be in chaos. We know that Tiamat was evil, not because of anything she did necessarily (though we now call what she did evil), but because Marduk (who is wise above all) felt the need to defeat her. William Lane Craig reasons this way: 1. If Marduk doesn't exist, then morality doesn't exist. 2. Morality does exist. 3. Therefore, Marduk exists. Note that morality is beyond science. Science doesn't care if we shoot someone in the head or not, because science just thinks we're a series of atoms randomly put together. But Marduk cares, and so we don't kill. The fact that murderers are punished proves that all of our laws are based on our belief in Marduk's existence.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


One of these days, I'm going to read L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. For one, I was always intrigued by it, ever since I saw those TV commercials in the 1980s with the exploding volcano. (I've since learned that the volcano is meant to trigger a repressed memory of a historical event, placed on the cover to make it enticing.) More importantly, I want to read it because it's the book that kick-started what eventually became the religion of Scientology. And I like to read source materials more than I like listening to what second-hand sources have to say. However, since what I'm writing about today isn't meant to be exhaustive and since what I'm writing is largely about these second-hand sources and opinions, I'm going to jump on in and discuss it.

Scientology gets picked on more than any religion I can think of. It gets picked on by religious people in the same way that other religions get picked on by non-religious people: as something ridiculous, man-made, harmful, etc. Tom Cruise jumped on a chair once on Oprah Winfrey's show and John Travolta made a bad movie, and now everyone feels they have the right to mercilessly tease a group that many take as seriously as the more established religions.

And yet -- again, having not read Dianetics or any other book by Hubbard -- based on my current understanding of Scientology, I don't see how it is different from any other religion. Furthermore, Scientology seems to have the added bonus of being just as much about real life (psychology, "self-help," etc.) as the supernatural, a bonus that religions that pretend to be more "normal" don't have.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Least of These

I don't feel like Jesus very often, but sometimes it happens. I had the experience of someone who is always very nice to me being very mean to others. To make matters worse, the ones who were the object of the cruelty were in less fortunate situations than me, both materially and mentally. Which made me feel bad as a result, as if the cruelty were being done to me instead of them.

My first thought was, "Well, at least the guy is nice to me, so he's not all bad" but then my follow-up thought was, "But if he really wanted to be nice to me, he'd be nice to them. In fact, I'd rather he be nice to them than me, since they need it more than I do."

Then I remembered Matthew 25:31-46. This is where Jesus describes the coming of the "Son of Man" (a third-person way of talking about himself, though sometimes it's hard to tell), a king who will separate the figurative sheep from the goats. To the righteous "sheep" he says, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." When the righteous ask when they did all these things for him -- because they hadn't actually done these things for him, since he was a king who wouldn't need them done -- he answered, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these... you did it to me."

Similarly, he tells the cursed "goats" that they didn't take care of him when he was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison. When the cursed say that they never actually saw the king in any of these conditions and so how could they neglect him, he answers, "Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these... you did not do it to me."

I've known this passage all my life, but I hesitate to admit that I only thought of it as a way to please Jesus himself: help people and you're helping Jesus, hurt people and you're hurting Jesus. Rewards or punishments follow. It never occurred to me that (even though the logic of the passage dictates it) everyone is potentially in the position of "the king." Perhaps I didn't see it because Jesus (as he tends to do) situates the story during an end-of-time style judgment day, when "the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him," when "he will sit on the throne of his glory. And all the nations will be gathered before him."

But of course "judgment day" is every normal day of our lives (once you get past the fancy imagistic talk). And on the particular day I'm writing about, I happened to be the king on the throne (a rare treat). Luckily for the guy that offended me, I showed more mercy than Jesus would have. Jesus rewarded the sheep with the kingdom but punished the goats with "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." My reaction was to feel sad for a while and then get over it, which is notably less dramatic.

You might be thinking that I should now take the next obvious step and write about how I, too, should be careful about not having double standards when it comes to decency toward people, especially those less fortunate, but who wants to read about that?

Bonus: The Sin of Sodom

And speaking of the less fortunate, did you know that the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality? My source is the prophet Ezekiel, who says this (in chapter 16:49-50 of his book): "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it."

The sin of Sodom was the "I got mine, Jack!" mentality. Ironically, for those who use the Sodom and Gomorrah story as an anti-gay story, the truth is that the only way to quit committing the sin of Sodom is to quit being cruel to homosexuals, an oppressed minority in need of a helping hand.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lost Gospels

I am reading Bart D. Ehrman's collection Lost Scriptures -- a companion piece to his Lost Christianities -- in which he collects scriptures that were "lost" (some of them very recently found) or that fell out of favor and didn't make it into the New Testament. The book includes gospels, acts of the apostles, epistles, and apocalypses. Some of them are "Gnostic" (a sect of Christianity that didn't win out in the end) and some are not.

I am going to focus on gospels included in Ehrman's collection. Primarily I want to give you a summary of them, in case you haven't encountered them and would like to read them yourself. Many of them can be found online, though I do strongly suggest picking up Ehrman's book. I also give some of my own commentary in the process. I have skipped a few of the more heavily fragmented gospels and the ones about which I have nothing much to say.

The Coptic Gospel of Thomas

This book doesn't contain stories, just teachings of Jesus. It's more like a book by Confucius or Lao-Tzu. While many of the teachings and sayings are found in the four canonical gospels, their significance seems illuminated more greatly here.

The Gospel of Thomas demonstrates (even more than usual) that Jesus (a) spoke almost entirely in metaphor (when he wasn't speaking in parables) and (b) that one of the major metaphors was the Kingdom of God, which signifies not a literal place but a state of mind. God himself is a metaphor as well. For example: "When you come to know yourselves... you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father."

Life and death are also metaphor. Jesus says, first thing, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death." He isn't referring to literal, bodily death, but to a recognition of a greater life, of one that has always and will always exist. Or, as he later typifies it, the "light." He tells his disciples that they "came from the light, the place where light came into being on its own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image."

Joseph Campbell once explained the above concept through a metaphor of a light bulb. When a bulb burns out, you don't say, "Well, no more light for me." You simply replace the bulb. The light is "manifest" through the bulb, which is yourself, so when it's your time to shine, shine as bright as you can. And when you burn out, that's just the end of your body, but not the light, which is (as Jesus says in this gospel) where you came from. (This might also bring new meaning to God's phrase "Let there be light.")

Another key message in Thomas is that what you're looking for (literally) is already here (spiritually, inside you). After the disciples ask when the new world will come, Jesus says, "What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it."

A final passage worth noting is about Mary and women. When the disciples say that Mary Magdalene needs to leave the company because she isn't "worthy of life," Jesus says, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven." It sounds backward at first, but it's feminist in a figurative sort of way, simply saying that women will have the same privileges as men.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Genesis Retold: Part Two

Read Part One.

Based on the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible.

Chapter Four

The man had called himself Adam, or "Earth," because he was a man of the earth, and he called his wife Eve, or "Life," because she was going to give life to all of their offspring. Eve gave birth to two boys: Cain was a tiller of the ground and Abel was a keeper of sheep. While Abel managed to make a great offering of food to his family with his sheep, Cain's offerings were not as well regarded. Because of this, Cain became very angry with his brother.

Though Cain tried to reason within himself that he needed to take control of his anger, the anger overtook his reason and he said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. In his mind, Cain knew that people would wonder where Abel was, but Cain had an answer prepared: "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"

But Cain's guilt overtook him; the guilt was so strong that Cain imagined he heard Abel's blood crying from the ground. Cain could no longer imagine himself tilling the same ground on which he killed his own brother, thinking that it might not even produce food for him, so he decided to leave home. But Cain was afraid that someone would kill him while he was wandering abroad, so he put a mark on himself to frighten others away. The mark suggested that whoever killed Cain would be avenged seven times over. So Cain left toward the east and settled in the land he called Nod, which meant "Wandering."

Cain found a wife among other groups of people and they had a son named Enoch. And Cain built a city, which he named after his son. Enoch had a son named Irad who had Mehujael who had Methushael who had Lamech.

Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabel, who taught his offspring to live in tents and raise livestock. She also gave birth to Jubal, who taught his offspring to play the lyre and the pipe. The other wife, Zillah, gave birth to Tubal-cain, who made all varieties of bronze and iron tools. Zillah also gave birth to a daughter, Naamah.

One day, Lamech told his wives, "I have killed a young man for striking and wounding me. If Cain is avenged seven times over, then I am to be avenged seventy times over."

Chapter Five

Meanwhile, Adam and Eve had a third son who she called Seth, which means "Appointed," because Eve had said, "Since Cain killed Abel, this child is appointed for me." Seth had a son named Enosh who had Kenan who had Mahalalel who had Jared who had Enoch (who died young) who had Methuselah who had Lamech who had Noah. Lamech felt that Noah would be of the generation of people who would find relief from years of working the unyielding ground, so he named him a name that meant "Relief." Noah also had sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Chapter Six

During this time, as the population of the earth increased, many felt that times had been different before. People seemed to live longer and men were like giants on the earth, heroes and warriors of renown, as if they had not been born of mere mortals. But then people began noticing that humankind was wicked, with their hearts fixed on violence continually. So when natural disasters occurred on the earth, many felt that it would be better if the disasters simply killed everything: people and animals and birds. But Noah was more optimistic.

Noah also was able to read and predict weather conditions, and he predicted the coming of a large flood. So Noah made a large wooden boat, complete with rooms spread out among three levels, covered inside and out with pitch. He made it as large as he could, so that he could fit himself, his sons, and their wives. He also wanted to save as many of his animals as he could, making sure to save both male and female. He even planned on rescuing birds. Noah stored food in the boat and was ready for the flood.

Chapter Seven

A little before the flood came, Noah and his family entered the ark, along with as many animals and birds as he could fit. On the day the flood came, it felt as if the fountains of the chaotic waters burst forth, as if there were windows in heaven that opened up. It rained for many days and flooded the area, as Noah had predicted. While many living creatures -- birds, domestic animals, wild animals, swarming creatures -- and many human beings died, Noah's boat floated on the water and he and his family and the animals he saved were protected against the flood.

Chapter Eight

After the flood subsided and the waters began to recede, Noah opened a window of the boat and found himself atop a large hill. To test how far the flood waters had gone down, Noah sent a raven out of the window, which could only go to and fro. Next he sent a dove, but the dove could not find a place to land, so it returned to the boat where Noah put out his hand and took it and brought it into the boat with him. The next day, he sent the dove again and the dove came back to him in the evening with a freshly-plucked olive leaf in his beak. So Noah knew that the waters were subsiding. When he sent out the dove again the next day, the dove did not return, so Noah and his family left the boat to find dry land.

Noah immediately made a fire, killed an animal, and cooked a feast of meat for his family, because they had been living off of stored food for several days. As he smelled the pleasing odor, Noah said to himself, "Although the human heart is evil from youth, no one deserves to die in a flood like this, and I hope this never happens again."