Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Fourth place — Grad student essay contest: Danyka J. Morgan

Vol. 36 No. 09 November 2019
Danyka J. Morgan                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

To question is damnation

FFRF awarded Danyka $2,000.

By Danyka J. Morgan

The biblical myth of Eve in the Garden of Eden partaking of the forbidden fruit is one of the most prolific scriptural anecdotes within the Christian narrative. Eve’s tale transfixes the reader through relatable moral elements that sink its abysmal hooks into the psyche of the individual reader. This effect ripples into culture as individuals studying this ideology form communities that propagate obvious anti-feminine dogma. Such deleterious principles also encourage policies that are uninformed at the very least and often harmful to society at large. Most concerning, Eve’s punishment for the act of seeking wisdom through inquisitive exploration sends a clear message to its readers: Do not question. The religious objective is to provide humankind with a moral code decided upon by the leaders of this blind belief. Reliance on an external force to dictate a personal moral code halts the developmental process for the individual. Further, persecution over the pursuit of knowledge produces a society uninterested in the quest for truth and open-minded exploration of inquiry.

The biblical myth identifies Eve as both the initiating transgressor of treachery and the mischievous manipulator of her male counterpart. Superficial religious principles derived from this part of the myth — along with recurring anti-female themes throughout the bible — endorse patriarchal attitudes that suffocate the advocacy of feminism. A nation thoroughly influenced by Christian ideology is rife with pernicious policies that exclude female input and personal choice. This claim is corroborated by the century it took to gain women’s suffrage and is most currently observable in present policy dictating women’s reproductive rights.

This position has been comprehensively recognized and discussed at length throughout modern intellectual culture. More nuanced, however, are the implications of religious dogma that require its followers to consider personal exploration for “wisdom” as a sin.

The setting of the fabled Garden of Eden tale is analogous to the environment of an adolescent in the real world. The authority figure (God in the case of religion, guardians in the circumstances of a child) provide sustenance for the ward dependent upon the parental figurehead(s). In order to keep the maturing adolescent safe, those considered to have the “wisdom” set rules and boundaries for guiding the developing individual. As children grow, learn and explore, they begin to cross thresholds of development that require pushing against previously established boundaries. Children want to know why, to experience life, and to seek knowledge for themselves. In the allegory of Eve — and as with religion — questioning is not tolerated. Even more so, curiosity is punishable.

To hinder personal growth of a child in actuality would be considered abhorrent. In a religious setting it is normative. Those who poke at the incoherent — and often contradictory — veil of biblical “wisdom” are outcasts, nonbelievers, or in the very least, confused. One is required to believe without evidence, to obey without complaint. An environment that fosters healthy development promotes exploration of theory, encourages investigation and welcomes open-ended discussion. Religious dogma prohibits these examinations. The castigation of Eve warns faith followers that seeking wisdom is out of bounds. To question is to invite damnation, according to biblical text.

As the average adolescent progresses throughout life, guardianship will taper off until the individual has gained enough knowledge to govern their own actions responsibly. Entities that require staunch obedience to indisputable decree seek to gain positions of absolute unremitting authority. Under religious persuasion, individuals are led to believe they cannot be responsible for themselves. A moral code is provided for the faithful. Questions and answers are limited by governing sources. Self-gained wisdom is forbidden. One can fathom how such restraining regulations might suppress innovation and evolution.

While Eve’s biblical passage of defiance disseminates anti-feminist rhetoric in favor of patriarchal dominance, the extreme religious command to deny the pursuit of knowledge cannot be ignored within the text. Religion seeks to mediate inquiry and answer. To soothe quizzical minds into a mass religious psychosis reliant on an “all-knowing” hand to spoon feed personal morals and dictate capricious cultural boundaries. These arbitrary strictures foster stagnation of society through a culture shackled by religious constraints and stifled by an omnipotent authority that claims to reign supreme in knowledge. Instead, one should refute and reject religious dogma to inquire and explore beyond religious boundaries. To take of the forbidden fruit.

Danyka, 25, is from Meridian, Idaho, and attends the College of Western Idaho, where she is working on a master’s degree in social work. She is the mother of three kids who are being raised as freethinkers. Her interests include the human psyche and personal wellness.