Third place — Grad student essay contest: Joseph Sankowski
An irrational shipwreck
FFRF awarded Joseph $2,500.
By Joseph Sankowski
Children raised in Christian homes are exposed to numerous apocryphal stories from the bible by an early age. Of all these tales, perhaps none is more preposterous — even to the mind of a young child — than that of Noah’s ark. This absurd fable is regaled to youth more frequently than possibly any other biblical story — spare the creation myth or the birth of Christ. For an unfortunate number of these youngsters, this fallacy is taught as fact. Misguided parents, teachers and ministers, who were often themselves erroneously led in their youth, preach this fabrication as the literal truth. Through repeated contact, children are desensitized to the glaring inexactitudes bursting forth from this story and are blinded to its ability to single-handedly sink the factual accountability of “the word of God.”
The gross inaccuracies of the creation myth might go unnoticed by children. So, too, might the implied incest in the lineage of Adam and Eve. However, not long after encountering the story of Noah’s Ark, many children will inevitably be left with questions that literal translations can’t legitimately answer. One of these is: “How were all of the animals able to get along without eating each other?” Many children are sure to receive the perfunctory “Noah kept them in separate pens” answer, but then what did the carnivores eat for 40 days? More inquisitive youth will undoubtedly ask about the size of the ark. Fortunately for them, the ridiculousness of this is spelled out because the ark’s dimensions are listed. If they inquire further as to what a cubit is, they’re left with the answer that the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall. It won’t take most youngsters long to realize that there are a vast number of species on Earth, and to fit two to 14 of each of them on a ship smaller than the U.S.S. Arizona is dubious, to say the least.
Astute children who realize these flaws and ask questions of them are met with the most dangerous response of all: “God made it so.” This trump card of ignorance seems to solve every discrepancy in the bible. Those who hear it used to account for one biblical illogicality are bound to hear it used for another. This sentiment is echoed through phrases such as “God works in mysterious ways.” This repugnant line of thought is the ultimate appeal to ignorance. To claim that “God” intervenes on the rules that “God made” in order to account for the bible’s numerous incompatibilities is a surefire way to nurture an irrational mind. These “miracles” are the only thing keeping literal interpretations of the bible afloat.
Children are routinely indoctrinated by this nonsense before they reach the age of reason.
With the age of reason these questions often arise. With these questions come the uninformed answers. Through repeated exposure to this material, many unfortunate kids begin to blindly accept the narrative and the explanations by adults whom they trust (and who should know better.) Those raised on a literal translation of the bible become a liability to a democratic society if these unfounded beliefs persist. The bible’s unreliable text has been used to justify legal stances on slavery, abortion, women’s rights, environmental issues, immigration, and just about every other matter that has come up in a self-governed society.
Children taught to interpret the bible literally have been dangerously misinformed of its proper usage. When understood as a work of poetry or a metaphorical-laden work of fiction, the bible is fine. But when taught as the irrefutable words of a supreme creator, the bible becomes a dangerous weapon in the hands of an irresponsible owner. No sane person would use the Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter series as a flight manual. In the same manner, no sensible person should use the bible as an authority on ethics or the history of the Earth, the cosmos or humanity. Its credibility comes into question almost immediately after one begins to read it. Yet, every day, countless voters and lawmakers use it as the basis for their beliefs, decisions and policies. This puerile trust in a fallacious book should have sunk with Noah’s Ark.
Joseph, 27, is from Toledo, Ohio, and attends the University of Toledo, where he is majoring in middle childhood education as an undergrad. After some time re-evaluating his career path, he decided to go back to college at age 24 to pursue a career as a sixth-grade English and social studies teacher.