Continuing on the discussion of whether there is ONE Right answer, we are now headed to the Garden of Eden. Put on your seatbelts kids!
The story of Adam and Eve (both from the OT and the Quran) is my favorite religious lesson. It is the story of man's consciousness, of the struggle between right and wrong and the burdens that come with having choices. I believe it is the first story in the Bible because it presents the basic dilemma with which humanity struggles - choice. Everything that follows in the Bible is an attempt to cope with the dilemma.
God created Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden. The garden was full of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was free to eat from any tree in the garden, but God told him that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was off limits. Ix-nay on that ee-tray Adam.
Adam was lonely though, so God put him to sleep, removed one of his ribs and created a woman as his wife. She was named Eve because she would become the mother of all the living. What a great addition to the garden. Adam and Eve were chillin', frolicking with no knowledge of their nakedness. Not a care in the world. Until the serpent showed up.
Eve knew the rules about the forbidden tree, but the serpent deceived her. The serpent assured Eve that she would not die from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, but instead her eyes would be opened and she would "be like God, knowing good and evil." The fruit looked pretty good and Eve thought wisdom and Godliness would be kinda cool, so she grabbed the fruit and chowed down. She even passed some over to Adam. And after he ate, "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked."
Dude, God was pissed off! He cursed the serpent, he cursed Eve, yelled at Adam for listening to his stupid wife and then banished them from the garden. "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." Cherubim and flaming swords were placed at the east side of the garden to prevent Adam and Eve from returning to the tree of life.
The knowledge of good and evil is to have choice. When you are a child, you have no knowledge of your nakedness. How many pictures do your parents have of you in the bathtub? You have no knowledge of good and evil. The world is your oyster and your biggest responsibility is to read cute stories and play with your friends.
As you grow up, however, you mature. You learn that things aren't as innocent as they once seemed. Your consciousness starts to grasp that there is good and evil in the world and ultimately, you are deceived into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. No more photos of you naked in the bathtub (unless that's your thing). No more making nice with anyone and everyone. There is good and evil in the world and you now have to choose between the two. As soon as you eat the fruit, your parents, your church, synagogue or mosque and your peers bombard you with admonitions about what is good and what is evil. You define yourself and shape your values around those choices.
It is tough though. Choices are accompanied by consequences and, in our fear-based society, people live in terror of having to take responsibility for bad choices. They lament their banishment from the garden -- "I wish I was a kid again, I didn't have any responsibilities." "It wasn't my fault, I couldn't help it, I couldn't control that, someone else made me do it." All of these phrases come from people who hate choices and fear consequences. So they get into relationships where the spouse makes ALL the decisions. They get into jobs where they can say "I just work here, it's not my department". When shit hits the fan, they shrug their shoulders and say "it wasn't my responsibility, what is everyone else going to do to fix it?" These abdications of choice and responsibility are their false attempts to sneak back into the garden but the cherubs and flaming swords get them everytime.
Having integrity is yet another way to cope with banishment. As I explained in my last post, integrity is the strict adherence to a moral code. If you convince yourself that there is only one Right answer and that everything else is wrong, you abdicate your responsibility to make choices and to face the consequences. If your religion says things are black and white and there is no grey, then you are not responsible for your choices. You can abdicate all responsibility to God. If Ayn Rand says certain things are right because they make rational sense, you abdicate responsibility for the emotional realm.
The fine line between good and evil is not as clear as those with integrity would like to think. Let's take the "pro-life" camp for example. Abortion is evil because God says it's bad to take another life. Ask most pro-lifers and they are pro-death penalty and pro-war. So much for that turn the other cheek stuff. The qualifications start coming immediately - it's wrong to take "innocent" life. What about the thousands of innocent Iraqis who have lost their lives in the name of "democracy"? "That's war" is their heartless response, without a hint of sadness or empathy. The principle was originally pro-life, it then morphed into pro-innocent life and finally landed on pro-innocent life unless there is a war. So much for strict adherence.
These are the people who get the most upset when you challenge the contradictions. They were frolicking in the garden without a care in the world because they weren't worried about choices - someone else (God, Pat Robertson, Bill O'Reilly, Anne Coulter) already handled that for them. And you disrupted fantasyland with your insolent lack of faith. Damn you reality based people! You must be a stupid, liberal, squishy, godless, flip-flopper with no principles to suggest that the line between good and evil isn't clear.
Is it possible to live outside the garden without making choices? No. Is it possible to be so confident that you have the one sole only R
ight answer without crossing the line between good and evil? No. The Bible tells us we are like God when we know the difference between good and evil, but God is no consistent fellow. He spared Noah and his family, but gambled with the Devil over Job's life and sent his only son to suffer a gruesome death. Perhaps, as exemplified by Che, the knowledge of good and evil is meant to remind each person that he has the potential to do good and to do evil. As soon as you know
you are right, you may lose sight of the line.