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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

2. Would We Be Better Off Without Religion?

Updated: Apr 8


It's not about better or worse. Religion was inevitable.


Parshah Noach

TL;DR of the Text

Major Themes

  • Would we have been better off without religion?

  • We’re all connected

  • We all have bad thoughts - so what?

  • Where do souls live?

  • Racism


*Important attribution note: All quotes listed in this article are credited to the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. Here is an Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

Genesis 6:9*  

“Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations.” 

God judged Noah according to his circumstances. The verse also implies the existence of noticeable differences between generations - humanity has a distinct trajectory, whether or not we are conscious of it.


Genesis 6:13*

“God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through [humans]; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth.” 

After its creation, humanity didn't take long to debase itself and fall into depravity. If we look around us today, we are once more on the cusp of the same descent.


When the Bible depicts the pre-Torah generations as unfathomably immoral, I trust it. I can only imagine what humanity would be capable of if we were to discard even the meager guardrails provided by our religions. Without them, we would have been left to our own devices, descending into more primal forms of evil - such as the Vikings, with their widespread rape and murder for murder’s sake, or the Aztecs, with their child sacrifices.


Did religion provide a better path than the one we would have followed in our natural state? Non-religious people often claim organized religion is the root of most of the world’s evils. In one specific way, this might be true.


Did religion provide a better path than the one we would have followed in our natural state?

As I’ve said elsewhere, I believe the Torah, which serves as the original text for the world’s major monotheistic religions, purposefully contains the root of all nuanced evil in order to expedite the process of overcoming our basest impulses. We are so much better than the morality found in this book. At the same time, I do not, under any circumstances, think we would have been better off without it.


We are so much better than the morality found in this book.

When people blame organized religion for the world’s evils, I say maybe. More likely, the Crusaders, ISIS, or the people who want to wipe Gaza off the map, would have pursued violence irrespective of their religion, and I’d bet religion restrained their worst impulses.


Religion is powerful enough to help incarcerated inmates turn their lives around. We have within our souls a deep desire to search for something more.


Genesis 6:14*

“Make for yourself an Ark of gopher wood; make the Ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch.” 

The rabbis see the phrase “Make for yourself” as God’s implicit rebuke of Noah’s behavior. They say God judged Noah because Noah chose to remain aloof to his fellow citizens instead of encouraging them to improve their conduct.


It seems more likely this is about free will again. What better way to be sure Noah actively chose his destiny than to ask him to choose, day in and day out, by completing a task as arduous as building an ark from scratch?


Genesis 7:21-22*

“And all flesh that moves upon the earth expired - among the birds, the animals, the beasts, and all the creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all mankind. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life...” 

Despite this passage being a downer, the last part echoes a sentiment we’ve been hearing more and more of in recent years: we are all connected. “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life” - singular breath, singular spirit of life. When we think of this concept, it’s often in a cute, easily dismissed way: Yes, quite sweet, of course we’re all one, dear.


What if it’s true? The concepts of countries and politics are becoming increasingly absurd in this hyper-connected world. Yes, we have a lot of people whose beliefs and riches depend on maintaining the status quo. But the rest of us are tired of it, and our cultural differences feel much less relevant than our global challenges.


Genesis 8:21*

“Hashem said in His heart: ‘I will not continue to curse again the ground because of man, since the imagery of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again continue to smite every living being, as I have done.’” 

God is not saying man is evil from their youth; He’s saying the imagery of our hearts is evil. While true, this isn’t our fault! Nor is it a big deal.


the me too, kid meme with the caption: Humans telling God they have evil thoughts. God: Me too, kid.

As part of the free will package, you get the whole spectrum of existence - good, bad, really good, really, really bad. Terrible thoughts float around our brains every single day. God knows it doesn’t mean we’re bad, or we act on our thoughts, or even pay attention to them.


God seems to have admitted He made a mistake with the flood. Why wouldn’t we believe God capable of making mistakes? If God modeled us after His own nature, and we make mistakes when our emotions overwhelm our reasoning, does it not make sense for God to err as well?


Culturally, we define perfection as never doing anything wrong, but this is an impossible benchmark even for God. If God contains everything, then He also experiences the darkness as well. Maybe perfection isn’t found in always doing everything right, but rather in always recognizing errors and doing everything possible to improve.


Maybe perfection isn’t found in always doing everything right, but rather in always recognizing errors and doing everything possible to improve.

Genesis 9:3-5*

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for [humans]; like the green herbage I have given you everything. But flesh; with its soul its blood you shall not eat. However, your blood which belongs to your souls I will demand.” 

I don’t know if I can quite explain why this passage makes sense; it strikes a chord on some innate level. 500 years ago, people accepted this kind of intrinsic knowledge as one of many truths of the human experience. The Age of Enlightenment brought us a lot of good, but it also did a number on our ability to think outside the box.


It feels obvious our true souls exist somewhere, just not here. In this physical plane, blood has to be the connection between our bodies and souls. There might not be any other logical option.


The brain is a contender, but it’s only in our heads! Even if you say, “OK, but what about the nerves?” I’d say the brain and nervous system are our body’s electricity. They light up the place. But blood is life - after all, there’s a reason it’s called lifeblood. If you eat blood, you’d be eating the substance that gave the animal life.


Genesis 9:24*

“Noah awoke from his wine and realized what his small son had done to him. And he said, ‘Cursed is Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’” 

Noah saved the world, planted a vineyard, and got drunk, as one does when one saves the world. His son Ham, the father of the future nation of Canaan, saw Noah naked in his tent and, instead of covering him up, ran to go tell his brothers, e.g., “Guys, look at what Dad did!”


According to the Bible, this one act caused all of the racism present in today’s society because, following the theory in Origin Story, something had to introduce racism into the world.


Genesis 11:4-7*

“And [humans] said, ‘Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth.’ 

Hashem descended to look at the city and tower which the sons of man built, and Hashem said, ‘Behold, they are one people with one language for all, and this they begin to do! And now, should it not be withheld from them all they proposed to do? Come, let us descend and there confuse their language, that they should not understand one another’s language.’” 

A lot of people interpret the Tower of Babel as God punishing evil - how dare these people attempt to reach the lofty heights of the heavens! God probably saw them and had an uh-oh moment. “Uh oh, this is all happening too fast. They still have a lot left to learn.”


*Again with the Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

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