Making shit up is fine, saying it’s true isn’t
Kneeling Man: Oi, God, are you there? No? Doesn’t matter. I’m in the mood for a rant, not a conversation.
KM: Horses stand around in paddocks wondering what the fuck’s going on. Then they stop wondering, look down and eat grass. This goes on until something happens. Such as when someone comes along and gets on their back. They still don’t know what the fuck’s going on, but it gives them something to do. Either take the person for a ride, or try to buck them off. Or both.
When men and women sit around wondering what the fuck’s going on, some wait for something to happen (often the best thing to do if there are a few cold beers handy), and others decide to do something. They can either try to figure out what the fuck’s going on, or, if that’s too difficult (it’s called science), they can make shit up. We make shit up for entertainment mostly, but we also do it to educate. And sometimes to deceive. It’s what we do. Making shit up is one of the things that sets us apart from horses.
The shit we make up can be good or bad or brilliant. It can be poetry, or a painting, or a song, or a good story. Which can be a great experience for the person who creates it, and very enjoyable for an audience too. All good clean fun. Until the person who made the shit up claims the shit they made up isn’t made up at all, but is real, as in actually, factually real. The problems resulting from this can range from a minor spat between infants to all out war and genocide.
Penn Jillette hates it when people in the magic business pretend that magic is “magic”, as in mystical woo-woo, rather than expertly executed tricks. It puts a slightly sinister and wholly dishonest edge on entertainment that should be good clean fun. Such magicians seem to take pleasure in conning the gullible, rather than entertaining peers. I’m not sure if Penn has taken this as far as I’m about to here, but if so, I apologise. (It might be one of those things where you wake up thinking you’ve had an original thought but in fact your brain’s used dreamtime to rehash something you’ve already heard, and make you think you thought of it.)
People who put on the woo-woo may be motivated by trying to generate the guru effect, under which attractive young women are deceived into willingly offering themselves up for the sexual gratification of the mystical master.
When a charlatan finds he’s having some success with the woo-woo guru effect (it’s pretty much always men that do this), he may decide to go full bhagwan maharishi and start his own religion. For those who enjoy power and domination, having your own flock to do your bidding, give you money, and exercise your party bits, is the ultimate win. The shit you make up, which you call the truth, can be whatever you think your flock will swallow, the only requirement being that it’s not too easy to prove it’s bullshit. In the short term at least.
Whoever wrote the Bible didn’t go for the finding stuff out thing, they went for the making shit up option. It’s obvious they didn’t know anything about planets, stars, solar systems, the universe or anything like that, because back then, nobody did. Those who chose the scientific option were mostly preoccupied with swords and aqueducts and wine.
As all writers know, the moment you’ve written once upon a time, or, in the beginning, you have to write some more words. And if you don’t know what really happened in the beginning (still a mystery), you have to make something up. Usually a story.
Which is fine. We all like a good story. And if the story has a moral to it, one that helps us understand our place in the world and offers some guidance or reason for our existence, that’s even better. Stories that help us understand something about the human condition are always useful. But if a story’s made up, and then claimed to be true, with a large dollop of mystical woo-woo attached, that makes it dishonest and sinister.
Whoever wrote the book of Genesis was making shit up in order to fill a massive void in the “what the fuck’s going on” situation. It was a story to help people deal with the big questions, and to provide answers.
Which would have been fine had it been a book of the month, superseded by new books reflecting the ever-growing knowledge of mankind, but somehow it became a book of millennia, with huge dollops of “interpretation” becoming necessary to get past the problem that when read literally, it’s self-evident nonsense.
There are many different versions of the Bible, but in simple terms the book of Genesis starts like this –
Day 1 – In the beginning God created day and night.
Day 2 – God created the sky.
Day 3 – God created the land and the sea and the plants and the trees.
Day 4 – God created the sun, moon, and stars.
In other words, day and night, and plants and trees, pre-existed the sun.
Which is self-evident nonsense. Just plain wrong. Utterly impossible. Of course nobody back then knew about the solar system or how it works. If a creator of the solar system ever existed, they obviously had nothing to do with the writing of Genesis. Obviously, because it would have been so easy to at least get it chronologically correct whilst remaining ecclesiastically vague.
For example –
In the beginning, God created the universe, scattering stars and all manner of celestial objects far and wide.
Then, God created the earth and the oceans and the mountains and the lakes.
Then, God created all the plants and trees and creatures in the sea, and in the air, and on the land.
Then, God rested.
There, just like that. Easy. But it wasn’t written that way because they didn’t know what the fuck was going on. So they settled for making shit up. And claimed it was true. And then they hunted and killed and burnt people at the stake who dared to contradict them. For hundreds of years.
Which is why we need to start teaching kids to assume everything’s fiction unless decent evidence exists to the contrary. In fact we all need to develop skills to be less vulnerable to scamming charlatans of all types, whether religious, political, financial, emotional or magical.
And it’s also why watching someone doing card tricks or juggling or playing football or riding horses or listening to Penn’s Sunday School is a much better way to spend your Sundays than going to church.
God: I can hear you.
God: Are you feeling somewhat unburdened?
God: Night, Neel. Sleep well.