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I’ve got to the point where, and I know this will be counter-productive, I have to claim that anyone who believes this story actually happened is an idiot. Such believers are idiots. There, I’ve said it. Deal with it.

I know there will be some Christians who might come across this article who believe in the historical veracity of the story and who will stop reading on account of my forthright position that they are idiots. But sometimes you just gotta tell it like it is.

And, because it’s what I do, I’ll help them along the way to realising it is ahistorical so that they can deal with it.

God’s Omniscience. Again.

I discussed this in the context of the Flood. Both stories show that God is not omniscient. Let me remind you of the Tower of Babel story (Genesis 11):

11 Now all the earth [a]used the same language and [b]the same words. And it came about, as they journeyed [c]east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and [d]settled there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and [e]fire them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.” Now the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the [f]men had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have [g]the same language. And this is what they have started to do, and now nothing which they plan to do will be [h]impossible for them. Come, [i]let Us go down and there confuse their [j]language, so that they will not understand one another’s [k]speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore it was named [l]Babel, because there the Lord confused the [m]language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Yet again, the story reports God getting a realisation, not knowing something from the start. With the Flood, if God really did have divine foreknowledge, he would not have realised humans were so wicked and have to start again (he would have got it right originally, thus avoiding millions of human and billions of animal deaths). With the Tower of Babel, he wouldn’t have to pop down to Earth to see what humans were up to and then realise that they were getting together, using their teamwork, and building things up to the heavens. This  is what they have started to do, God realises, musing.

The narrative makes no sense of his omniscience and foreknowledge.

What Was God Scared Of?

Given the omniscience incoherence and the idea that God has divine foreknowledge, I’m not quite sure what God would be scared of humans doing? He would know what we were going to do anyway. There’s no “If I don’t do something now, they might…”

It appears that God was thinking we would become as gods: “…and now nothing which they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Is this a serious worry? And, given that we have hugely advanced since that tiny building issue, is this not incoherent? If God was truly omnipotent, there really was nothing to worry about. 

God’s omnipotence should mean that he doesn’t have to worry one iota about anything like this.

It’s utter nonsense.

How Did the Authors Know What Was Said?

This is a problem I have with…the entire Bible. Biblical authors, Old Testament and New, did not have Dictaphones, or even pen and paper. How do we/they know:

  1. What God said to humans?
  2. What God said to himself?
  3. What God thinks?
  4. What humans said to humans?
  5. What humans thought?
  6. What Jesus said in private conversations?
  7. What Jesus thought?

Jesus has private conversations with Pilate and somehow we have accurate representations?

All throughout the Bible, conversations are supposedly accurately reported.

Challenge: Go look at modern history books, especially ones dealing with ages before accurate speech recording. Then analyse how many conversations are recorded. Then compare the modern history books to the Bible.

Beware of speech being reported. I talked about this in the context of Thucydides here.

Of course, one wonders how the biblical authors knew the mind of God or what he was saying (presumably to his divine council). This wasn’t, after all, God speaking to humans. God wouldn’t say to humans, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

But We Have Skyscrapers.

As hinted at already, we have an issue with what the people were “punished for” then and what we are now presently doing, which is far in excess of those of Babel, by orders of magnitude! Such builders at the time really weren’t equipped with the knowledge or technology to build very high at all. God came down in response to their teamwork and high building skills to throw them the length and breadth of the Earth and give them different languages. And yet, even with those various languages, we can not only build skyscrapers, but we can land on the Moon and fly craft into the solar system.

Give over.

As fellow Patheoser Adam Lee states:

The Christian Answers site [previously referenced in his piece] claims that it was not the height of the tower that invited doom, but its devotion to the pagan Babylonian gods. But even so, we regularly build statues, mosques and other edifices to religions which the Bible claims are false. Why have none of the builders of these structures been stricken with curses? Has God calmed down, so that hubris in the present era enrages him less than hubris of past eras? Or is it simply that, in superstitious and pre-scientific times, miracles could be claimed with less fear of contradiction?

And Now They Give Up Working Together

“…let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” The idea is that God confuses them – because teamwork is bad, right? – and they are unable to work together on account of having different languages. This seems so simplistic, as if it is just the ruminations of a pretty much pre-literate and pre-advanced technological society… After all, we have the Uniter Nations now. Is God scared?

Because, you know, with all the languages in the world, we are still unable to communicate and work together. Look, the $125 million  Mars Climate Orbiter space probe failed years back, not because of language differences but because they failed to convert imperial to metric in one of the calculations…

It’s Not How Languages Evolved.

We know how languages evolved and it wasn’t like that. The story is refuted by linguistics. Go research it, Christian.

Nuff said.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...