The first of these experiences was a few years ago when two little old ladies, clutching pamphlets, knocked on my door one evening and enquired as to my religious faith. The conversation, as I recall, went like this:
“Good evening dear, may we have a few moments of your time?”
“Thank you very much. Are you catholic?”
“No I’m not.”
“Oh, you’re Christian then are you?”
“No…I’m not religious; I don’t practice any faith.” The two little old ladies looked slightly baffled and in their eyes I saw a hint of concern for my well-being. After a few seconds, little old lady number one composed herself and responded.
“Oh I see, but you’ve been baptised so you have?”
“That’ll be no again.” I replied with a smile.
At this point, looks of abject horror and despair emanated from both little old ladies’ faces. I thought I was going to have to offer them a chair each and start fanning them.
After a few seconds of looking like they had just seen the devil’s scrotum, little old lady number two offered her pamphlet to me and started to talk about the Virgin Mary. Precisely at that moment I decided to stop listening and attempted to edge away from them and close the door as subtly as I could.
I said “Aha, I see, right.” every so often, so as to try and seem interested and not hurt their feelings too much (there’s no need to be impolite after all), but at the same time hoping they would catch the look in my eye that was politely requesting them to bugger off.
I shuffled back a few more steps and continued to inch the door closed. She finally got the hint that I wasn’t overly keen on listening to her ramble on about Catholicism and in desperation (at the thought of my soul burning in hell for all eternity I imagine) she thrust her pamphlet into my midriff along with a tiny gold medallion on a thin red string.
“Those are for you dear; keep them and have a think about what we’ve discussed.”
“Thanks, bye.” I closed the door and had a little chuckle to myself as I held the plastic gold medallion I had just received at arms length like it was a poisonous snake. Minutes later, both gifts from the two little old ladies found there way into my rubbish bin and the whole curious incident was put behind me.
My second experience came only a few days ago on a wet and windy morning. I lumbered downstairs after I had made myself visually acceptable for the day and noticed a postcard protruding through my letterbox. I pulled it free, straightened it a little, and cast my sleepy eyes over it. On the front was a brightly coloured montage of all kinds of scarily happy people. There was a man with his wife, a dad fishing with his son, an Asian lady shaking hands with a man whilst being stared at by another man and a tall woman with big hair; a young couple, and an old man wearing a smile that suggested he had just done something worrying to your cat.
The heading on the postcard was written in a softly glowing white font and read “abundant life”, and there was a sub-heading too “safety through life’s storms”. Sandwiched between those two was a picture of Pastors Kevin and Heather Sanford who were, rather over-confidently I thought, offering me “family” and “answers” and smiling like Cheshire cats who had just discovered that their cream had a whole family of drowned mice in it.
I stood for moment and scratched my head; much like a monkey wearing a tutu would, and thought about what I was holding in my hands.
What does “Safety through life’s storms” mean? Do they sell lighting rods or storm shelters perhaps?
What do they mean by “Family”? Will they just give me any old family or can I choose or even mix and match?
What on earth can “Answers” mean? Answers to which questions? Are we talking about the sort of answers that will make me slightly better at pub quizzes or the sort of answers that will make me a God among men?
I turned the postcard over to see if there was any more information on the reverse side regarding this incredibly ambitious offer, but there wasn’t. On the other side was just some thin black text on a white background, which had a faint sketch of a large wooden boat in the middle of it. Here is what was written verbatim:
“What Noah’s Ark is really about…
What is the Ark and what is the story behind it? Many believe it is only a fable. There are, however, plenty of facts to give it weight enough for honest debate. Consider this:
There are over five hundred legends from around the world of a “great flood”, most are similar to the Genesis account. How could that be possible unless it were true?
The 6 to 1 length/width ratio is what modern ship builders often use today.
It would have been of ample size (There wasn’t a ship built as large until the Queen Mary in the 1800’s).
The top 3,000 feet of Mount Everest (tallest in the world) is made up of sedimentary rock (which is formed under water) [sic] packed with seashells and other ocean-dwelling animals.
Also compelling, Jesus Christ spoke of Noah as an actual historical person and the flood as a bona fide historical event (Mt24:37-39), as did the apostle Peter (2Peter3:3-8).”
Frankly, I find it highly irritating when someone has the impudence to shove their religious clap-trap through my letterbox with the word “facts” casually thrown in. I get tonnes of crap through my letter box everyday which ordinarily it doesn’t piss me off and that’s because Chinese take-away menus don’t attempt to clasp me in a pair of divine handcuffs or try to sell me “salvation” (although chicken fried rice has, on more than one occasion, been my salvation it has to be said).
Anyway, I shall proceed to debunk these so-called “facts” because it’s only fair that I do.
To claim that five hundred other (note the adjective “similar”) accounts of “Great Floods” could not be possible unless the Genesis account is true is simply absurd. Enough said.
Let’s consider, for arguments sake, the possibility that Noah’s Ark was a real historical event which took place somewhere between 2309 and 3402 BC. According to Genesis, God, on observing man’s evil behaviour, decided he was going to flood the earth and destroy all life. However, He commanded Noah to build an Ark and to take on board with him a male and female example of every animal and bird.
I like to think Noah’s big moment with God went something like this:
“God? Is…is that you?”
“YES NOAH. THIS…IS…GOD.”
“Ahem…I command thee, Noah, to go forth and build a magnificent Ark large enough to carry you, your wife and family; and two of every animal. Oh and some food and stuff I suppose.”
“Gotcha. What’s that then?”
“Oh Jesus Christ! It’s a big wooden boat! An Ark! An Ark!”
“ooooooohhhh riiiiigggght…but why?”
“DO NOT QUESTION THE MYSTERIOUS WAYS OF GOD…”
“Shit, sorry, sorry.”
“…And stop swearing for Christ’s sake!”
“Yes, of course, sorry oh Great One.”
“YOU, Noah, are the righteous one, blameless among the people of your time and that’s why I have chosen you. Although I’m beginning to have my doubts now I must admit. Anyway you’ll have to do, it’s too late to choose anyone else now; I’ve already got storm clouds brewing.”
“Thank you my Lord. I have tried my best to live a blameless life. I have a picture of you in every room of my house and I pray every night…”
“Yes, yes, I’m aware of that, I am omnipresent you know. Incidentally, while we’re on the subject, take that picture down of me in your hallway. It’s ghastly, it makes me look ancient.”
“It shall be done my Lord.”
“Good, now back to business. I have been observing man’s evil behaviour and have decided to flood the earth and destroy all life. It will be known as: The Great Flood.”
“Yup. No more Mr. Nice Guy…I’ve just about had it up to here with all your adultery and debauchery and God knows what else. Well, when I say “God knows what else” it’s just a figure of speech of course because I am God and I do know “what else”.
”But, I haven’t done any of that sort of stuff…”
“Yes, yes, I know you haven’t done any of that, but everyone else is at it day and night and I’ve had just about enough of it I tell you.”
“I don’t blame you your Lordship. I couldn’t believe what I saw my next door neighbour doing last night with a pig and his…”
“…I’m fully aware of what he did, thank you very much – omnipresence does have its downside.”
“…I just couldn’t believe he put it right inside…”
“…I know! Can we just drop it? – I’ve only just had my breakfast for Christ’s sake.”
“…I just felt sorry for the poor pig…”
“Look! Do you want to be murdered horribly and drowned too?”
“No my Lord! Please, I beg your forgiveness. I am but a simple man.”
“Right, then stop talking about that unfortunate pig and your perverted neighbour. I’ve only just got the sound of that pig squealing out of my head – I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.”
“Of course my Lord. So tell me more about your Great Flood, how long will it last?”
“Meh….I’m thinking around 40 days & 40 nights – give or take a day or two.”
“Good heavens…that’s awfully long.”
“Well, yes I suppose it is a little on the long side, but I want you lot to know I’m not pissing about this time alright?”
“Yes my Lord, it is a wonderful idea to rid the world of all sinners. Er, just one thing my Lord?”
“I don’t know how to build an Ark or even a boat come to that.”
“I keep telling you an Ark is a boat! And anyway how difficult can it be? For goodness sake man, use your initiative! There’s a carpenter that lives three doors down from you, go and ask him how to build one.”
“But I’ve only ever seen him make chairs my Lord…and not very good ones either. “
“Really? Oh, well, I suppose I can send down some instructions. I’ll stick them on a stone tablet or something.”
“Oh thank you my lord. And, just one other thing before you go, oh Great One?”
“Yesss, what is it now?”
“Why two of every animal my Lord?”
“Good grief, you might be righteous and blameless Noah but you really are quite stupid aren’t you – why do you think?”
“Errrrm…is it so they don’t get lonely?”
“No, no, no. Well, sort of, yes. It’s so they can procreate.”
“Procreate. Reproduce. Multiply.”
“Errrrgghhh! What, on the boat?”
“No of course not on the boat you buffoon. They can go off and do it discreetly when I land you on the mountains of Ararat.”
“What about spiders my Lord? Must they be brought too?”
“Yes, even spiders. It’s vital you have two of every animal because I don’t want to have to arse about making any more. It took me ages last time and the millipedes were a complete nightmare.”
“Okay, it’s just…I really don’t like spiders.”
“Okay fine, leave the sodding spiders then. It only took me days upon days to put all their little legs on, but that’s fine, if you don’t “like” them just let them all die. See if I care.”
“Oh wonderful, thank you God…actually my wife’s not too keen on camels, she says…”
“…Look Noah! I’m this far away from smiting you into oblivion. Just build a sodding boat, put two of every sodding animal you can find on it and set sodding sail! Soon! OKAY?”
“As you command my God, My Lord, My…”
“You won’t even have to steer the bloody thing I’ll do that for you!”
“I am not worthy of you my Lord…”
“You can say that again.”
“I am not…”
“Oh, do shut up Noah.”
“Yes my Lord.”
Traditionalists will tell you that two of every species were taken on the Ark, but the more modern (and fractionally more plausible) position is that two of every kind was taken on board – e.g. a male and female of the cat kind.
Most biblical literalists believe the Ark was 450 feet long (137m). which is considerably longer than the largest wooden-hulled vessel ever built (the schooner Wyoming) which measured 329 feet (100m) and needed iron cross-bracing to keep it from falling apart and a steam pump to handle a significant leak problem. The largely agreed on gross volume of the Ark is 1.5 million cubic feet and the total floor space is mostly agreed on at 100,000 square feet.
So what we have here is one massive ship. I mean, this is a seriously BIG ship, it’s gargantuan, humongous, it’s very, very, very, BIG. And it’s made of wood, either pine or cedar.
I find it difficult to imagine a wooden boat that, if you stood it on its end, would be as tall as the London Eye. Can you imagine that?
It doesn’t need me to point out the fact (but I will anyway) that it’s extremely doubtful that anyone could have built a ship that size out of wood. It’s simply pushing the practical limit for the size of a wooden ship. Even if they did somehow manage to construct such a behemoth, it’s still highly unlikely it would have even been able to sail, let alone carry hundreds of thousands of animals and enough cargo to last 5 months at sea.
The story of Noah’s Ark is harmless enough when we keep in mind that it is just that, a story, a tale, a symbolic legend, but it’s simply idiotic of Mr and Mrs Looney-Tunes, I mean Sanford, to claim it is historically true; they may as well claim also that Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy are real people and that they take Sunday service every other week.
What Pastors Kevin and heather claim about Mount Everest, believe it or not, is actually true! (Hurrah!) BUT for reasons merely tectonic, not biblical (Boo!). The Himalayas and Mount Everest were thrust up around fifty million years ago when the Indian and Australian plates collided. The upper layers of rock on Mount Everest are indeed sedimentary, but are simply remnants of the ancient floor of the Tethys Sea that closed after this huge tectonic event, not the evidence of a Great Flood that one man and his sailing zoo overcame.
Their final and “compelling” fact tells us that Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter spoke of Noah as an actual historical person. That’s great, but of course that all rather hinges on whether Jesus and Peter were “actual historical people” themselves and, given that there is zero evidence to prove that, I think this little factoid has also breathed its last.
They say bad things come in three’s; I expect the next one will be a Jehovah’s Witness.