Monday, December 03, 2007

Atheistic materialism in the Bible

Today I'm thinking again about the display I saw in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit which declared that only in these enlightened modern times have people been able to ask, "What do I believe?" (Original rant here.) A beautiful little piece of countering evidence is a chapter from the book of Wisdom, which is one of the deuterocanonical books (sigh) and which I started reading for the first time a few months ago. The book is believed to have been written by an Alexandrian Jew in the 1st or 2nd century BC, and this excerpt is an impressive portrayal of atheistic materialism which shows that that belief system was alive and well back then and looked just like it does today. We see here that people two thousand years ago had different beliefs, and were able to examine those beliefs and decide which was best. Which is such an obvious statement I can't believe I'm bothering to make it, but it's apparently not obvious to everyone!
Chapter 2
[1] For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
"Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
[2] Because we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.
[3] When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
[4] Our name will be forgotten in time
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
[5] For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

[6] "Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
[7] Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass by us.
[8] Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
[9] Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
[10] Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.
[11] But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

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