The Plain Truth about the Flood

This children's story has a few holes in it.

This children’s story has a few holes in it.

“Why would a God of love drown and put to death all of humanity?” These are the words of Herbert W. Armstrong. “Science can’t give you the answer, and religion can’t give you the answer.” You’re only halfway there, Herbie, but you need to take me all the way.

One of the oldest works of writing contains a myth about a flood, but it’s not the biblical old testament. It’s the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem out of Mesopotamia. It includes gods that deliver a flood to punish humanity, and a man and his wife are chosen to survive. Pretty similar to the biblical story. China, India, Thailand, and many other cultures have flood myths in their history. Like with many grand aspects of the bible—a god who creates and controls existence, a savior who dies and is resurrected—the great flood is not an original tale. It is a retelling of a very old myth also known as the deluge myth.

Despite this universal idea that there was a worldwide deluge, there’s no way that it actually really happened.

Just think about it: God told a man to build an ark, so he took 100 years to build that ark, then led two of every kind of animal onto it for a few weeks while it rained all over the earth? And he survived with all the penguins, somehow?

It would not have been possible for Noah to have rescued the animals like that, nor would it have been possible for water to have covered the whole earth as the bible says that it did in Genesis.

According to creationists, the geological evidence of fish and marine fossils found in rock sediment above sea level is an indication of a worldwide flood. First of all, aren’t fossils works of the devil? You don’t get to quote fossils if they’re of the devil. You can’t have it both ways! And anyway, this evidence can be explained by the variance in sea levels over time due to the ice ages and glacier melting. Duh!

Another aspect of the myth includes the fact that once the rain subsided, the ark landed on the first exposed land which was the top of Mount Ararat. This is where the beautiful and inspiring scene happens with the dove eventually coming back with an olive leaf which tells Noah that it’s time to leave the ark. However, Mount Ararat is only the highest peak in Turkey, not in the world. So it doesn’t really make sense that Noah’s ark would have landed on Mount Ararat. The ark stayed intact and they only made it to Turkey? Was God an ignorant and impractical God as well as a vengeful one?

My question with the deluge is about the dimensions of the ark in consideration of how many animals there would had to have been on it if Noah really did have two of every kind. I don’t think that 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits is big enough to house all of the animals—or to keep the necessary ones separate from Noah and his seven family members. I’ve been to zoos bigger than that, and they have only included a small selection of animals compared to animals worldwide, even at the alleged time of the flood.

Noah also would have needed to have food for his family and for the animals. What about the animals that needed to eat meat? How would he have kept the meat fresh for 40 days let alone 150 days?

This is just the beginning of reasons for the impossibility of the truth in the myth of the great deluge and Noah’s ark as described in the bible.

Anyone who thinks a little more deeply and pragmatically, instead of blindly following what the minister says, can infer that the bible is a collection of myths, syncretic legends, and polyglottic folklore, some of which—like good legends—are based on people and events that may have actually existed. But in the end, it’s an oral tradition, not a history.

When one is infected with the God virus (thanks to Darrel W. Ray for that awesome terminology) it becomes second nature to take in all information through the filter of one’s religious beliefs so that the end resulting beliefs are always indicative of one’s specific faith and religious beliefs. Growing up in the Armstrongism faith, we had every reason to not believe the religions of Asia and the Middle East but every reason to believe the Armstrong faith, despite the similarities inherent in many religions worldwide.

Once one includes skepticism in one’s intellectualism, it becomes easier to ask follow-up questions that include evidence in order to debunk myths and seek out truth.

What is considered to be true when it comes to the great deluge myth is that after ice caps melted from the last ice age there was an overabundant amount of water level rising in areas including the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. This is according to studies done by William Ryan and Walter Pitman. Since the Hebrew people of the bible would have occupied the area of the Mediterranean, it makes sense that flooding in that area would result in a story passed down in the oral tradition about a flood that was so abundant it must have covered the whole world. Their world view would not have been much of a Weltanschauung at all, and their perception of the capacity of Earth would have been minimal and ethnocentric. Hence Mount Ararat and not a peak in another part of the world they would have never heard of.

In other parts of the world, the effects of the last ice age may have resulted in flooding in various areas, as well as tsunamis and other “acts of God.” This explains why many parts of the world developed deluge myths that became a part of their oral tradition.

Perhaps a melting ice cap is less exciting than a vengeful god that resents his own creation of humanity, then destroys all humans except for one family and its patriarch who ends up living to be over 900 years old. In the end, there is a special element of excitement in the truth of matters, and that is worth passing down to future generations.

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16 thoughts on “The Plain Truth about the Flood

  1. It is obvious that Noah could store all that meat beyond the expiration date. He had freezers powered by solar panels.

    And that is how you can explain the bible story of Noah and his traveling circus.

    • Haha, yes, Kevin. I imagine that Noah’s ark was a much larger version of what goes on in Life of Pi, much what the author was going for since there are religious themes throughout the book. (I highly recommend the book for its lyrical prose and thought-provoking tone and point of view.) Noah must have stood on one side of the ark periodically throwing meat to the carnivores on the other side, then eventually making a raft for himself and his family to float on behind the ark while the animals occupied the main vessel.

  2. Wow, cool article! I’ve already made brief mention of the flood and how well it could (not) have worked in my upcoming Part 3 of Fishy Stories.

    I’m amazed that we never thought of the “fossil sea life on mountain tops” as evidence AGAINST this story–how do fossils form? Sea-life deserted on a mountain top as the result of a worldwide flood could not have fossilized in 150 days, and with the recession of the waters there would have been no more Pressure to turn the sediment and sea shells into Rocks, so…oops. Guess that’s what happens when you tell stories about sea shells and don’t actually know anything about Geology.

    Of course, most Young Earth Creationists use the cop-out that “basically everything we see now, and the way everything works now, is completely different from the way it was before the flood”. BRILLIANT! Evidence means nothing! Faith and the Holy Book FTW!

    • Thanks, eSell, I look forward to reading the next part of Fishy Stories! I’ve been liking it a lot so far.

      I also find it interesting that much of the evidence FOR evolution always seems to be twisted into ANTI-evolution “evidence.” For example, one could argue that evolution is already explained more accurately in the account of the creation–first everything, then plants came before water animals, then land animals came after that. They didn’t crawl out of the water–obviously the six-day account makes more sense! Duh!

  3. A couple of years ago I asked a UCG ‘SCIENTIST’ if it was at all possible to find common ground with respect to dendrochronology. I think what you may not be factoring, Rebecca, are the missing dimensions of magic, scientific conspiratorial bias, and the inconsistency of time itself. (perhaps you’re assuming that 6000 years elapsed during the last 6000 years)

    (question):
    Libraries of tree rings of different calendar ages are now available to provide records extending back over the last 11,000 years. The trees often used as references are the bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) found in the USA and waterlogged Oak (Quercus sp.) in Ireland and Germany. (ITRDB for example).
    Can we agree to temporarily suspend the corroboration of carbon dating in the Bristlecone and just explore the fact (Hughes and Graumlich YEAR) that the chronology based on the cross dating of Bristlecone pine samples is almost a full 9000 years?

    (answer Dan Dowd):
    You stating tree ring ages does nothing to dispell a belief in a “gap theory”, a global flood or a 6,000 year old (re)creation. Sorry to bust your bubble, but there will be no consensus with me on your point that tree rings dispell any of those events because (hold on to your hat), none of those events would prevent those trees from being that old even if it could be proven. I suppose this also means that I am simply giving the ‘party line’ and as such cannot be honestly disquisitive (it is not very nice to ask to engage in a discourse and then state that you don’t think I would answer in an intellectually honest way). The simply fact for me is that scientists are making too many assumptions to consider ages (in the example of these trees you bring up) as ancient as they state. Their bias is also clear in wanting to have an ancient timeline that can dismiss God having a hand in the Creation.

    • How could I forget that most scientists are members of the anti-God, anti-Bible scientist club, wherein they compile false evidence in order to disprove the very true, very real existence of God? Haha, my bad!

      Interesting that you bring up Dan Dowd, Brandon. He used to be an Elder at the congregation I used to attend before he moved away when he became a Pastor, and I was still attending when he was the pastor in training under Paul Suckling. He allowed me to indulge about such things as why God would care to have his throne be jewel-encrusted while simultaneously it being easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than enter that same kingdom. He did agree with me during one of our meetings that much of the bible is symbolism and is not necessarily to be taken literally. I wonder if he stills feels that way…

      Thank you so much for citing him. Despite his “attitude,” I will always think of him as one of the more intelligent members of the COGs–whatever that means. How recent was this conversation? He clearly is buying into what all the ministers used to sell us every week about carbon dating and how it’s not accurate at all. As if that’s a great reason to turn around and accept a really old book of myths instead. His critical thinking skills definitely need some toning, clearly.

    • Dan Dowd sounds more like an “Answers in Genesis” flood geology buff than an Armstrongist. Guess that’s the way it goes in this curious age of “designer Armstrongism”. I find it interesting, though, that he is unconvinced by dendrochronology, which is as straightforward a dating method as one can come by. On the other hand, I find it even more interesting that he also dismisses the argument from dendrochronology out of hand in the first place because, hey, the trees could be that old anyway: it would just mean the forests they comprised (i.e., entire large ecosystems) survived through “tohu and bohu” AND a global flood! (The mind boggles.) One has to wonder what cataclysm and re-creation events really mean in the face of so much apparently heedless biological thriving. And, no, of course he cannot be honestly disquisitive: he’s a creationist! Either that, or Rebecca gives him far too much credit in the intelligence department.

      For more fun stuff about dendrochronology and other dating methods, see my piece “Without Form and Void (Part Two)”, if you haven’t already. You might enjoy it.

  4. Pingback: Without Form and Void (Part Two)–The Case Against Gap Creationism and the Plan of God Debunked! | Armstrong Delusion

  5. Nice writing. I never gave much thought to all the intricate details that Mr. Noah (too bad we don’t know his last name) would have had to factor in to survive in the ark with all the creatures. Food, waste disposal, horny and unruly animals-couples, entertainment for the humans onboard, repairs on the ark etc. But then again, he had 100 years to figure it all out.

    100yrs is a long time to hold a grudge against your minions while teaching them not to let the sun go down on their anger …or to forgive seventy times seventy times. So much for being perfect as he is perfect.

    The one point where I think you are wrong is the 40 vs 150 days. KJV (yes, as much as an agnostic I am, I still have a copy around) implies that it rained continuously for 40 days and nights and then the flood waters stayed around for another 150 days. Or at least it was flooded for 150 days including the 40 rainy ones.

    Oh, and Mr. Noah went in when he was 600yrs, 2months and 17days. And he came out when he was 601yrs to the dot …according to Gen 8. So it actually took anywhere from 9-11months (lunar year or Julian year…take your pick) for the land to dry up. Poor dove, flying around looking for a landing spot and not finding any. Out of frustration or panic, the dove must have pooped some undigested olive seed and a week later, it had sprouted. All life forms outside the ark had been destroyed and a seed floating around for at least 150 days ought to have rotted out.

    Heck, if I was trapped in a ship for that long, I will also go looking for some nice booze right after I step on dry land…and if there is none (since it was all destroyed), I would also plant my own vineyard and drink myself silly. I don’t blame Noah for what he did!

    One last thing, didn’t this same god promise no more destructions by floods? And he gave us the rainbow as his promise? Yet we still hear of tsunamis and hurricanes and typhoons and floods which destroy many a life? Was their a rainbow prior to the flood?

    Just thinking about all this makes me want to go drink …and I will pour out a little libation for Mr. Noah for restoring the art of vintage after the deluge! Stay dry, my fellow earthlings!

    • Thanks for the entertaining comment! I think you are correct about the confusion around the 40 vs. 150 days. I had forgotten that little detail myself and so didn’t catch it (although I will say that I had a nagging suspicion over it that I dismissed due to laziness). We will correct this forthwith, and I thank you for pointing it out.

      As for the rainbow promise, the biblical account has Yahweh vowing never again to destroy all life with a flood. This covenant with Noah is found at Genesis 9:11, and reads, “And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” So, presumably, Yahweh still reserves the right to murder vast swathes of humanity, so long as his temper tantrums fall just shy of total annihilation. And, further, this covenant says nothing of destroying all life with a meteor strike, for example. So, his bases are covered. Of course, as we’ve pointed out here before, his wrath is severely limited to such regions and circumstances as are scientifically understood to be prone to his chosen punishment (acts of terror that are always claimed for him by his fanatics after the fact). In my book, that makes him a very weak deity–so weak, in fact, that he makes no difference whatsoever, regardless of how hot his wrath boils. His putative existence is not required for any parsimonious explanation of observed phenomena, and this is particularly true when it comes to natural disasters.

    • Hi Jake, great points there! I appreciate your insight regarding the 40 days vs. 150 days controversy. Still, I think it’s important to mention this because many people are confused by these passages. The language in the bible is not always clear, and different translations offer different meanings which various people even in the same church or congregation may interpret in a different light.

      Excellent point about the rainbow and God’s promise, especially considering the recent hurricane and typhoon which has devastated the Philippines. Over 5000 have died because of this “act of God.” And it’s silly to think that after the great flood was the first occurrence of a rainbow. God doesn’t seem to be a very consistent scientist!

      • And it’s silly to think that after the great flood was the first occurrence of a rainbow. God doesn’t seem to be a very consistent scientist!

        Excellent point. This question could be the subject of a short article itself. I remember thinking about the problem a lot when I was still in the cult. I eventually found some stuff from AC that expounded the “vapor canopy” theory in some detail. It’s striking how much of Armstrongism’s central doctrines rely so heavily on rationalizations co-opted from outside (“worldly”) sources–particularly when it comes to scientific implications of problematic scriptures. Of course, the lay member was never exposed to such erudite controversies, since they were treated and expected to behave as good sheep. It was assumed that only the elite in the headquarters/college milieu would be obliged to climb aboard the shoulders of Creationist/British-Israelist/etc. midgets. Armstrong himself certainly never did much of his own work, so it makes sense that his hired literati would be similarly derivative. This dirty secret never made it out to the congregations however, and so the sheep are to this day convinced that any such ad-hoc hypotheses that trickled down to them were revealed from on high to their beloved guru.

  6. Hi Rebecca.

    Here’s a link to Dan Dowd’s article that I responded to in Feb. 2012:

    http://www.ucg.org/science/lessons-mighty-sequoia/

    Dan’s right, I did pretty much entirely miss the spiritual point he was trying to make. The thing that got me was his statement that “God has “concealed” many wonderful spiritual truths and lessons in His creation for you to seek and find…” The irony of concealed truth relating to trees and UCG just really struck me.

    It’s funny that you mention God’s throne bling. (I think that’s to keep Allah and the Pope in check.) I used to wonder how disgruntled the Cherubim must have been who had to sit and guard the tree of life all day and night… and how tempted he must have been to just chop the damn thing down with his flaming sword so he could get on with his life.

    • Noah’s flood brought a happy retirement to that Cherubim! Chances are that this Cherubim was the one and only aspect of creation that enjoyed the flood.

  7. And it wasn’t just two of each animal. It was FOURTEEN of each clean animal (7 male and female pairs), which I never notice anyone else say. There’s no way they can account for that.

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