I understand why throughout history the average person was not supposed to interpret the Bible. They don't have the brains or education to understand it. It's complex stuff. When you go that way you end up with Jimmy Swaggart and Elmer Gantry and all those crying televangelists begging for your money. And those are the good guys compared to what has happened in the past.
Right at the beginning, in Genesis, you get a story about how evil came into the world, when Eve is targeted by the serpent (a symbol of envy and hate), then after falls for the promise of being like God she cons the weak-willed Adam into eating of the fruit of the tree. Then Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. That scapegoating and denial of responsibility is what brings evil into the world and gets them booted straight out of the Garden of Eden.
(Incidentially, it wasn't even a serpent - it was a shining, talking, apparently upright serpent-like being called a nachash.)
Since people in general - and certainly groups of people, which are always brainless - think other people are the cause of their problems they have to get rid of them. And that has been the history of the world. That's what scapegoating is: it's not my fault. It's yours.
Immediately after Adam and Eve you get the first murder, when Cain brains Abel. Why? Because of his feelings of shame and humiliation and rejection - which is what causes almost all murders. It's an attempt to get rid of the person on whom you blame your problems.
Then after that you get what is pretty much the first war, although completely one-sided, when Dinah's brothers slaughter an entire tribe after one of the princes of that tribe seduces Dinah - and apparently she wanted to be seduced.
Three stories right at the beginning! And they explain so much of human nature that anyone who ignores those stories is making a very big mistake.
Then you get the story of Lot. As a child the only thing I remembered was Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt, which always seemed to be a pretty severe punishment for looking back one time.
But there is a lot more to the story than that.
Lot is a buffoon and clearly a chronic, brain-damaged alcoholic - at one time he ends up naked and dead drunk in his tent. And since his children are grown when they find him in this state, he appears to be in late 40s or early 50s.
Most of the alcoholics I've known were dead by that age.
Before his children find him naked, dead-drunk and passed out cold, there is one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible.
Lot and his family, who live in Sodom (as in sodomy) receive two vistors that Lot is convinced are angels, whom he thinks are going to give him all kinds of goodies.
The men of Sodom appear outside Lot's house and demand the two men be sent out because they want to gang-rape them.
Lot, afraid of losing his angelic rewards, tells the men he will give them his two virgin daughters. Here we have a buffoon and a narcissisic, selfish old drunk, afraid of offending what he thinks are angels, telling the men they can gang-rape his two virgin daughters, if they will leave his visitors alone.
I've read various rationalizations about why Lot did this. He was protecting his visitors from molestation, and that offering your daughters to strangers was no big thing in those days.
I don't think so.
The culture in those days was shame-based, not guilt-based. Today it is still shame-based, which is why you hear so many stories about women being murdered for bringing "shame" on the family. How often does that happen in the West? Never.
Even Adam and Eve feel shame at being caught naked, not guilt. And Cain murders Abel out of shame and feelings of humiliation. He never showed the slightest bit of guilt and in fact was defiant.
Lot doesn't feel any guilt about offering his daughters to be gang-raped. But I'm sure he would have been unbearably shamed if those man had raped his visitors and he had been helpless to stop it.
Finally the potential rapists wander away.
Small children clearly feel shame before they feel guilt. That's why I think the story of the Garden of Eden makes more sense if you consider Adam and Eve about three years old.
None of these stories are about guilt. They're all about shame. The shame of Adam and Eve. The shame of Cain. The shame of Dinah's brothers. Lot's fear of being shamed.
Some shame, of course, is necessary. Guilt, too. But there is such a thing as too much.
In the West we are overwhelmingly a guilt-based culture. Other cultures are more shame-based, and that is why there is so much discussion of shame in Genesis.
These two kinds of cultures are never going to mix successfully, which is one reason, little-discussed, why multiculturalism will never work.
I was once standing in a grocery line behind some midget Asian guy. He had a shopping cart full of soda pop cans, and it was clear he was buying them on sale to sell to black people in his convenience store. The two check-out men were having trouble pricing all these cans (there were about 100 of them), when the midget pipes up and bitterly claims the men were treating him "like a criminal."
He was hallucating the whole thing. He thought they were trying to shame him. They were trying to help him. I stood there and watched the whole thing.
So I spoke up and suggested the midget was in the wrong country and he should not speak like that to those men, since they were only trying to help. I told him he was insulting me.
He looked at me and decided to shut up. He was what? 5'4"? Over seven inches shorter than me.
That's what happens in shame-based cultures. Often they hallucinate insults when they're not there and then they go into a rage.
Mixing two such cultures to going to cause nothing but problems. It's right there in the Bible, which is as anti-multicultural as can be. That's what much of the genocide is about - when incompatible cultures encounter one another.