Belly Buttons

adam-eveI often wonder about the absurd way some people think (or don’t think). Often, an excuse for a schoolboy prank is “I wasn’t thinking, Sir.” to which the schoolmaster replies “That’s the problem, boy. You never think“. I found this one on Facebook.

Was this intended to ridicule Christianity or just a certain understanding of Christianity? The belly button is the remnant we all have of the umbilical cord between our unborn bodies and the placenta attached to the inside of our mother’s uterus. The implication is that Adam and Eve were born of earthly mothers and not created ex nihilo by God. For crying out loud! This is a painting by an artist from human models. The navel is just taken for granted.

What about the comments. I will just quote a few:

Yea yea I know the painter, he was an orange! he had passion for painting, and he evolved, grew large eyes and tiny fingers to draw adam and eve! – How can they have belly buttons if they were the first people on the planet….Errr something is not quite right. – Guys, settle down, if they don’t believe in evolution then there is no point in having this argument.

Between literalist Christianity and science, there doesn’t seem to be much in common.

Biblical themes were just an excuse to paint (near) nudes. People throughout the ages didn’t take the Adam and Eve story literally. Church leader St Augustine of Hippo around 400 CE didn’t consider the Genesis creation stories to be literal historical events.

It’s a little simplistic, but we’re getting warm.

Well, the children of Adam and Eve, Kain and Abel, Kain killed his brother and went away, he married a strange women from a far away place? So there must have been more people on the earth.

Good point. A literalist narrative just doesn’t seem to stand up, but liberties can be taken when the story is metaphorical to illustrate something that happened at a level beyond human understanding.

Oh gee all over belly buttons. Does it really matter as they are from a biblical story and no true proof they was the first humans. Yes I believe God created man and all else, but dang what man or woman does not have a belly button? – It’s called an artist’s interpretation.

Simply don’t read too much into a work of art; or a piece of writing or someone telling a story.

The counter-literalist atheist chimes in like this:

Winnie to poo was based on a fictional character made for kids …….the story book I assume your talking about is the holy bible and is based on true life events ………

It’s not rocket science, artists aren’t the smartest in society and these are just paintings. It’s a rubbish story, painted by rubbish artists propagated by simple minded people.

Love reading some of the bible bashers comments, LOL Believe in Santa too and the tooth fairy? All little pieces of the dream world to get you believing as a child of course, cause no sane adult could or would believe such nonsense without manipulation, really, there’s a man away up high in the sky, and he’s watching everything you do, and he’s got a list of 10 things that you must not do. And if you break any of these, just pop to Church and put a fiver in the beggars bowl and all is forgiven. Idiots day out.

Christianity is dismissed as something analogous with children’s fairy tales, written purely for entertainment and completely fictitious. Dawkins and company are of this idea. True adults can’t be taken in by this narrative, so it is false from all points of view. So is materialism!

Other responses are more cynical or satirical. Who can blame them? Now, some reductio ad absurdam:

Let’s take it one step further if you believe in a book that has been revised hundreds of times with other peoples words where it says that man was created in his image…………hmmmmm so does the supreme being have a belly button too? If so…….who begat him, her, or whatever it may be? Chew on that one for awhile.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Yet, both chickens and eggs exist in this world. We eat them!

Literalism is a real problem. I would say, tongue in cheek, that this was one consequence of allowing translations of the Old Testament in languages other than Latin and Greek! I wouldn’t go to the other extreme of saying that only bishops can interpret the Scriptures. One of the most valuable Patristic sources is Origen for questions of styles of writing – and he was two inches away from Gnosticism!

Literalism, or the refusal of allegory, figures of speech, metaphor, poetry and even art is a real problem among many religious folk particularly in America but also to some extent in old Europe. I have found this with some of the “conservative” folk I encountered a few weeks ago. They don’t know the capital of Italy or that you have to cross the sea between England and France, but they’re ready for war.

Mr. Brown goes off to town on the eight twenty-one,
But he comes home each evening and he’s ready with his gun.
So who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler,
If you think old England’s done?

At least Dad’s Army made my family roll on the floor laughing in the 1970’s.

One of the atheist’s most persuasive arguments to prove that religion is all rubbish is to present its literalist aspect. Go through the Old Testament, the creation, the parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, Noah’s Ark and everything else, and it all looks like a fairy tale. The narratives are full of contradictions. Read everything in an allegorical perspective, and the logic of it all loses its importance.

One thing I find very interesting is how science is evolving away from materialism and Newtonian physics. Though I only understand quantum physics at a very basic level “for dummies”, I see hope in it for the future of spiritual humanity. The myths are expressed in a new way that is relevant to modern man. Only yesterday, I saw an article about the universe being eternal, having no beginning or end – no “big bang”. Would such an idea support pantheism? Perhaps. At any rate, no one has any definitive explanation of God. We can only speak about divine realities by analogy and metaphor, by relating a myth. That is exactly what the Scriptures do, not only the canonical Scriptures but also so many other ancient texts that survived the tragic burning of the Alexandrian Library at the time of the Emperor Theodosius, and of which a few fragments may have found their way to Nag Hammadi. Science and openness of mind, and whole new perspectives are opening. They are not materialist or atheistic!

Perhaps this story of the primaeval belly buttons will enable us to self-satirise, laugh at ourselves and become open to higher truths.

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2 Responses to Belly Buttons

  1. Jim of Olym says:

    “One thing I find very interesting is how science is evolving away from materialism and Newtonian physics. Though I only understand quantum physics at a very basic level “for dummies”, I see hope in it for the future of spiritual humanity. The myths are expressed in a new way that is relevant to modern man. Only yesterday, I saw an article about the universe being eternal, having no beginning or end – no “big bang”. Would such an idea support pantheism? Perhaps.”

    Well, the Hindus say that the universe is always coming and going, going and coming, for endless eons, so they might have some insight here.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I’m interested in iconographic conventions, so I’d like to know how consistent First-Couple Belly-button(less) ones are. (There are probably monographs and more about them, if one knew where to look – I recall reading a review a couple years ago of a serious art history book about the depiction and accenting of baby Jesus’s genitalia and its (probable) theological implications.) I remember a sort of riddle or poser or whatever about how would you recognize Adam and Eve at the Last Judgement and General Resurrection or whatever, the answer being, ‘They would be the only people without belly-buttons’ – so this was thematized or topicalized at some stage, and in ‘pop culture’, too.

    “Only yesterday, I saw an article about the universe being eternal, having no beginning or end – no ‘big bang’. Would such an idea support pantheism? Perhaps.” This was certainly a (philiosophical) question in antiquity and thereafter, though I have not read about it in much detail: I can imagine an ’emanationist’ version which would presumably be in some sense ‘pantheist’. But why could there be, or not be, a creation both ex nihilo and eternal (eternally distinct from, subordinate to, unconfused with, dependent upon, God)? I don’t remember ever reading or having any detailed discussion about just that!

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