jonah and the whale

photo by Br Lawrence Lew, O.P.

I just enjoyed a talkative lunch with two hilarious, intelligent women. My tummy is jolly and full. Thanks, Qdoba!

Both ladies  are passionate Christians, and eventually our discussion turned to amusing aspects of Mormonism. I admit it took a sort of sarcastic, mocking tone (my fault, perhaps, since I scoff rather openly), but I tried to use the opportunity to bring up aspects of Christianity that are also unbelievable and rather hilarious. For example:

Jonah and the whale. Supposedly, this prophet was swallowed by a whale and lived in its stomach for three days before being spat out. I said to one of my friends, “You have to admit, to an outsider, this seems pretty ridiculous.”

Protesting, she replied, “But at least there’s some scientific evidence that shows that there are big fish out there that can eat animals whole without them dying. Mormons believe weird things like they become gods and that you get your own planet or something.”

I could barely contain my laughter when I said, “I’d love to see those studies! I haven’t read them before.” Honestly, I would love to see the evidence that shows the literal interpretation is true. Who wouldn’t love to chillax in a gigantic pool of stomach acid without oxygen for that long and live to tell the tale?

Funny how one religion’s myth is ridiculous and laughable, while one’s own myth is “logical and scientific.”

Chuckling over her burrito, she concluded, “Sometimes you just have to shake yuor head and wonder, ‘How can anyone believe this junk?'”

My thoughts exactly.

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22 thoughts on “Your Beliefs Are Crazier than My Beliefs”

Three Ninjas · October 18, 2010 at 3:11 pm

You can’t prove that people *can’t* get their own planets! But I’m pretty sure you could prove that people can’t survive three days in the belly of a whale or whale shark.

Matt Warren · October 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I used to listen to my fundamentalist parents lightheartedly mock Mormonism for being silly. But this is only because there’s more *time* separating the outrageous claims made by both Protestant offshoots.

There’s a shorter distance than they think between golden plates, magic crackers, and an immortal, out of work, Jewish carpenter.

Ahab · October 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Silly Mormons. Why can’t they believe in giant sandworms and await the coming of the Kwisatz Haderach like normal people?

Andrew Hall · October 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

The Mormons seem to have the best deal for the after life. However, as Mr God you have to crank out celestial babies with Mrs. God (that’s how I understand the system), and that creates a lot of headaches (diapers, remembering who’s who etc.). It takes all the fun outta being a god.

    TheSecretAtheist · October 19, 2010 at 1:08 am

    They have the best deal for the afterlife IF you’re a white male. Otherwise, it kinda sucks.

TheSecretAtheist · October 19, 2010 at 1:10 am

I used to mock Mormons for being silly, now I realize as you that they are no more silly than the Christianity from which they sprang.

Now Cthulhu, on the other hand, is quite believable and I’d start believing if I were you.

Jon · October 19, 2010 at 5:03 am

Have you not seen pinocchio?

But seriously, there is no mention of a whale in the bible, it actually refers to a “great fish” swallowing Jonah. Not that that makes it any more likely.

nullefide · October 19, 2010 at 8:39 am

It was funny, growing up with my Christian parents they constantly mocked my aunt’s Unitarianism and Wicca beliefs when we weren’t in her company. I was young at the time (and still trying to be Christian for my parents) so I was right there with them. How could someone believe in EVERY god? How could someone pray to fairies? OMG it’s so weird that she buried her placenta under a tree and had a huge mystical ceremony for it! D:

Come to find out, once I went to college and got a chance to get away from my parents, their Christian beliefs were just as weird as I used to think my Aunt’s were. How can someone believe three separate entities are actually one? How can someone pray to an invisible daddy in the sky who never seems to answer any prayers at all? OMG it’s so weird that once a year we go to a church with hundreds of other people to hear about the horrible torture and killing of a man and then later go home and celebrate it with a colorful egg hunt! D:

It really is just kinda funny when you think about it. Tho it’s tempting to become a Mormon just so I can get my own planet when I die. I’d name it Planet Awesome. 😀

matt · October 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Fish, not whale. Not that that makes it less crazy.

    Godless Girl · October 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Because I’m sure these ancient people totally knew the difference between mammals and fish.

Jenny · October 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm

It’s interesting to me to see which passages they choose to believe are literal. My Catholic boyfriend scoffs at creationists, yet he truly believes that he is eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ.

Odd, that.

OGRastamon · October 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm

You must have been feeling very compassionate to bring up Jonah as a prime example of ridiculousness in the bible. I would have gone with the absurdity that the only man that deserved to be saved from the divine destruction of Sodom was the one who attempted to save the lord’s apparently powerless messengers from group anal rape by offering his virginal but soon to be incestuous daughters.

    Godless Girl · October 26, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    That’s terrifically charming, isn’t it?

      OGRastamon · October 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm

      “Charming” IS my middle name. No wait…it’s Curtis, which I’m pretty sure comes from the Gaelic meaning godless troll.

Eric Neuman · December 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I happen to be somewhat religious, and also a scientist by profession (amazing huh?) I’m not really here to way in one way or the other on Christianity or Mormonism because neither are within my first-hand experience. However, I would like to note that a simple google search turns up quite a few interesting leads on the survivability of being swallowed by a whale.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2294/have-any-real-life-jonahs-been-swallowed-by-whales-and-lived

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A471548

    Eric Neuman · December 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    That being said, I’m nowhere near 100% sold that this isn’t just myth for the purpose of conveying a message.

RoseThistle · January 24, 2011 at 4:11 am

For consideration . . .

Jonah did not “live” inside the belly of the “fish”. He would not have been the example for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. As Jesus states in Matthew 12:40 KJV For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. From E. W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible side notes on Jonah 1:3. “Jonah knew that Assyria (Nineveh was the capital of Assyria on the left bank of the Tigris) was to be God’s sword of judgment against, (his own people), Israel. If Nineveh perished, Israel might be saved. God’s mercy might arrest this overthrow of Nineveh. Was this why Jonah would sacrifice himself to save his nation? This would explain his flight here, and his displeasure, as clearly stated in Jonah 4:1-3. When he said “Take me up” he had counted the cost.”

Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2 And said, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice. . . . 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

More from Bullinger’s sidenotes “As Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation (Luke 11:30).

That generation were as grieved and angry at the faith and repentance of those to whom the resurrection of our LORD was proclaimed, as Jonah was at the repentance of the Ninevites.”

    Harold · April 8, 2011 at 12:57 am

    What are you getting at here? Nobody said anything about Jonah as the example for Jesus, anything to do with Ninevah, or side notes. Jonah 1:17 says explicitly that Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Do you maybe mean that the author of that verse meant it as a metaphor? If so, that seems oddly specific and not metaphoric of anything in particular. It makes some sense if someone edited the text later to add the three days and nights bit to foreshadow the Jesus story.

Stephen · February 25, 2011 at 9:24 am

There was a story, from about 20 years ago, about a guy who survived a couple days inside of a large grouper. That’s a fish.

This isn’t one of the less believable biblical stories.

The Mormons promoted polygamy. But serial monogamy – ie marriage for 5 years, then divorce as a pattern, often removes support from the woman and childred. Mormon polygamy does not. So, one can argue that Mormon polygamy promotes better family values than Christian monogamy, at least in practise. Neither polygamy nor serial monogamy are fair, and favor cultures with unequal distribution of wealth. And, as far as i know, Mormons don’t promote women having more than one husband, where serial monogamy frees the woman to pursue other men, though perhaps outside of her reproductive years where she is potentially less desireable.

    Harold · April 8, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Do you have a cite for that grouper story? If not, we really have nothing to discuss. I doubt it because groupers have crushing tooth plates in the digestive tract (per Wikipedia). If you survive that, you have to deal with suffocation and digestion. (How much air do you breathe in a day? Fish don’t swim around with huge air bubbles in their stomachs.) So this seems incredibly unlikely and I would love to see a verifiable account of someone who survived any length of time in an aquatic animal’s stomach.

    I don’t know why you focused on polygamy specifically. Mormonism has plenty of nuttier beliefs, like the doctrines that Israelites travelled to what would become the USA by boat in 600 BCE and became the Native Americans; that these people engaged in all sorts of metallurgy, architecture, and agriculture in the Americas yet left no evidence of this; and that the authors of the Book of Mormon wrote about this on gold plates in ancient Egyptian. (Seriously: hit up http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/BOM/index.htm for an annotated version.)

    I will also note that the Mormon system of polygamy did not replace divorce. Men could easily divorce a wife that displeased them, while women had to “prove” that they did not commit adultery or leave the church. And since a woman could only achieve the highest levels of Mormon heaven as a wife in good standing, they pretty much had to do whatever the husband said. (See http://www.exmormon.org/mormwomn.htm for more.) Not the kind of family values I like.

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