Garden of Eden: Peace or Freedom

The Garden of Eden and Human Nature

The Garden of Eden is an idyllic world of beauty, calmness and tranquility. It overflows with abundance, peace and security, but this happy state of affairs comes at a price: ignorance. In order to enjoy the Garden, human beings were required to forsake the knowledge of good and evil. Ignorance is bliss.

Ignorance was key to Adam and Eve's security and happiness, but also to their limitations. The story tells us that the two were so ignorant and blind they did not even realize they were both naked. Thus Adam and Eve in the Garden were in a state of proto-humanity, with their moral sense and their rational faculties significantly underdeveloped. As ignorant and innocent as children, they depended on their father, God, for sustenance and direction. Upon eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve "grew up," suddenly saw right from wrong, and could take responsibility for themselves.

For disobeying God's command, the first man and woman lost God's protection and were cast out of the Garden. The banishment of ignorance was a double-edged sword for humanity, providing clear-eyed knowledge and the opportunity for growth, but also the risk of danger, insecurity and death.

Freedom vs Peace in the Garden of Eden

The story of the Garden of Eden teaches us that ignorance is the principal obstacle to freedom, and that freedom is a principal obstacle to security. As long as they played by God's rules, Adam and Eve could enjoy the fullness of their reliable and predictable little world. But as soon as they stepped outside those tight boundaries, their "fall from grace" was inevitable, and they were on their own.

Hence the fundamental dilemma that has affected humanity since its inception, between peace and freedom. Both have their merits, but history tells us that it is very difficult to enjoy both together. With greater stability comes less freedom, and with greater freedom, less stability. Countless political philosophers have wrestled with the proper balance, if possible, between security in a society and freedom for its citizens; the good of the individual versus the good of the whole; the public versus the private.

For thousands of years, human civilization oscillated between too much freedom and too much authoritarianism. Modern developed societies, having achieved the best balance thus far, continue to debate the proper balance between security and freedom in economic, cultural and political affairs.

Adam and Eve's decision, however temporary, to rely not on God for guidance, but on themselves, represents a human tendency toward critical thinking, as well as risk-taking and the deep desire for growth and exploration. In spite of the need for security and predictability, we will always have this spirit of independence and experimentation.

Human potential cannot be restrained without changing what it means to be human, as the pre-fall "proto-human" Adam and Eve demonstrate.

Change and growth is essential to the human condition. In the absence of risk-taking, challenges and the quest for fulfillment, humans become weak, soft and spiritless. Lack of adequate stimulation has severely negative health effects, both physically and mentally. Studies have indicated that people who retire early often die sooner than those who continue to work or otherwise engage in productive activity.

Humanity outside the Garden

The story of the Garden of Eden presents a warning of the risks of experimentation and giving up the predictable for non-guaranteed gain, but it also reminds us that such risk-taking is inherent to humanity, and to our flourishing. We are not truly human without it.

Ignorance is essential to slavery. It features prominently in the authoritarian's toolbox, which is why every dictatorial regime has sought to perfect the art of propaganda and sheltering its people from new ideas. As long as people are not aware of alternative realities, and are not in a position to think for themselves, the autocrat will always be employed.

Harriet Tubman said:

If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.

From the Garden of Eden to today, the dispelling of ignorance has always been a precondition to liberation and flourishing. It continues to be one of our most important tasks.

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Comments 19 comments

aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

On the other hand, had they obeyed God, we all may just have been out there creating universes and stuff.... rather than trying to prove how smart we are that we can tie our shoelaces, 'cos in God type perspectives, that's what we have achieved since the fall.

2 Tim 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Yep that about sums up secular humanity.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Ok, most people believe that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden because they became aware. This is NOT what Genesis says.

It says that God kicked them out before they could eat of the fruit that granted eternal life. He didn't really care that they got smarter, he just didn't want them to become "as one of us and live forever". What a hypocrite. Go look it up. I am not making this up.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Correction, in Genesis when God saw that they had eaten from the tree that gave knowledge (awareness and propensity to sin)He had no choice but to deny them eternal life, they chose wrongly and missed the opportunity to truly be 'like God', rather they chose to be like a lesser 'god', their own god.

Bad choice then, bad choice now, same results, but fortunately God also provided a way back to the Garden, in Christ.

Unfortunately, most folk still choose wrongly and reject Christ.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Aguasilver:

"On the other hand, had they obeyed God, we all may just have been out there creating universes and stuff.... rather than trying to prove how smart we are that we can tie our shoelaces, 'cos in God type perspectives, that's what we have achieved since the fall."

Maybe. Or maybe we would still be tilling that garden, as seems more likely, given that humanity was in a state of ignorance on par with animals, as I said. Does a dog realize he is naked? No, probably not. A dog is not very self-aware. Neither were Adam and Eve, evidently, so it hardly seems likely they would have the stuff to create universes, lol.

I don't know, I think humanity has done pretty well overall since the garden, by relying on our reason and creativity to achieve ever-greater things. Maybe it's small compared to God, but hey, who cares? It means something to us, and it gives us happiness and fulfillment.

Another way to respond to your comment is to draw an analogy: imagine a defector from North Korea. He comes to the US and works hard to get a middle class existence. He might say to himself "gee, if only I had stayed back in North Korea, maybe I could have played by the rules, get rewarded by the regime, and be running my own town by now!" Plausible logic?


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Austinstar:

Haha, yes God is quite a guy. But although that is the immediate pretext for the banishment in the text, I think it's fair to say in a larger context God kicked them out, in part, because of that forbidden fruit.

Interestingly, God says "the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil," this perhaps indicates that the only thing distinguishing man from God is that man does not live forever. So one interpretation might be that we, with our knowledge, are halfway to Godhood!

This makes all the more sense since God acts very much like a human being in the Old Testament, with emotions, tantrums, happiness, sadness, etc.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Actually BEFORE the incident, Adam was charged to name all the animals, so he was hardly a performing dog, and as for tilling the soil, again it was the rebellion that caused them to have to toil at all, before the fall, they, like God, could speak and it happened on command, no work involved, everything grew well without weeds or labour required.

That's what secular humanity rejected, and what believers regain today.

"I don't know, I think humanity has done pretty well overall since the garden, by relying on our reason and creativity to achieve ever-greater things. Maybe it's small compared to God, but hey, who cares? It means something to us, and it gives us happiness and fulfillment."

Good boy, now sit and roll over to play dead.

Your comment sounds kinda limited, my dog thinks he's master of the universe also, until I come home.

With God we enter a broader experience and capability, which obviously you cannot understand, or your analogies would be less demeaning towards yourself.

God wanted us to have His powers and still does, provided that we agree that they are HIS powers, not ours.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Haha, well if I "obviously" cannot understand it then why do you waste your time with me? Lol. Perhaps because deep down you know I have a point.

Actually the truth is, I can understand it all just fine, but just because I disagree with something doesn't mean I don't understand it.

In any case, I'm still having trouble grasping how a person who is so stupid he doesn't even realize he is naked can have the knowledge to create a universe.

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Gen 2: 15)

Adam was working the garden from the start, that's what God told him or had him do, long before the fall itself.

You are free to keep begging your cosmic Kim Jong Il for mercy, I'll be focusing on appreciating human potential and beauty.

It's funny that we're talking so much about Christian belief because my original intent with this article was more about human nature as a secular topic. But whatever, interesting discussion either way.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Comfortable ignorance or dangerous knowledge?

Ok, this kind of comes down to the old philosopher's question.."is it better to be a happy pig or an unhappy human being?"

I'd have to choose the unhappy human.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

I would too, Jane. The choice is easy--following through on it is the hard part. Being human is difficult work. That is why the happy pig is so tempting to so many. I think the Garden of Eden myth is a great demonstration of that uniquely human conundrum.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Comfortable ignorance or dangerous knowledge?

Rather presumptuous statement to say that obedience to God is showing ignorance.

Lets face it, if secular folk could understand God in the way that believers do, there would be nothing to discuss, but as they cannot, (by virtue of not holding a relationship with God) there is simply no point in discussing things.

I replied here to correct some errors in the hubs assumptions, but why bother?(apart from the fact that a lively comments box gains readers, and I wish all hubbers many readers, or why write?)

In Gen 2:15 the KJV states dress it, rather than work it, God is giving Adam authority over the earth, and earlier in the passage God states that He did all the work:

Gen 2:9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight or to be desired--good (suitable, pleasant) for food.

Humanity were (and still are) given the choice, live in Gods will and enjoy all that God gives us, or seek to govern yourself and do all the work yourself.

We are all inheritors of a life of joy and full provisioning, some chose to accept Gods Grace, others chose to reject it, simple and every individuals choice.

Nuff said.....


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

That choice would be more compelling if we had any indication that individuals, communities or societies that "chose God" had more abundance or were better off than those that didn't. Chinese civilization has never chosen the Christian or even Abrahamic God, and they did quite well for thousands of years. And they're starting to do very well again. The same could be said of Japan.

Modern western civilization is moving decidedly away from the Christian God, and yet they enjoy the most abundance and prosperity in human history.

Ok, so all we have is two different versions of the Bible providing two different accounts of Adam in the Garden. Not very reliable for the "word of God."

You still don't get it. We understand the concept of God just fine (most of us anyway). We just don't believe it. It's not complicated.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

China is the fastest growing Christian church in the world, and has been for the last 50 years, since men like Derek Prince beamed their radio broadcasts and freely sent bibles (albeit smuggled) and material East into China.

OK we have had to work 'underground' as the State are scared of any choice being offered to their version of secular truth, but the church is strong in China, and where I am, (Malaysia) the (open) Chinese church is also strong and vibrant, despite being in a Muslim state.

Japan historically cannot be considered blessed, and the worker drones they create to keep the society functioning are hardly a choice I would recommend, though your secular societies worldwide do aim to standardise humanity into functioning drones controlled by the secular state.

If you study history, you will see that any country or government who allow God to have a prominent place prospers until they reject Gods ways and start becoming secular.

The USA is about to experience the change in circumstances the rejection of God in the 70's has brought about.

Enjoy your secular, Godless 'paradise'.

You have earned it,


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Well, where do you think the Chinese economic boom originates from--the secular state and its reason-based development policies, or Christianity and its faith-based superstition? Well, let's see, since Christianity is persecuted and restrained as you said, chances are the secular realm is far more consequential than the religious realm when it comes to their material prosperity. Pretty simple.

Japan is rich and healthy. The facts speak for themselves. Here's a hub I wrote dealing with Japanese economic development--they have been doing quite well indeed for several hundred years, right on par with the most advanced countries of the west. So there's your historical.

http://hubpages.com/politics/Capitalism-Myth-and-R...

And what about South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore? All of them traditionally non-Christian, recent church activities notwithstanding.

It's interesting you say secularism seeks to make humans drones, when precisely the *opposite* is true! It is religion that reduces humanity to a worthless, subservient nothing in the face of "almighty God." A truly empowering, independent, freedom-loving worldview that places human ingenuity, creativity, love, happiness and reason above all else--this can only be found in the world. Not in the next world, this world.

If you study history, you will see that the most secular societies have tended to be the most prosperous. For 1000 years the west bowed down and incessantly worshipped "the Lord" whilst reaping nothing but war, plague, famine, oppression, xenophobia, backwardness and general misery.

For the last roughly 500 years, as the west has gradually but inexorably moved away from traditional Christianity, it has attained ever-greater material wealth, health, knowledge of the world and the universe, knowledge of the human body and human mind, technological advancement, political freedom, cultural flourishing, intellectual growth and general happiness.

Have there been bumps in the road? Yes, of course. Overall the trend is clear, though.

It holds true to this day. Which are the most prosperous and stable societies today? They tend to be the least religious. And the poorest and most unstable? The most religious. There is a very clear correlation there. Here's another related hub I wrote recently.

http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Religion-A

It may not jibe with your assumptions, but the facts are simply facts. This isn't opinion; it is deduction from the facts.

There is a clear continuum between the likes of Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands on the one hand, and the likes of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Nigeria on the other.

America has become progressively less religious over the last few generations, while becoming progressively wealthier, more innovative, healthier and safer. What gives? What happened to God's blessings?

"any country or government who allow God to have a prominent place prospers until they reject Gods ways and start becoming secular."

France rejected your "God" as long ago as the late 18th century. It has remained one of the archetypal secular sociopolitical systems ever since. Today it is one of the richest and most influential countries on earth.

I could go on and on drawing distinctions between the more religious and poorer southern Europe versus the less religious and richer northern Europe. Or between the more religious American states (where crime and teen pregnancy are greater) and the less religious states (where they are lower). But I fear too many facts may be a burden.

You can believe in whatever God you wish, Aguasilver. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. But they are not entitled to their own facts. The fact is that prosperity and wealth and development are the products not of God's blessing, but of human exertion and genius.

And there's nothing wrong with recognizing that.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

OK, this now needs a hub to refute what you say with some other 'facts'.

I'm busy but will get to it.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Oh boy. Can't wait to see what those "facts" are, haha. I have a sneaking suspicion you will indulge in some common misconceptions on this issue (about the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and other things). But perhaps I will address those in another hub as well.


Ivona Poyntz profile image

Ivona Poyntz 4 years ago from UK

Well, the photo of 'eve' and the serpent is very original. and Sarah Brightman is the best!


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Yes she is, Ivona. I love her. Thanks for coming :)


wesley bruce 4 years ago

I'm afraid to say that while your well meaning your wrong about Adam and Eve being forced to forsake the knowledge of good and evil. God was in the garden teaching. The choice was between learning from the trusted master or a dangerous experiment. We choose the latter often; that is original sin. The teacher is still available, we have everything in print but most still reject the teacher and trust the snake.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Wesley:

This comment is late, but I will just say that what you are saying sounds more like your unique interpretation of the story, rather than the actual story as it reads. There is no indication that God was teaching, or going to teach, Adam and Eve the kind of knowledge that could be had from eating the forbidden fruit.

If so, then why did God set up the system in the way that he did? Clearly the choice was between ignorance and safety in the arms of God, or the risk of challenging God with the potential for knowledge.

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