I recently had the strange and sad experience of reading the Bible aloud to my stepfather as he lay profoundly speechless in the ICU. I figured I’d begin at The Beginning, which was familiar enough. But this time, one passage of Genesis jumped off the page. After God made Adam and Eve and all the animals, and saw that they were good, he said this:

illustraion of Adam and Eve

Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Well, times have changed. I don’t think God foresaw the current human population problem and how it relates to eating animals. He most likely didn’t foresee capitalism, much less the modern corporation. And I’d like to think that something was lost in translation, that the writers of the good book meant stewardship rather than dominion. It’s nice that the word replenish is in there, though we’re doing quite the opposite these days, especially when it comes to the sea. And the soil. And far below the earth’s surface.

The western world lands squarely on the “dominion” side, though. Our country’s Judeo-Christian roots keep us firmly, well, rooted in the idea that the planet and its non-human inhabitants are ours to control.

If the U.S. were an individual in therapy, we may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder with delusional features. It’s delusional to think that the planet and the creatures on it can withstand our treatment.

Oh, Genesis is such a convenient story! Obviously, I say this as an atheist, who believes the Bible was written by people, not handed over by God himself. The writers of the Bible tell us that God made man in his image, but really, people made God in their image, giving themselves a special position as center of the universe, with God-like dominion over every other living thing.

Later, once Noah comes along, God says something truly amazing:

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea, into your hands they are delivered.

Well said, God.

One thought on “Dominion

  1. Hi, Kama. Katy sent me. Sorry about your step-dad.

    You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head here. This “conquer and subdue” mentality pervades politics, ecology, so many venues…I recently discovered the great Aldo Leopold, who wrote on this idea over 60 years ago. This is from his seminal essay “The Land Ethic”:

    “…a land ethic changes the role of ‘homo sapiens’ from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

    I’ve been pondering such questions myself lately. No good answers yet. The search continues, though, for otherwise we are well and truly doomed.

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