Whatever Happened to Eden?

The Public Religion Research Institute conducted a new study one week after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, asking whether people believed that God was responsible for natural disasters like this. Interpretations of the study differ: the Huffington Post reassures: Most Americans Don’t Blame God For Natural Disasters. But the Christian Post takes another angle: Most Evangelicals Blame Disasters on End Times, Poll Finds.

This is not a new story. Many of the Eden-seekers I write about in Paradise Lust tried to reconcile their belief in a literal Eden with the unfolding revelations of modern science in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even those people who believe that the Garden of Eden did once exist in earthly form now agree: it’s gone. And many of them had theories about end of Eden that merge original sin and God’s wrath with natural disasters.

William F. Warren, who recently turned 178 years old, believed that the Garden of Eden did exist, at the North Pole, long long ago when, scientists of the time said, the Pole was much warmer. After human beings got too close to Godly knowledge, He flooded the Garden, sending Adam and Eve fleeing south behind a wave of water.  (Much later, of course, the water froze.)

Tse Tsan Tai, a World War I-era Hong Kong entrepreneur, theorized that the earth had spasmed in a giant earthquake-like event, powerful enough to destroy his Outer Mongolian Eden, sink the lost continent of Atlantis, and bury the woolly mammoths.

Those who follow the 1940s sci-fi-flavored Bible alternative The Urantia Book believe that that Eden—an island near Crete—simply sunk slowly into the Mediterranean after man had left. 

What’s new here is the causality: these Eden-seekers blamed God’s wrath on natural disasters, today’s evangelicals do the reverse.

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