Most folks don't see the connection between the great feats of the patriarch, Noah – of Biblical fame – and those of that portly gentleman from the North Pole. But they are both very remarkable. Every holiday season we laud the great task that Santa undertakes when he delivers gifts to children around the world. We even go so far as to electronically track the amazing flight with the most sophisticated radar systems that NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has at its disposal. The whole world watches and waits as he flies in an archaic sleigh filled with toys for all good children around the globe.
The fact that he has to pull off this feat on such a grand basis is what makes it so much fun, and basically harmless. Fewer adults and children every year make a pretense of believing one of the real longstanding of the Christmas myths. Nevertheless, because of its total improbability, we can dismiss it as harmless. It is cute and little kids enjoy it despite the implausibility. And it does not seem to have much of a long-lasting negative effect on society and little children, as people outgrow the story.
The Noah myth, by contrast, is extraordinarily dangerous, and the evil impacts of this legend are far-reaching and often fatal. Why is this so? There is a good reason. The Santa Clause and the flying reindeer myth is considered by all to be a fun story, and not to be taken as real. The Noah and the Ark story, by contrast – though ludicrous and stupid – is taken as true by half of all Americans alive today in the early twenty-first century.
“Well,” the other half who are non-believers say, “what is the big deal? Let the fools believe in the ark story. What is the problem? It really isn't hurting anyone.” But it is, and in a big way.
The problem with the Noah story is not the legend itself. It is both a fun story for entertaining small children, and a source of income for illustrators of children’s books and toy manufacturers in places like China. The problem is called inerrancy. Another more common term is “literalism.” In short, in referring to the Holy Bible, the word means "without errors." Millions in America and around the world believe that the Judeo-Christian scriptures are literally true in every way ... in science, history, society, and law – to name a few. Even though it can easily be proven that this is not so, they have to believe it anyway no matter what.
Or so they say. When I was a Bible-believing Christian, I knew that I was required to believe certain things even though I recognized that they were impossible. So, like millions of others who want to believe the “good things” about the Bible, I swallowed hard and pretended to believe the fairytales as well, anyway.
If the ark story were just told as legend, like "Hansel and Gretel" or "The Three Bears," it would cause the world no grief. But since religious believers need literalism so desperately to adjudicate their prejudices and assuage their fears, they insist that the Bible is true and provable. I say it is not.
Fundamentalist Bible-believing Christians – particularly in America – go through incredible mental contortions and great monetary expense to prove that stories like that of the Biblical flood and the ark story are not fiction, but scientific and historical fact. They need it to be so, whereas others do not. Why? Their black-and-white brains reason that if their sacred book contains even one obvious error of any kind then the entire tome is subject to scrutiny. And they are right. Once it is shown that one thing is untrue, unlikely, or downright stupid, what other parts are likewise untrustworthy? And the real problem they face is: What other commandments and restrictions of behavior drawn from the same source may as well be false?
Right-wing Christians have had to draw a line in the sand about Noah. They realize that the ark story is by far one of the most popular targets of scientists, conservationists, modernists, atheists, homosexuals, and all others bent on destroying their perfect world. A causal visit to the wasteland of wee-hours cable television-viewing reveals a trove of Fundamentalist programming on the cheap. The preachers and “teachers” one encounters there between the channels of weight loss gurus, the cooking utensil hawkers, and other miscellaneous hucksters, are in a constant race against reality. Theirs is to prove the unprovable to the simpleminded, who are so desperate for insomnia-busting entertainment that they actually watch these shows.
Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Well, we all know that song. But Noah was way better than St. Nicholas, as his feat was far more jaw-droppingly fabulous than anything Santa and the reindeer could ever pull off. First of all, Noah walked with God – and talked with him as well. He was so close to God that I'll bet they finished each other's sentences. One day God confided to Noah that he was pissed at the people on the Earth for being so “wicked.” Moreover, he was so sick of mankind's collective misbehavior that he was going to destroy the entire planet with a flood. Not only was he going to drown all of humanity – but all of the animal kingdom as well. So there!
We all know the story. Noah's task was to build an ark of cypress wood – 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high, with a roof within eighteen inches of the top (converting from cubits, mind you) (Genesis 6:14). Now, that was pretty specific. Only, Noah was not tasked in the actual construction. That was left up to his boys, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Meanwhile, he was assigned to the job of gathering two each of all the animals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles on Earth. So, his objective was to go to the ends of the Earth and collect a pair of every living thing (everything with breath in its nostrils, to use the technical Biblical terminology).
This is where, in my humble opinion, he beats Santa hands down. How long did he get to pull this off? Six days! God made it clear that on the seventh day the rain would begin and that it would last for forty days and forty nights. And it did! Noah managed to get everything from two aardvarks all the way down to the zebus, into the boat on time and in the six-day window. Not bad at all for a 600-year-old guy. Let Santa try to beat that!