Sodom and Gomorrah
| Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
The Genesis version
According to the Genesis 19, the cities were both exceedingly wicked, with the only exception being the righteous family of Lot. When angels came to investigate, only Lot would offer them hospitality. Moreover, the men of the city sought to commit some form of wickedness with the angels (though it is more ambiguous than most people think). Lot offered up his daughters to placate the townspeople, but they weren't having any of it. God's angels responded to the townspeople by striking them with blindness. This prevented them from performing the act of wickedness they were preparing to commit (commonly interpreted to be rape) with the angels, as they were unable to find the door to Lot's house, where the angels were. Oddly enough, the Bible says nothing about the obvious cruelty in the "righteous" Lot's attempting to turn in his own daughters to be raped in the angels' place (lying about their sexual status to make them more desirable to the crowd while he was at it), though it doesn't say it was good either, but in old tradition this was common practice to put your guest's safety as top priority. Also, Lot's daughters would get him drunk later and pretty much rape him to get pregnant and continue the family line after the cities were destroyed. Due to the sheer iniquity of their citizens, God, kind and all-loving that He is, destroyed the cities with fire from Heaven. He was kind enough, however, to give Lot's family a head start to leave.
Because some of the wickedness involved, sexual practices outside of the good old-fashioned baby-making kind, including man-on-man santorum-generating acts, gay sex has long been called "sodomy". Since then, the term has expanded to any kind of oral-genital or anal-genital contact.[note 1] Ironically, the only sex that managed to happen that day, according to the story, was drunken and incestuous.
It has been suggested that the reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed had to do with them being inhospitable on their part… and given the time period, where that was taken much more seriously and still is in some parts of the world when compared to the West, it does make sense. Two handsome visitors arrive at the city, and a bunch of men show up to the house where they are staying, wanting to rape them, so wanting to protect his guests, Lot selflessly offers his own daughters in their place. This was common in those times as the guest was the most important person in ancient tradition and must be kept safe. In turn, the actions of the angels could be seen as them repaying Lot for upholding hospitality, given that they blind the mob and lead the family away to safety. Also worthy of note was that Lot locked himself outside of his home to try and reason with the mob after they reject his daughters, putting himself in danger of being killed.
However, many people, often outright homophobes, dismiss the idea that hospitality had anything to do with it, and instead argue that homosexuality was why the cities were destroyed. It's actually a fairly common misunderstanding, given the context of the story itself.
Ezekiel begs to differ
Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:4-29 is the most often cited version of the destruction of the two cities, there is one other notable mention of this story in Ezekiel 16:46-50. In that passage, there is no mention of sexual sin — specifically the intended gang rape of Lot's visitors by the men of the town — as a motive for God to destroy the cities.
Instead, the main reasons given for the cities' destruction was their arrogance and their enjoyment of abundance while being unconcerned with the plight of the poor amongst them (which squares with the angels having trouble finding hospitality in the Genesis version).
Perhaps the two most likely reasons that the Ezekiel version gets so little mention among fundies is because:
- it doesn't have any red meat — i.e., sex—to throw at the typical Bible thumper; and
- the reasons listed in this version may strike a bit too close to home for some readers.
Archaeology (caveat lector…)
The status of the archaeological evidence for either town has essentially gone from "not a scrap" to "it might be possible if you squint just right". In 1995, a couple of geologists published an article detailing a hypothesis on how a scenario that might possibly form the basis of the biblical tale could at least be feasible, geologically speaking. This hypothesis posited that if such a settlement existed, a massive earthquake and landslide could have destroyed them, with the fiery destruction being the ignition of local bitumen pits or methane. Missing from this hypothesis, however, was any actual town. Conversely, archaeologists have found a large city that was abandoned and appears chronologically consistent with the story. However, this city showed no sign of the cataclysmic destruction that the Bible describes and one suggestion, made by Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, was that later people coming across the ruins of the great abandoned city came up with "an etiological story, that is, a legend that developed in order to explain a landmark. In other words, people who lived in the later phase of the Iron Age, the later days of the kingdom of Judah, were familiar with the huge ruins of the Early Bronze cities and told a story of how such important places could be destroyed." The current status is thus that we have a cataclysmic destruction hypothesis without an actual city and an actual city without any signs of a cataclysmic destruction, which adds up to preciously little in terms of actual, solid evidence.
Outside the Bible
- Sodom is also the name of a killer German thrash metal band fronted by Tom Angelripper. Check out Persecution Mania and Agent Orange if you can.
- Gamorrah is a critically acclaimed 2008 Italian language film about the activities of the Camorra syndicate in and around Naples, Italy.
- The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinism (Les 120 journées de Sodome ou l'école du libertinage), written in 1775 by the Marquis de Sade while imprisoned in the Bastille, details the sexual torture meted out by four French noblemen on 46 kidnapped teenagers. Interpreted as both an indictment and celebration of libertinism, the book remains highly controversial 230 years after it was originally written. In the intervening two centuries, the book has lost little of its shock value, and wasn't officially published until 1904. The 120 Days… remains banned in many countries. de Sade himself called the book "the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began." Salò is the 1975 Italian language film adaptation by Pier Paolo Pasolini, which transposes Louis XIV's France of the novel with the final days of Fascist Italy during WWII. Often cited for its striking cinematography and direction, and received a Criterion release, the film is nonetheless not for the faint of heart, and puts many modern "torture porn" films to shame with its depravity. Much like the book, the film has been banned in numerous countries.
- The (Animated) Story of Sodom and Gomorrah This has a video showing many absurdities in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Lot in Sodom Cartoon
- Lack of hospitality may have been involved as well. The Greco-Roman religion has a similar story where (Zeus and Hermis/Jupiter and Mercury) visited a city and all denied them hospitality except a poor couple who shared what little they had. The couple were spared but the rest of the town was destroyed.
- Baucis and Philemon
- Harris & Beardow The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: a geotechnical perspective, Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, November 1995, vol. 28, pp. 349-362.
- Scientists uncover Sodom's fiery end
- Biblical tale taken with a pinch of salt, Andrew Brown, The Independent, Saturday 16 December 1995
- Ishan Taroor, The long quest to find the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Washington Post, October 16, 2015
- Barry Duke, Atheists ‘in a panic’ over Sodom evidence, The Freethinker, Sunday, 11 October, 2015
- The 1975 film version, Salò, is still one of the most disturbing movies ever made, with scenes that make The Human Centipede look like Bambi.