How the Eating of Michael Rockefeller Supports Atheism

Three articles caught my attention. In the first one, a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor “pledged to live 2014 god-free in order to test his faith.” He “now says he is contemplating leaving religion for good.”

Ryan Bell had “resigned as pastor of the church he had worked at for 19 years. He had become uncomfortable with the way his religion has handled homosexuality and felt that the organization was no longer in line with his more liberal views. At the same time, his 17-year marriage was also ending. In that turmoil, Bell saw the potential for a radical change and took it.”

It seems to me that he was looking for a way to justify a shift in moral reasoning.

At the same time I was reading about Ryan Bell, I came across a story about Michael Rockefeller. He was the son of New York Governor and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller under President Gerald Ford. The last time Michael Rockefeller was seen alive was in 1961 when he was 23 years old.

“The official cause of death would later be listed as drowning. The prevailing theory was that he was consumed by sharks. They got one thing right: Michael was eaten. But it wasn’t by sharks.

“‘Savage Harvest,’ a new book by veteran travel writer Carl Hoffman, makes the compelling and convincing case for the true story behind his disappearance.”

On an art gathering trip to Dutch New Guinea to locate primitive art for the Museum of Primitive Art founded by his great grandfather John D. Rockefeller, he came across an aboriginal people called the Asmats.

“The Asmats were agile, quick and muscular from paddling. They were naked except for a tight band of rattan just above their knees. Western taboos did not exist here.

Men had sex with men. They shared wives and practiced polygamy. They sometimes drank each other’s urine and covered themselves in human blood during bonding rituals.1


“This spirit world centered around the practice of headhunting and its outgrowth, cannibalism. A founding story of the first brothers in the world described how to exactly butcher, eat and honor a human.

“Cannibalism was not about getting protein.

“Headhunting and cannibalism were as right to them as taking communion or kneeling on the carpet facing Mecca,” [Carl Hoffman] writes.

Michael Rockefeller was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometime earlier, “five elite Asmats were gunned down” by a Dutch-appointed official named Max Lapré. “In a world where death requires death, where retribution is vital to placating the spirits, the natural order had been upset. The world was out of balance, an open wound festering in the village each and every day, even more so because Lapré was a white man,” writes Hoffman.

Michael Rockefeller

After his boat capsized during a return trip, Michael Rockefeller had to swim to shore. Exhausted after a ten-mile swim, he met up with a group of Asmats who wanted revenge.

“One of the men drove a spear through Michael’s ribs. With one blow of an ax to the back of his head, he was dead. The ritual would now begin. According to documentation on the Asmat headhunting ritual, they would first remove Michael’s head, then slit him from the neck down his back. Entrails would be removed. Legs and arms would go into the fire while the group chanted. His charred body parts would be passed around for everyone to taste. His blood, which they saved, would be smeared over their bodies. Once the head was fully cooked, they would scalp it, remove his brain and eat it.

“Everything not eaten would be saved. Some would be used in weapons, others as religious icons.”

The story is horrific in a moral universe where moral absolutes actually exist, otherwise it’s just the survival of the fittest. You can read more of it here.

People like Ryan Bell can live “as if there is no God” because the people he lives with live the way they do because they and those before them believe in God, and those that don’t believe in God mimic a moral world founded on a belief in God and a moral world that goes along with that belief.

There is no legitimate way to account for a moral worldview in a spontaneously generated and evolved world that gave rise to bags of meat and bones animated by electricity in which, as Carl Sagan wrote, the brain and “its workings—what we sometimes call ‘mind’—are a consequence of its anatomy and physiology, and nothing more. ‘Mind’ may be a consequence of the action of the components of the brain severally or collectively.” ((Carl Sagan, Introduction, The Dragons of Eden (New York, Random House, 1977.)) What the Asmats did to Michael Rockefeller is keeping with the survival of the fittest evolutionary paradigm.

I would like to see Ryan Bell live among the Asmats “as if there is no God” to see how far it would get him and what rationale he would give the Asmats if they wanted to do to him what they most likely did to Michael Rockefeller.

This brings me to the third article. It’s about a group of atheists who came up with the 10 ‘Non-Commandments’ Contest “in which atheists were asked to offer modern alternatives to the famous Decalogue.” As much as atheists want to escape from God, they keep coming back to Him. Richard Dawkins attempted something similar with this “non-commandment”: “Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.”

Says who? Try it on the Asmats or Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot. One atheist shared this conviction: “The Law[s] of nature render God superfluous.” This makes “Nature, red in tooth and claw” the guiding principle of evolutionary development. The Asmats could have readily appealed to it as they sat around the fire chomping on the charred body parts of Michael Rockefeller.

  1. This all sounds primitive to most of us, but there’s a lot of this going on today among people dressed in three-piece suits and ties. []
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