Censorship in the Bible

I’m a big fan of freedom of speech. Here are a few of the reasons it’s important for everyone to be free to talk about controversial things without being forcibly silenced:

  • Think about important truths that were strongly rejected in the past. Those ideas could never have become accepted if people hadn’t been free to discuss them and to advocate for unpopular views.
  • The people deciding which views to forcibly suppress could easily be in the wrong, and end up suppressing the truth. The use of force doesn’t favor the people who are right. It favors whoever happens to be more powerful and capable of violence.
  • Even if it is in fact wrong views or potentially harmful ideas that are being suppressed, that just hides the fact that people have wrong beliefs, which makes it harder for anyone to actually do anything about it. If discussion of a topic is banned, there is no opportunity for anyone to correct people who are developing dangerously wrong beliefs about it. If people aren’t allowed to talk about their desire to harm people, that just means the victims will be less likely to be prepared to do anything to stop them.
  • Banning the expression of false beiefs can also backfire, causing people to assume that the truth is being hidden from them, and that the things people aren’t allowed to say must be true. And they will never realize how weak the arguments for those bad ideas are, if they never even get a chance to hear those arguments.

Many people believe that the USA, the country that values freedom of speech more than any other, was founded as a Christian nation by Christians based on Christian principles. If that was true, you would expect that the founders’ regard for free speech would have some basis in the Christian Bible. Or at least that the Bible would agree with them about it. Let’s look at what the Bible says about silencing speech, and see if that’s the case…

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Did Israel take any of the land of the Ammonites?

No.

The Bible says when the Israelites were conquering some nations on their way to the promised land, they stopped at the fortified border of the Ammonites. God told them to leave the Ammonites alone, and the Israelites obeyed, and kept away from the land of the Ammonites.

After the Israelites had settled in the promised land, Jephthah stated that Israel had not taken the land of the Ammonites. The Amorites, maybe, but not the Ammonites.

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The Story of the Gibeonite Deception
The Colonists Get Rid of the Natives

After destroying Jericho, the Israelites next went to the city of Ai, killed everyone there with swords, stole all their belongings, and burned down the city. When the nearby people of Gibeon heard about that, they figured out a way to keep the same thing from happening to them. They asked Joshua to make a treaty with them.

God had forbidden the Israelites to make a treaty with the people who lived in the land they were taking over, so when Joshua asked, the Gibeonites said they lived far away. So Israel made a treaty of peace with Gibeon and swore not to attack them.

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The Colonists Get Rid of the Natives
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Did God only create good things?

The Bible says when God finished creating the world, he saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Later on, it says his works are perfect, and everything he created is good.

But that’s clearly not true. If God made everything, and not everything is good, that means not everything God made is good.

What about that one tree? The Bible says God made a tree that would bring death to those who ate from it. What’s so good about that tree? It served no purpose but to tempt people to disobey God and bring a curse on the world. That tree is something God created that was not good at all.

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The Story of the Battle of Jericho
Two Spies and One Hooker

Because Moses did a miracle the wrong way once, God had decided not to let him bring his people into the promised land after all. So when Moses was 120 years old, God sent him to the top of a mountain, where he saw the land from a distance, and then died. God chose Moses’s assistant Joshua to replace Moses as the leader of Israel.

Joshua sent two men to spy out the land of Canaan. They stayed in the house of a prostitute named Rahab, in the city of Jericho. She told the spies everything they needed to know.

The king of Jericho heard that there were Israelite spies in the land. He sent men to tell Rahab to hand over those men who had come to her house. But Rahab hid the spies and told the king’s men that the spies had already left. So they went to look for the spies elsewhere.

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Two Spies and One Hooker
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Should people try to keep their lives?

Yes.

Moses presented his people with a choice between obedience, blessings, and life, or disobedience, curses, and death. And he told them to choose life.

Should you be reckless with your life because you have faith that God will protect you? No, that’s a twisted, satanic idea. Jesus says you shouldn’t put God to the test like that.

When God decided Jesus had to die, Jesus tried to get out of it. Jesus always did what pleased God, and never sinned. So trying to stay alive must be the right thing to do, even if God wants you dead.

Peter encouraged Christians to actively do everything they could to try to make sure they would make it into the kingdom of heaven and gain everlasting life. So you should try to stay alive even after you die.

No.

But Jesus said if you try to keep your life, you’ll lose it. That can’t be good, can it? You wouldn’t really be choosing life, would you?

So the right choice must be to be indifferent to death, or even to try to die, like Samson did. When he asked God to give him his super-strength back for the purpose of a suicide attack, God cooperated and helped him die. God must not have wanted him to try to keep his life.

God sent Jesus on a suicide mission too, and didn’t let him quit. He didn’t want Jesus to try to keep his life.

Jesus expects his followers to put themselves in life-threatening situations just to prove that God is with them and will protect them. (Exactly like Satan challenged him to do!)

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Slavery in the Bible

Suppose you had a book written by the ultimate authority on morality, a book that was said to provide all the moral instruction anyone needs. One thing you would definitely expect to find in that book would be a clear, explicit, absolute condemnation of slavery. You won’t find that in the Bible, though. You might find a few vague passages that you could interpret as denouncing slavery if that’s what you really want it to say. Or you might find some passages that disapprove of slavery in specific cases. But mostly what you’ll find is that the Bible is very pro-slavery.

The Bible says “righteous” Noah made his own grandson into a slave (to punish someone else).

It says Abraham always did just what God wanted him to do, which included owning slaves.

Joseph threatened to make one of his brothers a slave, and he actually did enslave the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph is never portrayed as a bad guy at all, but as a hero doing God’s will.

Moses told the Israelites that God wanted them to attack random nations that weren’t even anywhere near the land they were trying to take over, and that they should subject the inhabitants of those nations to forced labor (if they didn’t just kill them all).

God approved of everything David did, which included enslaving whole cities. His son Solomon made tens of thousands of his own people, as well as the native Canaanites, into forced laborers1 in order to build his palace, the temple, the wall of Jerusalem, etc. And God was pleased with him. When the Bible lists some of these kings’ officials, it casually mentions that one of them was “in charge of forced labor“.

Esther said if all the Jews were sold into slavery, that would be no big deal. She thought it wouldn’t be worth the bother to ask her husband the king to do anything to stop it.

When the exiled Jews returned from Babylon, it casually mentions that they brought thousands of slaves with them.

There are passages in Ezekiel and Revelation that mention humans being sold, not as a bad thing or a reason for punishment, but just as one of many things that used to be sold in the glory days of the marketplaces of Tyre and Babylon.

The Roman soldiers seized a random guy who was just passing by and forced him to carry Jesus’s cross. Jesus didn’t object.

When Paul thought people were doing wrong, he wasn’t averse to telling them to change their ways, even if it meant they had to break the law. But when he encountered a fortune-telling slave girl, he didn’t tell her owners they should set her free, because slavery was perfectly normal to him, because he wasn’t any more morally enlightened than anyone else in his time. He thought slavery was fine as long as the owners provided for their slaves.2 Instead of helping the slave girl, Paul angered her owners by taking away her useful psychic abilities.

Paul encouraged slaves to always fear and obey their masters, submitting to them as if they were God. He thought slave owners were worthy of full respect, and he insisted that the slaves should agree that their masters were worthy of full respect. He thought this would somehow prevent his teaching from being slandered.3

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Who were the twelve apostles?

The gospels of Matthew and Mark each contain a complete list of Jesus’s twelve disciples, or apostles. The two lists have all the same names. One of the disciples is named Thaddaeus, and Judas Iscariot is the only Judas on the list:

  • Simon Peter
  • Andrew
  • James son of Zebedee
  • John
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Thomas
  • Matthew
  • James son of Alphaeus
  • Thaddaeus
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Judas Iscariot

The gospel of Luke also has a list of the twelve disciples, but this one has two people named Judas, and no one named Thaddaeus:

  • Simon Peter
  • Andrew
  • James
  • John
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Matthew
  • Thomas
  • James son of Alphaeus
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Judas son of James
  • Judas Iscariot

The book of Acts lists all the same apostles as Luke except Judas Iscariot, since he was dead by that time. The gospel of John doesn’t have a list of all twelve disciples, but it agrees with Luke and Acts that there was a Judas other than Judas Iscariot among them.

But John also says one of the disciples was named Nathanael. He’s not mentioned in any other book.

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