Tag Archives: morality

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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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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Christian values vs the Bible

As an atheist who reads the Bible daily, I sometimes wonder if Christians read the Bible at all. They sure don’t act like it.

Why do Christians think they need to dress up in their finest clothes when they go to church? The Bible certainly doesn’t say they should do that. On the contrary, it says women, at least, should not adorn themselves with expensive clothes and jewelry and stuff. Christians seem to have decided that Sunday is disobey-the-Bible day.

Why do Christians think it’s proper to call priests, monks, the Pope, etc. “Father”? Jesus clearly told his followers not to call anyone “Father” except God.

Jesus also said it was wrong to take any kind of oath. Yet Christians don’t usually seem to see taking oaths as a bad thing. Avoiding oaths seems to be more associated with atheists. Most Christians have no problem with swearing on the book that tells them not to swear by anything.

Christians generally think following your conscience is good, important, and one of the best ways to make sure you’re doing right. The Bible, on the other hand, says it’s quite possible for your conscience to mislead you, making you think you’re doing right when you’re really doing wrong. It says a lot of people have no idea that they’re doing anything wrong, so their conscience clearly isn’t doing them any good. You have to train yourself to distinguish good from evil, because your conscience is naturally so unreliable. So if the Bible is right, trusting your conscience is a terrible idea!

Some Christians think it’s wrong for a couple to live together when they’re not married. But not only does the Bible not forbid that, it commands it in certain cases.

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The Bible is unbelievably sexist

The Bible makes it easy to see how little its writers valued women. It says women are nothing but trouble, and good ones are very rare. It even has a list showing exactly how much God supposedly thinks various kinds of people are worth. So how much is a woman worth? It varies with age, but generally a woman is worth about half as much as a man according to the Bible. Two-thirds as much, at best.

Maybe that has something to do with why having sons was considered more desirable than having daughters. And why it says giving birth to a girl makes a woman “unclean” for twice as long as when she gives birth to a boy. Speaking of reproductive uncleanness, the Bible says everyone has to shun women and treat them as “unclean” about half the time (during and after their periods). Menstruation apparently makes God angry. (So why did he design women that way?)

Judah thought his daughter-in-law should be executed when he heard that she had engaged in prostitution, even though he had just had sex with a prostitute1 himself, and he didn’t seem to think he had done anything wrong.2 In the Gospel of John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought out to be stoned to death, as the law commanded. But for some reason they didn’t bring out her partner in crime to be stoned too, even though the law also said the man had to be stoned to death.

Biblical gender roles

The Bible claims that women were made for the purpose of serving men. It also says they were then cursed so that men would always rule over them. And it uses the Eve origin story to justify subjugating women. It says women aren’t allowed to speak at church, or to teach, or to be in any position of authority. It suggests that women don’t make good leaders, any more than children do. Only one queen ever reigned over the kingdom of Israel, and she’s portrayed as a bad one.

The Bible says men and women always have to wear different kinds of clothing. It’s disgraceful for a woman not to dress or wear her hair in the same way that would be disgraceful for a man. But women shouldn’t dress too fancy, either.

God says daughters can inherit their parents’ property, but only if there are no sons.3 Some people who hear this then object to having even that much equality. They argue that if those women marry men from other tribes, that could lead to one tribe losing its wealth to another tribe (due to the male-focused nature of how their society worked). But when “God” responds, he doesn’t have a problem with that last part. Instead, he says they’ve got it right, that’s exactly how it works. And he solves their little tribe problem by telling them to be more discriminatory, not less.

A lot of the time, the Bible just ignores women, because the activities that were considered important were also considered to be for men only. Approved female occupations were mostly limited to things like sewing, cooking, fetching water, having children,4 taking care of people, crying, and other things women could do at home.

Whenever they take a census in the Bible, they only count the males, because women weren’t considered to be capable of fighting. Even when a woman did conquer the enemy, they tried to erase her achievement and attribute it to a man. The genealogies are patrilineal, and only mention the occasional woman as an afterthought. Saying “Let my people go” was considered to be the same as saying “Let just the men go.” When the Bible writers were talking about both men and women, they felt the need to clarify it by mentioning the people “and their women“.

A lot of rules in the Bible, particularly the ones about sex, are for some reason written with only male readers in mind, as if women are never going to be reading the Bible or deciding who to have sex with.5 This leads to some strange implications if you take what’s written literally. Some rules, like the ones against having sex with certain people if they’re engaged to somebody else, don’t appear to apply if you’re a woman. And what about that rule that says nobody can have sex with a man?? Most women aren’t going to like that rule. For that matter, most men aren’t going to like nobody ever being able to have sex with them, either. They did not think this through.

Women as property

In the past, women were usually considered to be the property of men. And rather than providing the visionary moral insights you’d expect from the word of a perfect God, the Bible only encouraged the status quo.

Even among slaves, women were treated worse back then. The Bible’s laws state that male Hebrew “servants” usually have to be set free after seven years,6 but female servants can be kept forever.

The Bible condones taking virgin girls along with the other plunder from enemy nations and using them as sex slaves. Or wives, as it sometimes calls them.7 Not that the Bible really makes any distinction between servant girls and wives. Marriage in the past was basically a form of slavery.

The Bible describes marriage as men giving or selling their daughters to other men. Laban sold his two daughters to Jacob in exchange for 14 years of labor. Boaz bought a piece of land in order to get the woman who came with the land. Saul sold his daughter to David in exchange for 200 foreskins. And after Hosea’s wife left him, God had him buy her back from her other lover. Wives belonged to their husbands. The commandment against coveting lists wives along with cows and donkeys and other things your neighbor might own.

That explains why in ancient times, the only kind of adultery people cared about was when a man had sex with another man’s wife. That was a crime because the man would be using somebody else’s property without permission. Solomon wrote at length to discourage his son from doing that. But Solomon had 700 wives and 300 girlfriends, so he clearly didn’t think there was anything wrong with a woman having sex with another woman’s husband. Women didn’t own men, after all. The law generally allowed a man to own as many wives as he could provide for. But a woman could only belong to one husband at a time.

At one point in the Bible, the tribe of Benjamin is in need of wives, because the other Israelites have just killed all the Benjamite women, and have sworn not to “give a wife” to any Benjamite. The only way they can think to solve this problem is to have the Benjamite men kidnap a bunch of women. It never occurs to them that they could just let the women decide to marry Benjamites on their own if they want to, without their fathers having to do anything.

The Bible says if someone hits a pregnant woman, they have to compensate her owner (her husband) for the damaged property, rather than having to compensate her. It says if a man falsely accuses a woman he married of not having been a virgin, he has to compensate her manufacturer (her father) for slandering his product, rather than having to compensate her.

It says if a man rapes a virgin, he has to compensate her owner (her father) for the damaged property, rather than having to compensate her.8 And if you’re a single woman who isn’t a virgin (in which case you’d probably be considered already damaged and unsellable), “God” doesn’t seem to care if you get raped. The Bible has no laws against that, since there’s no obvious way to interpret it as a crime against a man.

Control over women

Right after he tells slaves to always submit to their masters even if they’re violently abusive, Peter says wives need to submit to their husbands in the same way. Paul agrees that wives need to submit to their husbands, treating them like they’re God. He thinks this requirement of extreme submission is fitting and will prevent people from slandering the Bible.9

When a king’s wife disobeyed him, he banished her, so all the other women wouldn’t think they could get away with disobeying their husbands, the rulers of their households. The Bible portrays women as thinking that what kind of behavior is proper is entirely determined by what their husbands think. When women try to make their own decisions, they’re often ignored and overruled by men. The Bible’s laws say a man is always fully responsible for keeping any vows he makes, but a woman’s vow can be nullified by the man who’s in charge of her (her father or husband).

It says a man whose brother dies without a son has to marry his brother’s widow and pretend that the dead man is the one having children with her. A man who chooses not to go along with that custom is to be publicly shamed. But the writers of the Bible don’t even consider the possibility that the woman might not want to marry that man. Only the man’s desires matter.

When Abraham sent a servant to get a wife for his son, her father said to go ahead and take her, without waiting to see if she was willing to marry a man she’d never met. All they needed was the consent of her owner. They didn’t bother consulting her at all until after it was already decided, and they were just sorting out the details of getting her to her new owner. The Bible says a man is allowed to divorce his wife any time he wants, but it never says a woman can divorce her husband if she wants to. Only the owner has the authority to make that decision.

The Bible has the supposedly righteous man Lot decide to send his daughters outside to appease the mob of rapists surrounding his house. The only reason he doesn’t actually do it is that the rapists don’t happen to be interested in them. And God still thinks Lot is worth saving from the doomed city after that. It says sending a man out there would have been wicked and vile and outrageous. But his daughters are his own property, so it must be okay for him to do whatever he wants with them, right?

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Religious discrimination in the Bible

In this post, we’ll look at passages in the Bible that express disapproval of different religious views. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that; religions are beliefs, and beliefs can be wrong, and having wrong beliefs is a bad thing. Pointing out people’s false beliefs and trying to correct them is a good thing. But sometimes people go about combatting wrong beliefs in very wrong ways, such as trying to force people to change their beliefs or be punished.1 It’s also bad if your disagreement is actually based on false beliefs of your own. There is good religious intolerance and bad religious intolerance. Guess which kind the Bible is full of.

Equality

First, let’s look at the non-discriminatory things the Bible has to say about people of different religions. It says Jesus welcomes Jews and Gentiles alike. It says if a Christian and a non-Christian are married, that’s no problem, and they should stay together. (The Bible states that that part is not the word of God, though.) And it says that God shows mercy to people who act in unbelief, and that people should show mercy to those who doubt.

Well, that was quick. Now let’s look at the actual discriminatory passages…

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The Story of Judah and Tamar
Somebody Get Me Pregnant Already

Jacob’s son Judah had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. God killed Er because he thought he was wicked, so Judah told Onan to have children with Er’s widow, Tamar. But if Onan had children with Tamar, they wouldn’t be considered Onan’s children for some reason. So he refused to do it. God thought it was wicked to not impregnate your brother’s wife, so he killed Onan too. Tamar wanted to have children, but Judah wouldn’t let her marry his last son, Shelah.

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Somebody Get Me Pregnant Already
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Should we follow God’s example?

The Bible says we should follow God’s example. That makes sense, because God is perfect, and everything he does is right. God is love, and we should walk in the way of love. We should be holy as God is holy, and perfect as he is perfect. We should speak the way God would speak. We should think like Jesus and follow his ways.

Paul taught his followers to transform themselves and become like God, because God wants his people to become like him. Paul followed Jesus’s example, and we should follow Paul’s example, so that we end up following Jesus’s example too.

How can we follow God’s example, though? I mean, if we can’t see God, how can we know what kinds of things he does, so that we can do the same? We can find out what God does by reading stories about God in the Bible. That includes stories about Jesus, since according to the Bible, Jesus is God.

So, here are some things we should do in order to follow God’s example, according to the stories about God in the Bible:

…Wait a minute. Those are all things the Bible says we shouldn’t do!

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The Story of Dinah and Shechem
Somebody's in Canaan with Dinah

Jacob ran away from his angry brother, and married his cousins Rachel and Leah and their servants Bilhah and Zilpah. They had twelve sons and a daughter named Dinah.

Shechem, the son of a ruler in the nearby city of Shechem, raped Dinah. When Dinah’s brothers heard about that, they were furious, because Shechem had sex with Jacob’s daughter. Nobody should have sex with Jacob’s daughter!

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Somebody's in Canaan with Dinah
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