Secular News Daily - February 11 & 15, 2011
10 Biblical Atrocities That Go Overlooked (Part 1 & 2)
by Gordon Douglas - An ex-Independent, Fundamental Baptist Pastor, Missionary, and Evangelist, I turned from all religion after years of hard study and soul-searching. Check out my blog, Walking Away, at http://capnjammer.wordpress.com/ for more of my writing, especially if you or someone you know is trying to escape religion.
I remember reading the Bible in my younger days. Don’t you?
I started before I became a Christian, at the tender age of nine, mainly because I had an unhealthy obsession with the end of the world. I ate up the book of Revelation, and even as an “unchurched” youth I clearly recall reading it to my friends at sleepovers.
When I became a Christian at twelve, my church family immediately put me on a “Bible in One Year” schedule which I stuck to diligently throughout the majority of my youth and young adulthood.
For the five years I spent in seminary, this was boosted up to four times over the course of one year, after a college professor my freshman year heard how I had also made it a habit to read through The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and the Chronicles of Narnia every year and challenged me to read the Word of God as often as I read my “worldly entertainment.”
After all those readings (which, after a simple bit of math you may deduce was about 26 times), I can’t to this day recall ever reading about some of the atrocities listed in the Bible. I clearly did read them, as I read and meditated on every word of Scripture, but somehow I missed them.
God killed Onan for pulling out. Image: www.thebricktestament.com
So here are a few of the things I failed to see in the Bible as a Christian which, if I had only chosen to think clearly and critically, I may have used to my benefit to escape religion much sooner than I did.
10: Being a good Christian means treating your slaves well.
Slavery is a terrible thing that has occurred all throughout history. There’s no doubting that the Old Testament does clearly allow for slavery, but surely, not the New Testament!
Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. (I Timothy 6:1-2, KJV)
This brings us to the best part about Biblical slavery. Did you know…
9: Beating Your Slaves is Perfectly Acceptable
Yes, there is a verse in the Bible that tells us it’s okay to beat your slave, as long as he’s only bedridden for two days. From the context, it can be inferred that, if the slave does eventually die after a few days, that’s okay too, because, well, he is property after all.
It's not just OK to beat your slaves; the Bible tells you how. Image: Atheistnexus.com
And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.” (Exodus 21:20 KJV)
8: Boys Will Be Boys, and God Will Kill Them For It
I remember many times in my youth making fun of my pastor (often to his face) about his receding hair line. Of course, my pastor was a good sport about it and often made fun of himself. I’m glad that I live in a world where God doesn’t exist, because if he did I may have received worse punishment than the fair recession of my own hair.
The natural response of a child, upon seeing a bald man, is to make fun of him. The natural response of a loving and just God upon hearing children making fun of one of his servants for being bald is to have them eviscerated.
God loves all the little children. Except the ones He feeds to bears.
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. (II Kings 2:23-24 KJV)
I once looked on this with respect for the man of God. Now, I realize that whether the kids were saying “Ha ha, you’re bald,” or “Leave town because we don’t want to hear your message” or “Have a great time in town, baldy, because we plan to stab you and take all your money,” there is no moral way to explain sending bears to disembowel them.
This is actually one of the best-known stories in the Bible of God’s atrocities. I still have a hard time understanding how I didn’t see this as being awful back when I first read it, and the 25 or so times after that, and all the times I heard it preached as though it were something wonderful.
Next up is another story I never really picked up on, and which most people don’t.
7: “One More Night With Them Stinkin’ Frogs.”
Lots of frogs legs . . . but that murdering of all firstborn might be going a bit far. Image: middletownbiblechurch.org
The really interesting part of the story isn’t Pharaoh’s insistence that he spend “one more night in sin,” as the preachers will tell you the passage means. It’s that it was God, not Pharaoh, who made Pharaoh say no when Moses asked him to let his people go.
And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. (Exodus 7:13 KJV)
Because God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, the people of Egypt continued to suffer the plagues, ending with the death of the firstborn child of every Egyptian household. (Jews celebrate this massacre with Passover.)
That’s a lot of innocent deaths for God’s punishment of one man . . . who did something God made him do. Sounds almost like . . .
6: 70,000 Innocent People Killed Because Someone Counted Them
King David receives the results of his Census of the Damned.
And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly . . .
So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. (I Chronicles 21:9-14 KJV)
God told David not to count the people. Most preachers I’ve ever heard will tell you it’s because he didn’t want the great numbers of Israel to go to David’s head. God wanted David to know that it was his help, not the numbers of the children of Israel, that was responsible for his victory in battle.
Whether or not you think this was a terrible sin, anyone of good conscience should be able to see that killing 70,000 innocent people because of the sin of one man (again, that sin was counting) is not the act of a loving, just, good God. Especially not when you consider that the method of execution was pestilence: It wasn’t just the 70,000 fighting men of Israel who died, but the old and infirm, women, and children. They just didn’t get counted.
Stay tuned for the next installment. So far these have been instances in Scripture any Sunday School student could drudge up and try to explain away. Don’t worry: it gets much worse.
Last time, I introduced five of the greatest atrocities in the Bible.
These were slavery, the treating of human beings like property (including the right to beat and kill them at will), God’s murder of children in the most horrible of ways just for acting like children, his responsibility for Pharaoh’s hard-heartedness which led to the Ten Plagues and eventually the death of the firstborn of every house in Egypt, and his punishment (by death) of at least 70,000 innocent people for the sins of one man.
In a theocracy, God's Law has teeth!
These are only examples, by the way, of the type of things that happen all the time in Scripture. Along the same lines as the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, you have God actually sending demons to torture King Saul, purposely ruining Job’s life just to see if he would continue to be faithful (even though the Bible says God can be tempted of no man, neither tempteth he any man), and God actually claiming in Isaiah 45:7 to create all evil.
So we can see already, there are some places in the Bible that should (but often don’t) cause any of the religious faithful who are of good conscience to take a second and reconsider where they place their faith. It wasn’t until I was already well on the road to deconversion that I saw some of these awful things and began to make sense of them for what they truly were. I actually spent my time in trying to defend a god who was clearly guilty of some of the worst atrocities ever enacted upon humanity. Things like:
5: God Orders Systematic Genocide
Killing children because their parents chose another religion is godly!
Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again. (Deuteronomy 13:13-16 KJV)
In other words, kill the entire town, every man, woman, and child, even every animal, and don’t even take anything from the town, just burn the whole thing straight to the ground. Why, you ask? For choosing to leave Yahweh and worship another god!
War is hell. Regardless of the perpetrators or the targets or the innocent casualties, war is a terrible thing. It’s even worse when it’s God who commands it, and even worse still when he joins one side and destroys the other entirely due to the exercise of free will.
War in the Bible is glamorous . . . Right?
To the victor go the spoils. If it had been the Canaanites that prevailed in the conflict for the Promised Land, the Bible most likely would have been written about Chemosh or Marduk instead of Yahweh. We’ll never know, because if there is any historical accuracy in the Bible, these entire races were exterminated.
There are some instances, though, where God didn’t command the death of every person…
4: God and Moses Approve of Rape
Rubens got it wrong. Picture the women a bit younger - like 12 or 13.
And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho. And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:12-18 KJV)
This isn’t the only time the people are authorized by God to rape. At Jabesh-Gilead, the men are instructed to kill every man, woman, and child, but to keep the young virgins for themselves. When the men of the tribe of Benjamin complained that there weren’t enough women to be their wives, they were instructed to go lie in wait near a festival just outside the city and rape the women who came out. That way, their fathers would be legally obligated to give them to the men as wives. (This all takes place in Judges 21).
3: While We’re On The Subject Of Rape…
Let me ask you a serious question. If you were a judge, which of the following would you find more heinous: Not listening in church, disobeying your parents, hitting your father, being a homosexual, following a different religion, being an astrologer, committing adultery, having sex before marriage, working on Saturday, or rape?
If you answered rape, then you would do well to stand aside and let God take care of making the laws, as you apparently aren’t up to snuff on it. All the former are punishable by death. Rape is only punishable by 50 shekels of silver, payable to the father of the victim, and marriage to the victim (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Unless, of course, you are the rape victim and your attacker was holding your mouth shut, because God’s punishment for those who don’t scream loud enough to be heard while being raped is death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).
God clearly cares less about the violation of the woman and more about the violation of the father’s property. This leads us to the next atrocity:
2: Women are Property
Not as bad as murder or rape, when you think about it. So why is this on the list above them? Let’s look at the following passage to see why:
And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. (Exodus 21:7-11 KJV)
That’s right: the selling of one’s own daughter as a sex slave is fine and dandy. Of course, that’s really all the practice of marriage was in the Bible: sealing a deal by trading off your virgin daughter, normally just at the point of having reached puberty, to a man usually old enough to be her father. And if she didn’t have the signs of being a virgin (which we know today can happen through a completely innocuous activity such as riding a horse), she was to be stoned on her parent’s front porch (Deuteronomy 22:20-21).
Stop and think about that for a second: a woman was usually betrothed and married around puberty. That means she could be as young as 7, but probably around 13 or 14. Think about that for a second, and then read through the previous entries on today’s list for a clearer idea of just how atrocious the act of forcibly taking wives from among the virgins of your enemies really was.
1: Human Sacrifice
Ask any Christian, and they’ll tell you that the central story of the Bible is, indeed, the blood sacrifice of a human being (who also happened to be God). The Bible says without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins, and this is a facet of theology which is carried on all throughout the Bible, from the sacrifices of Cain and Abel to the near-sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, from the scapegoat to the yearly sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, from the sacrificial lamb in the Holy of Holies to the key event in all of Scripture: the crucifixion of Christ on the cross at Calvary.
But is God really obsessed with this idea of death and bloodshed as a means of maintaining favor? Based on some of what we’ve read already, and the punishment of death for so many minor infractions under his law, you would think so. But how far does it go?
Let’s look at Exodus 13:1-15 for the chilling answer.
If you can find a lamb (or a ram), you don't have to kill your firstborn son for God! See, he's better than those other gods. Merciful and loving.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. [the middle section describes the feast of the Lord, when and how to observe it] And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year. And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’S. And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem. And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.
That’s right: something occurs in the Bible that is so awful that God tells the people how to apologize to their children when they’re old enough to realize how terrible it is. You know that ceremony they perform at churches where the pastor or priest holds up a newborn child and introduces it to the congregation? That’s clearly a misrepresentation of what’s going on here. Read the passage again, and there can be no doubt. These verses are not simply asking the parents to dedicate their firstborn to god, but as a human sacrifice which is then redeemed by sacrificing a lamb instead. Just like most of the other gods of the day, Yahweh demanded sacrifice in his name, including all the firstborn children.
But God is merciful. You can sacrifice a lamb instead of your son. But how can a “good, loving, and righteous” god even ask this of his people?
Jephthah murders his daughter. A nice thank-you gift for God.
That’s my list, and it’s something to consider next time you hear someone try to explain that our system of morals and values came from the Bible. It wasn’t until people started thinking for themselves, when humanity started growing up as a species, that we were able to develop a system of ethics that defied the laws of the Bible and we started drawing away from these terrible, racist, sexist, bloodthirsty, inhuman practices.
If humanity ever wants to fully mature, we’re going to have to keep moving away…
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