Prager and the Bible

Dennis Prager’s latest Worldnutdaily column, though written by a Jew, could easily have been written by a fundamentalist Christian like David Barton. It’s full of the same kind of ahistorical nonsense that Barton spews regularly. He begins with this bit of chauvinism:

I say this because there is nothing – not any religious or secular body of work – that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral basis of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.

Of course. That’s why it formed the “moral basis” of slavery for centuries, and the denial of women’s rights, and the justification for segregation and pretty much every other social injustice.

It was this book that guided every one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, including those described as “deists.”

Really? Even Thomas Jefferson, who called the God of the Old Testament “cruel, capricious, vindictive and unjust, the gospel writers a “band of dupes and imposters” and Paul the “first great corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus”? Even Thomas Paine, who wrote an entire book dissecting the Bible as a book full of myths and barbarisms? Were they “guided” by the Bible too?

It gave humanity the great moral rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Which no one, especially those who claim to believe it most vociferously, actually follows or possibly could even if they wanted to. I find it especially ironic that those who declare their love for Christ the loudest and most often are often the first ones to beat the drum of war. I guess they define “neighbor” literally — unless their neighbor is gay, of course.

It taught humanity the unprecedented and unparalleled concept that all human beings are created equal because all human beings – of every race, ethnicity, nationality and both male and female – are created in God’s image.

Really? The Bible teaches that? You should tell that to the Midianites, they’ll get a good laugh. Oh wait, you can’t because they were wiped out at God’s command, proving his love for all humanity.

This is the book that alone launched humanity on the long road to abolishing slavery. It was not only Bible-believers (what we would today call “religious fundamentalists”) who led the only crusade in the world against slavery, it was the Bible itself, thousands of years before, that taught that God abhors slavery. It legislated that one cannot return a slave to his owner and banned kidnapping for slaves in the Ten Commandments. Stealing people, kidnapping, was the most widespread source of slavery, and “Thou shall not steal” was first a ban on stealing humans and then on stealing property.

Holy shit. Is he reading the same Bible I am? He can’t possibly be. Or he’s just lying. Take your pick. If the Bible is the word of God, then he spoke quite bluntly about the things he abhored, the things he thought were “abominations.” Like gay people and women who aren’t virgins on their wedding day. If he thought slavery was an abomination, why didn’t he say, “Thou shalt not own slaves, it is an abomination. Anyone who owns slaves shall be stoned to death”? That’s what he did with far lesser “crimes.” Instead, he actually commands slavery multiple times in the Bible. This is simply deluded.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Which no one, especially those who claim to believe it most vociferously, actually follows …

    The only way this rule could fit the observed behavior is if the hyperxians actually hate themselves.

    Hmmm….

  2. raven says

    I say this because there is nothing – not any religious or secular body of work – that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral basis of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.

    Well, at least he knows his audience well.

    They have a magic book written by god. That they never read and have no idea what god really said.

    Anyone following an OT lifestyle today would be doing multiple life sentences in prison.

  3. raven says

    This is the book that alone launched humanity on the long road to abolishing slavery.

    He is just lying.

    It says in Exodus that you can sell your kids as sex slaves if you need a few quick dollars.

  4. abb3w says

    And Barton of course ignores that it was the more Heterodox and anti-traditional Christians who were the bulk of the Abolitionist movement; and the Atheists and Freethinkers availing themselves of Freedom of the Press to speak for posterity were (so far as I can tell) universally opposed to slavery, while the pro-slavery movement were entirely claiming themselves to be good Christians.

  5. psweet says

    …forming the moral basis of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.

    I’m sure Confucius, the Buddha, and Mahatma Gandhi would all appreciate this line of reasoning!

  6. raven says

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave,

    she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

    Now remember, if you get tired of your sex slave, you still have to feed and clothe her. Sex slaves are OK but killing them is right out.

  7. raven says

    while the pro-slavery movement were entirely claiming themselves to be good Christians.

    The Southern Baptists got their start before the civil war, defending slavery.

    Most of the Protestant denominations split into northern and southern sects over slavery, i.e. Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc..

    The Catholic church was one of the last sects to oppose slavery. During the middle ages, church institutions even kept slaves.

  8. laurentweppe says

    I say this because there is nothing – not any religious or secular body of work – that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral basis of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.

    You know, when someone tells me that, I can’t help but hear in the background something that sounds like “Mighty Whiteys invented EVERYTHING

  9. Abby Normal says

    I say this because there is nothing – not any religious or secular body of work – that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral basis of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.

    This is true if you think of the Bible like the hurdles in a track event. They define the race and progress is measured by how well you overcome them.

  10. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    If the Bible is the word of God, then he spoke quite bluntly about the things he abhored, the things he thought were “abominations.” Like gay people and women who aren’t virgins on their wedding day. If he thought slavery was an abomination, why didn’t he say, “Thou shalt not own slaves, it is an abomination. Anyone who owns slaves shall be stoned to death”? That’s what he did with far lesser “crimes.” Instead, he actually commands slavery multiple times in the Bible. This is simply deluded.

    This holds even after the New Covenant. That’s because New Testament mentions of slavery post-new covenant continues to have the supposed biblically inerrant word of God providing instruction to masters on how to treat slaves; and for slaves to submit to their masters. That while God never once takes the opportunity to retract his prior edicts regarding slavery. Claiming, “Paul (or the human authors/editors) thought that” for the relevant passages fails spectacularly; unless the apologist wants to concede the statements in the Bible are from mere humans – no god involved.

  11. Sastra says

    The only reason the Bible pushes the “concept that all human beings are created equal because all human beings – of every race, ethnicity, nationality and both male and female – are created in God’s image” is so it can make the point that everyone is equally accountable to God. Both the saved and the damned labor under the same authority — and the entire purpose of worldly existence is so that the Good children of God are separated from the Bad Children. Morality consists of submission, obedience, and recognizing and accepting the role and position into which the King has placed you. There’s a chain of command. There’s a chain of worth and value which separates men and women who are closer to God from those who are not.

    You simply cannot connect that with the ideals of the Enlightenment. There is not a word in the Bible about human rights. It’s all hierarchies and subjection, higher and lower, ruler and ruled, worship and blasphemy — and fulfilling the role you were created to do instead of following your own individual wants.

    Prager is not just wrong on the specifics. The entire theme of the Bible goes against his thesis. A bottom-up recognition of common humanity obligating shared morality and thus we the people form a union is not the same as “I obey my Lord — he ordered me to love democracy.”

  12. matty1 says

    It gave humanity the great moral rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Since he is Jewish it seems fair to assume he is quoting Leviticus not Matthew so lets look at the context here.
    Leviticus 19:18 is the source, what else is in Leviticus 19?

    Well just two verses along we find.

    20 “‘If a man sleeps with a female slave who is promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment.[a] Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the tent of meeting for a guilt offering to the Lord. 22 With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the Lord for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven.

    Yes a clear argument against slavery, I can see that. Next Dennis will be explaining how a car manual is an argument against driving.

  13. cactuswren says

    @Pierce R. Butler: Taylor Caldwell actually argued that, in her part-autobiography-part-right-wing-screed On Growing Up Tough: she maintained that since sensible people actually hold to a strong self-despisal, that the command to “love thy neighbor as thyself” must necessarily have been meant ironically and should be read as “Don’t love your neighbor any more than you do yourself, which is not at all.” (This in a book the balance of which could be boiled down to, “I am right and anyone who disagrees with me is stupid and evil.”)

  14. Francisco Bacopa says

    The funny thing is that lots of our laws and traditions predate Christianity. Much Anglo-American law about the rights of the accused comes from comes from Germanic and Scandinavian tradition. Roman law never really went away, and when the complete Code of Justinian was restored and copied, people went crazy over how cool it was.

    We in the west should celebrate the depth of our own culture. The so called Judeo-Christian tradition is an interloper that has burdened us. We have our own history and our own values. Let us not disrespect ourselves by supposing that we owe everything to an alien culture.

    All this sounds Erocentric. So? When a person of European descent supposed that the Bible is foundation of his morals he is debasing his own culture. Get out there and learn your roots. they are awesome.

    Same goes for people of African descent. Y’all got some cool history that isn’t taught much. Metal smelting that seems to be independent of any other metal technology, and ethical traditions that are cool enough to name a Linux distro after.

    No need to mention Asia as many Asian cultures have preserved respect for their history and haven’t given in to this bullshit, though they have their own huge problems. It mostly seems that African and European people have bought into the lie that we were worthless before The Bible or The Koran.

  15. Pierce R. Butler says

    cactuswren @ # 13 – thanks; I hadn’t known that.

    Gee, with a little less talent Taylor Caldwell could’ve been Ayn Rand!

  16. caseloweraz says

    As nearly as I can determine, the Bible dates to circa 1400 BC when the Ten Commandments originated.

    To be pedantic, “basis” implies the earliest form of something. The Code of Hammurabi dates from about 1772 BC. The Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu is even older (2100 BC). And it is still not the earliest, but just the oldest of which anything survives.

    Of course it’s more relevant to look at recent documents, because the Bible is only one step in our still-developing legal and moral conventions.

    So Prager strikes out, whether the criterion is age, geographic scope, or modern human-rights standards.

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