I got a message from someone who was very polite and friendly, but who wanted to take me to task for having continually cherry-picked the bible, seeking out all of its ugly bits. “After all,” he (she?) said, and I quote, “you have to admit that the vast majority of the contents of the Bible is of love, forgiveness and justice”…
Here is an expanded version of my response.
There’s no doubt that atheists like me go picking out all the revolting aspects of the bible that we were never taught in Sunday school, and that are never heard as adults from the pulpit. I wouldn’t really have any argument with your message except for your saying “you have to admit that the vast majority of the contents of the Bible is of love, forgiveness and justice”. I couldn’t agree less.
The old testament, which is about 7/8 of the bible, is horrendous, and its ethical precepts would be out of place in any but the most backwards, cruel, and barbaric of societies. It’s absolutely not about love and forgiveness, but retribution, anger, jealousy, and violent military conquest. Really, if you were judging the bible by the balance of nice stuff to awful stuff, you could not come to any conclusion other than that it was a ghastly book filled with absolute horror.
In fact, that’s the conclusion that I and many other atheists have come to. It’s a ghastly book filled with absolute horror.
The scale of the horrors it contains and is largely brushed off by apologists and defenders: I mean, striking thousands of babies dead for the sins of a nation’s king? How did the mothers of these babies feel, waking up to find a cold corpse in the cradle? As ‘payback’ for some King’s iniquities, that they had nothing to do with? That’s astonishingly awful!
Or drowning the entire world in a slow miserable death? As punishment for moral ‘corruption’? That’s like punching someone’s teeth out as punishment for being violent!
Or asking David to choose between two or three horrible afflictions that the Lord insists on decimating his nation with? Imagine someone’s tied up a loved one of yours, and you have to choose whether he kills her with a chainsaw, a scalpel, or a power-drill? Well, David had to choose between his nation dying from famine (starvation), certain defeat in war, or a decimating period of pestilence.
Of course, I think it’s fiction, so it would be crazy to be angry at Yahweh, who doesn’t really exist any more than Zeus, or Baal, or Molech. I do, however, find it worthwhile seeking out and pointing out these things, because I believe that the appalling morality of this book has been, and is, clouding the issues of ethics and morality in our society and world, up to today.
It certainly clouds the better judgment of individuals. I see it often. For example, as an atheist, I can utterly, utterly condemn the practice of throwing rocks at people until they die of the injuries caused. Same goes for the punishment of burning living people to death. Even if you support a death penalty, would ANY civilized society choose one of these methods over, say, the electric chair or a lethal injection? We consider those ‘humane’ for good reason, given the alternatives presented by the god of love. Had Yahweh not heard of hanging, which is relatively quick in most cases? Did it absolutely have to be stoning?
Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but generally speaking, a Christian believer, who believes that stoning and burning alive were once the favored punishments of all-loving, all-holy Yahweh, has something that compels them to at least halt somewhat before utterly condemning those practices as being an obscene violation of justice, ethics, or morality. They have to, or else, as they know, they’re describing their god as utterly violating morality in the most revolting way. I’ve tried the experiment often, asking believers on youtube whether or not stoning someone is as bad as, say, committing adultery or telling an egregious lie. Obfuscations abound, and I’m repeatedly amazed that such a thing could even come under question. The usual comeback of “Well you’re an atheist, so you don’t have any basis for your morality” only makes me sigh at what the obfuscation is avoiding- What good is a basis of morality when it can’t guide you towards differentiating between the ‘evil’ of consensual sex outside of marriage, and that of roasting a fellow human being to death with fire?
I can’t think what is is like for people to have such double-think going on. “God is perfect love and perfect justice and perfect forgiveness, way beyond anything that a mere human could come up with, but yes, in the past, He just liked to see non-virgin brides murdered on their fathers’ doorsteps by mobs of angry men pelting her with rocks until her skull was smashed in or she died of massive internal bleeding”.
What did the father of the bride, or the mother, think of Yahweh’s perfect love, justice, and forgiveness, as they buried the violently bruised, still-bleeding corpse of their teenage daughter? Imagine witnessing the scene. Imagine the girl’s screams as those faithful men carried out ‘God’s will’. This might help: Have you ever seen footage of the Taliban cutting someone’s head off in the public square, as I have? Or shooting a woman through the head at point blank range, as she kneels on the ground in front of an audience of spectators? What would you think of a person who defended their idea of ‘justice’? Well, I’ve had stonings and burnings defended by Christians time and time again, as having been ‘appropriate’ in their cultural context.
No, the central representation in the bible about the character of its god is NOT primarily about love and forgiveness and mercy. You have that about 180 degrees wrong. One may as well read Mein Kampf and come away claiming it is a book about equality, tolerance, and peaceful diplomacy.
You’re thinking about that addendum tagged onto the end about the hippy who came up with better, kinder, more humane ideas. But who then also threatened eternal torture in a scalding lake of fire to those who don’t follow him. Ughhh- this obsession with pain, violence, and torturous insanity is inescapable within Judeo-Christianity, even in the new testament. What is it that finally satiates God The Father’s anger over mankind’s sinful nature, after a few thousand years of ritual animal slaughtering not quite cutting it? Of course – an act of violent torture against a perfect god-human. Torture and suffering is like a currency for this god – it even dishes it out unto itself for its own satisfaction.
And to think there are religions out there who have their adherents vow such things as “to not cause harm to any living being”.
Imagine if a God of the universe taught that, and led by example. Wow, what a different world this would be. But look what we’re stuck with instead.
So, to end: Why bring up these obsceneties in videos about the most believed-in god in the world, ever? Because if stoning people and burning them alive can be excused in some ‘contexts’, … then what on Earth can’t be?