Sunday school for atheists: James 5


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The Epistle of James is an interesting read even though scholars cannot agree on when exactly it was written and there is some debate about who James was; some arguing he may have been Christ’s younger brother. But most agree it was written shortly after Christ’s crucifixion and eventually some parts were included in the New Testament, as the Bible was developed more toward its modern form throughout the third century.

The Book of James includes warnings about fanaticism, ceremony and formalism over good grassroots faith, the corruption of wealth and the oppression of labor. Here’s some context for the latter:

Bible Gateway — Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

The typical take is not that James is saying being rich is bad. He’s addressing a farm labor and wage price-fixing scam going on around him. James is calling for patience among oppressed laborers who have been systematically screwed out of fair wages by the local rich cabal. He’s saying ‘Don’t worry, when the Lord comes they will be judged by how they became wealthy and not get a pass because they are wealthy’. It’s also a warning not to become corrupt yourself, and pull the same shenanigans, in the event you grow rich.

Busting what might have passed for working class unions in the days of old, the old world equivalent of outsourcing, price fixing, and various forms of extortion are all examples of corruption the Bible speaks out against, loudly in some cases. James 5 covers a specific instance[s] and how it is dividing the Christian community which is providing much of that labor. Needless to say, you don’t see a lot of those verses being quoted by conservatives in the floor of the House.

And that’s one of the biggest problems with religion, leaving alone the issue of believing in super natural deities for which there is no evidence to accept may actually exist. Even a religion based on a socialist hippie God preaching for everyone to basically live in communes and love, feed, and heal one another, gets perverted by the usual suspects to justify just about any grotesque act of greed, cruelty, and self indulgence imaginable.


  1. aziraphale says

    had3, have you ever met a hippy or anyone who lived in a commune? I have. Let me assure you, you don’t know what you’re talking about.


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