The Bible a source of morality? You’re kidding!

June 25, 2012 • 5:03 am

People like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have long emphasized the genocide, the brutality, the bloodshed, and the sheer immorality of much of the Bible. I encountered some of that myself this weekend, and thought I’d present it in black and white.

Two passages from the Old Testament struck me. In Chapter 31 of Numbers, God tells the Israelites to go after the Midianites, presumably because they’re worshiping Teh Rong God (Yahweh is a jealous old coot). On God’s orders, this is what the children of Israel do:

7And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. . .

15And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

16Behold, 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.

17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

The boys and men get slaughtered, as well as nonvirgin women, but the virgins are saved—”for yourselves.”

Worse happens to the people of Heshbon.  The Israelites merely wanted to pass through their land, but God intervened, hardening the spirit of King Sihon and making his spirit “obstinate.” That allowed God to order the destruction of Sihon and all of his people (why on earth didn’t God just soften the king’s heart?).  So we find, in Deuteronomy, Chapter 2:

31And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land.

32Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz.

33And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.

34 And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:

This time nobody survived, though the Israelites did leave the cattle for themselves.  Now people like William Lane Craig and other Sophisticated Theologians™ have tried to rationalize the mass slaughter of children and noncombatants using the “Divine Command theory” (i.e., God said it, so it’s good), but modern morality recoils from such behavior.  How do evangelical Christians who are less demented than Craig rationalize this type of God-sanctioned behavior?

Tomorrow: dietary prescriptions and the stoning of harlots.


Coincidentally, on EvolutionBlog Jason Rosenhouse posted his own experience with tackling scripture, “On reading the Bible“, just the day before I wrote about the same thing.  Thinking he might be missing something that his religious friends had, Jason actually prayed and read the Bible straight though while in graduate school. The praying didn’t help him, and he found the Bible, well . . .

The Bible, on the other hand, had a big effect on me. I quickly came to loathe it. When it wasn’t flat-out horrifying it was so unbearably boring that many nights I could only manage to get through one chapter. There are a few good nuggets, but you have to wade through a lot of dross to find them. Page after page just screamed out to me that this was written entirely by human beings, with no guidance at all from a just and loving God. Just to pick one example, how can anyone read Leviticus, with its endless internecine rules for designing the priestly garments and constructing altars, and think these are the sorts of things the God of all creation would care about?

He singled out the same dull passages that I did. I swear that I didn’t read his post before I wrote mine!  He adds:

I spend a lot of time at this blog talking about the problem of evil. But there is another famous argument for atheism called the argument from divine hiddenness. Put in crude terms, it asks why, if there really is a loving God who seeks communion with his creatures, do so many sincere seekers never find any trace of Him? There are many Kanalley’s out there, but there are also many people just like me. Why would God speak so clearly to him but not to me?

Well, of course Sophisticated Theologians™ have many answers to the vexing question of Why God is Hidden.  John Haught’s hilarious answer is this: “It is essential to religious experience, after all, that ultimate reality be beyond our grasp. If we could grasp it, it would not be ultimate.”  How many errors can you find in that logic?

But in your case, Jason, it’s simple:  you’re Jewish! Why would God speak to anyone who didn’t even recognize His son?

108 thoughts on “The Bible a source of morality? You’re kidding!

  1. Am enjoying your slog through The Book. 🙂 One question: isn’t there a difference between ‘Israelis’ and ‘Israelites’? I always thought the former are the ones who live in present-day Israel, and the latter lived in the Bible. Sort of.

  2. Worth re-quoting the line by the rabbi (played by Anthony Sher) in “God On Trial”:

    “God isn’t good. God was never good. He was just on our side.”

  3. I can already hear the fundamentalists shouting-“But, we must remember that without this Biblical brutality, there would be no basis for morality!”. Truly saddening.

    1. It’s really good that the christians practice brutality now so that there will be a basis for morality in the future. Christians aren’t at fault, jesus christ made them do it!

  4. Deuteronomy 2? Just wait for Deuteronomy 13.

    From age 12 to 17, every year, I followed with understanding and approval the reading of this chapter in the traditional Sabbath morning service. I now find this strange.

    1. I sometimes use Ir Hanidachat if a godbotherer tries to make a morality argument, since it such an extreme commandment. I ask if they agree that it is immoral to kill babies, who have never even had the chance to “sin”. If they answer yes, then I point out this passage orders just that. If they answer no…then its a pretty good cue to back away slowly.

    1. These are Old Testament/Torah. It’s not just Christians who base their morality on this rot.

  5. why on earth didn’t God just soften the king’s heart?

    Or just not harden it in the first place? Sounds like God was interfering with someone’s libertarian free will, something God “would never do” (at least not when it would prevent some terrible evil). See Exodus 14:8 and Romans 9:18 for further such interference.

    How do evangelical Christians who are less demented than Craig rationalize this type of God-sanctioned behavior?

    I make no promises, but you can check out this link:

    Unfortunately, now that it’s become a book, the videos of the conference are apparently gone.

  6. There are many moments in my history that led me to lose my religious assertions, leading to my current agnosticism/atheism (depending on the god assertion I toggle between the definitions). One of the strongest moments was when a friend of mine, a life-long Christian and a Nazarene Pastor (a denomination that by custom, but not creed, believes in biblical inerrancy) said that there are passages he would never use as subject matter for a sermon. The passages you cite Jerry are the passages he would avoid. This got me thinking that if parts of the Bible need to be avoided for its abhorrent content, why do we revere it as the foundational text for the faith. It was a moment of cognitive dissonance that resolved itself in a rejection of my religion and ultimately in the veracity of religious epistemology. I had to admit that as a post-enlightenment person I valued evidence too much to continue to believe that my emotional reasoning towards religious feeling could be justified by the bible as a valid data-set. This discovery has become a general principle and seems to apply to all assertions towards supernatural “knowing”. There is no “there”, “there”.

  7. Would it not be interesting – from a scientific point of view – to investigate how true believers read the bible, and why? My speculation is that it is mainly behavior (similar to e.g. bears in cages moving back and forth) instead of some form of intellectual curiosity.
    And another speculation is that it benefits true believers to constantly train themselves in living in a state of cognitive dissonance. Faitheists have to live with so many incompatible ideas!

  8. Indeed, why doesn’t this god speak to all who earnestly pray to him and read his book? I wondered that for years, sure that *I* was at fault for this silence, until I realized those people who were claiming this were either lying or crazy.

    The claims of a suddenly “hidden” god fail just like the Christian claims of a god that wants wants people to come to it through blind faith e.g. the usual “free will” argument. They must ignore their entire “holy” book and make up a new MO for their god.

  9. “That allowed God to order the destruction of Sihon and all of his people (why on earth didn’t God just soften the king’s heart?)”

    Same thing for Pharaoh and the Egpytians.
    By example, in Exodus 7:3 “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt”
    By looking retrospectively at those “signs”, it is clear that God was planning a mass murder.

    I find very difficult to understand why Passover is still widely celebrated by people that have so much suffered from iniquities over the centuries.

    Desnes Diev

    1. “Well, you see, Moses, Pharaoh wants to release your people. Right now. But I’m going to mess with him so he doesn’t do it just yet. Just so I can show everyone what an incredible bad-ass I am. Watch this…”

      1. Exactly. This God looks like a Hollywood screenplayer-actor specialized in (auto-promoting) action movies 😉

        Desnes Diev

  10. It is indeed brutal – mass rape & genocide – but to wipe out enemies who would carry on a blood feud was probably the intention. That is not to justify what they did, but that would have been the intention. Romans did the same thing.

    1. More evidence that morality has evolved throughout history. More evidence that the babble is just a human construct reflecting the times in which it was written.

  11. As a former Christian who read the bible 3 full times before the 4th time caused me to lose my faith, I can say that it takes a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance to miss this stuff. I read the bible looking for what God was saying to me, not objectively. I knew that god was god so I just accepted the horrific parts.

    On the other hand, I bet that if you took a group of devout christians and asked is it morally okay to kill your child if he’s disobedient repeatedly you’d almost get almost 100% against it (or I at least hope so). Yet this was commanded by their god….. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) I should write my fundamentalist parents a thank you note for not obeying god.

    1. David, well said. Would you care to describe the differences in your overall thought processes during each of the four readings? Were you increasingly aware of the difficulties each time, or did it all just dawn on you the last time around?

      In my case, I never even knew about most of that horrible stuff (or the contradictions, absurdities, etc.) until I did my own cover-to-cover Bible reading. Nobody in my church talked about it, and I suspect few knew about it, even the preachers. Their version of Christianity is based on a small sample of conveniently selected portions of the book they revere as “God’s Word,” a book that almost none of them have bothered to (or dared to) fully read.

      1. Lapsed Laestadian: ” Would you care to describe the differences in your overall thought processes during each of the four readings? Were you increasingly aware of the difficulties each time, or did it all just dawn on you the last time around?”

        1st reading: This one was the most horrific until the 4th reading. Here I trusted that Jesus was God (part of the trinity) and I had only read the new testament before, but as I read the old, it became more and more apparent that Jesus couldn’t be god. This was pretty troubling. I thought there was no way this god in the old testament would ever share any of his glory with another being. I was ready to drop Christianity and convert to Judaism until I read 2 Samuel 7:14 — “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.” — completely ignoring the part about him doing wrong (in Hebrews it says Jesus didn’t do any wrong, and I ignored that part).

        2nd and 3rd readings — here I was convinced that yahweh was god and jesus was god, I read the bible trying to understand what god wanted from me and anything he was trying to tell me, I wrote off the bad parts with the simple thoughts that god must have had a reason for these things and I’m sure glad that I’m under the new covenant.

        4th reading — Before starting the 4th time I read some evolution books and became convinced that it was true, this lead me to realize that Genesis couldn’t be read historically and the flood likely didn’t happen and we’re certain that Babel had nothing to do with language development.

        Knowing these things, I already didn’t see the bible as completely divine and inerrant so I was finally free to question it. I had trouble with many parts, and when I got to the story of Jephthah in Judges, my heart broke, why didn’t god tell Jephthah he didn’t have to kill his daughter like he(god) told Abram. I realized then that Jephthah didn’t hear from god, Jephthah was doing what HE THOUGHT god wanted. The bible wasn’t a book of god speaking to a nation, but instead it was a human book of a nation looking for god. With this revelation my faith in the god of israel was diminished, I was a theist for about 9 months after that before I went to a deistic position for a couple of months only to say who cares if there’s a deistic god, this deity sure doesn’t about my praises, now I’m a non-theist, but I’m fairly certain if there is any type of deity, its not one humans know anything about.

        1. Thank you for sharing your experience. It was really touching.

          “The bible wasn’t a book of god speaking to a nation, but instead it was a human book of a nation looking for god.”

          This quote deserves to be quoted, often.

    2. I bet that if you took a group of devout christians and asked is it morally okay to kill your child if he’s disobedient repeatedly you’d almost get almost 100% against it

      I wouldn’t bet on it — there are plenty of seriously hard-core fundies out there.

      1. I’m not sure which is more worrying : that people have the time to do things like this, or that the materials exist.
        Actually, on reflection … the materials exist because Lego have identified a commercial opportunity – selling toys to nostalgic adults. That’s less worrying. I assume that somewhere (Denmark?) they.
        Rule 34 kicked in. “Lego Porn” returns a few irrelevant hits in Wikipedia before getting down to bones with

        Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World
        Rick & Steve shorts were done using Lego blocks and figures, … The animation of the original Rick & Steve shorts were done using Lego blocks and figures, prompting a lawsuit from the company.

        . And in Google … 30k hits, going back as far as at least 2006.
        I hate Rule 34.
        But it’s more interesting than reading the Bible

  12. JC: Now people like William Lane Craig and other Sophisticated Theologians™ have tried to rationalize the mass slaughter of children and noncombatants using the “Divine Command theory” (i.e., God said it, so it’s good), but modern morality recoils from such behavior.

    And on that count, it always boggles my mind to see William Craig trot out his argument from objective morality to the existence of God. He starts with the premise that “some things are truly, really, objectively wrong,” appealing to our intuitions, and mentioning things like rape, child abuse etc. He then goes on to argue that the existence of a God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral truths. So the existence of God in this argument DEPENDS upon our moral intuitions being objectively correct and true.

    The irony is how, even if successful (it’s woefully unsuccessful of course), Craig’s moral argument would RULE OUT the biblical God as a candidate for God, since that character routinely violates our moral intuitions (the inconsistency of the Biblical God’s morality with the moral intuitions and standards most of us adhere to us is well trodden ground).

    It’s like someone arguing from the “objective truth” of mathematics, like 2+2 = 4, to the conclusion that therefore the source of mathematics, The Great Mathematician, must exist. And next the person making that argument waves a book claiming “This book obviously represents the work of The Great Mathematician!” But then you look in the book and find it riddled with incorrect math, wrong answers, that violate the very math used for the initial argument. If you are going to point to a candidate for The Great Mathematician based on the objective truth of our intuitive math, you can hardly nominate anyone who GETS THE MATH WRONG.

    The same goes for Craig and his moral argument. If you even humor him and accept his appeal to our moral rule and intuitions establishes our agreement on the objectivity of that morality, then that rules out any candidate for this God who gets the morality wrong. Bye-bye biblical character Yahweh as a candidate for God.

    But, consistency has never been a hallmark of Christian thought…


    1. Just for interest, God gets the maths wrong as well. He thinks that the value of Pi is three and he can’t even add up a column of figures and get anywhere near the correct answer.

  13. My favourite (favourite?) part of Leviticus is 14 1-9 – Rituals On the Cleansing of a Leper.

    Take 2 birds, kill one and sprinkle its blood on the other bird and the leper. The priest then “shall pronounce him clean”. Allow the living bird to run free. Nice touch at the end there. Anyway, that’s how you cure leprosy.

  14. In the New Testament, doesn’t the bible have a couple of passages that suggest that God has hardened the heart of many Jews such that they CAN’T see the truth of Jesus?

    Or is that some modern theology that I’m mixing in?

    After all, there has to be *some* reason why every single Jew isn’t a Christian…

    1. we have the bible saying that god and jc both intentionally make sure that there are some people who will never be able to accept their “truth” and will thus be damned by no fault of their own: Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8. All try to excuse this by claiming that this action is simply a fulfillment of prophecy but having god do the deed rather than the humans ignoring him makes that quite a nice little lie. Romans 9 confirms that it is by this god’s acts alone is anyone damned.

      1. *reads Romans 9*

        Yes, great. So I am created as I am, to be damned for my unbelief by my creator. Nice touch.

        *goes off to the shower*

  15. Isn’t all this heart hardening by god an argument against free will? Either the pharaoh/king sihon can decide for themselves or they are just god’s puppets.

  16. How much shit does it take to ruin a soufflé?

    Just one of these Biblical abominations would be more than plenty to demonstrate just how vile a monster YHWH and his spawn are. And, yet, you can hardly turn a page without finding another!

    And Christers have the gall to call this the good book….


  17. I’ve always believed that if you get rid of the “thous, haths, beholds…” and other archaic language of this cursed book, and translate it into clear, modern language (as JAC is doing), its mystic appeal will soon vanish. After all, how many can defend a commandment from a so-called just god that says “go out and commit genocide but keep their young girls for yourselves to rape.”

    1. I agree. There is a reason why fundamentalist LOVE the KJV. It’s easier to sound like Charlton Heston intoning, “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me!”, than the more modern, “I’m Number 1!”.

  18. I’ve often maintained that the proof of a magic deity’s not constructing the “10 commandments” is contained within the Decalogue itself. It’s this: why would a vengeful, murderous, genocidal deity who commands his favorite subjects to commit such heinous crimes themselves suddenly command that they never do this kind of shit again?

    And to boot, the deity lists the crime below the midway mark (indicating its importance?)in his list of the biggest crimes!

    It’s patently absurd.

    1. I have to laugh every time I see one of those bumper stickers that says “They’re not the Ten Suggestions!”. I’ve never met a Christian yet that really follows the ten commandments, no matter big a fuss they make about their importance. Just look at “Thou shalt not kill”. To really follow that, you would have to be against capital punishment, any form of war, and even killing in self defense. There is no “thou shalt not kill, except…” Seems like there should be no such thing as a Christian Republican. But even the staunchest believer in biblical inerrancy would say that the fifth commandment isn’t to be taken exactly as written. And that is just one sentence and a pretty straightforward and important one at that.

      I don’t understand how if God is so smart that he couldn’t have done a better job of writing guidelines for living than the ten commandments. They’re terrible. Read any engineering specification or legal document and they are much clearer and without as many omissions. For crying out loud, the rules to Monopoly are written better than the ten commandments!

      1. Goest thou directly to Sheol. Passest not “Go”. Collectest not a hundred shekels nor yet another hundred.

        But, seriously, I think “kill” in the original Hebrew had some sense of unjustified killing. Serious scholars please confirm or refute.


        1. “But, seriously, I think “kill” in the original Hebrew had some sense of unjustified killing.”

          That would make more sense. Then it seems like it should be translated as murder rather than kill.

          For that matter, as written, it doesn’t even say that it applies only to human beings. Vegan anyone?

        2. Not “Lo taharog”, Thou shalt not kill, but “Lo tirzach”, Thou shalt not murder. Meaning, thou shalt not kill a human being when it is wrong to do so. A tautology.

          As Jerry points out, there are plenty of times when, according to either Exodus or Deuteronomy (the Ten Commandments occur in both), it is right, indeed obligatory, to kill people.

          PS: I make no claim to being serious.

  19. I cannot understand how reading the Bible hasn’t improved your life, after reading about the effects it had on Craig Kanalley’s life:

    For example: he was a picky eater, but then tried sushi for the first time. Therefore, Jebus! Try to pick apart the logic in his thinking, I dare you. Have you started to choose more adventurously from the menu? Remember, sometimes scientists are simply not open to the evidence underneath their noses!

  20. But you shouldn’t read this literally. It’s to be read symbolically, like a kind of poetry. Note the refined beauty of the language: ‘Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.’

    This could have been stated so much more crudely.

    It’s all a metaphor for…for…for…

    Well, I give up. I guess one has to be a true believer to be able to justify genocide.

    1. It’s all a metaphor for…for…for…

      …do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you ?

      1. No, that can’t be right. The genocide is clearly presented as a good thing to do. The take-home message appears to be that if you are short of land, God allows you to exterminate the rightful owners and rape their children as long as they worship a different deity.

          1. 🙂

            But I can’t claim to have coined it. It goes back at least as far as when I was at uni – 30 years or more.


  21. After years of Christian education and world history, I have come to see it as a history of the Hebrew people, skewed as any history is when written by the people themselves and made more so by thousands of years of translating and re-translating. The translator cannot help but to allow his interpretation to influence the work. Every translation takes the work a little bit further away from the original text.

  22. The Bible is rather like the reverse of a MAD magazine fold-in, except we’re first introduced to the folded in version, and then when you fold out you get a very different picture!!

    Lots of old stories are censored for modern consumption. The original Grimm fairy tales are far more gory than the Disney version, and the original Arabian Nights are much racier than the version sold in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble, but it is !*only*! with the Bible that one’s entire perspective on the subject radically reverses when you get the full version, and its moral credibility comes crashing down.

    Marcion thought the Old Testament God was an imposter and not that of Jesus, but I suspect he would have winced at the final New Testament canon.

    I liked the critique of WL Craig above.

  23. I am a new atheist: Within the past few months. Just started a free-thinking blog of my own here on wordpress. I was a christian until age 30, was a youth minister for about two years, received my degree in Youth Ministry… and if I’ve come across this verse before I don’t remember it. I’m shocked by it, even as someone who has now written god off as a myth with a horrifying concept of morality.

    My guess is that I’ve actually read this verse and been to church services where it was studied many times, but because I only saw what I wanted to see and only heard what I wanted to hear; and also because I was being taught by those who did likewise, the horror of these passages escaped me. I now often feel as if I’m reading the Bible for the first time. It’s incredible what is included in a book that many believe was legitimately authored by the creator of the universe and is perfect for use as a manual for living.

    It’s incredible what one is capable of when one has “faith.”

    Thanks for posting. Will follow and continue to read.

    1. Most Christians never read their bible nor question what they are taught about it. I can say that at my church we never looked at the OT except for declaring, wrongly, that there were only “10” commandments that we had to follow. My church also avoided the parts of the NT that were inconvenient, like the parable of the minas (Luke 19) where it says that believers should kill non-beleivers, the more looney bits of Revelation, Hebrews where it’s pathetically anti-Semetic and oh yes, the murder of Anaias and Sapphira when they didn’t cough up enough cash(I think that’s Acts 5)

  24. I had a very freethinking liberal Methodist upbringing (although my mother was Buddhist), and the problem passages of the Bible were never broached. I had no knowledge of them until quite late in life.

    Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is usually avoided in schools and by rep companies, because it’s so bloody and barbaric. But discovering it does not really diminish Shakespeare’s achievement. This cannot be said of the Bible, in which God personally emerges as a moral monster.

    1. I was also raised in a liberal Methodist household. We didn’t even have a bible in the house as far as I can remember. My parents seldom went to church (I actually now think they were closet atheists). We kids went to church with the grandparents as they thought we should go. When I was confirmed at age 12, I received a New Testament as a gift from the church. They must not have thought the old testament was fit for a kid to read and they just wanted us to read the Jesus parts! Many years later, I thought I should actually read the entire thing, including the old testament, & I realized what an abomination (in biblical speak!) the bible really is. It’s stunning really.

  25. Numbers 31 is the section that William Lane Craig defends by saying, “but think about the trauma suffered by the Israelite soldiers having to kill all the Midianite children in order to complete God’s ‘will.’

    It is this repugnant defense that Dawkins has cited as his reason for refusing to debate WLC, i.e., WLC comes up with ludicrous justifications for the bottom-of-the-barrel EVIL that is the Judeo-Christian god.

  26. they’re worshiping Teh Rong God (Yahweh is a jealous old coot).

    That seems to be the key to this whole mess of post-semitic religions.

    I have taken Ben Goren’s idea to its core and for now briefly look for the roots of these sets of religions. Wikipedia intimidates, when you click through ‘history’ of religion twice to get behind the make-believe history of the religion, that indeed there is a syncretistic blending between Hellenistic paganism and Semitic beliefs.

    The latter were centered on ranking deities with an OT “El” bull god at the top. Later merged/replaced with father figure Abraham/Yahweh.

    I even read the claim that Judaism and “Christianism” may have split off more or less simultaneously from the same original mongrel of ideas, by centering on different parts.

    Historically that would place them as miserable children of the Hellenistic Conquest. As I understand it, often the aggressive culture want to impress and locally adapt to the indigenous, and the indigenous is impressed by and adaptable to the dominant culture.

    No wonder they are so morally and historically messed up! Semitic religions may have very old roots, similar (but of course not dependent on) their language:

    “However, an opposing theory is that Afroasiatic originated in the Middle East, and that Semitic is the only branch to have stayed put; this view is supported by apparent Sumerian and Caucasian loanwords in the African branches of Afroasiatic.[9] A recent Bayesian analysis of alternative Semitic histories supports the latter possibility and identifies an origin of Semitic languages in the Levant around 3,750 BC with a single introduction from southern Arabia into Africa around 800 BC.”

    That was my brief take, now I have to go off and find research on the roots of these religions. Any pointers among the knowable commenters?

    1. I think you mean Wikipedia “intimates” not “intimidates”

      (though a true believer might indeed by intimidated by Wikipedia)

    2. You’d be amazed at how widely the Bull God is still worshipped, and how much false “science”, magical thinking, and willful destruction of the land is still practiced in His name around the world, even in “developed” countries. This mindless reverence is so deeply entrenched that most people don’t recognize it as a religion. But it bears all the trappings of one, and I think it does echo Mithraism and other ancient cattle cults.

  27. I read this mess twice in my life, which was plenty — once when I was about 15 and a curious member of my Methodist youth group. It was the RSV, as I recall. Definitely not the KJV, as that was considered a bit antiquated and obscure in our church, and I wanted something with a bit more modern scholarship behind it, if I couldn’t read original texts in Hebrew and Greek. I was appalled at how tawdry the whole thing was, the endless ancestor worship, chest-beating, virgin-violating and wanker-yanking of the OT, and wasn’t much happier with the NT and the sheer hypocrisy of this Jesus dude who taught love out one side of his mouth and hellfire out the other, while the miracles were just to laugh over. And I developed a deep dislike for that professional busybody Paul, pulling creepy theology out of his backside and spreading it all over the Mediterranean. I came away convinced that millions of Christians were blindly following what was obviously a vulgar, primitive, and ultimately revolting hodgepodge. Still somewhat laboring under the loving hippie image of Jesus that was being pumped out in the early 70s, I concluded that Jesus the “real” man was at best a nicer than average guy who could turn into a delusional jerk at a moment’s notice, a mini-cult guru who finally just couldn’t keep his mouth shut for his own good.

    Still a glutton for punishment in the name of erudition, I reread it in my early twenties, the “Jerusalem Bible” this time, a heavily annotated Catholic scholar’s version that my liberal Methodist preacher uncle gave me, and my first exposure to the very entertaining deuterocanonical books. Uncle Greg knew I’d be interested in something more academic than devotional, since I’d expressed confusion at the context of much of the Bible in my first slog-through. That experience was very illuminating and gave me much more perspective on the history of the various books as well as the ambiguities and specific cultural references found therein, which led me to a variety of commentaries and histories of the Bible by the historical-critical crowd. That pretty well sealed my first impressions of the Holy Book. Since then, I’ve only gone back in for reference.

  28. Before I got incredibly bored with reading it and gave up, I got about 3/4 ish through the OT.

    I found it by turns comical, stupid, horrid and insulting.

    Just wait until you get to Gods love of assassin animals. At least it shows some imagination on his part.

    The whole thing to me read more as a how-to manual on how to bilk the masses, rather than the supposed word of God.

    1. And you were expecting something else from a collection (sometimes organized, often not) of writings dating to the 8th-2nd centuries BC, primarily written as a combination of propaganda, commands, and illustrative fiction by state-sponsored Jerusalemite Levitical priests?

  29. I disagree with Jason on the authorship of the bible. It would be consistent of the biblical god to produce a dreary book to torture anyone who reads it – so goddidit.

  30. yeah why is god so jealous for? he’s all powerful! it’s very strange for someone who has infinite power to be so petty.

    1. It could be a penis-size thing.

      That would explain a lot, e.g. why all his slaves are required to cut some off.

  31. Ok from god’s point of view, let’s say everyone stops believing in him. So he throws a hissy fit and he can go ahead and wipe everyone out again via his favourite natural disaster. get rid of all the science everyone has found out. then everyone is back in the stone ages and knee deep in superstition. so he’s got his “true” believers back again!!! exercising their free will to believe in him! lolz.

  32. I’ve heard Moses described as a murderer in two sermons, the first I thought, wow, they’re finally calling genocide murder, and then I remembered that Moses apparently killed an Egyptian who beating an Israelite. Takes real mental gymnastics to call that murder and genocide moral.

  33. A couple of questions for Jerry as he slogs his way through the Bible.
    The 10 Commandments at Exodus 20 talk of maidservants and manservants. But the New Revised Version talks of slaves instead. Which is the right translation of whaever the Hebrew word is? It would appear that the 10 Commandments presupose slavery and do not condemn it.
    (2) The Jews were on their way out of a period of enslavement in Egypt when Moses issued the commandments. Is the original Hebrew that talks of this instance of slavery the same Hebrew term that we get in 10 Commandments, or is it different? I suspect it is the same but not knowing Hebrew of the Bible I cannot tell and would like to know.

    1. Sorry, can’t resist; but how often do you get the chance to parade knowledge you haven’t used for nearly 60 years?

      yes, ‘eved is a slave, and ‘avduth (same root) is slavery as in Egypt, and the last Commandment makes it clear that an ‘eved is a possession that can be coveted.

      However, there is no separate word for “servant”, as opposed to “slave”, and it is unhistorical to automatically equate slavery anywhere in antiquity, with its many gradations, with, say, 19th century US chattel slavery.

  34. Why was god’s focus on what was happening in only in the Middle East? If he is the god of all creation then what about all the tribes in, for eg.,the Amazon? Did no one there smite him? And he did create the WHOLE universe but there is no mention of anyone smiting him in a planet in Andromeda? Such a small focus of the god of ALL CREATION.

  35. Worse happens to the people of Heshbon.

    Jerry: one of my closest friends and colleagues has just concluded a study of the commonware pottery (i.e. kitchen ceramics and such) from Tell Hesbân/Tall Hisban, née Heshbon. Glancing over her shoulder at the piles of brittle sherds, I couldn’t help wondering what all the hullaballoo was about. So much monomaniacal conditioning power exerted over rights of passage?
    At any rate, while there are abundant finds from at least the mid-1st millennium BCE up to at least the late Byzantine periods, solid evidence for occupation during the Bronze Age / Early Iron Age is yet lacking. So nada for the Deuteronomy Heshbon. Some surmise that poor Sihon’s Heshbon, if it ever existed, was located on another hill in the vicinity, and so thoroughly flattened by God’s own demolition team, that it was abandoned and a new settlement by the same name re-founded at the present site.

    If that were the case, we’d have another instance of the Not So Good Book extolling a Lidice or an Oradour-sur-Glane as a pious deed. A Lidice or Oradour just for transit duties and zoning regulations, that is.

  36. Ein Buch ist ein Spiegel; wenn ein Affe hineinsieht, so kann kein Apostel herausgucken.

    – Lichtenberg

  37. The Midianite massacre and the episode of King Sihon’s heart being hardened are Killing Events number 26 and 29, respectively, in Steve Wells’ comprehensive book, ”Drunk with Blood- God’s killings in the Bible”. Wells lists 135 such events, though it probably won’t take that many to convince most people that god doesn’t set a very high standard for morality.
    I recommend this book as it simultaneously demonstrates that god is too much of a bastard to be real and provides good examples to discuss with your favorite bible thumper.

  38. The bible doesn’t even make good shithouse paper as your finger goes through it, especially if your hemorrhoids are bleeding, although the blood is appropriate. Making joints with it, if its thin rice paper, is very satisfying as you can incinerate the prophets one at a time Look I’m being dead serious here as I am a very holey man, not given to frivolous banalities. I know that Jesus loves me, I think. I bloodywell hope so or I’m in deep shit.

  39. 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.

    Everybody has got all wrong. I’m here to enlighten you, Kurt Vonnegut come back from the dead. Paul Hill is pseudonym I use for security reasons as the FBI is hunting for me. It was them who had me put down in the first place for sedition, blasphemy and anti-Americanism.

    The plague amongst the wathisnames was a great plethora of STD’s clap, jack, syphilis, gonorrhea, non gonorral uretheritus, AID’s.
    Yes they had AIDS, Classic AIDS not neo-AIDS that we’ve got to day. Cause all this shit was associated with screwing, they figured that it was EXTREMELY naughty to screw, especially bumholes as there is all manner of shit up in them.

    Even jacking off was a no no. That why they thought jacking off sent you mad, because it DID send you mad worrying yourself crazy that it sent you mad.

    There were no clap clinics back in those days. The one’s with syphilis were completely out of their trees as well and this was interpreted in being chock a block full of devils.

    They tried getting amongst the virgin camels and sheep but they they all got and developed even more exotic strains, camel clap mixed with sheep and people clap all combined, hence the death penalty for buggery. Not just did men’s peckers rot off their heads fell off as well. Things were getting completely out of hand. Then their hands fell off.

    I originally thought that Moses was killing all these ethnics ’cause the Israelites were running short of fresh meat as Yaweh was getting really stingy with the manna. Mind you if the people who were put down were simmered over hot coals for a couple of days they were okay if you were really desperate.
    Listen I’ve gotta go as someone is bashing on the door and I reckon it’s the FBI.

  40. I managed to escape and have got better digs now. I’ve just had a monstrous revelation I’ve just GOTTA share with you. You remember when Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God why hast thou forsaken me.” This was because just as he expired he took all of our sins upon him. Now God the Father is very squeamish about looking at sin and did a bunk without letting Jesus know beforehand. With me so far.

    Ever since then Jesus has hated God’s guts something ferocious and now actually reckon’s that sin is not just great, but mandatory for getting into heaven, HIS Heaven hidden away from God, where anything goes, sin like you’ve never dreamed of.

    So now when you pray, tell Jesus that you hate God’s guts with a ferocity unparallelled in history. You won’t have any problem being sincere, which is a huge problem for Christians, along with all of the other ‘virtues’ they claim to have an exclusive franchise on.

    Now you’ll be able to shag, get pissed on great booze, do any sort of drug you like with no hangover, no clap, no side effects FOREVER. Oh shit, they’ve found my new digs. I’ve got a tunnel under the floor mat this time. See Ya.

  41. Jesus was sitting with a business associate discussing trends in cross futures when JC suddenly lashed out with his foot at the head of his Nubian toe licker. ‘Bit teste today JC’ remarked his acquaintance. ‘Big night on the piss night before last, turned raw sewage into wine and now I’m paying for it.’ said JC.

    ‘Then yesterday morning I dragged myself out of the cot so dehydrated I was busting for a glass of water. So I poured a glass and when I picked it up Bing!it turned to bloody wine. Now that was the last thing I wanted. So I tried another glass, walked around it, did all sorts of mumbo jumbo incantations and nothing worked.” Hell that’s no bloody good remarked his mate. What happened then?

    ‘Well it was a bloody hot day yesterday so I thought I’d go for a dip in the lake up above Copernicus and drink some of the lake. So up I go, jump in and, would you believe it, the whole frigging lake turned in a really vulgar red. “Bloody hell, shit’ remarked his mate. “Couldn’t bottle it. I could drum up a market for a rough red.” “No, rough as guts” groaned JC. “Rats wouldn’t drink it.”

    “Then to cap it off, because the lake is the town’s water supply, with Roman lead pipes connecting it, the entire town got pissed out of their minds, riots broke out, buildings set on fire, total carnage. Roman troops moved in the quell the riots and this morning 50 people dead and half the town burned to the ground.”

    “That’s bloody awful” commiserated his mate. “What have you go planned for this arvo”. Well I’ve got to move a mountain this afternoon, just to mug lairise” and I’m a bit worried that I might drop the bastard on a town ’cause I’m so crook.

  42. Okay, so a few months ago I posted some comments that I just assumed were blocked by a moderator. But based on this weird Paul Hill ranting, I’m now sure I was wrong about that.

    My apologies.

    1. What’s wrong with weird rantings. Was Kurt Vonnegut weird. In Australia we call it taking the piss out. I used to be Christian myself, a Baptist, and It’s only after you’ve actually been through it, then when backsliding cop the ‘love’ of Christians that you know just how appallingly, horribly, dreadfully sick and twisted it is. All religions are different forms of psychosis. Are you religious and offended. If so you have my deepest sympathy. I understand your confusion, guilt and depression. There is treatment. What do other posters think. Some opinions please?

  43. This is your Messiah Kurt Vonnegut speaking.

    Jesus was up on the cross doing his cross thing, absorbing vast tonnages of our sin, YOUR sin too you foul mouthed blaspheming bastard. He was feeling pretty rough, as anybody would with nails stuck in them, and his old man having shot through leaving him in the lurch.

    To add to his misery, his old lady Mary was screaming at him, berating him. “You useless bastard”, she screams,”I go way into hock, borrow a million sheckles AND float my cross making company on the Jerusalem stock exchange, expecting a massive uprising and you screw it all this lovey dovey shit. No uprising and now I’ve got a yard full of crosses that are worthless and I’m gonna go bust. Bastard, mongrel. Roman General Antonio who formed a joint stock company with me is ALSO gonna go to the wall and he’s as mad as hell.”

    Jesus looked pretty sheepish, as you’d expect, and replied “Sorry Mum, I couldn’t help it”

    Then his brother Jim comes in, “Yeah and I set up a nail factory, bought 50 slaves at a premium price to run it, thousands of nails in stock and no customers. Bastard.”

    To cap it all his brother Judas starts screaming at him. “I’ve gone WAY into hock, setting up a catering service, stalls, merry go rounds and so on for all of the visitors that were gonna come and have fun watching the crucifixions and now I’M rooted”

    Suddenly the sky went pitch black as huge clouds swept over. Then a dirty big bolt of lightning zapped down and incinerated them, but not hitting Jesus. Jesus grinned and remarked gleefully “That’ll teach any bastard that wants put shit on me.” Then he carked it. I bet you didn’t know all this shit as there has been a massive cover up.

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