Ye have heard of the LORD’s immorality from Christopher, son of Eric, and from Clinton Richard, son of Clinton John, but I give His commands here so ye shall see them with thine own eyes. For lo, if your son is obstinate and wayward, the Lord not only giveth you permission to kill him, but decrees that you kill him, and in a painful manner. From Deuteronomy, chapter 18:
18If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
19Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
20And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
The same fate befalleth those women taken unto marriage and whose husbands, who do not like them, discover that they have lost their maidenheads (Deuteronomy, chapter 22):
13If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
14And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:
15Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate. . .
20But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
The stoning-to-death decree also holds for virgins who are betrothred, but “lie with” another man. In that case they both get stoned to death. If you know about stoning, at least as it’s practiced in modern-day Islamic countries, it is an excruciatingly prolonged and horrible way to die.
Now you’ve surely heard of this kind of God-derived “morality,” but what perplexes me is that these decrees are uniformly rejected by apparently sane Jews (and Christians), yet those very same Jews scrupulously obey God’s other dictates in Deuteronomy. Because of what God said, many Jews don’t eat pork or shellfish, use different pots for cooking meat and dairy products, do no work on the Sabbath. (Some Orthodox Jews won’t even flip light switches or tear toilet paper: that’s done in advance. Alternatively, you can cheat and employ a shabbos goy to do the work for you). You can find the 39 kinds of work prohibited on the Sabbath on this list (toilet paper falls under #10)*.
By God’s decree Jews also eat unleavened bread (matzo) on Passover. And the good scholars of Judaism have decreed that to prevent wild yeast from working, those matzo must be baked within 18 minutes of the moment when the flour gets wet (don’t ask me how they arrived at this figure). They circumcise their sons, and don’t cut their beards or forelocks.
Now what makes one decree of Yahweh acceptable, and the other not? If you subscribe to a divine command theory, whereby all morality comes from God’s will, then you simply must stone your son unto death if he’s bad. The fact that both Jews and Christians ignore some of God’s or Jesus’s commands, but scrupulously obey others, is absolute proof that people pick and choose their morality not on the basis of its divine source, but because it comports with some innate morality that they derived from other sources.
What are those sources? Because some moral instincts seem universal, I suspect that their precursors were installed in our brains by natural selection. But certainly much morality is learned—either from observing your culture, via direct inculcation by parents and peers, or by simple introspection about how to behave in a just manner (Peter Singer’s book The Expanding Circle gives an appealing explanation of the latter). So with the exception of loons like William Lane Craig, Euthyphro was right: morality cannot come from God.
*I should have known that Jewish ingenuity has found a way to avoid the pre-Sabbath chore of tearing toilet paper. As the Jewish Times reports, an outfit called Kosher Innovations has produced tear-free, single sheet toilet paper:
The Kosher Innovations Shabbos Bathroom Tissue replaces the regular roll of toilet paper and hangs within easy reach. Removing the roll prevents accidental tearing on Shabbos.
On Shabbos and Yom Tov, there’s no issue with their tissue, you might say . . .
The most important and often overlooked part of bathroom preparations is making sure that you don’t mistakenly tear any paper on Shabbos. This relates to the prohibited melacha of mechatech. Some people pre-tear their toilet paper and fill a basket with it. This is fine if you want to spend the time and effort, but it often ends up with scraps of paper underfoot and wasted toilet paper. It’s also very hard to keep the pile of toilet paper looking neat and staying in the basket.
Some people use facial tissue. Many brands of facial tissue have sheets of paper that are attached by tiny perforations. This means that when you pull out a tissue, you are actually tearing the two sheets apart. [JAC: Oh noes! You can’t do that!] There are a few brands of facial tissue that do not have perforations but they are often very expensive and the large size of the tissue sheets are often wasteful.
The Shabbos Bathroom Tissue from Kosher Innovations avoids the prohibited melacha of mechatech on Shabbos. It does not tear, because each sheet is individually pre-cut and folded. And since each sheet is the size of two toilet paper squares, you only take what you need, reducing wasted paper and saving you money. Most importantly, when you replace the regular toilet paper roll with Kosher Innovations Shabbos Bathroom Tissue, you are preventing other people from accidentally tearing on Shabbos. This is true especially for children and any guests you may have who are unaware of the prohibition.
I am not making this up.